Fallen angel

This article is about the view of fallen angels in christianity. For other uses, see Fallen angel (disambiguation).
Statue of "The Fallen Angels" (1893) by Salvatore Albano at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City

A fallen angel is a wicked or rebellious angel that has been cast out of heaven. The term "fallen angel" does not appear in the Bible, but it is used of angels who sinned (such as those referred to in 2 Peter 2:4, "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment ..."), of angels cast down to the earth in the War in Heaven, of Satan,[1] demons,[2] or of certain Watchers.[3] The term has become popular in fictional literature regarding angels.

Mention of angels who descended to Mount Hermon (not "fell" to Earth) is found in the Book of Enoch, which the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church accept as canonical, as well as in various pseudepigrapha.

Second Temple period Judaism

Sons of God

Main article: Sons of God

In the period immediately preceding the composition of the New Testament, some sects of Judaism identified the "sons of God" (בני האלהים) of Genesis 6:1–4 with fallen angels.[4] Some scholars consider it most likely that this Jewish tradition of fallen angels predates, even in written form, the composition of Gen 6:1–4.[5][6] Lester L. Grabbe calls the story of the sexual intercourse of angels with women "an old myth in Judaism".[7] Indeed, until the mid-2nd century AD, Jewish writing (such as midrashim) can be taken to identify the "sons of God" of Gen 6:1 and 4 as angels.[8] By the 3rd century, there is evidence that some early Christians accepted this Jewish Enochic pseudepigraphy and the application of the angelic descent myth to the "sons of God" passage in Genesis 6:1–4.[9] Its presence not only in the East but also in the Latin-speaking West is attested by the polemic of Augustine of Hippo (354–430) against the motif of giants born of the union between fallen angels and human women.[10] Rabbinic Judaism and Christian authorities rejected the tradition.[11] Those who adopted the tradition viewed the "sons of God" as fallen angels who married human women and by unnatural union begot the Nephilim.[12]

Watchers, "Grigori"

Main article: Watcher (angel)

The reference to heavenly beings called "Watchers" originates in Daniel 4, in which there are three mentions, twice in the singular (v. 13, 23), once in the plural (v. 17), of "watchers, holy ones". The Greek word for watchers is ἐγρήγοροι egrḗgoroi, pl. of egrḗgoros, literally "wakeful".[13] Note that, beginning by AD 150, the Greek letter eta (η) was itacized to sound the same as iota (ι), and the Old Slavonic alphabets, both Cyrillic and Glagolitic, made no phonetic distinction between the letters they derived from Greek η and ι.[14] The Greek term was transcribed in the Jewish pseudepigraphon Second Book of Enoch (Slavonic Enoch) as Grigori, referring to the same beings as those called Watchers of the (First) Book of Enoch.[15]

First Enoch

Main article: 1 Enoch

A Jewish story of angels coming down to earth rather than being cast down, referred to as the story of angelic descent,[16] is found chiefly in the Jewish pseudepigraphic Book of Enoch, 6-9 and the Qumran Book of Giants and perhaps in Genesis 6:1-4.[17] These Watchers became "enamored" with human women (1 Enoch 7.2),[18] and had intercourse with them. The offspring of these unions, and the knowledge they were given, corrupted human beings and the earth (1 Enoch 10.11-12).[18] A number of apocryphal works, including 1 Enoch (10.4)[18] link this transgression with the Great Deluge.[19] This fact was adopted by early Christianity, but abandoned by Rabbinic Judaism and later Christianity.[20] During the period immediately before the rise of Christianity, the intercourse between these Watchers and human women was often seen as the first fall of the angels.[21]

Slavonic Enoch

Main article: 2 Enoch

The Slavonic Second Book of Enoch is problematic as evidence for Jewish belief as it has been heavily redacted by Christian transmission. For example, the passage dealing specifically with the fall is regarded as a Christian interpolation by the editor of the modern standard edition:

2 Enoch 29:3 "Here Satanail was hurled from the height together with his angels" - a probable Christian interpolation according to Charlesworth's Old Testament Pseudepigrapha

The text refers to "the Grigori, who with their prince Satanail rejected the Lord of light". The Grigori are identified with the Watchers of 1 Enoch.[22][23] The Grigori who "went down on to earth from the Lord's throne", married women and "befouled the earth with their deeds", resulting in confinement under earth (2 Enoch 18:1-7) In the longer recension of 2 Enoch, chapter 29 refers to angels who were "thrown out from the height" when their leader tried to become equal in rank with the Lord's power (2 Enoch 29:1-4).

Most sources quote 2 Enoch as stating that those who descended to earth were three,[24] but Andrei A. Orlov, while quoting 2 Enoch as saying that three went down to the earth,[25] remarks in a footnote that some manuscripts put them at 200 or even 200 myriads.[22] In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Apocalypic Literature and Testaments edited by James H. Charlesworth, manuscript J, taken as the best representative of the longer recension, has "and three of them descended" (p. 130), while manuscript A, taken as the best representative of the shorter recension, has "and they descended", which might indicate that all the Grigori descended, or 200 princes of them, or 200 princes and 200 followers, since it follows the phrase "These are the Grigori, 200 princes of whom turned aside, 200 walking in their train" (p. 131).

Chapter 29, referring to the second day of creation, before the creation of human beings, says that "one from out the order of angels"[26] or, according to other versions of 2 Enoch, "one of the order of archangels"[27] or "one of the ranks of the archangels"[28] "conceived an impossible thought, to place his throne higher than the clouds above the earth, that he might become equal in rank to [the Lord's] power. And [the Lord] threw him out from the height with his angels, and he was flying in the air continuously above the bottomless." In this chapter the name "Satanail" is mentioned only in a heading added in a single manuscript,[29][30] the GIM khlyudov manuscript,[31] which is a representative of the longer recension and was used in the English translation by R.H. Charles.


Main article: Satan

The Hebrew Bible personifies Satan, as Lucifer, as a character in only three places, always inferior to God's power: it portrays him as an accuser (Zechariah 3:1-2), a seducer (1 Chronicles 21:1), or a heavenly persecutor (Job 2:1). It uses the Hebrew word, which means "adversary", elsewhere to speak of human opponents or some evil influence,[32] and does not explicitly say that Satan is an angel, nor that he is fallen.[32] However, the Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion states that Satan appears in Jewish pseudepigrapha, especially apocalypses, as "ruler of a demonic host, influencing events throughout the world, cast out of heaven as a fallen angel", and ascribes the idea of Satan as a fallen angel to a misinterpretation of Isaiah 14:12.[32]


In Christianity, Satan is often seen as the leader of the fallen angels.[33] The New Testament mentions Satan 36 times in 33 verses, and the Book of Revelation tells of "that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world," being thrown down to the earth together with his angels.[34] In Luke 10:18 Jesus says: "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." While the New Testament thus mentions Satan falling from Heaven, it never says that he was an angel, only that he masquerades as one, in 2 Corinthians 11:14. However, the concept of fallen angels is not foreign to the New Testament; both 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6 refer to angels who have sinned against God and await punishment on Judgement Day.

Dragon and his angels

Main article: War in Heaven

In the New Testament, Revelation 12:3–14 speaks of a great red dragon whose tail swept a third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. In verses 7–9, after defeat in a War in Heaven in which the dragon and his angels fought against Michael and his angels, "the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world - he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."[35]

Fall of Lucifer

Main article: Lucifer

The fall of Lucifer finds its earliest identification with a fallen angel in Origen, based on an interpretation of Isaiah 14:1–17, which describes a king of Babylon as the fallen "morning star" (in Hebrew, הילל ). This description was interpreted typologically of an angel, in addition, that is, to its literal application to a human king: the image of the fallen morning star or angel was thereby applied to Satan in both in Jewish pseudepigrapha[32] and by early Christian writers,[36][37] following the transfer of Lucifer to Satan in the pre-Christian century.[38] Origen and other Christian writers linked the fallen morning star of Isaiah 14:12 to Jesus' statement in Luke 10:18, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" and to the mention of a fall of Satan in Revelation 12:8–9.[39] In Latin-speaking Christianity, the Latin word lucifer, employed in the late 4th-century AD Vulgate to translate הילל, gave rise to the name "Lucifer" for the person believed to be referred to in the text. Orthodox Judaism does not believe the name Lucifer is a reference to Satan but rather the text in chapter four indicates that it is a literal taunt against the King of Babylon.

Christian interpretation of Ezekiel 28

Indeed, Christian tradition has applied to Satan not only the image of the morning star in Isaiah 14:12, but also the denouncing in Ezekiel 28:11-19 of the king of Tyre, who is spoken of as having been a "cherub". Rabbinic literature saw these two passages as in some ways parallel, even if it perhaps did not associate them with Satan, and the episode of the fall of Satan appears not only in writings of the early Christian Fathers and in (Christian?) apocryphal and pseudepigraphic works, but also in rabbinic sources.[40] However, "no modern evangelical commentary on Isaiah or Ezekiel sees Isaiah 14 or Ezekiel 28 as providing information about the fall of Satan".[41]

Religious views


The concept of fallen angels is first found in Judaism among texts of the Second Temple era, being applied in particular to Azazel[42] and Satan.[32] However, from the Middle Ages certain Jewish scholars, both rationalist and traditionalist, rejected belief in rebel or fallen angels, since they considered evil as simply the absence of good or at least as not absolute. However modern Orthodox Rabbeim believe that angels don't have free will, and are pre-programmed to perform certain duties. When an angel's duty is completed, the angel ceases to exist.[43]


Christians adopted the concept of fallen angels mainly based on their interpretations of the Book of Revelation Chapter 12.,[1] which plainly states that they fight alongside Satan against Michael and the other good angels, and Matthew 25:41, which states that eternal fire was prepared for them and Satan himself.

In Catholicism, the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of "the fall of the angels" not in spatial terms but as a radical and irrevocable rejection of God and his reign by some angels who, though created as good beings, freely chose evil, their sin being unforgivable because of the irrevocable character of their choice, not because of any defect in the infinite divine mercy.[44]

In 19th-century Universalism, Universalists such as Thomas Allin (1891)[45] claimed that Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Gregory of Nyssa taught that even the Devil and fallen angels will eventually be saved.[46]

In Unitarianism, Joseph Priestley suggested that the passages refer to Korah.[47] William Graham (1772) suggested that it referred to the spies in Canaan.[48] These passages are generally held today to be commentary, either positive or neutral or negative, on Jewish traditions concerning Enoch circulating in the Early Church.[49]


Further information: Islamic view of angels

The Quran mentions angels (malak ملاك) around ninety times, usually in the plural and referring to obedient angels.

It is disdisputed whether Iblis was once an angel and later turned into a demon or he was already a jinn in heaven. While some scholars argue, that angels are not able to disobey God´s command,[50] other scholars stated, Iblis disobedience is caused by doubt good in mankind[51] or his loyality,[52] not to bow before someonelese than God. Satan (also called Iblis and in Greek diabolos, "the devil") rebelled, then God commanded to bow before Adam and was banished on earth, and he vowed to mislead people on earth after being given respite by God till the Day of Judgment, according to verses (80–85:38).[53] In Islamic theology, Iblis controlls demonic Jinn and forces them to mislead people.[54]

Harut and Marut (Arabic: هاروت وماروت) are two angels sent to test the people of Babylon. That there are fallen angels is not in the Quran,[55][56] (Quran 2:30), and the Quran explicitly states that angels have no free will (Quran 16:50), but are servants of God, (Quran 21:26).



  1. 1 2 Davidson 1994, p. 111
  2. Douglas 2011, p. 350
  3. Reed 2005, p. 1
  4. Gregory A. Boyd, God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict (InterVarsity Press 1997 ISBN 9780830818853), p. 138
  5. Lester L. Grabbe, A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period (Continuum 2004 ISBN 9780567043528), p. 344
  6. Matthew Black, The Book of Enoch or I Enoch: A New English Edition with Commentary and Textual Notes (Brill 1985 ISBN 9789004071001), p. 14
  7. Grabbe 2004, p. 101
  8. George J. Brooke, Exegesis at Qumran: 4Q Florilegium in Its Jewish Context (Continuum 1985 ISBN 9780905774770), p. 31
  9. Reed 2005, pp. 14, 15
  10. Heinz Schreckenberg, Kurt Schubert, Jewish Historiography and Iconography in Early and Medieval Christianity (Van Gorcum, 1992, ISBN 9789023226536), p. 253
  11. Reed 2005, p. 218
  12. Douglas 2011, p. 1384
  13. ἐγρήγορος. Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940. p. 474. Available online at the Perseus Project Texts Loaded under PhiloLogic (ARTFL project) at the University of Chicago.
  14. W. Sidney Allen, Vox Graeca: a guide to the pronunciation of classical Greek (third edition, Cambridge University Press 1987 ISBN 0-521-33555-8), pp. 74-75
  15. Andrei A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology (SUNY Press 2011 ISBN 978-1-43843951-8), p. 164
  16. Reed 2005, p. 14,15
  17. Lester L. Grabbe, An Introduction to First Century Judaism: Jewish Religion and History in the Second Temple Period (Continuum International Publishing Group 1996 ISBN 9780567085061), p. 101
  18. 1 2 3 Laurence, Richard (1883). "The Book of Enoch the Prophet".
  19. Biblica (Vol. 58 ed.). St. Martin's Press. 1977. p. 586.
  20. Reed 2005, p. 2
  21. Gregory A. Boyd, God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict, InterVarsity Press 1997 ISBN 9780830818853, p.138
  22. 1 2 Orlov 2011, p. 164
  23. Anderson 2000, p. 64: "In 2 Enoch 18:3... the fall of Satan and his angels is talked of in terms of the Watchers (Grigori) story, and connected with Genesis 6:1–4."
  24. Sources presenting one version of 2 Enoch and sources using a different version
  25. Andrei A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors SUNY Press 2011 ISBN 9781438439518, p.93
  26. "Most sources". Google.com. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
  27. Marc Michael Epstein, Dreams of Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature Penn State University Press 1997 ISBN 9780271016054, p. 141
  28. James Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible 1898 edition reproduced 2004 by the University Press of the Pacific ISBN 9781410217288, vol. 4, p. 409
  29. James H. Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha-set Hendrickson 2010 ISBN 9781598564891, p. 149
  30. Robert Charles Branden, Satanic Conflict and the Plot of Matthew Peter Lang 2006 ISBN 9780820479163, p. 30
  31. Charlesworth 2011, pp. 149, 92
  32. 1 2 3 4 5 Adele Berlin; Maxine Grossman, eds. (2011). The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion. Oxford University Press. p. 651. ISBN 9780199730049. Retrieved 2012-07-03.
  33. Packer, J.I. (2001). "Satan: Fallen angels have a leader". Concise theology : a guide to historic Christian beliefs. Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House. ISBN 0842339604.
  34. Revelation 12:9
  35. Revelation 12:9
  36. Charlesworth 2010, p. 149
  37. Schwartz 2004, p. 108
  38. "Lucifer". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
  39. John N. Oswalt, (1986). "The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39". The International Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans. p. 320. ISBN 9780802825292. Retrieved 2012-07-03.
  40. Hector M. Patmore, Adam, Satan, and the King of Tyre (BRILL 2012 ISBN 978-9-00420722-6), pp. 76–78
  41. Paul Peterson, Ross Cole (editors), Hermeneutics, Intertextuality and the Contemporary Meaning of Scripture (Avondale Academic Press 2013 ISBN 978-1-92181799-1), p. 246
  42. Berlin, Adele; Grossman, Maxine, eds. (2011). The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion. Oxford University Press. p. 94. ISBN 9780199730049. Retrieved 2012-07-03.
  43. Bamberger 2006, pp. 148, 149
  44. "Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The Fall of the Angels" (391-395)". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2012-07-03.
  45. Allin, Thomas (1891). Christ Triumphant or Universalism Asserted as the Hope of the Gospel on the Authority of Reason, the Fathers, and Holy Scripture.
  46. Itter on Clement, Crouzel & Norris on Origen, etc.
  47. The theological and miscellaneous works of Joseph Priestley, Vol.2
  48. William Graham, An enquiry into the scripture meaning of the word Satan, and its synonimous terms, the devil, or the adversary, and the wicked one. Wherein the notions concerning devils or demons are brought... MA 8vo. is. 6d. Johnson. 1772
  49. The Jewish apocalyptic heritage in early Christianity p 66 ed. James C. VanderKam, William Adler - 1996 "... who would not bring forth fruit to God. since the angels that sinned had commingled with them. ... 206 The translation is from Bauckham, "The Fall of the Angels', 320. 207 'Enoch says that the angels who transgressed taught mankind "
  50. Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 46
  51. Amira El-Zein Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 45
  52. Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn Syracuse University Press 2009 ISBN 9780815650706 page 44
  53. Jeffrey Burton Russell Lucifer, the Devil in the Middle Ages, chapter 'The Muslim Devil' p. 55
  54. Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman The Meaning and Explanation of the Glorious Qur'an (Vol 10) MSA Publication Limited 2009 ISBN 9781861796707 Page 257
  55. مصباح المنير في تهذيب تفسير إبن كثير Ismāʻīl ibn ʻUmar Ibn Kathīr, Shaykh Safiur Rahman Al Mubarakpuri, Ṣafī al-Raḥmān Mubārakfūrī / The Meaning And Explanation Of The Glorious Qur'an: 1-203 Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman "The Story of Harut and Marut, and the Explanation that They were Angels [[God said]], (And such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels, Harut and Marut, but neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they.."
  56. Jan Knappert, Islamic legends: histories of the heroes, saints and prophets of Islam 1985 p. 59 "Harut and Marut - When the Prophet Idris (sometimes identified with Enoch) entered Paradise after his long life on earth, it is said that he was met by two naughty angels, whose names were Azaya or 'Uzza and 'Aza'il."
  57. "Online-Literature.com". Online-Literature.com. Retrieved 2012-07-03.


Further reading

  • Ashley, Leonard R.N. The complete book of devils and demons. New York: Skyhorse Pub. ISBN 1616083336. 
  • Martin, Dale (2010). "When Did Angels Become Demons?". Journal of Biblical Literature. Society of Biblical Literature. 129 (4): 657–677. JSTOR 25765960. 

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