Angel (chr.)

 Citation link: Angel (chr.)  

(Turk. Melek)

a) General

An angel (from the Greek angelos = messenger) refers to a being that is purely spiritual in nature and yet created by God. Their mission consists primarily in service as messengers providing aid and meting out punishment on God’s behalf, while reflecting His glory in the form of a heavenly royal court, as it were (cf. 1 Kings 22.19‑22; Lk 2.13; Mt 26.53). In their capacity as messengers, angels can also assume  corporeal (or seemingly corporeal) form – a form, though, that is not intrinsic to their nature and can disappear just as quickly as it appears. Christian views of angels are heavily co-determined by ancient Eastern and pagan influences, and by Greek philosophy, with its penchant for the establishment of hierarchies (Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, who lived around 500 CE). Nevertheless, angels are assigned a specific significance in the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament, the notion of the angel offers a way of explaining divine efficaciousness down through history in spite of, and while maintaining, His absolute transcendence. Under this view, God can appear directly, through an intermediary, or in the company of angels. The New Testament emphasises that any impact of angels down through the history of salvation has been Christologically mediated, i.e. originally effectuated by Christ: The glorified Jesus Christ far exceeds all of the angels, who are only His servants (Hebr 1.14 and 2.16). Angels should be merely revered, but not worshiped as God or Jesus Christ. Accordingly, exaggerated forms of piety towards angels must be rejected.

Martin Thurner

b) Archangel

(Turk. Büyük Melekler)

Archangels constitute the highest class of angels in the heavenly royal court (cf. Gen 28.12; 32.2; Ps 104; 148; Job 1 f.). The first documented use of the term is found in the Greek Book of Enoch 20.7 and in 1 Thess 4.16; Jud 9. Angels are envisaged as numinous, intermediate beings with person-like qualities; their function as messengers of God and as interpreters of visions distinguishes them from other hybrid creatures, such as spirits, demons, cherubim and seraphim. There are three angels mentioned by name in the Old Testament: Gabriel, Michael and Raphael. The origins of the Old Testament conception of the archangel are obscure. The conception was not drawn up until the intertestamental period. The archangels stand before God and behold His countenance (cf. e.g. Book of Jubilees 2.18; Ethiopian Book of Enoch 40.9; Testament of Levi 3.5,7). The point of departure here is from either four or seven archangels. The archangels mentioned are these: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sariel, Gabriel and Remiel (Greek Book of Enoch 20.7). Both traditions occur in the New Testament as well (cf. e.g. 1 Thess 4.16; Rev 1.4,20; 6.1‑8; 7.1 f.; 8.2‑11,19; 15.1‑16.21), though only two angels are mentioned there by name: Michael and Gabriel (Jud 9; Rev 12.7; Lk 1.19,26). Angels are subordinate to Christ as a matter of principle; they are viewed as creatures like human beings (Col 1 f.), and there are express polemics against worship of them.

The theological significance of the angels as messengers of God, passing His orders along, consists in the illustration of the abundance of being of the one, transcendent God, who does not simply rule over a dead and meek world.

Gabriel means ‘Man of God’ (Dan 8.15 f.; cf. 9.21). In the Old Testament, he is presented as the angel who interprets various visions by Daniel; only in post-Old Testament literature does he advance to the status of archangel or prince. In the New Testament, he announces the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus (Lk 1).

The archangel Michael (= Who is like unto God?) is already considered the prince of angels in the Old Testament (Dan 10.13,21; 12.1). In post-Old Testament literature, he is the angel of Israel, representing Israel before the throne of God (Ethiopian Book of Enoch 20.5) and keeping the heavenly accounts (Ethiopian Book of Enoch 69.14‑16; 89.61‑63). In the New Testament, he leads the host of angels in battle against Satan and his angels (Jud 9; Rev 12.7‑9).

The archangel Raphael (= God heals) is introduced in the Book of Tobit as one of the seven holy angels (Tob 12.1). His God-given mission consists in the provision of protection and escort, but above all in healing.

The archangel Uriel (= God is my light) is mentioned only in extra-Biblical literature. As lord over Heaven’s light, he issues astronomical directions (Ethiopian Book of Enoch 72‑82), shatters the locks of the underworld and guides the spirits of the dead to the Judgement of God (Apocalypse of Peter 4.12).

Martin Arneth

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