Bob Schacht wrote:
> At 02:33 PM 6/6/2007, Jeffrey B. Gibson wrote:
> >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?
Yes. Who else qualifies for that title?
> Interesting presentation.
> 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.
My post contained only the second half of the article. I sent a draft of the
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,
> 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.
Well, except for the fact that I'm not sure if there is a Gentile middle Platonist
set of beliefs about angels, I have tried to do what you ask.
> 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).
These are all interesting and intriguing suggestions. But my mandate from the
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.