"When did angels become demons?"

Just read an interesting paper from Dale Martin entitled "When Did Angels Become Demons?" It was a paper I heard him give at the British New Testament Conference in 2008. In brief, Martin argues that most ancient Jews (including the earliest Jesus-believers) did not think of demons as fallen angels but saw angels and demons as distinct 'species' of being.

LXX
He starts by looking at which Hebrew words the translators of the LXX thought ought to be rendered as daimon or daimonion. Five or six Hebrew words from the Scriptures were translated in this way. What is interesting is that:

(1) the Hebrew words covered various different kinds of being (goat-man gods; disease-causing gods; abstract qualities that were also seen as gods such as Fate or Fortune). But they all had in common that they were seen as pagan gods that are falsely worshiped. They were all translated as Daimons in the LXX (because the Greek pagan uses of the words daimon and daimonion make it a fitting translation).

(2) the most obvious candidate from the Jewish Scriptures for translation as daimon was the Hebrew malak (messenger) because the jobs that the messengers performed were the kinds of things that, in a Greek context, would have done by a daimon. But the LXX translators never translated malak as daimon/daimones/daimonia. Instead they use angelos (which we render as angel).

So the LXX developed what became two almost technical terms for Greek-speaking Jews and they did not blur the two categories of heavenly being.

Second Temple Jewish Literature
Martin then looks at developments in various Second Temple texts—1 Enoch, Jubilees, Qumran documents, Tobit, The Life of Adam and Eve, the Apocalypse of Abraham, and the Testament of Solomon. Here the picture becomes a tad messier and we do find
(a) a merging of the categories of "evil spirit" and "demon," and
(b) a belief in fallen angels. However, these fallen angels are not thought to be demons. Demons, in 1 Enoch, are the souls of the deceased angel-human hybrids mentioned in Gen 6.

Philo and Josephus
Philo does equate "angel" and "daimon" but he sees both as mainly benign (so they were not demons as we think of them but more akin to what Greek philosophers would have thought).

Josephus never connects angels with daimons and he thinks of daimons in ways akin to popular Greek thinking (daimons as the souls of the dead, etc.).

New Testament
Similarly the NT never equates demons with angels (fallen or otherwise). No explanation of the origin of demons is given. But there is a clear shift in the Synoptic Gospels to a clear and unequivocal identification of demons with evil spirits.

We also find reference to "the devil and his angels" (Matt 25:41) and the idea that Satan is the ruler of the demons (Mark 3:22; Matt 12:24; Luke 11:15). But the dots are not joined.

Paul sees angels as generally good but sometimes as bad or ambiguous. His only reference to demons (1 Cor 10:19–22) links them to idolatry and pagan sacrifice (similar to LXX usage to refer to pagan deities). But nowehere in the NT are demons seen as fallen angels.

Post-Canonical Christian Authors
Justin Martyr and Athenagoras more or less follow and develop the view of 1 Enoch (demons are evil spirits but they are the souls of the dead human-angel hybrids of Genesis 6 and they are in a different category from the fallen angels, though the latter are also evil).

But with Tatian in the second half of the second century we find the first identification of demons with fallen angels and with Tertullian we find the traditional Christian view set out fully for the first time. It was not a view that gain immediate, universal acceptance by Christians (Lactantius, for instance, follows 1 Enoch rather than the demons=fallen angels view) but it soon became the mainstream Christian view.

That, in brief, is the story Martin tells. The development of the traditional Christian view is a natural and understandable development that builds on elements found within the NT texts and joins them together in a certain way. It also has a certain theological rationalle, not explored by Martin, in terms of trying to account for how evil arose in creation.

But what Martin helps focus the mind on is that the full-blown Christian idea of demons as fallen angels was a development of biblical ideas and not an idea set out directly in the Bible itself. In fact, as far as the evidence that we have can demonstrate, it was not an idea that the biblical authors believed. Not that they rejected it, but it had simply not occurred to them.

Does this mean that the idea is unbiblical or should be rejected by Christians? Not necessarily. It might be a legitimate synthesis and development of biblical ideas. It might have a theo-logic that commends it. There is a case to say that it is "biblical" in that extended sense. But it is not a view that can claim immunity from biblical critique and it cannot take its 'biblical' status for granted. Christian systematic theologians should not feel bound to explore angelology and demonology within the confines of the traditional Christian view and might find fruitful ideas worth exploring in earlier biblical thinking in which angels and demons were two different kinds of creature rather than good and bad versions of the same kind.

Comments

Adam Nigh said…
Fascinating. Thanks for this post. I think the theological rational for the traditional view makes decent sense. A doctrine of creation ex nihilo and an anti-Manichean view of evil as privation would seem to require seeing all evil entities as created good; the fallen-angel narrative of the origin of Satan and demons plays into that well. However, it does seem important to acknowledge that that narrative is not explicitly biblical. I think a certain amount of agnosticism when it comes to angelology and demonology is important.
scott said…
hi Robin,

Has this Martin paper been published somewhere recently?
Robin Parry said…
Scott

no, but an shorter version will be coming out in JBL.

Robin
Robin Parry said…
The following comment was emailed to me by Dale Martin (who says that he is too much of an old fogie to post it on the blog himself but gave me permission to paste it here):

"On the theological issue you raise, which I admittedly did not get into (I'm currently working on a theological book, a sort of postmodern critique of 19th and 20th century "Theologies of the NT," and my version, which I wish I could entitle "NOT a theology of the NT"):

I certainly would say that Christians need not feel themselves limited to a historical construction of ideas "in" the NT. I don't believe a doctrine of the Trinity is "in" the NT if interpreted by a good historical critic, but I still believe, as a good Episcopalian, that Christians should confess the Trinity as central to the Nicene creed. And I believe the overall NT presentation of Jesus is subordinationist, but I still believe we should confess (and theologize on the basis of) Chalcedon. So I would never say that a historical scholar's conclusions about NT meanings (whether on the Trinity, Jesus, or even angels and demons) should limit theological positions on those issues. So your comments even on that also fit with my beliefs.

Thanks for the blog.

Dale"
James Goetz said…
Hi Robin,

Thank you.

Do you know when and how this paper will be accessible to the public?

First, I'm unsure of the "the full-blown Christian idea of demons as fallen angels." The adjective "full-blown" could be loaded, for example, the belief in Lucifer leading the sons of God in worship when God created the heavens and the earth.

Second, I agree that the dots in the New Testament aren't explicitly joined, but that doesn't mean that the dots aren't implicitly joined. Also, the New Testament authors focused on God and humans in the Kingdom of God while there might have been no need or occasion for the New Testament authors to clarify the details about the origin of (1) the devil and his angels, (2) demons/evil spirits, and (3) spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. And 2 Peter and Jude used imagery of fallen angels, even if they cannot be associated with the devil and demons that victimize humans.

Per, "But what Martin helps focus the mind on is that the full-blown Christian idea of demons as fallen angels was a development of biblical ideas and not an idea set out directly in the Bible itself. In fact, as far as the evidence that we have can demonstrate, it was not an idea that the biblical authors believed. Not that they rejected it, but it had simply not occurred to them."

The fact that the New Testament authors didn't directly or explicitly teach the general idea that the devil and his angels were originally good spirits/angels doesn't mean that the New Testament authors didn't implicitly teach it. For example, do we need a direct or explicit biblical construction of the trinity in order to believe in the trinity, not that this analogy of the trinity proves that demons are fallen spirits/angels?
James Goetz said…
Oh well, I should have read the last email by Martin before I posted mine.:)
Anonymous said…
Beware the D.Mins

although they do say
"daimons are a girls best fiend!"
James Goetz said…
I thought the saying was, "daimons are a dames best fiend!"
Celestial Fundy said…
I think angels and demons are two orders of beings. I think the Enochian idea of the origin of demonic spirits is the most plausible.

Sadly, it just seems to be just a handful of mostly dispensationalist and charismatic evangelicals who have avoided the confusion over angels and demons.
James Goetz said…
Hi Celestial Fundy,

By "the Enochian idea of the origin of demonic spirits," do you mean that fallen angels impregnated human women who produced hybrid Nephilim while the eventual death of the Nephilim turned them into demons?

If your answer is yes, then that might explain the origin of all demons except the prince of demons (the devil) who appeared as a serpent and tempted Eve before the birth of a single Nephilim. Or how do you explain the origin of the prince of demons?

And by the way, Robin or Dale, does the paper mention anything about the fallen, condemned angels in 2 Peter and Jude?
Robin Parry said…
James,

the fallen, condemned angels spoken of in 2 Peter and Jude are, almost certainly, the fallen angels from 1 Enoch (those who, in 1 Enoch, were the parents of demons).

In fact, Jude actually quotes from 1 Enoch.

Not sure if that helps.

Thanks for your input to the discussion.

Pax,

Robin
Celestial Fundy said…
James, I believe there are fallen heavenly beings, as well as demonic nephilim spirits haunting the earth.

I think there are at least two and possibly three angelic rebellions.

The rebellion of the sons of God in Genesis 6 (the angels who kept not their own estate) is clear and has no connection with Satan.

The primordial rebellion is a doctrine obscure in the Scriptures, but I think there is sufficent hints in a number of places that Satan and his angels, as opposed to the sons of God of Genesis 6 was an heavenly revolt.

I think Psalm 82 suggests a third rebellion of heavenly beings distinct from the others.
James Goetz said…
Celestial Fundy,

I suppose you believe that the prince of demons is a fallen angel while the rest of the demons are hybrid progeny of fallen angels. I could write a lot about the background of these ideas from the Bible and the apocrypha, but overall I have trouble seeing that the prince of demons is a fallen angel while the rest of the demons are not.
Celestial Fundy said…
James, one has to bear in mind that the Old Testament idea of Satan is not clearly developed.

Jesus is referring to the devil using the expressions used by Jewish contemporaries that may not fully reflect a developed doctrine of Satan.
James Goetz said…
Celestial Fundy, I don't think that was the case with Luke 10:17-20 when Satan falling from heaven was associated with the disciples rebuking demons. I understand that this scenario doesn't specifically refer to Satan as the prince of demons, but Satan is associated with the demons.
Celestial Fundy said…
I think the association should be treated as functional rather than ontological.

That he is involved in similar activities as the demons and has status amongst them should not necessarilly lead to the conclusion that he is the same order of being.

I think the connection between Satan and the demons is particularly emphasised because of the centrality of demonic opposition to Jesus' ministry and because of contemporary the Jewish emphasis on demonic activity. That association does not have the same prominence in other parts of Scripture.
James Goetz said…
Celestial Fundy, I agree that this verse doesn't "prove" that Satan is an archdemon. Anyway, please allow me to ask questions about your belief in the book of 1 Enoch. Since the Ancient Church rejected 1 Enoch from the canon, why do you believe the demonology in 1 Enoch? And I hope that Robin doesn't mind if we continue with this subpoint of his post.:)
Celestial Fundy said…
There are several possible explanations for what demons are:

1. They are rebel angels.

2. They are spiritual beings distinct from angels that were created in a disembodied state.

3. They are the disembodied spirits of the nephilim.

4. They are the disembodied spirits of pre-adamite humans.

5. They are the disembodied spirits of angels (if we assume that angels have some kind of body that can be lost).

6. They are the disembodied spirits of some other kind of being.

My take on these views:

1) Held by most Christians, but it makes a big assumption and depends upon angels being non-corporeal beings. It overlooks big differences in the way angels and demons are described in Scripture.

2) This view is found in some Jewish rabbinical writings, but seems unlikely.

The demons need to posess embodied creatures suggests
that they were originally embodied.

3)If we accept that the sons of God of Genesis 6 were angels, then this view is plausible. It is not taught anywhere in Scripture, but has a strong pedigree in its Jewish and early Christian origins. To my mind is a stronger default option than 1).

4) Depends upon the debatable notion that there were pre-adamite humans.

5-6) Overly speculative.
James Goetz said…
First, if I may, I want to clarify that a "disembodied state" assumes a past body. So I think that for "2" you mean "spiritual beings distinct from angels" or something like that. But we need to get to my second point before I know your intention.

Second, may we discuss the following: "1) Held by most Christians, but it makes a big assumption and depends upon angels being non-corporeal beings. It overlooks big differences in the way angels and demons are described in Scripture."?

I want to begin by examining Hebrews 1:4 (NIV): "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"

I hope that you don't mind, but I'm crunched for time and I want to get something incomplete on the floor. This verse supports the belief that corporeal appearances of angels are temporary angelophanies. Also, angelophanies don't always appear the same to everybody. For example, 2 Kings 6;15-17 (NIV),

"[15] When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.

[16] "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

[17] And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."

How do you interpret Hebrews 1:4 and 2 Kings 6;15-17?
James Goetz said…
Ugh, that's "2 Kings 6:15-17."
James Goetz said…
And I meant Hebrews 1:14:)
Celestial Fundy said…
Hebrews 1:14

The Bible uses the word spirit in quite a number of ways. Pneuma is applied to the Lord Jesus in 1 Cor 15:15. It would be wrong to draw from this that being a pneuma necesserily entails incorporeality.

Perhaps angels are called spirits to emphasise their being direct creations of God?

I presume from your quotation of 2 Kings 6:15-17 that you are implying that the angels only appeared to resemble horses and chariots. That is certainly possible, but I don't see that this is demanded by that text.

I think we should be careful not to assume that the appearance of angels in angelophanies is only an appearance of corporeality.

Notice that when our Lord appeared to his disciples in Luke 24, he pointed out that he had an appearance of corporeality which should lead them to conclude that he was not a ghost or spirit.

If there are non-corporeal beings manifesting themselves as physical beings, the disciples could hard be assured that the appearance of their Lord entailed his being risen.
James Goetz said…
First, I don't see "pneuma" in 1 Cor 15:15. Did you mean another verse or something else?

By the way, I suppose 1 Peter 3:18-20 implies that the disembodied spirit of Jesus preached the gospel to imprisoned angels.

Anyway, I want to make sure that we have a clear definition of "corporeal" and "non-corporeal." I hold that spirits have a spiritual body, so "non-corporeal" should mean "spiritual body" unless we're referring to God before the first theophany. And living humans have both a physical body and spiritual body. Also, when a human dies, then he or she becomes a disembodied spirit. Do you agree with these descriptions? Perhaps you might disagree that God ever created a spirit without a physical body, but that's another point that we very well might end up discussing.

Per, "If there are non-corporeal beings manifesting themselves as physical beings, the disciples could hard be assured that the appearance of their Lord entailed his being risen."

I disagree with your statement unless Jesus could be a deceiver. And I reject that Jesus could be a deceiver.

I've carefully studied angelophanies in the Bible. And I assume that all physical appearances of angelophanies are temporary manifestations. And I suppose that has a lot to do with how I view demons.

I'm curious about your view of the three angels (or the theophany and two angels) in Genesis 18. Did these three angels always have a physical body that could eat and drink? (And in Genesis 19, two of the angels had "sex/rape appeal" to the men of Sodom.)
Celestial Fundy said…
James, oh sorry, I meant 1 Cor 15:45. 'the last Adam made a quickening spirit (pneuma).

By corporeal I mean a body that interacts spatially with the material realm. Hence, the possibility of a theoretical answer to the question of how many angels can dance on a pin head. If angels are non-corporeal then the question of how many could dance on a pin head is a non-question.

I am happy to call angelic bodies spiritual because 1) angels exist within a realm of divine activity, 2) angels are called spirits (whatever we mean by that), 3) the resurrection body is described as spiritual in 1 Cor 15 and arguably angels are analogous to resurrected humans on some level.

"Also, when a human dies, then he or she becomes a disembodied spirit."

Some Christians have argued that deceased humans receive a temporary body before the resurrection. Such a body would not necessarily be of the same kind of substance that we are made of now, but would posess some physical properties. There are a number of passages that would support that conclusion.

"Perhaps you might disagree that God ever created a spirit without a physical body, but that's another point that we very well might end up discussing."

I would question the idea of God creating any non-corporeal beings. Apart from God, the only definite example of non-corporeal beings are the demons and their non-corporeality seems to be an inconvenience to themselves as well as others.

It is clear that humans were never intended to be non-corporeal and the importance of the resurrection.

"I disagree with your statement unless Jesus could be a deceiver. And I reject that Jesus could be a deceiver."

Our Lord points out his own appearance of physicality and tells his disciples that they should conclude that he is a physical being, a resurrected human being.

Suppose that the disciples are aware that disembodied spirits can manifest as physical human beings. Would not the logic of our Lord's argument fall down? It would be logical for the disciples to consider that this might be a spirit that only appeared to be physical.

"I'm curious about your view of the three angels (or the theophany and two angels) in Genesis 18. Did these three angels always have a physical body that could eat and drink?"

I don't see why not. I find it easier to conceive of a being always posessing a body than to take on and take off a body at will.

Given that analogies and comparisons are drawn between humans and angels in Scripture, such as the one concerning non-marriage after the resurrection, I think it wise to consider the possibility that humans and angels are more similar than theologians have tended to allow.
James Goetz said…
Celestial,

"Suppose that the disciples are aware that disembodied spirits can manifest as physical human beings. Would not the logic of our Lord's argument fall down? It would be logical for the disciples to consider that this might be a spirit that only appeared to be physical."

I doubt that the disciples believed that disembodied spirits could manifest as physical human beings. For example, I believe that angels can manifest as physical humans, but disembodied spirits cannot manifest as physical humans. By the way, I also believe that angels can manifest as humans and rebel against God by lusting after and impregnating human women.

I also want to make sure that I understand your view of humans. Do you reject that humans are a union of a spiritual body and a physical body?

Additionally, I have trouble understanding your view of the structure of angels and demons. Do you believe that angels are corporeal spirits and demons are non-corporeal spirits?
Celestial Fundy said…
James,

No, I think humans are a union of physical and spiritual components.

I agree with your understanding of the sons of God as being angels, but I find it difficult to conceive of a 'manifestation' enabling a being to impregnate a human woman. It seems much simpler conceptually to view angels as having similar (but different) bodies to humans that are capable of sexual intercourse than to think that an angel can somehow take on a temporal or artificial body.

"Do you believe that angels are corporeal spirits and demons are non-corporeal spirits?"

I think angels have bodies that are physical. Demonic spirits do not appear to have such bodies, hence their need to posess humans or animals.

I suppose its possible that demons might have a 'body' that is physical in a similar way to bacteria, viruses or pehaps gas.

I must say, this discussion is far more interesting than the endless debates I have got into on the subject of predestination and free-will.
Anonymous said…
Celestial Fundy said:

"I must say, this discussion is far more interesting than the endless debates I have got into on the subject of predestination and free-will."

Yes, I've enjoyed it too -- lots of ideas I've never toyed with before.
James Goetz said…
Celestial,

I'm also enjoying this dialogue. And I'm slated to write chapters about the judgment of (1) the devil and (2) the fallen angels in 1 Peter and Jude, so I suppose debating their origin could help me while I write about their judgment.

"I agree with your understanding of the sons of God as being angels, but I find it difficult to conceive of a 'manifestation' enabling a being to impregnate a human woman. It seems much simpler conceptually to view angels as having similar (but different) bodies to humans that are capable of sexual intercourse than to think that an angel can somehow take on a temporal or artificial body."

If I may, I want to shift the dialog to the biology of mammalian hybrids. Have you studied anything about livestock and hybrids? Only closely related mammalian species can produce hybrids. Typically, only species in the same genus can produce hybrids, and "genus" is ultimately a man-made classification. And only some mammalian hybrids are fertile. Also, fertile hybrids typically have lower fertility rates compared the "purebreds." Likewise, a hybrid mammalian species is highly unlikely. And Numbers 13:33 says that the Anakites descended from the Nephilim.

I have to cut this short to get something on the table and I'll be too busy for a few days, but the angels that bred with human women had biological human bodies. There is no way that the physical bodies of the reproductive Anakites could have been anything but human.
Anonymous said…
Why did that fantastic dialogue stop all of a sudden? I demand a continuation.

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