Angels– Part Six

Angels– Part Six October 28, 2018

One of the very most helpful parts of Michael Heiser’s recent book is his charts on the use of language applied to angels. See pp. 76-81. This is excellent summarizing of the Hebrew terminology. One of the things one learns along the way of course, is that the NT writers relied much more heavily on the Greek OT (LXX and Old Greek) than on the Hebrew for their discussions of angels. As Heiser rightly notes: “NT writers quote the OT in places where the Masoretic Text and the LXX are in agreement with each other about 20 percent of the time. Of the eighty percent where some disagreement between MT and LXX is evident, the NT reading agrees with the MT less than five percent of the time.” (p. 75 n. 5). Right, and this raises a variety of questions of how we should parse the language about angels in the OT, when the NT writers are largely NOT following the Hebrew text. Here is not the place to open up the can of worms as to which OT text Christians should follow— the Hebrew text or the LXX (which the Greek Orthodox insist on), but I will say this. If you are a student of the formation of the canon, you know that NONE of the early codexes combined the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT— none of them. Not Codex Sinaiticus, not Codex Alexandrinus. What they did do is combine the LXX or some Greek form of the OT with the Greek NT. One more thing. It is telling that early Jews simply abandoned the use of the LXX in general somewhere in the 2nd and 3rd centuries because the church adopted it as its own. And that in turn points to another thing that Heiser mentions— there is much less variation in the language used of angels in the NT than in the OT. For instance, notice that the phrase ‘sons of God’ is not used to refer to the persons who mated with the daughters of human beings (Gen. 6.1-4) in either 1 Pet. 3, or 2 Pet. 2 or Jude. Rather spirits in prison or angels are what they are called. Why? Because the term sons of God are applied to human beings in the NT who are followers of Christ. They are adopted sons and daughters of God. This is all the more surprising because, as Heiser demonstrates, early Jewish texts tend to go angel crazy! Heiser can even rightly say there was an obsession with angels in such texts (p. 85). Compared to the Dead Sea scrolls and other such texts, angels show up less frequently in the NT, though there are numerous references to them, especially of course in Revelation. But you are hard pressed to find Paul spending much time talking about them, and they make only cameo appearances in Acts. They are not mentioned at all in a variety of NT books.

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