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By Ellen Muehlberger

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The] appearances of the gods are wholly unchanging in regard to size, shape, formation, and all things connected with them; while those of archangels, though very close to those of the gods, fall short of full identity with them. And those of angels are inferior in turn to these, but unchanging. And those of daemons appear to the view at different times in different forms, the same forms appearing great and small. And further, those of such archons as are administrative are unchanging, but the appearances of archons immersed in matter change into many forms.

Dissolution and entropy lie at the center of early Christian theorizing about angels. Even though tradition defines angels as morally “good” divine beings, the 30 attention given to angelic natures by Christian thinkers suggests angels were morally and subjectly complex locations of divine agency. In this chapter, I investigate the theorizing of such writers as Augustine and Evagrius, who approached the problem of angels with more than just the tools of their own invention. Christians were latecomers to the conversation about the subjectivity of divine beings—a conversation first dominated by pagan philosophers focusing on daemons.

8). 14). As compelling as his message may have been, any other heavenly being had the potential to disrupt it; if an angel could come and give the Galatians a new teaching, Paul’s gospel was, in his absence, unstable in the extreme. Aside from Paul’s obvious fears about the endurance of his message, also latent within the rhetoric of the letters to the Galatians and the Corinthians is the suggestion that it is difficult to grasp the identity of angels with any certainty, given how closely they may appear to demons, or humans for that matter.

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Angels in the religious imagination of late antiquity by Ellen Muehlberger


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