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Classification Of Demons

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

The Temptation of St. Anthony by Martin Schongauer

There have been various attempts throughout history by theologian scholars in the classification of Christian demons for the purpose of understanding the biblical and mythological context of adversarial spirits. Theologians have written dissertations in Christian demonology, classical occultism, classical mythology and Renaissance magic to clarify the connections between these spirits and their influence in various demons. The study of demonology was historically used to understand morality, behavioral tendencies, and has even been used as symbolism to relay anecdotal tales in with which they lure people into temptation and may also include the angels or saints that were believed to have been their adversaries; an idea which derived from the Biblical battle between the Archangel Michael and the Antichrist in The Book of Revelation (12:7-9) describing a war in heaven which resulted in Satan and his angels being expelled from Heaven. The classifications of these fallen angels are based on many other characteristics as well, such as behaviors that caused their fall from heaven, physical appearances or the methods that were used to torment people, cause maladies, or elicit dreams, emotions, etc. Most authors who wrote theological dissertations on the subject either truly believed in the existence of infernal spirits, or wrote as a philosophical guide to understanding an ancient perspective of behavior and morality in folklore and religious themes.

Classification by domain

The Testament of Solomon

The Testament of Solomon is a pseudepigraphical work, purportedly written by King Solomon, in which the author mostly describes particular demons whom he enslaved to help build the temple, the questions he put to them about their deeds and how they could be thwarted, and their answers, which provide a kind of self-help manual against demonic activity. The date is very dubious, though it is considered the oldest surviving work particularly concerned with individual demons.[1][2]

Psellus’ classification of demons

Michael Psellus prepared a classification of demons in the 11th century, which was an inspiration for the classification Francesco Maria Guazzo prepared later. Psellus divided demons into Empyreal (Fiery), Aerial, Subterranean, Lucifugous (Heliophobic), Aqueous, and Terrene (Terrestrial).[3]

Lanterne of Light classification of demons

In 1409-1410 The Lanterne of Light (an anonymous English Lollard tract often attributed to John Wycliffe)[4] provided a classification system based on the seven deadly sins, with each demon tempting people by means of those sins.[5][6] This list was later used in the works of John Taylor, the Water Poet.[7]

Lucifer: pride

Beelzebub: gluttony (glotouns)

Sathanas: wrath (wraþþe)

Leviathan: envy (envious)

Mammon: greed (auarouse)

Belphegor: sloth (slow)

Asmodeus: lust (leccherouse)

Spina’s classification of demons

Alphonso de Spina, in 1467, prepared a classification of demons based on several criteria:

Demons of fate

Incubi and succubi

Wandering groups or armies of demons can include multiple regions in hell



Cambions and other demons that are born from the union of a demon with a human being.

Liar and mischievous demons

Demons that attack the saints

Demons that try to induce old women to attend Witches’ Sabbaths

This classification is somewhat capricious and it is difficult to find a criterion for it. It seems that Spina was inspired by several legends and stories. The drudes belong to German folklore. Familiars, goblins, and other mischievous demons belong to the folklore of most European countries.

The belief in incubi and succubi (and their ability to procreate) seem to have inspired the sixth category, but it could also have been inspired in the Talmudic legend of demons having sexual intercourse with mortal women (see also Mastema).

The visions of tempting demons that some early (and not so early) saints had, perhaps inspired the eighth category (e.g. the visions of Anthony the Great).

The idea of old women attending Sabbaths was common during the European Middle Age and Renaissance, and Spina mentioned it before the Malleus Maleficarum.

Agrippa’s classification of demons

In De occulta philosophia (1509-1510), Cornelius Agrippa proposed several classifications for demons, based on numeric scales, like his whole Cosmology.[8] Francis Barrett, in his book The magus (1801), adopted this classification of demons. [9][10]

Scale of Unity

One Prince of Rebellion, of Angels, and darkness:



Scale of binary

Two chief of the devils:



Scale of ternary

Three furies:




Three infernal judges:




Scale of quaternary

Four Princes of devils in the elements:

Samael: Fire

Azazel: Air

Azael: Water

Mahazael: Earth

Four Princes of spirits, upon the four angles of the world

Oriens: East

Paymon: West

Egyn: North

Amaymon: South

Despite listed separately, Agrippa mentions that these groups are identical, making the first as the Hebrew equivalent of the names of the latter.[11] The same four demons appear in the Semiphoras and Schemhamforas. [12][13]

Scale of Six

Six authors of all calamities:







Scale of novenary

Nine orders of devils:

Beelzebub: False Gods – idolaters

Pytho: Spirits of Lying – liars

Belial: Vessels of Iniquity – inventors of evil things

Asmodeus: Revengers of Wickedness

Satan: Imitators of Miracles – evil witches and warlocks

Merihem: Aerial Powers – purveyors of pestilence

Abaddon: Furies – sowers of discord

Astaroth: Calumniators – inquisitors and fraudulent accusers

Mammon: Maligenii – tempters and ensnarers

Binsfeld’s classification of demons

As part of his 1589 Treatise on Confessions by Evildoers and Witches, Peter Binsfeld prepared a classification of demons known as the Princes of Hell. Like the Lanterne of Light, Binsfeld used the seven deadly sins as a basis, though the two schemes differ in various ways.[14][15][16]

Lucifer: pride

Mammon: greed

Asmodeus: lust

Leviathan: envy

Beelzebub: gluttony

Satan: wrath

Belphegor: sloth

King James’ classification of demons

Main article: Daemonologie

King James wrote a dissertation titled Daemonologie that was first sold in 1591, several years prior to the first publication of the King James Authorized Version of the Bible. Within 3 short books James wrote a dissertation in the form of a philosophical play, making arguments and comparisons between magic, sorcery, and witchcraft but wrote also his classifications of demons into 4 sections. His classification were not based on separate demonic entities with their names, ranks, or titles but rather categorized them based on 4 methods used by any given devil to cause mischief or torment on a living individual or a corpse. The purpose was to relay the belief that spirits caused maladies and that magic was possible only through demonic influence. He further quotes previous authors who state that each devil has the ability to appear in diverse shapes or forms for varying arrays of purposes as well. In his description of them, he relates that demons are under the direct supervision of God and are unable to act without permission, further illustrating how demonic forces are used as a “Rod of Correction” when men stray from the will of God and may be commissioned by witches, or magicians to conduct acts of ill will against others but will ultimately only conduct works that will end in the further glorification of God despite their attempts to do otherwise.[17]

Spectra: Used to describe spirits that trouble houses or solitary places

Obsession: Used to describe spirits that follow upon certain people to outwardly trouble them at various times of the day

Possession: Used to describe spirits that enter inwardly into a person to trouble them.

Fairies: Used to describe spirits that prophesy, consort, and transport.

Michaelis’ classification of demons

In 1613 Sebastien Michaelis wrote a book, Admirable History, which included a classification of demons as it was told to him by the demon Berith when he was exorcising a nun, according to the author. This classification is based on the Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchies, according to the sins the devil tempts one to commit, and includes the demons’ adversaries (who suffered that temptation without falling).

Note that many demons’ names are exclusively French or unknown in other catalogs. St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist are the two St. Johns to whom Michaelis refers. The other saints are cited only by their name without making clear, i.e., which Francis is mentioned (of Assisi?).

First hierarchy

The first hierarchy includes angels that were Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones.

Beelzebub was a prince of the Seraphim, just below Lucifer. Beelzebub, along with Lucifer and Leviathan, were the first three angels to fall. He tempts men with pride and is opposed by St. Francis of Assisi.

Leviathan was also a prince of the Seraphim who tempts people to give into heresy, and is opposed by St. Peter.

Asmodeus was also a prince of the Seraphim, burning with desire to tempt men into wantonness. He is opposed by St. John the Baptist.

Berith was a prince of the Cherubim. He tempts men to commit homicide, and to be quarrelsome, contentious, and blasphemous. He is opposed by St. Barnabas.

Astaroth was a prince of Thrones, who tempts men to be lazy and is opposed by St. Bartholomew.

Verrine was also a prince of Thrones, just below Astaroth. He tempts men with impatience and is opposed by St. Dominic.

Gressil was the third prince of Thrones, who tempts men with impurity and is opposed by St. Bernard.

Soneillon was the fourth prince of Thrones, who tempts men to hate and is opposed by St. Stephen.[18]

Second hierarchy

The second hierarchy includes Powers, Dominions, and Virtues.

Carreau was a prince of Powers. He tempts men with hardness of heart and is opposed by St. Vincent and Vincent Ferrer.

Carnivale was also a prince of Powers. He tempts men to obscenity and shamelessness, and is opposed by John the Evangelist.

Oeillet was a prince of Dominions. He tempts men to break the vow of poverty and is opposed by St. Martin.

Rosier was the second in the order of Dominions. He tempts men against sexual purity and is opposed by St. Basil.

Belias was the prince of Virtues. He tempts men with arrogance and women to be vain, raise wanton children, and gossip during mass. He is opposed by St. Francis de Paul.

Third hierarchy

The third hierarchy includes Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.

Verrier was the prince of Principalities. He tempts men against the vow of obedience and is opposed by St. Bernard.

Olivier was the prince of the Archangels. He tempts men with cruelty and mercilessness toward the poor and is opposed by St. Lawrence.

Luvart was the prince of Angels. At the time of Michaelis’s writing, Luvart was believed to be in the body of a Sister Madeleine.[19]

Many of the names and ranks of these demons appear in the Sabbath litanies of witches, according to Jules Garinet’s Histoire de la magie en France, and Collin De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal.

Classification by office

In the study of demonology, many spirits are classified by office, rank, or titles which theologians believe were once held in heaven before the fall, or which they currently hold in their infernal dwelling. These offices are usually elaborated in several grimoires which determines their authority in hell or abilities. Demons categorized by office are often depicted in a militant hierarchy, in which a general may hold command over some designated legion for a specialized function which they may trouble men. Other theologians have determined the classification of a spirit’s office depending on the times or locations which they roam the Earth.

The Book of Abramelin

The Book of Abramelin, possibly written in the 14th or 15th century, lists four princes of the demons: Lucifer, Leviathan, Satan and Belial. There are also eight sub-princes: Astaroth, Maggot, Asmodee, Beelzebub, Oriens, Paimon, Ariton (Egin) and Amaymon. Under the rule of these there are many lesser demons.

Le Livre des Esperitz

Main article: Livre des Esperitz

Written in the 15th or 16th century, this grimoire was a likely source for Wierus hierarchy of demons, but while Wierus mentions 69 demons, Le Livre des Esperitz has only 46. Wierus omitted, however, the four demons of the cardinal points: Orient, Poymon, Aymoymon and Equi (see Agrippa’s classification) and the three great governors of all the other demons: Lucifer, Beezlebub and Satan.[20]

The Munich Manual of Demonic Magic

Main article: Munich Manual of Demonic Magic

Written in the 15th century, this manual includes a list of eleven demons.[21]

Fasciculus Rerum Geomanticarum

Written in 1494, this grimoire contains a list of 37 demons.[22]

Le Dragon Rouge (or Grand Grimoire)

Main article: Grand Grimoire

Like many works of mystical nature, Le Dragon Rouge (or the Red Dragon) claims to come from Solomon and his priests and is said to be published in 1517 by Alibeck the Egyptian. However, it was most likely written in France in the 18th century.

The grimoire details the different hosts of hell and their powers, describing how to enter a pact with them to attain the magicians’ goals. The demons of hell are classified by three different tiers from Generals to Officers.[23]

Pseudomonarchia Daemonum

Main article: Pseudomonarchia Daemonum

Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, by Johann Weyer, is a grimoire that contains a list of demons and the appropriate hours and rituals to conjure them in the name of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost (simpler than those cited by The Lesser Key of Solomon below).

This book was written around 1583, and lists sixty-eight demons. The demons Vassago, Seir, Dantalion and Andromalius are not listed in this book. Pseudomonarchia Daemonum does not attribute seals to the demons.[24]

The Lesser Key of Solomon

Main article: The Lesser Key of Solomon

The Lesser Key of Solomon or Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis is an anonymous 17th century grimoire, and one of the most popular books of demonology. The Lesser Key of Solomon contains detailed descriptions of spirits and the conjurations needed to invoke and oblige them to do the will of the conjurer (referred to as the “exorcist”). It details the protective signs and rituals to be performed, the actions necessary to prevent the spirits from gaining control, the preparations prior to the invocations, and instructions on how to make the necessary instruments for the execution of these rituals.

The author of The Lesser Key of Solomon copied Pseudomonarchia Daemonum almost completely, but added demons’ descriptions, their seals and details.

The Ars Goetia

Ars Goetia is the first section of The Lesser Key of Solomon, containing descriptions of the seventy-two demons that King Solomon is said to have evoked and confined in a bronze vessel sealed by magic symbols, and that he obliged to work for him.

The Ars Goetia assigns a rank and a title of nobility to each member of the infernal hierarchy, and gives the demons “signs they have to pay allegiance to”, or seals.

Dictionnaire Infernal

The Dictionnaire Infernal (English: Infernal Dictionary) is a book on demonology, organised in hellish hierarchies. It was written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy and first published in 1818. There were several editions of the book, but perhaps the most famous is the edition of 1863, in which sixty-nine illustrations were added to the book. These illustrations are drawings that depict the descriptions of the appearance of a number of demons. Many of these images were later used in S. L. MacGregor Mathers’s edition of The Lesser Key of Solomon though some of the images were removed.

The book was first published in 1818 and then divided into two volumes, with six reprints and many changes between 1818 and 1863. This book attempts to provide an account of all the knowledge concerning superstitions and demonology.

De Plancy presented a hierarchy of demons based in modern European courts:

Princes and dignitaries: Belzebub, supreme chief of the empire of hell, founder of the order of the Fly. Satan, prince dethroned and chief of the opposition party. Eurynome,[25] prince of death, Grand Cross of the order of the Fly. Moloch, prince of the country of tears, Grand Cross of the order. Pluton, Prince of Fire, also Grand Cross of the order and governor of the regions in flames. Pan, prince of incubi and Lilith, princess of succubi. Leonard, the great lord of the Sabbath, Knight of the Fly. Balberith, great pontiff, lord of alliances. Proserpina, archdiablesse, princess of evil spirits.

Ministers of the Office: Adrammelech, Grand Chancellor and Grand Cross of the Order of the Fly. Ashtaroth, general treasurer, Knight of the Fly. Nergal, chief of the secret police. Baal, commander in chief of the armies of Hell, Grand Cross of the Order of the Fly. Leviathan, Grand Admiral, Knight of the Fly.

Ambassadors: Belfegor, Ambassador of France. Mammon, of England. Belial, of Italy. Rimmon, of Russia. Tammuz, of Spain. Hutgin, of Turkey. Martinet, of Switzerland.

Justice: Lucifer, chief of (in)justice, Knight of the Fly. Alastor, executor of his sentences.

House of the princes: Verdelet, master of ceremonies. Succor Benoth, chief of the eunuchs of the seraglio. Chamos, Grand Chambelain, Knight of the Fly. Melchom, payer treasurer. Nisroch, chief of the kitchen. Behemoth, chief cupbearer. Dagon, grand pantler. Mullin, first valet.

Secret expenses: Robals, director of theaters. Asmodeus, superintendent of the gambling houses. Nybbas, grand buffoon. Antichrist, charlatan and necromancer.

Alexis-Vincent-Charles Berbiguier used some of these names and ranks for the demons who tormented him, in his autobiographical work Les farfadets ou Tous les démons ne sont pas de l’autre monde (1821).

The Satanic Bible

Main article: The infernal names

LaVey utilized the symbolism of the Four Crown Princes of Hell in The Satanic Bible, with each chapter of the book being named after each Prince. The Book of Satan: The Infernal Diatribe, The Book of Lucifer: The Enlightenment, The Book of Belial: Mastery of the Earth, and The Book of Leviathan: The Raging Sea.[26] This association was inspired by the demonic hierarchy from The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage.

Satan (Hebrew) “Lord of the Inferno”:

The adversary, representing opposition, the element of fire, the direction of the south, and the Sigil of Baphomet during ritual.

Lucifer (Latin) “The Morning Star”:

The bringer of light, representing pride and enlightenment, the element of air, the direction of the east, and candles during ritual.

Belial (Hebrew) “Without a Master”:

The baseness of the earth, independence and self-sufficiency, the element of earth, the direction of the north, and the sword during ritual.

Leviathan (Hebrew) “Serpent of the Abyss”:

The great dragon, representing primal secrecy, the element of water, the direction of the west, and the chalice during ritual.

See also

Archdemon vs. Archangel

Christian demonology


Hierarchy of Angels

List of theological demons


The Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis

An archangel is an angel of high rank. The word “archangel” itself is usually associated with the Abrahamic religions, but beings that are very similar to archangels are found in a number of religious traditions.

The English word archangel is derived from the Greek ἀρχάγγελος (arch- + angel, literally “chief angel” or “angel of origin”).[1] It appears only twice in the New Testament in the phrase “with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) and in relation to “the archangel Michael” (Jude 9). The corresponding but different Hebrew word in the Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) is found in two places as in “Michael, one of the chief princes” (Dan 10:13) and in “Michael, the great prince” (Dan 12:1).


The four archangels, mosaics at St John’s Church, Warminster

Michael and Gabriel are recognized as archangels in Judaism, Islam, and by most Christians. Some Protestants consider Michael to be the only archangel. Raphael—mentioned in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit—is also recognized as a chief angel in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael are venerated in the Roman Catholic Church with a feast on September 29 (between 1921 and 1969, March 24 for Gabriel and October 24 for Raphael), and in the Eastern Orthodox Church on November 8 (if the Julian calendar is used, this corresponds to November 21 in the Gregorian). The named archangels in Islam are Jibrael, Mikael, Israfil, and Azrael. Jewish literature, such as the Book of Enoch, also mentions Metatron as an archangel, called the “highest of the angels”, though the acceptance of this angel is not canonical in all branches of the faith.

Some branches of the faiths mentioned have identified a group of seven Archangels, but the named angels vary, depending on the source. Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael are always mentioned; the other archangels vary, but most commonly include Uriel, who is mentioned in 2 Esdras.

In Zoroastrianism, sacred texts allude to the six great Amesha Spenta (literally “Bounteous/Holy Immortals”) [2] of Ahura Mazda.

In Zoroastrianism

See also: Amesha Spenta and Zoroastrianism

An increasing number of experts in anthropology, theology and philosophy, believe that Zoroastrianism contains the earliest distillation of prehistoric belief in angels.[3]

The Amesha Spentas (Avestan: Aməša Spəṇta, meaning “immortal holiness”) of Zoroastrianism are likened to archangels. They individually inhabit immortal bodies that operate in the physical world to protect, guide, and inspire humanity and the spirit world. The Avesta explains the origin and nature of archangels or Amesha Spentas.[3]

To maintain equilibrium, Ahura Mazda engaged in the first act of creation, distinguishing his Holy Spirit Spenta Mainyu, the Archangel of righteousness. Ahura Mazda also distinguished from himself six more Amesha Spentas, who, along with Spenta Mainyu, aided in the creation of the physical universe. Then he oversaw the development of sixteen lands, each imbued with a unique cultural catalyst calculated to encourage the formation of distinct human populations. The Amesha Spentas were charged with protecting these holy lands and through their emanation, also believed to align each respective population in service to God.[4]

The Amesha Spentas as attributes of God are:

Spenta Mainyu (Phl. Spenamino): lit. “Bountiful Spirit”

Asha Vahishta (Phl. Ardwahisht): lit. “Highest Truth”

Vohu Mano (Phl. Vohuman): lit. “Righteous Mind”

Khshathra Vairya (Phl. Shahrewar): lit. “Desirable Dominion”

Spenta Armaiti (Phl. Spandarmad): lit. “Holy Devotion”

Haurvatat (Phl. Hordad): lit. “Perfection or Health”

Ameretat (Phl. Amurdad): lit. “Immortality”

In Judaism

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel by Gustave Doré, 1885

The Hebrew Bible uses the term (malakhi Elohim; Angels of God),[5] The Hebrew word for angel is “malach,” which means messenger, for the angels (malakhi Adonai; Angels of the Lord) are God’s messengers to perform various missions – e.g. ‘angel of death’;[6] (b’nei elohim; sons of God) and (ha-q’doshim; the holy ones) to refer to beings traditionally interpreted as angelic messengers. Other terms are used in later texts (ha-elyonim, the upper ones, or the supreme ones). References to angels are uncommon in Jewish literature except in later works such as the Book of Daniel, though they are mentioned briefly in the stories of Jacob (who according to one interpretation wrestled with an angel) and Lot (who was warned by angels of the impending destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah). Daniel is the first biblical figure to refer to individual angels by name.[7] It is therefore widely speculated that Jewish interest in angels developed during the Babylonian captivity.[8] According to Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish of Tiberias (230–270 CE), specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon.

There are no explicit references to archangels in the canonical texts of the Hebrew Bible. In post-Biblical Judaism, certain angels came to take on a particular significance and developed unique personalities and roles. Though these archangels were believed to have ranked amongst the heavenly host, no systematic hierarchy ever developed. Metatron is considered one of the highest of the angels in Merkavah and Kabbalist mysticism and often serves as a scribe. He is briefly mentioned in the Talmud,[9] and figures prominently in Merkavah mystical texts. Michael, who serves as a warrior and advocate for Israel,[10] is looked upon particularly fondly. Gabriel is mentioned in the Book of Daniel[11] and briefly in the Talmud,[12] as well as many Merkavah mystical texts. The earliest references to archangels are in the literature of the intertestamental periods (e.g., 4 Esdras 4:36).

In the Kabbalah there are ten archangels, each assigned to one sephira: Metatron, Raziel (other times Jophiel), Tzaphkiel, Tzadkiel, Khamael, Raphael, Haniel, Michael, Gabriel, and Sandalphon. Chapter 20 of the Book of Enoch mentions seven holy angels who watch, that often are considered the seven archangels: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, Saraqael, Raguel, and Remiel.[13] The Life of Adam and Eve lists the archangels as well: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael and Joel. Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides made a Jewish angelic hierarchy.

In Christianity

Guido Reni’s Archangel Michael Trampling Lucifer, 1636

The New Testament makes over a hundred references to angels, but uses the word “archangel” only twice, at Thessalonians 4:16 (“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first”, KJV) and Jude 1:9 (“Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee”, KJV).


Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, depicted in stained glass in St Ailbe’s Church, a Catholic church in Ireland

In Catholicism, three are mentioned by name:




These three are commemorated together liturgically on Sept. 29. Formerly each had his own feast (see individual articles).

The latter of these identifies himself in Tobit 12:15(NAB) thus: “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord.”

The Fourth Book of Esdras, which mentions the angel Uriel (and also the “archangel” Jeremiel), was popular in the West and was frequently quoted by Church Fathers, especially Ambrose, but was never considered part of the Catholic biblical canon.[14]

The Catholic Church gives no official recognition to the names given in some apocryphal sources, such as Raguel, Saraqael and Remiel (in the Book of Enoch) or Izidkiel, Hanael, and Kepharel (in other such sources).[15]

Eastern Orthodox

Angelic Council, Orthodox icon of the seven archangels, left to right: Jegudiel, Gabriel, Selaphiel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Barachiel. Beneath the mandorla of Christ-Immanuel (God is with us) are representations of Cherubim (blue) and Seraphim (red).

Eastern Orthodox Tradition mentions “thousands of archangels”;[16] however, only seven archangels are venerated by name.[17] Uriel is included, and the other three are most often named Selaphiel, Jegudiel, and Barachiel (an eighth, Jeremiel, is sometimes included as archangel). The Orthodox Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers on November 8 of the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar (for those churches which follow the Julian Calendar, November 8 falls on November 21 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). Other feast days of the Archangels include the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel on March 26 (April 8), and the Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Colossae on September 6 (September 19). In addition, every Monday throughout the year is dedicated to the Angels, with special mention being made in the church hymns of Michael and Gabriel. In Orthodox iconography, each angel has a symbolic representation:

Michael in the Hebrew language means “Who is like God?” or “Who is equal to God?” Michael has been depicted from earliest Christian times as a commander, who holds in his right hand a spear with which he attacks Lucifer/Satan, and in his left hand a green palm branch. At the top of the spear, there is a linen ribbon with a red cross. The Archangel Michael is especially considered to be the Guardian of the Orthodox Faith and a fighter against heresies.

Gabriel means “God is my strength” or “Might of God”. He is the herald of the mysteries of God, especially the Incarnation of God and all other mysteries related to it. He is depicted as follows: In his right hand, he holds a lantern with a lighted taper inside, and in his left hand, a mirror of green jasper. The mirror signifies the wisdom of God as a hidden mystery.

Raphael means “It is God who heals” or “God Heals”.[19][20] Raphael is depicted leading Tobit (who is carrying a fish caught in the Tigris) with his right hand and holding a physician’s alabaster jar in his left hand.

Uriel means “God is my light”, or “Light of God” (II Esdras 4:1, 5:20). He is depicted holding a sword in his right hand, and a flame in his left.

Sealtiel means “Intercessor of God”. He is depicted with his face and eyes lowered, holding his hands on his bosom in prayer.

Jegudiel means “Glorifier of God”. He is depicted bearing a golden wreath in his right hand and a triple-thonged whip in his left hand.

Barachiel means “Blessed by God”. He is depicted holding a white rose in his hand against his breast.

Jerahmeel means “God’s exaltation”. He is venerated as an inspirer and awakener of exalted thoughts that raise a person toward God (2 Esdras 4:36). As an eighth, he is sometimes included as an archangel.

Coptic Orthodox

Coptic icon of the Archangel Michael. Among all the archangels, the Copts pay special attention to St Michael.

In addition to Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the Coptic Orthodox Church recognises four more archangels by name:[21]

Suriel means “Prince of God”

Zedekiel means “Grace of God”

Sarathiel (Unknown)

Ananiel means “Rain of God”

Ethiopian Orthodox

Ethiopian icon of an angel, possibly St Michael.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church venerates the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel, as well as:[22][23]

Phanuel, meaning “Face of God”

Raguel, meaning “Friend of God”

Ramuel [22] or Remiel,[23] meaning “Thunder of God”

In the canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, 1 Enoch describes Saraqael as one of the angels who watch over “the spirits that sin in the spirit” (Enoch 20:7–8).


The Protestant Bible provides names for three angels: “Michael the archangel”, the angel Gabriel, who is called “the man Gabriel” in Daniel 9:21 and third “Abaddon”/”Apollyon” in Revelation 9:11. Within Protestantism, the Anglican and Methodist tradition recognizes four angels as archangels: Michael the Archangel, Raphael the Archangel, Gabriel the Archangel, and Uriel the Archangel.[24][25] But a depiction of seven archangels in stained-glass windows can be found in some Anglican churches. In this case, in addition to the aforementioned angels, Chamuel, Jophiel and Zadkiel are also depicted. They are commemorated on 29 September, “Michaelmas”, in the church calendar.[26] The evangelist Billy Graham wrote that in Sacred Scripture, there is only one individual explicitly described as an archangel—Michael—in Jude 1:9.[27][28]

Seventh-day Adventists hold that the titles “Michael” and “archangel” are in reference to Jesus. However, in the Adventist view, they only signify his role as the chief of angels and make no reference to the nature of Jesus, who is fully divine. Adventists credit nonconformist minister Matthew Henry as supporting this view.[29]

Seven archangels depicted in the stained-glass window at St Michael’s Church, Brighton; from left: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Chamuel (Camael), Raphael, Jophiel, and Zadkiel

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner


Jehovah’s Witnesses, citing a reference to “an archangel’s voice” at 1 Thessalonians 4:16, also believe that “Michael” is another name for Jesus in heaven. They believe Jesus is an archangel in the true sense of the word—the highest spiritual creature.[30]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) interprets the term “archangel” as meaning “Chief Angel”,[31] Michael is the only individual so designated in the Latter Day Saints canon.[32] It is believed that he is the head of all of the angels.[31] LDS Church doctrine also states that the archangel Michael was the first man, Adam.[33] Though no other being is identified as an “archangel”, Joseph Smith taught that the angel Gabriel was known in mortality as Noah[34] and the angel Raphael is a being of significant standing, even though he has never been identified with any mortal prophet.[35]

In Islam

In Islam, the mentioned archangels[36] in the Islamic exegetical traditions are:

Gabriel (Jibrail or Jibril in Arabic). Gabriel is said to be the archangel responsible for transmitting God’s revelations to all prophets, including revealing the Quran to Muhammad and inducing him to recite it. Various hadiths (traditions) mention his role in delivering messages from “God the Almighty” to the prophets.

Mika’il is often depicted as the archangel of mercy who is responsible for bringing rain and thunder to Earth.[37]

Raphael (Israfil in Arabic). The name is not mentioned in the Quran. Considered in Islam by some to be the angel of the trumpet responsible for signaling the coming of Judgment Day.[38]

Azrael (Azra’il in Arabic, also called Malak al-Maut, literally “angel of death”). Taking the soul of the dead to heaven or hell. The name is not mentioned in the Quran.

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 (Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel) are invoked as guarding the four quarters, or directions, and their corresponding colors are associated with magical properties.[39] Lucifer or Satan in Christian traditions, or Iblis in Islam,[40] is considered an archangel by Satanists and many non-Satanists, but most non-Satanists consider him evil and fallen from God’s grace.

Cultural references

Annunciatory Angel by Fra Angelico, 1437–1446

In art, archangels are sometimes depicted with larger wings. Some of the more commonly represented archangels are Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel.[41]

In the lesser 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 [Uriel]…”[42]

See also

Angels in art

Angel of the Lord


Bene Elohim

Fallen angels


Olympian spirits

Saint Michael in the Catholic Church

Seven Archangels

Sopo Archangels, Colombian Baroque paintings


Angel of the Lord

The Angel of the Lord appearing to Hagar in the wilderness, as depicted by Nicolas Colombel (1644-1717)

The (or an) angel of the LORD (Hebrew: malakh YHWH “messenger of Yahweh”) is an entity appearing repeatedly in the Tanakh (Old Testament) on behalf of the God of Israel.

The term malakh YHWH, which occurs 65 times in the text of the Hebrew Bible, can be translated either as “the angel of the Lord” or “an angel of the Lord”. The King James Version usually translates it as “the angel of the LORD”; less frequently as “an angel of the LORD”.[1] The Septuagint (LXX) sometimes uses ἄγγελος Κυρίου (an angel of the Lord), sometimes ὁ ἄγγελος Κυρίου (the angel of the Lord): in Genesis 16:7–11, it gives first the form without the Greek article, then, in all the subsequent mentions with the article,[2] as in the anaphoric use of the article.[3]

A closely related term is “angel of God” (mal’akh ‘Elohim), mentioned 12 times (2 of which are plural). Another related expression, Angel of the Presence, occurs only once (Isaiah 63:9).

The New Testament uses the term “angel of the Lord” (ἄγγελος Κυρίου) several times, in one instance (Luke 1:11–19) identifying it with Gabriel.

Hebrew Bible

Angel of Yahweh

The word Angel found numerous times in the scriptures of the bible refers to a heavenly creature who delivers a message from God to humans on Earth, in other words a messenger of God. There is a difference between an angel and the Angel of the Lord, The Angel of the Lord is the only angel appearing continually throughout the old testament referring to himself as the Lord and God in the first person, while the other angels mentioned in the scripture reference to the Lord God as a hallowed third person always humbling themselves and not accepting any type of glory.

Examples of use of the Hebrew term are found in the following verses, here given in the King James Version translation:

Genesis 16:7–14. The angel of the Lord appears to Hagar. The angel speaks as God himself in the first person, and in verse 13 Hagar identifies “the LORD that spake unto her” as “Thou God seest me”.

Genesis 22:11–15. The angel of the Lord appears to Abraham and refers to himself as God in the first person.

Exodus 3:2–4. The angel of the Lord appears to Moses in a flame in verse 2, and God speaks to Moses from the flame in verse 4, both instances referring to himself in the first person.

Numbers 22:22–38. The angel of the Lord meets the prophet Balaam on the road. In verse 38, Balaam identifies the angel who spoke to him as delivering the word of God.

Judges 2:1–3. An angel of the Lord appears to Israel.

Judges 6:11–23. An angel of the Lord appears to Gideon, and in verse 22 Gideon fears for his life because he has seen an angel of the Lord face to face.

Judges 13:3–22. The angel of the Lord appears to Manoah and his wife and, in verse 16, tells them to offer to the LORD if they are to make an offering (“And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah […] if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD.”). Later Manoah thought he and his wife will die for they “have seen God”

Zechariah 1:12. The angel of the Lord pleads with the Lord to have mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah.

Zechariah 3:4. The angel of the Lord takes away the sin of the high priest Joshua.

The Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint[4] translates the Hebrew phrase as ἄγγελος Κυρίου, “angel of the Lord” or as ὁ ἄγγελος Κυρίου, “the angel of the Lord”. “Owing to the Hebrew idiom, this may mean no more than ‘an angel of God’, and the Septuagint renders it with or without the article at will.”

The KJV and NKJV capitalize “Angel” in the Old Testament references to “the Angel of the Lord”, while using lower-case “angel” in the Old Testament references to “an angel of the Lord” (and in the New Testament references). Most versions, including NASB, RSV, ESV, etc., do not capitalize “angel” in the mentions of “angel of the Lord”.

Angel of Elohim

The term “angel of God” (Heb. mal’akh ‘Elohim) occurs 12 times (2 of which are plural). The following are examples:

Genesis 31:11. The angel of God calls out to Jacob in a dream and tells him “I am the God of Bethel”.

Exodus 14:19. The angel of God leads the camp of Israel, and also follows behind them, with the pillar of fire.

Judges 13:9. The angel of God approached Manoah’s wife after the Lord heard Manoah.

David is depicted interceding for the people to end the plague (1 Chronicles 21) in this 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld

In addition, there are mentions of God “sending an angel”, of which the following are examples:

Exodus 23:20–21. The LORD says he will send an Angel before the Israelites, and warns them to obey the Angel’s voice, and that the Angel “will not pardon transgressions” because the LORD’s “name is in him”.

Exodus 33:2. God says he will send an angel before the Israelites, and that God will drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

Numbers 20:16. The LORD sent an angel and brought the people of Israel forth from Egypt.

1 Chronicles 21:15. God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem, but then repented and told the angel to stay his hand.

2 Chronicles 32:21. The LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria.

New Testament

In the New Testament the Greek phrase ἄγγελος Κυρίου (aggelos kuriou—”angel of the Lord”) is found in Matthew 1:20, 1:24, 2:13, 2:19, 28:2; Luke 1:11, 2:9; John 5:4; Acts 5:19, 8:26, 12:7, and 12:23. English translations render the phrase either as “an angel of the Lord” or as “the angel of the Lord”.[6] The mentions in Acts 12:11 and Revelation 22:6 of “his angel” (the Lord’s angel) can also be understood as referring either to the angel of the Lord or an angel of the Lord.

An angel of the Lord who is mentioned in Luke 1:11 identifies himself as Gabriel in Luke 1:19.


Most appearances of the “angel of the Lord” leave the reader with the question of whether it was an angel or YHWH who appeared. Apart from the view that “the angel of the Lord is just that—an angel”,[7] a wide array of solutions have been offered, such as making the angel an earthly manifestation (avatar) of the God of Israel or of Christ.

In the Catholic Encyclopedia (1907) Hugh Pope writes: “The earlier Fathers, going by the letter of the text in the Septuagint, maintained that it was God Himself who appeared as the Giver of the Law to Moses. It was not unnatural then for Tertullian […] to regard such manifestations in the light of preludes to the Incarnation, and most of the Eastern Fathers followed the same line of thought.” Pope quotes the view of Theodoret that this angel was probably Christ, “the Only-begotten Son, the Angel of great Counsel”, and contrasts Theodoret’s view with the opposite view of the Latin Fathers Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great that it was no more than an angel, a view that, he says, “was destined to live in the Church, and the Scholastics reduced it to a system”. As an exponent of this view he quotes Augustine, who declared that “the angel is correctly termed an angel if we consider him himself, but equally correctly is he termed ‘the Lord’ because God dwells in him.” He indicates, however, that within the Catholic Church the opposite view was also upheld.[5]

The appearances of the “angel of the Lord” are in fact often presented as theophanies, appearances of YHWH himself rather than a separate entity acting on his behalf.[8] In Genesis 31:11–13, “the angel of God” says, “I am the God of Beth-el”. In Exodus 3:2–6 “the angel of Yahweh” appeared to Moses in the flame of fire, and then “Yahweh” says to him: “I am the God of thy father”. Compare also Genesis 22:11; Judges 6:11–22. At times the angel of the Lord speaks in such a way as to assume authority over previous promises (see Gen. 16:11 and 21:17). According to the New American Bible, the visual form under which God appeared and spoke to men is referred to indifferently in some Old Testament texts either as God’s angel or as God himself.[9]

Another interpretation builds on the usage by which ancient spokesmen, after an introductory phrase, used the grammatically first person in proclaiming the point of view of the one they represent.[10]

Another proposal is Samuel A. Meier’s interpolation theory,[11] which holds that, originally, stories in which there is ambiguity between Yahweh and the “angel of Yahweh” were written with Yahweh himself delivering the message. Later, copyists inserted the term mal’akh before the divine name to modify the narratives, in order to meet the standards of a changing theology which more strongly emphasized a transcendent God. If the term mal’akh is removed from these passages, the remaining story fits neatly with a “default” format in Near Eastern literature in which the deity appears directly to humans without an intermediary. The addition of mal’akh does not require any change in the form of the verbs connected to it, since both mal’akh and a deity such as Yahweh or Elohim are of masculine grammatical gender and since the noun before which mal’akh is introduced remains unaffected on the consonantal level. On the other hand, the removal of the word mal’akh from the narration usually makes it more coherent and in line with its Ancient Near East literary context.[12]

Although Wojciech Kosior favours this interpolation theory, he mentions some unsolved difficulties connected with it: the large number of similar theophanies in which the word mal’akh has not been added to the names of Yahweh and Elohim and the fact that it is never associated with names such as El-Elyon, El-Shadday or El-Ro’eh worshipped by the biblical Hebrews.[13]

Possible christophany

The early Fathers of the Church, such as Justin Martyr, identify the angel of the Lord as the pre-incarnate Christ[14] whose appearance, i.e. Christophany, is recorded in the Hebrew Bible. On the reason why some early Christians viewed Jesus as the angel of the Lord, Susan Garrett says:

[The logic behind the] reading of Jesus into accounts of the angel of the LORD went deeper. Many Jews before and during the time of Jesus were deeply interested in angels. Some understood the angel of the LORD as a being completely separate from God—a sort of angelic vizier or righthand angel, who served as head of the heavenly host and in other important capacities, including as a mediator between God and humans. Further, some Jews routinely appropriated language used in Scripture to describe the angel of the LORD and used it to characterize certain of God’s attributes, including God’s word, glory, wisdom, spirit, power, and name—almost as if these aspects of the Deity were themselves independent angels. In other words, quite apart from Christianity there was talk among ancient Jews of God’s word, God’s glory, and so forth in terms highly reminiscent of the angel of the LORD. So, when early Christian authors like Justin Martyr connected Jesus with God’s word and that word, in turn, with the angel of the LORD, they were not inventing from scratch so much as adding a new layer to well-established ways of reading Scripture.[15]

The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo identified the angel of the Lord (in the singular) with the Logos.[16][17]

In Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Louis Goldberg writes: “The functions of the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament prefigure the reconciling ministry of Jesus. In the New Testament, there is no mention of the angel of the Lord; the Messiah himself is this person.”

On the other hand, Knofel Staton says: “The idea that this angel was Christ is unlikely for many reasons, which include the following: 1) God never said to any angel (including the ‘angel of the Lord’) ‘you are my son’ (Heb 1:5) …”;[19] Ben Witherington says: “The angel of the Lord is just that – an angel. [… T]he divine son of God […] was no mere angel of the Lord, nor did he manifest himself in some observable form prior to the Incarnation.”[20]

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the angel who brought the Israelites into their promised land and would not pardon transgression because God’s name was in him (Exodus 23:20–21) was “God’s firstborn Son”, the pre-existent Christ, also called the archangel Michael, the Prince of the people of Israel mentioned in Daniel 10:21, the firstborn called “the Son of God” because he was created with qualities like those of his Father.

See also


Bene Elohim

Fallen angel

Fountain of the Fallen Angel by Ricardo Bellver, 1877, Retiro Park (Madrid, Spain)

The Fallen Angels (1893) by Salvatore Albano at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City

In Abrahamic religions, fallen angels are angels who were expelled from heaven. The literal term “fallen angel” appears neither in the Bible nor in other Abrahamic scriptures, but is used to describe angels who were cast out of heaven[1] or angels who sinned. Such angels often tempt humans to sin.

The idea of fallen angels derived from the Book of Enoch, a Jewish pseudepigraph, or the assumption that the “sons of God” (בני האלוהים‎) mentioned in Genesis 6:1–4 are angels. In the period immediately preceding the composition of the New Testament, some sects of Judaism, as well as many Christian Church Fathers, identified the “sons of God” of Genesis 6:1–4 as fallen angels. Rabbinic Judaism and Christian authorities after the third century rejected the Enochian writings and the notion of an illicit union between angels and women producing giants. Christian doctrine states that the sins of fallen angels start before the beginning of human history. Accordingly, fallen angels became identified with angels who were led by Satan in rebellion against God and equated with demons. However, during the late Second Temple period, demons were not thought of as the fallen angels themselves, but as the surviving souls of their monstrous offspring. According to this interpretation, fallen angels have intercourse with human women, giving existence to the Biblical giants. To purge the world of these creatures, God sends the Great Deluge and their bodies are destroyed. However, their spiritual parts survive, henceforth roaming the earth as demons.

Evidence for the belief in fallen angels among Muslims can be traced back to reports attributed to some of the companions of Muhammad, such as Ibn Abbas (619–687) and Abdullah ibn Masud (594–653). At the same time, some Islamic scholars opposed the assumption of fallen angels by stressing out the piety of angels supported by verses of Quran, such as 16:49 and 66:6, although none of these verses declare angels as immune from sin. One of the first opponents of fallen angels was the early and influential Islamic ascetic Hasan of Basra (642–728). To support the doctrine of infallible angels, he pointed at verses which stressed the piety of angels, while simultaneously reinterpreting verses which might imply acknowledgement of fallen angels. For that reason, he read the term mala’ikah (angels) in reference to Harut and Marut, two possible fallen angels mentioned in 2:102, as malikayn (kings) instead of malā’ikah (angels), depicting them as ordinary men and advocated the belief that Iblis was a jinn and had never been an angel before. The precise degree of angelic fallibility is not clear even among scholars who accepted fallen angels; according to a common assertion, impeccability applies only to the messengers among angels or as long as they remain angels.

Academic scholars have discussed whether or not the Quranic jinn are identical to the Biblical fallen angels. Although the different types of spirits in the Quran are sometimes hard to distinguish, the jinn in Islamic traditions seem to differ in their major characteristics from fallen angels.

Second Temple period

The concept of fallen angels is mostly in works dated to the Second Temple period between 530 BC and 70 AD: in the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees and the Qumran Book of Giants; and perhaps in Genesis 6:1–4.[7] A reference to heavenly beings called “Watchers” originates in Daniel 4, in which there are three mentions, twice in the singular (v. 13, 23), once in the plural (v. 17), of “watchers, holy ones”. The Ancient Greek word for watchers is ἐγρήγοροι (egrḗgoroi, plural of egrḗgoros), literally translated as “wakeful”.[8] Some scholars consider it most likely that the Jewish tradition of fallen angels predates, even in written form, the composition of Gen 6:1–4.[9][10][b] In the Book of Enoch, these Watchers “fell” after they became “enamored” with human women. The Second Book of Enoch (Slavonic Enoch) refers to the same beings of the (First) Book of Enoch, now called Grigori in the Greek transcription.[12] Compared to the other Books of Enoch, fallen angels play a less significant role in 3 Enoch. 3 Enoch mentions only three fallen angels called Azazel, Azza and Uzza. Similar to The first Book of Enoch, they taught sorcery on earth, causing corruption.[13] Unlike the first Book of Enoch, there is no mention of the reason for their fall and, according to 3 Enoch 4.6, they also later appear in heaven objecting to the presence of Enoch.

1 Enoch

Chester Beatty XII, Greek manuscript of the Book of Enoch, 4th century

According to 1 Enoch 7.2, the Watchers become “enamoured” with human women[14] and have intercourse with them. The offspring of these unions, and the knowledge they were giving, corrupt human beings and the earth (1 Enoch 10.11–12).[14] Eminent among these angels are Shemyaza, their leader, and Azazel. Like many other fallen angels mentioned in 1 Enoch 8.1–9, Azazel introduces men to “forbidden arts”, and it is Azazel who is rebuked by Enoch himself for illicit instructions, as stated in 1 Enoch 13.1.[15] According to 1 Enoch 10.6, God sends the archangel Raphael to chain Azazel in the desert Dudael as punishment. Further, Azazel is blamed for the corruption of earth:

1 Enoch 10:12: “All the earth has been corrupted by the effects of the teaching of Azazyel. To him therefore ascribe the whole crime.”

An etiological interpretation of 1 Enoch deals with the origin of evil. By shifting the origin of mankind’s sin and their misdeeds to illicit angel instruction, evil is attributed to something supernatural from without. This motif, in 1 Enoch, differs from that of later Jewish and Christian theology; in the latter evil is something from within. According to a paradigmatic interpretation, 1 Enoch might deal with illicit marriages between priests and women. As evident from Leviticus 21:1–15, priests were prohibited to marry impure women. Accordingly, the fallen angels in 1 Enoch are the priests counterpart, who defile themselves by marriage. Just like the angels are expelled from heaven, the priests are excluded from their service at the altar. Unlike most other apocalyptic writings, 1 Enoch reflects a growing dissatisfaction with the priestly establishments in Jerusalem in 3rd century BC. The paradigmatic interpretation parallels the Adamic myth in regard of the origin of evil: In both cases, transcending ones own limitations inherent in their own nature, causes their fall. This contrasts the etiological interpretation, which implies another power besides God, in heaven. The latter solution therefore poorly fits into monotheistic thought. Otherwise, the introduction to illicit knowledge might reflect a rejection of foreign Hellenistic culture. Accordingly, the fallen angels represent creatures of Greek mythology, which introduced forbidden arts, used by Hellenistic kings and generals, resulting in oppression of Jews.

2 Enoch

The concept of fallen angels is also in the Second Book of Enoch. It tells about Enoch’s ascent through the layers of heaven. During his journey, he encounters fallen angels imprisoned in the 2nd heaven. At first, he decides to pray for them, but refuses to do so, since he himself as merely human, would not be worthy to pray for angels. In the 5th heaven however, he meets other rebellious angels, here called Grigori, remaining in grief, not joining the heavenly hosts in song. Enoch tries to cheer them up by telling about his prayers for their fellow angels and thereupon they join the heavenly liturgy.[19]

Strikingly, the text refers to the leader of the Grigori as Satanail and not as Azael or Shemyaza, as in the other Books of Enoch.[20] But the Grigori are identified with the Watchers of 1 Enoch.[21][22]

The narration of the Grigori in 2 Enoch 18:1–7, who went down on to earth, married women and “befouled the earth with their deeds”, resulting in their confinement under the earth, shows that the author of 2 Enoch knew about the stories in 1 Enoch. The longer recension of 2 Enoch, chapter 29 refers to angels who were “thrown out from the height” when their leader tried to become equal in rank with the Lord’s power (2 Enoch 29:1–4), an idea probably taken from Ancient Canaanite religion about Attar, trying to rule the throne of Baal. The equation of an angel called Satanail with a deity trying to usurp the throne of a higher deity, was also adapted by later Christian in regard to the fall of Satan.


The Book of Jubilees, an ancient Jewish religious work, accepted as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Beta Israel, refers to the Watchers, who are among the angels created on the first day.[24][25] However, unlike the (first) Book of Enoch, the Watchers are commanded by God to descend to earth and to instruct humanity.[26][27] It is only after they copulate with human women that they transgress the laws of God.[28] These illicit unions result in demonic offspring, who battle each other until they die, while the Watchers are bound in the depths of the earth as punishment.[29] In Jubilees 10:1, another angel called Mastema appears as the leader of the evils spirits.[28] He asks God to spare some of the demons, so he might use their aid to lead humankind into sin. Afterwards, he becomes their leader:[28]

“‘Lord, Creator, let some of them remain before me, and let them harken to my voice, and do all that I shall say unto them; for if some of them are not left to me, I shall not be able to execute the power of my will on the sons of men; for these are for corruption and leading astray before my judgment, for great is the wickedness of the sons of men.’ (10:8)

Both the (first) Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees include the motif of angels introducing evil to humans. However, unlike the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees does not hold that evil was caused by the fall of angels in the first place, although their introduction to sin is affirmed. Further, while the fallen angels in the Book of Enoch are acting against God’s will, the fallen angels and demons in the Book of Jubilees seem to have no power independent from God but only act within his power.[30]

Rabbinic Judaism

Although the concept of fallen angels developed from Judaism during the Second Temple period, rabbis from the second century onward turned against the Enochian writings, probably in order to prevent fellow Jews from worship and veneration of angels. Thus, while many angels were individualized and sometimes venerated during the Second Temple period, the status of angels was degraded to a class of creatures on the same level of humans, thereby emphasizing the omnipresence of God. The 2nd-century rabbi Shimon bar Yochai cursed everyone who explained the term Sons of God as angels. He stated Sons of God were actually sons of judges or sons of nobles. Evil was no longer attributed to heavenly forces, now it was dealt as an “evil inclination” (yetzer hara) within humans.[31] However, narrations of fallen angels do appear in later rabbinic writings. In some Midrashic works, the “evil inclination” is attributed to Samael, who is in charge of several satans in order to test humanity. Nevertheless, these angels are still subordinate to God; the reacceptance of rebel angels in Midrashic discourse was posterior and probably influenced by the role of fallen angels in Islamic and Christian lore.[34]

The idea of rebel angels in Judaism appears in the Aggadic-Midrashic work Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, which shows not one, but two falls of angels. The first one is attributed to Samael, who refuses to worship Adam and objects to God favoring Adam over the angels, ultimately descending onto Adam and Eve to tempt them into sin. This seems rooted in the motif of the fall of Iblis in the Quran and the fall of Satan in the Cave of Treasures.[35] The second fall echoes the Enochian narratives. Again, the “sons of God” mentioned in Gen 6:1–4 are depicted as angels. During their fall, their “strength and stature became like the sons of man” and again, they give existence to the giants by intercourse with human women.[35]


Although not strictly speaking fallen, evil angels reappear in Kabbalah. Some of them are named after angels taken from the Enochian writings, such as Samael.[36] According to the Zohar, just as angels can be created by virtue, evil angels are an incarnation of human vices, which derive from the Qliphoth, the representation of impure forces.[37]

However, the Zohar also recalls a narration of two angels in a fallen state, called Aza and Azael. These angels are cast down from the heaven after mistrusting Adam for his inclination towards sin.[38] Once in Earth, they complete the Enochian narrative by teaching magic to humans and producing offspring with them, as well as consorting with Lilith (hailed as “the sinner”). In the narrative, the Zohar affirms but simultaneously prohibits magical practices.[39] As a punishment, God puts the angels in chains, but they still copulate with the demoness Naamah, who gives birth to demons, evil spirits and witches.[38]


Michael casts out rebel angels. Illustration by Gustave Doré for John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

God sits on a throne within a mandorla. The rebelling angels are depicted as falling out of heaven and into a hell, in the shape of a mouth. As they fall, the angels become demons.


Luke 10:18 refers to “Satan falling from heaven” and Matthew 25:41 mentions “the Devil and his angels”, who will be thrown into hell. All Synoptic Gospels identify Satan as the leader of demons.[40] Paul the Apostle (c. 5 – c. 64 or 67) states in 1 Corinthians 6:3 that there are angels, who will be judged, implying the existence of wicked angels.[40] 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6 refer paraenetically to angels who have sinned against God and await punishment on Judgement Day.[41] The Book of Revelation, chapter 12, speaks of Satan as a great red dragon whose “tail swept a third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth”.[42] In verses 7–9, Satan is defeated in the War in Heaven against Michael and his angels: “the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him”. Nowhere within the New Testament writings, fallen angels are identified with demons.[40] But by combining the references to Satan, demons and angels, early Christian exegetes equated fallen angels with demons, for which Satan was regarded as the leader.[40][44]

Origen and other Christian writers linked the fallen morning star of Isaiah 14:12 of the Old Testament to Jesus’ statement in Luke 10:18 that he “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”, as well as a passage about the fall of Satan in Revelation 12:8–9.[45] The Latin word lucifer, as introduced in the late 4th-century AD Vulgate, gave rise to the name for a fallen angel.[46]

Christian tradition has associated Satan not only with the image of the morning star in Isaiah 14:12, but also with the denouncing in Ezekiel 28:11–19 of the king of Tyre, who is spoken of as having been a “cherub”. The Church Fathers saw these two passages as in some ways parallel, an interpretation also testified in apocryphal and pseudepigraphic works.[47] However, “no modern evangelical commentary on Isaiah or Ezekiel sees Isaiah 14 or Ezekiel 28 as providing information about the fall of Satan”.[48]

Early Christianity

During the period immediately before the rise of Christianity, the intercourse between the Watchers and human women was often seen as the first fall of the angels. Christianity stuck to the Enochian writings at least until the third century. Many Church Fathers such as Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria and Lactantius accepted the association of the angelic descent myth to the “sons of God” passage in Genesis 6:1–4. However, some ascetics, such as Origen (c. 184 – c. 253), rejected this interpretation. According to the Church Fathers who accepted the doctrine by Origen, these angels were guilty of having transgressed the limits of their nature and of desiring to leave their heavenly abode to experience sensual experiences. Irenaeus referred to fallen angels as apostates, who will be punished by an everlasting fire. Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165) identified pagan deities as fallen angels or their demonic offspring in disguise. Justin also held them responsible for Christian persecution during the first centuries. Tertullian and Origen also referred to fallen angels as teachers of astrology.

The Babylonian king, who is described as a fallen “morning star” in Isaiah 14:1–17, was probably the first time identified with a fallen angel by Origen. This description was interpreted typologically both as an angel and a human king. The image of the fallen morning star or angel was thereby applied to Satan by early Christian writers, following the equation of Lucifer to Satan in the pre-Christian century.


Fallen angels dwelling in Hell

Innichen (South Tyrol), Saint Michael Parish Church: Frescos depicting the fall of the rebelling angels by Christoph Anton Mayr (1760)

By the third century, Christians began to reject the Enochian literature. The sons of God came to be identified merely with righteous men, more precisely with descendants of Seth who had been seduced by women descended from Cain. The cause of evil was shifted from the superior powers of angels, to humans themselves, and to the very beginning of history; the expulsion of Satan and his angels on the one hand and the original sin of humans on the other hand. However, the Book of Watchers, which identified the sons of God with fallen angels, was not rejected by Syriac Christians. Augustine of Hippo’s work Civitas Dei (5th century) became the major opinion of Western demonology and for the Catholic Church. He rejected the Enochian writings and stated that the sole origin of fallen angels was the rebellion of Satan. As a result, fallen angels came to be equated with demons and depicted as non-sexual spiritual entities. The exact nature of their spiritual bodies became another topic of dispute during the Middle Ages. Augustine based his descriptions of demons on his perception of the Greek Daimon. The Daimon was thought to be a spiritual being, composed of ethereal matter, a notion also used for fallen angels by Augustine. However, these angels received their ethereal body only after their fall. Later scholars tried to explain the details of their spiritual nature, asserting that the ethereal body is a mixture of fire and air, but that they are still composed of material elements. Others denied any physical relation to material elements, depicting the fallen angels as purely spiritual entities. But even those who believed the fallen angels had ethereal bodies did not believe that they could produce any offspring.

Augustine, in his Civitas Dei describes two cities (Civitates) distinct from each other and opposed to each other like light and darkness. The earthly city is caused by the act of rebellion of the fallen angels and is inhabited by wicked men and demons (fallen angels) led by Satan. On the other hand, the heavenly city is inhabited by righteous men and the angels led by God. Although, his ontological division into two different kingdoms shows resemblance of Manichean dualism, Augustine differs in regard of the origin and power of evil. In Augustine works, evil originates from free will. Augustine always emphasized the sovereignty of God over the fallen angels. Accordingly, the inhabitants of the earthly city can only operate within their God-given framework. The rebellion of angels is also a result of the God-given freedom of choice. The obedient angels are endowed with grace, giving them a deeper understanding of God’s nature and the order of the cosmos. Illuminated by God-given grace, they became incapable of feeling any desire for sin. The other angels, however, are not blessed with grace, thus they remain capable of sin. After these angels decide to sin, they fall from heaven and become demons. In Augustine’s view of angels, they cannot be guilty of carnal desires since they lack flesh, but they can be guilty of sins that are rooted in spirit and intellect such as pride and envy. However, after they have made their decision to rebel against God, they cannot turn back. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not take “the fall of the angels” literally, but as a radical and irrevocable rejection of God and his reign by some angels who, though created as good beings, freely chose evil, their sin being unforgivable because of the irrevocable character of their choice, not because of any defect in infinite divine mercy. Present-day Catholicism rejects Apocatastasis, the reconciliation with God suggested by the Church Father Origen.

Orthodox Christianity

Eastern Orthodox Christianity

Like Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity shares the basic belief in fallen angels as spiritual beings who rebel against God. Unlike Catholicism, however, there is no established doctrine about the exact nature of fallen angels, but Eastern Orthodox Christianity unanimously agrees that the power of fallen angels is always inferior to God. Therefore, belief in fallen angels can always be assimilated with local lore, as long it does not break basic principles and is in line with the Bible. Historically, some theologians even tend to suggest that fallen angels could be rehabilitated in the world to come. Fallen angels, just like angels, play a significant role in the spiritual life of believers. As in Catholicism, fallen angels tempt and incite people into sin, but mental illness is also linked to fallen angels. Those who have reached an advanced degree of spirituality are even thought to be able to envision them. Rituals and sacraments performed by Eastern Orthodoxy are thought to weaken such demonic influences.

Ethiopian Church

Unlike most other Churches, the Ethiopian Church accepts 1 Enoch and the Book of Jubilees as canonical. As a result, the Church believes that human sin does not originate in Adam’s transgression alone, but also from Satan and other fallen angels. Together with demons, they continue to cause sin and corruption on earth.


Like Catholicism, Protestantism continues with the concept of fallen angels as spiritual entities unrelated to flesh, but it rejects the angelology established by Catholicism. Martin Luther’s (1483–1546) sermons of the angels merely recount the exploits of the fallen angels, and does not deal with an angelic hierarchy. Satan and his fallen angels are responsible for some misfortune in the world, but Luther always believed that the power of the good angels exceeds those of the fallen ones. The Italian Protestant theologian Girolamo Zanchi (1516–1590) offered further explanations for the reason behind the fall of the angels. According to Zanchi, the angels rebelled when the incarnation of Christ was revealed to them in incomplete form. Nevertheless, Protestants are much less concerned with the cause of angelic fall, since it is thought as neither useful nor necessary to know.


The angels Harut and Marut punished by hanging over the well, without wings and hair.

Depiction of Iblis, black-faced and without hair (top-right of the picture). He refuses to prostrate himself with the other angels.

The concept of fallen angels is debated in Islam. Opposition to the possibility of erring angels can be attested as early as Hasan of Basra. On the other hand Abu Hanifa (d. 767), founder of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, distinguished between obedient angels, disobedient angels and unbelievers among the angels, who in turn differ from the jinn and demons (shayatin). The Quran mentions the fall of Iblis in several Surahs. Further, Surah 2:102 implies that a pair of fallen angels introduces magic to humanity. However, the latter angels did not accompany Iblis. Fallen angels work in entirely different ways in the Quran and Tafsir. According to Umm al-Kitab, Azazil boasts about himself being superior to God until he is thrown into lower celestial spheres and ends up on earth. According to a hadith (tradition) mentioned in Al-Tha’alibis (961–1038) Qisas Al-Anbiya, Iblis commands his host of rebel angels and the fiercest jinn from the lowest layer of hell. In a Shia narrative from Ja’far al-Sadiq (700 or 702–765), Idris (Enoch) meets an angel, which the wrath of God falls upon, and his wings and hair are cut off; after Idris prays for him to God, his wings and hair are restored. In return they become friends and at his request the angel takes Idris to the heavens to meet the angel of death. Some recent non-Islamic scholars suggest Uzair, who is according to Surah 9:30 called a son of God by Jews, originally referred to a fallen angel. While exegetes almost unanimously identified Uzair as Ezra, there is no historical evidence that the Jews called him son of God. Thus, the Quran may refer not to the earthly Ezra, but to the heavenly Ezra, identifying him with the heavenly Enoch, who in turn became identified with the angel Metatron (also called lesser YHWH) in merkabah mysticism.


The Quran repeatedly tells about the fall of Iblis. According to Surah 2:30, the angels object to God’s intention to create a human, because they will cause corruption and shed blood, echoing the account of 1 Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. This happens after the angels observe men causing unrighteousness. However, after God demonstrates the superiority of Adam’s knowledge in comparison to the angels, He orders them to prostrate themselves. Only Iblis refuses to follow the instruction. When God asks for the reason behind Iblis’ refusal, he boasts about himself being superior to Adam, because he is made of fire. Thereupon God expels him from heaven. In the early Meccan period, Iblis appears as a degraded angel. But since he is called a jinni in Surah 18:50, some scholars argue that Iblis is actually not an angel, but an entity apart, stating he is only allowed to join the company of angels as a reward for his previous righteousness. Therefore, they reject the concept of fallen angels and emphasize the nobility of angels by quoting certain Quranic verses like 66:6 and 16:49, distinguishing between infallible angels and jinn capable of sin. However, the notion of jinni cannot clearly exclude Iblis from being an angel. According to Ibn Abbas, angels who guard the jinan (here: heavens) are called Jinni, just as humans who were from Mecca are called Mecci, but they are not related to the jinn-race. Other scholars assert that a jinn is everything hidden from human eye, both angels and other invisible creatures. Therefore, Surah 18:50 could not exclude Iblis from being an angel. In Surah 15:36, God grants Iblis’ request to prove the unworthiness of humans. Surah 38:82 also confirms that Iblis’ intrigues to lead humans astray are permitted by God’s power. However, as mentioned in Surah 17:65, Iblis’ attempts to mislead God’s servants are destined to fail. The Quranic episode of Iblis parallels another wicked angel in the earlier Books of Jubilees: Like Iblis, Mastema requests God’s permission to tempt humanity, and both are limited in their power, that is, not able to deceive God’s servants. However, the motif of Iblis’ disobedience derives not from the Watcher mythology, but can be traced back to the Cave of Treasures, a work that probably holds the standard explanation in Proto-orthodox Christianity for the angelic fall of Satan. According to this explanation, Satan refuses to prostrate himself before Adam, because he is “fire and spirit” and thereupon Satan is banished from heaven. Unlike the majority opinion in later Christianity, the idea that Iblis tries to usurp the throne of God is alien to Islam and due to its strict monotheism unthinkable.

Harut and Marut

Harut and Marut are a pair of angels mentioned in Surah 2:102 teaching magic. Although the reason behind their stay on earth is not mentioned in the Quran, the following narration became canonized in Islamic tradition. The Quran exegete Tabari attributed this story to Ibn Masud and Ibn Abbas and is also attested by Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Briefly summarized, the angels complain about the mischievousness of mankind and make a request to destroy them. Consequently, God offers a test to determine whether or not the angels would do better than humans for long: the angels are endowed with human-like urges and Satan has power over them. The angels choose two (or in some accounts three) among themselves. However, on Earth, these angels entertain and act upon sexual desires and become guilty of idol worship, whereupon they even kill an innocent witness of their actions. For their deeds, they are not allowed to ascend to heaven again. Probably the names Harut and Marut are of Zoroastrian origin and derived from two Amesha Spentas called Haurvatat and Ameretat. Although the Quran gave these fallen angels Iranian names, mufassirs recognized them as from the Book of Watchers. In accordance with 3 Enoch, al-Kalbi (737 AD – 819 AD) named three angels descending to earth, and he even gave them their Enochian names. He explained that one of them returned to heaven and the other two changed their names to Harut and Marut. However, like in the story of Iblis, the story of Harut and Marut does not contain any trace of angelic revolt. Rather, the stories about fallen angels are related to a rivalry between humans and angels. As the Quran affirms, Harut and Marut are sent by God and, unlike the Watchers, they only instruct humans to witchcraft by God’s permission, just as Iblis can just tempt humans by God’s permission.

Popular culture

In the Divine Comedy (1308–1320) by Dante Alighieri, fallen angels guard the City of Dis surrounding the lower circles of hell. They mark a transition: While in previous circles, the sinners are condemned for sins they just could not resist, later on, the circles of hell are filled with sinners who deliberately rebel against God, such as fallen angels or Christian heretics.

In John Milton’s 17th-century epic poem Paradise Lost, both obedient and fallen angels play an important role. They appear as rational individuals: their personality is similar to that of humans. The fallen angels are named after entities from both Christian and Pagan mythology, such as Moloch, Chemosh, Dagon, Belial, Beelzebub and Satan himself. Following the canonical Christian narrative, Satan convinces other angels to live free from the laws of God, thereupon they are cast out of heaven. The epic poem starts with the fallen angels in hell. The first portrayal of God in the book is given by fallen angels, who describe him as a questionable tyrant and blame him for their fall. Outcast from heaven, the fallen angels establish their own kingdom in the depths of hell, with a capital called Pandæmonium. Unlike most earlier Christian representations of hell, it is not the primary place for God to torture the sinners, but the fallen angels’ own kingdom. The fallen angels even build a palace, play music and freely debate. Nevertheless, without divine guidance, the fallen angels themselves turn hell into a place of suffering.

The idea of fallen angels plays a significant role in the various poems of Alfred de Vigny. In Le Déluge (1823), the son of an angel and a mortal woman learns from the stars about the great deluge. He seeks refuge with his beloved on Mount Ararat, hoping that his angelic father will save them. But since he does not appear, they are caught by the flood. Éloa (1824) is about a female angel created by the tears of Jesus. She hears about a male angel, expelled from heaven, whereupon she seeks to comfort him, but goes to perdition as a consequence.

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