An Archangel is a superior or higher-ranking angel. Archangels are
found in a number of religious traditions, including Christianity,
Islam, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.
The word archangel derives from the Greek αρχάγγελος archangelos =
αρχ- arch- ("first, primary, chief") and άγγελος angelos
There are no explicit
references to archangels in the canonical texts of the Hebrew Bible
(Old Testament). Indeed even angels are uncommon except in later
works like Daniel, though they are mentioned briefly in the stories
of Jacob (who wrestled with an angel) and Lot (who was warned by
angels of the impending destruction of the cities of Sodom and
Gomorrah). The earliest references to archangels are in the
literature of the intertestamental periods (e.g., 4 Esdras 4:36).
It is therefore widely speculated that Jewish interest in angels was
learned during the Babylonian captivity. According to Rabbi Simeon
ben Lakish of Tiberias (230–270 AD), all the specific names for the
angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon, and some modern
commentators would argue that the details of the angelic hierarchy
were largely Zoroastrian in origin.
Within the rabbinic tradition, the Kabbalah, and the Book of Enoch
chapter 20, the usual number given is at least seven: Michael,
Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, Sariel, Raguel, and Remiel (possibly the
Ramiel of the Apocalypse of Baruch, said to preside over true
visions). Zadkiel, Jophiel, Haniel and Chamuel are also listed as
Gabriel, traditionally named as an archangel, delivering the
Annunciation. Painting by El Greco (1575) The New Testament rarely
speaks of angels, and makes only two references to archangels:
Michael in Jude 1.9 and I Thessalonians 4:16, where the "voice of an
archangel" will be heard at the return of Christ. Contrary to
popular belief, Gabriel is never called 'archangel' in the Gospels.
In later Christian tradition, however, there are three Archangels:
Michael, Gabriel, usually Raphael, and sometimes Uriel is given as a
fourth. Eastern Orthodox tradition mentions Seven Archangels. Uriel
is included, and the other three are most often cited as Selaphiel,
Jegudiel, and Barachiel.
Sometimes Satan is considered a fallen Archangel whose original name
was Lucifer Morningstar instead of the common name of just Lucifer.
Some Protestants view Michael as the sole Archangel, as the only one
explicitly described as such in the Protestant canon of the Bible.
The edition of the Bible used by Protestants, which excludes the
Apocrypha, never mentions a "Raphael" and he is therefore not
recognized by many of them. Raphael, however, is mentioned in the
Book of Tobit, one of the deuterocanonical books. In the story,
Raphael comes to the aid of Tobit, healing him of blindness, and his
son Tobias, driving away a demon that would have killed him. Raphael
also plays an important role in the Book of Enoch.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus is actually the Archangel
Michael. In this view, Michael is the first and greatest of all
God's creatures. This belief is held, in part, because the Bible
only mentions one Archangel by name; Michael and in the biblical
book 1Thessalonians 4:16 it says regarding Jesus: "Because the Lord
himself will descend from Heaven with a commanding call, with an
This is in contrast to certain Protestants, such as Seventh-day
Adventists, who believe that the Archangel Michael is not an angel
but is instead the uncreated, divine Son of God. In this view
"Archangel" means "head of the angels" rather than "head angel," and
is a title similar to "Prince of the host" (Daniel 8:11).
In Islam, the archangels include Michael or Mikail (Archangel of
sustenance), Gabriel or Jibril (Archangel of revelation; who brought
the Quran to Muhammad), and Azrael or Ezrail (Angel of Death) - a
common name; however, not mentioned in any scriptures. The names
that are mentioned include the "Angel of Death" or Malak al-Maut,
Israfil or Israfil (Archangel who is to blow the horn on Judgment
Day), Malik (Keeper of Hell), Munkar and Nakir (Angels of
Interrogation that will question deceased souls on their life before
their death) and Radwan (Keeper of Heaven). Neither Israfil nor
Ezrail are mentioned in the Qu'ran.
It is emphasised in Islamic texts that angels are genderless.
Occultists sometimes associate archangels in Kabbalistic fashion
with various seasons or elements, or even colors. In some Kabbalah-based
systems of ceremonial magic, all four of the main archangels
(Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel) are invoked as guarding the
four quarters, or directions, and their corresponding colors are
associated with magical properties.
In anthroposophy, based on teachings by Rudolph Steiner, there are
many spirits belonging to the hierarchical level of archangel. In
general, their task is to inspire and guard large groups of human
beings, such as whole nations, peoples or ethnic groups. This
reflects their rank above the angels who deal with individuals (the
guardian angel) or small groups. The main Seven archangels with the
names given by Saint Gregory, Oriphiel, Anael, Zachariel, Raphael,
Samael, Gabriel and Michael, have a special assignment to act as a
global Zeitgeist ('time spirit'), each for periods of about 380
years. Since 1879, Michael is our leading time spirit. Four
important archangels also display periodic spiritual activity over
the seasons: spring = Raphael, summer = Uriel, autumn = Michael and
winter = Gabriel (in the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram,
the invocation includes the words "Before me Raphael; Behind me
Gabriel; On my right hand Michael; On my left hand Auriel [i.e.,
Uriel]..."). Note that archangels may be good or evil. Many of their
rank are collaborators of Ahriman, whose purpose is to alienate
humanity from the spiritual world and promote materialism and
heartless technical control.
In art, archangels are usually depicted with larger wings and many
eyes. Some of the more commonly represented archangels are Gabriel,
Michael, Raphael, Metraton, Uriel, and Satanel.
Saraqael is described as one of the angels that watches over "the
spirits that sin in the spirit". (1 Enoch 20:7, 8)