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Old Testament Essays

On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
Print version ISSN 1010-9919

Abstract

MICHAEL, Matthew. Old Testament angelology and the African understanding of the spirit world: Exploring the forms, motifs and descriptions. Old testam. essays [online]. 2008, vol.21, n.3, pp.692-712. ISSN 2312-3621.

The article, employing an exegetical and comparative method, investigates the nature of Old Testament angelology particularly in the enigmatic form of a 'Divine Council' of Yahweh as presented in the description of Old Testament angelology and the 'mild divine monarchy' in the traditional African understanding of the spirit world. Through exegetical means, the first part of the article stresses the theological significance of the form, motif and the general description of the 'Divine Council' in 2 Kings 22:1-23; Job 12 and Psalms 82. The second part of the paper highlights the presence of a 'flexible divine monarchy' in traditional African world-view as underscored in the theological studies of African cosmology in the writings of Idowu, Parrinder, Mbiti and Bediako. From this framework, the study argues that the description of Israel's spiritual realm in the form of 'Divine Council' bears some similarities to the dominant portrayal of the African spirit world, particularly in the 'flexible monarchical' description of the African spirit world. The paper explores this basic hypothesis, but also stresses the differences between the two categories under study. For the study, the obvious difference between the two categories lies in the polytheistic nature of African spirit world and the monotheistic description of Old Testament angelology whereby subsidiary elements (whether gods or angels) are subsumed under the authority of Yahweh. Even though such inclination was strongly entertained in traditional African society, however, during the evolution of African traditional religion, the 'gods' (or intermediaries) did not properly evolve into a wholly monotheistic description. Consequently, these intermediaries neither stayed as refractions of the supreme deity, nor angels of the Supreme God, as with Yahweh in the Old Testament, but instead they became gods in themselves, because these intermediaries requested or required cultic worship, ritual and exigencies that are foreign and inadequate in the description and understanding of the angelic intermediaries of the Old Testament.

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