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Archangels Importance and Role Vary by Religious Faith
An archangel is seen as a high-ranking angel. The dominant religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all recognize some form of archangel, and there is a consensus that there were four archangels. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are recognized by Jewish and Christian faiths as archangels, although Archangel Michael is the only one explicitly named in the Bible. Gabriel and Raphael are subjects within the Book of Tobit and the Book of Luke, respectively—canonical writings of the Roman Catholic Church that are not officially recognized by Protestants. While Christians see Uriel as the last and fourth angel, Islam gives this distinction to Azrael.
All of these faiths recognize the concept of an archangel, but the definition varies widely between faiths, with Judaism and Catholicism giving greater credence to Archangels. Judaism and Catholicism both recognize eight archangels, although Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel are considered of high status. Protestants recognize Michael as an important archangel, but do not emphasize others. While angels appeared in the Bible as early as Genesis in the Old Testament, their visibility and role increased significantly in the New Testament. Artists of the Renaissance period favored the Archangel as a subject creating statues and paintings of the Archangel in abundance. This has likely contributed to their enduring popularity and importance over the past several centuries.
Michael was considered the Chief of the Order of Virtues, the Prince of the Presence, the Chief of the Archangels, the Angel of Repentance, Justice, Mercy and Sanctification. He is also the Ruler of the 4th Heaven and the Conqueror of Satan. In Revelations (20:1), it is Michael who descends from Heaven with a “key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.” In this passage, it is the archangel Michael who leads an army of angels to capture the devil who appears in the form of a dragon and bind him for a thousand years. Michael is described as the Prince of Light in the Dead Sea Scrolls as one of the “Sons of Light” who will fight the “Sons of Darkness”. The book of Daniel predicts Michael’s return when the world is once again in trouble to rid the world of darkness.
Michael is considered the patron saint of soldiers and law enforcement officers. This is because of his role as the Field Commander of God’s Army.
Gabriel is the angel of annunciation, resurrection, mercy, vengeance, death and revelation. Archangel Gabriel first appears in the book of Daniel at the time when the Jews were exiled by Nebuchadnezzar II to Babylon. He appears in human form to help Daniel understand the meaning of his visions that foretell the End of Days. In Luke’s Gospel, it is Gabriel who serves as God’s messenger and announces to Mary that she will give birth to a son of God whom she will name Jesus, a moment often captured in paintings such as the Annunciation.
While Gabriel is often depicted with a trumpet which he will blow to announce the beginning of the End of Days and again to begin the Resurrection, this is not stated in any version of the Bible. The first image of Gabriel with a trumpet is found in an Armenian text from the mid-1400s. Gabriel’s horn first appears in an English language text in Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost from 1667. The horn is closely associated with Gabriel and now it is part of modern identity.
Raphael can be found in the Book of Tobit, a religious scripture recognized by the Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches, but not in the Hebrew Bible. Archangel Raphael is considered the angel or “god” of healing. In the Book of Tobit, he is sent by God to heal Tobit of his blindness and act as Tobias’ protector in human form during a journey on foot. Raphael is one of the six angels of repentance, the angel of prayer, love, joy and light. Catholic teachings honor him as St. Michael, the patron saint of medical workers and travelers.
Uriel is seen as the guardian of the Gate of Eden and the angel who watches over thunder and terror. He is found mainly in pseudepigraphic and apocalyptic literature often depicted holding a flaming sword and the keys to the gates of Hell. While he is not found in the Bible, he is part of a number of apocryphal works and is seen as the “fourth” representing the four cardinal points along with Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
Uriel holds the titles Angel of the Presence, Angel of the Face, Prince of the Presence, Angel of Glory, and Angel of Sanctification. Along with Suriel, Jehol, Zagagel, Akatriel, Metatron, Yefefiah, Satanel, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Nathanel – Uriel is allowed to enter the presence of God. He is often shown holding a scroll that represents wisdom and is the patron saint of the Arts.
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