The (Pseudo) “Doctrine” of Fallen Angel Salvation: Research Sources

Just a brief follow-up on the subject of whether fallen angels can be redeemed.

One of the curious points to me in this matter has been how some refer to the idea of angelic salvation as a “doctrine.” That word conveys the impression (intentionally, I presume) that the idea that fallen angels can be saved is something that someone who mattered, somewhere in the early historic Church, taught the idea. That isn’t true. There is no “Christian doctrine” of angelic salvation. That said, the idea was indeed discussed in the early church — specifically in response to Gnosticism (and to be more particular here, Valentinian Gnosticism). These Gnostics tried to defend the idea using gospel accounts of Jesus’ baptism and the epistles of Paul by playing, in modern parlance, “word games” with the vocabulary — instead of doing exegesis, they gave new, esoteric meanings to certain terms and then ran with the result.

This, for me, has explanatory power. The teaching that angels can be redeemed comes right out of Gnosticism. No surprise. Gnosticism has infected the modern evangelical and Pentecostal church in several ways, most likely unbeknownst to the vast majority of people in those groups. Consequently, I don’t think that those who espouse this idea are “real” Gnostics (though they may be), the idea nevertheless has deep Gnostic roots and has always been outside the stream of orthodoxy.

There have, fortunately, been several dissertations written on the interaction between certain church fathers and the Gnostics where “angelic redemption” is mentioned. Valentinian Gnostics thought the idea important not only for “the redemption and the restoration [of angelic beings] to the Pleroma,” but also their own salvation. From the Kovacs dissertation listed below (pp. 86, 88):

[Baptism] in Jesus’ life is paralleled by a sacrament of redemption in the life of the Valentinians. This sacrament is called “angelic redemption” or “angelic baptism” (22.5) because it relates the pneumatics [the Valentinians] to their angelic syzygies, who have already been baptized in the same manner. Like the Marcosians in Against Heresies I 21.2, Theodotus claims that both Jesus (22.7) and the pneumatics (22.1*) need redemption in order to enter the pleroma. . . . Perfect salvation is reserved for the Valentinians; they alone receive gnosis and ascend to the heights of the pleroma. This salvation is mediated not through catholic baptism but through the Valentlnian ritual of redemption.”

If the concept of the Pleroma is new to you, see my video overview of Gnostic cosmology.

Story, in his dissertation (below) adds some explanatory thoughts (p. 78):

Each person is thought to have an angel who was already baptised in the beginning ( en arxe) therefore each person is baptised “in the same Name in which his angel had been baptised before him.” Even though the Valentinian can describe himself here as “deadened by this existence,” he is at the same time “the person who has received redemption” because of his relationship to the Pleroma through his angel.

I have added the following dissertations that touch on this subject to the divine council bibliography. I found them on a better source than the internet — the ProQuest dissertation database. They popped up in a search for “angelic redemption” (interestingly enough, “angelic salvation” yielded no dissertations that actually had to do with religious texts). One note – the dissertation by Ahuvia is (mostly) about how the rabbis objected to the idea, not any endorsement of it.

  • Geoffrey Story, “The Valentinian (Gnostic) Use of the Letters of Paul,” Northwestern University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1968.
  • Eunice Villaneda, “The Valentinian dynamic of holiness: Re-imagining Valentinian perceptions of the ‘spiritual’, ‘psychic’, and ‘material’ bodies.” California State University, Long Beach, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2014
  • Mika Ahuvia, “Israel among the angels: A study of angels in Jewish texts from the fourth to eighth century CE,” Princeton University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2o14
  • Judith Lee Kovacs, “Clement of Alexandria and the Valentinian Gnostics,” Columbia University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1978
  • David Robert Ruppe, “God, spirit, and human being: The reconfiguration of PNEUMA’s semantic field in the exchange between Irenaeus of Lyons and the Valentinian Gnosis,” Columbia University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1988
  • Patrick Theodore Hall,  “Jesus of Nazareth in Second Century Gnosticism,” The University of Chicago, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1969
    • NOTE: The above work has now been superseded by the published book by Majella Franzmann, Jesus in the Nag Hammadi Writings, though I haven’t searched her book to see if she comments on angel baptism or angel salvation.
  • Michael D. Harris, “Christological name theology in three second century communities,” Marquette University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2013
  • Arkadi Choufrine, “Gnosis, theophany, theosis: Studies in Clement of Alexandria’s appropriation of his background,”  Princeton Theological Seminary, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2001
  • Everett Lee Proctor, “The influence of Basilides, Valentinus, and their followers on Clement of Alexandria,” University of California, Santa Barbara, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1992.

Related Articles

Read More

Leave a Reply