Angels

From Study
Jump to: navigation, search

The doctrine of angels has been long embedded in Christian theology yet there is little that is known about these creatures who are thought to be the servants of God. This lack of knowledge has been the cause of much speculation about them.

Causes for Doubt

  1. Why does God need angels to do his bidding?
  2. If human agents of God exist then what necessity is there for supernatural agents of God to exist?
  3. How can an angel as an immaterial spirit being interact with the material world?

Existence

The creation of angels is completely lacking from the scriptures.

“Of note is that the Bible describes the function of angels as 'messengers' and does not indicate when the creation of angels occurred.”
AngelWikipedia

The word angel simply means messenger and should not be inferred to mean a supernatural creature.

“Again, the word 'angel' comes from the old Greek noun angelos which meant 'a messenger' or 'a message-bearer'. The related verb angellô meant 'to bear a message to someone'. The nouns angelia and angelma meant 'a report', 'a message', 'tidings', 'news'.”

The most that can be inferred from the word "angel" is a messenger. It could equally be used to infer a human messenger as it could to infer a supernatural messenger. Even if the passage refers to the divinity of the messenger, it could still be interpreted as a human messenger who is divine because he does the works of God.

“Young's literal translation properly translates the Greek word used for angel as 'messenger'. In the original Greek, There is no distinction between the word used for a heavenly being or a earthly being who is sent as a messenger.[1]
—The Day of His Power, LightHouse Prophecy

Appearance

Everyone believes angels have wings but the scriptures never so describes them as having such.

“However, while cherubim and seraphim have wings in the Bible, no angel is mentioned as having wings”
AngelWikipedia

Angels, as immaterial spirit beings, are impossible for the material physical eye to see.

When we see an entity, it is because photons (light) are emitted by that entity, or bounce off the entity - actually, are absorbed and then emitted by the entity - and then these photons enter our eye, and stimulate an electrical signal to our brain. An entity which is not physical to the extent that it can bounce or emit photons cannot be physically seen.

... an angel can also be a non-physical being, and therefore presumably if an angel existed, it would not exist in a physical sense. According to these interpretations, it would not have physical meaning to state that the angel walked somewhere or picked up something, or said something, since all these imply a physical structure existing in spacetime. Similarly, the angel if it were not physical - could not be said to emit or bounce off photons, and therefore it could not be said with physical meaning that the angel could be ‘seen’. And, since it cannot be seen or measured or felt by any physical means, it would perhaps be meaningless to say that the angel was there - in any physical sense of ‘being’ - but simply could not be seen.

Therefore if someone were to ‘see’ an angel, it would presumably be due to an image which was formed directly in their minds by some spiritual agency, rather than by physical means. This would mean that the person would see the angel, but this vision of the angel would be an internal reality, and would not correspond to a physical entity outside the viewer - there would not be an angel ‘out there’.

Of course it would be possible for God to create a physical being and send it to someone, who would then see it. This however would be a physical being and not an angel, if an angel is defined to be a spiritual being. If however ‘angel’ means simply ‘messenger of God’, then it would be possible to see physical angels of course.

Divine Encounters in the Torah: Rambam vs. Ramban

Rank

That there exists different angels with various ranks in the heavens is based on the word archangel.

“The Greek word in question, archangelos, simply meant 'chief messenger', and as we all know, it is Jesus who is God’s Chief Messenger. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 clearly refers to Jesus, and probably Jude 9 as well.”
“But the simple word angel is nevertheless expressive of office, and does not therefore necessarily signify a superhuman being. The angels of the seven churches of Asia mentioned in the Book of Revelation, were the ministers of those churches, and consequently men in the flesh.”
—Moore, Asher, Universalism, the doctrine of the Bible p. 41

That there exists guardians angels for each individual is based on the beliefs of the Zoroastrians which were adopted by the Jews while in captivity in Babylon.

“In Zoroastrianism there are different angel-like figures. For example, each person has one guardian angel, called Fravashi. They patronize human beings and other creatures, and also manifest God’s energy.”
AngelWikipedia

Guardian angels were part of the belief system of the Jews by the time of Jesus.

“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”
—Matthew 18:10 KJV

Judaism

Similar to how the spirit of anger does not refer to a spirit but simply the disposition of the person, Maimondies, a 12th century Jewish rabbi, believed that angels do not refer to supernatural beings, but rather to various laws of nature.

“On the other end of the philosophical spectrum is the view of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides. He had a neo-Aristotelian interpretation of the Bible. Maimonides writes that to the wise man, one sees that what the Bible and Talmud refer to as "angels" are actually allusions to the various laws of nature; they are the principles by which the physical universe operates.”
CherubWikipedia
“For all forces are angels! How blind, how perniciously blind are the naive?! If you told someone who purports to be a sage of Israel that the Deity sends an angel who enters a woman's womb and there forms an embryo, he would think this a miracle and accept it as a mark of the majesty and power of the Deity, despite the fact that he believes an angel to be a body of fire one third the size of the entire world. All this, he thinks, is possible for God. But if you tell him that God placed in the sperm the power of forming and demarcating these organs, and that this is the angel, or that all forms are produced by the Active Intellect; that here is the angel, the "vice-regent of the world" constantly mentioned by the sages, then he will recoil”
—Maimonides. Guide for the Perplexed II:4
“For he {the naive person} does not understand that the true majesty and power are in the bringing into being of forces which are active in a thing although they cannot be perceived by the senses....Thus the Sages reveal to the aware that the imaginative faculty is also called an angel; and the mind is called a cherub. How beautiful this will appear to the sophisticated mind, and how disturbing to the primitive.”
—Maimonides. Guide for the Perplexed II:6
“[Furthermore] Maimonides says.. that the figures of the cherubaim were placed in the sanctuary only to preserve among the people the belief in angels, there being two in order that the people might not be led to believe that they were the image of God.”
CherubWikipedia

Because of the teachings of Maimonides there are now certain sects of Judaism that view angels differently.

“The existences of angels is generally widely contested within traditional rabbinic Judaism; there is, however, a wide range of views on what angels actually are, and how literally one should interpret biblical passages associated with them. Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism generally either drop references to angels or interpret them metaphorically.”
CherubWikipedia

Christianity

In Christianity, it is thought that the angels of light are in the heavens and/or upon the earth doing battle with the angels of darkness. It seems strange for two opposing factions of angels to be fighting in a battle in which neither side can be "physically" harmed.

“Having thus made an insurrection and a battle in Heaven, in which none of the combatants could either be killed or wounded..”
—Paine, Thomas, The Age of Reason p. 12

References

  1. LightHouse Prophecy. The Day of His Power