How Angels are described in the Bible
Today, the 29 September, while celebrating the Feast of the Archangels and waiting for 2 October - day dedicated to the guardian angels -, let us briefly analyse the role and description of these extraordinary beings - the angels - in the sacred texts.
Angels are increasingly present in the beliefs of people, even non-Christians, and they are God's creatures.
The term derives from the Greek = Anghelos and means Messenger, Bearer of News; in the Bible Angels are part of the Creator's Celestial Court.
Their first appearance occurs in the Bible, Genesis 3:24, when Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise and God placed a Cherubim Angel with a flaming sword to block the entrance.
We have to wait 1900 years to see a new apparition, exactly in Genesis 16:7, and then move on to the best-known apparitions of the New Testament.
In this case, it is impossible not to mention the Annunciation of the birth of the Messiah to the Virgin Mary through an Angel (Lk 1:26 - 38), or the Angel who warned Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to protect them from Herod's census (Mt 2:13).
It is an Angel who announces the Resurrection of the Messiah to the three women going to the tomb of Jesus. The role of Angels as bearers of the word of God stands out quite clearly. They are sent by the Eternal Father to manifest his presence in the world and his intervention in human affairs.
Described as a multitude, they are always many when they praise God "Thousands upon thousands attended Him, and myriads upon myriads stood before Him" (Daniel 7,10) or in Revelation 5,11 "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders."
In fact, the number of Heavenly Spirits in the Bible is very high. The multitude of Angels flanking God and singing His praises stands for not only enormous numbers but perfection.
But how are they physically described in the Bible?
There are many artistic representations of Angels as majestic beings with golden curls and wings. In reality, in the Bible, they are presented with more wings, exactly four, two of which are upwards and two enveloping the body, and with four faces, one of an eagle, one of a lion, one human and one of an ox; sometimes they are described as fearsome beings, endowed with flaming Swords (Genesis 3:24).
Far from the angelic appearance which we are accustomed to, the word Angel in the singular appears 221 times in the Bible, and 97 in its plural.
The evolution of Angels from the Old Testament to the New is noteworthy.
In the Old Testament, Angels appear as Spiritual beings, part of the Celestial Sphere, mediators between God, transcendent and inaccessible, and men.
In the New Testament, which was written between 80 and 200 AD, Angels are endowed with their own individuality and specificity.
Sacred Scripture therefore agrees on the existence of Angels.
The Catechism teaches us to rely on their presence and trust in it.