The development of Jewish ideas of angels : Egyptian and Hellenistic connections, ca. 600 BCE to ca. 200 CE
Thesis (PhD (Ancient Studies))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.
This dissertation sets out to test the hypothesis that Egyptian and Hellenistic connections to Jewish beliefs about the functioning of angels facilitated the reception of Christianity. The method of investigation involved a close reading, combined with a History of Religions methodology, of certain texts with marked angelological content. The presence of certain motifs, especially “throne” and “sun/fire”, which were identified as characteristic of angelic functioning, were compared across the entire spectrum of texts. In this way the diachronic development of major angelological motifs became apparent, and the synchronic connections between the respective cultural contexts became noticeable. The course the research followed is reflected in the list of Contents. Ancient Egyptian myth and ritual associated with solar worship, together with Divine Council imagery, provides a pattern of mediation between heaven and earth via two crucial religious concepts which underly Jewish beliefs about the functioning of angels: 1) the concept of a supreme God as the king of the Gods as reflected in Divine Council imagery, and 2) the unique Egyptian institution of the king as the divine son of god (also related to the supremacy of the sun god). The blending of these two concepts can be seen in Ezekiel 1 and 10, where the throne of God is the source of angelic mediation between heaven and earth. An important stimulus to change was the vexed issue of theodicy, which in the traumatic history of the Israelites / Jews, forced new ways of thinking about angels, who in some contexts were implicated in evil and suffering on earth. In the hellenistic period, attainment to the throne of God in heaven becomes the goal of heavenly ascent, reflected in various ways in all three cultural contexts, and specifically by means of merkabah mysticism in the Jewish context; the basic concern is deification of human beings. It was this seminal cultural mixture which mediated Christianity as an outcome of Jewish angelology. The characteristic ambiguity of Jewish descriptions of angelic appearances, as reflected in the Hebrew Bible and in the Book of Revelation, functioned purposefully in this regard. Analysis of the distribution of angelological motifs amongst the Christian texts reflects Jewish angelological traditions, both in terms of merkabah mysticism in the Letter to the Hebrews, and in angelomorphic appearances of Jesus in the Book of Revelation.