Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Prof. Mika Ahuvia on angels in ancient Judaism

INTERVIEW: Angels in antiquity: Judaism’s long relationship with heaven’s haloed helpers. While many Jews relegate the supernatural beings to the Christian realm, Prof. Mika Ahuvia reveals a deep cultural and religious connection in a new book (Rich Tenorio, Times of Israel).
When then-Princeton graduate student Mika Ahuvia was taking a class in Roman religion, she became intrigued by ancient religious stories from the Middle East.

“I learned about stories of ancient Romans stumbling into gods and goddesses in sacred groves and stories of Christian stylite saints speaking with angels from the top of columns,” Ahuvia said. “That made me wonder how and where exactly Jews interacted with angels.”

As it turns out, angels played a significant, underappreciated role in the lives of Jews in late antiquity — which Ahuvia, now a professor of classical Judaism at the University of Washington, reveals in a new book, “On My Right Michael, On My Left Gabriel: Angels in Ancient Jewish Culture.”


I linked to an AJR preview of the book by the author here.

One correction to the TOI article above. A couple of times it mentions the Nephilim and refers to them as "fallen angels." No. They are (according to the Enochic Book of the Watchers 7:2; cf Jubilees 7:22) the offspring of giants who in turn were the offspring of the fallen angels (the "Watchers") and mortal women. They also appear in the Aramaic Book of Giants from Qumran alongside the giants.

The Nephilim are also in the Bible. Genesis 6:4 calls them warriors (גבורים) and "men of name," i.e., famous. It says they lived at the same time as the offspring of the sons of God (the angels) and the daughters of men. It does not specify that they were those offspring, although that inference may have been intended. Numbers 13:32-33 says that the men spying out the Promised Land encountered Nephilim there and describes them as giants.

For PaleoJudaica posts on the Nephilim, see here and links. There are many, many posts on angels. Just run the term through the blog search engine.

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