Are you familiar with the story about angels bowing to/ worshiping Adam or mankind at the Creation?

edited July 2019 in Faith Issues
In Genesis 1, God made man master of the earth, ordering him to "replenish the earth, and
subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl
of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." Then in Hebrews 1:14, Paul suggests that the angels were meant to be lower than man, asking rhetorically about them, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” In Hebrews 2, Paul implies that man is temporarily lower than the angels (“But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little [while] lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him”.)

The Life of Adam and Eve / Apocalypse of Moses is a Jewish apocryphal book likely originally composed in the first century to third centuries in a Semitic language. In it, Satan tells Adam that God made Adam in God's image and that:

Having gone forth Michael called all the angels saying, 'Worship the
image of the Lord God, just as the Lord God has commanded.'
Michael himself worshipped first then he called me and said, 'Worship the image of God Jehovah.' I answered, 'I do not have it within me to worship Adam.' When Michael
compelled me to worship, I said to him, 'Why do you compel me? I will
not worship him who is lower and posterior to me. I am prior to that
creature. Before he was made, I had already been made. He ought to
worship me.' Hearing this, other angels who were under me were unwilling to worship him. Michael said, 'Worship the image of God. If you do not worship, the Lord God will grow angry with you.' I said, 'If he grows angry with me, I will place my seat above the stars of heaven and I will be like the Most High.' Then the Lord God grew angry with me and sent me forth with my angels
from our glory. On account of you we were expelled from our dwelling
into this world and cast out upon the earth. Immediately we were in grief, since we had been despoiled of so much
glory, and we grieved to see you in such a great happiness of delights.
By a trick I cheated your wife and caused you to be expelled through
her from the delights of your happiness, just as I had been expelled
from my glory. (Chapters 14-16)

Next in the story:
Hearing this, Adam cried out with a great shout because of the
Devil, and said, "O Lord my God, in your hands is my life. Make this
adversary of mine be far from me, who seeks to ruin my soul. Give me his
glory which he himself lost."
Immediately the Devil no longer appeared to him. Adam truly persevered for forty days standing in penitence in the waters of the Jordan.
(Chapter 17)

Stan Lindsay sees parallels between the account in The Life of Adam and Eve and in Revelation
In both accounts, it is Michael who leads in opposing the
Devil. In both accounts, the angels of the Devil are also indicted,
along with the Devil himself. In both accounts, the Devil is cast down
from Heaven to earth. Both accounts also refer to the “anger” of the
Devil and his “pursuit” of mankind (Adam and Eve 12 and Revelation
12:12-13)... There is no mention in Revelation 12 of the Devil’s refusal to worship
Adam, though the Devil/Dragon has an apparent feeling of enmity towards
the new-born child [likely a reference to Christ, the second Adam].  In this same vein, Ginzberg (V:85) comments: “It is quite possible
that Hebrews 1:6 goes back to [The Life of Adam and Eve] . . . and . . .
makes the angels worship the second Adam (=Jesus), instead of the
first.” Hebrews 1:6 states: “And again, when He leads the first-born
into the inhabited world, He says, ‘And let all of the angels of God
prostrate themselves before him!’” A parallel indictment of the Devil in both accounts [in The Life of Adam and Eve and Revelation] is that he
“misleads.” In the Adam and Eve account, Eve was misled; in the
Revelation, the Devil/dragon misled the whole world. ... This, of course, does not mean that John believes The Life of Adam and
Eve is inspired. He does seem to think there is merit in belief that
the second Adam is worthy of worship, however. He shows how the
transition from worshiping only God (in Revelation 4) to worshiping BOTH
God AND the Lamb (in Revelation 5) was accomplished.

In Chapter 4 of the Questions of Bartholomew, a once-widespread 2nd - 5th century Christian document that scholars think was written in Egypt, Satan tells Bartholomew that the reason he fell from grace was because
he (Satan) refused to worship man who was the image of God:
(Translation by M.R. James):
53. I was going to and fro in the world, and God said unto Michael:
Bring me a clod from the four corners of the earth, and water out of the
four rivers of paradise. And when Michael brought them God formed Adam
in the regions of the east, and shaped the clod which was shapeless, and
stretched sinews and veins upon it and established it with Joints; and
he worshipped him, himself for his own sake first, because he was the
image of God, therefore he worshipped him.

54. And when I came from the ends of the earth Michael said: Worship
thou the image of God, which he hath made according to his likeness. But
I said: I am fire of fire, I was the first angel formed, and shall
worship clay and matter?

55. And Michael saith to me: Worship, lest God be wroth with thee. But I
said to him: God will not be wroth with me; but I will set my throne
over against his throne, and I will be as he is. Then was God wroth with
me and cast me down, having commanded the windows of heaven to be

In his essay "Satan's Refusal to Worship Adam: A Jewish Motif and Its Reception in Syriac Christian Tradition", Sergey Minov notes that explanations of Satan's fall often invoke "the motif of Satan's 'envy' towards Adam." He writes that the tradition of angels venerating Adam is "attested in such diverse sources as the Slavonic Apocryphon 2 Enoch and some rabbinic texts." Scholars tend to think that 2 Enoch is a Jewish text from the late 1st century AD, but some think it could be from as late as the 10th century. Minov writes that the tradition shows up in the 6th century Syriac Christian text called The Cave of Treasures.


  • yeah, we don't have these apocryphal books.
    we have the old testament (including deuterocanonical books such as wisdom of sirach and tobit) and the new testament, and we read the writings of particular church fathers.
    those writings are less important than the Holy Bible, and we take advice from our church about what to read.
    generally those writers who have been considered saints in our church are good to read.

    but your questions are interesting. what is your background?
    are you Christian?
    or are you a historian of early religious writings?
  • edited July 2019
    The Quran referred to this nonsensical story. Christians believe that worship is for God only. As far as the verses you quoted from Hebrews are concerned, they're about our Lord Jesus not about you and me,
  • Mabsoota,
    Thanks for asking about my background and interest in the writings. I am Eastern Orthodox and find the early writings fascinating. At one point I wanted to understand God more fundamentally, so I tried learning about ideas of God in ancient Egypt, as it was one of the earliest civilizations. Your ancestors left lots of texts, artwork, artifacts, and structures that help us better understand their recognition of God, and this in turn helped my own faith in God alot. In particular, despite their Polytheism, they also had a concept of Monotheism and belief in God (Noute). One piece of evidence for this is that in the Old Testament, several Egyptian pharaohs refer to God as if they recognize His reality. In the story of Joseph in Genesis 41:38-39, "Pharaoh said unto his servants, 'Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?' And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, 'Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art'. There is more evidence, but it would require a separate thread. What is important is that just as we can learn from ancient Egyptians' writings, artwork, and contemporary references by non-Egyptians (eg. the Old Testament) in order to get closer to the ancient Egyptians' religion and understanding of God, we can also look at the writings by and about Christianity from the era of the Apostles and the early Church fathers in order to get a better understanding and get closer to it ourselves.

    So for example, in this case it turns out that in the early period (first to 3rd centuries AD) there was a story and debate about the angels worshiping Adam at His creation that I was not aware of, and reading the Questions of Bartholomew brought this issue to my attention.
  • Thutmose,
    Thanks for writing back. You made a good point about the reference in Hebrews being actually or also mystically about Christ. But I think that it's also about man. So when Paul asks about the angels. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” The "heirs of salvation" include humans who receive salvation.

    This brings up an interesting way of looking at the issue: It was common in ancient times for servants to bow to their masters. David bowed before Saul in 1 Samuel. If the angels were sent to minister to man as Paul writes, then in some metaphorical way they could be intended to bow to man. The demons on the other hand harm man instead of ministering to him, so they in effect refuse God's intent for them to serve man.
  • edited July 2019

    In Hebrews 1:14, the word translated "ministering" is the Greek λειτουργικός. This is derived from the verb λειτουργέω. Thayer’s dictionary gives the meaning as follows:

    1) to serve the state at one's own cost 

    1a) to assume an office which must be administered at one's own expense 

    1b) to discharge a public office at one's own cost 

    1c) to render public service to the state 

    2) to do a service, perform a work 

    2a) of priests and Levites who were busied with the sacred rites in the tabernacle or the temple 

    2b) of Christians serving Christ, whether by prayer, or by instructing others concerning the way of salvation, or in some other way 

    2c) of those who aid others with their resources, and relieve their poverty

    We find this verb used in Romans 15:27 Yes, it has been their good pleasure, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to serve (λειτουργέω) them in fleshly things.

    So, clearly the serving or ministering mentioned in this verse does not involve bowing down or worship. 

    The word translated “to minister” in Heb 1:14 is διακονία. This is an even less controversial word and St Paul repeatedly applies it to his own minstery.

  • edited July 2019

    I think it's noteworthy that whereas on one hand the Quran and some apocryphal Christian or Jewish early writings like the Questions of Bartholomew and Life of Adam and Eve have the story of the angels bowing to Adam, and on the other hand three rabbinical writings such as the Genesis Rabbah in the Talmud invert the story and have God, Adam, or St Michael stopping the angels from worshiping Adam, Revelation 12 seems to include major elements of the Life of Adam and Eve as if he knows the story, but then he leaves out saying whether God asked the angels to bow to the "First Adam". It suggests to me that there is not a canonical position on the question, and perhaps deliberately so.
  • In Rev 12, there is a dragon trying to kill a child and an archangel  defending the child. There is nothing related to worshipping Adam. There is definitely a canonical position on the question of worshipping Adam in all the passages that say "Worship only the Lord your God," including Luke 4:8.
  • edited July 2019
    You are right that Rev. 12 has "nothing related to worshipping Adam." I appreciate your time talking with me about these topics. It's very nice that there is a Coptic forum like this and that it is so active.
  • edited February 2022
    What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little LOWER THAN THE ANGELS and crowned them with glory and honor. - Psalm 8:4&5

    So this story does not make sense and is just a product of human imagination. It is good to note as well that Muhammad, the INVENTOR of Islam, is known to have a reputation to borrow stories from ancient folklore and as you know, this story was included in the Quran.

  • you are right.
    the original poster has no logged in for a couple of years, though (you can look at lat log in time when you click on people's names). so he / she won't see your comment.
    there is quite a lot of influence from gnostic writings in islam, but you won't find it in the orthodox church.

    welcome to the forums from those of us who log in more often than once every few years!
  • edited February 2022
    Once you start to actually read the Quran, you’d realize that there’s absolutely nothing gnostic about its teachings. Utter transparency and simplicity is something that distinguishes Islam from its fellow Abrahamic religions.
  • edited February 2022
    The famous anti-Muslim claim that Muhammad “copied” or “borrowed” from Judeo-Christian legends is not only ludicrous but nonsensical as well simply because of the fact that the Islamic Prophet was illiterate (he could not read nor write) and preached to a pagan people who all believed in multiple deities and were anything but monotheistic as Christians or Jews were. Not to mention that he didn’t even meet Jews or Christians (which were incredibly scarce in the Arabian peninsula) until after he was exiled to Medina. 80% of the Quran was already revealed and preached in Mecca where he originally was, I hope that you’re all aware by now that it was a city populated and controlled by Arab pagans exclusively.
  • “He never met Christians” LOL his uncle by marriage was an ex Coptic monk who was excommunicated for Arian ideology and heresy.
  • @TheVisitor00 are you a Christian? It does not really sound like it…
  • @Jojo_Hanna I never said that he didn’t meet Christians in his journey because he did and there was only one single Christian community in the Arabian peninsula which was in Najran (a small city in central Arabia).
  • @Jojo_Hannah first of all, if you’re referring to Muhammad’s uncle, then no he wasn’t a Christian and there’s enough proof and evidence of that. If it’s Waraqa ibn Nawfal you’re referring to, however then yes he was a Nestorian monk whom Muhammad visited after receiving his revelations inside cave Hiraa. And Waraqa himself believe in Muhammad’s prophethood and message after he came to him.
  • edited February 2022
    @Jojo_Hannah No, I’m not a Christian. I Enjoy talking to you guys about religious stuff tho.
  • hi thevisitor00, i was referring to these works:
    some of the stories appear to have arisen from gnostic groups that were around in the first centuries after the appearence of Jesus Christ.
    some of the stories are also repeated in the quran. 

    that is why i made the link.
    i am aware the first muslims did not preach the same message as the gnostic groups.
    but they had some of the same oral and written traditions.

    in the same way, you can say that there are writings from judaism in Christianity.
    these days, most jews are not Christian, but they will recognise some similar writings in the Bible, even in the new testament.

    welcome to the forum
    (means 'happy in arabic')
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