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What is Angelology?

By Klaus Strasser
Updated May 16, 2024
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Angelology is the theological study of angels. It is considered to be one of the 10 major areas of theology. The term comes from the Ancient Greek words angelos, which means messenger, and logos, which is typically translated as word.

In Early Christianity, angels were an important part of the theological system. They often represented messengers of God. Some of the best known angels are Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel. In the Christian Bible, they function as a specific type of intermediary between humankind and God.

One of the many areas angelologists study is how the representations of angels in Christian iconography has changed over time. For example, in the earliest works of Angelic art, dated back to the middle of the third century, angels are portrayed without wings. The difference between winged and non-winged angels marks an important shift in angelology, and many scholarly debates address the possible reasons for this change.

Angels were also often depicted wearing a military type of dress. The most common example of this is Archangel Michael, who is typically portrayed bearing a sword and wearing armor. This image is still found in most Eastern Orthodox icons of Michael. In countries such as Russia and Romania, he represents a symbol of national defense.

The study of angelology can also focus on the different types of angels. For example, they can be separated according to rank, such as archangels, which are often viewed as being closest to God. In the Orthodox religion, there are thousands of archangels, although only seven are commonly known by name. There are also examples of fallen angels, such as Lucifer, which are angels that were thrown out of heaven. Since Lucifer was technically once an angel, he can be included in angelology.

This study is also a part of the Islamic religion. In the Koran, angels are described as direct messengers of God, without any autonomy of their own. They also have specific functions, such as Gabriel, who is the angel of revelation; Malik, known as the guardian of Hell; and Azrael, also called the angel of death.

In the 13th century, angelology came under the influence of Aristotelian philosophy. This led angelologists to investigate the precise position of angels within an entire metaphysical system. Using Aristotelian concepts such as substance and the Prime Mover, they were investigated in terms of their specific ontological status.

The famous question of 'How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?' is a common inquiry attributed to angelology in the Middle Ages. Most modern theologians maintain, however, that this question was the invention of critics of the Church. It is said that these critics posed the question to point out the absurdity of angelological study.

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Discussion Comments
By anon285067 — On Aug 13, 2012

Surely people are aware that 'lucifer' and all of that is 'allegory'?

By BoatHugger — On Jan 01, 2011

@stormyknight: Yes, Lucifer is one of the three archangels mentioned in the Bible. The name Lucifer means “day star” or “son of the morning”. Most people recognize Lucifer as another name for Satan, which is now true.

Lucifer was a beautiful, magnificent being. Unfortunately, his pride overtook his heart and, according to the Bible, sin cost him everything. Lucifer was created by God just like all of the other angels. However, his role was not the same as the other angels. Lucifer was created to be the angel of worship whose ministry would surround the heart of heaven.

A direct passage from Ezekiel 28:13 states “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes were prepared for you on the day you were created.”

By StormyKnight — On Dec 29, 2010

That was a very interesting article. I have always been intrigued with angels. Is it true that Lucifer was an angel?

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