A few months ago I read Leland Ryken’s biography of J. I. Packer, and one of the most impressive details about Packer to me that I want to emulate is that Packer himself was a serious scholar who used his scholarship in service to the church. While his vocation has primarily consisted of being a professor, Packer’s made his knowledge available to the churchman by writing and publishing so many works aimed not at a scholarly audience, but a, if you will, popular audience. This distinction between academic and popular are what’s used in scholarly circles to distinguish the two. Admittedly, scholarly publications, while very helpful and edifying, are typically read by a smaller audience than popular. However, the latter writing is aimed at informing the general population who may not be as familiar with scholarly jargon and knowledge. Modern writing shouldn’t at all be understood as a compromise, or sell-out, though some see it that way. Many scholars write popular level works derived from their academic research, and Packer was is one such scholar.
I do not consider myself to be on the same playing field as a J. I. Packer, and certainly not that of some of my own favorite scholars (e.g. Everett Ferguson, Larry Hurtado, et. al.). Yet, I have written and defended a dissertation and obtained the “Ph.D.” after my name. Nevertheless, were I to desire to be a top-notch scholar, I would think that I should spend my time in the academy and not so much the church. The church, however, affords me the opportunity to remain a student in some sense, and since it’s been nearly one year from the time that I obtained my doctorate, I’ve gotten the itch again to dig deep and do some serious research.
One particular area in which I have a great interest that I’ve decided to research is angels, demons, and Satan. I’ve kept notes over the years as to instances of them in the Scriptures, and have read passing chapters and paragraphs in books and essays unrelated to the topic as a whole. However, I’ve gone ahead and read three books dedicated to this topic and its related periphery, and have three more in my queue.
Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satan (New York: Vintage Books, 1995).
Pagels notes that divine warfare really takes on a visible point in literature in first-century Palestine, and that Jewish and Christian literature (e.g. Gospel of Mark) with heavy amounts of demoniac activity ought to be regarded as wartime literature. What’s most interesting about her work is the social history of Satan, her chapter two, wherein she details the numerous origin stories regarding Satan and his rebellion.
Timothy G. Gombis, The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2010).
This work derived from Gombis’ Ph.D. thesis. This work argues that Ephesians is a divine warfare piece of literature that shows that through Christ’s sacrifice, God triumphed over competing cosmic, or celestial, forces.
Joel J. Miller, Lifted By Angels: The Presence and Powers of our Heavenly Guides and Guardians (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).
Miller wrote his work through the lenses of his Orthodox faith. Therefore, church history figures prominently into his work and is written as the matter would have been understood by early Christians. Miller’s work was a a very pleasant read.
Peter Kreeft, Angels (And Demons): What Do We Really Know About Them? (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995).
Mike Aquilina, Angels of God: The Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Hosts (Cincinnati: Servant Books, 2009).
Loren T. Stuckenbruck, The Myth of Rebellious Angels: Studies in Second Temple Judaism and New Testament Texts (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2017).
Because I write for Start2Finish Publications out of Dallas, Texas, I’ve thus far entitled my research, which I hope to publish, In the Heavenly Places: Classically Christian Essays on Angels, Demons, and Satan. I use “Classically Christian” because that’s my column on Start2Finish’s website. Moreover, my platform, if you will, has been to evaluate Scripture and Christianity through a church-historic perspective that employs non-canonical writings from Judaism and throughout church history to attempt to gain a first-century intellectual understanding of such matters. If it were the publisher’s pleasure, I would want to have this work published there once I’ve finished it. However, it will be written, as Packer’s works are, for the Christian in the pew.