Many of the beliefs and imagery we have about angels did not come from the Gospels.
In a new book: “Angels: What the Bible Really Says About God’s Heavenly Host,” written by Dr. Michael S. Heiser, the Bible in ancient languages scholar digs into the original Hebrew and Greek texts, as well as, plus angels into the context of the worldview of those living in biblical times, to give us a more accurate understanding of these heavenly entities based upon actual Scripture.
Wings, harps and guardian angels?
Heiser says that a lot of our beliefs, about what angels are and what their appearances is, have been handed down from sources outside of the Bible. This includes ancient literature and myths, as well as, media from modern times.
In his book, Heiser quotes the Bible to portray angels as Scripture intended, based upon the original languages the Bible was written, as well as, the worldview of the biblical authors.
What are angels?
Simply put, Heiser says an angel is just one of the many terms the Bible uses to refer to supernatural beings.
Heiser points out that the various terms we have heard for angels such as: Cherubim, Seraphim, Rephaim and Nephilim, are not so much about them being different kinds of angels, but rather are terms referring to what their function is.
What angels do
Angels have been described in the Bible as being messengers, ministers, watchers, mighty ones, and hosts.
Heiser says angels are part of the divine Council of God who help administer His will.
The Bible also refers to angels as spirits, heavenly ones, stars, holy ones and even gods.
The duties of angels in God’s Heavenly Council, according to Heiser, are:
- To contribute to Council resolutions, as part of his “heavenly bureaucracy.”
- To bear witness to God’s decrees.
- To assist in God’s governance of the world.
- To deliver his decrees and explain his activity.
- To execute God’s judgment, as part of “God’s task force.”
- To be part of God’s heavenly worship team, praising him day and night.
Understanding the meaning of Elohim
Heiser points out that the original word for both God and gods, is the Hebrew word elohim, which can be plural or singular depending on context. He says the term more broadly refers to “an entity that is not embodied by nature and is a member of the spiritual realm.”
Elohim in the original Hebrew has more than five different meanings, depending on the context in which it was used, and one of which is God in the singular. But it also can mean gods in the plural.
In our modern world, when we think of God, we aren’t thinking of just God as an entity, but God with attributes of omnipresence and omniscience. Heiser’s point is that in the worldview of the Old Testament Israelites, Elohim referred to a spiritual being, not necessarily of a single being with those particular attributes.
About Michael Heiser
Mike Heiser is a scholar in both the fields of biblical studies and the ancient Near East. He serves as Scholar-in-Residence at Logos Bible Software. Dr. Heiser earned his Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004. He went on to earn an M.A. in the same field at Wisconsin, as well as, an M.A. in Ancient History from the University of Pennsylvania (major fields: Ancient Israel and Egyptology).
He also teaches ancient languages online at MEMRA Heiser is a frequent guest on SkyWatch TV and other biblical-based programs. You can read more about Mike on his three blogs: The Naked Bible (biblical studies), PaleoBabble (weird beliefs about antiquity), and UFO Religions (how belief in ETs intersects with religion).