Tobit- Homer’s Influence on Our Perception of Angels

Tobit 5:1-6:1

In this part of the story, Tobit sends his son, Tobias, to retrieve the money that he left in trust. He offers to pay someone to accompany his son. His son unwittingly recruits Raphael, the archangel who has already made one appearance in this tale. In Tobit’s interview with him, so that Tobit could be sure of his family, Raphael affirms that he knows the way, unsuccessfully tries to keep from answering the question of his identity, and then lies, claiming to be Azariah, the son of Hananiah, one of Tobit’s relatives. These names mean much in this story, describing the role that Raphael has. Azariah is the Hebrew name of Daniel’s best friend in the book of Daniel and means “God has helped.” Hananiah means “God is merciful.”

Tobit does not recognize Raphael as an angel but, instead, as a kinsman. In verse 17, Tobit even prays that God’s angel may accompany both Tobias and who he believes to be Azariah. Tobit’s wife, Tobias’s mother, begins to weep and is comforted by the words of Tobit.

This part of the narrative reflects Homer’s Odyssey (c. 700 BC), which predates Tobit by about 500 years and in which Athena accompanied Telemachus. This type of divine incarnation reflects Greek values more than Biblical values and presents a reality in which divine beings incarnate in order to help people with the tasks of people. In contrast to this very Greek and human-centered idea, there is no story in the Old Testament proper that reflects angels working in this sort of capacity. They are always concerned with the mission and promise of God and always giving God’s message to people. Even the incarnation of God Himself, Christ Jesus, would not serve the values and plans of people but, rather, call people to repentance and transformation to the likeness of Christ. So, we see how Greek mythology has influenced the writing of Tobit and, through Tobit, some part of theology in Second Temple Judaism, some sects of Christianity, and popular culture (we see this idea even present in hit television shows like Supernatural). So, to see this picture of an archangel as an angel who lies, disguises himself in human form, and has as his mission to help people in their self-defined tasks is a picture given by a source other than God’s word. We need, just as we have always needed, to return to the source- God’s Bible. We need to rely on God’s Bible for proper doctrine.

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