Angels: A Very Short Introduction, by David Albert Jones

Article published on December 3, 2011.

I love the short introduction series and here is a classic of the genre – one of the finest. In common with the idea we are taken on a well planned but rather breathless journey on the history and meaning of Angels, those otherworldly beings send as messengers or as cohorts of Gods.

Obviously there are some big issues raised and then left by the roadside. And clearly there are vast swathes of the subject that are either omitted or mentioned in a sentence when a whole book would have been only just sufficient. For me that subject was the war between angels and men and between the angels themselves as mentioned in the Bible. This gets short thrift.

However the brevity of the book leads to some unexpected delights. Jones’s put down of Erich von Däniken, always an easy target, is short to the point and brutal and stands out as a particular highlight.

Jones’s own views on the existence of Angels or not are not for everyone, least of all this reviewer. His argument is that surely if god exists then so must his angels, which I would adhere to and would be my argument against. He does make pains to not let his views shine through until the last chapter and uses this as a conclusion. But then, logically, who could write a balanced view of the history of Angels without believing at some level of their existence? What is interesting is that Angels are seen as a safe alternative to mainstream religion. They are adopted by new age religion as well as plonked on top of any secular Christmas tree. Put simply they are here to stay and are part of our collective consciousness.

The point of the series is not to be encyclopedic but to get people excited enough for them to read more. And in this aspect the brief introduction to angels surpasses. The further reading section rather than a simple bibliography is part of this philosophy although it belies the series’ academic roots. As someone who a long time read furiously on the subject of religion many years ago this book has got me back into the subject in a big way.

A joy. Read this book.

 

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