Hierarchy of angels

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The Assumption of the Virgin by Francesco Botticini (1475–75) at the National Gallery London, shows three hierarchies and nine orders of angels, each with different characteristics.
Orthodox icon of nine orders of angels.
The ceiling mosaic of the Baptistery in Florence depicts (in the inmost octagon of images) seven of the orders of angelic beings (all but the Seraphim and Cherubim), under which are their Latin designations.

In the angelology of different religions, a hierarchy of angels is a ranking system of angels. The higher ranking angels have greater power and authority than lower ones, and different ranks have differences in appearance, such as varying numbers of wings or faces.

Abrahamic religions[edit]


The Jewish angelic hierarchy is established in the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, Rabbinic literature, and traditional Jewish liturgy. They are categorized in different hierarchies proposed by various theologians. For example, Maimonides, in his Mishneh Torah or Yad ha-Chazakah: Yesodei ha-Torah, counts ten ranks of angels.

Rank Angelic Class Notes
1 Chayot Ha Kodesh See Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 10
2 Ophanim See Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 10
3 Erelim See Isaiah 33:7
4 Hashmallim See Ezekiel 1:4
5 Seraphim See Isaiah 6
6 Malakim Messengers, angels
7 Elohim "Godly beings"
8 Bene Elohim "Sons of God"
9 Cherubim See Hagigah 13b
10 Ishim "manlike beings", see Genesis 18:2 Daniel 10:5


The most influential Catholic angelic hierarchy was that put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the 5th or 6th century in his book De Coelesti Hierarchia (On the Celestial Hierarchy). Dionysius described nine levels of spiritual beings which he grouped into three orders:[1][2][3]

During the Middle Ages, various schemes were proposed, some drawing on and expanding on Pseudo-Dionysius, others suggesting completely different classifications.

Pseudo-Dionysius (On the Celestial Hierarchy) and Saint Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae) drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16, to develop a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs. Saint Bonaventure summarized their nine offices as follows: announcing, declaring, and leading; regulating, enforcing, and commanding; receiving, revealing, and anointing.[4] Thomas agreed with St Jerome's commentary on Mt 18:10 that every living human possesses a guardian angel. Of the angelic orders, he asserted that only the first five are sent by God to manifest themselves in the corporeal world, while the four highest remain in Heaven at His presence.[5]

The Chaplet of Saint Michael the archangel, a Catholic devotion also called the rosary of the angels, approved by Pope Pius IX, includes prayers and specific invocations for each of the nine choirs of angels.[6][7]


There is no standard hierarchical organization in Islam that parallels the Christian division into different "choirs" or spheres, and the topic is not directly addressed in the Quran. However, it is clear that there is a set order or hierarchy that exists between angels, defined by the assigned jobs and various tasks to which angels are commanded by God. Some scholars suggest that Islamic angels can be grouped into fourteen categories, with some of the higher orders being considered archangels. Qazwini describes an angelic hierarchy in his Aja'ib al-makhluqat with Ruh on the head of all angels, surrounded by the four archangelic cherubim. Below them are the seven angels of the seven heavens.[8]

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1209) divided the angels into eight groups, which shows some resemblance to Christian angelology:[9]


There is an informal Zoroastrian angelic hierarchy, with the specific angelic beings called yazatas having key positions in the day-name dedications on the Zoroastrian calendar segregated into the ameshaspentas (the second to seventh of the 30 days of the month), yazatas and minoos (the last six of the 30 days of the month).

Role-playing games[edit]

Angels are occasionally presented in role-playing games as having ordered hierarchies, within which higher level angels have more power and the ability to cast more spells or exercise other magical abilities. For example, Angels in Dungeons & Dragons, a subgroup of the beings called Celestials, come in three different types, the progressively more powerful Astral Deva, Planetar, and Solar.[11][12] Another game which has summonable angels is Shin Megami Tensei, often classified under Divine, or Heralds. In the game series Bayonetta Black Angels are supporting and all 7 spheres are present, each divided in the same 7 way as the traditional hierarchy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chase, Steven (2002). Angelic spirituality. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-8091-3948-4.
  2. ^ McInerny, Ralph M. (1998). Selected writings of Thomas Aquinas. p. 841. ISBN 978-0-14-043632-7.
  3. ^ Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite (1987). Pseudo-Dionysius : the complete works. Colm Luibhéid, Paul Rorem. New York: Paulist Press. pp. 161–173. ISBN 0-8091-0383-4. OCLC 15282383.
  4. ^ Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, De Eccles. Hierarchy., chapter 4, section 20. As quoted in Saint Bonaventure. "4". Itinerarium mentis in Deum [Journey of the mind into God]. p. 25.
  5. ^ The Encyclopedia of Angels'author=Rosemary Guiley. Facts on File, Incorporated. 1950. p. 350. ISBN 9781438130026. OCLC 1105905798.
  6. ^ Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 0-87973-910-X page 123
  7. ^ Chaplet of Saint Michael the Archangel in Latin and English, Geoffrey W. M. P. Lopes Da Silva, Domina Nostra Publishing, 2020.
  8. ^ Mehdi Amin Razavi Aminrazavi, Seyyed Hossein Nasr The Islamic Intellectual Tradition in Persia Routledge, 16.12.2013 ISBN 9781136781124 p.17
  9. ^ Serdar, Murat. "Hıristiyanlık ve İslâm’da Meleklerin Varlık ve Kısımları." Bilimname 2009.2 (2009).
  10. ^ Quran 40:7
  11. ^ Jon Schindehette, Celestials, Angels, Devas: Dragon's-Eye View (January 9, 2013).
  12. ^ Christopher Perkins, Warriors of Heaven (TSR, 1999).