Angels as Gods

Professor Bart Ehrman is sharing parts of his upcoming book, How Jesus Became God, where he discusses various ancient Jewish and Christian beliefs.  In one blog post, he writes:

Other Angels as God and Human

There are numerous other examples both in the Bible and in other Jewish texts where angels are described as God and, just as importantly, where angels are described as humans.  One of the most interesting is in Psalm 82.   In this beautiful plea that justice be done to those who are weak and needy, we are told, in v. 1, that “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.”  Here God Almighty is portrayed as having a divine council around him; these are angelic beings with whom God consults, as happens elsewhere in the Bible – most famously in Job 1, where “the Satan” figure is himself reckoned among these divine beings.  In the Job passage the divine beings making up God’s council are called “sons of God.”  Here too they are called “children of the Most High.”  But more than that, they are called “Elohim” (82:6) – the Hebrew word for “God” (it is a plural word; when not referring to God it is usually translated gods).   These angelic beings are “gods.”   And here they are rebuked because they have no concern for people who are lowly, weak, and destitute.  And because of the failures of these “gods,” God bestows upon them the ultimate punishment: he makes them mortal, so that they will die and cease to exist (82:7).

Thus angelic beings, children of God, can be called gods.   And in a variety of texts we find that such beings become human.

Here we see angels as both gods and humans.  This is not too far off from the concepts taught by Joseph Smith: that Gods, angels and humans are all one species.  We believe that Satan fell from grace, and became worse than human, to stay forever in a fallen state. We believe mortals to also be in a fallen state, but through Christ, we can be exalted to be as God and Jesus are.

21 thoughts on “Angels as Gods

  1. Oh, if we just understood that. One long continuum. It’s work and practice along the way. Nothing out of reach. A very long continuum. Why would we not expect to converse with gods and angels?

  2. Hmmmm. I wonder how this ties in with Heavenly Aunts, Uncles and Cousins? Are they gods or angels?

    What about Heavenly Father’s spirit brothers and sisters who didn’t make exaltation, but still got into the 2nd or 3rd level of _their_ Celestial Kingdom? Are they ministering angels to Heavenly Father? Like how in D&C 132:16-17 it says that the 2nd and 3rd level people in our CK will be “ministering angels” for those who are worthy of a higher degree of glory ?

    It’s interesting to take what the scriptures say about our possible futures and extrapolate it backwards to previous generations (ie, of spirit parents and spirit children, not generations according to the flesh) as per the concepts JS mentioned in the King Follett discourse. And likewise, to take what the scriptures tell us about Heavenly Father and the Savior, and extrapolate it forward to our possible futures. In other words, if you and your spouse become parents of spirit children, what will be the role of your “firstborn in the spirt” in regards to the eternal progression of the rest of your spirit children?

  3. D&C 76 suggests that those in the higher kingdoms will minister to those in the lower kingdoms. In fact, such concept led Elder BH Roberts to state:

    “[On] the question of advancement within the great divisions of glory celestial, terrestrial, and telestial; as also the question of advancement from one sphere of glory to another… it is said that those of the terrestrial glory will be ministered unto by those of the celestial; and those of the telestial will be ministered unto by those of the terrestrial—that is, those of the higher glory minister to those of a lesser glory. I can conceive of no reason for all this administration of the higher to the lower, unless it be for the purpose of advancing our Father’s children along the lines of eternal progression.” B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God 1:391-392.

  4. Are they gods or angels?

    In the Old Testament sense of the term, what’s the difference? Clearly not all gods/angels are “Gods” (heavenly fathers/mothers) in the LDS sense, but pretty much any glorified being seems to count as a “god” in the OT schema, and others who haven’t been glorified either. It’s almost as if a better question is “In the ancient Hebrew world view who wasn’t a god?”

    LDS theology wise there is a substantial issue with regard to the pre-mortal status of Jesus Christ. It seems reasonably clear that he wasn’t married at the time, because if he was he would be a Father rather than a Son? No?

    Assuming we allow for the unconventional idea that Jehovah was the Father, doesn’t that make Jesus the Lord, or the “angel of the LORD” in the OT, i.e. Jehovah by divine investiture rather than by identity?

    Otherwise, if we insist on the popular “Jesus is the God of the Old Testament” idea, then clearly Jesus _is_ Heavenly Father in the OT and his Father is nowhere to be found.

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  6. Having read several of Bart Ehrman’s books, I find that his interpretation of scripture and other “evidence” is often stretched beyond what the text itself will support in trying to establish a favored thesis. For example (in the above):

    “Here God Almighty is portrayed as having a divine council around him; these are angelic beings with whom God consults, as happens elsewhere in the Bible – most famously in Job 1, where “the Satan” figure is himself reckoned among these divine beings. “

    Job 1 does not reckon Satan among “these divine beings.” It simply states that Satan came before God (in his already fallen state, roaming to and fro on the earth [see also: D&C 10:27]) and does not equate him with the “sons of God” in the sense that Ehrman implies; Rather, the verse separates him (Satan) from them in stating that in addition to the “sons of God”, Satan also came among them. No need for “also” if he was already one of them. (And that’s if we ignore the symbolism and poetic license involved here.)

    Other problems with his interpretation of scripture above could also be cited. A few other observations.

    Angels (translated from the Hebrew & Greek word for “messengers”) can, obviously, be either human, spirit, or divine (or satanic, if a messenger of Satan). Replace “angel” with “messenger” wherever angel appears in the Bible, and you have the original meaning.

    @Mark D: That the God of the Old Testament is Christ is attested to fully in the New Testament (it’s not simply a “popular” idea — it is a scriptural one). Jesus equates himself with the “I Am” of the Old Testament (see John 8:58 [cp. Exo 3:14] and many others). Paul directly ascribes to Christ the role of the God of Israel who followed them in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:4).

    By divine investiture of authority, Christ is rightly referred to as God (Elohim – a name-title really translated from the plural “gods” in Hebrew [the "majestic plural" referring to the singular God according to modern Jewish & Christian understanding though the council of gods is implicit], though in modern LDS teaching Elohim is generally described as being the Father) and Jehovah (described as the name of the God of Israel – “And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob. I am the Lord God Almighty; the Lord JEHOVAH. And was not my name known unto them?” [Exo 6:3 JST]) or both (“the LORD God” = “Jehovah Elohim” and “the LORD your God” = “Jehovah your Elohim”). Divine investiture of authority and the oneness of God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost makes this perfectly permissible and even enlightening, IMHO.

  7. John M: That’s a good response to Mark D. Better than I could have worded it. The New Testament does make clear that Jesus = Jehovah, and that Jesus is the Son of the Father. The “divine investiture of authority” concept (originally put forth by James Talmage, correct?) merely cleans up some of the scriptures’ semantic rough spots that have tripped up centuries of theologians who were diverted from the correct understanding ever since the Nicene Creed.
    ————————-
    In general: I do feel a bit guilty in this speculation about gods and angels, because it is more or less “looking beyond the mark.” I have enough to do, and still have plenty left un-done in regards to the basic faith/repentance/baptism/Holy-Ghost/enduring-to-the-end stuff.

    The scriptures do put a big divide between those who are “saved” (exalted) and all those who are not. IE, there is a major dividing line between the top and the 2nd level in the CK. The 2nd and 3rd levels in the CK are in the same “eternal” condition as those in the TrK and the Tlk. They stay in “immortality”, never going on to “eternal” as the people in the Church of the Firstborn do.

    However, read another way, the major dividing line could be between the CK and the TrK, because many scriptural passages mention “saved in the Kingdom of Heavenly Father”, which seems to lump, by implication, all three levels in the CK together, and contrast them with the TrK and TlK.

    I’ll share some things I’ve noticed, correlating cosmology to the LDS big picture, but won’t spell it out too much. A few scriptures talk about the heavens being “wrapped as a scroll” and “time” coming to an end. I wonder about the connection of the heavens wrapping up as a scroll and the black holes that are said to be at the center of every galaxy. Before the Universe collapses into a “big crunch” (_if_ it does, scientists go back and forth on whether it will literally expand always, or collapse), it is speculated that _at least_ the galaxies in the Universe will eventually collapse back into the black hole that is at the center of every galaxy, and eventually explode back into a “mini-big-bang” via a “white hole” and create a new galaxy out of all the material that had been eaten up by the black hole.

    One of the features of a black hole is that time stops for objects that are in it. Time literally _ends_ for all things (and people?) in a black hole. It is speculated that all matter in a black hole is ripped apart and collapsed into sub-atomic particles.

    Would that gravitational force in a black hole be enough to disintegrate a resurrected being? Could it wrench a spirit from the resurrected (but non-exalted) body that contains it? Would it collapse or disintegrate spirit matter as well as physical matter? Would it rip the “intelligence” away from the spirit body that clothes it?

    Remember, that although the scriptures talk about “forever” and “all time”, that “forever” and “time” have some kind of “end” in a black hole. A black hole literally is “the end of time” for all that enters into it. I keep forgetting the reference, but a couple scriptures do mention “there will be no more time.”

    I wonder if such a black-hole-ending could be the crux that differentiates between the similar but scripturally dissociate words “immortal” and “eternal”. The exalted folks, the top tier in the CK are “eternal”. But the 2nd tier in the CK, on down through and including the Tlk are merely “immortal”. So what’s the diff?

  8. I was watching BYUtv on a Roku box today and found a talk from Sperry Symposium about this topic (angels). Very interesting.

  9. John M, as I understand Job 1, I see it this way:

    First, “Satan” does not necessarily mean “the devil”. The Hebrew term is “Adversary.” We Mormons need to be careful not to read too much of our modern understanding into the ancient beliefs, which are different in some ways than our own. In the ancient council, it is believed that the divine council was not always united, but sought to overthrow one another in contests, including those done among men. God/El Elyon/Elohim separated the nations after the Flood, giving each of his divine sons a nation to rule over.
    Jehovah was given the greatest kingdom: Israel. Yet, Israel did not yet exist, and so Jehovah had to begin with Abraham to build a people and a nation over several generations.
    Among the Canaanites and others, there were gods who were dethroned or replaced by others. Baal replaced Yam, for example. And so when Jehovah declares that there “is no other god before me, nor any god after me”, he was referencing what was happening among the Canaanites, where they lost one god and now had a new one. Jehovah wasn’t Israel’s very first God, having made the covenant in the beginning with Abraham. Jehovah was not going away or being replaced by Baal, nor any other god. In this tradition, Jehovah eventually conquered most of the gods/divine council in contest, and replaced them in their own nations.
    So, in Job 1, several of the divine council went to challenge Jehovah for primacy or control of Israel. The Adversary, another member of the divine council who sought to win Israel as his prize, offered a contest with Job as the challenge. It is a very tough competition, but Jehovah ends up winning.

    Of course, LDS have a similar view to this. In the Grand Council, there were divine beings, including Lucifer, who stood up to challenge Jehovah’s primacy as God over the chosen Israel.

    Bookslinger, I must say you have some interesting concepts. I would add that they are not doctrine, but only your efforts to understand how things tie together. We do not know whether God dwells in a black hole, Outer Darkness is in a black hole, or if a black hole is something entirely separate from the kingdoms to come.

    John M is correct on our current understanding of divine investiture. It may be that our understanding of it may change somewhat, as we begin to understand more of the ways of God, and the ways the ancients understood God and his divine council.

    As it is, the Messiah was known as The Angel of the Lord’s Presence. He would save Israel from its tormenters. Many understand the Messiah in context of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, as well. He sports at least two major roles: servant and king, lamb and conqueror. Early Christians understood Jesus to be the Messiah, having suffered in his mortal life, and coming in power and glory in his 2nd Coming. They saw him as Angel of the Presence (of the Lord) a divine being that was worthy of worship and acclamation.

  10. The John 8:58 argument is not a solid one – on three grounds. The first is divine investiture of authority, the second is the reasonable possibility that I AM is a name-title not that different from “God”, and the third is the principle later attested to that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end (D&C 20:28).

    The contrary argument is much stronger. Jesus claims to be the Son of God. Who did he think the people he was talking to thought God was anyway? A claim to be God outright would make a claim to be the Son of God a matter of first rate dissembling.

    That would put Jesus in the position of being the only recipient of worship, and prayer, and so on through the post-exilic period at least, and all the sudden he is born and he teaches people that they should start praying to someone else. Either that or an assertion of modalism, the idea that he was both the Son and the Father. I don’t understand Jesus to be praying to himself.

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