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The Four Archangels - Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel

Updated on October 11, 2009

Role of the Archangels vary by Faith

All the major religiions recognize the existence of Archangels, but their role varies and some archangels are held in higher regard than others.

Religious Significance of the Archangels

Christianity, Judaism and Islamic faiths all recognize some form of archangel and there is a consensus that there were four archangels. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are recognized by both Hebrew and Christian faiths as Archangels, though Michael is the only Archangel mention by name in the Bible. Gabriel and Raphael are subjects within the Book of Tobit and the Book of Luke, respectively - canonical writings of the Roman Catholic Church not officially recognized by protestants. While Christians view Uriel as the final and fourth angel, Islam gives this distinction to Azrael.

These faiths all recognize the concept of an archangel, but more emhasis is given to the Archangel in the teachings of Judaism and in particular the Roman Catholic Church. Judaism and Catholicism both recognize eight archangels, though Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel are regarded with an elevated status. Protestants recognize Michael as an Archangel of importance, but place less importance on the others. Angels were first written about in the Old Testment but their visibility and role increased substantially in the New Testament. The Renaissance masters favored the Archangel as subjects creating Archangel statues and paintings in abundance. This likely has contributed to their popularity and enduring importance over the past several centuries.

Archangel Michael

Michael is described as the Prince of Light in the Dead Sea Scrolls as one of the "Sons of Light" who will battle the "Sons of Darkness." The Book of Daniel foretells of Michael's return when the world is once again in trouble to lift the world from darkness. Michael was regarded as the Chief of the Order of Virtues, Prince of the Presence, Chief of Archangels, the Angel of Repentance, Righteousness, Mercy, and Sanctification. He is also Ruler of the 4th Heaven and Conqueror of Satan. In Revelations (20:1), it is Michael who descends from Heaven with a "key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain." In this passage, it is Archangel Michael who leads an Army of Angels to seize the devil who appears in the form of a dragon and bind him for a thousand years.

Much of the persona of the Archangel Michael evolved through medieval Christianity and interpretations of the Book of Enoch. He is also referred to as Saint Michael or the Archangel Saint Michael. As the Commander of the Army of God, Michael is the patron saint of the warrior and law enforcement, held in high regard by paratroopers and fighter pilots.

Archangel Gabriel

Gabriel is the Angel of annunciation, resurrection, mercy, vengeance, death and revelation. The Archangel Gabriel first appears in the book of Daniel at the time when the Jews were exiled by Nebuchadnezzar II to Babylon. Gabriel takes on human form to help Daniel understand the meaning of the visions he is experiencing. In the Gospel of Luke, the Archangel Gabriel serves as the messenger of God and announces to Mary that she will give birth to a son of God whom she will call Jesus, a moment captured frequently in paintings as the Annunciation.

While Gabriel is often seen holding a horn which he will blow to announce the start of the End of Days and again to initiate the Resurrection, this is not told in any version of the Bible. The first image of Gabriel with Trumpet is found in an Armenian text from the mid 1400s. Gabriel's Horn first appears in English language text in Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost from 1667. The horn is present in dozens of Archangel Gabriel statues, sculptures and artwork from the Renaissance period and is closely associated with the figure today.

Archangel Raphael

Raphael can be found in the Book of Tobit, a religious writing recognized by the Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches though not in the Hebrew Bible. The Archangel Raphael is considered the angel or "god" of healing. In the Book of Tobit, he is sent by God to heal Tobit of his blindness and act as Tobias protector in human form during his travels to recover money his father had hidden. Raphael is one of the six Angels of Repentance, Angel of Prayer, Love, Joy and Light. In the Catholic Church, he is Michael, the patron saint of the medical field and travellers.

Archangel Uriel

Uriel is seen as the protector of the Gate of Eden and the angel who watches over thunder and terror. He is a lesser Archangel found mostly in Apocalyptic literature holding a fiery sword and the keys to the gates of Hell. While he is not found in the bible, he is part of a number of apocyphal works and is seen as the "fourth" to represent the four cardinal points along with Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

Urield holds the titles Angel of Presence, Angel of the Face, Prince of Presence, Angel of Glory and Angel of Sanctification. Along with Suriel, Jehol, Zagagel, Akatriel, Metatron, Yefefiah, Satanel, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Nathanel - as an Angel of Presence he is given the honor of entering the presence of God. Uriel is frequently depicted holding a scroll representing wisdom and is the patron angel of the Arts.

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