Angels, traditional accounts

Angels, a Dictionary

Gustav Davidson


Collier Macmillan Limited, London, 1967


Some years ago when I started "collecting" angels as a literary diversion, it was certainly with no thought of serving as their archivist, biographer, and finally as their lexicographer.  Such an idea did not occur to me—indeed, could not have occurred to me—until I had corralled a sufficient number of the heavenly denizens to make a dictionary of them feasible.

At first I thought that angels, named angels, were to be found only in the Bible. I soon learned that, on the contrary, the Bible was the last place to look for them. True, angels are mentioned frequently enough in both the Old and New Testaments, but they are not named, save in two or three instances. Virtually all the named angels in this compilation are culled from sources outside Scripture[i].

Of the books in the New Testament, while the Synoptic Gospels and the Pauline Epistles have been longtime favorites of mine, the book of Revelation always held a particular fascination for me, mainly because, I believe, of its apocalyptic imagery and involvement with angels.  I read the book often. But one day, as I was leafing through its pages, my eye was arrested by verse 2, chapter 8:

And I saw the seven angels who stand before God;
                         And to them were given seven trumpets.                          

I laid the book aside and asked myself: who are these seven holy ones that stand before God?  Has any biblical scholar identified them? Are they of the order of seraphim, cherubim, princi­palities, and powers? And are they always the same seven who enjoy the privilege and eminence of closest proximity to the throne of Glory?  And why seven? Were the seven planets the proto-type? Or did the notion derive from the well-known chapter in Ezekiel 9: 2-11 which gives a terrifying picture of six "men" and a seventh "clothed in linen" whom Cod summoned to Jerusalem to "slay without pity"?  Challenging, even intimidating, questions and ones that, I felt, ought not to be left unanswered. Meantime, the pursuit led me down many a heavenly brook. Over the years it served lo unlock realms of gold 1 never suspected existed in Heaven or on earth.

Of the seven Revelation angels I had no difficulty in establishing the identity of three: Michael and Gabriel (in Scripture) and Raphael (in The Book of Tobit). The last-named angel, by a happy chance, identifies himself: "I am Raphael," he discloses to his young charge Toby, "one of the seven angels who stand and enter before the glory to the Lord."  No declaration could be more authoritative or conclusive.  And so, with three of the seven angels identified, the problem was to bring to light the remaining four.

I remembered reading somewhere to an angel called Uriel and that he was a "regent of the sun."  He seemed a likely candidate. I was continued in this feeling when 1 came upon Uriel in Paradise Lost (111, 648 seq.) and found the archfiend himself providing warrant: "him Satan thus accosts./Uriel, for them of those seav’n spirits that stand/In sight of God's high Throne, gloriously bright," etc. Poe's Israfel, "Whose heart-strings are a lute," was (or is) an Islamic angel,[ii] and I wondered if that fact might rule him out. Then there was Longfellow's Sandalphon.  In the poem by that name, Longfellow described Sandalphon as the "Angel of Glory, Angel of Prayer." A great angel, certainly: but, again, was he of an eminence sufficiently exalted to entitle him to "enter before the glory of the Lord"? That was the question. Vondel's Lucijer, Heywood's The Hierarchy oj the Blessed Angels, Milton's Paradise Last, Dryden's Slate of Innocence, Klopstock's The Messiah—all these works yielded a considerable quantity of the celestial spirits, some 111 the top echelons, like Abdiel, Ithuriel, Uzziel, Zephon; but I had no way of telling whether any of them qualified. Surely, I comforted myself, there must be some source where the answer could be found. Actually there were a number of such sources. I had only to reach out my hand for books in my own library. Instead, in my then state of pneumatic innocence, I looked far afield.

Since I was unacquainted at the time with anyone versed in angel lore, 1 decided to enter into correspondence with scholars and theologians who might help me. 1 picked half a dozen names at random from the faculty lists of local universities, seminaries, and yeshivas. 1 put the question squarely to them. The responses were a long time coming and hardly satisfying. "Not in my competence" was the way one biblical exegete put it. Another referred me to the minister of a Swedenborgian church in "West Germany. From others I heard nothing. But one rather noted maskil came through handsomely with two sets of seven, each leading off with the familiar trio (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael), thus:



   First List Michael



Second List Michael Gabriel Raphael





Remiel (or Camael)

Anael (Haniel)



Uzziel (or Sidriel)



          I now had not only the seven angels 1 had been looking for but a clique of seven; and, in addition, the names of angels I had not heard of before.[iii]  In the course of further correspondence I was apprised of a branch of extracanonical writings new to me: pseudepigrapha, particularly the three Enoch books, a veritable treasure-trove!  Enoch I or the Book of Enoch (also called the Ethiopic Enoch, from the fact that the earliest version or recession of the book was found in Abyssinia) was the most readily available.  It literally rioted in angel names—many of them, as 1 quickly discovered, duplications or corruptions of other names.

What were Enoch's sources?  Did the patriarch (or whoever the author was to whom the Enoch books have been attributed) draw on his own lively imagination? (Certainly the 12-winged kalkydri and phoenixes were his invention.) Did he conjure his angels from the "four hinges of the spirit world?”  Or did they come to him, as they have and still do to initiates, after a special, mystical concentration—a gift of grace, a charisma?  1 left that an open question, for the time being.

The Enoch books led me on to related hierological sources and texts: apocalyptic, cabalistic, Talmudic, Gnostic, patristic, Merkabah (Jewish mystic), and ultimately to the grimoires, those black magic manuals, repositories of curious, forbidden, and by now well-nigh forgotten lore, hi them, invocations, adjurations, and exorcisms were spelt out in full, often grossest detail, and addressed to spirits bearing the most outlandish names. The Church was not slow in pronouncing its curse on these rituals, although the authorship of one of the most diabolic of them was credited (without warrant, it is true) to a pope, Honorius the Third, who reigned during the years 1216-1227. The work is titled The Grimoire of Honorius the Great, and made its first appear­ance in 1629, some 400 years after the death of its reputed author.  Arthur Edward Waite, author of The Book of Ceremonial Magic, cites the grimoire as "a malicious and somewhat clever imposture, which was undeniably calculated to deceive ignorant persons of its period who may have been magically inclined, more especially ignorant priests, since it pretends to convey the express sanction of the Apostolical Seat for the operations of infernal magic and necromancy.

All these goetic tracts yielded a boundless profusion of angels (and demons), and I soon had more of the fluttering creatures than I knew what to do with. In order to keep my work within sizable limits, I started weeding out (Heaven forgive me!) what I considered to be less important names, or the ones about which little or no data could be found.

At this stage of the quest I was literally bedeviled by angels. They stalked and leaguered me, by night and day.  I could not tell the evil from the good, demons from daevas, satans from seraphim; nor (to quote from a poem composed at the time) "if that world I could not hope to prove,/Flaming with heavenly beasts, holy and grim,/Was any less real than that in which I moved." I moved, indeed, m a twilight zone of tall presences, through enchanted forests lit with the sinister splendor of fallen divinities; of aeons and archom, peris and paracletes, elohim and avatars. 1 felt somewhat like Dante, in the opening canto of The Divine Comedy, when, midway upon the journey of his life, he found himself astray in a dusky wood. Or like some knight of old, ready to try conclusions with any adversary, real or fancied. I remember one occa­sion—it was winter and getting dark—returning home from a neighboring farm, I had cut across an unfamiliar field. Suddenly a nightmarish shape loomed up in front of me, barring my
progress. After a paralyzing moment 1 managed to tight my way past the phantom. The next morning 1 could not be sure (no more than Jacob was, when he wrestled with his dark antagonist at Peniel) whether I had encountered a ghost, an angel, a demon, or God. There were other such moments and other such encounters, when I passed from terror to trance, from intimations of realms unguessed at to the uneasy conviction that, beyond the reach of our senses, beyond the arch of all our experience sacred and profane, there was only—to use an expression of Paul's in I Timothy 4—''fable and endless genealogy.”

Logic, 1 felt, was my only safe anchor in reality; but if, as Walter Nigg points out, "angels are powers which transcend the logic of our existence,' did it follow that one is constrained to abandon logic in order to entertain angels?[iv]  For the sake of angels 1 was ready to subscribe to Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief." I was even ready to drink his "milk of Paradise." But 1 was troubled. Never a respecter of authority, per se, particularly when it was backed by the "salvific light of revelation," 1 nevertheless kept repeating to myself that 1 was pitting my per­sonal and necessarily circumscribed experience, logic, and belief (or nonbelief) against the experience, logic, and belief ot some ot the boldest and profoundest minds of all times—minds that had reshaped the world's thinking and emancipated it (to a degree, at any rate) from the bondage of superstition and error. Still, 1 was averse to associating myself with opinions and creeds, no matter how hallo wed by time or tradition, or by whomsoever held, that were plainly repugnant to common sense. A professed belief in angels would, inevitably, involve me in a belief in the supernatural, and that was the golden snare I did not wish to be caught in. Without committing myself religiously could conceive of the possibility of there being, in dimensions and worlds other than our own, powers and intelligences outside our present apprehension, and in this sense angels are not to be ruled out as a part of reality—always remembering that we create what we believe.  Indeed, I am prepared to say that if enough of us believe in angels, then angels exist.

In the course of much reading in patristic lore 1 came upon a saying by St. Augustine. It is taken from hi) Eight Questions ("de diversis questionibus octoginta tribus").  I wrote down the saying on a piece of paper and carried it around with me for a long time, not as something I concurred in, but as a challenge. This is what Augustine said: "Every visible thing in this world is put under the charge of an angel.' Genesis Rabna, 10, puts it somewhat differently: "There's not a stalk on earth that has not its [protecting or guardian] angel in heaven."

Here and there, wherever it suited his thesis or purpose, St. Paul found angels wicked (as in Ephesians 6, etc.). In Colossians 2:17 he warns us not to be seduced by any religion of angels. Furthermore, God himself, it appears, "put no trust in his servants... his angels he charged with folly" (Job 4:18). There was the further injunction in Hebrews 13, "Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines." Sound advice! And I was fain to say to Paul, as Agrippa the king said to him (in Acts 26:38), "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." But whose strange doctrines did Paul have in mind—Moses'? Isaiah's? Koheleth's? Peter's? St. James'? And if it is Paul who thus exhorts us in Hebrews (a book once reputedly his), one might ask: is Paul a trustworthy counselor and guide—a man who, as he himself admits, was "all things to all men," and who honored and repudiated angels in almost the same breath? One thing I soon realized: in the realm of the unknowable and invisible, in matters where a questioner is finally reduced to taking things on faith, one can be sure of nothing, prove nothing, and convince nobody. But more of this anon.

One of the problems I ran into, in the early days of my investigations, was how to hack my way through the maze of changes in nomenclature and orthography that angels passed through in the course of their being translated from one language into another, or copied out by scribes from one manuscript to another, or by virtue of the natural deterioration that occurs with any body of writing, undergoing repeated transcripdons and metathesis. For example: Uriel, "presider over Tartarus" and "regent of the sun," shows up variously as Sariel, Nuriel, Uryan, Jehoel, Owrecl, Oroiael, Phanuel, Eremiel, Ramiel, Jeremiel, Jacob-Isra'el. Derivations and/or variations of Haniel, chief of principalities and "the tallest angel in Heaven," may be set down in mathematical equations, to wit: Haniel = Anael = Anfiel = Aniyel = Anaficl = Onocl = Ariel = Simicl. The celestial gabbai keeper of the treasuries of Heaven, Vretil, turns out to be die same as, or can be equated with, or is an aphetic form of, Gabriel, Radueriel, Pravuil, Seferiel, Vrevoil.  In Arabic lore, Gabriel is jibril, jabriel, Abrael, or Abru-el, etc. In ancient Persian lore he wasSorush and Revan-bakhsh and "the crowned Bahman," mightiest of all angels. To the Ethio­pians he is Gadrcel.

Michael had a mystery name: Sabbathiel. He passed also for the Shekinah, the Prince of Light, the Logos, Metatron, the angel of the Lord, and as St. Peter (for Michael, also, like the prince of apostles, holds—or held—the keys of the kingdom of Heaven). In addition, as the earliest recorded slayer of the Dragon, Michael may be considered the prototype of the redoubt­able St. George. To the ancient Persians he was known as Beshtcr, sustainer of mankind.

Raphael, "christened" Labbiel when God first formed him, is interchangeable with Apharope, Raguel, Ramiel, Azrael, Raffarel, etc. And, to make matters more complicated, our healing angel operated under a pseudonym, Azariah (as in The Book of Tobit). The Zohar equates Raphael with a king of the underworld, Bael.

[i]  The Koran names seven angels: Gabriel, Michael, Iblisor Eblis, chief jinn in Arabian mythology, counterpart ot the Judaean-Christian Satan; Malec or Malik, principal angel of Hell; the two fallen angels, Harutand Marut;and Malaku '1-maut, angel of death, identified as Azrael. Contrary to popular belief and accreditation, the Koran does not name Isratel, lord of the resurrection trumpet.

[ii]  Not a Koramic angel, as Poe mistakenly makes him out to be. Israfel is not mentioned in the Koran, and Poe's quotation from it must derive, presumably, from a haditih (traditional saying attributed to the Prophet) or from "Preliminary Discourse," George Sale's long introductory essay to his translation of ihe Koran. Scholars have pointed out that references to Israfel and tributes to him as the Angel of Music in Arabic lore were known to Pile as occurring in the works of the French poet, de Beranger (whom Poe quotes), and the Irish poet, Thomas Moore.


[iii]  Subsequently, in oilier lists, of the seven (Enoch I, Esdras II. etc.), I came upon the names of the following angels: Jophiel, Jermiel, Pravuil, Salathiel, Sariel, Zachariel, and Zaphiel.


[iv]  Walter Nigg's article "Stay you Angles, Stay with Me," Harper's Bazaar December 1962.  The phrase Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata for Michaelmas Day.



Pgs XVI to XX

The archangel Raziel, ''chief of the Supreme Mysteries," and '"author" of the famous Sejer Raziel (Book of the Angel Raziel), answers to Akraziel, Saraqael, Suriel, Galisur, N'Zunel, and Uriel. The seraph Semyaza may be summoned up by the pronouncement of any of a string ot variations on his name—Samiaza, Shemhazai, Amezyarak, Azael, Azaziel, Uzza.

Metatron, the "lesser YHWH" (i.e., the lesser God) and twin brother of Sandalphon, also had a mystery name, Bizbul. But Metatron had more than 100 other names (see Appendix) and in magical rites he could be invoked by any of them.

The leopard-bodied Camael (alias Shemuel, Simiel, Quemuel, Kemuel), while serving in Hell as a Count Palatine and ruler of the wicked planet Mars, served at the same time in Heaven as an archangel of the divine presence. It was Camael (Kemuel) who accompanied God with a troop of 12,000 spirits at the promulgation of the Holy Law. This is vouched for in legend.[i]   According to another legend,[ii] Camael was destroyed by Moses when he tried to hinder the Lawgiver from receiving the Torah at the hand of God.

Satan paraded under, or hid behind, a bewildering array of forms and incarnations. The "prince of the power of the air," as Paul picturesquely dubs him, is our best example of a quick-change artist in guises and appellatives. In Zoroastrian theosophy he is Ahriman, enemy of man; and God, a kind of ur-Satan (since Ahriman antedates by 1,000 years the Judaeo-Christian image of a prince regent of evil). In Leviticus, he is Azazel, the "goat of the sin offering." In Isaiah he is Lucifer (or, rather, mistakenly identified as Lucifer). In Matthew, Mark, and Luke he is Beelze­bub, "lord of flies." In Revelation he is "that dragon and old serpent, the Devil." He is Mastema and/or Beliar in The Book of Jubilees and The Book of Adam Mid Eve. He is Sammael in Baruch III, The Chaldean Paraphrase fj Jonathan, and The Martyrdom of Isaiah. In Enoch he is Satanail and ' Salamiel. In The Apocalypse of Abraham and The Zohar he is Duma as well as Azazel. In Falasha lore he is Suriel, angel of death. And he is Beliar or Beliel in The Testament of the Twelve Patri­archs.  The Zadokite Fragments (where Mastema also figures as an alternate to Beliar), and The Sibylline Oracles. In the Koran he is Iblis or Eblis or Haris. And in Jewish tradition he is Yetzer-hara, the personified evil inclination in man. To Shakespeare (I Henry IV) he is the "Lordly monarch of the north"; to Milton (Paradise Regained IV, 604) he is the "Thief of Paradise"; to Bunyan (Holy War) he is Diabolus.[iii]  But whatever his guise, the once familiar peripatetic of Heaven is no longer to be found there, as guest or resident; nor is it likely that the black divinity of his feet will ever again be sighted on the crystal battlements—unless he is forgiven and reinvested with his former rank and glory, an eventuality the Church forbids its followers to entertain as possible or desirable, since Satan and his angels have been cursed by the Savior Himself 'into everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41).

Hell itself, one adduces from Enoch II, Testament of Levi, and other apocryphal and pseudepigraphic works, is not located where one would ordinarily suppose it to be, i.e., in the under­world, but in the "northern regions of the 3rd Heaven," while Evil in its various aspects is lodged in the 2nd as well as the 3rd and 5th Heavens.[iv] The first 3 Heavens, according to the Baruch Apocalypse (Baruch HI), are "full of evil-looking monsters." In the 2nd Heaven the fallen angels (the amorous ones, those that coupled with the daughters of men) are imprisoned and daily flogged. In the 5th the dread Watchers dwell, those eternally silent Grigori "who, with their prince Salamiel, had rejected the Lord."[v]  When Paul was caught up in the 3rd Heaven, he en­countered there "angels of evil, terrible and without pity carrying savage weapons."[vi]  In a word, at least 3 Heavens, or regions of at least 3 Heavens, were the abode of the eternally damned. Now, to find Hell in Heaven should not have surprised this writer, or anyone with a smattering of Greek mythology, for the paradisiacal Elysian Fields, "residence of the shades of the Blessed," are in the immediate vicinity of Hades. A rabbinic commentary (Midrash Tannaim) vouches for the fact that Hell and Paradise are "side by side." This is close to what one finds in a commentary on Psalm 90 (Midrash Tehillim) where it is stated that there were seven things which preceded the creation of the world, and that among the seven things were Paradise and Hell, and that "Paradise was on the right side of God, Hell on the left." In a commentary on Ecclesi-astes (Yalkut Koheleth) we learn that the two realms are actually only "a hand-breadth apart." This carefully calibrated survey is attributed to the Hebrew sage, Rab Chanina (Kahana), of the late 3rd century C.E.[vii]

How incongruous, indeed how anomalous it was to plant Hell in Heaven must have occurred finally to the Great Architect Himself for, one day, without fuss or fanfare, the entire apparatus of evil—the arsenals of punishment, the chief Scourgers, the apostate angels, the horned or aureoled spirits of wrath, destruction, confusion, and vengeance—was moved from the upper to the lower world, where (if it is not too presumptuous to say so) all such paraphernalia and per­sonnel should have been installed in the first place.

The noted scholar R. H. Charles, in his introduction to Morfill's translation of Enoch II, observes in a footnote that "the old idea of wickedness in Heaven was subsequently banished from Christian and Jewish thought." True, and none too soon. For what assurance otherwise would the faithful have been given that, on arrival in Heaven, they would not be lodged in one of the enclaves of Hell?

Perhaps the best—or worst—example of the contusion to be found in noncanonical as well as canonical lore is the case of Satan. The Old Testament speaks of an adversary, ha-satan. It is a term that stood for an office; it did not denote the name of an angel. To the Jews of Biblical times the adversary was neither evil nor fallen (the Old Testament knows nothing of fallen angels), but a servant of God in good standing, a great angel, perhaps the greatest. However, he is no­where named. In Job he presents himself before the Lord in the company of other unnamed "sons of God." There is no question of his being evil or apostate.[viii]  The one instance where ha-satan is given as satan without the definite article (I Chronicles 21), is now generally conceded to be a scribal oversight. In a word, the Old Testament did not name its angels, except in Daniel, a late, postexilic book. There are only two angels are named: Michael and Gabriel (names, by the way, that owe their origin to Babylonian-Chaldean sources). In the New Testament, on the contrary, Satan is unequivocably a person, so named. Here he is no longer the obedient ser­vant of God, the "prime in splendour," but the cast out opponent and enemy of God, the Prince of Evil, the Devil incarnate.

The transformation of ha-satan in the Old Testament into Satan in the New, and the con­flicting notions that arose as a consequence, are pointed up by Bernard J. Bamberger in his Fallen Angels: "The classic expositions of the Jewish faith have implicitly or explicitly rejected the belief in rebel angels and in a Devil who is God's enemy. . . . The Hebrew Bible itself, correctly interpreted, leaves no room for a belief in a world of evil powers arrayed against the goodness of God. . . . Historical Christianity, on the other hand, has consistently affirmed the continuing conflict between God and Satan." This continuing conflict between God and Satan, one might add, is little more than a recrudescence, with modifications, of the dualistic system that Christi­anity (along with Jewish sectarians of the post-Biblical era) inherited from Zoroastrianism.

Equally difficult to deal with was the question whether (and how many) other spirits in the celestial hierarchy were good or evil, fallen or still upright, dwellers of Heaven or Hell. This wasa specially baffling problem and left me wandering about in a perpetual cloud of unknowing. A case in point: In Enoch I, 6, Remiel is styled "one of the leaders of the rebel angels." Farther along in the same book, Chapter 18, Remiel is metamorphosed into "one of the seven holy ones whom God set over those who rise." Is Revelation 9, Abaddon/Apollyon is the "angel of the bottomless pit," suggesting an evil spirit in the sense of a destroyer; but in Revelation 20, Abaddon/Apollyon is manifestly good and holy, for here he is said to have "laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years" (in The Greater Key of Solomon Abaddon is "a name for God that Moses invoked to bring down the blighting rain over Egypt" !). Vondel, the Dutch Shakespeare (1587-1678), tells us in his Lucifer that Apollyon was known in Heaven, before he joined Satan, as the hierarch "of the snowy wings." To Bunyan in Pilgrim's Progress, Apollyon is an out-and-out devil, the devil, just as he is in secular writings generally.[ix] Other examples, to cite a handful: Ariel, "earth's great Lord" and an aide to Raphael in the curing of disease, is at the same time a rebel angel in charge of pun­ishments in the lower world. Kakabel, a high holy prince who exercises dominion over the con­stellations, is in Enoch one of the apostates. The angel Usiel, Gabriel's lieutenant in the fighting on high, is designated a companion of the lustful luminaries who coupled with mortal women; in Zoharic cabala he is the cortex (averse demon) of Gog Sheklah, "disturber of all things." Among the rabbis the opinion is divided with regard to the 90,000 angels of destruction. Are they in the service of God or the Devil? Pirke Rabbi Eliezer inclines to the latter view. In the Pirke they are called "angels of Satan."

It is well to bear in mind that all angels, whatever their state of grace—indeed, no matter how christologically corrupt and defiant—are under God, even when, to all intents and purposes, they are performing under the direct orders of the Devil. Evil itself is an instrumentality of the Creator, who uses evil for His own divine, if unsearchable, ends. At least, such may be gathered from Isaiah 45:7; it is also Church doctrine, as is the doctrine that angels, like human beings, were created with free will, but that they surrendered their free will the moment they were formed. At that moment, we are told, they were given (and had to make) the choice between turning toward or away from God, and that it was an irrevocable choice. Those angels that turned toward God gained the beatific vision, and so became fixed eternally in good; those that turned away from God became fixed eternally in evil. These latter are the demons, they are not the fallen angels (an entirely different breed of recusants which hatched out subsequently, on Satan's defection). Man, however, continues to enjoy free will. He can still choose between good and evil. This may or may not work out to his advantage; more often than not it has proved his undoing. The best that man can hope for, apparently, is that when he is weighed in the balance (by the "angels of final reckoning"), he is not found wanting.[x]

Angels perform a multiplicity of duties and tasks. Preeminently they serve God. They do this by the ceaseless chanting of glorias as they circle round the high holy Throne. They also carry out missions from God to man. But many serve man directly as guardians, counselors, guides, judges, interpreters, cooks, comforters, dragomen, matchmakers, and gravediggers. They are responsive to invocations when such invocations are properly formulated and the conditions are propitious. In occult lore angels are conjured up not only to help an invocant strengthen his faith, heal his afflictions, find lost articles, increase his worldly goods, and procure offspring, but also to circumvent and destroy an enemy. There are instances where an angel or troop of angels turned the tide of battle, abated storms, conveyed saints to Heaven, brought down plagues, fed hermits, helped plowmen, converted heathens. An angel multiplied the seed of Hagar, protected Lot, caused the destruction of Sodom, hardened Pharaoh's heart, rescued Daniel from the lions' den, and Peter from prison. To come closer to our own times: it will be recalled that when Spinoza was "execrated, cursed, and cast out" from his community in Amsterdam for holding among other "heretical views" that "angels were an hallucination," the edict of excommunication against him was drawn up by the rabbis "with the judgment of the angels."

The might of angels, as made known to us in Targum and Talmud, is easily a match for the might of the pagan gods and heroes. Michael overthrew mountains. Gabriel bore Abraham on his back to Babylon, whither an unnamed angel later conveyed the prophet Habbakuk (by the hair) from Judea, to feed Daniel pottage.[xi] Jewish legend tells us that, during the siege of the Holy City by Nebuchadnezzar, "the prince of the world" (Metatron? Michael? or perchance Satan?) lifted Jerusalem "high in the air" but that God thrust it down again.[xii] We know from Revelation that seven angels of the wrath of God smote a "third part of the stars." The mighty Rabdos is able to stop the planets in their courses. The Talmudic angel Ben Nez prevents the earth from being consumed by holding back the South Wind with his pinions. Morael has the power of making everything in the visible world invisible. The Atlantean Splenditenes sup­ports the globe on his back. Ataphiel (Barattiel), hierarch of Merkabah lore, keeps Heaven from tumbling down by balancing it on three fingers. The Pillared Angel (mentioned in Revelation) supports the sky on the palm of his right hand. Chayyiel, the divine angel-beast, can—if he is so minded—swallow the whole world in a single gulp. When Hadraniel proclaims the will of God, "his voice penetrates through 200,000 firmaments." It was Hadraniel who struck Moses "dumb with awe" when the Lawgiver caught sight of the dread luminary in the 2nd Heaven. As late as the 17th century, the German astronomer Kepler figured out (and somehow managed to fit into his celebrated law of celestial mechanics) that the planets are "pushed around by angels."

[i]  Rf. Moses Schwab, I 'acabnlaiti' df I'Angtlologie. According to Rabbi Abdimi, no less than 22,000 ministering angels descended on Mt. Sinai on this historic occasion (see Midrasli Tchiillim on Psalm 68).


[ii]  Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews,  III, 110.

[iii] A recent writer, Jean Lhermitte (True and False Possession, 1963), holds that "The Prince of Darkness no longer appears as a personage . . . but disguises himself willingly, even preferably, under the appearance of corporate personalities or institutions."


[iv]  C. E. S. Wood, the American poet, in his Heavenly Discourse, gives Satan's P.O. address as Washington, D.C.  That was back in 1927.  His Satanic Majesty may have moved since then.


[v] This must have been in the "north of the 5th Heaven, for elsewhere in the same Heaven, whither Zephaniah claims a Spirit conveyed him, the Old Testament Prophet "beheld angels that are called Lords, and each had a crown upon his head as well as a throne shining seven times brighter than the sun"—quoted by Clement of Alexandria from the lost Apocalypse of Zephaniah.


[vi]  . The tact that in Paul's day there still were angels of evil in Heaven "carrying savage weapons" would lead one to suppose that the fighting on high did not end with Satan's rout, and that Michael and his hosts won a Pyrrhic victory, or at best a truce.

[vii]  . The tact that in Paul's day there still were angels of evil in Heaven "carrying savage weapons" would lead one to suppose that the fighting on high did not end with Satan's rout, and that Michael and his hosts won a Pyrrhic victory, or at best a truce.

11. In this connection, the expression "Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16), interpreted as denoting "the repose of the happy in death," may be cited here. The Apostles' Creed affirms that Jesus descended to Hell after the Crucifixion, purportedly to liberate the "saints in chains" (the unbaptized patriarchs, Abraham among them) in order to transport them to Paradise. The parable in Luke presupposes that Abraham is already there; and the fact that the rich man in Hades (Dives) is able to converse with Abraham across the "great chasm" suggests that the chasm was not very wide, and that, hence, Heaven and Hell were very close to each other, at least within speaking distance. Purgatory, it will be noted, is not mentioned. The explanation is simple: it did not exist—not, anyway, until 604 c.e. Gregory the Great invented it. Perhaps invention is too strong a term. Gregory very likely appropriated the notion of an "upper Gehenna" from the ancient Jews, or from the empyrosis of the Greek stoics, or from the twelve cycles of purgation of Zoroaster. Be that as it may, Purgatory was made official—it was "legislated into existence"—by decrees at the Council of Lyons in 1274, at Florence in 1439, and again in the 1540's at the Council of Trent, and is today part of the religious belief of all or most Christians, except members of the Church of England which, in 1562, condemned Purgatory as "a fond thing vainly invented and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God." We know of no angels, fair or foul, inhabiting or frequenting the place. According to Origen, it is reserved for souls waiting to be purged of the "lighter materials" of their sins "so that they may enter the king­dom of Heaven undefiled." The duration of souls in Purgatory, an indefinable time, may be cut down by indul­gences, prayers, and paid masses. Jews have their Yom Kippur, which is a prayer for the repose of the dead and is recited on Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuoth. Where these Jewish dead are reposing is not clear. The Moslems have their Al Aaraaf, a region for "those who are [found] neither good nor bad, such as infants, lunatics, and idiots — Reader's Encyclopedia, "Araf."


[viii]   The hasidic rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak ot Pzysha, known as the holy Yehudi (d. 1814), makes this clear when he declared that "the virtue of angels is that they cannot deteriorate." See Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidin, Later Masters, p. 231. The fact that the adversary challenges God or questions Him does not, ipso facto, make the adversary evil or an opponent of God—just as, when Abraham and Job "put God to the question," they were not, on that account, regarded as evil men, or even as presumptuous men. See Harry M. Orlinsky's Ancient Israel, p. 30.


[ix]   In Jewish lore, abaddon is a place—sheol, the pit, or the grave; nowhere is it the name of an angel or demon. The term is personified for the first time in Revelation and appears as Abaddon (cap A). St. John makes Abaddon synonymous with Apollyon and declares it to be the Greek form of the same angel. The Confraternity edition of the New Testament adds here (Apocalypse 9:11): "in Latin he has the name Exterminans." On the other hand, The Magus, which offers a number of portraits of the archfiends in color, splits Abaddon and Apollyon into two separate and distinct ''vessels to iniquity," showing Abaddon with tawny hair and Roman nose, Apollyon with russet beard and hooked beak.

[x]   According to Abbot Anscar Vonier in The Teaching of the' Catholic Church (1964), angels still enjoy free will. This seems to be another or new interpretation of Catholic doctrine on the subject.


[xi]   See apocryphal additions to Daniel 5:86.

[xii]   In 1291-1294 C.E., angels moved the house of the Virgin Mary from Nazareth to Dalmatia, thence to various parts of Italy, finally depositing it in the village of Loretto. The miraculous haulage is the subject of a canvas (now in the Morgan Library, New York), by the 15th-16th century artist Saturne di Gatti.


The collection of tales about angles were not composed as fiction.  Those who talked and wrote about angles believed that they were revealing the truth about the heavenly host though a process of divine light.  A similar body of Christian tales exists about the devil, and also about hell.  Dante’s Divine Comedy set down the commonly ascribed to beliefs of the 14th century.  What occurred for hell, angels, and devils has also occurred for the lives of Christ and Mohammed.