Happy New Year!
Last year there were a number of memes and videos that circulated depicting angels, attributing to them the monicker of “biblically accurate.” (My own son saw some videos about weird looking angels and couldn’t stop talking about them.) Some of these were offered in good faith. After all, not a few descriptions of heavenly beings are just plain weird. For example, in Revelation 4 we are introduced to four creatures that are “full of eyes” and have six wings. That’s weird! But its weirdness isn’t entirely original. Its author, John (not the disciple of Jesus), was likely taking imagery from places like Ezekiel 1 and Isaiah 6, appropriating it for the theological and socio-political points he was making in the Apocalypse.
In light of all this discussion of so-called “biblically accurate” angels, there have been a number of videos and posts addressing it. Back in June, Mark Edward put out a video on the subject that looks at the creatures in Ezekiel and Revelation as well as analyzes their ancient Near Eastern sources. He also looks at the seraphs mentioned in the book of Isaiah and their connections to serpents, something seemingly confirmed by archaeological discoveries of artifacts that depict multi-winged snakes. But are these angels? Edward argues they aren’t, even though they’ve been conflated with them in pop-culture. Angels are ordinary presented as male humans, veritable ancient “superheroes” who at one time belonged to a pantheon of gods but were demoted as the cult of Yahweh centralized and shed its polytheistic peripherals. It’s a great video. Give it a watch!
More recently, Spencer McDaniel wrote a lengthy piece on the subject over at his blog Tales of Times Forgotten. While Edward’s video covered mainly texts from the Hebrew Bible, McDaniel covers those texts and goes further into the Second Temple period as well as onto angelic beings found in the Gospels and Acts. For example, the earliest Gospel (i.e., Mark’s) features a young man at the tomb which most commentators and McDaniel himself agree is an angelic being. At the least, Matthew and Luke, two early interpreters of Mark, thought an angel was in view. (I have my own view which you can read here.) McDaniel also examines how angels are depicted in Christian art through the centuries. Coupled with Edward’s video, McDaniel’s piece serves as an excellent intro to the subject of biblical angels.
And, by the way, you should be following both of them on Twitter.
Mark Edward – @abibledarkly
Spencer McDaniel – @SpenceMcDaniel