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This article is about the supernatural being. For other uses, see Angel (disambiguation).

A Gothic angel in ivory, c1250, LouvreAn angel is a supernatural being found in many religions. In Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, angels, as attendants or guardians to man, typically act as messengers from God. In some cultures, they are believed to be the most powerful type of fairy.

Contents [hide]
1 Etymology
2 Angelology
3 Angels in Zoroastrianism
4 Angels in the Tanakh
4.1 Appearance of angels
4.2 Purpose
5 Jewish views
5.1 Maimonides and rationalism
6 Christian views
6.1 New Testament references
6.2 Theological development
6.3 Depiction in art
7 Islamic views
8 Latter-day Saint views
9 Gender of angels
10 Other religions
10.1 Bahá'í
10.2 Hinduism
10.3 Thelema
11 Angels as a development step of the soul
12 See also
13 References
14 Bibliography
15 External links

[edit] Etymology
Look up angel in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.The English word came from Latin angelus, which came from Greek ἄγγελος, ángelos, meaning "messenger". The closest Hebrew word for angel is מלאך‎, mal'ach Hebrew word #4397 in Strong's, also meaning "messenger". "Angel" is also used in the English version of the Bible for these three Hebrew words:...

אביר‎, abbir Hebrew word #47 in Strong's, Psalms 78:25 (lit. "mighty")
אלהים‎, Elohim Hebrew word #430 in Strong's, Psalms 8:5
the obscure שנאן‎, shin'an Hebrew word #8136 in Strong's, in Psalms 68:17

[edit] Angelology
Angelology (from Greek: ἄγγελος, 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,[1] where it is one of the ten major branches of theology, albeit a neglected one.[2]

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.[3] [4]

It is believed that Zoroastrianism had an influence on Jewish angelology,[5] 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.[6] 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;[7] comparing Satan to Angra Mainyu (also known as Ahriman) of Zoroastrian faith,[8] who was the arch-enemy of Ahura Mazda, the supreme Universal God of mankind.[9] 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.[10]

In early Hebrew thought, God appears and speaks directly to individuals (Gn. 3:8, Ex. 12:1). He also intervenes in human affairs, often acting violently and punitively (Gn. 22:ff.; Ex. 4:24, 14:4; 2Sm. 24:1: Ps.78 :31ff.) God's savage nature reflects the mores of a nomadic, conquering tribe whose morality was based on ritual and taboo. Under the influence the prophets and postexilic writers under influnece of Zoroastrianism, these earlier conceptions were revised to reflect an ethic based on social justice. A new theodicy explained evil without directly implicating God. As the result, God became both more distant and more merciful. Angels and demons replaced him in his encounters with men, and Satan assumed his destructive powers (cf. 2 Sm. 24:1 with 1 Chr. 21:1)[3].

[edit] Angels in Zoroastrianism
Main article: Zoroastrian angelology
In Zoroastrianism there are different angel-like creatures. For example, each person has a guardian angel, called Fravashi. They patronize human beings and other creatures, and also manifest God’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels (they don't convey messages), but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...).

[edit] Angels in the Tanakh

Gothic revival angel in a cemetery in Metairie, Louisiana.The Biblical name for angel, מלאך ("mal'ach"), obtained the further signification of "angel" only through the addition of God's name, as "angel of the Lord," or "angel of God" (Zechariah 12:8). Other appellations are "Sons of God", (Genesis 6:4; Job 1:6 [R. V. v. 1]) and "the Holy Ones" (Psalms 89:6-8).

According to Jewish interpretation, 'Elohim is almost entirely reserved for the one true God; but at times 'Elohim (powers), bnēi 'Elohim, bnēi Elim (sons of gods) (i.e. members of the class of divine beings) were general terms for beings with great power (i.e. judges or alternately, some kind of super powerful human beings). Hence they came to be used collectively of super-human beings, distinct from God and, therefore, inferior and ultimately subordinate (e.g. Genesis 6:2; Job 1:6; Psalms 8:5). See also: Names of God in Judaism

Angels are referred to as "holy ones" Zechariah 14:5 and "watchers" Daniel 4:13. They are spoken of as the "host of heaven" Deuteronomy 17:3 or of "Adonai" Joshua 5:14. The "hosts," צבאות Tzevaot in the title Adonai Tzevaot (alternatively, Adonai Tzivo'ot), Lord of Hosts, were probably at one time identified with the angels. The identification of the "hosts" with the stars comes to the same thing; the stars were thought of as being closely connected with angels. However, God is very jealous of the distinction between Himself and angels, and consequently, the Hebrews were forbidden by Moses to worship the "host of heaven". It is probable that the "hosts" were also identified with the armies of Israel, whether this army is human, or angelic. The New Testament often speaks of "spirits," πνεύματα (Revelation 1:4).

Prior to the emergence of monotheism in Israel the idea of an angel was the Malach Adonai, Angel of the Lord, or Malach Elohim, Angel of God. The Malach Adonai is an appearance or manifestation of God in the form of a man, and the term Malach Adonai is used interchangeably with Adonai (God). (cf. Exodus 3:2, with 3:4; Exodus 13:21 with Exodus 14:19). Those who see the Malach Adonai say they have seen God (Genesis 32:30; Judges 13:22). The Malach Adonai (or Elohim) appears to Abraham, Hagar, Moses, Gideon, &c., and leads the Israelites in the Pillar of Cloud (Exodus 3:2). The phrase Malach Adonai may have been originally a courtly circumlocution for the Divine King; but it readily became a means of avoiding anthropomorphism, and later on, when angels were classified, the Malach Adonai meant an angel of distinguished rank. The identification of the Malach Adonai with the Logos, or Second Person of the Trinity, is not indicated by the references in the Hebrew scriptures; but the idea of a Being partly identified with God, and yet in some sense distinct from him, illustrates a tendency of Jewish religious thought to distinguish persons within the unity of the deity. Christians think that this foreshadows the doctrine of the Trinity, whereas Kabbalist Jews would show how it developed into kabbalistic theological thought and imagery.

In earlier literature the Malach Adonai or Elohim is almost the only angel mentioned. However, there are a few passages which speak of subordinate superhuman beings other than the Malach Adonai or Elohim. There are the cherubim who guard the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 18, Genesis 19. (J) the appearance of God to Abraham and Lot is connected with three, afterwards two, men or messengers; but possibly in the original form of the story God appeared alone (Cf. 18:1 with 18:2, and note change of number in 19:17). At Bethel, Jacob sees the angels of God on the ladder Genesis 28:12, and later on they appear to him at Mahanaim Genesis 32:1. In all these cases the angels, like the Malach Adonai, are connected with or represent a theophany. Similarly the "man" who wrestles with Jacob at Peniel is identified with God (Genesis 32:24, 30). In Isaiah 6 the seraphim, superhuman beings with six wings, appear as the attendants of God. Thus, the pre-exilic literature rarely mentions angels, or other superhuman beings other than God and manifestations of God; the pre-exilic prophets hardly mention angels. An angel of 1 Kings 13:18 might be the Malach Adonai, as in 19:5, cf. 7, or the passage, at any rate in its present form, may be exilic or post-exilic. Nevertheless we may well suppose that polytheists in ancient Israel believed in superhuman beings other than God, but that the inspired writers have mostly suppressed references to them as unedifying.

Once the doctrine of monotheism was formally expressed, in the period immediately before and during the Exile (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Isaiah 43:10), we find angels prominent in the Book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel, as a prophet of the Exile, may have been influenced by the hierarchy of supernatural beings in the Babylonian religion, and perhaps even by the angelology of Zoroastrianism (it is not, however, certain that these doctrines of Zoroastrianism were developed at so early a date). Ezekiel 9 gives elaborate descriptions of cherubim (a class, or type of angels); and in one of his visions, he sees seven angels execute the judgment of God upon Jerusalem. As in Genesis, they are styled "men"; malach, for "angel", does not occur in Ezekiel. Somewhat later, in the visions of Zechariah, angels play a great part; they are sometimes spoken of as "men", sometimes as malach, and the Malach Adonai seems to hold a certain primacy among them Zechariah 1:11. The Satan also appears to prosecute (so to speak) the High Priest before the divine tribunal Zechariah 3:1. Similarly in the Book of Job the bnei Elohim, sons of God, appear as attendants of God, and amongst them, Satan (Hebrew ha-satan), again in the role of public prosecutor, the defendant being Job (Job 1, ...

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