Wrestling with Angels: A Study of the Relationship between Angels and Humans in Ancient Jewish Literature and the New Testament

Wrestling with Angels: A Study of the Relationship between Angels and Humans in Ancient Jewish Literature and the New Testament

Wrestling with Angels: A Study of the Relationship between Angels and Humans in Ancient Jewish Literature and the New Testament

Wrestling with Angels: A Study of the Relationship between Angels and Humans in Ancient Jewish Literature and the New Testament

Synopsis

This monograph explores the relationship between angels and humans during the late Second Temple and early Christian period (200BCE-100CE). The issue of the similarity of appearance between humans and angels is considered in the first part of the book. In the second part three topics are covered: humans and angels living together in communities, angels as recipients of human hospitality, and the possibility of human-angel hybrid offspring. This study provides insight into how the ancient Jews and Christians defined angel", and it argues that a clear distinction was maintained between angels and humans. These analyses have implications for our understanding of nascent Christology as well as soteriology, and also for our understanding of early Jewish Mysticism."

Excerpt

1.1 Introduction

This monograph investigates the relationship between humans and angels as discussed in the literature of the late Second Temple and early Christian period (200 BCE–100 CE).

Angels are found in many books of the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, and a significant number of the extant extra-Biblical writings. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls served to remind modern scholars that many, if not all, Jewish groups had beliefs about angels. Angels, then, were a significant part of late Second Temple Jewish and early Christian cosmology. Yet the study of angel beliefs on the whole has not been a serious topic in earlier studies. Recently, scholars have begun to investigate this significant corpus of material on angels, primarily out of an interest in the impact of angel traditions on the development of Christology.

One aspect of the investigation that has received only modest attention thus far is the sometimes complex relationship between humans and angels. When they appear to humans, angels often take on the form of humans. Humans are sometimes characterized in angelic categories, and some humans are even said to transform into angels. Moreover, angels interact with humans in intimate ways, such as by coexisting in specific communities, appearing to partake of human hospitality, and also, in at least one line of tradition, having viable offspring with human women.

Because of this close and complex relationship, some scholars have suggested that ancient authors equated humans with angels. The examination undertaken in this study aims to determine whether and to what extent ancient authors made any such identification between humans and angels. As will be seen from the survey of scholarship below (1.3), the answer to this question is itself not only interesting and valuable but also has implications for understanding the emergence of Christology and early Jewish and Christian mysticism.

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