Monday, May 8, 2017

Evil Angels?

Really enjoying reading a brilliant article by the magisterial Dale Martin, like all good scholarship familiar texts are revealed to hold surprising and unsettling possibilities!

Angels populated Paul's world in a lively way. Contrary to modern popular assumptions, angels for Paul were not always good. They could be evil and malicious or simply morally ambiguous. There certainly are "good" angels in Paul's world (2 Cor 11:14; Gal 1:8; 4:14), and certainly also "bad" angels. 1 Corinthians 6:3 mentions that "we" (presumably Paul and other followers of Jesus) will "judge" angels, implying that there are angels who are criminal. If Paul's reference to the "thorn in the flesh" that tortures him is to an "angel of Satan" (2 Cor 12:7), which I take to be the case, and not just a metaphorical "messenger of Satan," we would have here a satanic angel as Paul's tormentor.

Some scholars believe that the phrase "because of the angels" in 1 Cor 11:10 is a reference to angels who may threaten women, perhaps sexually. Some scholars take Gal 3:19 to teach that angels were those who gave the law to Moses, rather than God himself. That text, if interpreted in light of Acts 7:53, may imply a less than benevolent, if not downright negative, view of their activity, given what Paul says about the intervention of the law elsewhere in Galatians. Finally, if one takes "the rulers of this age" in 1 Cor 2:6 and 8, who did not understand Gods mystery and therefore "crucified the lord of glory," to be a reference to angels (note that αρχαι are coupled with "angels" in Rom 8:38), this would certainly represent a reference to evil angels.

Dale B Martin, "When Did Angels Becomes Demons?" JBL 129, 2010, 657-77

Let me know what you think, :-)


  1. When is a messenger not a messenger? When they become an invisible (semi-?)autonomous power?

  2. To be honest, the first two examples given - 1 Cor 11:10 and Gal 3:19 - don't bode well for the article as a whole in my mind. While I personally think a case can be made that the angels in 1 Cor 11:10 are fallen angels, I have found almost no scholars who support that view, as opposed to the "some" that Dale Martin asserts. Admittedly my resources are limited, but that assertion seems to lack care.

    Even more troubling is the attempt to make out that the angels in Gal 3:19 are fallen angels. The association of the angels with the negative effects of the Law completely misses the concept of a good Law discussed in Romans 7:7. Just because the Law produces death in wicked people does not make the Law itself bad, nor, by extension, the angels involved in it's delivery. The idea that God delivered his Holy Law through fallen angels is bizzare.

    So, the lack of care and weird conclusions in what you have quoted give me the impression of a thesis looking for something, anything to prop it up. Is it really worth the read?

    Having said that, here is my take on 1 Cor 11:10. You may accuse me of the same...

  3. The above comment was by Alistair, not Paula.

  4. Hi Tim and Ali, nice to hear from you both!

    Tim, the rest of the article deals with just that question, this quote is more of an aside.

    Ali, re 1 Cor 11, Of course my blog post missed out the footnotes, which shouldn't be taken as evidence Alison's arguments are unsupported. Given the influence of 1 Enoch/ Book of Watchers on the NT it seems a very plausible suggestion to me. You are also misreading to say that Martin said the law was delivered by "fallen angels", things are a bit more subtle than that! Eitherway, while not someone you would always agree with as an evangelical, Ali, Martin is a top scholar whose arguments definitely are worth hearing.