The Bible uses the terms מלאך אלהים (mal'akh Elohim; messenger of God), מלאך יהוה (mal'akhAdonai; 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.
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 theheavenly 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, 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, 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 andJesus 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 Gabrielvisits 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, 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 theBasilica 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 thependentives 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, acope over a dalmatic, especially Gabriel in Annunciation scenes—for example the Annunciation in Washington byJan van Eyck.
The Latter Day Saint movement (generally called "Mormons") view angels as the messengers of God. They are sent to mankind to deliver messages, minister to humanity, teach doctrines of salvation, call mankind to repentance, give priesthood keys, save individuals in perilous times, and guide humankind.
Latter Day Saints believe that angels are former humans or the spirits of humans yet to be born, and accordingly Joseph Smith taught that "there are no angels who minister to this earth but those that do belong or have belonged to it." As such, Latter Day Saints also believe that Adam (the first man) is now the archangelMichael, and that Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah Likewise the Angel Moroni first lived in a pre-Columbian American civilization as the 5th-century prophet-warrior named Moroni.
Joseph Smith, Jr. described his first angelic encounter thus:
While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.
He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant....
Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me.
Most angelic visitations in the early Latter Day Saint movement were witnessed by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, who both claimed (prior to the establishment of the Church[when?]) to have been visited by the prophet Moroni, the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi, John the Baptist, and the Apostles Peter, James, and John. Later, at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Smith and Cowdery claimed to have been visited by Jesus, and subsequently by Moses, Elias, and Elijah.
People who claimed to have received a visit by an angel include the other two of the three witnesses: David Whitmer and Martin Harris. Many other Latter Day Saints, both in the early and modern church, have claimed to have seen angels, though Smith posited that, except in extenuating circumstances such as the restoration, mortals teach mortals, spirits teach spirits and resurrected beings teach other resurrected beings.