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.

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