You Say Malachim, I Say Apsaras

Angels, by any name, exist in many world religions.

BY: Rebecca Phillips

 

Continued from page 2

Judaism

Angel basics:

Angels in Judaism, or

malachim

, are messengers of God who help carry out God's work and plans. For a complete explanation of the role of angels in Judaism, see

this column

on angels in Jewish tradition.



Form:

Angels are purely spiritual beings who do not have a physical form. Biblical angels do take on physical form, though Maimonides, the great Jewish sage and biblical commentator, later wrote that physical descriptions of angels were metaphorical.



Intervention:

Angels intervene in stories in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) as God's messengers, such as when an angel stops Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac. There is also the famous story of Jacob wrestling with an angel. But in general, angels initiate the communication from God, not vice-versa. There is no angel worship in Judaism, and Jews believe that it is only God who determines what happens on earth—angels merely carry out God's will.

Important angels:
Traditionally, Micha'el is a guardian of the people Israel. He carries out God's mission of kindness. Gabriel is the angel of judgment and strength. Uriel is an angel who illumines the right path. Raphael is a healer.

Mormonism:

Angel basics:
Angels are described in the Doctrine and Covenant as being one of the two kinds of bodies in heaven. They are described as "resurrected personages." They are considered by Mormons to be messengers of God and "ministering spirits."

Form:
Angels are either ministering spirits or more evolved human beings who have flesh and bone.

Intervention:
Latter-day Saints believe that angels can appear to people in a very literal sense, but not necessarily that each person has a specifically assigned guardian angel. Angels serve to advance the work of the Lord through giving instruction or authority for specific tasks, as was the case with the founding of the Mormon religion. Angels can also impart comfort, warning, protection, or knowledge but never in a way that interferes with human free will. Mormons believe that "the whispering of the Holy Ghost" is a more common and ultimately more effective way in which God communicates with individuals.

Important angels:
Mormons believe that their founding prophet, Joseph Smith, was visited by the angel Moroni who led him to the Book of Mormon. (Moroni was once human, the son of the prophet Mormon, who became an angel after he died.) A golden statue of Moroni sits atop most Mormon temples.

Protestant Christianity

Angel basics:
Angels are messengers and carry out God's will. Some angels are guardian angels. John Calvin viewed angels as protectors and helpers. Angels are recognized as very powerful beings. The gospels are full of examples of the angels intervening with Jesus, as announcers of his birth, ministers to him in the wilderness, and more.

Form:
Angels are created as spirit beings—not as humans. They can take on a corporeal form if doing so will help them do their work on earth. They are genderless and invisible.

Intervention:
They provide guidance and assurance to believers. Guardian angels help protect people from harm. Not all angels are good, however.

Important angels:
All biblical angels are important. Most Protestant theologians, however, warn against the Catholic practice of praying to angels (which they viewed as angel worship) and the angel hierarchy of Catholicism because these traditions were not biblical and were seen as having pagan roots. Christianity also teaches that Lucifer, the devil, was a fallen angel who rebelled against God and was kicked out of heaven.

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