No Ordinary Angel

No Ordinary Angel: Celestial Spirits and Christian Claims about Jesus

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    No Ordinary Angel
    Book Description:

    In this provocative, intelligent, and highly original addition to the Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library, Susan R. Garrett argues that angel talk has never been merely about angels. Rather, from ancient times until the present, talk about angels has served as a vehicle for reflection on other fundamental life questions, including the nature of God's presence and intervention in the world, the existence and meaning of evil, and the fate of humans after death. InNo Ordinary Angel, Garrett examines how biblical and other ancient authors addressed such questions through their portrayals of angels. She compares the ancient angel talk to popular depictions of angels today and considers how the ancient and modern portraits of angels relate to Christian claims about Jesus.

    No Ordinary Angeloffers important insights into the development of angelology, the origins of Christology, and popular Western spirituality ranging from fundamentalist to New Age. In doing so, it provokes stimulating theological reflection on key existential questions.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14274-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Is this all there is? These bodies that can be injured in the blink of an eye—bodies that grow sick, that die? These jobs, schools, friends, or spouses that sometimes excite and challenge us but often do not? These unceasing worries about money, jobs, health, children, or relationships? Is this all there is? Or is there another place, another dimension to life?

    These questions are as old as humanity. Some of the most ancient and enduring answers to them are found in the Bible, both in the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, and in the New Testament. Biblical authors...

  7. 1 Agents of Healing, Messengers of Truth
    (pp. 17-39)

    Truth can be painful. Do I really want to see the world as God sees it? Or myself as God sees me? I do not even like to watch myself on video! How much more frightening, then, to catch even a glimpse of myself through the lens of God’s camera—God, who “is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” and before whom “no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare” (Heb 4:12–13). It would be so much more comfortable to go on seeing things, self included, as I want to see them....

  8. 2 Angels at the Throne: Entering into God’s Presence
    (pp. 40-76)

    How can we know that God exists? Where can we find those sacred moments we need to assure us that we are not alone? We want to encounter the Holy. We want to transcend the limitations of our physical sight and our physical bodies. We want to be transported outside ourselves. We yearn to find ourselves caught up in something much greater, much more beautiful than what we have known before.

    America is and always has been a nation of religious seekers. But by some accounts the quest for experience of the divine has reached new, epic proportions—what has...

  9. 3 Falling Angels: Desiring Divinity, Wanting the World
    (pp. 77-102)

    How do we find our heart’s desire? How do we control the desires that threaten to undo us? How do we tell the difference between the good desires and the bad ones? Can we train ourselves to desire only the things that are approved by God? And if we could ever truly manage to desire only what is good, would having that single focus help us to live in a fuller, more satisfying way? To speak about the ordering of our desires is to address fundamental questions about the meaning and purpose of life.

    The emotion of desire wields tremendous...

  10. 4 Satan and the Powers
    (pp. 103-138)

    Evil is “the main human problem.” All around us in the world are want, wretchedness, affliction, misery, and death.¹ To be sure, in our wealthy and insulated society some of us can and do pretend, for a time, that evil is somebody else’s problem. We teach our children that God is in heaven and all is right with the world. We convince ourselves that if we live the right way bad things will only happen to other people, or we buy into one of the plentiful current theories that those who suffer have chosen that course for themselves—in a...

  11. 5 Guardian Angels
    (pp. 139-185)

    Imagine setting out on a long journey through the Amazon rain forest, a desert wasteland, or a foreign and hostile city, with only your bare wits for resources. Nearly every moment your life will be in peril. How would you survive? “I’d need a guide,” you say. “I’d need a companion who knows the way.” You recognize that this partner in travel should be someone familiar with the terrain and its pitfalls. He or she should know of any hostile forces in the region, and should have strength and savvy to assist you in confronting the dangers. This ideal guide...

  12. 6 Angels and Death
    (pp. 186-236)

    Death has many faces, and as ideas about death change so do the faces. Several of death’s visages can be seen on a stroll through old New England graveyards. On gravestones from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a winged skull or death’s head accompanies an admonition to the viewer to consider her own mortality, as in this inscription:

    My youthful mates both small and great

    Come here and you may see

    An awful sight, which is a type of which

    you soon must be.¹

    The death’s head images became simpler and more stylized over time, but the skull-like...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 237-242)

    Attending to talk about angels—talk in the Bible, and talk today—opens a way into serious reflection on important theological questions. Is God present in the world, and if so, how? Can we enter into that presence? Does God govern or guide what happens to us, in world events and in our social and psychic lives? What role does God play in causing and responding to evil? What future does God hold for us and for the world beyond the limits of mortal life? It might seem surprising that attention to talk about angels could lead us so deep...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 243-304)
    (pp. 305-320)
    (pp. 321-324)
    (pp. 325-327)
    (pp. 328-333)