Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The worship of Angels - Col. 2.18

Colossians 2.18 reads: "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you." (TNIV).

What is the worship of angels? It could be the worship or veneration of the angels themselves and perhaps indicative of an angel cult in Phrygia. But some (following F.O. Francis) have argued that it is a subjective genitive denoting the angelic worship of heaven that persons attain a vision of through asceticism and fasting and this comports with the emphasis at Qumran on the angelic worship of heaven (e.g. 4Q405). But Clinton Arnold (Syncretism, 91-92) objects that we have no evidence of threskeia used as a subjective genitive in reference to divine beings. It is used with a subj. gen. when people doing the worshipping are named, e.g. the Jews in 4 Macc. 5.7 and Jos. Ant. 12.5.4. Yet the phrase is governed by a single preposition (en) and ‘angels’ is related to both 'worship' and 'humility' which requires a subjective genitive. It is the self-humbling and worship of the angels that is insisted upon. What is more, the perfect form of horao seems to indicate visionary experiences as the context for the discussion. At the same time, Loren Stuckenbruck (Angel Veneration) is probably correct that we do not have to choose absolutely between an objective and subjective meaning. The reason why someone wants to see the angels worship God is because someone believes that there is something very special about the angels themselves!

7 comments:

Esteban Vázquez said...

Try as I might to understand how tōn aggelōn connects back to *both* tapeinophrosynē and thrēskeia, I just don't see it. Of course, they are both governed by the preposition en, but I tend to read this as an instance of syllepsis.

I think the TNIV reflects a more natural reading of the text. Reveling in "false humility" (cfr. BDAG's delightful gloss about humility "wrongly directed") and the "worship of angels" is an unmistakable trait of the kind of people whose condemnation the Colossians are to ignore--as are never shutting up about visions they haven't actually had, having big heads chock-full with nonsense, and ultimately, being severed from Christ the Head himself (v. 19). Each successive line in the check sheet gets progressively worse (and each is introduced by a participle, so it appears to me that they are indeed to be read serially).

Anyway, I really would appreciate it if you could share any further thoughts on this on this matter!

Brant Pitre said...

Mike,
I've always taught (and translated) Col 2:18 as something quite different: "the religion of angels"--i.e., the Mosaic dispensation which Paul himself emphasizes repeatedly was given by angels (Gal 3-4) and which is described as such elsewhere in the NT (Heb 1-2; Acts 7:53, etc.). I see the problems in Colossae as quite similar to what is going on in Galatia: there are Christians who are insisting on following the ceremonial precepts of the Mosaic law--hence the emphasis on circumcision, sabbath, holy days, etc. in Colossians 2--without realizing that in Christ they have "died to the elemental spirits of the universe" (Col 2:20).

THis is my take. What do you think? I think it makes way better sense out of the surrounding context, than the "worship" of angles, which seems to come out of nowhere and go nowhere.

Geoff Hudson said...

"Emphasis at Qumran" is an assumption is it not? If the scrolls came from Jerusalem, which some think is likely, then reverence of angels was common. The writings attributed to Josephus tell us that 'Essenes' placed a special emphasis on the reverence of angels because they remembered their names. The implication was that others also revered angels, but not so much as 'Essenes'. And a number of folk think that the occupants of the Qumran fortress were not 'Essenes', but were wealthy aristocrats. So was Colossians referring to 'Essenes' who could well have considered themselves as possessing humility since they were humble agriculturalists.

Geoff Hudson said...

The writer of Acts 8:26 seems to have thought there was something special about one angel. I wonder what his background was?

Branden said...

I believe that the reference to angels is actually a reference to "messengers/pastors." That is quite common today, because many individuals are regarding, exalting, and even worshipping their pastors--- giving more attention to him/her than to the Word of God. I am all for an individual respecting and loving the church leadership. In fact, this is commanded of us. But to worship the man or woman of God ought not be practiced. Each individual is subject to the Word of God and the leading and operation of the Holy Spirit.

Bill said...

Worship as angels Works.

Bill said...

...supposedly through meditation and ascetic lifestyle one could enter into the angelic realm and actually worship God as the angels. "Worship as Angels" is a possible rendering. It works in the genitive case as well as "of". Jewish elements of the false teaching at Colossae are clear from the context. Clearly nowhere has worship "of" angels been a heresy of the Jews or early Christians. This verse stands alone that is why there is so much controversy over its meaning. Though good scholars disagree on the origin of the Colossian heresy, worship as angels has some parallel in early jewish heretical teachings. I remember reading an article by A. Lueken (i can site if interested) that describes a cultic teaching of worshiping God "as" angels in the angelic realm. This is a much more plausible explanation since actual worshiping "of" the angels would have drawn a much more lengthy and vehement response from the apostle. Worth considering.