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The Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis

An archangel (pron.: /ˌɑrkˈnəl/) is an angel of high rank. Beings similar to archangels are found in a number of religious traditions; but the word "archangel" itself is usually associated with the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Michael and Gabriel are recognized as archangels in Judaism, Islam, and by most Christians. The Book of Tobit—recognized in the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, but considered apocryphal by Protestants—mentions Raphael, who is also considered to be an archangel. The archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are venerated in the Roman Catholic Church with a feast on September 29 (between 1921 and 1969 March 24 for Gabriel and 24 October for Raphael) and in Orthodox on November 21. The named archangels in Islam are Gabriel, Michael, Israfil and Azrael. Jewish literature such as the Book of Enoch mentions Metatron as an archangel, called the "highest of the angels" and the "heavenly scribe", though acceptance of this angel is not canonical in all branches of the faith. In Zoroastrianism, sacred texts allude to the six great Amesha Spenta (literally "divine sparks") of Ahura Mazda.

Some branches of the faiths mentioned have identified a group of seven Archangels, but the actual angels vary, depending on the source. Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael are always mentioned; the other archangels vary, but most commonly include Uriel as well, who is mentioned in the book 2 Esdras.

Most archangels are considered to be good angels. Satan, sometimes called Lucifer, is also considered an archangel, but one who has fallen from God's grace and is considered evil, leading fallen angels against God in the War in Heaven in the traditions in which such a concept exists.

The word archangel is derived from the Greek ἀρχάγγελος (arch- + angel, literally chief angel).[1]


In Judaism

Jacob wrestling with the Angel by Gustave Doré 1885

The Hebrew Bible uses the terms מלאכי אלוהים (malakhi Elohim; Angels of God),[2] "The Hebrew word for angel is "malach," which means messenger, for the angels are God's messengers to perform various missions." מלאכ י י (malakhi Adonai; Angels of the Lord),[3] בני אלוהים (b'nai elohim; sons of God) and הקדושים (ha-qodeshim; the holy ones) to refer to beings traditionally interpreted as angelic messengers. Other terms are used in later texts, such as העליונים (ha-elyonim, the upper ones, or the ultimate ones). Indeed, angels are uncommon except in later works such as the Book of Daniel, though they are mentioned briefly in the stories of Jacob (who, according to several interpretations, wrestled with an angel) and Lot (who was warned by angels of the impending destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah). Daniel is the first biblical figure to refer to individual angels by name.[4] It is therefore widely speculated that Jewish interest in angels developed during the Babylonian captivity.[5] According to Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish of Tiberias (230–270 AD), specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon.

There are no explicit references to archangels in the canonical texts of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). 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 the heavenly host, no systematic hierarchy ever developed. Metatron is considered one of the highest of the angels in Merkavah and Kabbalist mysticism and often serves as a scribe. He is briefly mentioned in the Talmud,[6] and figures prominently in Merkavah 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) and briefly in the Talmud,[7] as well as many Merkavah mystical texts. The earliest references to archangels are in the literature of the intertestamental periods (e.g., 4 Esdras 4:36).

Within the rabbinic tradition, the Kabbalah, chapter 20 of the Book of Enoch, and the Life of Adam and Eve, the usual number of archangels given is at least seven, who are the focal angels. Three higher archangels are also commonly referenced: Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. There is confusion about one of the following eight names, concerning which one listed is not truly an archangel.[clarification needed] They are: Uriel, Sariel, Raguel, and Remiel (possibly the Ramiel of the Apocalypse of Baruch, said to preside over true visions), Zadkiel, Jophiel, Haniel and Chamuel.[8] Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides made a Jewish angelic hierarchy.

In addition, traditional homes often sing a song of welcome to the angels before beginning Friday night (Shabbat) dinner. It is entitled Shalom Aleichem, meaning "peace onto you." This is based on a statement attributed to Rabbi Jose ben Judah that two angels accompany each worshiper home from the Friday evening synagogue service.[9] These angels are associated with the good inclination yetzir ha-tov and the evil inclination yetzir ha-ra.[10]

In Christianity

Guido Reni's Archangel Michael Trampling Satan, 1636.

The New Testament speaks frequently of angels (for example, angels giving messages to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds; angels ministering to Christ after his temptation in the wilderness, an angel visiting Christ in his agony, angels at the tomb of the risen Christ, the angels who liberate the Apostles Peter and Paul from prison); however, it uses the word "archangel" only twice: "When the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you'" (Jude 1:9); and "The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

In Christanity, whether in the Catholic or the Protestant Bible, the term "archangel" appears only twice: in Jude 1:9, where it is applied to Michael, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, where it is used generically or, according to Jehovah's Witnesses, of the Lord.

Roman Catholic

In Roman Catholicism, three are honoured by name:

The last-named of these identifies himself in Tobit 12:15 thus: "I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord." Of these seven "archangels", which appear in the angelology of post-Exilic Judaism, only the above three, Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, are mentioned in the Scriptures that the Catholic Church considers canonical. The others, according to the Book of Enoch, are Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jerahmeel, while from other apocryphal sources we get the variant names Izidkiel, Hanael, and Kepharel instead of the last three in the other list.[11] The Fourth Book of Esdras, which mentions the angel Uriel, was popular in the West and was frequently quoted by Church Fathers, especially Ambrose, but was never considered part of the biblical canon.[12]

Eastern Orthodox

Eastern Orthodox Tradition mentions "thousands of archangels;[13] however, only seven archangels are venerated by name.[14] Ariel is included, and the other three are most often named Selaphiel, Jegudiel, and Barachiel (an eighth, Jeremiel, is sometimes included as archangel).[15] The Orthodox Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers on November 8 of Stencyl the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar (for those churches which follow the Julian Calendar, November 8 falls on November 21 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). Other feast days of the Archangels include the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel on March 26 (April 8), and the Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Colossae on September 6 (September 19). In addition, every Monday throughout the year is dedicated to the Angels, with special mention being made in the church hymns of Michael and Gabriel. In Orthodox iconography, each angel has a symbolic representation:[15]

Russian icon of the Archangel Jegudiel.
Angelic Council (Ангелскй Собор). Orthodox icon of the seven archangels. From left to right: Jegudiel, Gabriel, Selaphiel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Barachiel. Beneath the mandorla of Christ-Emmanuel are representations of Cherubim (blue) and Seraphim (red).

In the canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, 1 Enoch describes Saraqael as one of the angels that watch over "the spirits that sin in the spirit." (20:7, 8).


The Protestant Bible provides names for two angels: "Michael the archangel" and the angel Gabriel, who is called "the man Gabriel" in Daniel 9:21. Protestants who reject the apocrypha view Michael as the sole archangel, since he is the only one explicitly described as such in the Bible in Jude 1:9. Gabriel is never called an archangel in the Bible.

Seventh-day Adventists hold that "Michael" and "archangel" are just other titles for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is not a created being but the Eternal Word of God, "very God of very God, of the same substance as the Father". They interpret Presbyterian Matthew Henry as supporting this view.[16]

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that there is only one archangel (Michael), based on the literal meaning of the Greek word ἀρχάγγελος: "chief angel". They also believe that the definite article at Jude 9 ("Michael the archangel") means there is only one archangel. Citing 1 Thessalonians 4:16, where Jesus is described as descending "with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet", they conclude that Michael is another name for Jesus in heaven.[17][18]

Latter Day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints interprets the term archangel as 'Chief Angel',[19] Michael is the only individual so-designated in the scriptures of the Latter Day Saints' canon. (Jude 1:9 KJV). It is believed that he is the head of all of the angels.[20] LDS doctrine also states that archangel Michael was the first man, Adam (D&C 128:20-21).[21]

Though no other being is identified as an "archangel," LDS doctrine states that the angel Gabriel was known in mortality as Noah [22] and the angel Raphael is a being of significant standing even though he has never been identified with any mortal prophet.[23]

In Islam

In Islam, the named archangels include:

In Zoroastrianism

An increasing number of experts in anthropology, theology and philosophy, believe that Zoroastrianism contains the earliest distillation of prehistoric belief in angels.[24]

Zoroastrians believe, that as a complex the Amesha Spentas constitute a holy heptad made up of God's (Ahura Mazda, Lord of Truth and Wisdom) most potent qualities. Simultaneously, they individually inhabit immortal bodies, that operate in the physical world, to protect guide and inspire humanity, and the spirit world. The formless aspect of the Amesha Spentas dual-functionality, might more easily be compared with Christianity's Holy Trinity or celestial Thrones but this in no way disqualifies them from being both divine hosts and archangelic archetypes. Along with tying up many other monotheist loose ends, the Avesta explains the origin and nature of archangels, most cohesively. Zarathustra taught that Ahura Mazda shone with such radiance that his own shadow became enraptured by his beauty. This caused a deviation from the complementary relationship between darkness and light.[citation needed]

To maintain equilibrium, Ahura Mazda engaged in the first act of creation, distinguishing his Holy Spirit Spenta Mainyu, the Archangel of righteousness. Ignorant of the harmonious balance between light and dark, the stray shadow-aspect Angra Mainyu chose to separate from spirit and challenge the one true God. Angra Mainyu introduced falsehood, disease, suffering and death. In continued response to his growing aggressor, Ahura Mazda distinguished from himself six more Amesha Spentas, who along with Spenta Mainyu, aided in the creation of the physical universe. Then he oversaw the development of sixteen lands, each imbibed with a unique cultural catalyst, calculated to encourage the formation of distinct human populations. The Amesha Spentas were charged with protecting these holy lands and through their emanation, also believed to align each respective population in service to God.[citation needed]

Zarathustra prophesied that Ahura Mazda orchestrated this guided transformation in order to demonstrate the supremacy of Asha, (Truth), beyond a shadow of a doubt. Angra Mainyu would sense no risk invading such seemingly helpless creatures as human beings. Yet through their decision to embrace 'Asha' over 'Drug' (falsehood), the universal demon could be trapped and forced to acknowledge his ignorance and deception. Only with human collaboration, could the Amesha Spentas defeat Angra Mainyu once and for all, returning darkness to its rightful place.[25]

Amesha Spenta (Phl. Amahraspandan) 'Beneficent Immortals', these spiritual beings constitute the formal differentiation of Ahura Mazda's greatest attributes.

Other traditions

Occultists sometimes associate archangels in Kabbalistic fashion with various seasons or elements, or even colors. In some Kabbalah-based systems of ceremonial magic, all four of the main archangels (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel) are invoked as guarding the four quarters, or directions, and their corresponding colors are associated with magical properties.[26] Lucifer or Sataniel in Judeo-Christian traditions, or Iblis in Islam, is considered an archangel by Satanists and many non-Satanists, but non-Satanists consider him evil and fallen from God's grace.

In anthroposophy, based on teachings by Rudolf Steiner, there are many spirits belonging to the hierarchical level of archangel. In general, their task is to inspire and guard large groups of human beings, such as whole nations, peoples or ethnic groups. This reflects their rank above the angels who deal with individuals (the guardian angel) or smaller groups.[27] In Steiner's view, the main seven archangels with the names given by the esoteric Christianism are Michael (Sun), Oriphiel (Saturn), Anael (Venus), Zachariel (Jupiter), Raphael (Mercury), Samael (Mars), Gabriel (Moon) have a special assignment to act as a global Zeitgeist ("time spirit" or, "spirit of the times/age"), each for periods of about 380 years.[28] According to this system, since 1879, Michael is the leading Time Spirit. Four important archangels also display periodic spiritual activity over the seasons: Spring is Raphael, Summer (Uriel), Autumn (Michael) and Winter (Gabriel). In anthroposophy, archangels may be good or evil; all beings who do not follow the cosmic evolution become a source of evil. Certain types of spiritual forces are beneficial during a specific period. In the following period, when another spiritual activity begins, early forces begin to be inappropriate; this is the birth of evil.

Another Catholic variation lists them corresponding to the days of the week as: St Michael (Sunday), St Gabriel (Monday), St Raphael (Tuesday), St Uriel (Wednesday), St Sealtiel/Selaphiel (Thursday), St Jehudiel/Jhudiel (Friday), and St Barachiel (Saturday).[citation needed]

In the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram,[29] the invocation includes the words "Before me Raphael; Behind me Gabriel; On my right hand Michael; On my left hand Auriel [Uriel]..."

In art, archangels are sometimes depicted with larger wings. Some of the more commonly represented archangels are Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel.[30]

See also


  1. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary
  2. ^ What Are Angels?
  3. ^ DEATH, ANGEL OF "the "destroying angel" ("mal'ak ha-mashḥit")" Jewish Encyclopedia
  4. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, accessed February 15, 2008
  5. ^ Judaism at HighBeam Encyclopedia, Section: The Postexilic Period
  6. ^ Sanhedrin 38b and Avodah Zarah 3b.
  7. ^ cf. Sanhedrin 95b
  8. ^ Metzger & Coogan (1993) Oxford Companion to the Bible, p54.
  9. ^ Tractate Shabbat 119b.
  10. ^ Shlomo Katz, Vayeitzei, Hamaayan/The Torah Spring, Vol XIII, No. 7 (Nov. 28, 1998).
  11. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia, "St. Raphael"
  12. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia, "Esdras"
  13. ^ anaphora, Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
  14. ^ The World of The Angels Holy Transfiguration Russian Orthodox Church, Baltimore MD
  15. ^ a b Nicholai Velimirovic, November 8 Prologe From Ochrid
  16. ^ SDAnet, "Questions on Doctrine: Christ, and Michael and Archangel"
  17. ^ Watchtower Official Website, "The Truth About Angels"
  18. ^ What Does The Bible Really Teach?; Appendix, page 218–219. Published by Jehovah's Witnesses 2005.
  19. ^ LDS guide to the scriptures: Archangel
  20. ^ "Archangel". Guide to the scriptures. Retrieved January 7, 2011.
  21. ^ Ensign Article: Adam, the Archangel
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ [2]
  24. ^ Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism Volume One: The Early Period, E. J. Brill, Leiden 1975
  25. ^ (Page 199) Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism Volume One: The Early Period, E. J. Brill, Leiden 1975.
  26. ^ The Pagan's Path, Metaphysics 101: The Archangels
  27. ^ "The Mission of Rudolf Steiner," Dr. Ernst Katz, retrieved from The Rudolph Steiner archive
  28. ^
  29. ^ "On the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram" from The Internet Book of Shadows at
  30. ^ Angels in Art on HumanitiesWeb


External links

First Sphere

Seraphim • Cherubim • Ophanim • Thrones 

Paradiso Canto 31.jpg
Second Sphere

Dominions • Virtues  • Powers or Authorities

Third Sphere

Principalities or Rulers • Archangels • Angels