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Christian Angelolatria

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The doctrine of angels was not the subject of special controversy and special treatment in the ancient church, like other dogmas. However, there was a lot of reasoning about two points, namely about the time of creation of angels and about whether to consider them alien to any corporeality or to recognize them as having an etheric body. Veneration of angels was in church practice from early times and was finally determined by the second Nicene – seventh Ecumenical Council (787).

The Western Church adopted this teaching and introduced it into its practice. Western scholastic theologians spent a lot of work on processing the doctrine of angels and wrote many treatises with the most unexpected questions and intricate answers. This is, for example, a special treatise by Suarez. A lot of unnecessary and not based on anything serious subtleties can be found in our scientists at the Mohyla Academy. Protestant dogma denies the veneration of angels, but accepts the teaching about them, with the exception of scholastic fabrications. The new criticism casts doubt on the doctrine of angels partly from a general philosophical point of view (naturalistic or pantheistic), and partly on the basis of the biblical text. Indeed, in the Pentateuch and partly in other books before the Babylonian captivity, the teaching about angels was not sufficiently clear. There, sometimes angels calls himself God (Gen. XXXI, 11 – 13), or who saw angels calls him God (Gen. XVI, 7 – 13); then the messenger differs from Jehovah, then merges with him (Gen. XXII, 11, 14; Ex. XIII, 21, XIV, 19; Num. XX, 16; Gen. XIX, 15 – 24). Relying on such uncertainty, some see in the doctrine of angels the remnants of the former pagan cosmogony of the Jews. But if this were so, the latter argue, the teaching should have been lost and obscured in the course of time; and we see a completely opposite phenomenon: the teaching about angels in the Bible over time is more and more understood and determined. Others, drawing attention to the fact that the biblical teaching about angels was expressed in a more definite form during the time of the Babylonian captivity, recognize it not as native Jewish, but borrowed from foreigners. But, taking into account that angels is mentioned far before the Babylonian captivity, on the first pages of the book of Genesis, we can say that the Babylonian captivity and acquaintance with the beliefs of the Babylonians could have and probably had some significance in revealing the biblical teaching about angels, but the meaning is only external. They stimulated the private disclosure of this doctrine in parallel or in comparison with an alien religion. But the development of angelology depended on internal causes and was carried out on the basis of already existing concepts. Others see in angels only a form of manifestation in nature of the powers of Jehovah, inseparable from him and identical with him. But this is contradicted by many passages that speak of angels as individuals independent and separate from Jehovah. So, in the story of Jacob’s vision of the ladder angels ascend and descend the ladder, and at the top of it stands Jehovah himself (Gen. XXVIII, 12, 13). Joshuа (Book of Joshua, Sefer Yehoshua), the leader of Jehovah’s forces appeared to Nun, and angels subsequently were usually called the army of Jehovah. There is a view according to which angels is nothing more than a poetic personification of the forces of nature expressing God’s power, or an abstract concept of Jehovah’s actions in the world, in a word, a personal form of expressing impersonal actions. True, in the poetic books of the Bible, the personification of natural phenomena is sometimes expressed as instruments of divine power (Ps. IV, 4). But the passages that speak of angels differ sharply from such and clearly say that angels is meant persons, and not natural phenomena, spiritual beings, and not physical forces.

Some vagueness of the biblical teaching about angels is explained by the biblical view of the relationship of angels to God and to people, in comparison with other religious concepts. Angels in the beliefs of the Jewish people and in its cult have no independent meaning; they are not gods or demigods, but only servants and doers of Jehovah’s will. Man knows enough about them to recognize them as messengers of the Divine and in their messages to recognize the Divine command. They are supposed to be known, and therefore on the first pages of the book of Genesis (Gen. III, 24, XVI, 7) A. is spoken of without mentioning their origin and determining their nature. The Sent one speaks in the name of the Sent one; therefore, probably, the words of angels are spoken of as the words of God: in the biblical story they are sometimes mixed with Jehovah.

The image of angels was an object of art even in the Old Testament: winged cherubs were depicted on the Ark of the Covenant (Hebrew: אֲרוֹן הַבְּרִית ʾărōn habbrīṯ; Koinē Greek: Κιβωτός της Διαθήκης); in the Temple of Solomon, two large cherubs with wings covered the entire space occupied by the Ark in the Holy of Holies. The prophet Ezekiel in the famous vision of a chariot depicts the cherubim as humanoid, with 4 faces and 4 wings; their feet have the feet of a calf and are shiny as copper; the face of a lion was connected with a human face on the right side, and a calf and an eagle on the left; They flew with 2 wings, and covered their faces with 2 wings, and so on. (Ezek. I, 1 – 28). The symbolism of the prophet Isaiah in the depiction of the Seraphim is less complicated, but still the symbolism is abundant. Ancient Christian art in the depiction of angels was kept especially simple. The now accepted image of angels in the form of naked children or only one head with wings, but without a body was not then known. Ancient art portrayed angels in the form of mature youths in a tunic tied at the waist with an orarion. In the first centuries angels was portrayed by ordinary people. We know about this from church writers and from the monuments of art that have come down to us. Archangel on a fresco of the Annunciation of the 2nd century Gabriel is depicted wearing a decorated tunic with an orarion. The archangel Raphael, the companion of Tobias, is depicted in the same way. In the ancient depiction of three youths in a cave, angels is wearing the same dress as the youths. Thus, ancient Christian art in the depiction of angels differs from pagan art in its depiction of geniuses. If pagan images of geniuses are found between ancient Christian monuments, it is only in the form of allegorical decorations. Since the 4th century, there has been a very weak desire in Christian art to distinguish the images of angels In contrast to people, angels give radiance and wings. Even in the V century. this form of the image has not yet been determined, and angels are depicted either with radiance, or only with wings. Then (from the 6th century) begins the image of angels in the form of a wanderer with a staff in his hands. From the VIII century angels already are depicted with wings, radiance and a staff, staffs sometimes end in crosses. Images of angels with some characteristic features of their hierarchical position – according to the hierarchy of Dionysius the Areopagite – were not known to the ancient church at all. This style belongs to Byzantine art.

Angel (Greek word meaning – messenger, messenger) – is used in the Bible in many different meanings: in relation to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and in relation to people – prophets, priests and bishops of churches, and in relation to soulless objects and phenomena nature when they are the messengers of the wrath of God.

Angelolatria (Greek word meaning – angelolatry), [an-ge-lo-la-trì-a] s.f.  – worship of angels; at the Laodicean Church council in the IV table. it was rejected as idolatry, but at the second Council of Nicaea (787) it was again consecrated by the church.

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