What's the deal with angels?

Obvious but not stated – dead human people do not become angels! People become saints. As sad as pre-born or young kids’ deaths are, they are not “angel babies”.

“They do miracles and save Jimmy Stewart’s Christmas.” Was the guy getting his wings supposed to be a dead guy? I can’t bring myself to sit through that thing again.

/PSA Next, the Immaculate Conception :slight_smile:

Although, to further confuse matters, angels are saints, too.

Ack – good point.

A new baby in the parish was named Gabriel Michael, and our pastor hopes when the time comes, the Confirmation name will be Raphael. :slight_smile:

“Saint” is just an alternate word for “holy”. That’s why there are churches dedicated to “Saint Savior”.

Another point is that haloes are not rings floating in the air—that’s a medieval misunderstanding of drawings from late antiquity that had been intended to show that the angel’s (or saint’s) face was shining bright.

The best dramatic representation of standard-issue angels that I know of is in Dorothy L. Sayers’ play The Zeal of thy House. They’re more human-like than angels ought to be, but Sayers had only human actors to work with, after all. If you’re a theatre person, you should be aware that, in the original production, they were given heavy wings with real feathers and wore stilt boots to make them superhumanly tall next to the other actors.

And, even the angels sometimes find themselves down on their luck, fallen to earth, dressed in rags, to be found laying face down in the mud. For a view of a very sick old angel, read the amusing little short story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Full text here. Excerpt:

I’m 54 years old and a southern Baptist deacon, and “Transformer!” was my first thought when I read the staff report. (Of course, age does not necessarily imply maturity.)

As Dex mentions a couple of times, biblical angels were not timid little creatures. I did a short series of Sunday School lessons on angels many years ago, and I mentioned how the first thing an angel would have to say to the person(s) to he came to speak was “Don’t be afraid!” I termed this the SAG, for Standard Angel Greeting.

Regarding the statement

many people consider the passage in Genesis 32 to be a Christophany.


I think I might have been the original immature element who thought that.

And the Spanish “San” can mean either “Saint” or “Holy”, hence “San Salvador” or “Santa Fe”. But in English, the usage is different. A “saint” is no more nor less than a person who is in Heaven. Angels are people (just not human people), and all non-fallen angels are in Heaven, so they’re all saints. The members of the Trinity could technically be considered saints, even though they’re never referred to that way. And when a person claims that a dead loved one is in Heaven, they’re claiming that that person is a saint, too. Note that the Pope does not make people saints; God does that. The Pope just recognizes people as saints, with the understanding that he’s probably missing a great many of them.

Perhaps in Catholicism. For Protestants, “saint” generally means any believer. For example, in Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, he uses the term a few times:

Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you.

All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.*

The communion of saints on earth, in purgatory and in heaven is an essential part of Catholicism.

Church militant, church suffering, and church triumphant.

Meant to say, angels and saints are separate, as in the Divine Praises:

Blessed be God.
Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be His Most Precious Blood.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most Holy.
Blessed be her Holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her Glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints. Amen.

As I’ve already said, there are churches dedicated to “Saint Savior”.

Nope. What about St. Michael?

As far as I remember only three angels are actually titled Saints - Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

They should name him Uriel just to be obstinate.

If memory serves, some Protestant scholars have suggested that St. Michael was the pre-Incarnate embodiment of Jesus Christ.

I’m not a Christian nor am I Jewish (I’m an atheist who was raised in a Protestant household), but if you go by the original Hebrew text that the Old Testament was written in, you will find that what is translated as “angels” in the English edition of the Bible was originally in Hebrew a term benei Elohim (“sons of God”).

This phrase “sons of God” appears throughout the Bible in the original Hebrew text, one of its first appearances being a passage in the Book of Genesis that relates how a group of angels lusted after human women and impregnated them. The women had giants (Nephilim) who were cannibalistic and devoured humans and were destroying everything, which is why God caused the flood, in order to drown the giants (and everyone else except for Noah, his family, and the animals on board the ark):

I’m sorry, but there is nothing in that passage that says the Naphilim were “cannibalistic and devoured humans and were destroying everything”, and it declares that God destroyed world because Man(not Naphilim) was wicked all the time. Where else besides the Bible are you getting this other information?

No, I don’t think that’s obvious at all. Dex hit the nail on the head when he said “the development of modern angels has been an evolutionary process… changed considerably since ancient times.” and “angels play very different roles in Christianity, Judaism and Islam.” and “most of the ancient detail we have about angels is NOT biblical” It’s not like we’re discussing the chemical properties of oxygen. What we’re discussing here is a set of beliefs that has clearly changed over time, plus the fact that there’s no unanimous agreement among the believers, even in a given time period.

I agree with you that there’s nothing recorded in the bible which supports the notion that dead humans become angels when they die. But the same can be said about almost any characteristic of what modern Christians think about angels. Heck, if you define “angels” and “beings that reside in Heaven” then you’ve only opened another can of worms because the same is true of Heaven. Almost everything that modern Christians believe about Heaven is completely unsupported by the bible. Most of it comes from books like Dante’s Inferno. But I digress. My point is that when the story has changed over time, and there are different versions of the story floating around out there, it really doesn’t mean much to say things like “Dead human people do not become angels”. What’s much more useful is to say something like “Many modern Christians believe that dead human people become angels but there’s no evidence that early Christians believed this.”

Moderator Note

To avoid confusion, this answer is in response to a post by a troll who has since been disappeared.


Wow, that would have got them burned at the stake a while back. According to the Athanasian Creed, still subscribed to by most Protestants and RCs, Jesus is co-eternal with God so there wasn’t a time when he wasn’t around, so to speak.

The idea that people become angels after death, getting their wings and harp when they get to heaven, was and is pretty widespread in popular culture. It would be interesting to know just how far back the notion goes.