Research Background: Michael Heiser on Hugh Ross’s Hebrew acumen and application strategy

As you will notice from my avatar description, I am an enthuiastic supporter of Reasons to Believe, headed by a good man, great scientist, and a fellow Christian. One issue we must wrestle with here is just exactly what the Hebrew original of the early Genesis accounts meant in their original Hebrew context, before we cross the vast cultural bridge to ask how it answers the kinds of questions we have today. Much the same as if we were reading a dear great-great grandparents from another country and in another language, in exploring their meaning, as we ruminated in the attic… or the library.
Such questions are vital, and involve questioning one’s own assumptions.
To that end, I offer Michael Heiser’s estimate of the extent of Dr. Hugh Ross’ knowledge of Biblical Hebrew. I should note that I generally hold him in high esteem, myself, but would love to converse with him about the Hebrew warrant for some of their claims.
Heiser’s review is generally positive, but contains caveats, as well.
These are only meant as situative observations in a much larger debate that is taking place here on this forum.
Here’s the quote:
" 1. Just as really smart biblical scholars can think poorly about science, really smart scientists can sometimes not think well about the Bible . As much as I appreciate Hugh Ross and want to promote his apologetics effort (Reasons to Believe), I was really struck by how simplistic some of his thinking about the Bible is. You can listen to Part 1 of the ETS interviews for what I mean. I interviewed Hugh this year. I’m sorry, but the book of Job really wasn’t inspired to tell us about water management and meteorology, nor can we say with any security that Job is the earliest book of the Bible. It’s hard to believe with how thorough Hugh is that he can presume ideas like this that represent Sunday School level thinking. It really startled me to be honest. There is no way to determine with certainty when the book of Job was written, nor by whom it was written, so any position or idea that depends on that is reliable. (Here’s an accessible article on the Hebrew linguistic issues in the book — the conclusion is indeterminate: it could have been written before or after the exile). Ross’ concordism in general is problematic, For example, his approach to Genesis notably presumes the author was encrypting science into the text for later generations, or that parts of Genesis teach us science (in which case the meaning of those texts was unknowable to second or first millennium BC audience — the very people the material was written for). The approach has serious theological and coherence issues. But I still think Reasons to Believe does important work. My advice is to note Hugh’s science and take it seriously, but be wary with how he makes Scripture say scientific things. Science is his wheelhouse, not exegesis in context. He doesn’t need the latter to capably defend theism and faith. That makes his ministry a blessing."
Referenced here: Reflections on ETS, SBL, and Other Stuff - Dr. Michael Heiser
Another citation online (but I can’t verify the source) quotes Heiser thus:
MSH: “And I’m well familiar with Hugh Ross. He’s a brilliant scientist, but he’s like the rest of them: he will bend the text to his will when he needs to (and I say that not judging his integrity). He’s being consistent with his approach. He just isn’t informed as to a lot of the detail of the text since that isn’t his focus. You have to realize that scholars of necessity can’t be masters of every domain (one is tough enough). People (like me) who deal with the minutiae of the text have both an advantage and an added burden. Since my focus starts at the ground level in the text in the original languages, I’m just more aware of its warts, along with the panoply of methodological issues that relate to the examination of the text. Ross isn’t, really at all. What he does is entirely based on the English Bible. He only appeals to Greek and Hebrew when he needs to in order to keep his approach afloat and give it coherence in his mind . That he does that does NOT invalidate all (or even most) of what he does. He has done the church a great service in my view. He’s far from being an exegete, though. Same with Geisler, actually. He is little Greek and Hebrew training, and what he had he has long forgotten, since his focus (thankfully for the church) shifted to philosophical theology and apologetics. His task is systematizing and going beyond the text when philosophical argument is needed. He has little appreciation of knowledge of the kind of thing OT grunts deal with in the text, especially the comparative ANE (Ancient Near East) material. What OUGHT to happen within the church and its scholars is that text-people (like me) should be doing their work with the goal of articulating a text-based biblical theology, and then handing the results over to people like Geisler and Ross for systematizing and apologetics. Sadly, text-based scholars rarely care about theology (even evangelical ones). They love the nuts and bolts. They’re like moles, and would spend their entire careers digging through the text just for the love of it. The result is that my category of scholarship has let the theologians down, and left them to do their work with superficial understanding of the text (English / translation based). They are left to think about the big picture, and only drill down into the the text when they need a band aid for the pretty theological picture they are creating - and that can lead to theological formulations that just don’t reflect the textual reality (hence this discussion about inerrancy). It’s a situation I often lament on my own, since I’m one who sees text work as being FOR biblical theology. I’m a dinosaur in that regard, sad to say. It just is what it is.”
Referenced online here (see post on Wed April 29th 2017): Did All Humans Come From Adam & Eve? - Page 6 - Evidence for God from Science
(Note: some of the bold texts above are from the original article’s emphasis, not my own.)


Was there supposed to be a link?

Sorry, @John_Harshman ; finally got the rest up for viewing. Cheers!

Would cheerfully invite situative and substantive comments from @AJRoberts , or any other RTB supporters like myself. Along with all the rest of us here. BTW, Heiser is neither shy nor as mainstream as most other scholars I would reference, but he is willing to break ground based upon the most up-to-date ancient Hebrew scholarship.
I have my own caveats regarding some of his views.
Ross has gotten good (but close and ongoing?) support from Dr. Walter Kaiser, the late Dr. Gleason Archer, and others whose Hebrew acumen is stellar. Dr. Bruce Waltke, and Dr. N.T. Wright, take different interpretive tacks, however.

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Tremper Longman on N. T. Wright’s view on the issue of “humans outside the garden:”
“Now Wright’s view, as I understand it from conversations with him, is that he’s not adopting a similar position to the first two I just described, but rather that Adam and Eve are kind of a representative couple within that breeding population. They’re not alone. And actually, that helps explain certain features of Genesis 1–11, like who Cain married, who Cain was afraid of, and those kind of things. So that’s his view: they were an actual representative couple, like the queen and the king. Or we could conceive of them as the priest and the priestess, since Genesis 1 and 2 also talk about the cosmos using a kind of temple language.”
The primary reference is here:
and I discovered this by exploring the last post here: Did All Humans Come From Adam & Eve? - Page 7 - Evidence for God from Science
All of this fits neatly into a sequential reading of the first two pericopes of Genesis.

I’ve gone to the local RTB chapter (that meets at my university, in fact) and watched some of Ross’s presentations and I share Heiser’s concerns. Ross has an almost pathological need to read science out of the Bible. I just don’t get it and it certainly turns off people like me who want to let the Bible be the Bible and science be science.


I hear you, but balance that with my own theory that the Bible was providentially phrased to actually assist us with discovering and doing good science, while, yes, definitely not being a science textbook. That is, I don’t mind when he seems to find congruence, but I take it with a grain of salt.

I think its a bad thing when one’s reading of the Bible causes one to read scientific papers poorly. One strange example could be from this video for example where Ross says:
“The first of these theorems, in fact I’ve got the theorem right here… The singularities of gravitational collapse and cosmology by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose. And if you go to the last couple of paragraphs it says that ‘if mass exists and general relativity reliably predict cosmic dynamics, then space and time must be created by a Causal Agent who transcends space and time.’”

Here is a link to the paper:

Perhaps one could point out where the paper actually says this… because it doesn’t.

Another example is when Ross reads a more recent paper by Borde, Guth and Vilenkin as seen here where Ross says:
‘It does end with a conclusion we can all understand which is the following: any universe that expands on average throughout its history has a spacetime beginning and implies a causal agent outside space and time who creates space, time, matter and energy.’

Here is a link to the second paper: [gr-qc/0110012] Inflationary spacetimes are not past-complete

Remarkably enough, this paper too doesn’t say this at all. In fact the authors actually ask what can lie at this boundary and propose:

What can lie beyond this boundary? Several possibilities have been discussed, one being that the boundary of the inflating region corresponds to the beginning of the Universe in a quantum nucleation event

If one just simply took Ross’ word for it, one might think that this space-time theorem actually says anything about a Causal Agent that is outside of time that creates all space, matter and energy. But again, it doesn’t.


These are good catches, and I’d be interested in hearing Dr. Ross’ response to them. I found a broken link posted about a response he made to these questions once on Facebook, but have not found it online anywhere else, yet.
The broken link is here:
@AJRoberts , perhaps you can help me with this?

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In the meantime, here’s a good article showing why I’m fine with their “soft concordist” apologetic efforts, as long as they’re tentative and not triumphalistic in tenor --and Hugh is not.

In reply to Heiser’s skeptical assessment on Hugh Ross’ approach to the book of Job, see the link.