The Myth of Rebellious Angels: Studies in Second Temple Judaism and New Testament Texts

9780802873156This excellent book arrived about a month back and I’ve since read through it.  Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

The mythical story of fallen angels preserved in 1 Enoch and related literature was profoundly influential during the Second Temple period. In this volume renowned scholar Loren Stuckenbruck explores aspects of that influence and demonstrates how the myth was reused and adapted to address new religious and cultural contexts.

Stuckenbruck considers a variety of themes, including demonology, giants, exorcism, petitionary prayer, the birth and activity of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the conversion of Gentiles, “apocalyptic” and the understanding of time, and more. He also offers a theological framework for the myth of fallen angels through which to reconsider several New Testament texts—the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, Acts, Paul’s letters, and the book of Revelation.

Stuckenbruck has long been one of my favorite experts on Second Temple Judaism because he is simultaneously informative and articulate.  The present volume is something of a summary of his thoughts on some of the most interesting aspects of Second Temple belief.  In 14 chapters he discusses everything from giants and Genesis 6 to the need for women to cover their heads for the benefit of the angels in 1 Corinthians to the Apocalypse of John and 1 Enoch.

The essays are arranged in canonical order.  That is,

  1. Origins of Evil in Jewish Apocalyptic Tradition.
  2. Giant Mythology and Demonology.
  3. The Lamech Narrative in the Genesis Apocryphon and 1 Enoch 106-107.
  4. Demonic Beings and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  5. Early Enochic and Daniel Traditions in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  6. The Book of Tobit and the Problem of ‘Magic’.
  7. To What Extent did Philo’s Treatment of Enoch and the Giants Presuppose Knowledge of Enochic and Other Sources Preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls?
  8. Conflicting Stories: the Spirit origin of Jesus’ Birth.
  9. The Human Being and Demonic Invasion.
  10. The Need for Protection From the Evil One and John’s Gospel.
  11. The ‘Cleansing’ of the Gentiles.
  12. Posturing ‘Apocalyptic’ in Pauline Theology.
  13. Why Should Women Cover their Heads Because of the Angels?
  14. The Apocalypse of John, I Enoch,, and the Question of Influence.

Stuckenbruck also provides an extensive bibliography and indices of passages, authors, and subjects.

The value of this volume is revealed and properly manifested in its broad scope and comprehensiveness.  Curious notions are examined and demons abound.  The stickier passages are approached fearlessly and competently so that persons interested in the origin of the giants or the reason women had to cover their heads in Corinth are provided sensible and cogent explanations.

The majority of the chapters have been published elsewhere while one appears here for the first time.  The notes are copious and the documentation (i.e., evidence for Stuckenbruck’s interpretations) exceedingly thorough, as one would expect of a scholar of his caliber.

This is a book for the curious by a scholar who understands that curiosity because he shares it.  And he has the background, training, and skills along with a profound familiarity with the primary sources that allow his expositions to capture the imagination at the same time that they convince the reader of their correctness.

This is a glorious example of biblical scholarship and it proves that detailed investigations of the highest quality needn’t be dry, boring, dusty, uninspiring, or lilting.  I hope one day to know as much about something as Stuckenbruck seems to know about second Temple Judaism.  To that end, I’m off to follow up several leads Loren suggested concerning those pesky headcoverings in Corinth.

My recommendation to you, dear reader, is that you read this book: not only because it will inform you, but rather because it will actually inspire you to better, deeper, more engaged scholarship.