08 February 2010
The Hebrew Bible uses the terms מלאכי אלוהים (melakh Elohim; Angels of God), מלאכי יהוה (melakh Adonai; Angels of the Lord), בני אלוהים (b'nai elohim; sons of God) and הקדושים (ha-qodeshim; the holy ones) to refer to beings traditionally interpreted as angelic messengers. Other terms are used in later texts, such as העליונים (ha-olinim, the upper ones, or the Ultimate ones). Indeed, angels are uncommon except in later works like Daniel, though they are mentioned briefly in the stories of Jacob (who, according to several interpretations, wrestled with an angel) and Lot (who was warned by angels of the impending destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah). Daniel is the first biblical figure to refer to individual angels by name. It is therefore widely speculated that Jewish interest in angels developed during the Babylonian captivity. According to Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish of Tiberias (230–270 AD), all the specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon.
There are no explicit references to archangels in the canonical texts of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). In post-Biblical Judaism, certain angels came to take on a particular significance and developed unique personalities and roles. Though these archangels were believed to have rank amongst the heavenly host, no systematic hierarchy ever developed. Metatron is considered one of the highest of the angels in Merkavah and Kabbalist mysticism and often serves as a scribe. He is briefly mentioned in the Talmud, and figures prominently in Merkavah mystical texts. Michael, who serves as a warrior and advocate for Israel (Daniel 10:13) is looked upon particularly fondly. Gabriel is mentioned in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 8:15-17) and briefly in the Talmud, as well as many Merkavah mystical texts. The earliest references to archangels are in the literature of the intertestamental periods (e.g., 4 Esdras 4:36).
Within the rabbinic tradition, the Kabbalah, and the Book of Enoch chapter 20, and the Life of Adam and Eve, the usual number of archangels given is at least seven, who are the focal angels. Three higher archangels are also commonly referenced: Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. There is confusion about one of the following eight names, concerning which one listed is not truly an archangel. They are: Uriel, Sariel, Raguel, and Remiel (possibly the Ramiel of the Apocalypse of Baruch, said to preside over true visions), Zadkiel, Jophiel, Haniel and Chamuel. Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides made a Jewish angelic hierarchy.
In addition, traditional homes often sing an ode to the angels before beginning Friday night (Shabbat) dinner. It is entitled Shalom Aleichem, meaning "peace onto you" (referring to the angels as messengers of godly light, peace and love).
The New Testament speaks frequently of angels (for example, angels giving messages to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds; angels ministering to Christ after his temptation in the wilderness, an angel visiting Christ in his agony, angels at the tomb of the risen Christ, the angels who liberate the Apostles Peter and Paul from prison); however, it makes only two references to "archangels." They are: Michael in Jude 1:9 and I Thessalonians 4:16, where the "voice of an archangel" will be heard at the return of Christ.
Eastern Orthodox Tradition mentions "thousands of archangels; however, only seven archangels are venerated by name. Uriel is included, and the other three are most often named Selaphiel, Jegudiel, and Barachiel (an eighth, Jeremiel, is sometimes included as archangel). Every Monday throughout the year is dedicated to the Angels, with special mention being made in the church hymns of Michael and Gabriel. In Orthodox iconography, each angel has a symbolic representation.
Michael in the Hebrew language means "Who is like unto God?" or "Who is equal to God?" St. Michael has been depicted from earliest Christian times as a commander, who holds in his right hand a spear with which he attacks Lucifer, Satan, and in his left hand a green palm branch. At the top of the spear there is a linen ribbon with a red cross. The Archangel Michael is especially considered to be the Guardian of the Orthodox Faith and a fighter against heresies.
Gabriel means "Man of God" or "Might of God." He is the herald of the mysteries of God, especially the Incarnation of God and all other mysteries related to it. He is depicted as follows: In his right hand, he holds a lantern with a lighted taper inside, and in his left hand, a mirror of green jasper. The mirror signifies the wisdom of God as a hidden mystery.
Raphael means "God's healing" or "God the Healer" (Tobit 3:17, 12:15). Raphael is depicted leading Tobit (who is carrying a fish caught in the Tigris) with his right hand, and holding a physician's alabaster jar in his left hand.
Uriel means "Fire of God," or "Light of God" (III Esdras 3:1, 5:20). He is depicted holding a sword against the Persians in his right hand, and a fiery flame in his left.
Sealtiel means "Intercessor of God" (III Esdras 5:16). He is depicted with his face and eyes lowered, holding his hands on his bosom in prayer.
Jegudiel means "Glorifier of God." He is depicted bearing a golden wreath in his right hand and a triple-thonged whip in his left hand.
Barachiel means "Blessing of God." He is depicted holding a white rose in his hand against his breast.
(Jeremiel means "God's exaltation." He is venerated as an inspirer and awakener of exalted thoughts that raise a person toward God (III Ezra 4:36). As an eighth, he is sometimes included as archangel.)
The edited edition of the Bible used by Protestants, which excludes the Apocrypha, never mentions a "Raphael" and he is therefore not recognized by many of them. Raphael, however, is mentioned in the Book of Tobit, one of the deuterocanonical books. In the story, Raphael comes to the aid of Tobit, healing him of blindness, and his son Tobias, driving away a demon that would have killed him. Raphael also plays an important role in the Book of Enoch.
In the canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in 1 Enoch, Saraqael is described as one of the angels that watches over "the spirits that sin in the spirit." (20:7, 8)
Lucifer The fallen archangel, who aspired to rise to Godhood (Isaiah 14:14). Lucifer was cast to earth by Michael. Lucifer is known as Satan, The Serpent, The Tempter. In his Day he was "the Anointed Cherubim" (Ezekiel 28:14) and "the morning star" (Isaiah 14:12).
In Islam, the named archangels include:
Gabriel (or Jibraaiyl or Jibril or Jibrail in Arabic). Gabriel is the Archangel responsible for revealing the Qur'an to Muhammad. Gabriel is known as the angel who communicates with the Prophets.
Michael (Mikhail or Mikaaiyl in Arabic). Michael is often depicted as the Archangel of mercy who is responsible for bringing rain and thunder to Earth.
Raphael (Israfil or Israafiyl). According to the Hadith, Israfil is the Angel responsible for signaling the coming of Judgment Day by blowing a horn and sending out a Blast of Truth. It translates in Hebrew as Raphael.
Azrael, responsible for parting the soul from the body. Although he is frequently referred to as Azrael in Arabic, he is referred to as Malak al-Maut (the angel of death) in the Quran (Surah al-Sajdah 32:11).
Occultists sometimes associate archangels in Kabbalistic fashion with various seasons or elements, or even colors. In some Kabbalah-based systems of ceremonial magic, all four of the main archangels (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel) are invoked as guarding the four quarters, or directions, and their corresponding colors are associated with magical properties.
In anthroposophy, based on teachings by Rudolf Steiner, there are many spirits belonging to the hierarchical level of archangel. In general, their task is to inspire and guard large groups of human beings, such as whole nations, peoples or ethnic groups. This reflects their rank above the angels who deal with individuals (the guardian angel) or smaller groups. The main seven archangels with the names given by Pope Saint Gregory I are Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel (or Anael), Simiel (or Samael), Oriphiel and Zachariel have a special assignment to act as a global Zeitgeist ("time spirit" or, "spirit of the times/age"), each for periods of about 380 years. According to this system, since 1879, Michael is the leading time spirit. Four important archangels also display periodic spiritual activity over the seasons: Spring is Raphael, Summer (Uriel), Autumn (Michael) and Winter is Gabriel. In anthroposophy, archangels may be good or evil; in particular, some of their rank are collaborators of Ahriman, whose purpose is to alienate humanity from the spiritual world and promote materialism and heartless technical control.
Another Catholic variation lists them corresponding to the days of the week as: St Michael (Sunday), St Gabriel (Monday), St Raphael (Tuesday), St Uriel (Wednesday), St Sealtiel/Selaphiel (Thursday), St Jehudiel/Jhudiel (Friday), and St Barachiel (Saturday).
In the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram, the invocation includes the words "Before me Raphael; Behind me Gabriel; On my right hand Michael; On my left hand Auriel [Uriel]..."
In art, archangels are sometimes depicted with larger wings and many eyes. Some of the more commonly represented archangels are Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, and Sataniel.