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I am going to begin a series of running posts that engage with a book written by Douglas Hamp; I believe it was accepted as his PhD dissertation at Louisiana Baptist University. Hamp’s book is entitled: Corrupting the Image: Angels, Aliens, and the Antichrist Revealed. As you can tell by the title it is not the usual fare I deal with here at the blog, but I think something like this warrants attention; if only because it is this type of literature that pervades the imaginations of many in the North American evangelical sub-culture. Beyond his PhD from LBU, Hamp also has an earned MA in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

When I was doing my undergrad degree I took a class called Hermeneutics; in that class my professor, as a warm-up, so to speak, would have us do hermeneutical builders where we would examine a sample piece of biblical (or other type of literature) exegesis done by various commentators and exegetes spanning the centuries and into the contemporary. In these builders we were to identify the hermeneutical principles said exegete was deploying in their exegetical work, and attempt to identify where he or she was in error (if they were); based upon what type of hermeneutic they might be following (e.g. wooden-literal, allegorical, higher-critical, etc.). The benefit of engaging in such an exercise is that the student’s skills in critically identifying problems in someone’s hermeneutic (if there were or are any) were sharpened. As we look at Hamp’s book consider this process as a sort of hermeneutical builder, one that I am doing, but that I am including you in as well.

Before we precede further let me offer a caveat. I have a loose connection with Hamp from years past. He was involved in a ‘school of ministry’ (Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa School of Ministry) as an assistant instructor where he oversaw their online journal, among other responsibilities. He published a few of my past blog posts in that journal, and as such I made a connection (one that he apparently doesn’t remember). I attended Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and their Bible College back in the  years covering 1995 through 1998; and when I say ‘attended’ I mean I was at church probably five days out of the week. This represents a shared background with Hamp (even though we never physically crossed paths), and is why I ever came across Hamp to begin with; it was only within the last couple of months that I became aware that he has since left Calvary Chapel and established his own speaking, apologetics, online, debate ministry (not to mention a Messianic-like congregation in Denver Colorado called ‘The Way Congregation’). You can check out his many videos and presentations via YouTube. As you’ll see he has some pretty substantial reach among some of the masses in the broader sub-section of evangelicalism. It is because of this reach and impact that I feel somewhat compelled to engage with his book in an attempt to offer a counter-voice to what he is offering folks without the necessary training and thus critical capacity to discern where Hamp is coming from and how he is arriving at his exegetical conclusions. Let me just say upfront: as I have listened to many of Doug’s teachings (via YouTube) over the last many weeks, it has become apparent to me that he has some seriously aberrant views; and they are all related to his chosen hermeneutic.

Hamp iterates over and over again that he follows a very literal hermeneutic when he interprets Scripture; I’d have to say I agree with him. In order to gain a grasp on Hamp’s hermeneutical commitments, and how those get applied and cashed out in his book, let me share at some length what he says about his hermeneutic in the preface of his book: 

MY METHOD

Due to my language studies in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, I have been able to do my own linguistic research throughout this book. I primarily conducted my own investigation of words and phrases using theWord Bible Software and therefore, I may not always cite a lexicon for authority. TheWord allowed me to search words in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic and trace their usage throughout the entire Bible. I used primary sources wherever possible and drew my own conclusions from those. However, I did frequently turn to secondary literature to demonstrate that there are others that have come to similar conclusions—therefore when I state that a Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic word means such and such, the conclusion is based on my investigation. If I cite another, then I state the source. I use extra-biblical material (e.g. the Book of Enoch and the Targumim) as I would a modern commentary—it is not sacred canon. However, unlike a modern commentary, those ancient works were often written by Jews who very likely had some insight that we do not. The method of discovery throughout this book will be to take the words as literally as possible and use the grammatical-historical approach of interpretation and we will find that doing so will make all of the pieces fit precisely.[1]

From the start we get a sense of Hamp’s approach; he emphasizes that he is able to do his own linguistic research in the original languages. The way Hamp seems to use this reality in his teaching and writing is to give his very ‘original’ (novel) insights an air of insider or special authority. But beyond that what I have emboldened above is what I primarily want to emphasize. When you read what Hamp writes about following a literal grammatical-historical approach this might not sound that radical; indeed it might even sound text-critical of the history of religions sort, or of the dispensational sort; it is neither. When Hamp writes ‘literal’ he means hyper-literalistically; in other words he believes the hermeneutical key to the whole of Scripture—and this is where he believes most of the history of Christian biblical interpretation has gone severely awry—is to take everything in Scripture to what I would contend is its literalistic breaking point. Some of the examples of how this works out in Hamp’s exegesis are: 1) he believes that God literally has hands, feet, a head, and a human body (which sounds more like Kenneth Copeland’s or the Latter Day Saints’ understanding of God); 2) he maintains that Christians are under the requirements of the Torah (in other words that we should be keeping the Mosaic Law inclusive of Sabbath keeping [which sounds more like Judaizing rather than following Christ]); 3) he holds to a form of British Israelitism,[2] albeit in a very idiosyncratically construed sense. In other words, he argues that when the Monarchy of Israel was divided into the Southern and Northern Kingdoms (the Northern=the ten tribes), that the Northern kingdom during the Assyrian exile were dispersed among the ‘Gentiles’ to the point that they, ‘the house of Israel’ (distinct in Hamp’s parlance from the ‘the house of Judah who are the real Jews), become representative of the Gentiles simpliciter canonically. Based upon this he argues that the New Covenant, made with the house of Judah (the Southern Kingdom) and the house of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) could only be fulfilled with ‘the house of Israel,’ or “the Gentiles” if God dies and thus reinstates a new marriage covenant that includes both Jew (the Southern Kingdom) and Gentile (the Northern Kingdom). He arrives at these conclusions based upon the idea that God gave ‘the house of Israel’ (the Gentiles) a certificate of divorce and that according to God’s Law of Marriage (which Hamp pulls from Romans 7:1-6; cf. Exodus) he could not renter covenant relationship with his divorced ‘spouse’ the house of Israel, or post-exile, now known as the ‘Gentiles’, unless he figured out a work-around his own law of marriage. Hamp argues that this is what God accomplished in the Incarnation; viz. God figured out a way to re-marry Israel/Gentiles by dying, thus freeing him from his inability to be in relationship with them per his Toranic marriage strictures laid out in Deuteronomy (i.e. that a spouse wasn’t free to remarry unless the former spouse died). As God died and rose again with a new ‘DNA’ in Christ, he was free to re-establish a blood cut covenant relationship with his lost house or the “commonwealth” of Israel (which is code for the Gentiles), and with Judah (or the Jews); thus reuniting the Ju-dahns and Gentiles in the one new humanity of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2);[3] 4) Hamp maintains that the Torah is ‘eternal,’ meaning that it apparently has its own ontological value vis-à-vis God (which oddly sounds more like the way Muslims think of the Qur’an).

These and other similar oddities, unmentioned, are examples of where Hamp’s literal hermeneutic takes him. They are harrying waters to be sure.

Let me close this post with Hamp’s basic thesis which he will unfold throughout the whole of his book. You will see, even in its very liminal form, given in his thesis statement, that his argument will very much so consistently fit with his stylized form of being ‘literal.’

Genesis 3:15 tells us of two seeds that will come upon the world—one will be the Seed of the Woman, which is Jesus. However, the other seed spoken of is Satan’s and that is where my research took off. I wanted to discover if the seed of Satan (Antichrist) would be an imitation of the virgin birth and if so, how that was possible genetically. What I uncovered was a war to destroy the image of God led by Satan since the earliest of times.[4]

And a little bit later as he is beginning to make his argument in this direction he writes:

Satan will use man’s desire to be his own god to deceive him into believing the ultimate lie—that his fallen messengers are both the Creators and saviors of man. He will not do this openly but will deceive mankind through demons which are masquerading as “aliens” who are spreading the message that the inhabitants of the earth can evolve to be like them and obtain transcendent powers. Finally, the seed of the Serpent will come; he will be a man who will be greater than his fellows, who will understand sinister schemes and shall rise up and become the Antichrist.[5]

What we will see as we engage with Hamp’s work is that he will attempt to read the Nephilim or ‘sons of God’, of Genesis 6 et al. as satan’s plan to enter humanity, ‘in the flesh’ which was hatched in ‘the days of Noah’, and in and through a hybrid (half demon half human) the spawn of the serpent, the AntiChrist will be thrust upon the world. This theory actually isn’t unique to Hamp, in fact if you google Nephilim I think you will find an abundance of ‘end times’ literature that posits the theory Hamp is arguing for; albeit in his own unique way (although his application of this to the production of the AntiChrist is unique).

I think what’s important to bear in mind as we work through Hamp’s book (we’ll see if I actually remain motivated enough to do that!) is that his study in this book represents what stands behind his PhD! As far as I can tell thus far, Hamp theorizes without engaging with any critical alternatives or theories to his own; he does his exegesis, as far as I can tell, without allowing any critical biblical scholars (in the guild) to challenge his work. In other words, as far as I can tell, Douglas Hamp’s mode is to simply press his study upon the untrained in the church without any sense or need to allow his work to be interrogated critically by other scholars with their PhDs or even MAs in the field. Hamp has engaged in live debate with quite a few folks, but as far as I can tell none of them are critical scholars. So Hamp’s work is primarily presented uncritically, even though he has a PhD based upon his study, and without any sort of critical push back. It seems to me that he will simply reject, out of hand, anyone who does not follow his form of doing “*literal*” exegesis. Be that as it may, this is why I have any sort of inkling to engage with Hamp’s work. It is not to elevate it, or give it undue attention; instead my hope will be to offer a critical voice in response to Hamp’s study for people who might be searching for such things online (if you do that now, as far as I can see, all you will find are uncritical responses to Hamp’s work).

This now ends the current hermeneutical builder.

 

[1] Douglas Hamp, Corrupting the Image: Angels, Aliens, and the Antichrist Revealed (USA: Defender Publishing LLC, 2011), 13 kindle [emboldening mine].

[2] Frankly, ‘British Israelitism’ is the closest parallel idea I can think of when attempting to identify what is going on in Hamp’s theory in regard to the Northern Kingdom or ‘The House of Israel’ being assimilated into the Gentile world to the point that in Hamp’s world this reconstitutes them, canonically, as The iteration of what it means to be “Gentile;” say in the Apostle Paul’s mind (see Eph. 2). It is interesting that Hamp doesn’t follow through on this logic when the Southern Kingdom, or ‘The House of Judah’ is exiled into the Babylonian empire; one wonders why they maintained their seminal Jewish identity while in the case of the Northern Kingdom’s exile they ostensibly were unable to keep their Semitic lineage. Further, it is also interesting, based upon Hamp’s purported ‘literal’ hermeneutic, that he seemingly glosses the Northern Kingdom by figurally re-reading them as representative of what it means to be Gentile in a Jew-Gentile complex. Presumably, the blood-line of the Southern Kingdom, while in Babylon, likewise became “corrupted” and “Gentilized” while there. This is evidenced by their adoption of the Aramaic language, and their practice of intermarrying with the Gentiles as evidenced in Ezra-Nehemiah. Hamp’s theory seemingly breaks down in a variety of ways; this, I would contend would be one of them.

[3] I will give Hamp credit for extra-vigilant novelty in his theorizing. I can honestly admit in all my years of formal and informal training in studying the bible and the history of interpretation I have never heard of such a thing. Yes, fragments of parts of Hamp’s theory, but not pulled together in such a unique, and frankly, inane sort of way.

[4] Hamp, Corrupting the Image, 13.

[5] Ibid., 23.

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Hello my name is Bobby Grow, and I author this blog, The Evangelical Calvinist. Feel free to peruse the posts, and comment at your leisure. I look forward to the exchange we might have here, and hope you are provoked to love Jesus even more as a result. Pax Christi!

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