Archangels are powerful entities of high stature among heavenly beings. They are not mentioned in the works of early Judaism, instead works from the intertestamental period were the first to refer to the archangels. The term archangel is a compound word with “archon” (chief) and “aggelos” (angel/messenger), joined together to refer to a chief angel or angel of high rank.
The Bible identifies only one archangel, Michael. The Apocrypha and other extra-biblical sources identify many more archangels. The Book of Enoch (1 Enoch) names seven archangels, while the Kabballah names twelve. The challenge is that the archangels from the Apocrypha, when compared to the other extra-biblical sources do not match up and the archangels mentioned in the different apocryphal books don’t even add up.
The Archangels of the Apocrypha
The first explicit reference to an archangel comes from the Apocryphal book 2 Esdras (4:36), and only Jeremiel is called an archangel in it. Uriel is mentioned in 2 Esdras as well but is not identified as an archangel. Other apocryphal books, however, do identify Uriel as an archangel. 2 Esdras goes by different names in the Slavonic Bible and the Vulgate and do not appear in the Septuagint at all (the Apocrypha can sometimes be confusing in that sense).
The Apocalypse of Moses, also known as the Life of Adam and Eve, lists five archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, and Joel. According to this Apocryphal book, God instructed Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael to use oil to prepare Adam’s body for his funeral. Joel, mentioned at the end of the book, sang the Trisagion (holy, holy, holy) to glorify God. Several other apocryphal books also contribute to the list of angels that may qualify as archangels of the Apocrypha, but the classification is complicated.
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Some Apocryphal books identify certain heavenly beings as angels, while others associate the same names with archangels. There is some disparity in the ranks the angels have according to the different books. One example is Raphael who is not called an archangel in the Book of Tobit though he claims, “I am the angel, Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord.” He is, however, identified as an archangel in other apocryphal books. Uriel is only identified as an angel 2 Esdras, though other Apocryphal books call him an archangel. The variance in references to archangels in the Apocrypha complicates the classification of angels by rank. Thus, for this article, we will focus on 1 Enoch as the source of the archangels of the Apocrypha.
The Archangels of the Apocrypha According to 1 Enoch
The first iteration of the Book of Enoch (1 Enoch) names many angels by name. The first group is those that had intercourse with human females resulting in many Nephilim (giants) being born. The Watchers 7:2-8 identify the second group of archangels: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel, and Remiel. Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel feature in 1 Enoch more prominently than the other archangels. These four angels wanted to know why God had not yet instructed them to take action acting against the fallen angels.
Considering each archangel individually and analyzing the meaning of each’s name will inform us about their character and functions, at least as far as the Book of Enoch describes the archangels of the Apocrypha.
In Hebrew, the name Uriel means “God is my flame.” The Book of Enoch identifies Uriel as the holy angel assigned to oversee the world and over Tartarus. God gave Uriel the task of warning Noah about the deluge and had to instruct him on how to escape the coming destruction (1 Enoch, The Watchers, 4:9).
By implication, Uriel was the archangel assigned to tell Noah how to build the ark. Uriel was also the archangel who showed Enoch the place allocated for keeping the fallen angels until the judgment (1 Enoch, The Watchers, 6:22-23), a place called Tartarus.
Tartarus is the deepest, darkest section of the underworld and likely has its roots in Greek mythology. Tartarus is the locale where the fallen angels remain for ten thousand years until their judgment (1 Enoch, The Watchers, 7:12). Uriel then informed Enoch that the angels will go to the terrible place he showed Enoch next forever. He also showed Enoch an accursed valley where the people who previously rebelled against God shall be judged (1 Enoch, The Watchers, 7:47-48).
In The Luminaries (1 Enoch, Kingdom of Heaven), Uriel is the archangel who shows Enoch the movements of the heavenly bodies and instructs him on their origins. He also taught him their relation to each other and how they influence years, seasons, months, and days, and many other aspects of life.
In the next chapter, the Heavenly Tablets (1 Enoch, Kingdom of Heaven), Uriel shares with Enoch how the heavenly order he saw before will turn to chaos. Uriel then told Enoch to read the heavenly tablets that detail the deeds of men throughout the ages. When he finished reading, the seven archangels took him back to his home and told him to share the information with his son Methuselah.
Raphael was the archangel in charge of the spirits of men (1 Enoch, The Watchers, 7:3). He was “set over all the diseases and all the wounds of the children of men” (1 Enoch, The Parables, 1:33) and his name, appropriately, means the “healing of the Lord.”
The Lord told Raphael to bind Azazel, one of the fallen angels, and cast him in darkness, which contextually would refer to Tartarus (1 Enoch, The Watchers, 4:10). He shared this task with Michael, Gabriel, and Phanuel. These four angels also accompanied the “Head of Days” when He took Enoch without seeing death (1 Enoch, The Kingdom of Heaven, 1).
Raphael was the archangel who showed Enoch where the souls of men reside after death until the judgment. He explained to Enoch how the systems of separating the souls of the dead worked. The same angel showed Enoch the tree of wisdom from which Adam and Eve ate, causing the fall.
Raguel, Remiel, and Saraqael
Raguel is one of the more enigmatic of the archangels of Apocrypha. His name means “God shall pasture” and the Book of Enoch mentions him by name only twice. The first time it identifies him as the archangel “who takes vengeance on the world of the Luminaries” (1 Enoch, The Watchers, 7:4). When Enoch encountered a perpetually burning fire and enquired about it, Raguel answered that it was the fire meant for the persecution of the Luminaries of heaven.
Saraqael is even more enigmatic than Raguel. The Book of Enoch only states that Saraqael was “set over the spirits, who sin in the spirit.” He is mentioned only once in 1 Enoch. Saraqael means “God is my Ruler.”
1 Enoch mentions Remiel only once. He was “set over those who rise,” presumably referring to the resurrected. His name means “the thunder of God.” The combination of the meaning of his name and his function brings to mind 1 Thessalonians 4:18.
Michael, which means “who is like God,” was “set over the best part of mankind and over chaos” (1 Enoch, The Watchers, 7:5) and is called “the merciful and long−suffering” (1 Enoch, The Parables, 1:33). This is the angel who had to bind Samlazaz and his associate fallen angels for seventy generations (1 Enoch, The Watcher, 4:13). He had to destroy their children and remove all evil from the earth (14-15).
1 Enoch identifies Michael as the leader of the archangels (1 Enoch, The Watcher, 7:36). This is consistent with Michael instructing angels to perform specific actions (1 Enoch, The Parables, 3:19) and what he conveys to Raphael in conversation (1 Enoch, The Book of Noah, 4). Michael took Enoch by the hand and showed him all the secrets of righteousness, how the luminaries functioned, and the heavenly places (1 Enoch, The Kingdom of Heaven, 1:8 cf).
Gabriel means “God is my strength.” His assignment was “overseeing Paradise and the serpents and the Cherubim.” God sent Gabriel to destroy the children of the Watcher. The Watchers were the angels who had relations with human women who gave birth to giants due to interbreeding.
The Lord called these half-breeds “the bastards and the reprobates, and … the children of fornication.” Gabriel was not to show them any mercy. The method of destruction chosen was to set the giants against one another so they would effectively destroy themselves (1 Enoch, The Watchers, 4:12). The Lord also told Gabriel that the giants would not grow older than five hundred years, but they believed they would live forever.
Is the Enigmatic Phanuel an Archangel?
The angel Phanuel serves alongside Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael as the four angels of the presence. Because Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel are so prominent in their shared service, some have suggested that Phanuel may be an alternative name for Uriel, but there is no solid foundation for such a claim. It is unlikely that 1 Enoch would change the first name without indicating that it points to the same being.
Due to his office as an angel serving in the presence of God, it would not be unreasonable to assume that Phanuel must also be an archangel. After all, his three associates in that function are archangels. The name Phanuel means “the face of God.”
Yet, Phanuel is not mentioned in the list of angels in The Watchers 7:2-8. He does, however, have a specific function like the other seven archangels, which was “fending off the Satans and forbidding them to come before the Lord of Spirits to accuse them who dwell on the earth” (1 Enoch, The Parables, 1:31). He was also “set over the repentance unto hope of those who inherit eternal life” (1 Enoch, The Parables, 1:33).
Identifying Archangels in the Apocrypha
The Archangels of the Apocrypha are angels of high standing in the heavenly realms. They are not always easy to identify because some books identify them as archangels while other apocryphal books refer to them only as angels. According to the Book of Enoch, there are seven archangels: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel, and Remiel. Another angel, Phanuel, is not identified as an archangel, though he holds a very exalted position as one of four angels who serve in the presence of God. Due to the variances in references to angelic rank, it is sometimes difficult to classify the Archangels of the Apocrypha. It would be a safer bet to rather rely on the description of the function of the angels and where they serve to determine whether they could be classified as archangels of the Apocrypha or not. The specific attribution of the rank of archangel in the text is not always reliable and results in difficulties with classification.