ABSTRACT: Prayers of Jews to Angels and Other Intermediaries during the First Centuries CE

M. Poorthuis and J. Schwartz (ed.), Saints and Role Models in Judaism and Christianity, Leiden – Boston: Brill, 2004, pp. 79-95  Meir Bar-Ilan


This article summarizes the phenomenon of appeal and prayer by Jews to God through various intermediaries in the first centuries of the Common Era. The principal content is the collection of Talmudic and post-Talmudic sources with information about appealing to intermediaries to pray to God for those needing deliverance. Supplementing the research approach - collection of texts from diverse sources - the structural diagnosis of the legends of the sages assists in additional findings not known from any other source.

The investigation of intermediaries is divided in two: inanimate intermediaries that underwent personification, such as heaven, earth, or Mount Sinai; and human intermediaries, some of whom lived in the past or some who were contemporary with the prayer, such as Joshua bin Nun, the rulers of Israel, or Hanina ben Dosa.

The investigation of the various intermediaries shows that in antiquity Jews were accustomed to praying to God through various intermediaries to a greater extent than inferred from superficial study of the sources. It becomes clear that various sources providing information about these "deviating" phenomena were "censored" by the copiers in a process of internal censorship.