Revolution in the Making

Something strange happened to the Jewish world in the third century BC. Although the land was usually part of the Ptolemaic Empire, local authorities carried on ruling much as before, largely undisturbed in their power. If we read our main source for the period – the twelfth book of Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities, roughly covering the [Read More...]

Thrones and Dominions

Archangels

I have been exploring how Judaism acquired its ideas of angels as named individuals like Gabriel and Michael, and whether that practice reflect Persian influence. As I suggested, our knowledge of Persian religion is actually less detailed than we often think, and that is especially true in matters like angels and the heavenly hierarchy. Nineteenth [Read More...]

Angels from the East?

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In the two or three centuries before Jesus’s time, Jews became highly interested in angels, to whom they assigned identities and personal names. That represents a major shift from the well-known scriptures of the sixth and fifth centuries BC that we find in the canonical Old Testament. Something had happened between those periods, but what? [Read More...]

Angels at the Dead Sea

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My recent posts concerned angels, and specifically when and why they acquired names and individual identities. Angels are fully developed characters in 1 Enoch, probably from the third century BC, and that text was well known in the community that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. That group had a special interest in angels and their [Read More...]

Enoch’s Angels

At some point in Jewish history, texts began referring to angels with specific names like Gabriel or Michael, and that trend reflects a basic shift in concepts of the supernatural hierarchy. That shift is significant itself in terms of the history of Western religion, but it particularly matters for anyone interested in early (or medieval) [Read More...]

Naming Angels

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“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee.” Angels are a lively presence in the New Testament. Jesus himself referred to them on many occasions, and the evangelist Luke reports that Jesus’s birth was foretold by an angel with a specific name, Gabriel. Named angels [Read More...]

Gods on Earth

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I posted recently on the Greek empires that arose in the centuries following Alexander the Great, like the Ptolemaic regime in Egypt, and the Syrian-based Seleucid Empire. Specifically, I suggested that these realms shaped the worlds of Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity. This was nowhere more true than in their ideologies of kingship and government. [Read More...]

FROM ANGELS TO ARMAGEDDON

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Over the past couple of years, I have been working on a book about the religious aspects of the First World War, to be published in this centennial year of 2014. It will appear this coming May, as The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (HarperOne). It’s an ambitious [Read More...]

THE MYSTERY OF ENOCH

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And Enoch walked with God and then he was gone, for God took him. I am investigating a mysterious disappearance. As I am a mere academic, there’s no actual blood involved, but it’s still a puzzling case. Briefly, I am trying to explain why the Book of Enoch vanished as thoroughly as it did, and [Read More...]


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