BOOK REVIEW: Angels: A Very Short Introduction by David Albert Jones

Angels: A Very Short IntroductionAngels: A Very Short Introduction by David Albert Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This book offers an overview of angels in the Abrahamic religious traditions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.) [It does take a quick dip into angel-like beings from other religious traditions – e.g. Hindu and Parsi – but generally comes down on the side of it doing a disservice to everybody to equate such beings across mythological traditions – with the possible exception of the New Age angel which is predominantly an offshoot from Abrahamic mythology.] The book considers the evolution of theological thinking on angels: how they’ve been portrayed in art; what they are [made of;] what their purposes are (i.e. messengers, healers, guardians, warriors, etc.;) and, occasionally, how they play into popular culture.

I took away a great deal from this book. For example, I learned about the differences between the djinn of Islam mythology and demons of Judeo-Christian mythology, and the theological underpinnings of this difference (i.e. Muslims do not believe angels have free will, and thus angels can’t be fallen, and so the djinn are a separate entity altogether [rather than being fallen angels.]) I found the book to be readable, interesting, and balanced in its approach to the topic. If you’re looking to learn more about how angels (and related beings, e.g. fallen angels / demons) have been treated by thinkers of various ages, without getting deep into the minutiae, this is a fine book to consider.


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POEM: To Meet or Greet Grendel

In ancient days, men followed monsters home,
and knocked on doors to netherworld chambers —
went kicking over the beast’s garden gnomes,
went barging around back like close neighbors.

Who chases monsters now-a-days, I ask?
Now, people let their demons come to them.
We’re too much prisoners to time on task,
and trips to the barber or the ATM.

And have our demons gone so far away?
Or have they vanished as we’d always hoped?
Or someone else is closer to the fray?
But have you seen them die on days they moped?

To meet or greet the demon at whose door?
It’s a question unknown in days of yore.