Dr. Michael Heiser, author of the bestselling book The Unseen Realm, has passed into life everlasting after a years-long battle with cancer.
Dr. Heiser served as Logos’s scholar-in-residence from 2004 to 2019. During and after his tenure at Logos, he wrote ten books with Lexham Press, taught or contributed to more than thirteen Logos Mobile Education courses, and appeared in many Faithlife Original films. He was an academic editor for the Lexham Bible Dictionary, Faithlife Study Bible, and Bible Study Magazine.
Before coming to Logos, Dr. Heiser received an MA in ancient history from the University of Pennsylvania as well as an MA and PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His published work extends beyond his titles with Lexham Press and Logos Mobile Education, as he wrote extensively for scholarly journals and contributed to works like IVP’s Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets. He also received scholarly awards from the Society of Biblical Literature and his alma maters.
Following his time at Logos, he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, to start the AWKNG School of Theology at Celebration Church, where he served as executive director. He also launched the Naked Bible Podcast and Miqlat, among other things.
Dr. Heiser is survived by his wife Drenna, daughters Amy, Molly, and Simcha, and son Calvin.
For many at Logos, Mike Heiser was a teacher, friend, and fellow traveler. What follows are some brief comments from a few of those who knew him best.
Bob Pritchett, Logos Co-founder and Board Member
When Dr. Michael Heiser applied for the new position of Academic Editor at Logos Bible Software, I was a little worried about some of his research interests—the UFO conferences, his fiction writing: Why is this biblical scholar engaging the alien hunters? And what’s with this focus on the divine council? In all my years in the pew, I hadn’t heard a lot about that from the pulpit.
I called a seminary professor who was a mutual acquaintance. He explained that Mike was engaging with topics familiar to many biblical scholars, but not well understood in the pew. And Mike shared with me his passion to engage people the church was not engaging—in many cases, people thinking about the supernatural without knowing the truth beyond our physical circumstances that we know from Scripture.
Mike’s work opened my eyes to things I hadn’t seen in Scripture before, though I’d heard and read the words. His insistence that all of Scripture is given to us for a reason caused me to re-think how I really engaged the Bible, and to realize that too often I’d skimmed over the parts that seemed “weird” to me.
Mike taught me that if it’s “weird,” it is probably important.
And not only important—exciting!
God rewards the study of his Word, and rarely do any of us read it again without gaining in understanding. For tens of thousands of believers, Mike’s teaching opened up a whole new perspective and unlocked obscure and difficult passages they hadn’t spent much time with. He helped them to see things which are clearly described in Scripture but which our cultural lens and reading habits had pushed to the margins.
Over and over, Mike sent people back to the Word, back to the Hebrew, and back to the time and the people who first received it.
I am grateful for his ministry, mourning with his family, and comforted to know that he is with our Savior.
Reuben Evans, Independent Filmmaker and Former Executive Producer of Faithlife Original Films
In many ways, my life and career has been intertwined with Mike’s. From films, to Bible study video series, to courses—we worked on a ton of stuff together. But our friendship started when my wife, SaraAnn Evans, worked with him in Logos’s design and editorial nearly fourteen years ago. So we quickly learned that he was a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, just like my wife.
Mike’s time in Wisconsin was capped by his studies in ancient languages at the vaunted University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mike would tell tales of the grueling work they put him through. But it paid off, because Dr. Hesier gained the expertise to plunge into the primary source material of the Ancient Near East (ANE). That’s when Mike began his journey digging into the theological concept of the divine council worldview by focusing on difficult-to-interpret passages like Psalm 82.
Mike was an unusual academic. I remember talking to a guy who went to the adult Sunday school class he taught at his church. He told me, “Mike is right down there with all of us.” That really defined his appeal to a broader audience than most PhDs engage.
Back around 2009–2010, we collaborated on a groundbreaking video project called Learn to Use Greek and Hebrew. That opened the doors for people to begin to understand enough of the way the original languages worked so that they could read better commentaries and journal articles for themselves. It went on to become one of the most successful products in Logos’s history and became the prototype for Logos Mobile Ed.
Viewers of that course got a glimpse into Mike’s area of expertise. He used Psalm 82 to help people grasp the concepts of Hebrew grammar, and along the way they got an introduction to the theological concepts in the passage. Those concepts were later synthesized into his best-selling book, The Unseen Realm. In that volume, readers could engage the fruits of Mike’s study. Mike was able to demonstrate that the ancient readers of the Bible thought differently about their world than we do. He brought together mountains of scholarly research on the topic and laid it out for a broader audience. He even wrote Supernatural to help summarize the topic for any interested believer. As deep as The Unseen Realm is, it only scratches the surface of the scholarly literature on the topic. Mike followed it up with two more books: Angels and Demons. Those volumes dove deeper into the world of “the white hats” and “the black hats.”
I have always been struck by the way people who have read their Bibles all their lives respond to Mike’s work. When you have read and re-read the Bible, you get familiar with certain “weird” passages that you run into time and again. Mike’s research helped readers to see a common thread, an interpretive framework, that helped these passages connect. Even if you didn’t agree on every point, you felt like you had a better sense of how the ancients viewed their world. And—surprise—it is a lot different from how we view the world through modern eyes. Together we created the films, The Unseen Realm, Demons, and the series Angels, which translated his work from a written format to a video one, making his research accessible to those who might never pick up one of his books. Logos has made them available on its YouTube channel at no charge. And millions of people have watched them!
More than anything, Mike was not dismissive of people curious about fringe topics. He had an unusual interest of his own: UFOs! Mike was never persuaded that aliens had landed, but he’s one of the few Bible scholars that engaged the UFO community. One of the most fun films I’ve ever worked on was Aliens & Demons, in which Mike digs into reports of UFOs, alien abductions, and the religious messaging that accompanies many of these encounters. While unpersuaded that ET had landed, Mike concluded that the world is stranger than we often admit.
The impact of Mike’s willingness to engage the “fringe pop” community cannot be understated. There are thousands of people who have been ministered to by Mike’s desire to engage people and point them to Jesus. Mike saw that there was an unmet hunger for the supernatural that many churches weren’t meeting. That hunger manifested itself in theories about UFOs or watching pop culture shows like Stranger Things. Mike’s book, The World Turned Upside Down, demonstrated his willingness to point people to the gospel through pop culture touchpoints.
“I’m not going to protect people from their Bible.” That’s probably my favorite Heiser quote. It demonstrated his commitment to bring the toughest parts of the Bible to the table for everyday Christians to engage. Well, maybe that’s my second favorite quote. He would also say, “I’m basically Gandalf. I show up in Middle-Earth, cause some trouble, and then go away for a while.” By “Middle-Earth,” he meant that cultural intersection of the things we don’t understand, and yet we yearn to reach out and try to wrap our arms around them.
For us, we still “know in part,” but now, Mike “knows, even as he is known” (1 Cor 13:12). And I count myself as blessed to have been Mike’s collaborator and friend.
Jesse Myers, President and CEO of Baker Publishing Group, former Publisher of Lexham Press
I started working with Mike on my first week at Faithlife. When I started there was already work under way on launching a new book, The Unseen Realm. I was placed on a small committee to help prepare the book launch. Nate Smoyer, Jake Mailhot, and I met weekly to plan out the launch. Slowly, there started to be internal buzz about the book. But none of us then could see the impact the book would have.
Mike had a unique ability to connect and communicate in such a way that ideas which might have seemed arcane or opaque in someone else’s voice came alive. And they came alive for an extremely broad range of people. Mike, uniquely, had attentive and interested readers who ranged from the very best and most prominent in the academy all the way to listeners on late-night AM radio. He fused legitimate academic prowess with a clarity and relevance that made his message compelling to readers, viewers, and listeners across that spectrum.
The Unseen Realm came at the perfect time for Lexham. It was the early hit that we needed to rally the team and get us and our brand out into the market. It’s still among the bestsellers every month. Its importance for Lexham’s early days really can’t be overstated.
The subtitle to The Bible Unfiltered is “Approaching Scripture on its own terms.” I thought then and believe now that the phrase isn’t just a good summation of that book, but of what Mike was trying to do throughout his entire career: to help us to see the Bible as it was understood in its original context. And not simply as an academic exercise. If, like Mike, you hold firmly to the Bible as something inspired, that means you have to grapple with the kinds of insights that Mike brought. Mike didn’t just ask the question, “What did the ancient Israelites believe about the Bible and the supernatural?” He also asked the question, “What if they were right?” And that’s where his message electrified so many people around the world.
Mike’s books, interviews, videos, lectures, podcasts, and documentaries have touched the lives of millions of people. I had the privilege of knowing him both personally and professionally, and I have so much to be grateful for on both fronts.