Friday, January 06, 2012

Supernatural Friday: Angels-Part 1

In 2011 I blogged about demons. Today, for the first Supernatural Friday of the year, it will be about angels. That's not to say I won't talk about Lucifer/Satan or any of his dark angel followers, which are demons, as they too, are angels. Today's subject will be angels in Christianity. Check back next week, for angels in other religions.

Angels in Christianity are pure spirits created by God. The Old Testament theology included the belief in angels: the name applied to certain spiritual beings or intelligences of heavenly residence, employed by God as the ministers of His will.

The Hebrew and Greek words for angel originally meant messenger. Depending on the context, it could refer either to a human messenger (possibly a prophet or priest, such as Malachi, "my messenger", but also for more mundane characters, as in the Greek superscription that the Book of Malachi was written "by the hand of his messenger"  or to a supernatural messenger, such as the "Mal'akh YHWH," who is either a messenger from God, an aspect of God (such as the Logos), or God Himself as the messenger (the "theophanic angel.") The prophet Malachi took his name from this word, as he was supposed to be a messenger, and he prophesied about the coming of "the messenger of the covenant", Jesus Christ (Malachi 3:1).

The theological study of angels is known as angelology. In art, angels are often depicted with wings; perhaps reflecting the descriptions in Revelation 4:6-8 -- of the Four Living Creatures (τὰ τέσσαρα ζῷα) and the descriptions in the Hebrew Bible—of cherubim and seraphim (the chayot in Ezekiel's Merkabah vision and the Seraphim of Isaiah). However, while cherubim and seraphim have wings in the Bible, no angel is mentioned as having wings. Philosophically, angels are "pure contingent spirits.

Besides Dominionations, Thrones, and Archangels, the Old Testament specifically mentions two others, Seraphim and Cherubim. It was said that God bestowed upon angels great wisdom, freedom, and power. Both the New Testament and Old Testament refer also to the fallen angels. The Temptation of Adam and Eve presupposes the existence of bad spirits or demons who were cast into Hell from which they have no hope of redemption. And yet, they have been said to try to tempt us, seducing us to do wicked deeds.

In Christianity, angels are said to be spiritual or bodiless persons. These spiritual beings comprise the celestial court and according to the Bible, they carry out missions at God's command. In order to complete these missions, they have at times assume bodily form. According to the Bible, their missions are sometimes of great importance. Unlike us, they are non-bodily creatures, their response to God's love did not require time and reflection to grow and mature, so they can respond to God with love and bliss. 
Jesus Christ was reported saying that angels (children or "sons" of God) live forever and are of one gender. Supposecly, so that those called "sons and daughters" (humankind?) of God when he returned will be allowed to live forever and not marry. "They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God. being the children of the resurrection." (Luke 20:35.36)

There were angels in Christianity, are said that because of their pride, did not return God's love. God did not destroy them, but put them in the pit, or Hell. These are the Fallen Angel, or demons or dark angels. The head of these was Lucifer, or sometimes called Satan.

Only occasionally are angels given names. Michael, the archangel, was "the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people (Israel)" (Daniel 12:1). Of the most significant of angelic appearances, came from the angel named Gabriel. He was sent twice to the prophet Daniel. On the second occasion Daniel was at prayer, and Gabriel, "being caused to fly swiftly, touched me ... and talked with me" and proceeded to prophesy the date of the first coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Daniel 9:21-27).  Gabriel appeared again, first to Zacharias, the priest while on duty in the temple, and six months later to Mary, Jesus' mother. The angel proclaimed to Zacharias,  "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God: and am sent to speak unto thee" (Luke 1:19). His mission tp Zacharias was to announce the miraculous birth of John the Baptist. Gabriel told Mary that she had found favour with God, and she would be the mother of the expected Messiah. Gabriel told her that she would conceive through the power of the Holy Spirit and her son would be Jesus, the Saviour, and he would be the Son of God and would occupy the royal throne of David (Luke 1:26-33). Joseph, her husband-to-be, also received angelic messages advising him what he must do in this unique situation, since he and Mary were not married at the time but betrothed and he, of course, was not her unborn child's father.

Identification of archangels, besides Gabriel and Michael also include Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Remiel and Saraqael. While this today is non-canonical in most Christian Churches, these angels' names were quoted in the New Testament and by many of the early Church Fathers. Many Christians regard angels and archangels as asexual, not belonging to either gender. And yet, angels are on the other hand have been described as looking like male human beings, hence the masculine names. Although angels have greater knowledge than men, they are not omniscient, as Matthew 24:36 points out in the Bible.


Hamel Moric said...

I love how people think that Cherubs are the cute chubby little angels that are usually depicted but in actuality are the front warriors and are actually quite frightening. I don't think people would have them in their houses if they were made as they actually are with four faces and two sets of wings.

Pamela K. Kinney said...

No, they wouldn't. But like fairies I find most people want them to be like Tinker bell, and yet in Disney's Peter pan she shows getting jealous and not all that good.

Kari Thomas said...

Wonderful post, Pam! I love reading about the many versions of Angels. Your research was very informative. Thanks for sharing!

Hugs, Kari Thomas,

Pamela K. Kinney said...

Glad you liked it, Kari.