Friday, January 12, 2018

Demythologizing angels and demons

1. Here's a cautionary tale of what happens when inerrancy is denied, then taken to a logical conclusion:

It's like tugging on a loose thread of a knitted garment. The entire garment begins to unravel. 

2. I've critiqued the claim that Scripture operates with a three-story cosmography on numerous occasions, so I won't repeat myself here.

3. But beyond the general claim is the specific contention regarding angels and demons. Oddly enough, Rauser doesn't get around to explaining how biblical angels and demons are enmeshed in a three-story cosmography. 

I suspect many professing Christians visualize angels coming down from heaven or going up to heaven, like Mercury flying down from Mt. Olympus. Yet the Bible rarely uses that imagery. 

i) There are some examples in Revelation, but that's visionary material, and surreal things happen in visions. 

ii) Jn 1:51 is suggestive, but poetic.

iii) There's "Jacob's ladder" (Gen 28), but that's a dream. 

iii) Judges 13:20 has the angel merging with fire and rising with the flames. However, flames don't ordinarily rise all the way to the sky. Moreover, the depiction seems to suggest the angel transmuting into flame. 

iv) In Scripture, angels come from more than one direction (e.g. Judges 2:1; Rev 7:2).

v) In general, Scripture simply describes angels "appearing", "coming", or being "sent". 

vi) Perhaps the most explicit example in historical narrative is Mt 28:2. However, that's not a direct, eyewitness description, since the narrator wasn't present to see it happen. He may have gotten his information from one of the sentinels. So it may well be a stock idiom to paraphrase what he was told. 

vii) Finally, Rauser trots out the case of the demoniac, yet that has nothing to do with a three-story cosmography. Moreover, Rauser assumes that possession can't mimic symptoms of epilepsy. Yet cases of possession are hardly confined to ancient literary texts. There are well-documented examples by medical professionals. 

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