How Do Angels Really Look – Tis the season when humanoid wings appear everywhere from shop windows to underwear Christmas cups. But that wasn’t always the case.
Angels, at least the Christian kind, haven’t always flown over people in see-through robes. And their different styles—from naïve thinkers to winged guardians—reflect millennia of change in religious thought as the book approaches.
How Do Angels Really Look
“There’s an interesting theology about angels, and in some ways we’ve lost that,” said John Cavadini, dean of the theology department at the University of Notre Dame.
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“We often think of angels as things you find on a Hallmark card,” added Cavadini. “But many people, especially in ancient times, were very interested in them” – how they could be, how to prepare, how to behave.
In the Bible, angels became God’s messengers – angels means “messengers” in Greek. Furthermore, the text leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
“There’s not a lot of clarity, and that’s interesting,” said Ellen Muehlberger, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Michigan.
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Muehlberger, who is working on a book about the changing theology of angels in ancient times, said that in the early days of Christianity, some believers saw Jesus Christ himself as one of many angels.
“We only know this because later, fourth-century writers wrote negative comments about this belief,” he said.
Jesus officially lost his angelic status when the Roman Emperor Constantine I convened the Council of Nicaea in 325. There, the bishops were tasked with transforming the different and sometimes conflicting views of God, Christ, and Christianity into a single unified theology.
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“The Council of Nicaea defined Christ as truly divine, the same thing as God,” Muehlberger said.
“Christians involved in the interpretation of the Council’s decisions in the following decades took it to mean that Christ was not an angel. Angels were something else.”
In the early centuries of the church, the concept of angels may have been different from what Christ himself – or Judas – described.
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For example, the 4th century Christian monk and madman Evagrius developed a doctrine that describes the nature of man in three parts.
“One part is controlled by eating, and that makes us hungry or sleepy or want sex,” Muehlberger explained. “That’s one of the downsides.
“Then there’s the logical part,” he said. “And this is the part, according to Evagrius, which is most like God and the angels.”
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Evagrius “thought that something like anger is like demons coming and attacking you. And if you can’t resist those attacks yourself, you can be helped by a perfectly rational angel standing by your side.”
For example, in Christian monasteries, many monks believed that the best students would surely receive a divine guidance or mentor to help them.
“These monks said, ‘Not everyone sees a guardian angel — that’s a sign of moral progress,'” Muehlberger said.
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In Egypt, some bishops continued to claim that certain desert monks who had renounced the pleasures of the flesh and society could themselves be angels on earth.
Egyptian monks strongly objected, saying, in Muehlberg’s words, “We act like animals, not angels.”
In the end, this populist idea won out: I’m no angel and neither are you, but they’re watching us all.
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As soon as believers began to have a vague understanding of what angels are, scholars began to debate how heavenly messengers are organized.
The Bible sheds little light on angelic society, but writers have been interested in filling in the gaps, including an anonymous writer from about B.C. 500 to heaven.
The work, which contains some original ideas, classifies angelic beings into nine categories. From bottom to top: angels, archangels, princes, powers, virtues, authorities, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim.
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“It was not church teaching,” said Michael Root, a theologian at the Catholic University of America in Washington.
Notre Dame’s Cavadini added, “I think what contributed to the beauty of the universe was that all these different levels of life were so incredibly different, yet so complementary, and that this multiplicity created harmony instead of discord.”
Of course, not all angels are angels according to some Christian traditions. It is said that Satan himself was once an angel named Lucifer.
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The fact that angels can fall freely is an important point, Roots Catholic University said — it means they have free will.
“You had theologians even in previous centuries and in the early modern era who thought that every person was given an adversary, a fallen angel, as well as a guardian angel — even though it was never officially thought of,” Root said.
Notre Dame’s Cavadini said that in the second and third centuries, Christian scholars such as Origen of Alexandria saw an important role in fallen angels.
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“For Origen and many of the Church Fathers, angels participated in ruling the world as they saw fit,” Cavadini said.
“It also meant that the fallen angels had to be involved in the evolution of the universe and that you had to take it very seriously because they were involved too – but in a bad way.”
Although Americans today may spend less time confused about the nature of angels and their ways of life than those of old, Americans tend to believe that angels are among us, and they do.
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According to a 2008 Baylor University poll by the Gallup Organization, 55 percent of Americans believe that guardian angels have protected them at some point in their lives.
“I looked at over 1,100 stories that we collected from people about their experiences with guardian angels,” said Baylor sociologist Carson Mencken.
“People talk about close calls, like car accidents, especially fatal accidents. Others get injured or survive drowning or have combat-related near-death experiences,” Mencken said. (See “Event-Death Explained?”)
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“Based on our research, most people who survived this close call attribute their existence to their guardian angels,” he said.
He added that in many such cases angels are not seen, but only heard. But for many Christians, their guardians in heaven are as real as those on their Christmas tree.
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Please note that we may receive a commission if you click on the links and make a purchase. However, this does not change our assessment and comparison. We do our best to make things fair and reasonable to help you make the right choice for you. There are many descriptions of angels in the scriptures, although there is no definitive answer as to what the most accurate angels in the Bible look like.
Angelic beings are generally described as having human-like characteristics. Their most common appearance is the eyes and face with wings that allow them to fly.
There are some angels in the Bible who have unusual characteristics, such as many wings and halos or the power of fire on their heads. Some even say they have eyes on their bodies.
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Daniel mentions four angels, each with four faces and four wings, while Ezekiel describes them as having four legs and feet like calves and calves.
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