An angel, what is it?

By Julia Itel – Published on March 24, 2022

In our imaginations, angels are benevolent spiritual beings who ensure our protection. Present in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions, angels represent celestial messengers allowing God to be closer to us.


What is an angel?

An angel is a be celestial whose main function is to serve as an intermediary between humans and God. Insofar as God is “the creator of heaven and earth”, angels are considered to be spirit creatures living in the presence of Him.

The term ” angel » comes from Latin angelusitself translated from the Greek aggelos and which means ” messenger “. Angels are so designated by their function, which is to carry messages from God to human beings.


A tradition dating back to Mesopotamian times

Historians confirm that some of the traditions present in the Old Testament were influenced by Mesopotamian religious culture, with which the Jews had close contact.

Thus, among the Babylonian gods, some considered “inferior” assumed the function of messenger and made it possible to deliver the messages between all the gods. But the figure of the angel, which we represent as a to be wingedcould also come from a Mesopotamian mythical figure, the lamassu. This hybrid being, half-bull half-man, with two wings, corresponded to a protective being guaranteeing the order of the world.

The old testament angels assume for the majority this double function of communication and protection, as the expression of divine goodness towards humans. Indeed, the Bible essentially speaks of the Covenant, that is to say the relationship between God and humanity and the angels are presented as the servants of this relationship.

Angels, heavenly messengers

Intermediaries between God and humans

Angels are therefore at the service of God: they carry his messages and guide human beings so that they accomplish his will. For this, they manifest themselves to men in many ways, in dreams or through visions.

In the Old Testament, the angelic apparitions abound (especially in Genesis). For example, an angel intervenes to suspend the sacrifice of Isaac (Gn 22, 11); another manifests himself in the Burning Bush and reveals the one God to Moses (Ex 3:2); and another guides the Hebrew people out of Egypt, towards the Promised Land (Ex 14, 19).

Serving God and Jesus

In the New Testament, the angels – composing according to Luke (2, 13) a “ celestial army – are above all made available to Jesus, son of God, and have the function of announcing his Incarnation. The appearances of angels in the Gospel are therefore especially presented during important events in the life of Jesus.

The conception of Jesus is first announced by an “angel of the Lord” to Joseph (Mt 1:20), then by the angel Gabriel to Mary (Lk 1, 26-38). His birth is communicated by an angel to the shepherds of Bethlehem (Lk 2, 9-14), and it is always a heavenly messenger who advises Joseph to flee to Egypt (Mt 2, 13) then to return to Israel ( Mt 2, 19). Finally, two luminous beings recalling the angelic nature warn women of the resurrection of Christ (Lk 24:5-7).

Who are the Archangels?

Presented in number seven in the Old Testament, the Catholic Church recognizes three, celebrated on September 29: Raphael, Gabriel and Michael. The prefix arkhe meaning “commandment” could indicate that the archangels are the “leaders” of the angels.

In Israelite geology, we observe an individualization of certain angels: their name indicates the specialty of their function and all bear the mark of God in their first name, Elfor they are his sons and act according to his will.

Archangel Raphael

Raphael, “God heals”, is the angel sent by God to cure Tobith of blindness and free Sarra, his future wife, from a demon (Tb 3, 17). Raphael is therefore considered to be the healing archangel.

Archangel Gabriel

Gabriel, “Strength of God”, is considered the messenger of God. This is Archangel of Good News who is the bearer of revelation. He announces to Daniel the prophecy of the 70 weeks, to Zacharias the birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1, 19) and to Mary the coming into the world of Jesus (Lk 1, 26), which is celebrated on the feast of the Annunciation.

Gabriel appears in the three monotheisms. In Islam he is called Jibril and it is he who reveals the verses of the Koran to Muhammad.

Archangel Michael (or Michael)

Michael, “Who is like God”, is the leader of the celestial army because he is mainly known for having fought against the devil. Represented in art as a warrior, he is therefore considered the protective of the believing people.


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An angel, what is it?

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