Re: [XTalk] once more, Jesus and angels
- To: XTalk
In Response To: Jeffrey Gibson
I had suggested, based on the Markan evidence as against the rest of the
Synoptic evidence, that angels were not a strong part of Jesus' worldview,
and amounted to no more than decorative enhancement in visions of God. I had
further suggested that the stronger and more numerous angels in the later
Synoptics might represent a reversion of early Christianity to a Jewish view
of things, just as the practice of baptism and fasting in the early Church
seems to represent a reversion to the Baptist movement of which it had at
first been a part. The last line of a paragraph of mine quoted by Jeffrey
went: "Might not angels fit into this category also? Angels seem to be
highly developed in Judaism, but it is, again, only in the second tier of
the Christian writings that they make much of an effect."
JEFFREY: I think you can make this claim only if you neglect the "angel
talk" that appears in Paul, of which there is a decent amount, yes?
BRUCE: Well, a certain amount. But Paul is perhaps a different story. One
point of difference among the various Gospels is how far they are
assimilated to the Christianity of Paul. In Mark, those points of
assimilation are few and textually suspect; that is, they may be intrusions
into, or adjustments in, what at an earlier stage would have reflected a
pre-Pauline Christianity. In Luke/Acts, the assimilation is total: Paul's
mission defines the direction that Luke/Acts sees Christianity as moving in;
he is the hero of the story. If Paul's genuine Epistles show some angel
talk, and if Mt/Lk also show some angel talk, there would seem to be little
ground for surprise. But all of this would still seem to postdate Mark, and
to attest a later stage, or several parallel later stages, of doctrinal
evolution beyond the point of which, whenever it was written down, the
Gospel of Mark is aware.
I take Mark, whenever it was written down, as our best witness for Jesus.
One thing you can say about Paul, he sure didn't leave Christianity the way
he found it. Mark (and a few other documents; I would include the earlier
layer of James) gives us a much better chance to see what Christianity was
like before Paul found it. While, in fact, he was still persecuting it, and
had not yet, in his masterful way, taken up the chore of managing it.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- There are some online free papers (with full .PDF text), that can be
read or downloaded from here:
BIBLICA, vol. 88 (2007), fasc. 1
H. van de Sandt, «James 4,1-4 in the Light of the Jewish Two Ways
Tradition 3,1-6» , p. 38-63
R. Schwindt, «Mehr Wurzel als Stamm und Krone. Zur Bildrede vom
Ölbaum in Röm 11,16-24», p. 64-91
A. Hock, «Christ is the Parade: A Comparative Study of the Triumphal
Procession in 2 Cor 2,14 and Col 2,15», p. 110-119
By the way: What about my previous message about the Tomb of James?
Anyone? It seems strange to me that this question was not raised
during the world wide debate about the hoax of James's ossuary.
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- Bob Schacht wrote:
> At 02:33 PM 6/6/2007, Jeffrey B. Gibson wrote:Yes. Who else qualifies for that title?
> >Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote:
> > > Jeffrey, could it be that the early Christians downplayed the role of
> > angels in the light of high Christology and thus ignored statements by
> > Jesus that might have reflected the other functions of angels?
> > >
> > > On the other hand, angels are elsewhere shown in the New Testament in
> > other roles, so perhaps the early Christians would have had no problem
> > with the various angelic functions. This might be an argument for your
> > main point.
> >Yes, as Oesterly noted some time ago, there is quite a difference between
> >what the evangelists themselves have to say about angels and what they
> >report Jesus as saying. Whether or not this is an argument for my main
> >point, it
> >certainly is a curiosity. Why do the evangelists not have Jesus buttress
> >what they believe?
> Now wait a minute. When you write "evangelists" here, do you mean only the
> authors of the Gospels?
> Interesting presentation.Thanks!
>My post contained only the second half of the article. I sent a draft of the
> For those of us who don't have Oesterly handy, what are some examples of
> "what the evangelists themselves have to say about angels" that are
> different from "what they report Jesus as saying"? You don't cover that in
> your post, and I should think it would be an important subject.
first half -- in which I discuss what the evangelists and other NT and Jewish
sources tell us about angels -- to XTalk some time ago..
I've posted the whole thing below.
> After all,Well, except for the fact that I'm not sure if there is a Gentile middle Platonist
> you contrast what Jesus was reported to say with what [other] Jewish
> sources attest their roles and activities to be.
> So, ISTM, your article should attest three points of view, and how they are
> similar, and how they are different:
> 1. Jesus, as reported by the evangelists
> 2. The evangelists
> 3. Other Jewish sources-- and maybe for good measure,
> 4. Contemporary Gentile Middle Platonists.
> ISTM that would be more interesting.
set of beliefs about angels, I have tried to do what you ask.
>These are all interesting and intriguing suggestions. But my mandate from the
> By way of explanations, here's what I would look for:
> I would start out from the assumption that the evangelists (#2) were
> steeped in the cosmology of (#3) and (#4). When confronted with what they
> thought Jesus was saying (#1) , they would try to reconcile it with who
> they understood Jesus to be. The easiest thing to do would be to think of
> Jesus in terms of an angelic figure of some kind.
> But they could not merely say that Jesus was like an angel, or was a
> certain category of angel, because then they would be confronted with other
> candidates for the same type of angelic role. They had to make his role
> unique, in order to avoid dealing with imposters. We don't see this in the
> NT until GJohn, because that is the only book in the NT that insists that
> Jesus was God's ONLY son (Chapter 1).
editors of the Routledge Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus was to first set
out the idea of angels in Judaism and then move to an analysis of Jesus', and not
the disciples' or the evangelists', attitude toward angels -- and to do this in
1000 words or so.
So your suggestion of how to go about this is something I could not do.
Anyway, here's full text of the entry.
Celestial, numinous, semi-corporeal (2 Enoch 1:5 [A]; but cf. Jubilees 15:27
which describes angels as circumcised), powerful beings, anthropomorphic in
form in earthly manifestation and often visually glorious (cf., e.g., 2 Enoch 5;
Luke 2:9; 9:26; Acts 12:7; 2 Pet 2:10; Jude 8; cf. Acts 6:15), who were regarded
by all parties within 1st century Judaism (the Sadducees, despite the apparent
testimony of Acts 23:8, being no exception; cf D. Daube ; B.T. Viviano and
J. Taylor ) as having been created by the God of Israel before or shortly
after his establishment of the world (cf. Job 38:7; Jub. 2:2; Bereshith Rabba
3), and who, under the explicit direction or the permissive will of their
creator, carry out a variety of functions, depending on their status as
"heavenly" and "holy" or as "rebellious" and fallen".
The primary function of "heavenly" angels is to serve as divine "messengers"
envoys who speak in the name, and with the authority, of God himself. In this
capacity they take on such tasks as announcing the births of important figures
within the divine plan (cf. Gen 16:1112; Gen 18:915; Judg 13:35; Matt.
1:18-23; Lk 1:8-21; 26-38; 28-12), communicating "the word of the Lord" to
prophets (Elijah, 2 Kgs 1:3, 15; 1 Kgs 13:18; 1 Kgs 22:1922; Isaiah 6; Jer
23:18, 23), delivering the Torah (Acts 7:53, Gal. 3:19), and relaying (and
interpreting) divine injunctions and promises or revealing the future to those to
whom they are sent (Zech. 1:9; 4:5-6; Dan. 8:16; 4QSerekh Shirot Olat ha-Shabbat,
Matt. 1:20-21; Lk. 1:35; Rev. 1:1)
But they also are commissioned as agents whose role is to give assurances to those
in fear, to render service to those under trial, to protect those who travel
(Dan. 10:13, 20; 11: 1; 12: 1; 2 Macc. I I 3 Macc. 6:18; Sus. 45; Bel 34-39; Enoch
20:5; J 35:17; lQH 5.21-22; IQS 9,15; lQM 9.16; . T. Jud. 3:10), to bring the
prayers and the petitions of the faithful before God (Tob. 12:15; 2 Bar. 11 G; 1
QH 6.13), and to intervene at crucial moments of a person's life to change or
guide that person's actions (Hagar, Gen 16:9; Abraham, Gen 22:1112; Balaam, Num
22:3135; the people of Israel, Judg 2:15; Joseph, betrothed of Mary, Matt.
Notable, too, is that they are given the task of requiting disobedience to God in
both the present (2 Kngs. 19:35; 1 Macc. 7:41; 2Macc. 15:22-23; Sir. 48:2,
Josephus, War 5:388 Sus. 55; LXX Job 33:23; Acts. 12:23) and, especially, at the
end of the age, when they will be witness to and an instrument of divine
judgement and justice against apostates and all enemies of God's people (Dan 7:10;
1QM 17:5; 1QS 4:11-14; CD 5-7; 1 Enoch 10:13; 90:24-26; 2 Thess. 1:7; Rev. 3:5;
14:14-20; 15:1; 16:1; 21:9).
They were envisaged as an army (2 Baruch 5:11; 70; Test. Levi 3:3; Matt. 26:53;
Lk. 2:13-14) which is drawn up in hierarchical orders and distinct ranks, headed
by commanders called archangels ( the number of these commanders varies.
According to Tob. 12:1 G; Enoch 81:5; 90:21-22; 2 Esdr. 5:20, there are seven;
according to Enoch 40; 87:2-3; 88:1, four; according to Enoch 90:31, three), and
were expected to participate in a final war against the wicked ((Zech. 14:13; lQH
3.35-36; 10.34-35; 1 15.14).
And as T.H. Gaster has noted, the "holy ones" were also portrayed as the
controlling spirits of such natural phenomena as celestial bodies and winds (Enoch
19:1; 40:4-5; 60: 12, 16-21; 61:10; 72:1; Jub. 2:2-3; lQH 1.10-11~ 47.7-13) and of
the seasons as well as of such abstractions as peace (Enoch 40:8; 52:5; Test. Dan
6:5; Test. Asher 6:6; Test. Benj. 6:1; cf. Isa. 33:7), healing (Tob. 33: 17;
Enoch 10:7; 40:9), and death (II Bar. 21:23; cf. Prov. 16:14).
The primary function of "fallen angels," who, like their "heavenly" counterparts,
are envisaged as ranked under the leadership of a prince (s8ar) -- identified
variously as Mastema (Jub. 10:8), Beelzebul, Satan (Matt. 25:41; 2 Cor. 12:7. 1
Pet. 3:19 f.) the enemy; the evil one, the ruler of this world, the adversary,
the devil, Beliar and other names -- is to separate Israel from God by ensnaring
them in evil, inciting them to apostasy, and leading the elect astray. But they
also, in conjunction with their primary function, and in conformity with their
rebellious nature, serve to arouse and direct the "Nations", over whom they were
originally set as guardians (cf. Dan. 10:13, 20, 21; 12:1, Jub. 15:31-32; 1 Enoch
89.59 among other texts), to dominate, if not to destroy, God's people in an
attempt to frustrate or make impossible the implementation of God's purposes in
and for the world.
Jesus and Angels
The evangelists record Jesus as speaking of both "heavenly" and "fallen" angels
on a number of occasions. Accepting the authenticity of these dominical sayings,
several things follow with respect to the question of Jesus' view of , and
attitude towards, these creatures.
In concert with his co-religionists, Jesus
1. had no doubts of their existence. He accepted without question , and
proclaimed as an ontological given, both their reality and their division into
categories of "heavenly" and "fallen" (Matt .25:41);
2. believed that angels were numerous, that they were arrayed in ranks and in
hierarchies (Mt 26:53), and that "fallen" angels were led by, and were minions of,
a "prince of demons"(Mk. 3:23-26).
3. thought that in the present age angels were superior to human beings (though,
like men, they were limited in knowledge of God's ultimate secrets [Mk.
13:32//Matt. 24:36]); but in the world to come the righteous shall stand as their
equals (Lk 20:36)
4. believed that the rebelliousness of the "fallen" angels and their work was
doomed to defeat.
But if we allow an argument from silence and take as significant what is absent
from Jesus's statements about angels vis a vis what Jewish sources attest their
roles and activities to be, it appears that Jesus seems not to have shared all
of his co- religionists (or even the evangelists') beliefs about angelic
functions. While he accepts the ideas that "heavenly" angels act as advocates of
the pious (Matt. 18:10; 26:53; cf. Lk. 16:22) and that "fallen" angels, and
especially their leader, strive to separate the faithful from God (Matt. 6:13; Mk.
8:33//Matt. 16:23; Lk. 22:31-32), we find no (recorded) emphasis placed by Jesus
on their known roles as "messengers", "protectors", and intermediaries between
God and men. Indeed, in contrast with the views of his co religionists, it is only
the "fallen" angels that he envisages as active among men. For Jesus, the work of
"heavenly angels" is, rather, carried out in the realms above and at the dawning
of the world to come.
Judging by the content of the bulk of the preserved dominical statements about
angels,. Jesus regarded their primary role to be that of divine agents who at the
end of the age gather the elect and the wicked before the throne of God and act
both as witnesses to the declarations of the Son of Man as he testifies at a great
assize against those who in Jesus' own age had been "ashamed" of him and his
words, and as the implementers of his judgments (Mk. 8:38; Matt; 16:27; 25:31,
41; Lk. 9:26; 12:8 ; cf. Mk. 13:26; Matt 13:39, 41, 49; 24:31).
Though it is beyond the scope of this article to account for why it is that Jesus
apparently held this comparatively circumscribed view of angelic functions,
especially with respect to those of "heavenly" angels", the answer may lie
somewhere along the lines of W.O.E. Oesterley's suggestion that it is due to a
conviction on Jesus' part that he, along with the Holy Spirit, are the ones who
have been empowered with the roles of envoy, intermediary, and advocate that in
Jewish tradition were thought to be angels' provenance.
Bibliography and suggestions for Further Reading.
Bamberger, Bernard Jacob, Fallen Angels (Philadelphia : Jewish Publication Society
of America, 1952).
Daube, David, "On Acts 23: Saducees and Angels", JBL 109 (1990) 493-497;
Davidson, Maxwell John, "Angel", in The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006) Vol 1:148-155.
Gaster, T.H. "Angel" in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, ed George A.
Buttrick (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), Vol. 1: 128-134.
Grundmann, W., Von Rad, G, Kittel, G., "aggeloj, arxaggeloj, isaggeloj", TDNT,
ed. G.W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964) Vol. 1: 74-87.
Meier, S.A, "Angel I" in Dictionary of Demons and Deities in the Bible, Second
Edition, eds. Karel van der Toorn, Pieter Willem van der Horst, Bob Becking
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 45-50.
Newson, Carol A., "Angels: Old Testament" in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed.
David Noel Freedman (Doubleday, 1992) Vol. 1: 248-253.
Oesterley, W.O. E., "Angels" in Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings.
one-volume edition (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1924), 31-53.
Page, Sidney H.T., Powers of Evil: A Biblical Study of Satan & Demons (Grand
Rapids: Baker) 1995.
Russel, D.H., The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic (Philadelphia:
van Henten, J.W., "Angel II" in Dictionary of Demons and Deities in the Bible,
Second Edition, eds. Karel van der Toorn, Pieter Willem van der Horst, Bob Becking
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 50-53.
Viviano, B.T. and Taylor, Justin, "Sadducees, Angels, and Resurrection (Acts
23:8-9)," JBL 111 (1992) 496-498.
Watson, Duane F. "Angels: New Testament" in the Anchor Bible Dictionary , ed.
David Noel Freedman (Doubleday, 1992) Vol. 1: 253-255.
Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
- Maybe you're interested in a paper published in an Italian weekly
magazine about Raztinger's book on Jesus:
Christ, too many errors (Cristo, quanti errori)
The reviewer of the book underlines all the mistakes that have been
done by the Pope: wrong quotation of Mount Oreb instead of Mount
Moriah when he writes about Isaac's sacrifice. Multiple erroneous
reference to Palm Sunday when that festivity didn't exist yet. He
used the Hebrew "sukkot" (p. 362) as a masculine plural noun while it
is a feminine one. He wrote that the nominative " 'epistàta" was
used, while it is a vocative, and its nominative is " 'epistàtes"; he
has a wrong translation of "doxa" and many other errors.
Trust me: it's difficult to see such a hard review of the Pope's
works here in Italy.
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