Angels and Demons, Part I

Associate Dean of Religious Life and author Jim Burklo was recently interviewed about Angels and Archangels by the producers of the TV series Supernatural.  We’ll post excerpts from the interview over the course of the week.

The hierarchy of Angels and Archangels seems to mimic the hierarchy of demonology represented through the bible.  Provide a brief primer on what the hierarchical structure for Heaven might be, and why God has selected this level of organization.

First of all, most of what we read about in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures regarding angels and demons are references to mythological beings or stories that aren’t in the Bible at all.  And there is no consistent message or story line about these angels or demons – the references indicate a lot of variation in the ancient legends.  For instance, we read a short reference in Isaiah 14:12 about Day Star, Son of Dawn falling from heaven, and in Luke 10: 18 where Jesus said he saw Satan fall like lightening to the earth,  and in Rev 12: 9 where the archangel Michael and his angels fought the dragon Satan and his angels and cast them to the earth, but nowhere are these stories told in full in the Bible – these are references to extra-biblical stories from the Jewish tradition, and each of them is distinctly different.

Angels and demons are characters in myths within, but mostly outside, of the Bible.  As mythical characters they are expressions of the inner transpersonal spiritual dimension.  The word angel is a Greek word meaning messenger.  Angels can be thought of as mythical expressions of how messages from our unconscious inner realm come into our conscious life.  A great example is the angel who appears to Jacob in the middle of the night in the desert – he’s sleeping and has an encounter with an angel who then wrestles with him – he negotiates an end to the struggle by asking the angel, who is one and the same with God, for a blessing.  This happens at a moment of intense personal struggle within Jacob as he fearfully anticipates a conflict with his estranged brother Esau, whom he is going to encounter the next day.  After the encounter with the angel, Jacob is emboldened to face his brother.  We can understand this “angel” as a manifestation of a message of healing and wholeness that comes to Jacob in a dream.  Many of us receive messages from messengers, call them angels – messengers who give us wisdom or comfort or clarity in dreams, or in the form of potent, timely encounters with people who give us wisdom or encouragement at critical moments of our lives.  Often these “messengers” or “angels” have no idea of the impact they have on us.  They are, in effect, God’s messengers, but unaware of their role.  This can work the other way, too – in which we have encounters with people who, whether intentionally or not, bring evil into our lives.  The challenge for our souls is how to integrate the light and dark, the positive and the scary, messages and messengers that come to us.

There is a powerful image of this kind of integration or balance between the dark and light, the positive and the negative, in the early mythical biblical account of the divine council, the Elohim, the Godhead.  Like the Roman Senate, or the American president’s cabinet, the Godhead consisted of divine manifestations with differing roles.  The hierarchy of heaven is just a copy of the hierarchy of empires on earth.  Satan originally was the Attorney General of God’s cabinet – his assignment was to make sure that the other angels, and that people, were on the up and up.  This idea of Satan prevails today in Islam, for example – the Koran says that the Shaitan will be forgiven at the end of days… he has a job to do on behalf of God, to test people’s moral fiber.  Hence the role of the Satan in the book of Job, where God assembles “the sons of God”, the heavenly council, including the Satan – a generic Hebrew word for the accuser, who has been walking the earth to assess the moral fiber of humanity.  The Satan identifies Job as someone whose true loyalty to God has not yet been put to the test – hence the sufferings that God imposes on him, to answer Satan’s hypothesis.

The idea of Satan falling from heaven is an old non-biblical Jewish tradition, handed down by the rabbis, that says that God ordered all his angels to bow down to his new creation, the human being.  But the Satan refused to do so because he believed he should only bow down to God.  So he was expelled from heaven for his disobedience, which in a way was just extreme loyalty to God.  But of course the timing of this story doesn’t match up at all with the Genesis account of the snake that tempted Adam and Eve:  God curses the snake only after he does the tempting.  God creates the serpent as just one of many animals that God creates – the serpent was the smartest of all the animals below human beings.  We often associate the devil with this serpent – and very often demons or devils are given serpent-like physical features in their representations.  But at this point in the Bible the serpent is not a supernatural being or a member of a hierarchy of demons.  It’s just an earthly creature – which gets cursed for its sin just like Adam and Eve.  The unwritten assumption, again part of Jewish tradition outside the Bible, was that the serpent had arms and legs before it tempted Adam and Eve.  God’s curse on the snake was to lose its limbs and have to crawl on its belly on the ground. This image of a snake with arms and legs corresponds to the later image of Satan as a dragon.

In later Christianity, the image of Satan was partly that of a Jew.  Early Jewish Christians were in conflict with non-Christians Jews, and this conflict is reflected in the gospel writers’ accusations that the Jews were to blame for Jesus’ crucifixion.  As a result, Christians later demonized Jews.  The long nose and beard and mustache on Satan reflect the anti-semitism that developed in Christianity over the centuries.  Unfortunately this anti-Semitic image continues to be depicted in modern media portrayals of devils and demons.

So Satan changed, morphed, over the long course of the composition of the Bible, and long after, too.  The devil or Satan has a number of different personalities, appearances, and functions – it’s not one figure in the scripture.

The same is true for God and the “good” angels.  We see a number of quite different descriptions of God in the Bible.  The Hebrew scriptures have four distinctly different representations of God, woven together in the Torah.  These are 4 different traditions of the early stories of Israel which were edited and woven together later when formerly oral traditions were later written down.  Two of these traditions are written side by side in the opening of the book of Genesis – hence its two contradictory versions of the creation story.  One of these traditions is called the Yahwist – referring to Yahweh, the unmentionable name of the highly particular God of Israel that the Hebrews translated as Adonai, or Lord.  Another tradition is called the Elohist, after another more generic name of God, El or Elohim, which in English is translated as God.  Elohim is a name of God that is used often in the Torah and it is actually the plural form of El, and was used as the name of God in other near eastern religions.  Elohim means The Godhead or the Gods, the assembly of divine beings headed up by the head God, El.  This is reflective of the idea of the Godhead in other Near Eastern religions in biblical times – a council of divine beings dominated by one god, but all the councilors together comprising a Godhead.  Angels could be identified as these divine council members; they functioned as ambassadors of the divine, and therefore shared the being of the divine.  Still to this day, ambassadors are given the privileges of the heads of state that they represent.  But in ancient times, an ambassador was treated as if he was virtually one and the same person as the king he represented – inviolate and sovereign.  This idea prevails today in the fact that ambassadors from other countries to the United States are not required to have drivers licenses, and can’t be prosecuted for crimes they might commit in this country, because they are treated as “sovereigns”, even though they are just representatives of sovereigns.  It would be as if Hilary Clinton was treated by the king of Saudi Arabia as if she was the same person as Barack Obama.  Hard for us to imagine now, but that is the sort of concept that prevailed until only a few hundred years ago.  The angel is one and the same as God who sent the angel.  This image is played out when God comes to visit Abraham – appearing in the form of three men who came up to his tent.  Abraham address them as “my lord” – as if they were not three people, but one.

Likewise, there are some references to the “sons of God” in the Hebrew scriptures – and it is important to know that in ancient times, father and son were much more interchangeable than they are now.  The son inherited the property and the occupation and the social status of the father.  The son of God was God.  So again, in ancient times there was a much stronger identification than we moderns might suppose between the sons or angels of God, and God himself.  Hence for Jesus to be described as the Son of God was to say he was God.

All this points to a big difference between the world-views of people in ancient times and people today, as it relates to the idea of divine or satanic hierarchies.

Angels are typically known and associated with all things benign and historically have been carries of God’s love.  Do Angels ever have a mixture of conflict between carrying out their divine order (from God) and exercising their desire to commit free-will?

Satan is the perfect example of this in biblical and extra-biblical mythical traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  Satan has the complex task of challenging human beings to test their moral fiber, which inevitably also becomes a test of God himself, since humans were made in God’s image.  God charges Satan with the task of being the accuser, but of course that puts Satan on a collision course with everybody.  Alberto Gonzales was the “accuser” for George W. Bush – his attorney general – but all Gonzales did was nod along with whatever Bush said, and twist the law to suit whatever Bush wanted.  That made him a lousy attorney general.  Then there was Archibald Cox, the lawyer appointed as the special prosecutor in the Watergate case.  He did his job honorably and what was his reward for it?  President Nixon fired him.  Likewise, Satan actually did the job God gave him, and that got him in a cosmos of trouble!

There is nothing in the Bible to suggest anything else about this question – most of what we hear about angels and devils, etc, comes from sources outside the Jewish and Christian scriptures.  Indeed, most of our imagery for angels and devils developed over a long period of time in Christianity after the biblical era.  Television and movies are contributing to this ever-evolving mythology, as we speak!

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

9,189 responses to “Angels and Demons, Part I”

  1. An interesting post. I appreciate the attempt to distinguish between Biblical and extra-biblical traditions.

    Just in terms of the Greek word (and English “Angel”) we have angels showing up In Rev. 12.7 as fighting with the dragon. Despite the fact that modern usage almost always has angels as the good guys.

    I’m curious about your sources for the myth of Satan as employed by God as a tester. Some form of this is certainly a common Christian tradition but with little to no biblical evidence for it.

    I also would like to hear more biblical evidence for any hierarchy amongst angels or demons.

    My reading shows two types of uses.

    A) those in which the angel is barely distinguishable from God, which you deal with quite thoroughly.
    B) those in which the angel seems no different than any other human. (Rev 22.8,9; Rev 21.17)

    Thus the popular idea of angels and demons as a separate race seems to be the influence of surrounding mythology rather than the teaching of the bible. In angels, there seems to be the same tension, as in humans between being partly of Gods nature (image and likeness) and partly of a fallen, sinful nature.


  2. Please let me know if you’re looking for a writer for your weblog. You have some really great articles and I think I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d really like to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an email if interested. Cheers!

  3. Advertising on Facebook is something many people talk about but few seem to do. Are involved in a project now where it evaluated. We are suffering a bit of not knowing what had happened to others in this area. Thumbs up!

  4. What would we do without the awesome ideas you reveal on this web site? Who has got the perseverance to deal with vital topics with regard to common readers like me? I actually and my buddies are very happy to have your website among the kinds we often visit. Hopefully you know how a great deal we get pleasure from your hard work! Best wishes coming from us all.

  5. Hey! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy reading through your posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same subjects? Thank you so much!

  6. I’m curious about your sources for the myth of Satan as employed by God as a tester. Some form of this is certainly a common Christian tradition but with little to no biblical evidence for it.

  7. Hello there I am so thrilled I found your blog page, I really found you by accident, while I was looking on Aol for something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a tremendous post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to look over it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the great job.

  8. Thank you very much for putting this site. I’ve been trying to create a small personal blog recently with photos and stories from my trips. I found some articles about it at the following site about free bets. My brother also helped a lot with wordpress and stuff. But the most inspiration came from your web-site. Hopefully I will be through with installing it soon and will be able to share some great experience with you! With the best regards.

  9. Nice to be visiting your blog once more, it continues to be months for me. Nicely this post that i’ve been waited for so lengthy. I want this post to total my assignment inside the university, and it has exact same topic together with your post. Thanks, terrific share.

  10. This internet internet site could be a walk-through its the data you wanted in regards to this and didn’t know who need to. Glimpse here, and you’ll totally discover it.

  11. I’ve said that least 2360837 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

  12. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

  13. I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here. The sketch is attractive, your authored material stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an shakiness over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come further formerly again since exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike.

  14. Good post and straight to the point. I am not sure if this is really the best place to ask but do you people have any ideea where to employ some professional writers? Thanks 🙂

  15. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  16. This really is one of many preferred posts that I’ve ever observed; you may contain some way more tips within the similar theme. I’m nevertheless waiting for some fascinating thoughts from your side inside your subsequent post.

  17. Hiya! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My blog looks weird when browsing from my iphone 4. I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to fix this problem. If you have any suggestions, please share. Many thanks!

  18. This really is such a awesome write-up. I’ve been looking for this information for quite a while now and then finally stumbled upon your internet site. Thanks so much for posting this, this has helped me out tremendously. By the way I love the style of the blog, looks good, did you create it all by yourself? Thanks, yours John.

  19. This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your wonderful post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!

  20. Whats happening, I found this site by mistake when I was going through Bing after that I arrived to your web site. I need to say your site is interesting I really like your theme! Today I don’t have the free time at the current moment to fully look through your sitebut I have bookmarked it. I will be back in a day or 2 . Thanks for a good site.

  21. Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same results.

  22. strongzz Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Very helpful info particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this particular info for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  23. Hey would you mind letting me know which webhost you’re using? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different internet browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most. Can you recommend a good web hosting provider at a honest price? Thanks, I appreciate it!

  24. I totally support a person’s points connected with view in the article. I’m guaranteed your fantastic writing style can certainly make your article favored. At last, more and even more people will in preference of your post.

  25. Interesting blog post. Some tips i would like to bring up is that computer memory is required to be purchased if the computer can’t cope with anything you do along with it. One can put in two RAM memory boards of 1GB each, in particular, but not one of 1GB and one with 2GB. One should check the manufacturer’s documentation for own PC to make sure what type of ram is essential.

  26. There are certainly a variety of particulars like that to take into consideration. That could be a great point to deliver up. I supply the ideas above as normal inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you deliver up where the most important factor will probably be working in sincere good faith. I don?t know if greatest practices have emerged around issues like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly recognized as a fair game. Both boys and girls really feel the impact of just a moment’s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

  27. Hiya, I am really glad I’ve found this info. Today bloggers publish just about gossip and web stuff and this is really frustrating. A good blog with exciting content, that is what I need. Thank you for making this web site, and I’ll be visiting again. Do you do newsletters? I Can not find it.

  28. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the page layout of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or two pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

  29. Hey, maybe this is a bit offf topic but in any case, I have been surfing about your blog and it looks really neat. impassioned about your writing. I am creating a new blog and hard-pressed to make it appear great, and supply excellent articles. I have discovered a lot on your site and I look forward to additional updates and will be back.

  30. I discovered your blog site on google and check a few of your early posts. Continue to keep up the very good operate. I just additional up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading more from you later on!鈥?

  31. Thanks for the new stuff you have revealed in your text. One thing I’d prefer to reply to is that FSBO interactions are built as time passes. By releasing yourself to the owners the first end of the week their FSBO will be announced, prior to the masses get started calling on Friday, you make a good link. By giving them methods, educational materials, free reports, and forms, you become a great ally. By subtracting a personal interest in them along with their circumstances, you develop a solid link that, on most occasions, pays off if the owners opt with a realtor they know in addition to trust — preferably you actually.

  32. 301 Moved Permanently Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive learn something like this before. So good to search out any individual with some unique ideas on this subject. realy thank you for beginning this up. this web site is one thing that’s wanted on the internet, someone with a little bit originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet! Regards, Outdoor Furniture Manufacturer

  33. Greetings I am so delighted I found your blog page, I really found you by accident, while I was searching on Aol for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say cheers for a fantastic post and a all round exciting blog (I also love the theme/design), I donít have time to go through it all at the minute but I have saved it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the superb job.

  34. The article is extremely good, and this writing kind of the source is vibrant. I delight in every minute once i read the idea. It really is well worth to learn. You will study from it. A great read.

  35. It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you some interesting things or tips. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I wish to read more things about it!

  36. You could definitely see your skills in the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. All the time go after your heart. “In America, through pressure of conformity, there is freedom of choice, but nothing to choose from.” by Peter Ustinov. Jogos Online

  37. Hello there! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog. Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Thank you

  38. Hey very cool web site!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your website and take the feeds also…I’m happy to find numerous useful info here in the post, we need work out more strategies in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

  39. I am amazed by how well you have voiced your views here. It takes a very smart person with good writing skills to put this kind of information into words.

  40. Once I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now each time a remark is added I get four emails with the identical comment. Is there any manner you may take away me from that service? Thanks!

  41. I have been surfing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be much more useful than ever before.

  42. Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

  43. Thanks so much for providing individuals with such a marvellous opportunity to read critical reviews from here. It really is very sweet and also jam-packed with a great time for me and my office colleagues to search your website minimum 3 times in a week to read through the new guides you have got. Not to mention, I am just actually motivated considering the magnificent ideas you serve. Some two ideas on this page are rather the most impressive we’ve had.

  44. The article is wonderful, and a writing model of the writer is vibrant. I love every minute lake read the item. It is actually well worth to enjoy a book. You will study from it. A excellent read.

  45. Hey there! Quick question that’s totally off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My website looks weird when browsing from my apple iphone. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to fix this problem. If you have any suggestions, please share. With thanks!

  46. Thanks for sharing superb informations. Your web site is very cool. I am impressed by the details that you’ve on this web site. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this website page, will come back for extra articles. You, my friend, ROCK! I found simply the information I already searched all over the place and simply couldn’t come across. What a perfect web-site.

  47. Shemale Live Sex doesn’t get ANY nastier than this! These babes might be the best woman… with their luscious curves, firm boobs, and huge cocks. They are horny and always ready to jerk off with you. Live out ultimate taboo fantasy with a live shemale. All of our trannies work from the privacy of their own bedrooms where they can say literally ANYTHING and DO anything… right along with you.

  48. I discovered your weblog site on google and check a few of your early posts. Proceed to maintain up the very good operate. I simply extra up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading more from you later on!…

  49. I just now wanted to share with you the correct way impressed I’m in your service along with product. I merely wanted you know i am prone to order alot more of my own stuff by way of you because the low cost you in freight as well as speedy shipping. Just planned to tell someone the event I merely had in your site. My new and it turned out so uncomplicated. Everything was right there and quite a confusion. It was simple to move throughout the site plus registering was easy it petrified me, I thought I ended up being forgetting anything. Thank the one who set in the site, it had been simply excellent. I hope to do small business again rapidly.

  50. A person essentially help to make seriously posts I would state. This is the very first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I amazed with the research you made to create this particular publish extraordinary. Excellent job!

  51. I have got read ones article. It’s seriously helpful. We can benefit a lot from the item. Fluent publishing style together with vivid words make united states readers love reading. I is going to share your opinions through my associates.

  52. I deleted my Blogspot account some time ago. However, I saved the link from the blog and it appears to still be active. I don’t understand what I did wrong. I cannot get to the blog by typing in the original address, but I can by following the link. I want this thing permanently deleted. Can anyone tell me how to do that?.

  53. I really wanted to write a comment in order to appreciate you for all of the wonderful concepts you are placing at this site. My long internet investigation has now been compensated with good quality information to talk about with my neighbours. I ‘d declare that most of us site visitors are definitely blessed to dwell in a notable site with so many outstanding individuals with good tricks. I feel very blessed to have used the web page and look forward to some more thrilling times reading here. Thanks a lot once more for everything.

  54. We stumbled over here coming from a different web address and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to looking at your web page for a second time.

  55. whoah this weblog is fantastic i love studying your articles. Keep up the good work! You know, lots of people are hunting around for this info, you can aid them greatly.

  56. 301 Moved Permanently Oh my goodness! a tremendous article dude. Thank you Nonetheless I am experiencing situation with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting equivalent rss downside? Anyone who is aware of kindly respond. Regards, Indonesian Furniture Manufacturer

  57. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Cheers!

  58. Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the web the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get irked while people think about worries that they just do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  59. I recently came across your article and have been reading along. I want to express my admiration of your writing skill and ability to make readers read from the beginning to the end. I would like to read newer posts and to share my thoughts with you.

  60. Promotional products already have mark plots designed for company name as style imprinting. It actuality ideal as big as the idea, so you have for being extremely protective when deciding on individuals. Should you prefer a good home, you may also along with go along with high mouvement physical objects. Eliminate who has not so big nicely toy articles if you’re not spherical on the implementing huge products. Your promotional products nicely award you with a lot of other importance it is necessary normal wines. They are utilized being easy remuneration tools, shocking the workers to a wonderful way! That you simply mark appropriate amount of sms messages, therefore will usually don’t forget this body language and then use it the fact that encouragement on the way to work along with this compared with the number just before.

  61. Morning good. Pretty site is’int. Many new things I hope it’s fine, bielizna stuff is either too. I hope blog will be more and better because is the best now. Your time for manage is very good. what the commotion

  62. I just now want tellI loved this blog. do you mind if I quote some of these articles asI qualify reference and visitors back to blog? My websiteis in the exact same subjects as your site so I’m sure my users surely benefit from some of the content and subject matter you wrote up this site. thanks alot

  63. post. i havediggwebsiteand wanted to say that apretiate looking blog. so I`ll be subs feed, waiting foryou post new one.

  64. We allbunch ofweb addicters so beginning a new opening in global organization. Your website to provide people important message to learn muchin.You madea marvellous work!

  65. Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all folks you actually realize what you are speaking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also talk over with my website =). We could have a hyperlink alternate agreement among us!

  66. I like the post. It obvious you have a whole lot knowledge about this subject. Your points are very well made and relatable. Thanks for composing interesting and intriguing material.