An archangel // 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.
Michael and Gabriel are recognised as archangels in Judaism, Islam, and by most Christians. The Book of Tobit—recognised in the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, but considered apocryphal by Protestants—mentions Raphael, who is also considered to be an archangel. The archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael are venerated in the Roman Catholic Church with a feast on September 29 (between 1921 and 1969, March 24 for Gabriel and October 24 for Raphael), and in the Eastern Orthodox Church on November 8 (if the Julian calendar is used, this corresponds to November 21 in the Gregorian). 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", 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.
The Hebrew Bible uses the terms מלאכי אלוהים (malakhi Elohim; Angels of God), "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), בני אלוהים (b'nai elohim; sons of God) and הקדושים (ha-q'doshim; 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. It is therefore widely speculated that Jewish interest in angels developed during the Babylonian captivity. According to Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish of Tiberias (230–270 CE), 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, 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, 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, followed by Uriel, Sariel, Raguel, and Remiel. Four additional names are: Zadkiel, Jophiel, Haniel and Chamuel. Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides made a Jewish angelic hierarchy.
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. The earlier mention is in 1 Thessalonians: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (King James Version); "For 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. And the dead in Christ will rise first" (English Standard Version). The later mention is in the Epistle of Jude: "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee" (King James Version)
In Roman Catholicism, three are honoured by name:
The last-named of these identifies himself in Tobit 12:15(NAB) thus: "I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord."
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 Catholic biblical canon.
The Catholic Church gives no official recognition to the names given in some apocryphal sources, such as Raguel, Sariel, and Jerahmeel (Book of Enoch) or Izidkiel, Hanael, and Kepharel (other such sources).
Eastern and Oriental Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Tradition mentions "thousands of archangels; however, only seven archangels are venerated by name. Uriel is included, and the other three are most often named Selaphiel, Jegudiel, and Barachiel (an eighth, Jeremiel, is sometimes included as archangel). 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:
- 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.
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.
Michael is now the angel above all angels, recognized in rank to be the first prince of heaven. He is, as it were, the prime minister in God's administration of the universe, and is the "angel administrator" of God for judgment. He must stand alone, because the Bible never speaks of archangels, only the archangel.—Billy Graham, Angels
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 credit Presbyterian Matthew Henry as supporting this view.
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 (NWT), which says: "because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel's voice and with God's trumpet", they conclude that Michael is another name for Jesus in heaven.
Latter Day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) interprets the term archangel as meaning "Chief Angel", Michael is the only individual so-designated in the Latter Day Saints canon. It is believed that he is the head of all of the angels. LDS Church doctrine also states that the archangel Michael was the first man, Adam.
Though no other being is identified as an "archangel," Joseph Smith taught that the angel Gabriel was known in mortality as Noah and the angel Raphael is a being of significant standing even though he has never been identified with any mortal prophet.
- 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.
- Malaku I-mawt or angel of death , in the Quran (Surah al-Sajdah 32:11) is responsible for parting the soul from the body.
An increasing number of experts in anthropology, theology and philosophy, believe that Zoroastrianism contains the earliest distillation of prehistoric belief in angels.
The Amesha Spentas of Zoroastrianism are likened unto archangels. Simultaneously, they individually inhabit immortal bodies, that operate in the physical world, to protect, guide and inspire humanity, and the spirit world. The Avesta explains the origin and nature of archangels or Amesha Spentas.
To maintain equilibrium, Ahura Mazda engaged in the first act of creation, distinguishing his Holy Spirit Spenta Mainyu, the Archangel of righteousness. Ahura Mazda also 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.
The Amesha Spentas (amesha meaning eternal & spenta meaning brilliance and beneficence) as attributes of God are:
- Spenta Mainyu (Phl. Spenamino): lit. 'Bountiful Spirit'
- Asha Vahishta (Phl. Ardwahisht): lit. 'Highest Truth'
- Vohu Mano (Phl. Vohuman): lit. 'Righteous Mind'
- Khshathra Vairya (Phl. Shahrewar): lit. 'Desirable Dominion'
- Spenta Armaiti (Phl. Spandarmad): lit. 'Holy Devotion'
- Haurvatat (Phl. Hordad): lit. 'Perfection or Health'
- Ameretat (Phl. Amurdad): lit. 'Immortality'
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 (Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel) are invoked as guarding the four quarters, or directions, and their corresponding colors are associated with magical properties. 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 art, archangels are sometimes depicted with larger wings. Some of the more commonly represented archangels are Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel.
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- Quran 2:98
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