By: Jay Dyer
A strange title for an article, indeed, but they told us in high school to make your opening line catchy, so hopefully that will bring sweat to the brow of some Calvinist. It’s quite surprising to see that many biblical theologians refuse to admit the existence of the angelic realm, given that it’s so prominent in Sacred Scripture, both in the New and Old Testaments. But this is to be expected since higher criticism is the norm. We will examine below the prominence in Scripture of both sides of the angelic: the holy and the demonic, and see from many scholars of various Christian traditions that the correct biblical and historical view of the hierarchies is quite a diverse realm.
I hope for this to be eye opening to many Protestants who for whatever reasons have failed to understand the biblical and historical case for this legitimate area of theology. I know from my own experience that Calvinist circles tend to be completely unaware in practice, at least, of the influence and action of secondary angelic agents, such as angels or demons. This is because Calvinism thrusts all of its theological focus on the divine will, and usually upon the immediate causality of the divine will, even if mediate, secondary causes are professed intellectually. For proof of this, I challenge the reader to name one Calvinistic exorcist. Case closed. Thus we find this to be an area of radical difference in both Orthodoxy and traditional Catholic teaching when compared with Protestant theology, even of its more conservative stripes. It’s also very telling to me that it’s generally the Churches with Apostolic Succession that actually do exorcisms.
Upon exploring Liturgical worship in the Eastern and the Latin Rites, one very prominent is that of the angelic participation in the Liturgy. This arises from the St. Paul’s conception of the Church on earth as one with the Church in heaven (Col. 1:13-20, Eph. 1: 21-23, 2:6, 3:10, Heb. 12:22-23). Protestantism rarely places these key texts in their proper liturgical context, and thereby loses sight of the fact that the worship on earth should be quite colorful and engage the entire man, both mentally and bodily, as St. John describes the liturgical worship in heaven in the Apocalypse.
St. Paul makes this connection clear when he charges St. Timothy before the "elect angels" (1 Tim. 5:21) to do nothing with partiality, all within the context of a liturgically-focused section. This is because, as Fr. Casmir Kucharek writes in his The Byzantine-Slav Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:
Phrases like…"that I may stand blamelessly before your dread altar" are not verbalisms, but authentic Byzantine tradition, to be taken quite literally. Even angelic purity is demanded of one offering the sacrifice:
When the priest calls upon the Holy Spirit and offers the tremendous sacrifice, tell me what rank should we place Him? What purity shall we require of him, what reverence? Then reflect how those hands should be constituted which perform such services! What should that tongue be that pronounces such words…? At this moment the very angels encompass the priest, and the whole choir of heavenly powers lend their presence, and take up the entire space around the holy altar, to honor Him who lies thereon in sacrifice…(St. John Chrysostom, De Sacerdot. 6:4).
The same truth is also evident in the Byzantine Liturgy’s Great Entrance prayer, where the Lord is escorted by the angelic powers. In the traditional Latin Mass, the same truth is taught in the Incensing of the Offering, where the faithful pray “Through the intercession of blessed St. Michael the Archangel who stands at the right hand of the altar of incense…” and later in the Sanctus, which corresponds to the Eastern Trisagion, where the believer says:
It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty and everlasting God, through Christ our Lord. Through whom the angels praise thy majesty, the dominions worship it, the powers stand in awe. The heavens, and the heavenly hosts and the blessed seraphim join together in celebrating their joy. With whom we pray Thee join our voices also, while we say with lowly praise, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest…” (New Saint Andrew Missal, pg. 969-70)
As Fr. Kucharek notes:
To define this presence [of the icons in the Liturgy] would be as difficult as explaining the Shekinah or the mysterious presence of Christ amid two or three gathered together in His name (Mt. 18:20). Yet such as presence was no less true. The mystical teaching concerning icons stems from the master idea of all Eastern typology, the idea of the church building as “heaven on earth.” St. Gregory of Nyssa was probably the first to set out the ideas of such teaching [in his Life of Moses]. His doctrine was taken up and developed by others. The author of the Eighth century Rerum ecclesiaticarum contemplation, for example, expresses it boldly: “The heaven wherein the Triune God lives and moves on earth is the Christian Holy Place, the church…” The presence of heaven passed easily from church to icon.” (ibid., 229)
The same truths are repeated and emphasized several times in the ancient Liturgy of St. Mark. Also good reading on this matter is St. Germanus of Constantinople’s On the Divine Liturgy. And so we see the preeminence of the angelic participation with us in the liturgy.
But since Scripture and Tradition are quite clear that there are also fallen angelic beings that come from the original hierarchy, we can deduce that the ranks mentioned several times by St. Paul also have their “regional” powers. We learn this from St. Daniel, where St. Gabriel the Archangel visits in answer to prayer with news concerning the “princes” of Greece and Persia (9:21, 10:13-20) with whom Gabriel battled, needing the assistance of St. Michael (verse 20). Clearly no mere human being could withstand the might of an Archangel, but we mustn’t exclude the notion of a human factor to the appellation “prince.” Furthermore, St. Michael is called “prince” with the same Hebrew word (sar) as the “princes” of Greece and Persia, and undoubtedly Michael is no mere human prince.
What we find is what we find elsewhere in Scripture and Tradition, that both are being spoken of: the angelic entity, along with the human being under its relative dominion. This is evidenced elsewhere in Scripture, for example, in the lengthy description of Lucifer’s fall from Eden and the fall of the King of Tyre and Sidon (Ez. 28). There we see some texts applying primarily to Lucifer and others to the King of Tyre. We are also told in Daniel 4:17 that the sentence against Nebuchadneezer’s pride was by the “decree of the watchers,” who are clearly identified in chapter 10 as the Archangels, showing us that they rule human affairs as secondary agents under God and by His sovereign decree. So says David in Ps. 103:20-22, where the idea is the same as in Daniel. What’s the point? All of this is still true today, literally true, and modern, doubtful “scholars” are flat out wrong. In this they echo Nebuchadneezer in thinking they rule, and not God and His hosts.
So we see the Old Testament giving us clues concerning the angelic hierarchies that the New Testament expands upon, yet still leaves largely veiled. One thinks also of the facts derived from the Deuterocanonical Tobit, where St. Raphael defeats the demon that plagued Sarah. Thus, the “princes” mentioned are the equivalent of the “principalities” of St. Paul.
The Eastern Trisagion and Latin Sanctus comes, of course, from the Sixth chapter of Isaiah. What I find intriguing here is what renowned Calvinist scholar E.J Young wrote in his well-known commentary on Isaiah:
“The continuous occupation of the seraphim is the blessed work of praising God. They are engaged in the unbroken task of chanting His praises. We are not told how many seraphs there were….It is probably safe to assume that the singing was antiphonal, for the seraphs cry out to the other seraphs, as though proclaiming to them and declaring to them that the Lord is holy. That the chanting was actually antiphonal, cannot, of course, be proved.
In his footnote, he expands: After a part. the perf. with waw cons. has frequentive force, “and each kept crying.” On the basis of an appeal to Is. 40:3 and the usage of Ar. qara, Engell asserts that the verb has the proximate specially cultic meaning ‘recite, intone.’ In Egypt, the high priest, addressing the enthroned Pharoah, proclaimed, ‘Pure, pure is the king of the south and the north, they purity is the purity of Horus, of Set, of Thoth and of Sepu.” (Young, The Book of Isaiah Vol. I, 241).
In other words, it’s liturgical, and the liturgical tradition of both the East and the West has captured this truth beautifully. And we have a top-notch Protestant scholar who opposed liturgy admitting to the principle of all liturgical worship—that its authoritative basis is the liturgical worship of heaven itself.
But back to the principalities and powers. In St. Paul, we read that Christ is seated in His human nature above all “principality and power and dominion” (Eph. 1:21). Protestant commentator Albert Barnes explains:
The word rendered here “principality”—arche in Gr.—means perperly, the beginning, and then the first place power, dominion, pre-eminence, magistrate, etc. It may refer to any rank and power, whether among men or angels, and the sense is that Christ is exalted above all….in “the world that is to come,” as well as this world, it is clear that there is a reference to the angelic ranks and probably means to allude to the prevailing opinion among the Jews that the angels are of different orders. Some of the Jewish Rabbis reckon four, some ten and presume to give names…The Scripture hint in several places at a difference of rank, but the writers do not go into much detail. (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, pg. 33).
If they are arche, they are not mere human agents, though again they are not excluded, since as non-believers, they are under the dominion of the devil (Acts 26:18). St. Paul is even clearer in Ephesians 6:12 when he writes “for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” It’s amazing that many conservative scholars will refuse to admit the other similar Pauline texts as referring to fallen angelic orders when he explains here what he means by using these terms. N.T. Wright states:
As to their referent, in our modern age it has often been taken for granted that Paul’s language about supernatural power-structures needs to be demythologized, to be turned into language about, say, international power politics or economic ‘structures.’ This is quite legitimate, since for Paul, spiritual and earthly rulers were not sharply distinguished. In his view, earthly rulers held authority (in the sense intended by Jn. 19:11, Rom. 13:1-7) only as a trust from the Creator. At the same time, we should not ignore the supernatural or demonic element in these powers. For Paul, the powers were unseen forces working through pagan religion, astrology or magic, or through the oppressive systems that enslaved tyrannized human beings. (Wright, Colossians and Philemon, 72).
In fact, in his footnote, Wright even states that the “background belief” to this idea is expressed in the later work of Ps. Dionysius, The Celestial Hierarchy!—a work which I (Jay) highly recommend.
As a supplemental testimony, famed Anglican scholar J.B. Lightfoot who, while being somewhat skeptical, admits:
“Some commentators have referred the terms used here solely to earthly potentates and dignities. There can be little doubt however that their chief and primary reference is to the orders of the celestial hierarchy, as conceived of by these Gnostic Judaizers” (St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon, pg. 152).
Lightfoot goes on to mention several Fathers and their well-known rankings of angelic hierarchy.
But what does any of this have to do with Lillith? First of all, let me say that I am not talking about that ridiculous tale of Adam’s supposed first wife. Rather, Lillith appears in Scripture in one place as a feminine demon. The point is that there is much more to the world of the angelic than many are aware, and even Scripture gives us a bigger picture than many theologians recognize or are willing to admit.
We read in Isaiah 34:14 of the desolation of Edom as follows:
“Desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and wild goats (sa’ir) will bleat to each other; there the night creature (Lillith) will also repose and find for themselves places to rest.” (NIV)
The KJV even reads: “The wild beasts of the desert shall meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry unto his fellow; the screech owl (Lillith) also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.”
The liberal Oxford Annotated RSV reads, “And wild beasts will meet with hyenas, the satyr shall cry to his fellow; yea, there shall the night hag alight, and find for herself a resting place,” commenting in the notes, “Night hag, the storm demon Lillith found in abandoned places…”
The Protestant Archaeological Study Bible says of this passage, “Throughout the Near East wild goats were traditionally associated with demons, as ‘goat-demons’ and ‘satyrs’” (pg. 1116). That’s because the Hebrew word sa’ir means satyr or goat-demon, and in the King James it is even rendered satyr, which is a goat demon or faun. Think Mr. Tumnus. The same wording is used in Isaiah 13:21, where we read of the desolation of Babylon as a place for the goat-demons, the sa’ir, to romp, along with other unclean animals which often signify demonic beings in the Old Testament. We know more of these satyrs from Leviticus 17:7, where God says the Israelites will “no more offer their sons to sa’ir,” and in the time of Jeroboam, when he “appointed for himself priests for the high places for the goat demons and the calf-idols” (2 Chron. 11:15). Now some incredulous commentators would like to pretend that the Leviticus text applies only to actual idols, but here the text is clear that it’s both. Further, we are told in the Song of Moses that these are demons (Dt. 32:17) as well as in St. Paul (1 Cor. 10:19-20).
Even more interesting is the second half of Is. 34:14, where we read that Lillith will find a place to rest. E.J. Young exegetes this text as follows:
“Using language in part taken from chapter 13, Isaiah continues his description of the desolation. In place of once festal gatherings there will be meetings of another kind. The wild animals of the desert will then meet one another. They will be the only inhabitants of the once glorious kingdom of Edom. Borrowing again from the 13 chapter, the prophet states that demons in goat form (sa’ir) will call to one another. The desolation of Babylon will overcome Edom also. There also, in just that place, so suited to the presence of the powers of darkness, is the Lillith; there she has taken her rest and found a place of repose. In Assyrian and Babylonian mythology Lilitu appears as a feminine night demon (see also Tobit 8:3). The thought here seems to be similar to that expressed in Matthew 12:43. Lillith is a demon that wanders about through the desert places. In itself, the word simply means “nocturnal.” Alexander thinks the mention of a demon is out of place here in a list of animals. In answer, however, it is probable that the sa’ir actually does refer to a demon in goat form.” (The Book of Isaiah Vol. II, pg. 441).
Thus, we see that there is often more than meets the eye in Scripture and often the best and brightest of the Protestants are forced to admit many of the elements they castigate in both Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Scripture lays out many more examples of liturgical patterns (especially the Apocalypse) which I have not touched on. We know that angels relate directly to these liturgical actions and participate in them. We know that they exist in a graded hierarchy, and that the same grading occurs in their fallen opposites. We see, then, from this cursory examination, that Protestantism, and especially Calvinism, is quite devoid of a proper understanding of the interaction of the angelic world with the human, though E.J. Young admits it. So, why aren’t those bible-believing Calvinistic exorcists talking about liturgy and Lillith? They’re in the Bible. Perhaps it’s because Calvinism is problematic.