Post-biblical, or wisdom literature, usually depicts angels as independent
beings, who are distinguishable by name and distinctive trait. An
interest in the nature and individual character of the angels developed
with the belief that the mysteries related to the end of days and man’s
future could be discovered only through the intermediary of angels.
This was the main assumption of wisdom literature, which viewed revelation
as corroboration of the validity of existing doctrines, rather
than the point of departure for the acquisition of knowledge.
The Jews, who had become familiar with many of the old Babylonian
myths through the wisdom of the Chaldeans, sought to ascribe
many of the old Babylonian tales about gods and heroes to the world
of angels in order to avoid contradiction with the monotheistic character
of Judaism. Thus, various sources ascribe the wisdom of Enoch,
Abraham, and Noah to their intimate knowledge of the world of
angels and their communication with it. Pagan magic and demonology,
as well as pagan literature, where angels usually appear in the company
of pagan gods, also had a considerable influence on Jewish doctrine
Jewish doctrine of angels was not evenly embraced among the
various cultures of the Jewish people, but rather was secretly acquired
by a narrow circle of the specially initiated, such as, for example, the
secret societies of the Essenes, among whom it found its widest distribution,
and the Qumran sect.
Post-biblical literature divided angels into several classes that provided
particular services. For instance, in the book of Daniel (8:16;
9:21), the angel Gabriel is defined as an interpreter of Daniel’s vision.
Similarly, other angels appear as interpreters of symbolic visions in
later apocalyptic writings.
The archangels, a group of seven angels who head the world of
angels, are also mentioned in various sources, where they are generally
described as dwelling in the proximity of God and in charge of tasks of
special significance for world history. Another group of four angels,
designated as “the angels of the Presence,” are mentioned in Enoch, in
the Book of Adam and Eve, and in rabbinic literature, as having the
important role in the punishment of the fallen angels.
Fallen angels, in particular, are frequently mentioned in post-biblical
literature. The earliest report of fallen angels can be found in the
Book of Enoch. Their story also appears in the Book of Jubilees, where
fallen angels are said to have descended to earth to instruct mankind
how to order society, but when they arrived on earth they were
seduced by the daughters of men. However, there are several other
versions of the legend of the fallen angels, such as those contained in
Among other groups of angels mentioned in post-biblical literature
are the seventy “princes of the people” appointed over each of the
seventy peoples of earth; the “guardian angels,” who seem to have
been a religious concept common to the entire Semitic world, and
whose function is to be on guard before God at all times and to supervise
the actions of man.
According to post-biblical literature, the major function of angels
is to offer praise to God, although their function as intermediaries
between God and man is also important. Some sources mention the
angels’ role as intercessor, pleading for man before God. Good angels
also appear in opposition to evil angels who act as prosecutors before
the throne of God. In Sefer ha-Razim, angels are used for purposes of
magic, and the names of the angels, when coupled with those of Greek
gods and magic phrases are considered efficacious for incantations.
Many sources stress the imperfect nature of angels, who are not
regarded as omniscient, but rather as incapable of answering questions
put to them. No unbridgeable gulf is supposed to exist between the
material world and the world of angels, and it is believed, as mentioned
in the Book of Enoch, that some righteous men could be transformed
into angels. Israel, known as Jacob, is declared to be “the
archangel of the power of the Lord” (Origen, Commentary to John,
11, 84, 15), and the people of Israel as a whole, are regarded as being
equal to angels and, consequently, under the protection of God himself