Hierarchy of Angels, although there have been various evolutions in the cultural and religious sphere, on one point the different sources are often in agreement. Their number, so huge as to define them as armies or legions. In the Bible, Daniel 7:11, Revelation 5:11, speak of thousands of thousands.
Given the large number and the organization – military – it is not surprising that hierarchies were soon thought of ordering them by importance or by diversity. Both Saint Ambrose and Saint Jerome proposed their own, but it was not until the 5th century AD. The author called Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, to see the birth of the hierarchy that is at the base of the angelic organization that has reached the present day.
The author is called pseudo, because the real Dionysius the Areopagite was a Greek philosopher of the 1st century AD. converted to Christianity. As can be read in Acts of the Apostles 17:34, and his name was used as a pseudonym by the anonymous 5th-century author. The pseudo-Dionysius described in his book is dedicated to Angel’s 9 angelic orders, in three choirs of three orders each.
The division into hierarchies not only reflects a military vision of the angels but has evolved in the medieval context, it was a normal expression of the feudal social order, where a supreme Lord (God) had a large number of subordinates (angels) who dealt with the government and direct relations with men.
The acceptance by St. Thomas Aquinas of the order hypothesized by the pseudo-Dionysius entailed the addition of all the authority to the division thus indicated.
They are the angels closest to God, as they surround his throne. They are first mentioned in the Bible at Isaiah 6: 2, where they are described like this – each had six wings, with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. Seraphs are often referred to as love angels and are characterized by light and fire. There is no mention of them in the New Testament.
Baroque art and to a lesser extent Rococo contributed to the deformation of the modern view of cherubim as naked, plump children with small wings. However, their original representation, of Assyrian or Akkadian derivation, was very different and decidedly more frightening. Resembling fantastic creatures such as the griffin or the sphinx, the cherubim of the origins had the bodies of lions or winged bulls with human faces.
Precisely with this bestial conformation, they entered the Canaanite tradition. Fearsome cherubs with swords of fire were placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:22. While the angels sculpted in gold are also cherubs who were placed on the Ark of the Covenant mentioned in the Exodus. Ezekiel 10:14 describes them this way – Each cherub had four features, the first that of a cherub, the second that of a man, the third that of a lion, and the fourth that of an eagle.
In the Jewish rabbinical tradition, the cherubs are considered the coachmen of God, as they carry his throne. While in the first Muslim tradition, the cherubs would have been born from the tears of the archangel Michael shed for the sins of men.
They are among the least known and most enigmatic angels. They would find themselves before the throne of God and in Ezekiel 1: 5-9 they are described in a vision with the following characteristics – they were human in appearance and each had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight and the hooves of their feet were like the hooves of a calf’s feet, shining like polished bronze. Under the wings, on the four sides, they had human hands, all four had the same appearance and their own wings, and these wings were joined to each other. As they advanced, they did not look back, but each went straight ahead.
According to tradition, the Thrones are characterized by absolute firmness that would serve them to bring divine justice to Earth.
These angels have a fundamental and supreme task, to regulate the activity of other angels, making sure that the Glory of God manifests itself. In the Christian religion, the angel Zachariel would be at the head of the Dominions. He, like the other Dominations, would be the bearer of a scepter, a symbol of their power. One can match this hierarchy of angels to the Hebrews hashmallim, led by Hashmal.
They are the equivalent of the Jewish malakhim, divine messengers. They are angels who can perform miracles on Earth and are represented as bearers of grace and valor. In Matthew 18:10 there is mention of one of their functions as guardian angels – Beware of despising just one of these little ones, because I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. In the Christian tradition two of the angels of the Ascension are believed to belong to this order.
They are the forces that protect the world from the invasion of demons. According to another thesis, the Powers are in charge of watching over the demons until the Day of Judgment, so that they cannot harm Man. For St. Paul, in his letter to Ephesians 6:12, these angels are themselves wicked. – In fact, our battle is not against creatures made of blood and flesh, but against the Principalities and Powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits who live in the celestial regions.
For this reason, the greatest number of angels rebelling against God is believed to have come from their ranks.
In the beginning, they were the protector angels of nations and cities, but this order has then lost its precise connotations and has become very vague. In the current tradition, they are believed to be protectors of Christian doctrine.
Archangels are divine messengers, but their placement in the lower orders of the angelic hierarchy is rather misleading. As the best known and most powerful angels have precisely defined Archangels, although this term occurs only twice in the Bible. In Revelation 8: 2, seven angels with seven trumpets are mentioned, generally believed to be Archangels. Also based on the apocryphal book of Enoch which lists just seven names of Archangels – Uriel, Raguel, Michael, Seraqael, Gabriel, Haniel, and Raphael.
Other apocryphal books increase the number up to twelve to make them correspond with the signs of the zodiac. We also find Archangels in the Muslim religion, although only two are indicated – Jibril (Gabriel), the Archangel who brought the Revelation to Muhammad, and Mika’il (Michael), the warrior Archangel for Faith.
Angels belong to the lowest ranks of the hierarchy and are closest to men and their activities. In popular tradition, the primordial angels, created before man, are often confused with the dead taken into Heaven and now in the presence of the Creator, in a Christian reinterpretation of the cult of the dead and ancestors.