In the Genesis creation narrative, scholars and believers alike observe a detailed account of God creating the heavens and the earth. However, a puzzling omission is the explicit mention of the creation of angels.
Four Views on the Timing of the Creation of Angels
Over the centuries, various interpretations have arisen. Here are a few of the prominent viewpoints (it’s worth noting that the nomenclature I use here is my own, and it doesn’t represent any official consensus in church history):
- Eternal Angel View: Although not a view held by mainstream Christians, it posits that angels, similar to God, are eternal beings without a beginning. This perspective somewhat mirrors the Mormon view, which considers man as eternally pre-existing as minds.
- The Prior Existence View: This perspective argues that angels pre-existed the creation of the heavens and the earth, suggesting a different universe or realm that God had previously created. While Saint Thomas Aquinas’ works lean towards this understanding, it’s essential to note that his stance might not be as clear-cut as simply endorsing this view.
- The Implicit Creation View: In this interpretation, angels were created within the Genesis narrative, though not explicitly detailed. This omission might be because they aren’t central to the earthly dominion meant for humans. The creation of the “heavens” might implicitly encompass the angelic beings. Writings from Saint Augustine could be interpreted as leaning towards this view, though again, it’s a nuanced position.
- Gap Theory Angelic Creation View: Differing from the traditional Gap Theory, this viewpoint sees a potential gap not between the first and second verses of Genesis 1, but within the “heavens and earth” mention of verse 1. This suggests that God might have first created the angels with the heavens and then, later on, created the Earth.
Diving Deeper: The “Let Us Make Man” Conundrum
Would the phrase “Let us make man in our image” include pre-existing angels if they were around before Genesis’ events? This question is pivotal because it challenges our understanding—are we created in the image of just God, or both God and the angels?
Contrarily, if we gravitate towards the Implicit Creation viewpoint, which indicates that angels were created just before man within Genesis, it poses a problem: Would it make sense for God to involve these newly created beings in such a monumental decision, as some Christians along with non-Christian Jews believe? Or is this moment better understood from a Trinitarian perspective, suggesting an intra-Trinity conversation rather than a dialogue with angels?
There’s also a linguistic quirk to consider. The phrase uses the plural pronoun “us,” but subsequent verses revert to the singular pronoun “he” when referring to mankind’s creation. This shift in language leads to intriguing questions: If God was talking to the angels, was there a change in the decision-making process? Was there a collaborative intent that ended up being a solo endeavor?!
For those leaning towards a Trinitarian interpretation, the Implicit Creation or Gap Theory viewpoints might resonate more, aligning with the plurality of the Godhead suggested by the plural pronoun and the singularity of nature expressed in the actual creation act.
This issue is much greater than the question of how many angels can dance on a head of a pin. The timing of the angelic creation presents a profound theological conundrum, making us reconsider some familiar Scriptures’ nuances.
What do you think? Which position fits best in a Christian theology?