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Angels in Ancient Jewish Culture

Wednesday, December 13, 2023 at 8 PM via Zoom

Angels in Ancient Jewish Culture

Mika Ahuvia

Angelic beings can be found throughout the Hebrew Bible, and by late antiquity the archangels Michael and Gabriel were as familiar as the patriarchs and matriarchs; guardian angels were as present as one’s shadow, and; praise of the seraphim was as sacred as the Shema.

This lecture follows how angels became foundational to ancient Judaism. Ancient Jewish practice centered on humans’ complex relationships with these invisible beings who acted as their intermediaries, role models, and guardians. By bringing non-canonical sources into view—incantation bowls, amulets, mystical texts, and liturgical poetry—it becomes evident that when ancient men and women sought access to divine aid, they turned not only to their rabbis, or to God alone, but often also to the angels.

This presentation allows these overlooked stories, interactions, and rituals to take center stage, and offers a new entry point to the history of Judaism, to the wider ancient Mediterranean and to Near Eastern world in which they flourished.

Mika Ahuvia is Associate Professor of Classical Judaism at the University of Washington