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The Difference Between Gods and Angels


maklelan

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A common response to the phrase benei elohim (sons of God) in the Hebrew Bible is that the text is referring to angels, a group of heavenly beings used as messengers throughout the Bible. It has long been my contention that this interpretation is an illegitimate apologetic that prioritizes the maintenance of strict monotheism to the detriment of the text. This thread is intended to unpack the significance of the terms mela'kim (angels) and benei elohim, and show why the above interpretation neglects a linguistic and contextual backdrop that clearly precludes it.

The word for angel in Hebrew, mala'k, appears to be derived from a verb that means "to send" [1]. An angel is one who is sent. Throughout the Hebrew Bible angels are used for a limited number of purposes, which include (1) the conveyance of commandments to humanity, (2) the announcement of special events, (3) the protection of the faithful, and (4) the punishment of the wicked [2]. An underlying theme to all angelic ministration in the Hebrew Bible is subservience to God. The angel is without exception acting under the authority and direction of God, and is usually referenced as an "angel (nomen regens) of God (nomen rectum)." They are God's possession. They have no will of their own.

This fact is one of the primary dividers between deities and angels. Deities generally act on their own will, but are also portrayed as sometimes rebellious or wicked. The benei elohim are especially rebellious in the Hebrew Bible. Angels are never so portrayed. Two examples will serve to illustrate this. The first is the famous account from Gen 6 of the conception of Nephilim by mortal women and benei elohim. These are not angels. In fact, angels are not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible until well after the flood. They function as intermediaries between deity and humanity, which was an unnecessary role in Gen 6, since deity and humanity interacted without restriction. In Gen 6:3, as a result of the improprieties of free interaction, God remedies the situation by withdrawing his spirit and capping humanity's lifespan. A barrier is thrown up, and it is only after this that the angels become necessary. In this story the taxonomic distinction between angels and the benei elohim is made clear.

In Deut 32:8 the benei elohim are again referenced. The Masoretic Text preserves and emended version of this verse, and finishes with reading, benei israel. The Septuagint, and to a more accurate degree, the Dead Sea Scrolls, preserve the original reading, however, which was "sons of God," not "sons of Israel" [3]. The text references an inheritance being divided to the nations. Yahweh is then said to receive "his people," or "Jacob," a reference to Israel. Yahweh appears to be filling a role as overseer of the nation of Israel, which he receives after the nations have been divided according to the number of sons of God (benei el in this verse). Yahweh is one of the benei el.

This is significant because it has considerable ties with a pantheon attested more clearly in Ugaritic literature. El is the father of 70 divine children (bn 'il in Ugaritic, and equivalent of Hebrew benei el) in the Ugaritic literature. 70 is an important number in the Hebrew Bible. Moses ordained seventy elders. Seventy souls came out of the loins of Jacob. Israel was in captivity for seventy years. In the ancient Near East it was commonplace to round the number of nations on the earth off to 70. Yahweh appears to be one of the 70 sons of El in Deut 32:8. He is assigned the nation of Israel as his lot, but that would soon change. Ps 82 preserves a divine council scene in which Elyon reprimands the benei elohim who have stewardship over the various nations and calls upon Elohim to rise up and take charge of all the nations. At this point Elohim seems to have been conflated with Yahweh, but Elyon (Deut 32:8's divider of nations) is separate.

In both Deuteronomy and Psalms we see the remnants of the top two tiers of a four-tiered pantheon represented in the Ugaritic literature. El and his wife inhabit the top tier. The seventy sons inhabit the second tier. The third tier is vaguely represented, but seems to be inhabited by craftsmen deities. Kother wa-Hasis is one clear example from the Ugaritic literature [4]. The bottom tier is inhabited by messenger deities. At some point during the Divided Monarchy of Israel prophets seem to have collapsed the four tiers of the archaic Israelite pantheon into two, conflating tiers one and two, and three and four. Yahweh is suddenly identified with Elohim, and their taxonomic category is elevated far above the bottom tier, which is made up of messengers and other divine beings. This is the realm of the mala'kim, far separated from the tier of the benei elohim, once ruled over by Yahweh, one of the sons of El.

During the exile and after, as God was progressively represented as more and more transcendent, and the angels as more and more base, pseudepigraphic literature began to surface that treated the angels almost as mortal beings. They were cast as the rebels and the outcasts in a variety of narratives that bear absolutely no resemblance to the theology and angelology of the Hebrew Bible. It is within this context that the major interpreters of the Hebrew Bible associated the benei elohim with the mala'kim. A strict sense of monotheism was developing from the interaction of Hellenistic and Jewish theology. God had no sons, and so an explanation had to be found for the benei elohim. They were rebels in the text of the Hebrew Bible, which was consonant with Second Temple and Rabbinic perceptions of some angels (like Lucifer), so they were conflated.

Until the discovery of the Ugaritic texts there was no context into which many of the references to the benei elohim could be inserted for help interpreting. Centuries of exgesis had associated the benei elohim with the mala'kim, but the Ugaritic literature uncovered a wealth of correlations between Hebrew Bible and Ugaritic narrative, one of which was the four tiered pantheon, which accounts quite conveniently for the previously misunderstood vernacular of Deuteronomy, Psalms, and several other texts. Fundamentalists and apologists will continue to appeal to the outdated research of the early exegetes of the Bible rather than embrace new and rather significant evidence that conflicts with their dogmas, but a critical look at the literary context and the use of the terms in the Hebrew Bible clearly delineates between angels and the sons of God.

Notes

1. See HALOT, 513. In Ugaritic l'k is "to send (messengers)." In Arabic and Ethiopic it is la'aka (see E. Littman and M. H

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A common response to the phrase benei elohim (sons of God) in the Hebrew Bible is that the text is referring to angels...

It depends upon what period of scriptural writing we are talking about.

In the very earliest Israelite traditions, the "heavenly host" appear to be

godlings -- lesser deities -- roughly comparable to the Canaanite hierarchy.

In later Jewish writings, the concept of angelic personalities seems to have

gradually displaced much of the earlier henothestic Israelite theology.

However, unless we can perfectly spot instances of later editorial changes

in the biblical (and extra-biblical) texts, it becomes difficult to detect and

date this historical evolution in monotheistic thought.

So far as I can perceive, the earliest Israelite "angels" were not independent

beings/personalities -- such as we find in characters such as Michael and Gabriel.

Think of arctic pack-ice assuming various shapes and sizes -- manifestations of

sea water we can see, touch, interact with. And yet, those hunks of ice are something

less than the totality of the vast ocean.

The vast ocean gives them transitory existence -- and then they melt away,

until time and circumstance forms their icy replacements.

My view, is that the earliest Israelite "angels" were something similar: limited,

transitory personalizations of the glory of God. Intermediaries in our communion

and communication with ineffable Divinity.

And, yes -- I have encountered angels in these latter days.

Uncle Dale

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It depends upon what period of scriptural writing we are talking about.

In the very earliest Israelite traditions, the "heavenly host" appear to be

godlings -- lesser deities -- roughly comparable to the Canaanite hierarchy.

In later Jewish writings, the concept of angelic personalities seems to have

gradually displaced much of the earlier henothestic Israelite theology.

And I discussed that in the post.

However, unless we can perfectly spot instances of later editorial changes

in the biblical (and extra-biblical) texts, it becomes difficult to detect and

date this historical evolution in monotheistic thought.

The changes are very easily isolated and are dated with a fair amount of confidence.

So far as I can perceive, the earliest Israelite "angels" were not independent

beings/personalities -- such as we find in characters such as Michael and Gabriel.

Think of arctic pack-ice assuming various shapes and sizes -- manifestations of

sea water we can see, touch, interact with. And yet, those hunks of ice are something

less than the totality of the vast ocean.

The vast ocean gives them transitory existence -- and then they melt away,

until time and circumstance forms their icy replacements.

My view, is that the earliest Israelite "angels" were something similar: limited,

transitory personalizations of the glory of God.

That ideology is manifestly absent from the earliest Israelite theology and its source is easily identified in Persian and Hellenistic influence.

Intermediaries in our communion

and communication with ineffable Divinity.

And, yes -- I have encountered angels in these latter days.

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...

That ideology is manifestly absent from the earliest Israelite theology and its source is easily identified in Persian and Hellenistic influence.

In the "earliest" Israelite scriptures, an "angel" is YHWH, pure and simple.

But that was in the time of oral tradition. The Israelites of the period of the

Judges may have interpreted Jacob as wrestling with YHWH -- but by the

time those sorts of traditions were first being written down, the totality

of God was realized as unperceivable by the human senses/experience.

Thus, between the kvod of YHWH and the senses of humankind the

"angel" was described by ancient writers.

Question -- Was the burning bush encountered by Moses --

1. God Himself

2. The Glory of God

3. The Angel of the Presence

???

UD

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In the "earliest" Israelite scriptures, an "angel" is YHWH, pure and simple.

I disagree entirely. Often the phrase "angel of Yahweh" is an anthropomorpihc mitigation where originally the text simply said "Yahweh," but not always, and angels often appear independent of Yahweh. 2 Sam 24:16-17 is a good example. Gen 19 is another. It mentions two angels.

But that was in the time of oral tradition. The Israelites of the period of the

Judges may have interpreted Jacob as wrestling with YHWH -- but by the

time those sorts of traditions were first being written down, the totality

of God was realized as unperceivable by the human senses/experience.

That's diametrically opposed to what the evidence suggests. Numerous theophanies from the Pentateuch utterly preclude such a perspective at that point in Israelite religion. Check out Esther Hamori's When Gods Were Men for a good discussion of the development of Israelite theology from a very anthropomorphic perspective toward a more transcendent one.

Thus, between the kvod of YHWH and the senses of humankind the

"angel" was described by ancient writers.

That's a post-exilic perspective.

Question -- Was the burning bush encountered by Moses --

1. God Himself

2. The Glory of God

3. The Angel of the Presence

???

UD

It was Yahweh appearing to him. The word "angel" is a post-exilic interpolation, and the fire is merely indicative of God's glory, but Yahweh himself also appeared. The text says Yahweh appeared to him within a flame of fire from the midst of the bush. The idea of an "angel of presence" is also post-exilic.

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...

The idea of an "angel of presence" is also post-exilic.

Your ultra-literalism makes my head spin.

I suppose you are aware that there are many, many biblical scholars

who would disagree with you on several of your assertions.

But all of that is beside the point. I was trying to help you see things

from different possible perspectives. "Post-exilic" is not some sort of

Jewish apostasy that came from out of nowhere. Its roots are traceable

back to the late Davidic monarchy, in some instances.

A careful study of the Deuteronomic reform, and the contributions

of prophets such as Jeremiah might help round out your studies.

Then again, you are free to ignore all that I have said. Perhaps it

will make sense to some other readers here besides yourself.

UD

.

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Your ultra-literalism makes my head spin.

Ultra-literalism? I don't understand.

I suppose you are aware that there are many, many biblical scholars

who would disagree with you on several of your assertions.

I am aware. I'm also aware that there are more people in the world who think Elvis is still alive than biblical scholars that would disagree with me.

But all of that is beside the point. I was trying to help you see things

from different possible perspectives.

I'm well aware of the different perspectives.

"Post-exilic" is not some sort of

Jewish apostasy that came from out of nowhere. Its roots are traceable

back to the late Davidic monarchy, in some instances.

No, its roots are not traceable to the late Davidic monarchy. Most of the post-exilic ideas come from interaction with Persian and Greek ideologies, attempts to redefine Jewish identity without a temple or autonomy, and the need to develop ideologies that account for the broken Davidic line and the ultimate fulfillment of God's promises. But I didn't say it was a Jewish apostasy. I responded with that fact because you were asserting those ideologies were more archaic than they really are.

A careful study of the Deuteronomic reform, and the contributions

of prophets such as Jeremiah might help round out your studies.

Round out my studies? Do you think this is just some hobby I do on the weekends?

Then again, you are free to ignore all that I have said. Perhaps it

will make sense to some other readers here besides yourself.

I understand where you're coming from, but it's a perspective that rests on rather limited exposure to the evidence and what I believe are rather restrictive assumptions about what the Bible is.

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I understand where you're coming from, but it's a perspective that rests on rather limited exposure to the evidence and what I believe are rather restrictive assumptions about what the Bible is.

Admitted.

My teachers have been Protestants, One Roman Catholic, and numerous RLDS.

That religious schooling was indeed a "rather limited exposure."

I was not there when various compilers made determinations on what to include,

delete or modify in the scriptures -- so I can occasionally be mistaken in my

estimations of what was Israelite "orthodoxy" at any particular time, and what was

heterodoxy. Moving from one part of Palestine to another -- from one shrine to

another -- from one set of priests to another -- there were obviously differences.

From those several sets of "evidence" we attempt to fathom what sources went to make

up the scriptures and the religion under the Davidic kings, and after. Whatever consensus

we may come up with (if we can), will not necessarily be the perfect mind and will of God.

At one point we may see angels as transcendent powers of being -- at another point

we may see them as sexual entities who can mate with human beings to produce giants.

No doubt Mormons have their unique standards, by which they sort out what they

pronounce to be the "true doctrine." -- an angelology that allows the son of Mormon

to become a serif of some sort, through after-life evolution.

Go down that road, if you must.

If you ever wish to hear of alternative experiences, revelation and profession,

let me know.

UD

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Admitted.

My teachers have been Protestants, One Roman Catholic, and numerous RLDS.

That religious schooling was indeed a "rather limited exposure."

I'm not talking about exposure to religious dogmas, I'm talking about exposure to research.

I was not there when various compilers made determinations on what to include,

delete or modify in the scriptures -- so I can occasionally be mistaken in my

estimations of what was Israelite "orthodoxy" at any particular time, and what was

heterodoxy. Moving from one part of Palestine to another -- from one shrine to

another -- from one set of priests to another -- there were obviously differences.

From those several sets of "evidence" we attempt to fathom what sources went to make

up the scriptures and the religion under the Davidic kings, and after. Whatever consensus

we may come up with (if we can), will not necessarily be the perfect mind and will of God.

At one point we may see angels as transcendent powers of being -- at another point

we may see them as sexual entities who can mate with human beings to produce giants.

No doubt Mormons have their unique standards, by which they sort out what they

pronounce to be the "true doctrine." -- an angelology that allows the son of Mormon

to become a serif of some sort, through after-life evolution.

Go down that road, if you must.

If you ever wish to hear of alternative experiences, revelation and profession,

let me know.

UD

I think you misunderstand where I'm coming from. This thread isn't about revelation or Mormonism, it's about the theology of the early Israelites. I'm aware of the perspectives to which you're alluding, and I've studied them before, but they're based on traditional ideas perpetuated almost exclusively within communities of faith that espouse them because it protects their orthodoxy. They also tend to neglect a great deal of evidence if that evidence undermines their faith-based presuppositions. Mormons aren't immune to that either, so don't imagine I'm approaching this from an apologetic point of view. I'm responding to a very common misconception, and I am prepared to respond to any evidence that can be produced from any other perspective, but I'm not here to just make assertions back and forth.

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I'm not talking about exposure to religious dogmas, I'm talking about exposure to research.

The only theology professor I ever studied under who promoted "dogma"

was a functional atheist who espoused a light shell of Buddhism. My other

teachers were essentially non-dogmatic. Even the Latter Day Saints did

not insist that my personal theology be shaped to fit their teaching exactly.

A couple of my profs would qualify as experts in OT and/or NT text-critical

"research," -- though I did not specialize in that sort of investigation.

I did, however, attend a number of LDS Institute classes at the Weber State

"Tute" -- where "exposure to religious dogmas" was continual.

I think you misunderstand where I'm coming from. This thread isn't about revelation or Mormonism, it's about the theology of the early Israelites.

No -- I understand that. What I question is your ability to generalize the religion

of those "Israelites" at any one time and place. Perhaps you have become pretty

much self-assured of your discernment along those lines -- but when what you

say does not match well with my own experiences/conclusions, I suppose you

expect me to at least mention that fact.

I'm aware of the perspectives to which you're alluding, and I've studied them before, but they're based on traditional ideas perpetuated almost exclusively within communities of faith that espouse them because it protects their orthodoxy.

I'm not so sure of that. My interpretation does not come from any one source,

nor from Creedal Christianity. To a large degree I admit being influenced by

radical monotheism -- but you'll never hear me argue that it was the dominant

theology of Israel before the Deuteronomic reform.

The "traditional ideas" that forms the base of my interpretation are the shema

and various studies of the kvod of YHWH -- little of which perpetuates Christian

religion, outside of mystical union theology.

They also tend to neglect a great deal of evidence if that evidence undermines their faith-based presuppositions.

I'll agree with you on that point -- which is exactly why I've always tried to gain

knowledge and viewpoints from a variety of sources, including scripture, tradition,

reason and revelation.

Mormons aren't immune to that either, so don't imagine I'm approaching this from an apologetic point of view.

Never said you are. But I would be interested to hear your explanation of Moroni.

I'm responding to a very common misconception, and I am prepared to respond to any evidence that can be produced from any other perspective, but I'm not here to just make assertions back and forth.

We already agree upon the henotheistic, theoanthropomorphic parameters of Israelite religion,

I presume. We do not appear to agree upon how various aspects/developments of that religion

(or set of related sects) are reflected in ancient scripture, iconography, symbolism, poetry, etc.

You had me agreeing with you at the beginning of your piece, where you begin to make

distinctions and show that "angels" are "sent," acting not upon their own volition. That far,

at least, we are on the same track. But what does "sent" mean, exactly? And what did it

mean at various points in Israelite history? From whence "sent?" With what purpose? Generally

to carry a "message," I suppose -- hence the later Greek substitution of "messenger," which

I believe is an LXX term. At this stage we do not seem to be very far apart in interpretation.

Though I envision angels as conveying more than plenary revelation to human ears -- or

propelling the chariot of Baal through the clouds of ancient Palestine.

But, if you wish to promote the notion of personal angelic beings of flesh and bone -- sexual in nature

and eternal in identity, you'll have to do a great deal of convincing here. If you merely wish that

I agree that such beings can be found, here and there, in ancient Israelite belief; you've won.

UD

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Great write-up, mak. I saved a copy for my files.

I was especially interested in your observation that "an underlying theme to all angelic ministration in the Hebrew Bible is subservience to God. The angel is without exception acting under the authority and direction of God, and is usually referenced as an 'angel (nomen regens) of God (nomen rectum).' They are God's possession. They have no will of their own."

This doesn't really square with LDS angelology, where angels are resurrected humans (D&C 129:1) with their own wills. I didn't see in your post any attempt to reconcile the biblical picture with LDS theology. Is that something you even worry about, or do you just take the Bible as is? I ask because there was a discussion on these boards a week or two ago where it was asserted that angels and humans belong to the same "species" and that this idea is thoroughly biblical. I take it from your post that you don't share that view.

Do you think humans (in either premortal or postmortal guise) figure at all in ANE concepts of divine beings (e.g., Job 38:7's morning stars/sons of God)? Or is that an anachronistic way to read these texts?

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The only theology professor I ever studied under who promoted "dogma"

was a functional atheist who espoused a light shell of Buddhism. My other

teachers were essentially non-dogmatic. Even the Latter Day Saints did

not insist that my personal theology be shaped to fit their teaching exactly.

But their teaching was shaped by their dogma.

A couple of my profs would qualify as experts in OT and/or NT text-critical

"research," -- though I did not specialize in that sort of investigation.

I did, however, attend a number of LDS Institute classes at the Weber State

"Tute" -- where "exposure to religious dogmas" was continual.

Of course.

No -- I understand that. What I question is your ability to generalize the religion

of those "Israelites" at any one time and place.

A normative theology is manifested in the Hebrew Bible. While that obviously does not account for every pocket of folk religion and heterodoxy, there are no unseen Israelite sects from the pre-Monarchic and monarchic periods that espoused doctrines developed in exilic and post-exilic periods.

Perhaps you have become pretty

much self-assured of your discernment along those lines -- but when what you

say does not match well with my own experiences/conclusions, I suppose you

expect me to at least mention that fact.

I'm not so sure of that. My interpretation does not come from any one source,

nor from Creedal Christianity. To a large degree I admit being influenced by

radical monotheism -- but you'll never hear me argue that it was the dominant

theology of Israel before the Deuteronomic reform.

The "traditional ideas" that forms the base of my interpretation are the shema

and various studies of the kvod of YHWH -- little of which perpetuates Christian

religion, outside of mystical union theology.

Which are both rather late ideologies. Your assertions about early Israelite theology seem to come from the traditions of the same periods.

I'll agree with you on that point -- which is exactly why I've always tried to gain

knowledge and viewpoints from a variety of sources, including scripture, tradition,

reason and revelation.

Never said you are. But I would be interested to hear your explanation of Moroni.

We already agree upon the henotheistic, theoanthropomorphic parameters of Israelite religion,

I presume. We do not appear to agree upon how various aspects/developments of that religion

(or set of related sects) are reflected in ancient scripture, iconography, symbolism, poetry, etc.

You had me agreeing with you at the beginning of your piece, where you begin to make

distinctions and show that "angels" are "sent," acting not upon their own volition. That far,

at least, we are on the same track. But what does "sent" mean, exactly? And what did it

mean at various points in Israelite history? From whence "sent?" With what purpose?

I believe I described four specific purposes for their commissions.

Generally

to carry a "message," I suppose -- hence the later Greek substitution of "messenger," which

I believe is an LXX term.

angelos is a Greek term from way back, but it does appear in LXX.

At this stage we do not seem to be very far apart in interpretation.

Though I envision angels as conveying more than plenary revelation to human ears -- or

propelling the chariot of Baal through the clouds of ancient Palestine.

But, if you wish to promote the notion of personal angelic beings of flesh and bone -- sexual in nature

and eternal in identity, you'll have to do a great deal of convincing here.

I never claimed that angels were at all sexual in nature. In fact, part of my point was to show the benei elohim, which are shown to be at times sexual in nature, are taxonomically distinct from angels.

If you merely wish that

I agree that such beings can be found, here and there, in ancient Israelite belief; you've won.

UD

Again, I think there has been a misunderstanding.

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Great write-up, mak. I saved a copy for my files.

I was especially interested in your observation that "an underlying theme to all angelic ministration in the Hebrew Bible is subservience to God. The angel is without exception acting under the authority and direction of God, and is usually referenced as an 'angel (nomen regens) of God (nomen rectum).' They are God's possession. They have no will of their own."

This doesn't really square with LDS angelology, where angels are resurrected humans (D&C 129:1) with their own wills. I didn't see in your post any attempt to reconcile the biblical picture with LDS theology. Is that something you even worry about, or do you just take the Bible as is? I ask because there was a discussion on these boards a week or two ago where it was asserted that angels and humans belong to the same "species" and that this idea is thoroughly biblical. I take it from your post that you don't share that view.

In this particular thread I'm treating the issue as it is manifested in the Bible and in the history of formative Judaism. I'm leaving Mormonism and modern revelation out of it.

My perspective on being a believing scholar is one I don't often run into or often share, but it goes as follows. I believe the scriptures are the word of God, but I don't believe we've ever been given a comprehensive definition of what that means, exactly. I believe all scripture passes through an imperfect conduit initially and then through more and more imperfect transmitters as it is transcribed, copied, translated, and redacted, meaning an awful lot of humanity is shellacked all over our standard works. I don't believe that science, logic, or philosophy will ever arrive at a comprehensive picture of absolute truth, and so it follows in my mind that academia will never fully define God, the history of his gospel or people, or the purpose of life. Because I don't think that's possible, I don't believe academic criticisms or apologia of my faith should have much sway. The scholarship that is universally accepted today may be outdated in ten years, and if I let that scholarship ruin or define my faith today, what will it mean in ten years? I decided long ago ("never to walk in anyone's shadow--sexual chocolate!" sorry, couldn't help myself) not to use scholarship as a crutch or as a measuring stick for my faith. I decouple the two. My personal relationship with God and Jesus are based on personal scripture study, prayer, service, and temple worship. My scholarship is based on research and evidence and whatever my brain can make of it.

Do you think humans (in either premortal or postmortal guise) figure at all in ANE concepts of divine beings (e.g., Job 38:7's morning stars/sons of God)? Or is that an anachronistic way to read these texts?

I don't think the writers of the early biblical texts had that perspective of divine beings. I believe there are clear indications of multifarious beliefs in divinization, but I don't see any indication in the biblical text that they thought angels were resurrected humans. I haven't made that a focus of my study, but I can say for sure I've never run across the idea in any secondary literature, and it's never jumped out at me from the primary texts.

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...

A normative theology is manifested in the Hebrew Bible.

...

The problem here being, that there probably wasn't much of a normative scriptural corpus

until about the time of Ezra. Backtracking to the time of Jeremiah, what sort of scriptural

collection might we expect to find -- and what was the place of angels in those writings?

Can we assume that the priests from Dan to Beersheba all taught the exact same thing

and preserved the exact same traditions? In the days of Josiah, did attendees at the

Shiloh shrine experience the same religion as the people living near Gilgal? Were the

teachings at Bethel the same as at BethShemesh?

I think probably not. But perhaps you can articulate your four sorts of angelic commissions

to represent the general beliefs across all of Palestine at some particular period.

What might we have to consider then?

1. The popular religion, as lived out by the lower classes of Israelites and their neighbors.

2. The official priestly religion, as promulgated under the Davidic monarchs.

3. The prophetic message of encounters with Israel's God -- theophanies, angels, epiphanies.

Were all of these sundry experiences/professions uniform, or diverse? Was religion in Judah

the same as religion in Israel?

And, aside from the "normative theology" then "manifested," what were the actual experiences

of prophets, seers, poets, visionaries. etc. in their encounters with "angels?" What essential

information was conveyed to the scriptural writers?

As latter day saints, who profess that "angels are coming to visit the earth," can we even

begin to guess at what those encounters were like -- and thus what "angels" were/are?

UD

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The problem here being, that there probably wasn't much of a normative scriptural corpus

until about the time of Ezra. Backtracking to the time of Jeremiah, what sort of scriptural

collection might we expect to find -- and what was the place of angels in those writings?

Deuteronomy through Kings was probably the most cohesive collection of scriptures at that point, but much of the Torah was probably in much the same shape it is now. Angels were seen as the messengers of God.

Can we assume that the priests from Dan to Beersheba all taught the exact same thing

and preserved the exact same traditions?

In the days of Josiah, did attendees at the

Shiloh shrine experience the same religion as the people living near Gilgal? Were the

teachings at Bethel the same as at BethShemesh?

I think probably not. But perhaps you can articulate your four sorts of angelic commissions

to represent the general beliefs across all of Palestine at some particular period.

I'm not trying to give a comprehensive picture of every belief ever manifested in Israelite theology. I believe I already stated. I'm explaining what is found in the Hebrew Bible.

What might we have to consider then?

1. The popular religion, as lived out by the lower classes of Israelites and their neighbors.

2. The official priestly religion, as promulgated under the Davidic monarchs.

3. The prophetic message of encounters with Israel's God -- theophanies, angels, epiphanies.

Were all of these sundry experiences/professions uniform, or diverse? Was religion in Judah

the same as religion in Israel?

And, aside from the "normative theology" then "manifested," what were the actual experiences

of prophets, seers, poets, visionaries. etc. in their encounters with "angels?" What essential

information was conveyed to the scriptural writers?

You should be aware this falls well outside the scope of biblical scholarship. I'm not here to speculate about what cannot be derived from the texts.

As latter day saints, who profess that "angels are coming to visit the earth," can we even

begin to guess at what those encounters were like -- and thus what "angels" were/are?

I made quite clear before that I'm not here to do that.

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Deuteronomy through Kings was probably the most cohesive collection of scriptures at that point,

but much of the Torah was probably in much the same shape it is now. '

I agree as to the "Deuteronomy through Kings," but guess that only fragments

of the Torah were similar to what we see today, and that the final conflation

of northern and southern traditions was not refined until after the exile. So, I

doubt very much that there was a "bible," outside of text collections at a few

major shrines -- probably most advanced at Jerusalem and reflected only

dimly in the Temple cult until Josiah's time.

Still, we need a beginning point for inspection, and I suppose that a provisional

reconstruction of the texts just prior to the exile is the proper place to begin.

Angels were seen as the messengers of God.

I agree -- but I stick to my earlier conclusion, that the earliest references to

what we interpret as "angels" are direct encounters with YHWH. From that

conclusion, I work forward with the understanding that the later references

to "angels" are also direct encounters (theophanies) guised in angelic terms.

You mention that the scriptural texts do not tell of angels before the flood --

which, I suppose, consigns the cherubim to some other species of intelligent

entity than "angels" or "gods." That's fine with me -- but I'd like your views.

... An angel is one who is sent... [for] (1) the conveyance of commandments to humanity,

(2) the announcement of special events, (3) the protection of the faithful, and (4) the punishment

of the wicked .

I generally agree with this -- if we are now speaking about the probable collection

of scripture available late in the Davidic monarchy, and how angelic references in

those proto-biblical texts matched with the actual religion then practiced/believed.

The one function you leave out is the angelic revelation of God's personhood. It is

my contention that the "glory" of God begins to convey that encounter -- that angels

accompany or serve as media in communicating the purpose/outcome of theophany --

and that the Word/Son/Wisdom of God is the end/finality of that encounter.

Perhaps you discover little or none of this in the pre-exilic scriptures, but I look

to them with a special interest in the glory of God and the eventual development

of Messiah as the fulfilment or end reason for all revelation.

An underlying theme to all angelic ministration in the Hebrew Bible is subservience to God.

The angel is without exception acting under the authority and direction of God, and is usually

referenced as an "angel (nomen regens) of God (nomen rectum)." They are God's possession.

They have no will of their own.

Agreed. And, by which definition, we see that Milton's Lucifer and his minions do not

act much like the true "angels" of actual early Hebrew scripture.

But I will go a step beyond what you say -- to the conclusion that angels have

no identity of their own. No personhood of their own. No life of their own. No

development or evolution, other than what our interpretation imposes upon them.

...Nephilim... These are not angels. In fact, angels are not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible

until well after the flood.

I am happy to see you begin to differentiate angels from godlings and mythical beings.

You said earlier that you do not picture angels as sexual beings -- but I wonder how

far you are willing to go with that conclusion? Can we strip away the masculine pronouns

and terms attached to pre-exilic angels and still preserve what ancient people/writers

thought them to be? I hope so. But again, would like to hear your views.

I'm not trying to give a comprehensive picture of every belief ever manifested in Israelite

theology. I believe I already stated. I'm explaining what is found in the Hebrew Bible.

Yes -- I understand that. But, at the same time, you are reporting your findings to an

audience largely made up of adherents to a living religion rooted in the traditions you

are dealing with. You yourself may hesitate in considering what use will be made of

your reporting -- but auditors/readers like myself are under no such restraint. The

context of your reporting fairly demands some response and discussion -- if not with

you directly, then with people who will cite and rely upon your reporting for purposes

of promoting that same "living religion" I just mentioned.

You should be aware this falls well outside the scope of biblical scholarship. I'm not here

to speculate about what cannot be derived from the texts.

I made quite clear before that I'm not here to do that.

Fair enough -- you do not have to do that.

I'll wait for other voices to explain to me how Moroni conforms to the post-flood

"angels" of the late Davidic monarchy, and their evolutions in the later books most

participants here accept as scripture.

Perhaps you have thus completed your task -- in my case, at least. And I can best

call back upon you, when some of your co-religionists begin to interpret and promote

your findings in support of a flesh and bone Moroni.

We shall see.

UD

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I agree as to the "Deuteronomy through Kings," but guess that only fragments

of the Torah were similar to what we see today, and that the final conflation

of northern and southern traditions was not refined until after the exile.

I think the fact that the language of the Deuteronomist's books betrays later linguistic elements that are consistently absent from Gen - Num, plus the appeals to Pentateuchal vernacular, indicates the shape of the Torah was cohesive enough to give the Deuteronomist something to imitate that was still old enough to be diachronically distinguishable.

So, I

doubt very much that there was a "bible," outside of text collections at a few

major shrines -- probably most advanced at Jerusalem and reflected only

dimly in the Temple cult until Josiah's time.

Certainly not a Bible in the modern sense of the word, but I think the evidence tends toward independent scrolls of the Torah circulating in various forms well before the Deuteronomistic histories. I have yet to see compelling evidence to reject that notion, and archaeological evidence is being discovered all the time that pushes Israelite literacy and cohesiveness further and further back in time.

Still, we need a beginning point for inspection, and I suppose that a provisional

reconstruction of the texts just prior to the exile is the proper place to begin.

I agree -- but I stick to my earlier conclusion, that the earliest references to

what we interpret as "angels" are direct encounters with YHWH. From that

conclusion, I work forward with the understanding that the later references

to "angels" are also direct encounters (theophanies) guised in angelic terms.

But some of the most archaic Hebrew in the Torah references angels that clearly have nothing to do with Yahweh. I already cited some of them, but Jacob's Ladder is a great example.

You mention that the scriptural texts do not tell of angels before the flood --

which, I suppose, consigns the cherubim to some other species of intelligent

entity than "angels" or "gods." That's fine with me -- but I'd like your views.

I believe they inhabited the fourth tier of the early Israelite pantheon, but I don't believe they're identifiable with angels. Seraphim fall into the same category.

I generally agree with this -- if we are now speaking about the probable collection

of scripture available late in the Davidic monarchy, and how angelic references in

those proto-biblical texts matched with the actual religion then practiced/believed.

The one function you leave out is the angelic revelation of God's personhood. It is

my contention that the "glory" of God begins to convey that encounter -- that angels

accompany or serve as media in communicating the purpose/outcome of theophany --

and that the Word/Son/Wisdom of God is the end/finality of that encounter.

That's not an angelology from the Hebrew Bible. That is developed in Second Temple Judaism and the New Testament.

Perhaps you discover little or none of this in the pre-exilic scriptures, but I look

to them with a special interest in the glory of God and the eventual development

of Messiah as the fulfilment or end reason for all revelation.

And I don't believe that ideology is detectable in the Hebrew Bible. Daniel comes the closest, but that book is from the second century BCE.

Agreed. And, by which definition, we see that Milton's Lucifer and his minions do not

act much like the true "angels" of actual early Hebrew scripture.

Which is why I talked about the conflation of the rebellious benei elohim and the idea of angels in Second Temple Judaism. What were earlier understood to be children of God were now understood to be mere angels, which undoes the taxonomic distinction created by the Hebrew Bible's use of the term.

But I will go a step beyond what you say -- to the conclusion that angels have

no identity of their own. No personhood of their own. No life of their own. No

development or evolution, other than what our interpretation imposes upon them.

I would agree that the Hebrew Bible doesn't seem to grant them any individuality.

I am happy to see you begin to differentiate angels from godlings and mythical beings.

You said earlier that you do not picture angels as sexual beings -- but I wonder how

far you are willing to go with that conclusion? Can we strip away the masculine pronouns

and terms attached to pre-exilic angels and still preserve what ancient people/writers

thought them to be? I hope so. But again, would like to hear your views.

I think that undermines the ancient theologies which quite clearly assigned gender to all deity.

Yes -- I understand that. But, at the same time, you are reporting your findings to an

audience largely made up of adherents to a living religion rooted in the traditions you

are dealing with. You yourself may hesitate in considering what use will be made of

your reporting -- but auditors/readers like myself are under no such restraint. The

context of your reporting fairly demands some response and discussion -- if not with

you directly, then with people who will cite and rely upon your reporting for purposes

of promoting that same "living religion" I just mentioned.

If you or anyone else wants to ask about how my research might relate to certain aspects of Mormonism I'm fine with that, but what you've been doing is trying to lecture me about how it doesn't fit in your mind.

Fair enough -- you do not have to do that.

I'll wait for other voices to explain to me how Moroni conforms to the post-flood

"angels" of the late Davidic monarchy, and their evolutions in the later books most

participants here accept as scripture.

Perhaps you have thus completed your task -- in my case, at least. And I can best

call back upon you, when some of your co-religionists begin to interpret and promote

your findings in support of a flesh and bone Moroni.

We shall see.

UD

Fair enough.

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... trying to lecture me

...

I apologize for that. You've dealt with me (and assisted me)

long enough to know that I tend to lecture everybody. That

in no way diminishes my respect for the contributions of

thoughtful scholars. Just attribute it to my usual grumpiness.

UD

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I apologize for that. You've dealt with me (and assisted me)

long enough to know that I tend to lecture everybody. That

in no way diminishes my respect for the contributions of

thoughtful scholars. Just attribute it to my usual grumpiness.

UD

I appreciate the sentiment. I apologize if I've come across as a little curt as well. I got my wisdom teeth out last week, so I've been grumpy ever since.

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I don't believe that science, logic, or philosophy will ever arrive at a comprehensive picture of absolute truth, and so it follows in my mind that academia will never fully define God, the history of his gospel or people, or the purpose of life. Because I don't think that's possible, I don't believe academic criticisms or apologia of my faith should have much sway. The scholarship that is universally accepted today may be outdated in ten years, and if I let that scholarship ruin or define my faith today, what will it mean in ten years? I decided long ago ("never to walk in anyone's shadow--sexual chocolate!" sorry, couldn't help myself) not to use scholarship as a crutch or as a measuring stick for my faith. I decouple the two. My personal relationship with God and Jesus are based on personal scripture study, prayer, service, and temple worship. My scholarship is based on research and evidence and whatever my brain can make of it.

I think this is a sensible approach. I have recently been reading Dale Allison's latest book, The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus and he too thinks it folly "to build a house of faith upon a recent academic count." He illustrates this with the following:

Sixty years ago, an informed British theologian might well have thought it prudent, having read C.H. Dodd, T.W. Manson, and Vincent Taylor, to take their concurrence as a safe court of appeal. Those three New Testament scholars were, at the time, and at least in England, a sort of academic trinity, the big names to be reckoned with; and surely, one might have surmised with some justification, their agreement on a matter constituted the scholarly consensus about it.

Although such would indeed have been the consensus then, nothing lasts. Any theological thinking that turned Dodd, Manson, and Taylor into a collective polestar by which to navigate would have gone off course as soon as those three mortals and their commanding influence passed away. Likewise, any contemporary theology that takes its bearings from contemporary reconstructions of the historical Jesus will be defunct as soon as those reconstructions become defunct, which will not be very long.

â?? Dale C. Allison, Jr., The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), 10.

I know some speak disparagingly of believing scholars who "compartmentalize", but I don't see any better options.

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I think this is a sensible approach. I have recently been reading Dale Allison's latest book, The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus and he too thinks it folly "to build a house of faith upon a recent academic count." He illustrates this with the following:

I know some speak disparagingly of believing scholars who "compartmentalize", but I don't see any better options.

I may have to take a look at that book. I think believing scholars who avoid dogmatism tend to be more objective.

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