Angelology (from Greek: aγγελος, angel, "angel"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge") is a branch of theology that deals with a hierarchical system of angels, messengers, celestial powers or emanations, and the study of these systems. It primarily relates to Kabbalistic Judaism and Christianity, where it is one of the ten major branches of theology, albeit a neglected one.
Many secular scholars believe that Judeo-Christianity owes a great debt to Zoroastrianism in regards to the introduction of angelology and demonology, as well as the fallen angel Satan as the ultimate agent of evil, comparing him to the evil spirit Ahriman. As the Iranian Avestan and Vedic traditions and also other branches of Indo-European mythologies show, the notion of demons had existed long before.
It is believed that Zoroastrianism had an influence on Jewish angelology,and therefore modern Christian angelology, due to the appearance of elements from Zoroastrianism in Judaism following Israel's extended contact with the Persian Empire while in exile in Babylon. Borrowed notions may include the introduction of Satan as a supreme head over the powers of evil (present mainly in Christian and Islamic theology), in contrast to God; comparing Satan to Angra Mainyu (also known as Ahriman) of Zoroastrian faith, who was the arch-enemy of Ahura Mazda, the supreme Universal God of mankind. Angels, some also believe, may have first been depicted as God's helpers in Zoroastrianism, and their hierarchy is comparable to modern Angelology's hierarchy.
Christian angelic hierarchy
The most influential of these classifications was that put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the Fourth or Fifth century, in his book "The Celestial Hierarchy". However, during the Middle Ages, many schemes were proposed, some drawing on and expanding on Pseudo-Dionysius, others suggesting completely different classifications (some authors limited the number of Choirs to seven). Several other hierarchies were proposed, some in nearly inverted order. Scholars of the Middle Ages believed that angels and archangels were lowest in the order because they were the most involved in the world of men and thus more susceptible to sin.
In The Celestial Hierarchy and in the Summa Theologica the Catholic Church theologians drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16 (considered by modern scholars to be very tentative and ambiguous sources in relation to the construction of such a schema), 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, the above mentioned theological works (which contain variations), and esoteric Christian teachings, the descending order of rank, appears to be:
- Ophanim (Thrones/Wheels)
- Thrones (Gr. thronos)
- Dominions (Gr. kuriotes)
- Principalities (Gr. arche)
- Powers (Gr. exousia)
The Seraphim (singular "Seraph"), mentioned in Isaiah 6:1Ч7 , serve as the caretakers of God's throne and continuously singing his praises: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. All the earth is filled with His Glory." It is said that they surround the throne of God, singing the music of the spheres and regulating the movement of the heavens as it emanates from God. It is also said that such a bright light emanates from them that nothing, not even other divine beings, can look upon them. It is said that there are four of them surrounding God's throne, where they burn eternally from love and zeal for God.
The Seraphim have six wings; two covering their face, two covering their feet, and two that they fly with.
Unlike other Seraphim who had six wings, Lucifer was featured to have twelve wings.
Names of Seraphim in various traditions:
Chamuel (Kemuel, Shemuel)
The Cherubim (singular "Cherub") are beyond the throne of God; they are the guardians of light and of the stars. It is believed that, although they are removed from man's plane of reality, the divine light that they filter down from Heaven still touches the lives of living things.
They have four faces: one of a man, ox, lion, and eagle. The ox-face is considered the "true face", as later on in Ezekiel the ox's face is called a cherub's face (Chapter 10.) They have eight conjoined wings covered with eyes, and they have ox's feet.
Cherubim are considered the elect beings for the purpose of protection. Cherubim guard Eden and the throne of God.
Their rank among angels is uncertain but they are always categorized in the First Sphere. Some believe them to be an order or class of angels; others hold them to be a class of heavenly beings higher than angels. Cherubim are said to have perfect knowledge of God, surpassed only by the love of the Seraphim.
The Cherubim are mentioned in Genesis 3:24; Ezekiel 10:17Ц20 ; and 1 Kings 6:23Ц28.
Names of Cherubim in various traditions:
The Ophanim (Heb. owphan: Wheels, also known as Thrones, from the vision of Daniel 7:9) are unusual looking compared to the other celestial beings; They appear as a beryl-coloured wheel-within-a-wheel, their rims covered with hundreds of eyes.
They are closely connected with the Cherubim: "When they moved, the others moved; when they stopped, the others stopped; and when they rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures [Cherubim] was in the wheels." (Ezekiel 10:17). In Esoteric Christianity they are called Lords of Flame.
De Coelesti Hierarchia refers the Thrones (from the Old Testament; Ezekiel and Daniel visions of the Thrones/Weels) as the third Order of the first sphere, corresponding to the description of the Ophanim; the other two superior orders being the Cherubim and Seraphim. The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception refers that the "Lords of the Flame", the Hierarchy of Elohim astrologically assigned to Leo, are the Thrones "because of the brilliant luminosity of their bodies and their great spiritual powers.", corresponding also to the description of the Ophanim; the other two superior hierarchies being also the Cherubim and Seraphim. According to this esoteric Christian teachings, these three Hierarchies have already reached liberation, thus no longer active in the work of evolution.
Names of Ophanim in various traditions:
Main article: Thrones
The Thrones (Gr. thronos) 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. 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.
The Thrones 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. According to this source, the Lords of Wisdom (here equated with the Thrones; thronos) and the higher Lords of the Flame (Thrones/Wheels: Ophanim) have worked together in a far past toward the development of mankind.
The Dominions, also known as the Hashmallim hold the task of regulating the duties of lower angels. They are responsible for ensuring that the cosmos remains in order. It is only with extreme rarity that the angelic lords make themselves physically known to mortals. Instead, they quietly concern themselves with the details of existence. They are also the angels who preside over nations.
The Dominions are believed to resemble unnaturally beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of Angels, but they are physically characterized from other groups as wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their sceptres or on the pommel of their swords.
The Dominions may possibly be equated with the Lords of Individuality, a Hierarchy of Elohim astrologically associated to Libra, presented in The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. They inhabit, in Rosicrucian cosmology, the World of Life Spirit, which is the home of Christ, The Son.
The Principalities (Gr. arche) are shown wearing a crown and carrying a sceptre. They lie beyond the group of archangels. They are the guardian angels of nations and countries, and are concerned with the issues and events surrounding these, including politics, military matters, commerce and trade. One of their duties is to choose who amongst living things will rule.
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. 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.
The Principalities may possibly be equated with the Lords of Form, a Hierarchy of Elohim astrologically associated to Scorpio, presented in The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. They inhabit, in Rosicrucian cosmology, the Worl of Thought in the Region of Abstract Throught (higher region), which is the home of Jehova, The Holy Spirit.
The Powers (Gr. exousia) are the bearers of conscience and the keepers of history. The angels of birth and death are Powers. They are academically driven and are concerned with ideology, philosophy, theology, religion, and documents pertaining to those studies. Powers are the brain trusts: a group of experts who serve as advisers and policy planners. They are also the warrior angels created to be completely loyal to God, thus the only order created after the fall. Some believe that no Powers have ever fallen from Grace but others say that not only have some of them Fallen, the Devil was believed to have been the Chief of the Powers before he Fell (see also Ephesians 6:12) Their duty is to oversee the distribution of power among mankind, hence their name.
The Powers may possibly be equated with the Lords of Mind, a Hierarchy of Elohim astrologically associated to Sagittarius, presented in The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. They inhabit, in Rosicrucian cosmology, the Worl of Thought in the Region of Concrete Throught (lower region), which is the location of the human mind.
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.
The word archangel comes from the Greek αρχάγγελος (archaggělǒs), meaning chief angel. It derives from the Greek archō, meaning to be first in political rank or power; and aggělǒs which means messenger. This suggests that they are the highest ranking angels. The word is only used twice in the Bible: 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 1:9. Only Michael and Gabriel are mentioned by name in the Holy Bible.
Michael is the only angel the Bible names expressly as an archangel. In Daniel he is referred to as 'one of the chief princes'. The word 'prince' here is the ancient Hebrew word sar, which means: "a head person (of any rank or class), a chief, a general etc."
In most Christian traditions Gabriel is also considered an archangel, but there is no direct literal support for this assumption.
The name of the archangel Raphael appears only in the Deuterocanonical Book of Tobit (Tobias). Tobit is considered canonical by Catholics, Orthodox and some Protestants. Raphael said to Tobias that he was "one of the seven who stand before the Lord", and it is generally believed that Michael and Gabriel are two of the other seven. Another possible interpretation of the 'seven' is that the seven are the seven spirits of God that stand before the throne.
The Angels are the lowest order of the angels, and the most familiar to men. They are the ones most concerned with the affairs of living things. Within the category of angels, there are many different kinds, with different functions. The angels are sent as messengers to men.
Jewish angelic hierarchy
Maimonides, in his Yad ha-Chazakah: Yesodei ha-Torah, counts ten ranks of angels in the Jewish angelic hierarchy, beginning from the highest:
Rank Angel Notes
1 Chayot Ha Kadesh
3 Erelim (Isaiah 33:7)
4 Hashmallim (Ezekiel 1:4)
6 Malakhim: Messengers, angels
7 Elohim "Godly beings"
8 Bene Elohim "Sons of Godly beings"
9 Cherubim (Talmud Hagigah 13b)
10 Ishim "manlike beings" (see Daniel 10:5)
Kabbalistic angelic hierarchy
According to the Kabbalah as described by the Golden Dawn there are ten archangels, each commanding one of the choir of angels and corresponding to one of the Sephirot. It is similar to the Jewish angelic hierarchy.
Rank Choir of Angels Translation Archangel Sephirah
1 Chayot Ha Kadesh Living Ones Metatron Keter
2 Ophanim Wheels Raziel Chokmah
3 Erelim Thrones Tzaphkiel Binah
4 Hashmallim Brilliant Ones Tzadkiel Chesed
5 Seraphim Fiery Serpents Khamael Gevurah
6 Malakhim Messengers, angels Raphael Tipheret
7 Elohim Godly Beings Haniel Netzach
8 Bene Elohim Sons of Godly Beings Michael Hod
9 Cherubim Strong Ones Gabriel Yesod
10 Ishim Souls of Fire Sandalphon Malkuth
Islamic angelic hierarchy
Angels are intangible, sentient entities, who do not posses free will. They were created for the sole purpose of serving God. Being made of light, they can assume almost any form, completely real to the human eye, and traverse a distance just as fast as light or faster.
While Iblis did disobey God, was expelled from Heaven, and became the avowed enemy of man, he was a Jinn not an angel, which is not angelic in any way, since they are made of smokeless fire, not light, have free-will, and can disobey or openly defy God.
There is no standard hierarchical organization in Islam that parallels the division into different "choirs" or spheres, as hypothesised and drafted by early medieval Christian theologians. Most Islamic scholars agree that this is an unimportant topic in Islam, especially since such a topic has never been directly mentioned or addressed in the Qur'an. However, it is clear that there is a set order or hierarchy that exists between Angels, defined by the assigned jobs and various tasks to which angels are commanded by God.
The general consensus agrees that Archangels are the highest order of Angels, as those are the ones named the most in the Qur'an (Gabriel, Michael, etc.); these are considered to be closest to God in terms of servitude, as their meaning and purpose is more detailed than any other angel.
There are four Archangels whom Muslims are required to acknowledge as part of their conversion to Islam. (Due to varied methods of translation from Arabic and the fact that these Angels also exist in Christian contexts and the Bible, several of their Christian and phonetic transliteral names are listed.)
Jibrail (OR Jibraaiyl OR Jibril OR Gabriel in English and the Bible). Jibra'il is the Archangel responsible for revealing the Qur'an to Muhammad, verse by verse. Jibra'il is known as the angel who communicates with (all of) the Prophets that Muslims accept. He is mentioned specifically in the Qur'an.
(Angel of Death)[ often mistakenly called "Azrael", which is not mentioned in Quran or Hadith]: The Angel of Death who along with his helpers is responsible for parting the soul of the human from the body. The actual process of separating the soul from the body depends on the person's history or record of good or bad deeds. If the human was a bad person in life, the soul is ripped out very painfully. But if the human was a righteous person, then the soul is separated like a 'drop of water dripping from glass'. It is also noted that The Angel of Death will look like a terrifying beast or demon for the souls of bad people and will look like 'the most pleasant sight' when he comes for the souls of good people.
Mikail (OR Mikaaiyl OR Michael). Michael is the Archangel charged with bringing thunder and lightning onto the Earth. He is also responsible for the rewards doled out to good persons in this life. This archangel was mentioned in Qur'an.
Israfil (OR Israafiyl OR Raphael). According to the Hadith, Israfil is the Angel responsible for signalling the coming of Judgment Day by blowing a horn and sending out a Blast of Truth. It translates to Hebrew as Raphael. The blowing of the trumpet is described in many places in Quran. It is said that the first blow will destroy everything [Qur'an 69:13], while the second blow will bring all human beings back to life again [Qur'an 36:51].