Angelic tongues

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Angelic tongues are the languages supposedly used by angels. It usually refers to sung praise in Second Temple period Jewish materials.

Hebrew Bible[edit]

Throughout the Old Testament there is no indication that angels spoke (on earth) any other language than that of men. Nor any indication of heavenly tongues: Psa 148:2 "Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts."

Dead Sea Scrolls[edit]

Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice is the principal source for angelic tongues at Qumran. The texts are fragmentary but appear to relate to praise tongues:

  • [...] through the wonderful height [...] tongue of purity [...] gods (~yhla), seven [...] 4Q400 3 1, 1-2
  • ...Psalm of praise, on the tongue of the fou[rth]...[Ps]alm of [tha]nksgiving, on the tongue of the fifth...[Psalm] of exultation, on the tongue of the sixth...Psalm of [singing, on the to]ngue of the seventh of the [chief] pri[nces,] a powerful song [to the God] of ho[lines] with its se[ven] wo[nd]er[ful songs] 4Q403 1 1, 1-6
  • Proclaim his glory with the tongue of all who proclaim knowledge, his wonderful songs with the mouth of all who proclaim [him. For he is] God of all who sing {knowledge} for ever, and Judge in his power over all the spirits of understanding. 4Q4031 1 36-37
  • ...The tongue of the first will be strengthened seven times with the tongue of the second to him....{this is repeated for the series up to the seventh}... 4Q403 1 2, 27-30

It is not clear whether the angelic tongues are coherent, intelligible to man. However since Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice is itself related to sung praise at the Qumran community, there is a parallel with coherent angelic praise tongues in Testament of Job.[1][2][3][4]

Testament of Job[edit]

The pseudepigraphical Testament of Job (ca.100BCE-100AD) contains a conclusion which is believed to relate to the compiling of the hymnbook used by a Therapeutae community.[5] Job gives one of his daughters "a cord" (a stringed instrument of some kind?)

  • "And she took on another heart—no longer minded toward earthly things—but ecstatically in the angelic dialect, sending up a hymn to God in accord with the style of the angels. And as she spoke ecstatically, she allowed “The Spirit” to be on her garment." (T. Job 48:2-3) [6]

Job’s other daughters likewise took on “the dialect of archons”, “the dialect of those and the “dialect of the cherubim” (T. Job 49:1-50:3). The “cherubim” are also mentioned Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice as blessing God (4Q403 1 2, 15, cf. 4Q405 20 2, 3). These angelic tongues appear to be coherent, intelligible.

There is parallel description of sung prophecy among the Therapeutae in Alexandria by Philo, but no mention there of angelic tongues.[7]

New Testament[edit]

A possible reference to Jewish practices of angelic tongues is 1Co13:1 "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." The distinction "of men" and "of angels" may suggests that a distinction was known to the Corinthians. If a distinction is intended then 1Co14:10 "There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning" may imply that "tongues of men" were intelligible, whereas 1Co14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit." refers to angelic tongues. The problem with this is that the "angelic" tongues documented at Qumran and among the Therapeutae appear to be inspired, but coherent and intelligible, sung praise. Against this is the view of Dunn that "It is evident then that Paul thinks of glossolalia as language".[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, edited by James H. Charlesworth and Carol A. Newsom. Theological Studies 54 2003 649–653.
  2. ^ John C. Poirier Tongues of Angels: Concept of Angelic Languages in Classical Jewish and Christian Texts 2010. XI, 224 pages. WUNT II 287 p110 "Cf. Sheres and Blau 1995:84: "But the angels' speech [in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice] is not recorded. Why do we not hear what they are saying? One commentator has suggested that the big difference between the 'tongues of men and of angels' rendered their idiom unintelligible. Perhaps also, at such auspicious moments the sectarians themselves spoke in tongues (an ecstatic incomprehensible language), a chanting that would drown out what was going on. The sectarians' taste for the esoteric is evident elsewhere"
  3. ^ George J. Brooke, Hindy Najman, Loren T. Stuckenbruck The significance of Sinai: traditions about Sinai and divine Revelation in Judaism and Christianity. 2008 p57 "Participation in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice liturgy is reserved for those sufficiently righteous and ... in order to acquire “tongues of angels” would seem to have been such an elite."
  4. ^ Loren T. Stückenbruck Angel veneration and Christology: a study in early Judaism and in the Christology of the Apocalypse of John, by Loren T. Stuckenbruck. WUNT 2/70 1995 p156 The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice This brings us to a consideration of the angelic sabbath-liturgy (Shi- rot 'Olat ha-Shabbat), which was not fully published and ... and seven tongues, each being seven-fold more powerful than the next ...
  5. ^ Testament of Job in Charlesworth J.H., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Vol.II, Doubleday 1985
  6. ^ http://wesley.nnu.edu/biblical_studies/noncanon/ot/pseudo/test-job.htm
  7. ^ Philo, On the Contemplative Life http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/yonge/book34.html
  8. ^ James D. G. Dunn Jesus and the Spirit: "A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament," p. 244 1997