In This Article Angels

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Cult of Angels in Paganism

Biblical Studies Angels
Joseph Angel
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0079


Angels are supernatural beings who serve a variety of functions in biblical literature. The term most often used to denote angels in the Hebrew Bible, mal’ak, means “messenger.” The Septuagint frequently translates mal’ak with the Greek angelos, from which the English word “angel” derives. While angels are mentioned several times in the earlier writings of the Hebrew Bible, in the literature of the Second Temple period there is a veritable explosion of interest in them. Jewish writings of this era exhibit a sustained interest in identifying the various ranks and orders of the angels as well as in naming individual angels and delineating their specific functions. The extensive angelological speculation of this period deeply influenced later forms of Judaism and as well constitutes an important element of the Jewish heritage of early Christianity.

General Overviews

The works listed in this section may be consulted as introductions to further study of angels in biblical literature. Van der Toorn, et al. 1999 and Reiterer, et al. 2007 each devote substantial discussion both to conceptions of angels in the Bible and to angels and angel-like figures in the broader ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman contexts. The popular German-language journal Welt und Umwelt der Bibel provides many short survey articles aimed at the broader public. There is no comprehensive online resource for scholarship on angels. An assortment of websites offers information about angels. As a rule, these should be approached with caution as they often present a mixture of accurate information with unsubstantiated speculation and erroneous details.

  • Reiterer, Friedrich V., Tobias Niklas, and Karin Schöpflin, eds. Angels: The Concept of Celestial Beings—Origins, Development and Reception. Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Yearbook 2007. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110192957E-mail Citation »

    This extensive collection of articles includes broad surveys and some more-detailed essays treating conceptions of angels in the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Second Temple and rabbinic literature, Islamic tradition, the ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman worlds, and more.

  • van der Toorn, Karl, Pieter W. van der Horst, and Bob Becking, eds. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. 2d ed. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999.

    E-mail Citation »

    A fundamental research tool for the study of angels and other divine beings in the ancient world. This encyclopedia includes entries on every divine being mentioned in the Bible and a treasure of information on divinity and religious belief in the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world. Entries provide important bibliographic information as well.

  • Welt und Umwelt der Bibel 50 (2008).

    E-mail Citation »

    A collection of German-language essays offering brief introductory surveys on a wide range of angel-related topics. While there is an emphasis on angelic beings in biblical literature, several other topics, such as winged creatures in the ancient Near East, angels in Christian art, and angels in the Quran, are treated.

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