Sunday, September 26, 2010

Angels & Demons 24: Angels as the Personification of God’s Creative Fiats

On pages 74-75 of my book, Disneology: Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World, I describe the difference between the two types of “words/Words” used by God, according to Kenneth Burke:

“Even though, theoretically, God, like humans, uses symbols or words, he uses two types of words. Burke calls the first type--words he uses in creating the world: (capitalized) ‘Word.’ If God speaks a ‘Word,’ that Word has ‘omnipotence’ (or, at least, the total power necessary to complete its task). In Genesis 1:3, God speaks a Word (‘And God said, ‘Let there be light’’). The very Word he speaks has the ‘omnipotence’ to produce light. Psalms 33:9 confirms the power of this (capitalized) Word: ‘He spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and [the universe] stood fast.’ The Word of God has tremendous power. Isaiah 55:11 goes so far as to suggest that God’s Word is infallible--it cannot fail: ‘So is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’

How, then, can God give a command (word) to Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and have that word fail to achieve its purpose? How is it possible that after the command from God was issued, Adam and Eve ate anyway? The second type of word God uses is (lower-case) ‘word.’ Burke offers theological distinctions between ‘word’ and ‘Word.’ This (lower-case) ‘word’ has much less power to affect humans. Burke identifies the basis upon which he distinguishes between the two types of words--the negative. . . . Burke, however, is most interested in what he calls the hortatory negative, the negative of command, as with the ‘Thou shalt not’s’ of the Ten Commandments.

Clearly implied in any ‘Thou shalt not’ is the element of free will or choice. We do not tell anyone ‘Thou shalt not’ do something it is impossible to not do. It does no good to tell a baby not to cry. We do not tell people not to digest the food in their intestines. We do not tell someone not to let his or her heart beat, hair or fingernails grow, or kidneys work. We do not use such hortatory negatives because people have no choice in such matters. On the other hand, if we tell people, ‘Thou shalt not kill, lie, steal, rape, commit adultery, or slander,’ it is clear that humans have free will or choice in such matters. They may choose either to kill or to not kill. They may choose to lie or to tell the truth. They may choose to steal or to refrain from stealing, to rape or refrain from raping, to commit adultery or to refrain from committing adultery, to slander or not to slander. Having this distinction in mind, I should point out that, although God’s utterance is presented as ‘Word’ in the case of the creative fiat (‘Let there be light!’), God’s utterance might be understood as ‘word’ in the case of the Ten Commandments. In the first instance, there is no implicit free will attributed to that which is created. In the second instance, humans to whom the Ten Commandments are directed are implicitly credited with free will.”

One of the reasons angels were considered by Jewish teachers to be incapable of sinning is that they were considered to be generated by God’s use of “Word” (capitalized). When Ginzberg (in V:21) states, "Out of every word uttered by God angels are created," he is picturing angels as the personification of God’s creative fiats. He presents these angels, not as the free moral agents humans are, but as the commissioned forces that are charged with making certain that God’s Words are infallibly fulfilled. One might view such angels as more like robots than humans. They do not have the (human free-will) options of deciding NOT to fulfill God’s commands. When God says, “Let there be light,” an Angel of Light (Gabriel?) is created who infallibly produces light. When God says, “Let there be a firmament (or separation) dividing the waters above the earth from the waters on the earth,” an Angel of the Firmament (Hlm Hml) is created who infallibly produces that separation. When God says, “Let the earth bring forth vegetation,” an Angel of Plants (Sachluph) is created to fulfill God’s command. There are angels of the Sun, the Moon, the Planets, and the Stars. There are angels of the fish, the fowl, the tame beasts, and the wild beasts.

On page 25 of his Dictionary of Angels, Gustav Davidson writes:

“There were 7 [angels of Creation] in the beginning (i.e., at the time of Creation) . . . who set down the events of the ‘first days.’ The 7 angels of creation usually given are Orifiel, Anael, Zachariel, Samael (before this angel rebelled, and fell), Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael. The Book of Enoch reports that the angels of Creation reside in the 6th Heaven.”

Although Davidson reports that Samael rebelled and fell (in the Book of Enoch), Jewish angelology could not ultimately accept the premise that an angel could do anything counter to his explicit instructions from God. Angels were nothing more than personified spirit forces that were charged with carrying out the terms of God’s creative fiats. As Isaiah 55:11 reports: ‘So is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’ To put this in Burkean terms, God has a (capitalized) Word, that may be personified as an angel, whose sole task and capability is to effect the result commanded in God’s creative fiat.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Angels & Demons 23: Angels as the Personification of God’s Word

The best way to understand the concept of angels is to view them as “the personification of God’s words.” For those who wonder why a professor of “communication” is writing commentaries on angels and demons, here is the connection. Angels and demons are religious ways of discussing “communication.” When God spoke “light” into existence, He effectively created an Angel of Light. When He implicitly “tested” man’s free will by giving him a command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, He effectively created a “testing” angel. Once man sinned and God “cursed” him with “death,” He effectively created a Death Angel, etc.

On page 47 of his Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, G. B. Caird seems to suggest that there is confusion in the book of Revelation over whether the “seven stars” are “angels” or “spirits”:

“It is important . . . to notice that the seven stars do not mean in this letter [to Sardis] what they meant in the letter to Ephesus. There they were the angels of the churches, here they are the sevenfold Spirit of God; and since the Spirit, in speaking to the churches, addresses the angels of the churches, the two are clearly not to be identified. The one symbol does double service.”

Keep in mind: Caird’s terminology of the "sevenfold Spirit of God" is his own interpretation (an attempt, I think, to find evidence of the doctrine of Trinity in Revelation). John defines the seven stars as the seven spirits of God in the letter to Sardis, whereas they were "angels" of the seven churches, earlier. Furthermore, also present in the letters to the seven churches is John’s recurring comment about the "spirit . . . say[ing]" things "to the churches." John is not confused; he is a master craftsman. John is using synecdoche—figurative language employing the use of the whole for a part or a part for the whole, the container for the thing contained, and various parts of a whole that can stand for each other. For John, angel, spirit, and word are all “parts” of the same “whole”—the communication of God. In a sense, an “angel” is the same thing as a “spirit,” which is the same thing as a “word.”

Jewish scholar G. F. Moore (in Volume I, page 414, of his book Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era) links the three terms (of Caird's "seven stars" confusion) together quite easily. In his chapter entitled, "The Word of God: The Spirit," Moore states, "God's will is made known or effectuated in the world not only through personal agents (ANGELS), but directly by his WORD or by his SPIRIT" (emphases mine). Here all three terms of Caird's puzzle fit neatly together. If the seven stars represent "angels," then "angels" are a part of the whole. If the stars "represent" "spirits of God," then spirits are a part of the whole. If "the spirit" is "say[ing]" things to the churches, then what "the spirit says" (i.e., the “word”) is a part of the whole.

For John, as for other Jews of his generation, a concept of a whole from which parts spring up and to which they return is the concept of the Nehar di-Nur (the "stream of fire"). Louis Ginzberg (in V:21) states: "Thus there are angels who spring up daily out of the stream Dinur (='stream of fire'; comp. Dan. 7.10); they praise God, and then disappear. Out of every word uttered by God angels are created." Ginzberg says (in V:37) that the Rabbis further connected this stream with at least one STAR: "The stream of fire in which the SUN bathes, is identical with the Nehar di-Nur." An easy connection would be to see other heavenly lights, such as "stars," bathing in and arising out of the stream of fire, as well.

John is familiar with the "stream of fire." He does not mention this stream, but he describes a "lake of fire" into which the Devil and his angels are thrown. Not only is John familiar with the "stream of fire," he even adds a twist to the concept: A “stream” keeps on flowing, but a "lake" is the end of the line. Water flows into a lake, but does not flow out. According to Ginzberg (in V:125), later Jewish writers speak of souls passing through the river of fire where "the wicked" are "judged." Whether these Jewish writers originated the idea of a river of fiery judgment or picked up on John's "lake of fire" is uncertain, but their concept does seem to demonstrate the ease with which fiery judgment and the stream of fire may be connected.

Having discussed the various Fallen Angel Stories in previous commentaries, I am now shifting my focus to a discussion of the nature of angels, in general, rather than just the “fallen” variety. In future commentaries, I will discuss the ways in which angels are the personification of God’s word.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Angels & Demons 22: Recap of the Fallen Angel Stories

For twenty-two commentaries, now, I have been discussing Fallen Angel Stories. You, my readers, may have become lost in all the variations of these stories, so I offer this internal summary of the various Fallen Angel Stories. In the Old Testament, there were no fallen angels. Right after the Old Testament, hundreds of Fallen Angel Stories emerged. Then, by the New Testament, the fallen angels have almost completely disappeared again! In light of the flood of literature on fallen angels from the period between the Old and New Testaments, the obvious disqualification of the bulk of the fallen angel material from the official/codified scriptures of Christianity, Judaism, and the literature surrounding them is striking. If you have not encountered some of these stories, prior to now, you may take that as evidence that the stories were rejected for one reason or another. Here is a recap of the various fallen angel stories that developed between the Old Testament and New Testament periods:

1. FALLEN ANGELS WHO SINNED BY BRINGING CULTURE TO MANKIND. According to I Enoch 54:5, iron chains were being prepared for the host of Azazel. This host will be thrown into the abyss, with jagged stones. I Enoch 65:6-7 speaks of the angel’s secrets that were passed on to humans, including sorcery, incantations, and working with melted metals such as silver, lead, and tin. In other words, the fallen angels taught mankind to make tools and use fire. They brought culture to mankind. This story developed from Greek legends of Prometheus who was punished by Zeus for the same behavior. This story is rejected by the New Testament period.

2. AN EVIL GOD WHO IS EQUAL TO AND WHO WARS AGAINST OUR GOD. Persian religion developed the concept of an Evil God who was constantly at war with a Good God. There is no picture in the Old Testament of a Satan who could rival God. The Hebrew word “SATAN” means “adversary” or “prosecuting attorney.” That’s all Satan was in the Book of Job. He certainly had not “fallen” from Heaven by then. Job 1:6 has Satan joining the angels in presenting themselves before God. He petitions God for permission to “test” Job. He certainly does not demand anything of God. This story is rejected by the New Testament period.

3. ANGELS WHO SINNED BY MARRYING HUMAN WOMEN. Whoever the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are, they are not raping the “daughters of men” or having sex with them outside the bonds of marriage. They are “marrying” them. Since this is the most significant version of the Fallen Angel Story in the Greek period, the possibility of angels having sex with humans is at issue. Jesus and the rabbis seem to suggest that it is impossible. 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. This story is rejected by the New Testament period.

4. LUCIFER, AND HIS ANGELS, WHO REBELLED BY TRYING TO BE EQUAL TO GOD AND WAS CAST TO EARTH. It is clear that Lucifer (from Isaiah 14:12) is a man: “They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, [and] consider thee, [saying, Is] this the MAN that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?” Verses 18-20, furthermore, point out that Lucifer is a “king”: “All the kings of the nations, [even] all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But thou . . . shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, [and] slain thy people.” We confirm this identification of Lucifer as the “king of Babylon” in the 4th verse of chapter 14: “That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon.” What follows, including the Lucifer passage in the middle of this chapter, is all a proverb denouncing the king of Babylon. This story is rejected by the New Testament period.

5. ANGELS (OTHER THAN LUCIFER) WHO REBELLED AGAINST GOD. After the New Testament period, (the Christian) Justin Martyr, somewhere around 150 A.D., described Trypho (a Jew) as becoming irate concerning the suggestion that Fallen Angels fell through the sin of “rebellion.” Trypho appears to reject the notion that angels could sin at all as being “blasphemous!” I believe Justin was mistaken and that Trypho the Jew was correct in this instance. The New Testament supports Trypho more than it does Justin. Martin Hengel, in his book Judentum und Hellenismus, pages 347-348, says that the analogy to the Clash of the Titans of Greek mythology lies close to the Fallen Angel Story. The motif of lesser gods rebelling against Zeus is the basis for the “Clash of the Titans” in Greek mythology. Therefore, the motif of angels rebelling against God made a good deal of sense to Jews who were living in the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great and his successors (between the Old and New Testaments). This story is rejected by the New Testament period.

6. ANGELS WHO SINNED BY JUDGING UNFAIRLY. In Psalm 82, God speaks to certain judges (calling them “gods” and “sons of the Most High”). He accuses them of judging unjustly and favoring the wicked. He tells them that they shall all “die as men and fall as one of the princes.” Jesus, however, is quoted in John 10:33-36 as clearly implying that the term “sons of the Most High” (from Psalm 82:6) refers to “human judges.” These human judges are called “gods/ELOHIM” in both Psalm 82:6 and Exodus 22:28. Jesus was making the point that it was not blasphemous for him to be called “god” or “son of God,” if even human judges could be called “gods” and “sons of the Most High.” Even though Haag argues that the passages in which “sons of God” are most prominent in the Old Testament (Job, Genesis 6, and Psalm 82) presuppose some sort of heavenly council in which God seeks input from other heavenly beings (such as angels), the Septuagint is only willing to explicitly apply that interpretation to Job. The rabbis rejected the notion that Psalm 82 referred to angels, as did John 10:33-36.

7. ANGELS WHO SINNED BY REFUSING TO WORSHIP ADAM. In the book The Lives of Adam and Eve, The Devil is presented as an angel who was cast out of Heaven because of his refusal to bow down and worship Adam. He was expected to worship Adam because Adam was the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26). Later human cultures would make “graven images” of their gods and worship those images, so the author of The Life of Adam and Eve thought it logical that angels would have been expected to worship the (living) image of the one true God—Adam. According to this source, when the Devil’s angels, over whom he was placed, heard of the Devil’s refusal to honor Adam by bowing down, they also refused. While the authors of the books of Revelation and Hebrews in the New Testament appear to be familiar with this story, they use only its logic for demonstrating that angels should bow down and worship Jesus—the Second Adam.

8. THE DEVIL WHO SINNED BY MURDERING AND LYING (AS A FALLEN ANGEL). Jesus, in John 8:37-44, says: “You have the devil for your father and you wish to practice the desires of your father; he was a slayer of men from the beginning, and he could not stay in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks according to his nature; for he is a liar and the father of liars.” Jesus was probably referring to the devil’s roles as tempter/tester and executioner. Hebrews 2:14 speaks of Jesus as neutralizing the one who wields the power of death, namely the devil. The first time the term Satan appears in the Bible is in the Book of Job, where Satan not only tests Job but also KILLS his wife and children. God restricts his power so that he cannot KILL Job himself, because Job is righteous. For those of us who are not as righteous as Job, Satan does indeed pose the threat of death. But, is this killing of humans a sin? Is Satan breaking the Law by killing men? Not if we deserve it. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. Romans 3:23 says all have sinned. Even though Revelation calls the devil the “deceiver of all humanity,” one wonders if his deceit simply amounts to something like putting a False statement in a True-False test. Yes, it is a lie, but the student is being TESTED to see if s/he recognizes it as such.

9. (SINLESS) ANGELS WHO ATTEMPTED TO MARRY A HUMAN GIRL, BUT WERE OUTWITTED BY THE GIRL. According to this story, when the angels descended to Earth, they propositioned a certain virgin. They wanted to “marry” her. Wise young lady that she was, she tricked them. She promised to agree to their proposition on one condition: they must give her their wings. Upon receiving the wings, and prior to the consummation of the sexual union, she flapped her wings and flew away to God’s throne. Either she was made into the constellation Virgo or the constellation Virgo was named for her. While the rabbis allowed this story to be taught, the New Testament makes no reference to it.

10. (SINLESS) GUARDIAN ANGELS (PRINCES) WHO ASCENDED, THEN DESCENDED, JACOB’S LADDER. The Jewish concept of the guardian angels of various nations ascending and descending on Jacob’s ladder ends with the angel of the nation of Israel ascending the ladder, but never descending. This is the story of the ascending and descending national guardian angels (also called “princes”) of history’s world empires. The rabbis allowed this story to be taught. The New Testament comes close to accepting this story in Revelation, with Michael (traditionally understood to be the national guardian angel of Israel) defeating Satan (with the blood of the Lamb) and casting him to earth. Perhaps, this story also figures into the curious comment attributed to Jesus by John (in John 1:51): “Truly, I assure you all, you shall see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

11. A (SINLESS) ANGEL OF TRUTH WHO DISAGREED WITH THE CREATION OF MAN AND WAS CAST TO THE EARTH. The Angel of Truth temporarily became a “fallen angel” because of his opposition to the creation of man. The biblical text that serves as the basis for the Bereshit Rabbah 8.5 account is Psalm 85:11-12a: “Mercy and Truth met each other; Righteousness and Peace kissed each other. Truth will arise from the Earth.” According to H. Freedman, however, the rabbinic account “interprets ‘met’ in the sense of ‘fought,’ and derives ‘NASHAḲU [kissed]’ from ‘NESHEḲ [arms]’, rendering: ‘have taken arms against each other.’” This combat between Mercy and Truth, and Righteousness and Peace, is then presented as an argument over the creation of man: “Mercy says, ‘Let him be created; for he does merciful things.’ Truth says, ‘Let him not be created; for he is all lies.’ Righteousness says, ‘Let him be created; for he does righteous things.’ Peace says, ‘Do not let him be created; he is all quarrel.’ What did the Holy One—blessed be He—do? He took Truth and cast him down to the Earth. This is that which is written: ‘And it cast Truth down to the Earth’ (Daniel 8.12). The angels who attend before the Holy One—blessed be He—said, ‘Lord of the worlds, why are you spurning [the rank of] your worthy Truth? Let Truth rise up from the Earth.’ This is that which is written: ‘Truth will arise from the earth’ (Psalm 85.12a).” I conclude, however, that “opposition to man” was not necessarily considered a sin. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for him to return to God’s Throne.

12. SATAN (AND HIS ANGELS) WHO FELL BECAUSE SATAN’S JOB WAS ELIMINATED. According to Revelation, Satan lost his first job—that of “accuser of the brothers”—due to the “Blood” of Jesus. Revelation, therefore, places the Fall of Satan somewhere around 30 AD. The Hebrew word “SATAN” means “prosecuting attorney.” Prosecuting attorney was Satan’s FIRST job. There is no need for a prosecutor, if all of the accused have been “pardoned.” While John the writer of Revelation is familiar with virtually all of the Fallen Angel Stories, he seems to reject them all in favor of a progressive “outmoding of Satan’s jobs” approach. The first job to go was that of accuser/prosecuting attorney. The loss of this job resulted in Satan being cast to earth because there was no longer a job for him “in Heaven.” No longer did Satan’s job(s) require him to be in the presence of God. Before whom else would Satan have accused and prosecuted the brothers? God is the ultimate Judge. Satan needed to be in His presence to present the prosecution’s case against the brothers. There is no sin in this task, but it is certainly a task God and “the brothers” were happy to see ended.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Angels & Demons 21: One Final (Sinless) Fallen Angel Story

In my two previous commentaries, I discussed the fall of angels who were involved in the rise and fall of world empires. According to Revelation, Satan (a.k.a., the Dragon) is the one who raises the world empires. After his Fall from Heaven, he fought (and lost) a few earthly battles, culminating with the Fall of the Roman Empire. Then, he was chained for 1000 years and thrown into the Abyss. During this time (The Dark Ages?), he was not permitted to raise up world empires. According to Rabbinic sources, (the angels of) the empires who ASCENDED (Jacob’s Ladder) and were in power also DESCENDED or FELL from power as, for example, Rome fell. This perspective on angels may, therefore, be considered a Fallen Angel Story. The primary source for this Fallen Angel Story appears to be Rabbi Meir, a third generation Tanna (from the first or second century AD), who served as Hakam (speaker) of the academy of Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel II. The details of the number of rungs ascended by each guardian angel is probably not traceable to Meir, according to Hermann Strack, so I will not follow that tangent.

What is clear, however, is that the Fallen Angels of this account were SINLESS, just as were virtually all other fallen angels of the New Testament period. The question of sin does not even enter the account of the descending princes/guardian angels. The vision is to be interpreted as a prophetic account of world history. The descent of the princes is not understood to be related to any moral impropriety on the part of the angels. Even if the nations which the various guardian angels represented did themselves (the nations) behave immorally, their princes were not considered sinful by association. Otherwise, Israel’s own prince would have been indicted often.
On the contrary, Midrash Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 2.1, in an account attributed to Rabbi Eleazar the Modiite (2nd generation Tanna), the guardian angels are very much part of the divine economy (though playing a near-satanic role), and are accusing and defending men, not cognizant of any need to defend themselves. A translation of that text follows:

“The time will come regarding the princes of the nations of the world, in the future to come, that they will enter to accuse Israel before the Holy One—blessed be He. And they say, ‘Lord of the World, these (the heathen) certainly worshipped idols and these (the Israelites) certainly worshipped idols; these (the heathen) uncovered nudities and these (the Israelites) uncovered nudities; these (the heathen) shed blood and these (the Israelites) shed blood. For what reason do these (the heathen) go to hell (Gehinnom), but these (the Israelites) do not go down?’”

These national guardian angels are often hostile to Israel, a trait that makes them similar to the angels of Truth and Peace in the final Fallen Angel Story of this period, which I shall now recite. Bereshit Rabbah 8.5 provides an account of an angel who was cast to earth because his conclusion regarding the wisdom of creating man conflicted with God’s. The account of groups of angels being “consumed” because of their opposition to the creation of man can be found in other locations (see Ginsberg, Legends of the Jews, V, 69). Here, however, the Angel of Truth temporarily became a “fallen angel” because of his opposition to the creation of man. The biblical text that serves as the basis for the Bereshit Rabbah 8.5 account is Psalm 85:11-12a:

“Mercy and Truth met each other; Righteousness and Peace kissed each other. Truth will arise from the Earth.”

According to H. Freedman, however, the rabbinic account “interprets ‘met’ in the sense of ‘fought,’ and derives ‘NASHAḲU [kissed]’ from ‘NESHEḲ [arms]’, rendering: ‘have taken arms against each other.’” This combat between Mercy and Truth, and Righteousness and Peace, is then presented as an argument over the creation of man:

“Mercy says, ‘Let him be created; for he does merciful things.’ Truth says, ‘Let him not be created; for he is all lies.’ Righteousness says, ‘Let him be created; for he does righteous things.’ Peace says, ‘Do not let him be created; he is all quarrel.’ What did the Holy One—blessed be He—do? He took Truth and cast him down to the Earth. This is that which is written: ‘And it cast Truth down to the Earth’ (Daniel 8.12). The angels who attend before the Holy One—blessed be He—said, ‘Lord of the worlds, why are you spurning [the rank of] your worthy Truth? Let Truth rise up from the Earth.’ This is that which is written: ‘Truth will arise from the earth’ (Psalm 85.12a).”

The ambivalent character of mankind provides the material for this angelic debate. Obviously, each contestant in the matter could easily produce evidence to substantiate his claim. Mankind is, of course, merciful-yet-false, righteous-yet-quarrelsome. The Angel of Truth was not lying here; he was being truthful. He has not broken any of the biblical commandments. Neither is he presented as a “rebel” against God. He is not even arguing with God (even though his conclusion is in disagreement with God’s)—he is arguing (battling?) with other angels. His ultimate opponent, however, is neither God nor angels; he is opposed to “man.” He does not favor the creation of man.

The concept of angelic-human rivalry is not at all uncommon in our period. I have already mentioned (in previous commentaries) Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 88b-89a, Midrash Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 8.11, Mdrash Tehillim 8.74, and Pesikta Rabbati ch. 25, p. 128a, which all have some concern with the angels’ opposition to mankind’s receiving the Law/Torah. In Midrash Agadat Bereshit (Buber edition, Introduction, p. 38), Yalkut (I, p. 44), and Chronicles of Jerahmeel (p. 53)— parallels of the BHM account, in which the young girl tricked the angels into giving her their wings—the angels’ motive for descending to earth was to prove their superiority to man (their rival). Additionally, the Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 38b speaks of hosts of angels who were “consumed” because of their opposition to the creation of Adam. Peter Schȁfer wrote an entire book on the rivalry between angels and humans, Rivalitȁt zwischen Engeln und Menschen, published by Gruyter, in 1975. I commented in my Angels & Demons 18 commentary that Satan also has a rivalry with man:

“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.’”

In addition to Revelation’s presentation of Satan’s Fall as linked to his enmity toward man, rabbinic literature presents the Fall of Satan (also known as Sammael) as the result of his enmity toward man. In Midrash Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, chapters 13-14, Sammael fell because of his conspiracy against Adam in which he misled Adam to sin. Jewish scholar Louis Ginzberg (in Legends of the Jews, V, 85) believes this “corresponds to Revelation 12:9,” as do I. The Koran also agrees, to a certain extent. In Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation of The Holy Qur-an (Volume I, pp. 24ff., there is an angelic debate concerning the advisability of creating man, Iblīs’s (the Devil’s) refusal to bow down to Adam, and Satan’s causing the couple to slip from the Garden.

Returning to the “Angel of Truth” story, however, I conclude that “opposition to man” was not necessarily considered a sin. It is evidently quite unsatisfactory to God, since the Angel of Truth was cast down to earth for his opinion. But, if this is a Fallen Angel Story, we find that in the resolution of the story, Truth “arises from the Earth.” Apparently, then, this angel—like the angels who gave up their wings to the young girl—was not guilty of any sins. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for him to return to God’s Throne.