Sunday, July 1, 2012

& the manifestations
of angels in his name /

Ο Ιεχωβά
& οι εμφανίσεις αγγέλων
στο όνομά του

Angels are mentioned in the earliest parts of the Scriptures, but their personality is always confused with that of their Master. They have no will of their own, and are not even marked off by special names. In passage after passage we, who are accustomed to think of living beings as separate entities, are disturbed by the writer's apparent uncertainty as to whether it is God or the angel who is acting or speaking. This is not a difficulty that can be solved by separation of sources, for it is found in passages where there can be no suspicion of divergent traditions.

When God appears to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3, 2), the story opens with the statement that "the angel of the Lord appeared to him," but thereafter the Lord himself speaks, rather than an angel. Similarly, when the angel is sent to comfort Hagar, we are told that "she called the name of YHWH who spoke to her, Thou God seest me" (Gen. 16, 13). In the theophany of the plains of Mamre, Abraham lifts up his eyes and sees three men standing by him (Gen. 18, 1). In the story which follows exegetes are at a loss to discover whether the Lord is among the three men, or is merely represented by them. The trouble arises from the failure of the writer to conceive of the angels as personalities in their own right. They are emanations of the divine personality, and as such speak in the name of God but have no will or power of their own. This conception of the angels is well illustrated in the story told at the beginning of the Book of Judges (2, 1) of how "an angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, I made you go up out of Egypt and have brought you to the land of which I sware to your fathers." The angel clearly speaks as part of the divine personality.

* Louis Finkelstein,
"The Pharisees: Their Origin and Their Philosophy"
["Φαρισαίοι: Η Προέλευση και η Φιλοσοφία τους"],
The Harvard Theological Review,
vol./τόμ. 22, No./αρ. 3 (Jul., 1929),
p./σ. 236 [185-261].

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