Primarily in Western religions, any of numerous benevolent spiritual beings who mediate between heaven and earth. They often serve as messengers or servants of God or as guardians of an individual or nation. In Zoroastrianism the amesha spenta are arranged in a hierarchy of seven. Judaism and Christianity base their notion of angels on references in the Hebrew scriptures to divine servants and to the heavenly hosts. Two archangels (Michael and Gabriel) are mentioned in the Old Testament and two others (Raphael and Uriel) in the Apocrypha. Angels are mentioned throughout the Christian scriptures, and Christian tradition identifies nine orders of angels. Islam's hierarchy of angels descends from the four throne bearers of God to the cherubim who praise God, the four archangels, and lesser angels such as the hafazah (guardian angels). See also cherub; seraph.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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