Angels in the Apocrypha

Classification of Angelic Beings

Angels are referred to in the Apocrypha by the proper names of Jeremiel, Raphael, & Uriel as well as referred to as angel and archangel. The number of occurrences is 77.

Apocryphal Books Examined

There are 18 Apocryphal books listed in the New Oxford Annotated Bible, RSV/NRSV.

Five of these books (I Esdras, Judith, Baruch, Prayer of Manasseh, and Psalm 151) have no references to angels. Eleven of the remaining thirteen books(Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Letter to Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and 1,2,3, & 4 Maccabees) have three or fewer mentions. The preponderance of apocryphal references to angels are cited in 2 Esdras (23 references) and Tobit (34 references).

Probable languages of composition

1 Esdras (Greek), 2 Esdras (Hebrew), Tobit (Hebrew or Aramaic), Judith (Hebrew), Additions to the Book of Esther (Hebrew or Aramaic), Wisdom of Solomon (Greek), Sirach (Hebrew), Baruch (Hebrew), Letter of Jeremiah (Hebrew or Aramaic), Song of Three Young Men (Hebrew or Aramaic), Prayer of Azariah (Hebrew or Aramaic), Susanna (Hebrew or Aramaic), Bel & The Dragon (Hebrew or Aramaic), The Prayer of Manasseh (Greek), I Maccabees (Hebrew), 2 Maccabees (Greek), 3 Maccabees (Greek), and 4 Maccabees (Greek).

Date Range

1 Esdras (c 100 BC), 2 Esdras (85-90 AD), Tobit (175-225 BC), Judith (150 BC), Additions to the Book of Esther (90 AD), Wisdom of Solomon (50 BC), Sirach (180 BC), Baruch (70 AD), Letter to Jeremiah (300 BC), Song of the Three Young Men (170 BC), Prayer of Azariah (170 BC), Susanna (170 BC), Bel & The Dragon (170 BC), Prayer of Manasseh (150 BC), 1 Maccabees (100 BC), 2 Maccabees (170 BC), 3 Maccabees (100 BC), and 4 Maccabees (40 AD).

Probable places of composition

1 Esdras (Egypt), 2 Esdras (Palestine), Tobit (Syria or Mesopotamia), Judith (Palestine), Additions to the Book of Esther (Egypt or Palestine), Wisdom of Solomon (Egypt), Sirach (Jerusalem), Baruch (Rome), Letter of Jeremiah (Babylon), Song of the Three Young Men (Palestine), Prayer of Azariah (Palestine), Susanna (Palestine), Bel & The Dragon (Palestine), Prayer of Manasseh (Egypt), 1 Maccabees (Jerusalem), 2 Maccabees (Egypt), 3 Maccabees (Egypt), and 4 Maccabees (Antioch).

Analysis

The Apocrypha was written in three locations, Egypt, Jerusalem/Palestine and in the diaspora. This was done between c.300 BC and c.90 AD. The languages of Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek were used in the . original compositions. The two principle "angelic" books, 2 Esdras & Tobit were written in Jerusalem & Syria, both early and late. They do share a common language of composition, Hebrew. "Angelic" use seems to have little Egyptian or Greek language roots.

"Angel" or the proper names for an angel, appears infrequently in the Hebrew Bible (30 references/9 books), and commonly in the New Testament (86 references/18 books). New Testament usage appears more concordant with the Apocryphal use. Apocryphal use of angels appears to be a bridge between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

In the book of Tobit, the angel Raphael is God's agent who heals and frees. The angel Uriel is Ezra's teacher, director and interpreter in the book of 2 Esdras. Angels in the Apocrypha appear to be representative of a transcendent God. The development of angelology with the Apocrypha is consistent with the themes of the existence of evil, dependence upon human agencies, understanding of the supernatural, as well as transcendence.

Canonical status

Tobit is Canon in the Roman Catholic Bible and Eastern Orthodox Bible, but non-Canonical in the Hebrew and Protestant Bibles. Anglicans consider it Apocryphal. 2 Esdras (4 Ezra) is considered part of the Roman Catholic Canon, non-Canonical in Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, and Apocryphal in the Anglican Tradition.

Later Uses and Influences

The common use of angelic representations is in art. Substantive use of angels in art are recreations of biblical accounts. Angels are popular in decorative use.

Sources consulted

Davidson, Gustav, editor. A Dictionary of Angels. New York: The Free Press, 1967.

Himmelfarb, Martha. Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

May, Herbert G., et al. editors. The New Oxford annotated Bible with Apocrypha/Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965.

Oesterley, W.O.E. The books of the Apocrypha, Their Origin, Teaching and Content. London: Robert Scott Burghe House, 1914.

Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1992. S.v. "Angels" by Duane F. Watson; S.v. "Raphael" by Frederick, W. Schmidt; and S.v."Uriel" by Raymond B. Dillard.

Author of this page: M.B. "Johnson" Shannon
Copyright is claimed jointly by the author, the instructor, and Nashotah House, 1998.
Listing of summaries of Deuterocanonical books.
Deuterocanonical Books start page.
Comments to: gto@nashotah.edu
This page last modified 27 May 1998.