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 ("messenger").

In Judaism

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 (230270 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 archangels.

In Christianity

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.
(Jude 1:9)

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 archangel's voice."
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

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.

Other Traditions

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)


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