The Book of Genesis depicts them as doing strange things--mating with the daughters of men to spawn giants, for example, and wrestling with Jacob for no apparent reason. In It's a Wonderful Life, Frank Capra spun a tale of one as a bumbling helper of humans; in Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders told of one who wished to be human. They are angels, of course, and they have fascinated us since recorded history began.
In Angels, David Albert Jones provides a crisp, broad-ranging survey of angels in theology, philosophy, and popular culture. Focusing on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, he examines how angels have been imagined and explained, and why they continue to captivate us. Jones explores the classical discussion--what they are made of, when they came to be, how many there are, and whether anyone ever did ask how many could dance on the head of a pin. He names the archangels, surveys the different hierarchies, and examines how they have changed over time. Jones explains, for example, how cherubim became cherubs, and why angels in the Hebrew Bible are typically male, but in later art became androgynous, or even female by the twentieth century. The book explores the idea that Satan was a fallen angel (a belief not shared by Islam), and looks at demons and exorcism. But Jones concentrates on good angels, in their roles as messengers, guardians, or helpers. He looks at why the idea of angels remains so attractive, and so potent in modern culture--even among nonbelievers.
From scripture to cinema, Jones offers a sweeping, accessible introduction to this remarkable phenomenon. Whether we believe in angels or not, he argues, the study of their role in cultures past and present can teach us much about humanity.
David Albert Jones is the Academic Director in the School of Theology, Philosophy, and History at St. Mary's University College, Twickenham, Great Britain. His books include Approaching the End: A Theological Exploration of Death and Dying, The Soul of the Embry, and An Introduction to the Catholic Faith.
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