Scot McKnight. The Hum of Angels: Listening for the Messengers of God Around Us. WaterBrook, 2017. See here to purchase the book.
Scot McKnight teaches New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois.
Here are some of my thoughts about his book, The Hum of Angels.
This book is more educational than other books about angels that I have
read. McKnight refers briefly to depictions of angels in other ancient
Near Eastern cultures, mentions thoughts about angels from such
historic Christian luminaries as Origen and John Calvin, and quotes
Jewish pseudepigraphical passages about angels. This is not a surprise
to me because, even though this book is on a popular level, McKnight is
an academic and is thus sensitive to historical-criticism of the Bible
and the history of Jewish and Christian thought. That is what made this
B. That said,
McKnight did not really integrate the historical considerations into
faith and religious belief. If angels are depicted outside of ancient
Israel, and prior to the time of ancient Israel, does that mean that the
ancient Israelites borrowed their belief in angels from outside
cultures? Would that mean that angels are not real but were invented by
human beings? Is there a purpose in quoting Christian luminaries, from
a religious perspective? Is what they say authoritative about angels,
or mere assertion? McKnight tried to justify quoting the
pseudepigraphical sources by saying that they formed part of Christ's
cultural milieu, and McKnight presumably deems Christ to be
authoritative. Does that make the pseudepigraphical sources
authoritative about angels, though?
McKnight disputes the common Christian idea that the Angel of the Lord
in the Hebrew Bible was the being who became Jesus Christ, a
Christophany, in short. For McKnight, the Angel of the Lord brought
God's presence to people but was still a separate being from God. On
the one hand, McKnight's stance appealed to me because it was a
historical-critical interpretation, one that did not read Christianity
back into the Hebrew Bible. On the other hand, his stance left
lingering questions in my mind. McKnight did not address the claim in
early manuscripts of Jude 5 that Jesus brought the Israelites out of
Egypt (Michael Heiser, The Unseen Realm, page 270), which would be consistent with the Angel of the Lord in the Hebrew Bible being a Christophany.
is also a possible discrepancy between the Hebrew Bible and the New
Testament, which seeing the Angel as a Christophany can resolve. In the
Old Testament, the Angel of the Lord seems to receive worship or
reverence (Joshua 5:13-15). In Revelation 22:9, by contrast, an angel
emphatically forbids John to bow down to him, telling him to worship God
instead. McKnight in the book shows familiarity with these passages,
but he fails to address a question: Why was an Angel reverenced in the
Old Testament, whereas worship of angels was forbidden in the New
Testament? One solution is to say that the Angel in the Hebrew Bible
was actually Jesus Christ, who is God, and Christ can be worshiped.
Another solution is to say that the line of demarcation between angels
and God became more firmly established over the course of biblical and
Jewish thought, as a way to safeguard the uniqueness of God. The latter
solution can pose a challenge to faith, however: if biblical thought
about angels changed and developed over time, does that imply that what
the Bible says about angels reflects merely human ideas, rather than
D. McKnight seems to argue that angels will always
glorify Jesus Christ. McKnight does well to demonstrate that angels in
the New Testament have an interest in Jesus Christ. But does that mean
that they always have to mention Jesus when they interact with people?
McKnight spends pages talking about angelic activity in the Hebrew
Bible, and, obviously, angels did not mention Jesus in those cases. If I
am not mistaken, they did not always mention Jesus in the stories of
angelic encounters that McKnight relays (but I am open to correction on
this). McKnight is trying to avoid a free-for-all when it comes to
angelic encounters, to provide a means for people to discern which
angelic encounters are real and legitimate. Perhaps he could have
attained this goal without saying that angelic encounters always have to
be about Jesus. He says throughout the book that angelic encounters
are about God's love: God's commitment to be with us and to help us to
become Christlike. Angels can assist people on this path, even if they
do not explicitly mention Jesus. Angelic encounters can make people
sensitive to the existence of the transcendent and the holy, and that is
part of becoming Christlike.
E. McKnight did attempt to support
his claims with Scriptures. He has a chapter about how angels are
intercessors. One passage that he cites, Job 33:23-26, supports this
claim rather well. Other passages that he cites? Maybe they support
it, but not necessarily. McKnight also should have tried to reconcile
his belief that angels can be intercessors with I Timothy 2:5, which
states that there is one mediator between God and humanity, namely,
F. One thought that occurred
to me in reading this book is, "Why hasn't an angel appeared to me?
Doesn't God like me?" In light of that, I appreciated McKnight's
statements that angels may appear to us, without us even knowing it.
And they are around us, anyway!
G. I liked something that
McKnight said in the After Words: that he misses his book on angels,
after finishing it! There is a close relationship between authors and
the books that they write!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Blogging for Books. My review is honest!