The Truth About Winged Angels

By Segun Egbeyinka 

I walked into our family church one Sunday morning after a long period of absence and immediately something caught my attention. On the altar, just behind the pulpit, was a beautiful pictorial description of the astonishing event on Genesis 28:12; where Jacob, as he slept, dreamt of a stairway that reached from the Earth up to the Heaven, and angels were going up and down this stairs. It was excellent craftsmanship and I was, for a moment, lost in its sheer beauty until… I noticed something; the angels in the painting were pictured bearing wings. I racked my brain furiously, searching for any passage that I knew of in the Bible where angels were described with wings, but I came up empty. I eventually gained little from that morning’s sermon because I spent the entire time canvassing the known pages of my Bible for any phrase, sentence, or verse to justify the artist’s interpretation, but still found none.
Since then I have come across several photos depicting angels with wings and some other questionable Christian arts which have no real basis or origin in the Bible. All of these prompted the inspiration of this article; Fallacies of Christian Arts.

Angels are spiritual beings that acts as God’s messengers in carrying out five basic roles, which are; protection, provision, comfort, guidance and deliverance, for God’s servant. Not very much is known about the description of these heavenly beings, but the little we know surely didn’t depict them as winged-bearing creatures. The only heavenly beings described in the Bible as having wings are the Cherubims and the Seraphims. The Cherubims are described quite vividly by Ezekiel as beings with four faces, four wings and with wheels. The Seraphims were described by Isaiah as possessing six wings; they covered their faces with two, covered their feet with two and used the last pair to fly.

So, where did this idea come from? An idea that has become such a part of us that we would most likely view a painting of angels without wings with displeasure, rather than the other way round, a tradition that has become so familiar that no one bothered to question the painting that we all gazed upon every Sunday. In all biblical accounts, that describes man interacting with angels, never once was it stated that the angels had wings. Most of the time they are described as looking like men, and who have appeared unexpectedly.

“And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garment” Luke 24:4

“And there came two angels into Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom; and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them… Where are the men that came in to thee this night; bring them out unto us that we may know them” Gen 19:1,5

“And they appeared unto him an Angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of furnace” Luke 1:11

“And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, the Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor” Judges 6:12

And in some cases the person with whom the angel have made contact doesn’t even know it is an angel until the angel disappears,

“And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said to him, Art thou the man that speakest unto the woman… For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the Lord” Judges 13:11,16

There is no recorded distinctive feature that separates the angels mentioned in the Bible from man, let alone a huge pair of wings behind their backs. If there was a striking distinction, then verses such as Heb 13:2 have been made of no effect;

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it”

The idea that angels possess wings may have arose from the rationalization that since these heavenly beings move from heaven to earth, and all round the earth carrying out assigned task then the appropriate means of achieving this feat would be by the possession of wings. To this ideology I pose an important question; can the God who created the world and the elements in it be constrained by those same elements, such that He has to obey the laws that guide movement within them? The answer of course is No; and angels operate under the power of God.

So how did the wings come about? Some are of the belief that the wings came as result of the Israelites’ sojourn in captivity in Babylon; they believe they must have gotten the idea from the Babylonian gods all of which are depicted with wings. Some others believe the wings have its origin in Greek gods. While yet others, believe that the idea of a winged heavenly being seemed appropriate, if not exciting, and accounted for such depictions. Whatever is the explanation chosen, the fact remains that artists and writers who long ago absorbed the mythology of winged angels evidently never bothered to line up their notions with the Bible itself, therefore creating beings who are based solely on human imagination and speculation.

A very interesting and almost laughable fallacy is that of the Three wise men. Virtually everyone has once fallen victim to this, you just need to think back to your Sunday school days when your teacher shows you the picture of three happy men presenting gifts to a beautiful swaddled baby, and the topic of the day’s lesson would be; The three wise men. We grew up with this and it has become such a part of us; sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no such thing as three wise men; rather there were Wise men from the East.

“Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star appeared” Matt 2:7

Who presented baby Jesus with three gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I believe the fact that they presented three gifts accounted greatly for this age long misconception.

In conclusion, I recognize the fact the most essential thing about the Christian faith is Christ sacrifice on the cross and the subsequent salvation which it assures us of, and not the issue of Biblical Angelology and art work fallacies. But it is still quite as important, for us to identify and root out certain ideas and concepts that has become part of the Christian tradition but has no origin in the Bible, or those, which clearly contradicts the Bible’s teachings.

Segun Egbeyinka loves to write, loves to read amazing books, and he is also a sucker for great movies.This article was originally titled 'Fallacies Of Christian Arts'  and also featured on Naija Stories. Segun blogs at: where he shares some of his most controversial and thought 

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