Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The History of Angels by Lewis Spence 1920

Lewis Spence on Angels

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Angels: The word angel, "angelos" in Greek, "malak" in Hebrew, literally signifies a "person sent" or a "messenger." It is a name, not of nature but of office, and is applied also to men in the world, as ambassadors or representatives. In a lower sense, angel denotes a spiritual being employed in occasional offices; and lastly, men in office as priests or bishops. The "angel of the congregation," among the Jews, was the chief of the synagogue. Such is the scriptural usage of a term, which, in common parlance, is now limited to its principal meaning, and denotes only the inhabitants of heaven.

The apostle of the Gentiles speaks of the angels as "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," in strict keeping with the import of the term itself. In Mark i., 2, it is applied to John the Baptist: "Behold I send my messenger ('angel') before my face," and the word is the same ("malak") in the corresponding prophecy of Malachi. In Hebrews xii., 22, 24, we read: "Ye have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of the just," etc., and this idea of their great number is sustained by the words of our Lord himself, where, for example, he declares that "twelve legions" of them were ready upon His demand. In the Revelation of St. John, a vast idea of their number is given. They are called the "armies" of heaven. Their song of praise is described as "the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings." In fine, the sense of number is overwhelmed in the effort to compute them.

As to their nature, it is essentially the same as that of man, for not only are understanding and will attributed to them, but they have been mistaken for men when they appeared, and Paul represents them as capable of disobedience (Heb. ii., 7, 16.) The latter possibility is exhibited in its greatest extent by Jude, who speaks of the "angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation," and upon this belief is founded the whole system of tradition concerning angels and demons. The former term was gradually limited to mean only the obedient ministers of the will of the Almighty, and the influence of evil angels was concentrated into the office of the great adversary of all good, the devil or Satan. These ideas were common to the whole Eastern world, and were probably derived by the Jewish people from the Assyrians. The Pharisees charged the Saviour with casting out devils "by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." But that evil spirits acted in multitudes under one person, appears from Mark v., 9, where the evil spirit being asked his name, answered: "My name is 'Legion' for we are many."

It is generally held that two orders are mentioned in scripture, "angels" and "archangels"; but the latter word only occurs twice, namely, in Jude, where Michael is called "an archangel," and in I. Thess. iv., 16, where it is written: "the Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God." This is a slender foundation to build a theory upon. The prefix simply denotes rank, not another order of intelligence. There is nothing in the whole of Scripture, therefore, to show that intelligent beings exist who have other than human attributes. Gabriel and Michael are certainly mentioned by name, but they appeared to Daniel, Zacharias, and the Virgin Mary, in fulfilment of a function, correspondent to the high purpose of which,' may be the greater power, wisdom, and goodness, we should attribute to them; and hence the fuller representation of the angelic hosts, as chief angels.

The mention of Michael by name occurs five times in Scripture, and always in the character of a chief militant:— In Daniel, he is the champion of the Jewish church against Persia; in the Revelation, he overcomes the dragon; and in Jude he is mentioned in personal conflict with the devil about the body of Moses. He is called by Gabriel, "Michael, your prince," meaning of the Jewish church. In the alleged prophecy of Enoch, he is styled: "Michael, one of the holy angels, who, presiding over human virtue, commands the nations"; while Raphael, it says, "presides oper the spirits of men"; Uriel, "over clamour and terror"; and Gabriel, "over Paradise, and over the cherubims." In the Catholic services, St. Michael is invoked as a "most glorious and warlike prince," "the receiver of souls," and "the vanquisher of evil spirits." His design, according to Randle Holme, is a banner hanging on a cross; and he is armed as representing victory, with a dart in one hand and a cross on his forehead. Bishop Horsley and others considered Michael only another designation for the Son of God. We may add as a certain biblical truth, that the Lord Himself is always meant, in an eminent sense, by any angel named as His minister; and he is called the angel of the Covenant, because he embodied in his own person the whole power and representation of the angelic kingdom, as the messenger, not of separate and temporary commands, but of the whole Word in its fulness.

Paul speaks of a "third heaven," which must be understood not as a distinct order of created intelligences, but in the same sense as the Lord's declaration: "In my Father's house are many mansions." For Jesus Christ always speaks of His kingdom as essentially one, even in both worlds, the spiritual and natural.

Dionysius, or St. Denis, the supposed Areopagite, describes three hierarchies of angels in nine choirs, thus: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Angels, Archangels. And Vartan, or Vertabied, the Armenian poet and historian, who flourished in the thirteenth century, describes them under the same terms, but expressly states: "these orders differ from one another in situation and degree of glory, just as there are different ranks among men, though they are all of one nature." He also remarks that the first order are attracted to the Deity by love, and hardly attributes place to them, but states of desire and love, while the heaven which contains the whole host is above the printunt mobile, which, again is superior to the starry firmament. This description, and all others resembling it, the twelve heavenly worlds of Plato, and the heaven succeeding it, the heaven of the Chinese, for example, are but as landmarks serving to denote the heights which the restless waves of human intelligence have reached at various times in the attempt to represent the eternal and infinite in precise terms. Boeheme recognises the "whole deep between the stars," as the heaven of one of the three hierarchies, and places the other two above it; "in the midst of all which," he says, "is the Son of God; no part of either is farther or nearer to him, yet are the three kingdoms circular about him." The Revelations of Swedenborg date a century later, and begin all these subjects de novo, but his works are accessible to all, and therefore we do not further allude to them.

The Jewish rabbi's hold the doctrine of another hierarchy superior to these three, and some of them, as Bechai and Joshua, teach that "every day ministering angels are created out of the river Dinor, or fiery stream, and they sing an anthem and cease to exist; as it is written, they are new every morning." This, however, is only a misunderstanding, for to be "renewed" or "created" in the scriptural sense, is to be regenerated; and to be renewed every morning is to be kept in a regenerate state; the fiery stream is the baptism by fire or divine love.

The following represent the angelic hierarchies answering to the ten divine names:—

1. Jehovah, attributed to God the Father, being the pure and simple essence of the divinity, flowing through Hajoth Hakados to the angel Metratton (Metatron) and to the ministering spirit, Reschith Hajalalim, who guides the primum mobile, and bestows the gift of being on all. These names are to be understood as pure essences, or as spheres of angels and blessed spirits, by whose agency the divine providence extends to all his words.

2. Jah, attributed to the person of the Messiah or Logos, whose power and influence descends through the angel Masleh into the sphere of the Zodiac. This is the spirit or word that actuated the chaos, and ultimately produced the four elements, and all creatures that inherit them, by the agency of a spirit named Raziel, who was the ruler of Adam.

3. Ehjeh, attributed to the Holy Spirit, whose divine light is received by the angel Sabbathi, and communicated from him through the sphere of Saturn. It denotes the beginning of the supernatural generation, and hence of all living souls.

The ancient Jews considered the three superior names which are those above, to be attributed to the divine essence as personal or proper names, while the seven following denote the measures (middoth) or attributes which are visible in the works of God. But the modern Jews, in opposition to the tripersonalists, consider the whole as attributes. Maurice makes the higher three denote the heavens, and the succeeding the seven planets or worlds, to each of which a presiding angel was assigned.

4. El, strength, power, light, through which flow grace, goodness, mercy, piety, and munificence to the angel Zadkiel, and passing through the sphere of Jupiter fashioneth the images of all bodies, bestowing clemency, benevolence and justice on all.

5. Elohi, the upholder of the sword and left hand of God. Its influence penetrates the angel Geburah (or Gamaliel) and descends through the sphere of Mars. It imparts fortitude in times of war and affliction.

6. Tsebaoth, the title of God as Lord of hosts. The angel is Raphael, through whom its mighty power passes into the sphere of the sun, giving motion, heat and brightness to it.

7. Elion, the title of God as the highest. The angel is Michael. The sphere to which he imparts its influence is Mercury, giving benignity, motion, and intelligence, with elegance and consonance of speech.

8. Adonai, master or lord, governing the angel Haniel, and the sphere of Venus.

9. Shaddai, the virtue of this name is conveyed by Cherubim to the angel Gabriel, and influences the sphere of the moon. It causes increase and decrease, and rules the jinn and protecting spirits.

10. Elohim, the source of knowledge, understanding and wisdom, received by the angel Jesodoth, and imparted to the sphere of the earth.

The division of angels into nine orders or three hierarchies, as derived from Dionysius Areopagus, was held in the Middle Ages, and gave the prevalent character to much of their symbolism. With it was held the doctrine of their separate creation, and the tradition of the rebellious hierarchy, headed by Lucifer, the whole of which was rendered familiar to the popular mind by the Epic of Milton. Another leading tradition, not so much interwoven with the popular theology, was that of their intercourse with women, producing the race of giants. It was supposed to be authorised by Gen. vi. 2 in the adoption of which the Christian fathers seem to have followed the opinion of Philo-Judaeus, and Josephus. A particular account of the circumstances is given in the book of Enoch, already mentioned, which makes the angels, Uriel, Gabriel, and Michael, the chief instruments in the subjugation of the adulterers and their formidable off-spring. The classic writers have perpetuated similar traditions of the "hero" race, all of them born either from the love of the gods for women, or of the preference shown for a goddess by some mortal man.

The Persian, Jewish, and Mohammedan accounts of angels all evince a common origin, and they alike admit a difference of sex. In the latter, the name of Azazil is given to the hierarchy nearest the throne of God, to which the Mohammedan Satan (Eblis or Haris) is supposed to have belonged; also Azreal, the angel of death, and Asrafil (probably the same as Israfil), the angel of the resurrection. The examiners, Moukir and Nakir, are subordinate angels of terrible aspect, armed with whips of iron and fire, who interrogate recently deceased souls as to their lives. The parallel to this tradition in the Talmud is an account of seven angels who beset the paths of death. The Koran also assigns two angels to every man, one to record his good, and the other his evil actions; they are so merciful that if an evil action has been done, it is not recorded till the man has slept, and if in that interval he repents, they place on the record that God has pardoned him. The Siamese, beside holding the difference of sex, imagine that angels have offspring; but their traditions concerning the government of the world and the guardianship of man are similar to those of other nations.

The Christian fathers, for the most part, believed that angels possessed bodies of heavenly substance (Tertullian calls it "angelified flesh"), and, if not, that they could assume a corporeal presence at their pleasure. In fact, all the actions recorded of them in Scripture, suppose human members and attributes. It is not only so in the historic portions, but in the prophetic, even in the Apocalypse, the most replete with symbolic figures.


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