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Angelology?


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#1 Nick M.

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 08:41 PM

Sorry to bother everyone, but in my studies, I have come across some "odd" things having to do with this topic, I am confused, and I would be elated to be enlightened by anyone who can spare some knowledge on me.

In Orthodoxy, we believe in the "three choir angelic hierarchy" proposed by Dionysus the Areopagite, and later "clarified" by Roman Catholic Saint Thomas Aquinas in his book "Summa Theologicae". I understand that during this time period, theologians and clergy did not have the amount of theological resources at their disposal as we do, and that may be the result of some of these misconceptions of mine. I have used numerous sources to try to research this on my own, but it still proves to be difficult.

Three Choir Angelic Hierarchy:
The "first sphere" is made up of the:
Seraphim
Cherubim
Thrones

The "second sphere" is made up of the:
Dominions
Virtues
Powers

And the "third sphere" is made up of the:
Principalities
Archangels
Angels

1. Cherubim/Mythology?
This is odd. I have been looking at many different sources, mainly Christian, but with some Jewish influences here and there, but there seems to be some sort of misconception surrounding these angels.

A. These "Cherubim" are often portrayed as "infant angels" or angels with the visage of a young boy/girl with wings. And yet in other sections, they are referred to as "Cherubs" which are described as having "four faces" among other odd things such as the "legs of a calf". Are these two separate angels? Or do they choose a form?

What perplexes me the most is that some odd architectural and sculptural objects RESEMBLE the descriptions/depictions of these angels. For example, the "sphinx" in Egyptian mythology, the Indian "griffin", and even some creatures in Japanese mythology. There are some other odd things too which I noticed. Could these have been results of angelic/demonic apparitions?

2. The "Fallen" (Nephilim)
In Matthew 22:30, it states that angels do not reproduce or marry. Yet, in other sources, it says that some angels came to the earth to claim human wives. Do we simply believe that the meaning of Genesis 6:1-4 and Numbers 13:32-33 is that the descendants of Cain and the descendants of Seth intermarried, or is this another type of angelic being?

3. Merkabah
In the first chapter of Ezekiel, an odd type of creature/angelic deity is seen. The Merkabah, translated "those who ride" or "to ride", are beings that take the form of a "wheel" that pulls God's throne? Is this a separate being, or is this a "morphing" being that is already present on our hierarchy?

4. Popular Angels
In this topic I am VERY confused. The Great Angel Michael is said to be a lot of things. What is he categorized as? In most sources, he is an archangel, in others he is a "Prince of Seraphims", and in a few odd ones, he is "one of the angels of death"?

5. Seraphim?
The meaning of "Seraphim" can be interpreted in many ways, it can mean "snake", "fire/burning sensation", and many other things. What is the correct Orthodox translation?

Also, what is the purpose of these angels? In some sources it is said that they chant/sing "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts...", but in others they serve as Archangels?

6. Jewish "Hierarchy"
Since the Jewish worship Our Lord as well, does that mean that their hierarchy is correct as well?

7. Would it be "heretical" to assume things?


Thank you for your time,
Nick

One last thing, would the "study" of angels be called "angelology"? Or would it be something else?

#2 Ryan

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 11:01 PM

Hi Nick- I don't know much more about this than you do, but I can make a few comments.

First, this thread talks about the Nephilim pretty well. It seems some Fathers consider the Nephilim to be mere humans, descended from Seth and Cain.

Thomas Aquinas is not an Orthodox saint, so he doesn't really carry weight in the Orthodox understanding of the angels.

The Cherubim, as far as I know, were never described as winged infants in the Bible or in the Fathers. This conception of them is more modern, arising from the confusion of cherubim with the "putti" in Western Renaissance and Baroque art. Needless to say, the Biblical descriptions of the Cherubim are considerably more alien than the whimsical winged babies. I believe the wheels (merkabah) are considered forms of Cherubim- I have seen at least one icon of a Cherub depicting it as a pair of many-eyed wheels with wings.

I believe Seraphim is understood to mean "fiery." I remember reading a commentary on Psalm 103: 4 ("Who maketh His Angels spirits, and his ministers a flaming fire") which said that the "flaming fire" refers to the Seraphim. The Seraphim are usually depicted as faces with six wings. In Orthodox temples, one can often find icons of them holding liturgical fans.

Posted Image


I believe the great Archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, etc., are not "archangels" in terms of the angelic hierarchy. In this case, it is sort of like referring to a General as a "soldier". They are actually Seraphim, who, I suppose, are able to appear in less alien forms when they communicate with humans.

Your other questions I don't know abou

Edited by M.C. Steenberg, 23 December 2009 - 11:13 AM.
Removed full quotation of previous post





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