Saturday, March 27, 2010

Angels & Demons 1: When did the angels fall?


If the angels fell during creation week, why didn’t anyone mention it? The six days of creation recorded in Genesis 1 say nothing about the creation of angels. They were not explicitly mentioned as being present with God when he created the heavens and the earth. They were not mentioned in any of the six days, as God created light, firmament, seas, plant life, animal life, or man. We find it necessary to explore Rabbinic Jewish literature (Hebrew writings written AFTER the New Testament) to even find speculation on when they were created.

Rabbinic Judaism (from 200 to 400 A.D.) teaches that angels were created on the second day of creation, although some differing opinions vary from the first to the fifth day; and there is even the contention that some angels existed prior to creation. Regarding the Fall of the Angels, this date likewise varies from the creation week to later in the history of man.

What is significant, however, is that the discussion of the creation of angels and the Fall of the Angels did not occur until much later than the supposed event. It was not until the Hellenistic period of Jewish history (between 300 and 50 B.C.) when Jews were under the control of the Greeks (Alexander the Great and his successors) that the Fall of the Angels became a topic of much conversation. Yet, in those years following the completion of the Old Testament, there is a flood of literature containing information on the subject.

Interestingly enough, within the literature of the new associates of the Jewish people, the Hellenistic Greeks, there is an abundance of material that, in many ways, closely parallels the various accounts of the Fallen Angel story. Leo Jung explains: “That divine beings, even gods, have sexual intercourse with women was a well-known view, nay, a creed of Hellenistic religion.” We can safely assume that Greek culture had a reasonable effect on the Fallen Angel theme from its very outset. To be sure, many of our sources discussing the Fallen Angels are even written in the Greek language.

My major professor in my Master’s in Hebrew degree program at Indiana University, Henry Fischel writes:

It is fortunate that at this stage of scholarship no further defense has to be made for the assumption that Greco-Roman situations were well-known to the creators of . . . the literature that modifies the word and world of Scripture by interpretation, explicitly or implicitly. Rather, the problem is how far this knowledge went, how much of Greco-Roman academic procedure and philosophical quest was useful in that on-going process . . . [that produced the] Mishnah [200 A.D.] and the Jerusalem Talmud [400 A.D.]

In the next several weeks, I will discuss what we know about Angels, Fallen Angels, and Demons. Most of what people think they know about this subject is filled with legends, myths, and errors. I have found that the New Testament is totally reliable on the subject, as compared with Jewish literature, but that “interpretations” of the New Testament have been distorted and clouded by the literature that appeared between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. The period between the two Testaments is the Hellenistic period. It is a time in which Jewish writers tried to please their Greek masters by suggesting that their religion was very similar to Greek religion. Unfortunately, Greek religion was polytheistic and Greek gods were very sexual. While monotheistic Judaism was unwilling to present God as sexual, it latched onto the possibility that angels (who were plural, as opposed to God) may have engaged in sexual activity.

Next week, I will discuss the Greek connection. For now, I issue this warning: It is not a coincidence that Jewish discussion of sexual angels surfaces at the same time Jews were trying to please Greeks.

4 comments:

  1. Hello, I am new to your blog. I read Angels & Demons 16 and was intrigued. So I started back to number one. Forgive me if you have touched base on this subject since the writing of this blog. What are your views on Job 38:7? It would appear that the "ben Elohim"/ sons of God/ angels were present with God during the creation week. What resource are you using to place the fall of angels during creation week? I will continue reading and look forward to the discussion.

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    1. Excellent point! Job does have sons of God shouting for joy when he, poetically/rhetorically, has God quizzing Job regarding the laying of the cornerstone and foundation of the earth. He also has morning stars "singing." We can readily see that this is a poetic account, since the metaphor of building the earth, as one builds a building is being used. It is poetic in the sense that stars "sing"--even as Isaiah 55:12 has mountains and hills bursting out with song, and the trees of the field clapping their hands. So, since the sons of God shouting for joy is a parallelism to the morning stars singing, I have trouble placing a literal interpretation on the "sons of God" portion of the text. It would be the only part of this text that was to be taken literally, if that were the case. Rather, I think sons of God represent the personification of God's spoken word. Therefore, when God's words (fiats) create, and God pronounces the creations "good," His personified words can poetically "shout with joy." Nevertheless, you cite an interesting piece of textual evidence for the existence of angels at the time of creation.

      Regarding the placement of the Fall of the Angels during creation week, see Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, Vol. I, p. 53. See also II Enoch 29:4&5, and Targum Job 28:7. The vast majority of texts, however, place the fall of Satan (and his angels) at the time of Genesis Chapter 6--a point that Jesus discredits when he says that angels neither marry nor give in marriage.

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    2. I hadn't thought of the poetic sense used. Very good observation. I was too caught up in the term used in Job 1:6 as an actual encounter in Heavens realm, that I assumed its relation in 38:7.

      I had read somewhere that ben Elohim was reserved for direct creation by God. Adam would be a son of God but Cain being the product of procreation was son of Adam. This would imply each angel as a direct creation of God. The article whent on to talk about this is why in John 1:12 we read that those who receive are given the right to become sons of God, in that, God creates a new creature directly. (v.13 who, not of blood nor of a will of flesh, nor of a will of man but -- of God were begotten.) I have long lost this article and have no reference point. Only an interesting point.

      Thank you for your reply and reference provided. I was intrigued by the thought of sons of God being the spoken word in a poetic sense. Thanks for your time and thoughts.

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    3. I suspect that the source of your assertions regarding "sons of God" and "sons of men" were arguments that the "daughters (not sons) of men" in Genesis 6 were Cain-ite women. But the argument usually tries to place the "sons of God" as Seth-ite men. Frankly, as I point out in various posts, here, ben Elohim can mean angels, human judges, or god-like things (such as God's words in the Job account you mentioned before?). The term does not mean the same for every biblical author. Jesus (and David) clearly indicates that ben Elohim and even Elohim are human judges (in a reference to Psalm 82) in John 10:34-36. Yet, as you say, Job 1:6 clearly indicates that, there, ben Elohim are angels. This is why your Job passage, albeit poetic, may carry some weight. We look, first, to see how terms and phrases are used by the author, and second, to see how terms and phrases are used by others in the same culture, etc.

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