The Glossary of Terms


Harperís Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

angel (Gk. angelos, Ďmessengerí), a spiritual being, subordinate to God, who serves at Godís command and pleasure to deliver his messages, help his people, and punish his enemies. In the ot, angels appear in the stories of the patriarchs (e.g., Gen. 16:7-14; 19:1-22; 22:11, 15-18; 28:12; 31:11-13; 32:1-2) and elsewhere (e.g., Exod. 3:2; 23:20-23; 33:2; Judg. 13:3-5; 1 Kings 19:5-7; 2 Kings 19:35; Isa. 37:36; Pss. 34:7; 35:5-6; 91:11). There is some ambiguity, however, about what form these messengers take, exactly what type of beings they are, and just what their relation to God is, especially in the earlier materials. Since God frequently confronts humans directly in the ot texts, the appearance of angels is somewhat sporadic.

As religious thinking developed, and as God came to be understood as increasingly transcendent, the perceptions about angels also began to change. Ideas developed about good and bad angels, a hierarchy of angels before God, and specific duties assigned to each angel or group of angels. Many of these ideas can be found in the apocryphal and pseudepigraphical writings (e.g., Tobit, 2 Esdras, 1 Enoch, and The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs). By the nt period, angels were understood as suprahuman or spiritual beings who were allied with God in opposition to Satan and his Ďangels,í the demons.

Angels had many functions. They praised God (Ps. 103:20), served as his messengers to the world (Luke 1:11-20, 26-38; 2:9-14), watched over Godís people (Ps. 91:11-12), and were sometimes instruments of Godís judgment (Matt. 13:49-50).

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

by Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1910)

ANGELS. God's thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality.

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