archangels In the Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchy, the second highest rank of angels. The name “archangels” comes from the Greek term “archangelos,” meaning “chief messenger” or “eminent messenger.” Archangels, also known as “Holy Ones,” are liaisons between God and mortals; they are in charge of heaven’s armies in the battle against Hell; and they are the supervisors of the GUARDIAN Angels. They also serve as guardian angels to great people, such as heads of religions and states. They carry the divine decrees of God.

Archangels are sometimes equated with the BENE ELOHIM. The figures of archangels appear in the Old Testament, but the term “archangel” is not used in Greek versions. “Archangel” does appear in Greek versions of pseudepigrapha texts such as the Enochian writings, which give classes of angels, and it appears twice in the New Testament. Jude 1:9 refers to Michael as an archangel, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 refers to a nameless archangel who heralds the second coming and the resurrection of the dead: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.”

Archangels also appear in Judeo-Christian magical texts. Joshua 5:13–15 describes a forerunner of the archangel in the form of a man whom Joshua sees in a vision, and who identifies himself as “commander of the army of the Lord.” Daniel names two high-level angels, Michael and Gabriel, but he does not call them archangels. Angels who have a special place before God are often interpreted as archangels.

Groups of four, six, and seven are mentioned in various texts. For example, REVELATION 8:2 speaks of “seven angels who stand before God;” EZEKIEL 9:2 describes seven punishing angels (six who wield swords and a seventh who carries a writing case); and TOBIT 12:15 has Raphael identifying himself as one of seven angels who transmit prayers of the holy, or who stand in the presence of the Lord.

In the Enochian writings, 1 ENOCH 9 lists Michael, Sariel, and Gabriel (and in some versions also Raphael) as significant angels who watch from the sky. 1 Enoch 20:1–7 lists the six “holy angels who watch” by name: Sariel (Suruel) or Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Gabriel, and Saraqael, and 1 Enoch 40:1–10 describes Michale, Gabriel, Sariel, and Phanuel as the four angels who “stand before the glory of the Lord of the Spirits.”

Among other angels described as archangels are Oriphiel, Zadkiel, Anael, Jehudiel, Sealtiel, and Barachiel. The Roman Catholic Church elevated the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael to sainthood. Michael is by far the most significant of the three. He is the ruling prince of the order, who defends the church against the forces of darkness. Michael is the only angel named in the Bible who is specifically called an archangel (Jude 1:9). In Daniel (10:13, 21), he is called “one of the chief princes” and “your prince,” but in Revelation 12:7 he is only an angel.

Gabriel is often identified as the angel who visits Elizabeth and MARY to announce the forthcoming births of John the Baptist and Jesus, respectively. Raphael, identified as the prince of archangels, is a central figure in the book of Tobit, part of the Catholic canon but otherwise considered apocryphal. In Islam, the Koran acknowledges the existence of four archangels but names only two: Jibril (Gabriel), the angel of revelation, and Michael, the warrior angel. The other two are likely Azrael, the Angel OF DEATH and Israfil, the angel of MUSIC.




  • Charlesworth, James H., ed. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Vols. 1 and 2 New York: Doubleday, 1983, 1985.
  • van der Toorn, Karl, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, eds. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. 2d ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1999.


Encyclopedia of Angels by Rosemary Guiley