Home > Uncategorized > The rivalry between angels and humans

The rivalry between angels and humans

Especially after seeing the funny critique of Christianity posted at AUFS last week, which had the angels trying to convince God to do something helpful for humanity, it was interesting to read this morning that early Rabbinic literature actually had the conversation going the other way. Apparently the rabbis often told stories where the angels played devil’s advocate with God, trying to convince God to bring the full force of just punishment down on the head of humanity, while God kept insisting on being unreasonably merciful. I’m getting this from Gary Anderson’s really interesting new book, Sin: A History. Anderson gives one especially funny example from the 9th-century Pesikta Rabbati in which, on the Day of Atonement, Satan is placing all Israel’s sins on one side of a scale while God places Israel’s merits on the other. Satan ends up having more, so, “what did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? While Satan was looking for sins, the Holy One, blessed be he, took the sins from the scale and hid them under his purple royal robe” (quoted on p. 107 in Anderson’s book).

There’s a whole book on this theme, apparently, by Peter Schäfer, called Rivalität zwischen Engeln und Menschen: Untersuchungen zur rabbinischen Engelvorstellung (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1975).

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