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Walter Wink on Wesley Carr from 'Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament' '

The problem of theodicity has obsessed Jewish writers from the time of the exile right down to the present... The ancient myth of the fall of the "sons of God" in Gen.6:1-4 was enlisted to explain the presence of an evil that emanates not from humanity alone but from something higher as well: not divine, but transcendent...

'Carr, however, insists that the terms for power are used in Jewish literature not to refer to evil spirits, demons, or Satan, but only to obedient angelic powers whose activity and presence confirm to the status of Yahweh, that the world into which the gospel came was not a world that longed for release from powers, that the Christian message was not one of a cosmic battle in which Christ rescued humanity from the domination of such forces.

Indeed, Carr states, there was nothing in Judaism from which such a myth could be constructed. Further, Carr claims that there is no evidence for a belief in demonic forces of any stature, apart from Satan, until the end of the second century C.E., and nothing in Pauline writings that refers to a battle between Christ and hostile powers.(A&P 174ff) 'But the evidence points in almost the opposite direction from everything Carr asserts. Ecclus. 16:7 (which Carr dismisses as a book with "almost no reference" to angels or demons) happens to contain one of the earliest indications of a new interest in the myth of the Watchers and Giants. ... Wisdom of Solomon, which Carr also dismisses with the same expression, alludes to the same myth in 14:6. But by far the densest concentration of references to the fallen-angels myth is found in the oldest sections of 1 Enoch. Add to that the evidence from Jubilees, Daniel, and Qumran, and we have ample grounds for dismissing Carr's belief that angels in Jewish literature are only good. ' [1] '

Recently Carr has challenged the assertion that the Powers are both good and evil, arguing that all the Powers mentioned in Paul, and indeed the whole New Testament, are good and that there is no evidence for a belief in demonic forces of any stature, apart from Satan, until almost the end of the second century. He is able to make this sweeping assertion only by regarding Eph.6:12 as an interpolation and by a consistently tendentious exegesis of every text that would seem to controvert his thesis. ' [2] '

Ephesians 6:12: For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities (archas), against the powers (exousias), against the world rulers (kosmokratoras) of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts (pneumatika) of wickedness in the heavenly places. 'This text is the locus classicus for the demonic interpretation of the powers; indeed no other interpretation except the demonic is possible. Even Carr acknowledges this and excises the verse from the text in order to get around its devastating effect on his thesis that all the Powers are good angels. This desperate expedient is taken without any support in the manuscript tradition and with only a string of pseudo-problems fabricated as an excuse for surgery.' (A&P 104-10) [3]


from 'Naming the Powers -The Language of Power in the New Testament.' Fortress Press (1984) Excerpt [1] pp23-24. [2] p12. [3] p 84-85.

Walter Wink is Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City.

See for more about Walter Wink.

A&P = Angels &Principalities (1981), by Wesley Carr.

Wesley Carr has a phD in Biblical Studies from the University of Sheffield, and is a senior cleric in the Church of England. See for more about Wesley Carr. theology > bible > powers > use of evidence, theology of power


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