If Christianity mutated out of Jewish beliefs it is good to understand just how different many Jewish beliefs were before rabbinic Judaism came to dominate. (This post follows on from Divine human-like figures in Hellenistic Judaism.)
Origen preserves for us a Jewish text that offers us a glimpse of beliefs about angels and the nature of biblical heroes among the Jews in the late second century/early third century, and that appear to be consistent with what we know of Jewish sectarian views throughout the Second Temple period (that is, at the time of the emergence of Christianity.) While we have no evidence that this prayer is itself older than the second century, it is certainly Jewish and not Christian, and does serve to illustrate how different were early Jewish beliefs from what most of us tend to assume. I conclude with a few questions that one might ask in connection with early Christianity.
The prayer speaks of an archangel who is identified with the biblical patriach Israel (Jacob). Alan F. Segal in his Two Powers in Heaven draws out some significant details: Continue reading “Israel (Jacob/James), an archangel created before all other creation”