Question:

Thank you so much for putting the pictures on line. I am trying to prepare for a Bible class as a substitute without resources. Many of these pictures are exactly what I need to present the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord to second and third graders; but I have one complaint. I have been trying so hard to get across to my grandchildren that the images of angel with feminine features, long flowing blond hair and bird wings is not biblical. It is my personal opinion that we must guard against any false doctrine creeping into the church.

God bless you as you seek to serve Him


Answer:

Angels are popularly portrayed as beautiful humans with wings, but there is no consistent description in the Bible.

There are two types of angels mentioned by name. Traditionally counted among the angels, though never directly called angels are the Seraphim and Cherubim. Seraphim means "burning" in the Hebrew language. They are mentioned in Isaiah 6:1-3. It is because of Psalms 104:4 that some believe that seraphim are angles or a type of angel. Cherubim means "holding fast." One mention of them is in Ezekiel 10:5.

Angel destroying the Assyrian armyThe descriptions of angels varies widely in the Scriptures. They can appear as a man (Daniel 8:15), sometimes resembling humans so closely that they are not immediately recognized (Hebrews 13:2). Some have appeared as soldiers with drawn swords (Joshua 5:13-15). Some are shining or glowing (Luke 24:4; Daniel 3:24-25; 10:5-6). Some terrified those who saw them (Judges 13:6; Luke 2:9; Matthew 28:2-4). And still others are just plain hard to imagine (Ezekiel 1:5-9).

One characteristic that is frequently mentioned is their speed. They fly or move fast (Revelation 8:13). While wings are mentioned they are only mentioned in visions or in the art that depicts them, such as on the veil of the temple or the figurines over the mercy seat. Some accounts say that Cherubim have two wings (I Kings 8:6-7) or four wings (Ezekiel 10:19-21). Seraphim are described as having six wings (Isaiah 6:2). The variation leads people to conclude that the wings merely represent their ability to travel rapidly.

Is it wrong to depict angels with wings? If that were true then we would have to explain why they were depicted with wings in the temple (Exodus 25:20; II Chronicles 3:11-13).

Beyond these small tidbits, we aren't told what angels look like, but then we are talking about spiritual beings (Hebrews 1:14). Describing the spiritual realm in physical terms has always been difficult.

But if you think it is too confusing to use pictures depicting an artist's thoughts on what angels might look like, you can always skip those pictures.