Oxford University Press, 2010, $24.95
This is a little book on a big topic. Author David Albert Jones examines the Bible, the Quran, the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other religions and sects, as well as literature, poetry, visual art and essays, to assemble general beliefs about angels. It’s of course incorrect to write what is “known” about angels. Yet it’s interesting that angels are referred to in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Jones argues that angels are a species distinct from humans and from God and Jesus, existing “above” humans but “below” God. They originated as only male, but were shown as children during the Renaissance, and as females in the 19th century. They have no physical bodies of any kind, being purely of fire or light. While there are said to be as many angels as there are stars in the sky, only a few are “known” by name: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and perhaps Uriel being most familiar.
Every human being is thought to have a guardian angel assigned to him or her for life, to guard, help and intervene at times of needs. Angles are also considered to be messengers from God. The Bible has many references to such messengers and it’s striking that every angel says “Fear not” or “Don’t be afraid,” leading to the idea that having an angel make an appearance is a frightening thing indeed, that angels know this, and seek to make people less fearful .
This little book is a good academic summary of what is understood about angels. I would have enjoyed more tales of angels’ influence on history beyond what is in the Bible. The story of Michael’s appearance to Joan of Arc is given, and I would have been fascinated by more discussion of people claiming to have experienced angelic visitations.
What about you? Do you believe in angels? Have you ever had an experience with an angel?
Angels are often viewed as being extensions of a divine being used for errands such as bringing messages and fulfilling tasks of the deity. Religions vary and so do the traditional teachings regarding angels their duties and whether or not they have free will. Some religions teach that angels can only do what the supreme being instructs them to do.