Thursday, August 12, 2010

Angels & Demons 18: God Commanded Angels to Worship Jesus, but Not Adam


In my two previous commentaries, I considered the pseudepigraphal Book of Adam and Eve, in which angels were expected to worship Adam, because he was the “image of God.” Satan and his angels supposedly “sinned” because they refused to worship Adam, thus rebelling against the will of God. There was never, however, any “law” or “command” given to angels that they must worship Adam. The New Testament is consistent with the writings of the Jewish rabbis in the period following the New Testament, in this regard. Although Satan is certainly considered the adversary of mankind in the New Testament, nowhere is he presented as the adversary of God. I Peter 5:8 warns the readers: “Be on guard! Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Nevertheless, I Peter calls him YOUR adversary, not the adversary of God. Revelation 12:10 calls him the “accuser” of the “brothers,” but does not paint him as a challenger to God. Instead, he seems to be doing exactly what God allows him to do: He “accuses them before our God, day and night.”

That is, until God has a justification for ending the accusing and casting “Satan out of his presence. Jesus’ blood secured forgiveness for those whom Satan was accusing: “And they overcame him by reason of the blood of the Lamb and through the word of their testimony, and they loved not their life unto death.” Unlike Adam, who disbelieved God’s warning, rebelled against God, and thus lost his life, Jesus and his followers (the martyrs) believed God, voluntarily gave up their lives, and defeated Satan, their accuser. Adam, although he was made in the “image of God,” never fulfilled the role. It remained for one of Adam’s offspring or “seed” (Genesis 3:15) to perfect the role of the true “image of God.”

Here is what the Jewish rabbis had to say about Adam-worship. Kohelet Rabbah 6.10 offers a parable of a king and a governor who were riding together. The people wanted to address the king with respect, but did not know which of the two men was king. The king therefore pushed the governor out of the chariot. Therefore, the people knew they should pay respect to him, rather than to the governor. Kohelet Rabbah was offering this as a parable pertaining to the question of whether angels should worship God or God’s image (Adam): “At the time when the Holy One—Blessed be He—created the first man, the ministering angels were mistaken in him and they wanted to pronounce before him, ‘Holy!’ What did the Holy One—Blessed be He—do? He caused a sleep to fall upon him. And [the angels] recognized that he was man. And [God] said to [Adam], ‘For dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return’” (Genesis 3:19). This story also occurs in Bereshit Rabbah 8:10, where it is attributed to Rabbi Hoshaya. Bernard Bamberger, in Fallen Angels, page 94, says that this account “seems to be directed against this [Adam-worshipping] . . . legend.” Bamberger states: “This tale rules out the notion that the angels had to worship Adam.”

Of course, one will not find anywhere in the writings of the Jewish rabbis a suggestion that God commanded angels to worship Jesus! Jewish rabbis did not believe Jesus was the Christ. But, even Moslems (who DO believe that Jesus was the Christ) are unwilling to make him the object of worship. Both Jews and Moslems reject the doctrine of Trinity. My Jewish major professor of Hebrew at Indiana University, Henry Fischel, pointed out to me that NOWHERE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT DOES THE WORD “TRINITY” OCCUR. What both Jews and Moslems may find interesting, however, is that the Book of Revelation does NOT RELY ON ANY DOCTRINE OF TRINITY to make Jesus worthy of worship. Revelation chapter 4 describes the scene in Heaven in which all the universe (including angels) worshipped the ONE Lord God Almighty, pronouncing the very word Kohelet Rabbah and Bereshit Rabbah employ in worship: “Holy!” Then, in chapter 5 of Revelation, the Lamb is also deemed worthy of worship (but not by using the word “Holy!”). This is a stunning development. Now, in a sense similar to the (incorrect) pseudepigraphal Book of Adam and Eve, someone besides God is declared worthy of worship by the angels. But, the Lamb is not presented there as a divine being. He is seated “at the right hand” of the One seated on the throne (5:1). He is presented as the “conquerer” (5:5). His conquest is associated with the shedding of his “blood” (5:9). Like God, he is “worthy” to receive praise (5:13). But, throughout the book of Revelation, although the word “almighty” is used several times to refer to the One God, it is never applied to Jesus. I comment, on page 120 of my book Revelation: The Human Drama:

Jesus is “known as ‘the first and the last, the beginning and the end,’ in 3:14; he is called ‘the [beginning] of the creation of God.’ (Similarly, 1:5 calls him the ‘first-born . . . from the dead.’) In 22:13, John provides another formula describing Jesus as [beginning and end]: ‘I am the alpha and the omega.’ Jesus, as ‘the Lamb who was slain’ (5:6,12) would serve as the archetype for John's concept of human . . . perfection. . . . Jesus as the . . . ‘Lamb who was slain’ can stand . . . for all perfect conquerors (martyrs). Hence, . . . he represents the proper response to Rome for every Christian. Jesus is never referred to as pantokrat├┤r (the Almighty) or as the one ‘who was and who is and who is coming.’ However, John connects the phrase ‘ [the first and the last]’ with Jesus in language about his being ‘dead’ and now being ‘alive’ (a similar notion) in 1:17-18 and 2:8.

. . . Not unexpectedly, ‘God’ is also linked with such perfectionist language. In 21:6, apparently God is the self-designated ‘alpha and the omega, the [beginning] and the [end].’ And in 1:8, the phrase just quoted is applied to God along with another equal phrase: ‘who was and who is and who is coming,’ plus ‘the Almighty.’ Likewise, 1:4 identifies God as the one ‘who was and who is and who is coming.’ 4:8 and 11:17 repeat this identification of God and include [almighty.] Other verses which identify God as [almighty] include 15.3, 16:7,14, 19:6,15, and 21:22.”

While these parallels indicate a close resemblance between God and Jesus, so does the terminology “the image of God” as it is applied to Adam. If John were trying to advance a picture of the Trinity, it seems strange that he does not include an extra chapter dedicated to worshipping the Holy Spirit. There are only TWO in Revelation who are worthy of worship--not three. I am reminded of the fact that Revelation does not promote the doctrine of Trinity every time I sing the song “Holy! Holy! Holy!” The lyrics of the song surely come from Revelation 4 and 5, and yet they offer the conclusion: “God in three persons, Blessed Trinity.” This is not found in Revelation.

Any Jew or Moslem who objects to the Doctrine of Trinity need not be offended by the approach of the Book of Revelation. Certainly, Jesus is worshipped by angels (and all other creatures), as is God. But the logic of why Jesus is so worshipped seems not to be related to a doctrine of Jesus’ divinity. It seems closer to the view that the “image of God” should be worshipped. Adam did not fully fit the bill for deserving worship, because Adam sinned and brought death upon mankind. Jesus—Adam’s seed—more clearly fits the bill, because he did not sin and yet shed his blood to nullify the role of Satan in heaven. Satan was cast out because his job as accuser had been outmoded. Jesus' blood defeated the Satan/accuser.

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