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Angels are supernatural beings who are messengers of God. Usually this creature looks like a person, but has wings on the back. Angels are often mentioned in different religions, in the same Bible they are mentioned more than once. In the most important events of human history, described by the holy books, these divine messengers are always present.
The image of angels is reflected in culture and art. These could be innocent cherubs in the paintings of the Renaissance, or there could be grieving angels on tombstones.
But over a long time of studying angels and their nature, mainly on the basis of legends and objects of art, man has significantly changed their original appearance. In any case, studying the Bible, and not the pictures of creatures with wings, allows us to dispel some myths about angels.
Myths about angels
We each have our own guardian angel. There are many stories about how angels protect us, and sometimes these mysterious strangers even save people from death. The very phrase "guardian angel" means such a caring creature. Isn't it nice to think that someone from above is constantly watching us and, due to his intellect and the gift of foresight, invisibly guides us on the right path, protecting us from trouble. But the Bible does not say anything about the individual guardian angel that each person has. True, in several places you can find references to guardian angels. Thus, in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 18:10, it says: “Do not despise one of these little ones. For, I tell you that the angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. " This passage is usually interpreted as a description of angels who watch over all true Christians and children. Only here there are no words that everyone has their own personal angel. And this idea in general appeared quite recently, having become the result of the evolution of history. In the Middle Ages, stories often appeared of how the saints met with the angels, who protected them. Gradually, the stories were transformed. They began to say that angels come to man in everyday life. Such stories began to appear in the 18th-19th centuries. And by the 20th century, a myth had already developed that each of us has our own guardian angel, invisibly present nearby and protecting from troubles.
Cherubim are angels with the appearance of a baby. In art, you can often find images of cherubs. They look like little naked children, just as adorable and plump. But these creatures also have wings. In fact, artists invented such an image for angels, while cherubim are described in a completely different way in the Bible. These are very specific angels. God brought them closer to him, forcing them to serve directly to himself. Cherubim have nothing to do with people. In the Old Testament, these creatures are mentioned quite often, while they are not cute in any way. Genesis mentions how two cherubim were given the task of guarding the tree of life. Ezekiel chapter 1: 5-11 gives a complete description of these beings. In Scripture, they appear very similar to people, only their legs ended in calf hooves. Each cherub had four wings to hide their human hands, as well as four faces. When these angels moved, their faces did not unfold. In front they always had a human form, behind - an eagle, on the left - a bull, and on the right - a lion. Moreover, each cherub seemed to be on fire. Ezekiel describes angels as a living chariot of God, intelligent at the same time, a power subject to the Lord alone. He said that God moves in a chariot, whose wheels are cherubim. The four together personifies the wisdom of God's main creation - man, as well as the strength of the lion, the earthiness and heaviness of the bull, the freedom of the eagle and the strength of the lion. All these creatures are the best in their areas. Each cherub covers his body with one pair of wings, and extends the others. Moreover, the wings themselves are also covered with eyes. As you can see, the description has nothing to do with well-fed and cute babies.
Cherubim are good beings. Cherubim look at us from pictures with kind eyes. They smile and have adorable wings behind them. Often, artists put harps in their hands. But in the Bible, these angels are not so pretty. Thanks to Indiana Jones, we were able to view the cover of the Ark of the Covenant - the Throne of Mercy. It depicts cherubim, whose faces and bodies are hidden under pairs of wings. They pull the other pair to each other, thus forming a throne. According to Scripture, such a Throne marks the presence of an angry God threatening death. Each year, the high priest performed a ceremony by making a sacrifice and sprinkling animal blood on this Throne of Mercy. So people asked the Lord not to be angry with them for another year. And in order to fearlessly approach the Throne, another special ritual was required. It was believed that any violation of the norms would become a mortal sin for the priest. And there was no one who would disrespectfully allow treating the relic. A bloody offering was given annually to the cherubim. And only after the crucifixion of Christ, this ceremony was terminated. It was believed that his bloody sacrifice was already enough to propitiate the cherubim.
People can become angels themselves. Films often show how people turn into angels after death. In fact, the Bible does not say anything about this, even the righteous are not entitled to it. And in several places in the Bible it is directly said about the impossibility of such a transformation. People and angels were created by God, but for different purposes. Hebrews 1:14 explicitly states that angels were created specifically to lend a helping hand to those who believe in the Lord. In Genesis 1:26 it is said that angels are spiritual beings who, according to the will of God, can take not only the form of a person, but also any other. But in the book of Peter it is said: "And it was revealed to them that they do not serve themselves, but to you, through the wisdom shown to you through those through whose mouths the Holy Spirit sent from heaven speaks: wisdom that the angels look at for a long time." The Holy Spirit brings the truth to man, angels want to hear the same revelations. However, they have never been people.
Angels can be female. Male angels can be seen in numerous paintings of biblical scenes. But on cemetery tombstones, angels are already depicted in the form of inconsolable women with wings. But in the Holy Scripture itself nothing is said about the female sex of angels. You should not compare them with people and attribute some biological features that are peculiar to us. They have nothing to do with sex and gender issues. Throughout the Bible, angels are described exclusively as men. Even the word "angelos" from the New Testament itself is masculine, but not feminine at all. The names of only two angels are mentioned - Gabriel and Michael, while others are simply called "he". The Bible speaks of a winged female creature only once. In the Book of Zechariah, chapter 5: 9, there is a mention of such creatures flying in the form of visions, and a scroll also flies there. But nowhere is it said that they were angels. And the very idea of female angels appeared centuries after the creation of the Bible. Until the 4th century, there were no artistic images of angels at all, at least we do not know anything about this. So Christianity tried to distance itself from the worship of images and idols characteristic of other religions. And after the appearance of portraits of angels in art, they began to be associated with winged creatures from other ancient mythologies, for example, with the pagan Nika. This is how the female form of angels appeared.
Angels have halos. If you imagine the classic biblical angel, then he will appear in fluttering robes with wings and a halo. But the Bible does not say anything about the presence of the latter in these creatures. This scripture does not say anything at all about halos. Something similar to the "visiting card" of religious art can be considered the rays of light that emanated from the famous characters from the Bible - Moses and Christ. And the halo itself appeared over the images of saints only in the fourth century. Initially, such a glow was placed over the Christ seated on the throne. Gradually, the halo began to be considered a symbol of goodness, and they began to draw it over the angels. And by the sixth century, all the saints had acquired a halo. But Christians did not come up with a halo, but borrowed this idea. She appeared in Ancient Syria and Egypt, where kings were depicted with halos on their heads, like crowns. Divine luminescence emphasized the connection of the rulers with the supreme beings. And in ancient Rome, emperors were often painted in crowns and in rays of light. So Christian artists just borrowed a good symbol that stuck.
The angels had two wings. It turns out that the artists added not only halos to the angels, but also wings. More precisely, we are talking about two wings. And in this case, the primary source, that is, the Bible, does not say anything about it. And although angels are often called "flying", who said they were dipterans? It is quite logical that if these creatures moved through the air, then they also had wings. And speaking of number, one immediately sees a couple of such natural adaptations. Seraphim occupy one of the highest places in the hierarchy of angels. They stand right in front of the Throne of the Lord and literally burn with love for their master. This is an example for the rest. In the book of the prophet Isaiah it is generally said that each seraphim has six wings. But only steam is required directly for the flight. Two more cover the face, and the third covers the legs. Cherubim are described as angels with four wings. Early Christian paintings depicted angels descending from heaven on wings. A striking example is the images on the sarcophagi of the Romans. For example, on the tombstone of the politician Junius Basus there is a scene from the Bible where an angel appears to Abraham and asks him to sacrifice his son. But in the Bible, when describing this event, nothing is said about the wings, while on the stage on the sarcophagus they have already appeared. The painting dates back to 359, therefore, about then, ideas about the appearance of angels were formed. By the end of the 4th century, they were already drawn everywhere in this form. We can say that since then, angels have become firmly associated with winged pagan deities.
There is an Angel of Death. In Christianity there is a majestic image of an angel who comes to a person for his life. This creature is beautiful for its gloomy otherworldly depth and inevitability. But he only has one goal, and people don't really like it. There are several passages in the Bible that refer to angels taking their lives. This is stated in Exodus, in the Passover story, chapter 11: 4-5, as well as in II Kings, chapter 19:35. In the latter case, we read how an angel took the life of 185 thousand Assyrians at once. However, in the modern sense, we consider the Angel of death to be death itself. In the Bible, however, these creatures are not only engaged in taking people's lives. Their actions in this regard are just the fulfillment of the next orders of the Lord. In Jewish traditions, the very idea of the Angel of Death is completely meaningless. After all, only God, and not some of his messengers, have power over life and death. But gradually the gloomy image got into the religious canons. They began to talk about the Angel of Death named Samael. The first mentions of him were so insignificant that it is difficult even to trace their appearance. During the time of the Amoraes in 220-370, more frequent references to Samael as the angel of death began to appear. In those ancient texts, angels become deadly and vengeful messengers, and Samael himself donned the mantle of the main Angel of Death. He was destined to move from a purely religious character to a folklore one. Samael has ceased to fulfill God's will, now he, at his will, appears to people and takes their lives. And the body of this creature, according to folk legends, was completely covered with eyes. This allowed the angel to see everything that was happening around. In Jewish tradition, Samael is associated with Cain. They say that it was this angel who inspired him with the desire, giving strength, to kill his brother.
Gabriel is an important angel. There are four references to this character in the Bible. The first time it is said that he comes to earth every Christmas. That is why people worship him so much. It was Gabriel who became the messenger who informed Mary about her choice to be the mother of God's son. And on other occasions he acted as a messenger. Meanwhile, it is customary to consider Gabriel not just an ordinary ordinary angel, but an archangel. They rank higher in the heavenly hierarchy than ordinary angels. But there are other angelic ranks above them, the hierarchy of spiritual beings is generally quite complex. The Bible says that the angelic hierarchy has three levels, or spheres. Each of them has three more subgroups. The first sphere is closest to God, it includes the seraphim, cherubim and thrones. It is the first order of those mentioned that is the highest among the angels. The second sphere includes domination, which teaches people to control their feelings, and rulers - to lead nations. These angels work miracles and protect good people from devilish temptations. The last niche is the lowest, since it is farthest from God. Here are the archons, or beginnings. They lead the lower rank angels. It is believed that each earthly kingdom has its own archon who is responsible for the rule of kings. These angels make sure that the most worthy people ascend to the throne, who will rule in the name of God. And already right below them are the archangels, including Gabriel. Below there are only simple angels who come to people from time to time, perform small miracles and help, if necessary. Below in the heavenly hierarchy are only people. They are the farthest from God. So from the point of view of such a hierarchy, Gabriel, although he is one of the few angels with a name, has a very low status. And even the appearance of the baby Jesus at the manger did not give him significance.
Angels bring only good to people. Usually angels are perceived as kind beings who help people. Even if these messengers of God are sowing death, they are only doing his bidding. But there is one of the interpretations of the biblical texts, which directly blames the angels for the worldwide flood. But then all people died, except for Noah and his family. The Book of Genesis says that not long before those events, our planet was home not only for people, but also for giants (Nephilim). These creatures were born from the "sons of God" and "daughters of men." Quite popular is the interpretation that such "sons" are angels. They came to Earth, and they stayed here, enjoying pleasures, including those of the flesh. In Jude chapter 1: 6, the Nephilim appear as creatures who abandoned their lawful dwelling, exchanging it for an earthly one. And in Genesis they are called the descendants of certain divine beings and earthly women. Who it was - Christians continue to argue. But in Jewish theology, everything is much simpler. When God saw that his creatures, Hazael and Samsabel, were possessed by corruption, he sent them to Earth. The angels had to prove that people can be responsible for their own future.But on Earth, they did not just discover pleasures forbidden to angels. Samsaveel also broke one of the most sacred oaths. He told a mortal woman the true name of God. Legends say that the angel was forbidden to return to heaven as a punishment, but that very woman, Ishtar, was lifted up and left among the stars. Samsaveel eventually repented of his wrongdoing, but he was never allowed to return, leaving him between Heaven and Earth. According to other legends, as many as 18 angels entered into a relationship with earthly women and left behind offspring. In any case, both stories end the same. This fleshly sin forced God to destroy all created name on Earth, including the descendants of the angels - the Nephilim giants.