Angelic Orders

By | March 16, 2011

 

Angelic hosts occupy the same plane of existence that demons do. There are no differing universes or planes of existence for angels than demons. Ephesians 6:12 states:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

The Greek word for “high places” is epouranios, which means above the sky, celestial, or heavenly places. Sometimes we as Apostolic Pentecostals tend to think that devils and angels exsist is seperate spiritual planes of exsistance and come to duke it out at times on terra firma. This is not so. There is a spiritual plane of exsistance where the bible states that both angels and demons exsist together as the war in heaven continues.
So, what about angels. What kinds and types of angels exsist? Well, the bible lists several different ‘kinds’ of angels. This order is taken from an exhaustive work by Psuedo-Dionysius entitled De Coelesti Hierarchia. Psuedo-Dionysius completed this work in the 5th century. The Christian hiearchy differs from the Jewish heirarchy.

The Jewish hiearchy is:

Rank Angel Notes
1 Chayot Ha Kodesh
2 Ophanim
3 Erelim See Isaiah 33:7
4 Hashmallim See Ezekiel 1:4
5 Seraphim See Isaiah 6
6 Malakhim Messengers, angels
7 Elohim “Godly beings”
8 Bene Elohim “Sons of Godly beings”
9 Cherubim See Talmud Hagigah 13b
10 Ishim “manlike beings”, see Daniel (10:5)

The Christian hiearchy is as follows, and the one I will focus the rest of the article on.

Seraphim (Fiery Ones): [1]
Seraphim, literally “burning ones”, is the plural of “seraph”, more properly sarap. The word sarap/seraphim appears three times in the Torah (Numbers 21:6-8, Deuteronomy 8:15) and four times in the Book of Isaiah (6:2-6, 14:29, 30:6). In Numbers and Deuteronomy the “seraphim” are serpents – the association of serpents as “burning ones” is possibly due to the burning sensation of the poison. Isaiah also uses the word in close association with words to describes snakes (nahash, the generic word for snakes, in 14:29, and efeh, viper, in 30:6). Isaiah’s vision of seraphim in the First Temple in Jerusalem is the sole instance in the Hebrew Bible of the word being used to describe celestial beings: there the winged “seraphim” attend God and have human attributes: “… I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the Hekhal (sanctuary). Above him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” (Isaiah 6:1–3) In Isaiah’s vision the seraphim cry continually to each other, “Holy, holy, holy, is YHWH of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory” (verses 2-3) before carrying out an act of purification for the prophet (verses 6-7). It is possible that these are winged snake-beings, but given that the word “seraphim” is not attached as an adjective or modifier to other snake-words (“nahash,” etc.), as is the case in every other occurrence of the word, it is more probable that they are variants of the “fiery” lesser deities making up God’s divine court. “Seraphim” appear in the 2nd century B.C. Book of Enoch where they are designated as drakones (δράκονες “serpents”), and are mentioned, in conjunction with the cherubim as the heavenly creatures standing nearest to the throne of God. In the late 1st century A.D. Book of Revelation (iv. 4-8) they are described as being forever in God’s presence and praising Him constantly: “Day and night with out ceasing they sing: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.'” They appear also in the Christian Gnostic text On the Origin of the World, described as “dragon-shaped angels”.

Cherubim (Mighty Ones): [2]
The term cherubim is cognate with the Assyrian term karabu, Akkadian term kuribu, and Babylonian term karabu; the Assyrian term means ‘great, mighty’, but the Akkadian and Babylonian cognates mean ‘propitious, blessed’. In some regions the Assyro-Babylonian term came to refer in particular to spirits which served the gods, in particular to the shedu (human-headed winged bulls); the Assyrians sometimes referred to these as kirubu, a term grammatically related to karabu. They were originally a version of the shedu, protective deities sometimes found as pairs of colossal statues either side of objects to be protected, such as doorways. However, although the shedu were popular in Mesopotamia, archaeological remains from the Levant suggest that they were quite rare in the immediate vicinity of the Israelites. The related Lammasu (human-headed winged lions — to which the sphinx is similar in appearance), on the other hand, were the most popular winged-creature in Phoenician art, and so most scholars suspect that Cherubim were originally a form of Lammasu. In particular, in a scene reminiscent of Ezekiel’s dream, the Megiddo Ivories — ivory carvings found at Megiddo (which became a major Israelite city) — depict an unknown king being carried on his throne by hybrid winged-creatures.
A pair of shedu, protecting a doorway (the body of the creatures extending into the distance) The Lammasu was originally depicted as having a king’s head, a lion’s body, and an eagle’s wings, but due to the artistic beauty of the wings, these rapidly became the most prominent part in imagery ; wings later came to be bestowed on men, thus forming the stereotypical image of an angel. The griffin — a similar creature but with an eagle’s head rather than that of a king — has also been proposed as an origin, arising in Israelite culture as a result of Hittite usage of griffins (rather than being depicted as aggressive beasts, Hittite depictions show them seated calmly, as if guarding), and some have proposed that griffin may be cognate to cherubim, but Lammasu were significantly more important in Levantine culture, and thus more likely to be the origin. Early Semitic tradition conceived the cherubim as guardians, being devoid of human feelings, and holding a duty both to represent the gods and to guard sanctuaries from intruders, in a comparable way to an account found on Tablet 9 of the inscriptions found at Nimrud. In this view, cherubim, like the shedu, were probably originally depictions of storm deities, especially the storm winds. This view is offered as a hypothesis to explain the reason for cherubim being described as acting as the chariot of Yahweh in Ezekiel’s dream, the Books of Samuel, the parallel passages in the later Book of Chronicles, and passages in the early Psalms: “and he rode upon a cherub and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind”.

Ophanim (Thrones / Wheels): [3]
An Ophan (Lat. ophan[us], pl. ophani[m] from Hebrew אְוּפַּנים) is one of a class of celestial beings called Ophanim described in the Book of Enoch with the Cherubim and Seraphim as never sleeping, but watching (or guarding) the throne of God. The word ophan means “wheel” in Hebrew so the Ophanim have been associated with the description in Ezekiel 1:15-21 and possibly again in the Daniel 7:9 (mentioned as gagal, traditionally “the wheels of gagallin”, in “fiery flame” and “burning fire”) of the four, eye-covered wheels (each composed of two nested wheels), that move next to the winged Cherubim, beneath the throne of God. The four wheels move with the Cherubim because the spirit of the Cherubim is in them. These are also referred to as the “many-eyed ones” in the Second Book of Enoch. The Ophanim are also equated as the “Thrones”, associated with the “Wheels”, in the vision of Daniel 7:9 (Old Testament). They are the carriers of the throne of God, hence the name. However, they may or may not be the same Thrones (Gr. thronos) mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians 1:16 (New Testament).

Rulers (Dominions): [4]
The “Dominions” (lat. dominatio, plural dominationes, also translated from the Greek term kyriotites as “Lordships”) are presented as the hierarchy of celestial beings “Lordships” in the De Coelesti Hierarchia. The Dominions, also known as the Hashmallim, regulate the duties of lower angels. It is only with extreme rarity that the angelic lords make themselves physically known to humans. They are also the angels who preside over nations. The Dominions are believed to look like divinely beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of angels, but they may be distinguished from other groups by wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their scepters or on the pommel of their swords.

Virtues (Strongholds): [5]
The “Virtues” or “Strongholds” lie beyond the ophanim (Thrones/Wheels). Their primary duty is to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. The term appears to be linked to the attribute “might”, from the Greek root “δύναμις” in Ephesians 1:21, which is also translated as “Virtue”. They are presented as the celestial Choir “Virtues”, in the Summa Theologica. Traditional theological conceptions of the Virtues might appear to describe the same Order called the Thrones (Gr. thronos), (in which case the Ophanim may not be the same thing as “Thrones”). From Dionysius the Areopagite: “The name of the holy Virtues signifies a certain powerful and unshakable virility welling forth into all their Godlike energies; not being weak and feeble for any reception of the divine Illuminations granted to it; mounting upwards in fullness of power to an assimilation with God; never falling away from the Divine Life through its own weakness, but ascending unwaveringly to the superessential Virtue which is the Source of virtue: fashioning itself, as far as it may, in virtue; perfectly turned towards the Source of virtue, and flowing forth providentially to those below it, abundantly filling them with virtue.”

Powers (Authorities): [6]
The “Powers” (lat. potestas, pl. potestates), or “Authorities”, from the Greek exousies, (see Greek root in Eph 3:10) appear to collaborate, in power and authority, with the Principalities (Rulers). The Powers are the bearers of conscience and the keepers of history. They are also the warrior angels created to be completely loyal to God. Some believe that no Power has ever fallen from grace, but another theory states that Satan was the Chief of the Powers before he Fell (see also Ephesians 6:12). Their duty is to oversee the distribution of power among humankind, hence their name. Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21, and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10. He may have been referring to the rulers and authorities of humanity, instead of referring to angels.

Principalities (Rulers): [7]
The “Principalities” (lat. principatus, pl. principatūs) also translated as “Princedoms” and “Rulers”, from the Greek arche (see Greek root in Eph 3:10), appear to collaborate, in power and authority with the Powers (Authorities). The Principalities are shown wearing a crown and carrying a sceptre. Their duty also is said to be to carry out the orders given to them by the Dominions and bequeath blessings to the material world. Their task is to oversee groups of people. They are the educators and guardians of the realm of earth. Like beings related to the world of the germinal ideas, they are said to inspire living things to many things such as art or science. Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21 , and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10 . He may have been referring to the rulers and authorities of men or societies, instead of referring to angels.

Arch Angels: [8]
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-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 like 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 AD), all the specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon.

Guardian Angels (Angels): [9]
Early Christians inherited Jewish understandings of angels, which in turn may have been partly inherited from the Egyptians. In the early stage, the Christian concept of an angel characterized the angel as a messenger of God. Angels are creatures of good, spirits of love, and messengers of the savior Jesus Christ. Later came identification of individual angelic messengers: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, and Lucifer. Then, in the space of little more than two centuries (from the third to the fifth) the image of angels took on definite characteristics both in theology and in art. By the late fourth century, the Church Fathers agreed that there were different categories of angels, with appropriate missions and activities assigned to them. Some theologians had proposed that Jesus was not divine but on the level of immaterial beings subordinate to the trinity. The resolution of this trinitarian dispute included the development of doctrine about angels. (author’s comment: Obviously if your willing to have God divided into three persons, it begs the question of why not more than three. This was debated for quite a while as they tried to get the trinitarian theology ironed out to fit the scriptures. On a side note, I’ve altered the original text from Wikipedia to change references to the trinity to be a lowercase t as I don’t believe the trinity to be a divine or holy doctrine.) The angels are represented throughout the Christian Bible as a body of spiritual beings intermediate between God and men: “You have made him (man) a little less than the angels…” (Psalms 8:4-5). Some Christians believe that angels are created beings, and use the following passage as evidence: “praise ye Him, all His angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts… for He spoke and they were made. He commanded and they were created…” (Psalms 148:2-5; Colossians 1:16). The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) declared that the angels were created beings. The Council’s decree Firmiter credimus (issued against the Albigenses) declared both that angels were created and that men were created after them. The First Vatican Council (1869) repeated this declaration in Dei Filius, the “Dogmatic constitution on the Catholic faith”. Of note is that the Bible describes the function of angels as “messengers” and does not indicate when the creation of angels occurred.
Many Christians regard angels as asexual and not belonging to either gender as they interpret Matthew 22:30 in this way. Angels are on the other hand usually described as looking like male human beings. Their names are also masculine. And although angels have greater knowledge than men, they are not omniscient, as Matthew 24:36 points out. Another view is that angels are sent into this world for testing, in the form of humans.

A list of some famous angels and their associations are as follows:

  • Malachim (translation: messengers), general word for angel
  • Lucifer (translation: light-bearer), angel that challenges god
  • Michael (translation: who is like God), performs God’s kindness
  • Gabriel (translation: the strength of God), performs acts of justice and power
  • Raphael (translation: God Heals), God’s healing force
  • Uriel (translation: God is my light), leads us to destiny
  • Seraphim (translation: the burning ones), sing and praise God
  • Malach HaMavet (translation: the angel of death)
  • Satan (translation: the prosecuter), brings people’s sins before them in the heavenly court
  • Chayot HaKodesh (translation: the holy beasts)
  • Ophanim (translation: arbits) Astrological Influence
  • HaMerkavah (translation: the chariot), transports God’s glory

This list above and more information concerning angels can be found at The Jewish Encyclopedia. A lot concerning angelology is taken from Jewish talmud and Kabbalistic writings (13th century), so use with caution when researching this on your own. Please note that the Bible should be our final authority when examining any spiritual thing.


[1] Taken from Wikipedia article on Seraphim, accessed March 16, 2011.
[2] Taken from Wikipedia article on Cherubim, accessed March 16, 2011.
[3] Taken from Wikipedia article on Ophan, accessed March 16, 2011.
[4] Taken from Wikipedia article on Christian Angelic Hiearchy, accessed March 16, 2011.
[5] Taken from Wikipedia article on Christian Angelic Hiearchy, accessed March 16, 2011.
[6] Taken from Wikipedia article on Christian Angelic Hiearchy, accessed March 16, 2011.
[7] Taken from Wikipedia article on Christian Angelic Hiearchy, accessed March 16, 2011.
[8] Taken from Wikipedia article on Archangels, accessed March 16, 2011.
[9] Taken from Wikipedia article on Seraphim, accessed March 16, 2011.

m4s0n501
Angelic Orders
0 votes, 0.00 avg. rating (0% score)