On Angels and the Law

LXX Deut. 33:2 And he said, The Lord has come from Sinai, and has appeared from Seir to us, and has shone forth from Mount Paran, with the ten thousands of Kadesh; on His right hand were His angels with Him.

Acts 7:52-53 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.

Gal. 3:19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.

Heb 2:2-3 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

Josephus ca. 37-100

And for ourselves, we have learned from God the most excellent of our doctrines, and the most holy part of our law, by angels or ambassadors; for this name brings God to the knowledge of mankind, and is sufficient to reconcile enemies one to another. (Antiquities of the Jews Bk. 15.5.3)

St. Aristides of Athens died ca. 134

Let us come now, O king, also to the history of the Jews and let us see what sort of opinion they have concerning God. The Jews then say that God is one, Creator of all and almighty: and that it is not proper for us that anything else should be worshipped, but this God only: and in this they appear to be much nearer to the truth than all the peoples, in that they worship God more exceedingly and not His works; and they imitate God by reason of the love which they have for man; for they have compassion on the poor and ransom the captive and bury the dead, and do things of a similar nature to these: things which are acceptable to God and are well-pleasing also to men, things which they have received from their fathers of old. Nevertheless they too have gone astray from accurate knowledge, and they suppose in their minds that they are serving God, but in the methods of their actions their service is to angels and not to God (cf. Col. 2:18), in that they observe sabbaths and new moons and the passover and the great fast, and the fast, and circumcision, and cleanness of meats: which things not even thus have they perfectly observed. (The Apology of Aristides 14)

Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254

When I was preparing myself for my marriage with the Son of the King and the firstborn of every creature, the holy angels followed me and ministered to me, bringing me the Law as a wedding present. Indeed it has been said that the Law was promulgated through the angels by means of mediator. But, since the world was already nearing its end and still His presence was not granted me, and I only saw His servants rising and descending about me, I poured out my prayer to you, the Father of my Bridegroom, begging you to have pity on my love and send Him to me so that He need no longer speak with me through His servants the angels but might come Himself.

We propose to show how the holy angels who, before the coming of Christ, watched over the bride while she was still young are the friends and companions of the Bridegroom mentioned here… In fact, it seems to me that the Law which was promulgated through the agency of a mediator did indeed contain a foreshadowing of the good things that were to come, but not their actual likeness; and that the events set down in the Law and enacted in figure, although not in reality, are merely imitations of gold, not real gold.

Among these imitations are the Ark of the Covenant, the Mercy Seat, the Cherubim… the Temple itself, and everything written in the Law. It is these imitations that were given to the Church, the Bride, by the angels, who are the friends of the Bridegroom and who served her in the Law and the other mysteries. That, I believe, is what St. Paul meant when he spoke of the “worship of angels which some enter into blindlypuffed up by their mere human minds” (Col. 2:18) Thus, the entire cult and the religion of the Jews were imitation of the gold. Whenever anyone turns toward the Lord and the veil is lifted from before him, he sees the real gold. (Commentary in Canticles 1-2)

St. Methodius of Olympus died ca. 311

The Father has sent His angels to announce the coming of Christ. For if it is through the angels that the Law is given to Moses, that Law announced Christ. (De sang., 7)

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

These burning torches, these dazzling fires, these rumbling thunders, this terror that accompanies the entire coming of the Lord — all manifest the presence of the angelic ministers, setting down the Law through the hand of a mediator.

The Law was promulgated by the angels, and man has eaten the bread of angels, and the heavens are said to have diffused their dew on Sinai; certainly it is by the heavens — that is to say, by the angels — that the manna was bestowed on Sinai.(Tract. Ps. 67)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

Gal. 3:19 And it was ordained through Angels by the hand of a Mediator.

He either calls the priests Angels, or he declares that the Angels themselves ministered to the delivery of the Law. By Mediator here he means Christ, and shows that He was before it, and Himself the Giver of it.

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

And so it has pleased Divine Providence, as I have said, and as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 7:53 that the law enjoining the worship of one God should be given by the disposition of angels.

 St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.

 Wherefore, beyond all, they are deemed pre-eminently worthy of the appellation Angelic, on the ground that the supremely Divine illumination comes to them at first hand, and, through them, there pass to us manifestations above us. Thus, then, the Law, as the Word of God affirms, was given to us through the ministration of Angels; and Angels led our illustrious fathers before the Law, and after the Law, to the Divine Being, either by leading them to what was to be done, and by converting them from error, and an unholy life, to the straight way of truth, or by making known to them sacred ordinances, or hidden visions, or supermundane mysteries,  or certain Divine predictions through the Prophets.

But if any one should say that Divine manifestations were made directly and immediately to some holy men, let him learn, and that distinctly, from the most Holy Oracles, that no one hath seen, nor ever shall see, the “hidden” of Almighty God as it is in itself. Now Divine manifestations were made to the pious as befits revelations of God, that is to say, through certain holy visions analogous to those who see them. Now the all-wise Word of God (Theologia) naturally calls Theophany that particular vision which manifests the Divine similitude depicted in itself as in a shaping of the shapeless, from the elevation of the beholders to the Divine Being, since through it a divine illumination comes to the beholders, and the divine persons themselves are religiously initiated into some mystery. But our illustrious fathers were initiated into these Divine visions, through the mediation of the Heavenly Powers. Does not the tradition of the Oracles describe the holy legislation of the Law, given to Moses, as coming straight from God, in order that it may teach us this truth, that it is an outline of a Divine and holy legislation? But the Word of God, in its Wisdom, teaches this also — that it came to us through Angels, as though the Divine regulation were laying down this rule, that, through the first, the second are brought to the Divine Being. For not only with regard to the superior and inferior minds, but even for those of the same rank, this Law has been established by the superessential supreme ordinance, that, within each Hierarchy, there are first, and middle, and last ranks and powers, and that the more divine are instructors and conductors of the less, to the Divine access, and illumination, and participation. (Chap. 4 Section 2-3)

 

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