23 August 2010

The Angelic Hierarchy?

According to pre-medieval Christian theologians, the Angels are organized into several orders, or Angelic Choirs.

The most influential of these classifications was that put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the 4th century, in his book "The Celestial Hierarchy". Scholars of the Middle Ages believed that angels and archangels were lowest in the order and were the only angels directly involved in the affairs of the world of men.

The authors of The Celestial Hierarchy and the Summa Theologica drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16, in an attempt to reveal a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs.

From the comparative study of the Old Testament and New Testament passages, including their etymology and semantics, the above mentioned theological works (which contain variations), and esoteric Christian teachings, the descending order of rank can be inferred as following:

First Sphere (Old Testament sources)

  1. Seraphim
  2. Cherubim
  3. Thrones/Ophanim (Gr. thronoi) (also New Testament sources)

Second Sphere (New Testament sources)

  1. Dominions (Gr. Kyriotetai)
  2. Virtues (Gr. Dynamai)
  3. Powers (Gr. Exusiai)

Third Sphere

  1. Principalities (Gr. Archai)
  2. Archangels - Archangeloi
  3. Angels - Angeloi

St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio refers to these three, respectively, as the Epiphania, the Hyperphania, and the Hypophania. The Choirs in the second and third spheres, of the present hierarchical list, appear to be also united in pairs. The existence of these pairs of Orders is inferred through their etymological proximity and the apparent affinity in the description of their work-activity (1 Peter 3:22):

  1. Thrones and Dominions (Might, Dynamais);
  2. Principalities and Powers (Powers, Exusiai; Ephesians 6:12);
  3. Archangels and Angels (Angels, Angeloi).

Note, however, that several variations of the hierarchical order may be found published through the last two millennia by Jews, Kabbalists, Muslims, and Zoroastrians.

Angels of the First Sphere work as heavenly guardians of God's throne.

Seraphim (Heb. ששׂרפים, Seraphim, sing. ששׂרף, Seraph, Lat. seraph[us], pl. seraphi[m], Gr. Σεραφείμ) are a class of celestial beings in Judaism and Christianity. Literally "burning ones", the word is normally a synonym for snakes when used in the Hebrew bible, but they are mentioned in the Book of Isaiah as fiery six-winged beings attending on God. They appear again as celestial beings in an influential Hellenistic work, the Book of Enoch, and a little later in the Book of Revelation. They occupy the fifth of ten ranks of the hierarchy of angels in medieval and modern Judaism, and the highest rank in the Christian angelic hierarchy.

Seraphim, literally "burning ones", is the plural of "seraph", more properly sarap. The word sarap/seraphim appears three times in the Torah (Numbers 21:6-8, Deuteronomy 8:15) and four times in the Book of Isaiah (6:2-6, 14:29, 30:6). In Numbers and Deuteronomy the "seraphim" are snakes/serpents - the association of snakes as "burning ones" is possibly due to the burning sensation of the poison. Isaiah also uses the word in close association with words to describes snakes (nahash, the generic word for snakes, in 14:29, andefeh, viper, in 30:6).

Isaiah's vision of seraphim in the Temple in Jerusalem is the sole instance in the Hebrew Bible of the word being used to describe celestial beings: there the winged "seraphim" attend God and have human attributes:[2] "... I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the Hekhal (sanctuary). Above him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew." (Isaiah 6:1–3) In Isaiah's vision the seraphim cry continually to each other, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory" (verses 2-3) before carrying out an act of purification for the prophet (verses 6-7). It is possible that these are winged snake-beings, but given that the word "seraphim" is not attached as an adjective or modifier to other snake-words ("nahash," etc.), as is the case in every other occurrence of the word, it is more probable that they are variants of the "fiery" lesser deities making up God's divine court.

"Seraphim" appear in the 2nd century BC Book of Enoch where they are designated as drakones (δράκονες "serpents"), and are mentioned, in conjunction with the cherubim as the heavenly creatures standing nearest to the throne of God. In the late 1st century CE Book of Revelation (iv. 4-8) they are described as being forever in God's presence and praising Him constantly: "Day and night with out ceasing they sing: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.'" They appear also in the Christian Gnostic text On the Origin of the World, described as "dragon-shaped angels".

The 12th century scholar Maimonides placed the seraphim in the fifth of ten ranks of angels in his exposition of the Jewish angelic hierarchy, and they are part of the angelarchy of modern Orthodox Judaism, and Isaiah's vision is repeated several times in daily Jewish services, including at Kedushah prayer as part of the repetition of the Amidah, and in several other prayers as well. Conservative Judaism retains the traditional belief in angels, including references in the liturgy, although a literal belief in angels is by no means universal. Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism generally do not believe in angels, although they may retain references for metaphorical purposes.

In medieval Christian theology, the Seraphim belong to the highest order, or angelic choir, of the Christian angelic hierarchy. They are the caretakers of God's throne, continuously singing "holy, holy, holy" (the Sanctus).

Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in his Celestial Hierarchy (vii), helped fix the fiery nature of seraphim in the medieval imagination. It is here that the Seraphim are described as being concerned with keeping Divinity in perfect order, and not limited to chanting the trisagion. Taking his cue from writings in the Rabbinic tradition, the author gave an etymology for the Seraphim as "those who kindle or make hot":
"The name seraphim clearly indicates their ceaseless and eternal revolution about Divine Principles, their heat and keenness, the exuberance of their intense, perpetual, tireless activity, and their elevative and energetic assimilation of those below, kindling them and firing them to their own heat, and wholly purifying them by a burning and all-consuming flame; and by the unhidden, unquenchable, changeless, radiant and enlightening power, dispelling and destroying the shadows of darkness".

St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae offers a description of the nature of the Seraphim:
"The name 'Seraphim' does not come from charity only, but from the excess of charity, expressed by the word ardor or fire. Hence Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii) expounds the name 'Seraphim' according to the properties of fire, containing an excess of heat. Now in fire we may consider three things.
"First, the movement which is upwards and continuous. This signifies that they are borne inflexibly towards God.
Secondly, the active force which is 'heat,' which is not found in fire simply, but exists with a certain sharpness, as being of most penetrating action, and reaching even to the smallest things, and as it were, with superabundant fervor; whereby is signified the action of these angels, exercised powerfully upon those who are subject to them, rousing them to a like fervor, and cleansing them wholly by their heat.
Thirdly we consider in fire the quality of clarity, or brightness; which signifies that these angels have in themselves an inextinguishable light, and that they also perfectly enlighten others."
The seraphim took on a mystic role in Pico della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man (1487), the epitome of Renaissance humanism. Pico took the fiery Seraphim—"they burn with the fire of charity"—as the highest models of human aspiration: "impatient of any second place, let us emulate dignity and glory. And, if we will it, we shall be inferior to them in nothing", the young Pico announced, in the first flush of optimistic confidence in the human capacity that is the coinage of the Renaissance. "In the light of intelligence, meditating upon the Creator in His work, and the work in its Creator, we shall be resplendent with the light of the Cherubim. If we burn with love for the Creator only, his consuming fire will quickly transform us into the flaming likeness of the Seraphim."

St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan theologian who was a contemporary of St. Thomas Aquinas, uses the six wings of the seraph as an important analogical construct in his mystical work The Journey of the Mind to God.

In Christian theology, seraphim are beings of pure light and have direct communication with God.

Cherubim (Heb. כרוב, pl. כרובים, eng. trans kruv, pl. kruvim, dual kruvayim lat. cherub[us], pl cherubi[m]) are divine beings in the Bible. The plural can be written as cherubim or cherubs. In modern English the word is usually used for what are strictly putti, baby or toddler angels in art. This article is concerned with the original sense of the word.

Cherubs are mentioned in the Torah (five books of Moses), the Book of Ezekiel, and the Book of Isaiah. They are also mentioned in the books of 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles mainly in the construction of the House of God.The prophet Ezekiel describes them as a tetrad of living creatures, each having four faces: of a lion, an ox, an eagle (or griffon vulture), and a man. They are said to have the stature and hands of a man, the feet of a calf, and four wings. Two of the wings extended upward, meeting above and sustaining the throne of God; while the other two stretched downward and covered the creatures themselves. In the Christian New Testament Cherubs are mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

Judaism includes belief in the existence of angels, including Cherubim within the Jewish angelic hierarchy. The existences of angels is generally not contested within rabbinic Judaism; there is, however, a wide range of views on what angels actually are, and how literally one should interpret biblical passages associated with them.

In Kabbalah there has long been a strong belief in Cherubim, with the Cherubim, and other angels, regarded as having mystical roles. The Zohar, a highly significant collection of books in Jewish mysticism, states that the Cherubim were led by one of their number, named Kerubiel.

On the other end of the philosophical spectrum is the view of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides. He had a neo-Aristotelian interpretation of the Bible. Maimonides writes that to the wise man, one sees that what the Bible and Talmud refer to as "angels" are actually allusions for the various laws of nature; they are the principles by which the physical universe operates.
For all forces are angels! How blind, how perniciously blind are the naive?! If you told someone who purports to be a sage of Israel that the Deity sends an angel who enters a woman's womb and there forms an embryo, he would think this a miracle and accept it as a mark of the majesty and power of the Deity - despite the fact that he believes an angel to be a body of fire one third the size of the entire world. All this, he thinks, is possible for God. But if you tell him that God placed in the sperm the power of forming and demarcating these organs, and that this is the angel, or that all forms are produced by the Active Intellect - that here is the angel, the "vice-regent of the world" constantly mentioned by the sages - then he will recoil.
For he {the naive person} does not understand that the true majesty and power are in the bringing into being of forces which are active in a thing although they cannot be perceived by the senses....Thus the Sages reveal to the aware that the imaginative faculty is also called an angel; and the mind is called a cherub. How beautiful this will appear to the sophisticated mind - and how disturbing to the primitive."
Maimonides says (Guide for the Perplexed III:45) that the figures of the cherubayim were placed in the sanctuary only to preserve among the people the belief in angels, there being two in order that the people might not be led to believe that they were the image of God.
Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism generally either drop references to angels or interpret them metaphorically.

Cherubs are discussed within the midrash literature. The two cherubayim placed by God at the entrance of paradise (Gen. iii. 24) were angels created on the third day, and therefore they had no definite shape; appearing either as men or women, or as spirits or angelic beings (Genesis Rabbah xxi., end). The cherubim were the first objects created in the universe (Tanna debe Eliyahu R., i. beginning). The following sentence of the Midrash is characteristic: "When a man sleeps, the body tells to the neshamah (soul) what it has done during the day; the neshamah then reports it to the nefesh (spirit), the nefesh to the angel, the angel to the cherub, and the cherub to the seraph, who then brings it before God (Leviticus Rabbah xxii.; Eccl. Rabbah x. 20).
A midrash states that when Pharaoh pursued Israel at the Red Sea, God took a cherub from the wheels of His throne and flew to the spot, for God inspects the heavenly worlds while sitting on a cherub. The cherub, however, is "something not material", and is carried by God, not vice versa (Midr. Teh. xviii. 15; Canticles Rabbah i. 9).
In the passages of the Talmud that describe the heavens and their inhabitants, the seraphim, ofannim, and ḥayyot are mentioned, but not the cherubim (Ḥag. 12b); and the ancient liturgy also mentions only these three classes.

In the Talmud, Yose ha-Gelili holds, when the Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) is recited by at least ten thousand seated at one meal, a special blessing - "Blessed is Ha-Shem our God, the God of Israel, who dwells between the Cherubim" - is added to the regular liturgy.

In western art, Putti are sometimes mistaken for Cherubim, although they look nothing alike.

There were no cherubim in Herodian reconstruction of the Temple, but according to some authorities, its walls were painted with figures of cherubim. In Christian art they are often represented with the faces of a lion, ox, eagle, and man peering out from the center of an array of four wings (Ezekiel 1:5-11, 10:12,21 Revelation 4:8); (seraphim have six); the most frequently encountered descriptor applied to cherubim in Christianity is many-eyed, and in depictions the wings are often shown covered with a multitude of eyes (showing them to be all seeing beings). Since the Renaissance, in Western Christianity cherubim have become confused with putti—innocent souls, looking liked winged children, that sing praises to God daily—that can be seen in innumerable church frescoes and in the work of painters such as Raphael.

Thrones (lat. thronus, pl. throni) are a class of celestial beings mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians 1:16 (New Testament) and related to the throne of God the Father. They are living symbols of God's justice and authority. According to the New Testament, these high celestial beings are among those Orders at the Christ's service. The Thrones are mentioned again in Revelation 11:16.

The corresponding order of angels in Judaism is called the "abalim" or "arelim"/"erelim". The Ophanim (Wheels or Galgallin) is a class of higher liberated celestial beings that are also known as the "Thrones", from Daniel 7:9 (Old Testament). They are the carriers of the throne of God, hence the name. They are said to be great wheels covered in eyes.

Thrones are angels of the Third Order (first sphere) and are beings of tremendous power and movement. They are the keepers of higher more expanded energies. They ensure that these energies maintain connections and flows through the realms. They act as the conduits of the physical worlds and tend to be more stationary in their existence.

God's Spirit is shown in a certain manner to these angels, who in turn pass on the message to men and the inferior angels.

Thrones are known in scripture as the bringers of justice, but their status in hierarchy is often confused, sometimes placing them above the Seraphim, and sometimes placing them at the same level as the Cherubim. They are however, assigned to planets.

This position makes them some of the most powerful angels in service to the Lord. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the Thrones have the task of pondering the disposition of divine judgments. In other words, they carry out or fulfill the divine justice of the Lord.

They create, channel and collect incoming and outgoing positive energies. Dispensation of justice is important to the Thrones and they send healing energies to victims while shining a light on injustice to bring its presence to our attention.

Like their counterparts in the second angelic triad, they come the closest of all Angels to spiritual perfection and emanate the light of God with mirror-like goodness. They, despite their greatness, are intensely humble, an attribute that allows them to dispense justice with perfect objectivity and without fear of pride or ambition. Because they are living symbols of God's justice and authority, they are called Thrones and have as one of their symbols the throne.

Dionysius the Areopagite includes the Thrones as the third highest of 9 levels of angels. Rudolf Steiner links to this tradition and describes the Thrones as "Spirits of Will" who sacrificed their substance to create the material universe.

The Thrones (Gr. thronos) may possibly be equated with the "Lords of Wisdom", a Hierarchy of Elohim astrologically associated to Virgo, presented in The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. They inhabit, in Rosicrucian cosmology, the World of Divine Spirit, which is the home of The Father. However, these teachings direcly present the Thrones (from Old Testament vision) as a higher hierarchy of celestial beings called "Lords of the Flame", already liberated (see Ophanim). According to this source, both these hierarchies have worked together in a far past toward the development of mankind.

Angels of the Second Sphere work as heavenly governors.

Dominions are also translated from the Greek term "kuriotes" as Lordships. They are presented as the hierarchy of celestial beings Lordships in the De Coelesti Hierarchia.

The Dominions (lat. dominatio, pl. dominationes), also known as the Hashmallim, hold the task of regulating the duties of lower angels. It is only with extreme rarity that the angelic lords make themselves physically known to humans. They are also the angels who preside over nations. The Dominions are believed to look like divinely beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of Angels, but they may be distinguished from other groups by wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their sceptres or on the pommel of their swords.

Virtues or Strongholds lie beyond the Ophanim (Thrones/Wheels). Their primary duty is to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to ensure that the cosmos remains in order.

The term appears to be linked to the attribute "Might", from the Greek root "dunamis" in Ephesians 1:21, which is also translated as "Virtue" (probably due to the powerful nature of these high celestial beings; see quotation below), a somewhat different connotation of strength/force than just moral virtue. They are presented as the celestial Choir "Virtues", in the Summa Theologica. Traditional theological conceptions of the Virtues might appear to describe the same Order called the Thrones (Gr. thronos), (in which case the Ophanim may not be the same thing as "Thrones").

From Dionysius the Areopagite:
"The name of the holy Virtues signifies a certain powerful and unshakable virility welling forth into all their Godlike energies; not being weak and feeble for any reception of the divine Illuminations granted to it; mounting upwards in fullness of power to an assimilation with God; never falling away from the Divine Life through its own weakness, but ascending unwaveringly to the superessential Virtue which is the Source of virtue: fashioning itself, as far as it may, in virtue; perfectly turned towards the Source of virtue, and flowing forth providentially to those below it, abundantly filling them with virtue."
Paul used the term powers in Colossians 1:16 and Ephesians 1:21 but he may have used it to refer to the powers of nations, societies or individuals, instead of referring to angels.

Powers are also translated, from the Greek term "exousies", as Authorities (Greek root in Eph 3:10).

These celestial beings appear to collaborate, in power and authority (as implied in their etymology source), with the Principalities (Rulers).

Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21, and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10.

The Powers (lat. potestas (f), pl. potestates) are the bearers of conscience and the keepers of history. They are also the warrior angels created to be completely loyal to God. Some believe that no Power has ever fallen from grace, but another theory states that Satan was the Chief of the Powers before he Fell (see also Ephesians 6:12). Their duty is to oversee the distribution of power among humankind, hence their name.

Angels who function as heavenly messengers and soldiers are in the Third Sphere.

Principalities are also translated, from the Greek term "arche", as Princedoms and also Rulers (see Greek root in Eph 3:10).

These celestial beings appear to collaborate, in power and authority (as implied in their etymology source), with the Powers (Authorities).

Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21, and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10.

The Principalities (lat. principatus, pl. principatūs) are shown wearing a crown and carrying a sceptre. Their duty also is said to be to carry out the orders given to them by the Dominions and bequeath blessings to the material world. Their task is to oversee groups of people.They are the educators and guardians of the realm of earth both individuals, as well as groups. As beings related to the world of the germinal ideas, they are said to inspire living things to many things such as art or science.

Archangel (pronounced /ˌærk'eɪndʒɛl/) is a term meaning an angel of high rank. Archangels are found in a number of religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Michael and Gabriel are the archangels named in the Bible as recognized by both Jews and many Christians. The book of Tobit mentions Raphael, who is also considered by some to be an archangel. Tobit is included in the Catholic Canon of the Bible, as well as in the Orthodox Septuagint; however, this book is considered apocryphal by others outside of those faiths. The archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are venerated in the Roman Catholic Church with a feast on September 29, formerly March 24 for Gabriel. The named archangels in Islam are Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Azrael. Other traditions have identified a group of Seven Archangels, the names of which vary, depending on the source. The fallen archangel Lucifer (also known as Satan) was an archangel until he rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven by the other angels.

The word archangel derives from the Greek αρχάγγελος archangelos.

The Hebrew Bible uses the terms מלאכי אלוהים (malakhi Elohim; Angels of God)[1], מלאכי אֲדֹנָי (malakhi Adonai; Angels of the Lord)[2], 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.[3] It is therefore widely speculated that Jewish interest in angels developed during the Babylonian captivity.[4] 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.

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 a song of welcome to the angels before beginning Friday night (Shabbat) dinner. It is entitled Shalom Aleichem, meaning "peace onto you." This is based on a statement attributed to Rabbi Jose ben Judah that two angels accompany each worshiper home from the Friday evening synagogue service, These angels are associated with the good inclination yetzir ha-tov and the evil inclination yetzir ha-ra.

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). The Orthodox Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers on November 8 of Stencyl the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar (for those churches which follow the Julian Calendar, November 8 falls on November 21 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). Other feast days of the Archangels include the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel on March 26 (April 8), and the Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Colossae on September 6 (September 19). In addition, 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:


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 flame in his left.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Barachiel means "Blessing of God." He is depicted holding a white rose in his hand against his breast.
  8. (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 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 Seraph, 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 and The Deceiver. He was also a cherub (Ezekiel 28:14) and "the morning star" (Isaiah 14:12). Ezekiel 28:17 implies that Satan was a particularly beautiful angel.

In Islam, the named archangels include:

  1. Gabriel (or Jibraaiyl or Jibril or Jibrail in Arabic). Gabriel is the Archangel responsible for revealing the Qur'an to Muhammad and inducing him to read it . Gabriel is known as the angel who communicates with the Prophets. This Angel has great importance in Islam as he is being narrated in various Hadiths about his role of delivering messages from the 'Almighty' to the Prophets.
  2. Michael (Mikhail or Mik'aaeel in Arabic). Michael is often depicted as the Archangel of mercy who is responsible for bringing rain and thunder to Earth.
  3. Raphael (Israfil or Israafiyl). According to the Hadith, Israfil is the Angel responsible for signaling the coming of Judgment Day by blowing a horn/trumpet and sending out a Blast of Truth. It translates in Hebrew as Raphael.
  4. 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). There is also no mention of the name Azrael in reference to Malak al-Maut found amongst the verified Hadith of Bukhari.
  5. Rizwaan (Ridhwaan), the Guardian of the Seven heavens.....especially The 'Jannathul Firdaus',- the Supreme- heaven meant for the people doing maximum good deeds and who keep away from evil and evil thoughts. This Angel's name is often named for muslim children in most of the countries as it is a name of great virtues.
  6. Malik , The Guardian of the seven Hells where people doing misdeeds are sent to.
  7. Munkar & Nakeer, The Two Angels who are believed to come to the Grave-yard to question the dead person as soon as the person's body is buried. The Angels are believed to interrogate about the person's faith in his religion.They ask him about the Supreme Power the person follows, the moral-leader he follows and the book he follows .
  8. Rakeeb & Atheed, The Two Angels who are believed to record the Good-deeds and the mis-deeds of a Person in his entire life time. Rakeeb is believed to be on the Right-Shoulder of a Person recording only the Good-deeds a person does. And Atheed is believed to be on the left Shoulder of a person recording only the mis-deeds practised by a person.

In Zoroastrianism there 6 angels but Ahura Mazda is sometime counted as well, Himself.
Amesha Spentas (Phl. Amahraspandan) ("Archangels")

Literally, "Beneficent Immortals", these are the highest spiritual beings created by Ahura Mazda. Their names are :


  • Vohu Mano (Phl. Vohuman): lit. Good Mind. Presides over cattle.
  • Asha Vahishta (Phl. Ardwahisht): lit. Highest Asha, the Amahraspand presiding over Asha and fire.
  • Khshathra Vairya (Phl. Shahrewar): lit. 'Desirable Dominion', the Amahraspand presiding over metals.
  • Spenta Armaiti (Phl. Spandarmad): lit. 'Holy Devotion', the Amahraspand presiding over the earth
  • Haurvatat (Phl. Hordad): lit. 'Perfection or Health'. Presides over water.
  • Ameretat (Phl. Amurdad): lit. 'Immortality', the Amahraspand presiding over the Earth.


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.[30] The main seven archangels with the names given by Pope Saint Gregory I are Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel (or Anael), Camael, 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 Satanel.

These angels are listed as "cardinal" since they are used to rule over a cardinal point (see Uriel), such as north, south, east, or west. This is similar to the Four Gods theory, in which Byakko, Suzaku, Genbu, and Seiryuu represent the major directions in Eastern philosophy. As such, these are the four greatest named archangels. In general, Michael is considered the greatest, and typically takes the first position, while Uriel is typically the fourth of the four cardinal points.

The word angel in English is a fusion of the Old English word engel (with a hard g) and the Old French angele. Both derive from the Latin angelus which in turn is the romanization of the ancient Greek ἄγγελος (angelos), "messenger". The earliest form of the word is the Mycenaean a-ke-ro attested in Linear B syllabic script.

The Bible uses the terms מלאך אלהים (mal'akh Elohim; messenger of God), מלאך יהוה (mal'akh Adonai; messenger of the Lord), בני אלהים (b'nai Elohim; sons of God) and הקודשים (ha-qodeshim; the holy ones) to refer to beings traditionally interpreted as angels. Other terms are used in later texts, such as העליונים (ha'elyoneem; the upper ones). Daniel is the first biblical figure to refer to individual angels by name.[4]
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 Merkabah and Kabbalist mysticism and often serves as a scribe. He is briefly mentioned in the Talmud,[5] and figures prominently in Merkabah 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), the Book of Tobit, and briefly in the Talmud,[6] as well as many Merkabah mystical texts. There is no evidence in Judaism for the worship of angels, but evidence for the invocation and sometimes even conjuration of angels.

Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides explained his view of angels in his Guide for the Perplexed II:4 and II:6:
...This leads Aristotle in turn to the demonstrated fact that God, glory and majesty to Him, does not do things by direct contact. God burns things by means of fire; fire is moved by the motion of the sphere; the sphere is moved by means of a disembodied intellect, these intellects being the 'angels which are near to Him', through whose mediation the spheres [planets] move... thus totally disembodied minds exist which emanate from God and are the intermediaries between God and all the bodies [objects] here in this world.
– Guide for the Perplexed II:4, Maimonides
According to Kabalah, there are four worlds and our world is the last world: the world of action (Assiyah). Angels exist in the worlds above as a 'task' of God. They are an extension of God to produce effects in this world. After an angel has completed its task, it ceases to exist. The angel is in effect the task. This is derived from the book of Genesis when Abraham meets with three angels and Lot meets with two. The task of one of the angels was to inform Abraham of his coming child. The other two were to save Lot and to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

Famous angels and their tasks:

  • Malachim (translation: messengers), general word for angel
  • Michael (translation: who is like God), performs God's kindness
  • Gabriel (translation: the strength of God), performs acts of justice and power
  • Raphael (translation: God Heals), God's healing force
  • Uriel (translation: God is my light), leads us to destiny
  • Seraphim (translation: the burning ones), protects the gates to the Garden of Eden
  • Malach HaMavet (translation: the angel of death)
  • HaSatan (translation: the prosecutor), brings people's sins before them in the heavenly court
  • Chayot HaKodesh (translation: the holy beasts)
  • Ophanim (translation: arbits) Astrological Influence
  • HaMerkavah (translation: the chariot), transports God's glory

Early Christians inherited Jewish understandings of angels. In the early stage, the Christian concept of an angel characterized the angel as a messenger of God. Angels are creatures of good, spirits of love, and messengers of the savior Jesus Christ. Later came identification of individual angelic messengers: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, and Lucifer. Then, in the space of little more than two centuries (from the third to the fifth) the image of angels took on definite characteristics both in theology and in art.

By the late fourth century, the Church Fathers agreed that there were different categories of angels, with appropriate missions and activities assigned to them. Some theologians had proposed that Jesus was not divine but on the level of immaterial beings subordinate to the Trinity. The resolution of this Trinitarian dispute included the development of doctrine about angels.

The angels are represented throughout the Christian Bible as a body of spiritual beings intermediate between God and men: "You have made him (man) a little less than the angels..." (Psalms 8:4,5). Some Christians believe that angels are created beings, and use the following passage as evidence: "praise ye Him, all His angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts... for He spoke and they were made. He commanded and they were created..." (Psalms 148:2-5; Colossians 1:16). The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) declared that the angels were created beings. The Council's decree Firmiter credimus (issued against the Albigenses) declared both that angels were created and that men were created after them. The First Vatican Council (1869) repeated this declaration in Dei Filius, the "Dogmatic constitution on the Catholic faith". Of note is that the bible describes the function of angels as "messengers" and does not indicate when the creation of angels occurred.

Many Christians regard angels as asexual and not belonging to either gender as they interpret Matthew 22:30 in this way. Angels are on the other hand usually described as looking like male human beings. Their names are also masculine. And although angels have greater knowledge than men, they are not omniscient, as Matthew 24:36 points out. Another view is that angels are sent into this world for testing, in the form of humans.

The New Testament includes a number of interactions and conversations between angels and humans. For instance, three separate cases of angelic interaction deal with the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. In Luke 1:11, an angel appears to Zechariah to inform him that he will have a child despite his old age, thus proclaiming the birth of John the Baptist And in Luke 1:26 the archangel Gabriel visits the Virgin Mary in the Annunciation to foretell the birth of Jesus Christ. Angels then proclaim the birth of Jesus in the Adoration of the shepherds in Luke 2:10. Angels also appear later in the New Testament. In Luke 22:43 an angel comforts Jesus Christ during the Agony in the Garden. In Matthew 28:5 an angel speaks at the empty tomb, following the Resurrection of Jesus and the rolling back of the stone by angels. Hebrews 13:2 reminds the reader that they may "entertain angels unaware".

Since the completion of the New Testament, the Christian tradition has continued to include a number of reported interactions with angels. For instance, in 1851 Pope Pius IX approved the Chaplet of Saint Michael based on the 1751 private revelation from archangel Michael to the Carmelite nun Antonia d'Astonac. And Pope John Paul II emphasized the role of angels in Catholic teachings in his 1986 address titled "Angels Participate In History Of Salvation", in which he suggested that modern mentality should come to see the importance of angels.

As recently as the 20th century, visionaries and mystics have reported interactions with, and indeed dictations from, angels. For instance, the bed-ridden Italian writer and mystic Maria Valtorta wrote The Book of Azariah based on "dictations" that she directly attributed to her guardian angel Azariah, discussing the Roman Missal used for Sunday Mass in 1946 and 1947. 21st century mystic and medium Danielle Egnew is referenced in Steve Barney’s book The Sacred and the Profane as a prominent example of modern day communication with angels, during which Egnew reports channeled angelic messages of individual assistance as well as future world events such as 2012.

The earliest known Christian image of an angel, in the Cubicolo dell'Annunziazione in the Catacomb of Priscilla, which is dated to the middle of the third century, is without wings. Representations of angels on sarcophagi and on objects such as lamps and reliquaries of that period also show them without wings,[28] as for example the angel in the Sacrifice of Isaac scene in the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus. However, the side view photos of the Sarcophagus show winged angelic figures.

The earliest known representation of angels with wings is on what is called the Prince's Sarcophagus, discovered at Sarigüzel, near Istanbul, in the 1930s, and attributed to the time of Theodosius I (379-395).

Saint John Chrysostom explained the significance of angels' wings: "They manifest a nature's sublimity. That is why Gabriel is represented with wings. Not that angels have wings, but that you may know that they leave the heights and the most elevated dwelling to approach human nature. Accordingly, the wings attributed to these powers have no other meaning than to indicate the sublimity of their nature."

From then on, though of course with some exceptions, Christian art represented angels with wings, as in the cycle of mosaics in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major (432–440). Four- and six-winged angels, often with only their face and wings showing, drawn from the higher grades of angels, especially cherubim and seraphim, are derived from Persian art, and are usually shown only in heavenly contexts, as opposed to performing tasks on earth. They often appear in the pendentives of domes or semi-domes of churches.

Angels, especially the Archangel Michael, who were depicted as military-style agents of God came to shown wearing Late Antique military uniform. This could be either the normal military dress, with a tunic to about the knees, armour breastplate and pteruges, but also often the specific dress of the bodyguard of the Byzantine Emperor, with a long tunic and the loros, a long gold and jewelled pallium restricted to the Imperial family and their closest guards. The basic military dress is still worn in pictures into the Baroque period and beyond in the West (see Reni picture above), and up to the present day in Eastern Orthodox icons. Other angels came to be conventionally depicted in long robes, and in the later Middle Ages they often wear the vestments of a deacon, a cope over a dalmatic, especially Gabriel in Annunciation scenes—for example the Annunciation in Washington by Jan van Eyck.

Islam is clear on the nature of angels in that they are messengers of God. They have no free will, and can do only what God orders them to do. Angels mentioned in the Quran and Hadith include Gabriel (the angel of revelation), Michael (Brings food), Israfel (The horn Blower; signals of the end), Izraail/Azrael ( the angel of death.), Raqib (Writes good doings), Aatid (Writes bad doings), Maalik (Guardian of Hell), Ridwan (Guardian of Heaven), Munkar and Nakir (Interrogater afterlife).

Angels can take on different forms. The Islamic prophet Muhammad, speaking of the magnitude of the angel Gabriel, has said that his wings spanned from the Eastern to the Western horizon. Also, in Islamic tradition, angels used to take on human form.

The following is a Quranic verse that mentions the meeting of an angel with Mary, mother of Jesus: 
Surah Aal ‘Imran Chapter 3 verse 45
Behold! The angels said: O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name is the Christ Eisa the son of Mariam, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those Nearest to God.
– [Al-Qur’an 3:45]
The 13th century Persian Islamic Sufi mystic poet Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi wrote in his poem Masnavi:
I died as inanimate matter and arose a plant,
I died as a plant and rose again an animal.
I died as an animal and arose a man.
Why then should I fear to become less by dying?
I shall die once again as a man
To rise an angel perfect from head to foot!
Again when I suffer dissolution as an angel,
I shall become what passes the conception of man!
Let me then become non-existent, for non-existence
Sings to me in organ tones, {'To him shall we return.'}
Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, referred to angels as people who through the love of God have consumed all human limitations and have been endowed with spiritual attributes.

`Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son, defined angels as "those holy souls who have severed attachment to the earthly world, who are free from the fetters of self and passion and who have attached their hearts to the divine realm and the merciful kingdom".

Furthermore, he said that people can be angels in this world:
"Ye are the angels, if your feet be firm, your spirits rejoiced, your secret thoughts pure, your eyes consoled, your ears opened, your breasts dilated with joy, and your souls gladdened, and if you arise to assist the Covenant, to resist dissension and to be attracted to the Effulgence!"
In Zoroastrianism there are different angel-like figures. For example, each person has one guardian angel, called Fravashi. They patronize human beings and other creatures, and also manifest God’s energy. The Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, although they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they initially appear in an abstract fashion and then later became personalized, associated with diverse aspects of the divine creation.

In Hinduism, the term deva is sometimes translated as "angel" (besides "god" or "deity").But essentially deva is not an angel. Instead deva is the embodiment of a natural element with explicit manifestation in physical realms. Angels are usually translated as Gandharvas and apsaras and also as cārana from Sanskrit. See: Srimad Bhagavatam 3.10.28-29

In Sikhism, the references to angelic or divine deities is often objected as the religion focuses on the liberation of the soul and ultimately joining with Waheguru. However, in early scriptures written by Guru Nanak Dev Ji indicate specific heavenly deities to help in the judgment of the soul.
Azrael (as Azraa-eel) is named as the angel of death in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture and the final Guru of the Sikhs.

In So Dar and Raag Asa Sat Guru Nanak mentions clearly two beings Chitar and Gupat who record the deeds of men. These beings are Angels assigned with this Divine task by the Creator. Chitar records the deeds that are visible to all and Gupat records that which is hidden in thought or secret action. Their names themselves allude to the tasks which the All Mighty has bestowed upon them. The celestial beings are often seen at the gates of heaven, dressed in the most adorned and decorated gowns, holding the records on the actions and feelings of the soul in the line for judgement.

In the teachings of Theosophy, Devas are regarded as living either in the atmospheres of the planets of the solar system (Planetary Angels) or inside the Sun (Solar Angels) (presumably other planetary systems and stars have their own angels) and they help to guide the operation of the processes of nature such as the process of evolution and the growth of plants; their appearance is reputedly like colored flames about the size of a human. It is believed by Theosophists that devas can be observed when the third eye is activated. Some (but not most) devas originally incarnated as human beings.
It is believed by Theosophists that nature spirits, elementals (gnomes, undines, sylphs, and salamanders), and fairies can be also be observed when the third eye is activated. It is maintained by Theosophists that these less evolutionarily developed beings have never been previously incarnated as humans; they are regarded as being on a separate line of spiritual evolution called the “deva evolution”; eventually, as their souls advance as they reincarnate, it is believed they will incarnate as devas.

It is asserted by Theosophists that all of the above mentioned beings possess etheric bodies that are composed of etheric matter, a type of matter finer and more pure that is composed of smaller particles than ordinary physical plane matter.

A 2002 study based on interviews with 350 people, mainly in the UK, who said they have had an experience of an angel, describes several types of such experiences: visions, sometimes with multiple witnesses present; auditions, e.g. to convey a warning; a sense of being touched, pushed, or lifted, typically to avert a dangerous situation; and pleasant fragrance, generally in the context of somebody's death. In the visual experiences, the angels described appear in various forms, either the "classical" one (human countenance with wings), in the form of extraordinarily beautiful or radiant human beings, or as beings of light.

In the US, a 2008 survey by Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion, which polled 1,700 respondents, found that 55 percent of Americans, including one in five of those who say they are not religious, believe that they have been protected by a guardian angel during their life. An August 2007 Pew poll found that 68 percent of Americans believe that "angels and demons are active in the world", and according to four different polls conducted in 2009, a greater percentage of Americans believe in angels (55%) than those who believe in global warming (36%).
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