Questions about Angels

  • In December 2014 Jon the freelance theologian did an interview with UCB Radio about angels. Here are some answers to the questions he was asked.

    What are angels?

    In Christian theology and tradition, angels are spiritual beings sent by God to convey messages or perform certain tasks. The word ‘angel’ is derived from the Greek word ‘angelou’, which means messenger. So when it says in Luke’s gospel about God sending an angel to Mary, it could be interpreted as meaning ‘God sent a messenger to Mary’.

    Are angels male or female?

    Neither. In Luke chapter 20, Jesus is asked a practical question about who a person is married to after they die if they have been married to several people in this life. Jesus replies that there is no marriage in heaven, because people will be ‘like the angels’. This implies that angels do not have gender-based relationships.

    However, there are angels in the Bible who have masculine names, for example Gabriel and Michael. Angels without names, but with specific functions, for example the Angel of Death in the story of the exodus are usually written about using the male gender pronouns. But this is grammatical and does not indicate a particular gender.

    Where does the belief in a Guardian Angel come from?

    There are Bible references to people being protected by angels (for example, Psalm 91, verse 11), but there is no definite Biblical basis for the idea that every person has an angel watching out for them. This developed in later Christian tradition and could be regarded as Christian folklore, similar to making the sign of the cross to ward off evil.

    Why do we depict angels with wings?

    A number of descriptions of angels in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament refer to angels having wings (for example in Isaiah chapter 6, and accounts in the book of Ezekiel). The gospel stories do not tend to mention wings. Angels are described as being clothed in white when they appear at the empty tomb of Jesus following the resurrection.

    The use of wings to depict angels is a form of artistic shorthand. In a classic nativity play, for example, everyone knows who the angel is because they usually are dressed in white, have wings and a halo (find out more about haloes). The use of wings when angels are depicted in art or stained glass windows are similarly to aid the viewer in identifying the characters who are being portrayed.

    Got a question about angels? Ask it in the comments section.

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    1. Christine Feb 18

      Hi Jon

      I was unable to listen to your complete interview with UCB radio in December about angels, I was wondering if it would be possible to listen to the whole interview? I have contacted UCB but they can help me further. I look forward to hearing from you.

      Best wishes


    2. Jon the freelance theologian Feb 28

      Hi Christine. I’m really sorry, I don’t have a copy of it. However, if you have any other questions about angels then you could ask them here. Thank you for your interest. Jon

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