20 April 2012

An armed archangel

The image, by "18th c. Unknown" is entitled The Archangel Barachiel with Harquebus.

I have to admit I've never considered the possibility of angels/archangels carrying armaments, but I'm undoubtedly ignorant of some Biblical references.  Anyone?

Image from Savage America, via A London Salmagundi.

Addendum: Full explanation in a subsequent post.


  1. The traditional "weapon" would be "The sword of the Spirit, which is God's Word." See Ephesians 6.

    I guess Heaven and Hell had an arms race at some point.

  2. St. Michael the Archangel is nearly always shown with a sword (sometimes with a shield) and fighting Satan.

    It doesn't surprise me that someone would update his weapon.

  3. The Archangel Barachiel ? Where are his wings? Where is his aureole? Yeah, Michael always carries a sword but this gent?

    BTW in iconography Barachiel is sometimes shown holding a white rose against the chest, or with rose petals scattered on the clothing, particularly the cloak. In Roman Catholicism, Barachiel is depicted holding a bread basket.He is also the chief of the guardian angels so perhaps that's why he must have a weapon - you know, a kind of internal affairs agency.

  4. If we updated the angel imagery to 21st century standards, angels would look like this...



  5. I wouldn't be surprised if the earlier imagery of Jesus/Saints being armed had something to do with the acceptance of Christianity by pagans. If you were a "barbarian" king, you could probably identify more with an ass-kicking sword wielding Jesus, than a peace making one.

    Angels holding firearms, this late in history just seems creepy and weird.

  6. I've never seen a depiction with a gun, but the idea of armed angels isn't too unusual. With Reformations and Counter-Reformations still ongoing, often violently, at that stage in history, the depiction of armed angels taking part in such conflicts on behalf of the "right believers" would seem like a somewhat natural image in the popular imagination throughout Europe.

    The "Book of Genesis" describes a cherub guarding the entrance to Eden with a "flaming sword" to keep out Adam and Eve.

    For a later Seventeenth-Century example, in Milton's _Paradise Lost_, the fallen angels basically invent gunpowder and cannons during the war in Heaven. The use of those remains restricted to the "bad angels," though. The other angels simply respond by tossing mountains on top of the war machines. Before that, they all use more traditional, basic weapons, which just prove ineffective as the angels heal from any wounds.

  7. I just finished reading the Bible (and the apocrypha!) and angel actually aren't really that important. The original hebrew word just meant "messenger" so for the most part angels are just ill-defined beings that say stuff for God/Yahweh.

    Revelations, which is much later, angels are a more defined concept, and they appear wielding "sharp sickles" in chapter 14.

    The idea of "archangels", armed or not, must be later theology. (Satan as a character is pretty undefined in the Bible. I don't know where the whole "fallen angel" thing comes from, maybe since the "Satan" (a hebrew word meaning "adversary, NOT a proper noun) in Job is able to speak to God, but the later conception of Satan is not on as good terms.)

    AF- the "cherubim" in the OT are winged griffin or sphynx-ish creatures, not chubby baby angels.

  8. In the most recent issue/s of the Wonder Woman comic book, Eros (aka Cupid) is shown as carrying pistols instead of a bow-and-arrow.

  9. Thanks, everyone. And in response to your comments I did some searching and just now found some more arquebus-armed angels!!


    (for tomorrow)...

  10. I don't know the best answer, but here are 2 slightly related things:

    A Spanish writer used to write short poems / epithets called something like Gregorios. I can't find them online, so I think the name is wrong. One of them (in Spanish, paraphrased) was 'always remember that the first weapons were held by angels' referring to the angels guarding Eden after Adam and Eve had to leave.

    I made a short playlist a while ago about songs from the last 10 years where Cupid uses modern methods other than arrows to unite his victims (in the lyrics): http://tankhughes.com/?p=48.

  11. @Abbie:

    If you want to find out more about the development of the modern conception of Satan, you might find Elaine Pagel's _The Origin of Satan_ (1995) interesting. She discusses the evolution of the figure from merely the word for adversary, to an antagonistic angel in service of God, to the more familiar application useful in demonizing one's opponents.

  12. Angels are the symbol of piece i don't understand why a gun is there in the hand doing..Kill the peace.

  13. I found nine references in the King James Bible using a proximity search for "sword" (a period appropriate analogue to firearms) and "angel" within 120 characters of each other.


    And a Boolean search with "sword" AND "angel" in the same verse:

    This is versus 344 references to "angel" and 515 references to "sword" in the KJ Bible.
    The database is at:

  14. In Judges 5, Joshua encounters a stranger that he doesn't recognize "with a sword in his hand" before the siege of Jericho. He asks whose side the stranger is on. The stranger says "neither" and describes himself as the "Commander of the Armies of the Lord."

    I believe this is a reference to the pre-incarnate Jesus (as the being receives worship - angels always rebuke someone who worships them).

  15. Also, the reference in Genesis 3 to the cherubim and the flaming sword doesn't quite work as an armed angel.

    Cherubim is plural (more than one - the "im" at the end indicates plural in Hebrew) and the flaming sword is singular. I imagine this is something like a sword dangling from a pendulum, but the sense isn't that there is an angel wielding a sword here.

  16. The angel actually holding a flaming sword seems to start up in art around the 11th century-- see Bernward's doors of St. Michael's, which show an angel holding a sword aloft and chasing Adam and Eve out of the garden. However, the warrior angel (Michael) is much older in visual tradition, because of his mention in Revelation/Apocalypse 12:7 as the leader of the heavenly hosts against the dragon. Clearly angels performed some kind of martial function in the spiritual realms; this translated well into the medieval conception of God as similar to an Emperor (only on a much larger scale).

  17. And, yes, I was aware of the plural denotation of "cherubim" and of their decidedly non-Cupid appearance, but thank you for the clarifications nonetheless. Cherubim and seraphim both tend to trouble modern ideas of how angels "should" look. I'm sure there are other orders of angels that seem similarly bizarre in light of such assumptions.

    FWIW, going back to Milton, here's his depiction of the scene in Genesis: "Wav'd over by that flaming Brand, the Gate / With dreadful Faces throng'd and fierie Armes" (Book 12, 643-644).

  18. Never mind the gun. I'm startled at the angelic taste in clothing. Or perhaps it's a heaven-supplied uniform?


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