Angels (Michael Heiser)

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RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Heiser, Michael. Angels. Lexham Press, 2018.

This is Dr Heiser’s long-awaited text on angels. It’s not what you think, though. Heiser is notorious for taking the Bible’s thought patterns seriously. Yet, this book doesn’t deal with the Nephilim. He’s saving that for his book on demons. Much of the book reads like what you would find in mature systematics texts. Bavinck would be the closest (the early 20th Century Dutch Calvinists were probably the most perceptive of the Reformed world concerning the spiritual realm). Heiser expands with an awe-inspiring bibliography.

The Ontological Structure of Angels

Heiser examines the terms that describe the nature, status, and function of angels. Per nature, they are ruach. This is fairly uncontroversial, though we moderns tend to import Cartesian concepts of spirit.

Further, they are heavenly ones (shamayim). There is some overlap here with stars in the sky. Yet in Job 15:15 the holy ones are equated with the shamayim. It’s important to note in this context that holiness has to do with proximity to and association with the presence of God (loc. 437).

We know there is a hierarchy of angels because at least one is called Prince (sar), and not every angel, obviously, is the sar (Dan. 10:21, 12:1).

Heiser points out that cherubim is never qualified with the term mal’ak, so strictly speaking they aren’t angels (loc. 737). That makes sense if you think about it. Why would a guardian of God’s throne be an errand boy? Also, the fiery (flying?) snakes that bite people in Numbers 21 are called sarap (seraphim).

The Heavenly Host in the NT

Argument: there is a continuity from OT to Intertestamental to NT on the topic of angels (loc. 2357). The NT roots its angelogogy in the OT but with less variety. While the NT doesn’t really use concepts like beney-ha elohim in the sense of the Divine Council, Paul does use geographical terms to describe dark powers (archon, archonton, arche, exousia, dynamis, thronos, kosmokrator). All of this is in line with the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.

The heavenly hosts, what we popularly call “angels” are described as spirits (Heb. 1:14), glorious ones (2 Pet. 2:10; Jude 8), lights (James 1:17), heavenly ones (1 Cor. 15:48), holy ones (Jude 14) (loc. 2403).

The NT does use a term the OT doesn’t: archangel (1 Thess. 4:16, Jude 9)

Excursus on Moses (Loc. 2436). Moses was buried in the area that includes both Oboth and Abarim. These locations are associated with underworld and cults of the dead. The Valley of Oberim in Dt 34:6 could in fact be the oberim of Ezek. 39:11 (cf Stronk’s article). This might shed some light on Jude 9. Michael is Israel’s Guardian Prince who would certainly want to claim Moses.

Special Topics in NT Angelology

Angels of Revelation 1-3. Each church is addressed with second person singular pronouns (loc. 2797).

Can Fallen Angels be redeemed?

The obvious answer is “no,” yet Revelation 1-3, addressed to the “angel” of the church, gives commands to repent. It’s an interesting line, but not strong enough. The argument from Col. 1:19-20 is much stronger. Are “angels” included in “all things?” But is “reconciliation” limited to “forgiveness of sins?” Heiser doesn’t think so. It’s multifaceted. Christ is reconciling creation, yet creation didn’t sin.

Myths and Questions

Can angels be winged women? Rather, do they have wings and can they appear as women? The answer is no. Zech 5 is the closest passage, but all it says is that two winged women appeared. It never calls them angels. It does however address a malak distinct from them and the malak uses the masculine yomer (he said) rather than the feminine tomer (she said).

Revelation 14:6 mentions an angel flying overhead, but that doesn't require wings. And given the typical connotations of angels as spirit-beings, it's not clear why they would need wings anyway.

Things to Think About

Where does the Bible say that angels no longer have the ability to fall? Granted, I don’t think they will, given the fate of the divine rebels.

Who is “the man” in Daniel 10:4-6; 9-21? He isn’t Gabriel. He isn’t Michael, since he refers to Michael.

Given that angels don’t need to eat in heaven, can angels eat? What were they doing with Abraham? Can angels physically interact with man? What did the angel to do Peter in prison?
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
Very interesting, thanks.

I loathe modern angel art. My kids tease me about it, but at least they know angels are supposed to look like powerful men. I have this theory it is a dark conspiracy against wearing head coverings "because of the angels". That makes no sense to anybody who thinks an angel is a fat cheeked toddler, or a sweet feminine lady in a white dress...hence the art, to brainwash Christians and make angels look rather mild and even weak.

About wings.....cherubim are angels aren't they, or are they not, properly speaking? They have wings. Just a quick glance at Ezekiel 1 and 10 for example speaks repeatedly of the wings, so I'd assume that is the basis for speaking of angel wings.

On the subject of cherubim, given the mosaic law forbids hybrids such as mixed seeds and mixed fibers in cloth, and mixed marriages (with pagans I mean), and we recoil today from attempts to make human-animal hybrids, why are cherubim described as having human and animal faces? It's like they are hybrids of both men and animals. A man, a lion, an ox, an eagle.....four faces? I don't understand that at all. Is it discussed in the book, or can you take a stab at answering?

Thanks for the review!!
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Very interesting, thanks.

I loathe modern angel art. My kids tease me about it, but at least they know angels are supposed to look like powerful men. I have this theory it is a dark conspiracy against wearing head coverings "because of the angels". That makes no sense to anybody who thinks an angel is a fat cheeked toddler, or a sweet feminine lady in a white dress...hence the art, to brainwash Christians and make angels look rather mild and even weak.

About wings.....cherubim are angels aren't they, or are they not, properly speaking? They have wings. Just a quick glance at Ezekiel 1 and 10 for example speaks repeatedly of the wings, so I'd assume that is the basis for speaking of angel wings.

On the subject of cherubim, given the mosaic law forbids hybrids such as mixed seeds and mixed fibers in cloth, and mixed marriages (with pagans I mean), and we recoil today from attempts to make human-animal hybrids, why are cherubim described as having human and animal faces? It's like they are hybrids of both men and animals. A man, a lion, an ox, an eagle.....four faces? I don't understand that at all. Is it discussed in the book, or can you take a stab at answering?

Thanks for the review!!

Cherubim aren't messengers. So going by functions, they guard the throne room.

Per hybrids, this is where analogical language helps. They weren't bred as hybrids.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Junior
Cherubim aren't messengers. So going by functions, they guard the throne room.

Per hybrids, this is where analogical language helps. They weren't bred as hybrids.
The cherubim are "living creatures" (Ezek. 1), which echoes Genesis 1. As the Rabbis already noticed, the four faces embody the highest aspects of creation: the lion, the highest of the wild animals, the ox, the highest of domestic creatures, the eagle, the highest of the birds, and man, the highest of all animals. They thus embody all of the strengths of the created order into one being. And they are, as Jacob noted, guardians of the heavenly presence and bearers of the divine throne chariot. In our terminology, they are the guys in dark suits with earpieces who surround the president and never, ever smile...
 

TheInquirer

Puritan Board Sophomore
How much content overlap is there with Unseen Realm? I imagine there has to be quite a bit but wondering if this is worth a buy as a standalone monograph if one already has UR.
 
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