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  • Cited by 8
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
January 2020
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:
Judaism, Religion

Book description

What did ancient Jews believe about demons and angels? This question has long been puzzling, not least because the Hebrew Bible says relatively little about such transmundane powers. In the centuries after the conquests of Alexander the Great, however, we find an explosion of explicit and systematic interest in, and detailed discussions of, demons and angels. In this book, Annette Yoshiko Reed considers the third century BCE as a critical moment for the beginnings of Jewish angelology and demonology. Drawing on early 'pseudepigrapha' and Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls, she reconstructs the scribal settings in which transmundane powers became a topic of concerted Jewish interest. Reed also situates this development in relation to shifting ideas about scribes and writing across the Hellenistic Near East. Her book opens a window onto a forgotten era of Jewish literary creativity that nevertheless deeply shaped the discussion of angels and demons in Judaism and Christianity.


2020 National Jewish Book Award Finalist in Scholarship, Association of American Publishers


'By far the most richly textured and lucid explanation of demonology and angelology I have ever seen. Demons, Angels, and Writing is a consummate work of historical scholarship, capturing the imaginative worlds of ancient Jewish scribes with eloquence and insight. And in taking demons, angels, and the multiplicity of divine forces seriously in ancient religious experience, Reed makes an important contribution to the history of religions more generally.'

David Frankfurter - William Goodwin Aurelio Chair of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University

'This wide-ranging, immensely learned, study brings a new angle of vision to bear on the transformation of Judaism in the Hellenistic age. Focusing on the new attention to angels and demons, Reed argues that this development has more to do with new conceptions of knowledge than with the theological understanding of evil or with political resistance. This is a major contribution that should stimulate extensive reassessment of Judaism in this formative period.'

John J. Collins - Holmes Professor of Old Testament, Yale University

‘… carefully argued technical study … a fine-grained analysis …’

J. S. Kaminsky Source: Choice

‘Reed’s work in Demons, Angels, and Writing in Ancient Judaism is monumental and consequential. Not only does it serve as a model for the type of synchronic analysis she undertakes, but also stands as a testament to its fruitfulness. … essential reading, especially for those working on Jewish literature and scribal practices in the Second Temple period.’

Michael DeVries Source: Reading Religion

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