CHRISTIAN TRACTATUS - APPENDIX 3

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SPIRITUAL BEINGS IN JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION

A3.1 Angels appear to have made a late appearance on the scene in ancient Israel, as is evidenced (at least according to the New Testament) by the Saduccees' refusal to believe in them.

A3.1.1 As theology developed, and with it an increasing feeling for the divine transcendence, the need for mediators between God and man seems to have been felt, and was taken to extremes in post-Biblical times. Their real existence is therefore additionally open to doubt beyond the common objection of lack of direct observation.

A3.1.1.1 Since angels ultimately bore the characteristics of spiritual courtiers, this aspect may not have been thought of until the monarchy (ie. under David & his descendants).

A3.1.1.2 Theophanies had been reported to have occurred during the times of the patriarchs and judges (eg. to Abraham, Lot, Moses, Manoah etc).

A3.1.1.3 There are plentiful accounts of angels in the Pentateuch, though in the guise of messengers of God, which appears to have been their original function (as is evidenced by etymology of the word for "angel" in both Hebrew [malak)] and Greek [angelos], both of which mean "sent one"). The term "angel" may, of course, have been edited into earlier texts, though there is no way of proving this.

A3.1.2 Much more could be said on this subject, including an analysis of the other forms of heavenly being (eg. the cherubim, which appear to have been depicted in the Tabernacle, the seraphim etc).

A3.1.2.1 The fact that angeology caught the imagination of later Gnostics and Kabbalists should not infect this analysis, however.

A3.2 The evil counterparts of angels seem to have appeared on the scene much later, however, and developed into a dualism under the gnostics.

A3.2.1 Even the idea of Satan makes little impact on the Old Testament. When he does appear, as in Job, his character is not straightforwardly evil and antagonistic to God.

A3.2.2 The identification of the Serpent of Genesis with the Devil is not made plain until the New Testament book of Revelation.

A3.2.3 The only references to Demons in the Old Testament may be those, in Genesis 6, to the "sons of God" and their activities with the daughters of men.

A3.2.3.1 The similarities between such stories and the Greek legends of gods, Titans and heroes are to be noted, but there is no automatic deduction that there is some underlying reality. A shared mythology is more likely.

A3.2.4 Demons and Satan clearly play a much larger role in the New Testament, as do the notions of demon possession and exorcism.

A3.2.4.1 It is probable that these ideas are non-Hebraic, having been absorbed from the surrounding cultures with a greater love of symmetry (dualism).

A3.2.5 The identification of demon possession with mental illness makes the existence of demons very dubious.



© Theo Todman 1992 - 2000.
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