In this our fourth section I look into the misconceptions are the appearance of angels.
The first of this misconceptions is that angels are female, also most of the angels we see in art and in graveyards are female and in most nativity plays see girls playing the roles of angels, secondly angels are also not male, the angels that we hear the name of in the bible all have masculine names e.g Michael and Gabriel.This may be because in those days it was much more of a masculine culture. Angels aren’t male or female, Angels aren’t human, they aren’t bound by the same earthly biological restraints, much like other celestial beings Angels don’t reproduce in the same way. Therefore the need for gender isn’t there.
The next misconception is that angels have 2 wings. There are many different orders of angels and each order has different appearance, as we spoke about previously Cherubim have 2 pairs of wings but a Seraph have 3 pairs of wings, other orders appear as ordinary men implying that they don’t have any wings.
Also the final misconception for this section is that angels have Halo’s. Nowhere in the bible are halo’s mentioned. To start with the correct term is a nimbus. This idea comes from the artwork of many of the saints depicted with Nimbi, the most famous being Christ although the nimbus around Christ is usually a Cruciform Nimbi.
The nimbus has connotations of showing a being from the kingdom of light. The nimbus was used long before the time of Christ in pagan cultures and as this was the case, the early christian church avoided the use of nimbi to try to distance themselves from the more prevalent pagan culture. From the middle of the fourth century, Christ was portrayed with this imperial attribute, and depictions of His symbol, the Lamb of God, also displayed halos. In the fifth century, halos were sometimes given to angels, but it was not until the sixth century that the halo became customary for the Virgin Mary and other saints. For a period during the fifth century, living persons of eminence were depicted with a square nimbus. Then, throughout the Middle Ages, the halo was used regularly in representations of Christ, the angels, and the saints. Often, Christ’s halo is quartered by the lines of a cross or inscribed with three bands, interpreted to signify His position in the Trinity. Round halos are typically used to signify saints, meaning those people considered as spiritually gifted. A cross within a halo is most often used to represent Jesus. Triangular halos are used for representations of the Trinity. Square halos are used to depict unusually saintly living personages.
As we’ve stated at the outset, the halo was in use long before the Christian era. It was an invention of the Hellenist in 300 B.C. and is not found anywhere in the Scriptures. In fact, the Bible gives us no example for the bestowal of a halo upon anyone. If anything, the halo has been derived from the profane art forms of ancient secular art traditions.
A final point to make on the appearance of angels is that as spiritual beings angels have no physical presence they chose to appear in visible forms when it is need an example of this would be the angel Gabriel, who is first mentioned in the bible, in the old testament in the Book of Daniel 8:16. He appears as a man at this point, I believe this is because Gabriel’s role at this point was to explain the vision to Daniel and so a form that was less confusing would be needed. The second time Gabriel appeared to Daniel, he came to him in ‘swift flight’ which would imply wings although wings are not mentioned. I use these to appearing of Gabriel to show the differing ways angels can appear to us. I also believe that their presence is with us frequently in forms that we can not see or comprehend.