Following on from our recent post regarding Lilith (who legend states married an archangel – Samael – after being expelled from the Garden of Eden) and questions we have received regarding the differences between Angels and Archangels we have put this little post together to guide you through the most common references you are likely to come across.
An archangel (literally means chief angel) 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.
When thinking of Archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael probably come to mind. They are venerated in the Roman Catholic Church with feasts and are the only reconized archangels.
But did you know that in many other religions there are others?
Roman Catholic Archangels:
Michael is the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” the leader of all the angels. His name is Hebrew for “Who is like God?” and was the battle cry of the good angels against Lucifer and his followers when they rebelled against God.
Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength,” Announced the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and also the Incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary.
Raphael, whose name means “God has healed” because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit. Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is generally accepted by tradition to be that of healing and acts of mercy.
Now also we can’t forget about Lucifer (we will be doing a seperate post on him)some have him as an archangel while others have him as a regular angel. Lucifer means ‘light bearer.’ Other names that may refer to Lucifer include Satan, Iblis, Beelzebub, Ba’al, Belial, Apollyon, Azazel, Leviathan, Lumiel, Prometheus, and Devil.
In Islam, the named archangels include:
Gabriel (Jibril in Arabic). Gabriel is said to be the archangel responsible for revealing the Quran to Muhammad and inducing him to recite it. Gabriel is known as the angel who communicates with the prophets. Various hadiths (traditions) mention his role in delivering messages from “God the Almighty” to the prophets.
Michael (Mikhail in Arabic). Michael is often depicted as the archangel of mercy who is responsible for bringing rain and thunder to Earth.
Israfil (Israfel or Israafiyl). According to tradition, Israfel is the angel responsible for signaling the coming of Judgment Day by blowing a horn/trumpet. It translates in Hebrew as Raphael.
Azrael , in the Quran (Surah al-Sajdah 32:11) is responsible for parting the soul from the body.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) believe that there is only one archangel (Michael), based on the literal meaning of the Greek word “chief angel”. They also believe that the definite article at Jude 9 (“Michael the archangel”) means there is only one archangel.
Orthodox iconography, each angel has a symbolic representation:
Michael in the Hebrew language means “Who is like unto God?” or “Who is equal to God?” St. Michael has been depicted from earliest Christian times as a commander, who holds in his right hand a spear with which he attacks Lucifer/Satan, and in his left hand a green palm branch. At the top of the spear there is a linen ribbon with a red cross. The Archangel Michael is especially considered to be the Guardian of the Orthodox Faith and a fighter against heresies.
Gabriel means “Man of God” or “Might of God.” He is the herald of the mysteries of God, especially the Incarnation of God and all other mysteries related to it. He is depicted as follows: In his right hand, he holds a lantern with a lighted taper inside, and in his left hand, a mirror of green jasper. The mirror signifies the wisdom of God as a hidden mystery.
Raphael means “God’s healing” or “God the Healer” (Tobit 3:17, 12:15). Raphael is depicted leading Tobit (who is carrying a fish caught in the Tigris) with his right hand, and holding a physician’s alabaster jar in his left hand.
Uriel means “Fire of God,” or “Light of God” (II Esdras 4:1, 5:20). He is depicted holding a sword against the Persians in his right hand, and a flame in his left.
Sealtiel means “Intercessor of God.” He is depicted with his face and eyes lowered, holding his hands on his bosom in prayer.
Jegudiel means “Glorifier of God.” He is depicted bearing a golden wreath in his right hand and a triple-thonged whip in his left hand.
Barachiel means “Blessing of God.” He is depicted holding a white rose in his hand against his breast.
Jerahmeel means “God’s exaltation.” He is venerated as an inspirer and awakener of exalted thoughts that raise a person toward God (II Esdras 4:36). As an eighth, he is sometimes included as archangel.
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)
Jewish literature, such as the Book of Enoch, mentions Metatron (normally thought to be the Scribe of God and also Enoch himself) as an archangel, called the “highest of the angels”, though the acceptance of this angel is not canonical in all branches of the faith. Some branches of the faiths mentioned have identified a group of seven Archangels, but the actual angels vary, depending on the source. Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael are always mentioned; the other archangels vary, but most commonly include Uriel, who is mentioned in 2 Esdras.
In the Kabbalah there are ten archangels, each assigned to one sephira: Metatron, Raziel (other times Jophiel), Tzaphkiel, Tzadkiel, Khamael, Raphael, Haniel, Michael, Gabriel and Sandalphon. Chapter 20 of the Book of Enoch mentions seven holy angels who watch, that often are considered the seven archangels: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, Saraqael, Raguel, and Remiel. The Life of Adam and Eve lists the archangels as well: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael and Joel.
Judaic tradition, where they are named as Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Remiel and Saraqael. While this book today is non-canonical in most Christian Churches, it was explicitly quoted in the New Testament (Letter of Jude 1:14-15) and by many of the early Church Fathers. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church to this day regards it to be canonical.
In the late 5th to early 6th century, Pseudo-Dionysius gives them as Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Chamuel, Jophiel, and Zadkiel.
The earliest Christian mention is by Pope Saint Gregory I who lists them as Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel (or Anael), Simiel (Samael), Oriphiel and Raguel. A later reference to seven archangels would appear in an 8th or 9th century talisman attributed to Auriolus, a “servant of God” in north-western Spain. He issues a prayer to “all you patriarchs Michael, Gabriel, Cecitiel, Oriel, Raphael, Ananiel, Marmoniel (“who hold the clouds in your hands”)
I hope you enjoyed this little toe-dip into the world of the winged. In a further post I will explore cherubim, nephilim, seraphim and “guardian” angels, and discuss some of the theories about the existence of angels.