The distinction of good and bad angels constantly appears in the Bible, but it is instructive to note that there is no sign of any dualism or conflict between two equal principles, one good and the other evil. The conflict depicted is rather that waged on earth between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the Evil One, but the latter's inferiority is always supposed. The existence, then, of this inferior, and therefore created, spirit, has to be explained.
The gradual development of Hebrew consciousness on this point is very clearly marked in the inspired writings. The account of the fall of our First Parents (Genesis 3) is couched in such terms that it is impossible to see in it anything more than the acknowledgment of the existence of a principle of evil who was jealous of the human race. The statement (Genesis 6:1) that the "sons of God" married the daughters of men is explained of the fall of the angels, in Enoch, vi-xi, and codices, D, E F, and A of the Septuagint read frequently, for "sons of God", oi aggeloi tou theou. Unfortunately, codices B and C are defective in Genesis 6, but it is probably that they, too, read oi aggeloi in this passage, for they constantly so render the expression "sons of God"; cf. Job 1:6, 2:1 and 38:7; but on the other hand, see Psalm 2:1 and 88 (Septuagint). Philo, in commenting on the passage in his treatise "Quod Deus sit immutabilis", i, follows the Septuagint. For Philo's doctrine of Angels, cf. "De Vita Mosis", iii, 2, "De Somniis", VI: "De Incorrupta Manna", i; "De Sacrificis", ii; "De Lege Allegorica", I, 12; III, 73; and for the view of Genesis 6:1, cf. St. Justin, First Apology 5. It should moreover be noted that the Hebrew word nephilim rendered gigantes, in 6:4, may mean "fallen ones". The Fathers generally refer it to the sons of Seth, the chosen stock. In 1 Samuel 19:9, an evil spirit is said to possess Saul, though this is probably a metaphorical expression; more explicit is 1 Kings 22:19-23, where a spirit is depicted as appearing in the midst of the heavenly army and offering, at the Lord's invitation, to be a lying spirit in the mouth of Achab's false prophets. We might, with Scholastics, explain this is malum poenae, which is actually caused by God owing to man's fault. A truer exegesis would, however, dwell on the purely imaginative tone of the whole episode; it is not so much the mould in which the message is cast as the actual tenor of that message which is meant to occupy our attention.
The picture afforded us in Job 1 and 2 is equally imaginative; but Satan, perhaps the earliest individualization of the fallen Angel, is presented as an intruder who is jealous of Job. He is clearly an inferior being to the Deity and can only touch Job with God's permission. How theologic thought advanced as the sum of revelation grew appears from a comparison of 2 Samuel 24:1, with 1 Chronicles 21:1. Whereas in the former passage David's sin was said to be due to "the wrath of the Lord" which "stirred up David", in the latter we read that "Satan moved David to number Israel". In Job 4:18, we seem to find a definite declaration of the fall: "In His angels He found wickedness." The Septuagint of Job contains some instructive passages regarding avenging angels in whom we are perhaps to see fallen spirits, thus 33:23: "If a thousand death-dealing angels should be (against him) not one of them shall wound him"; and 36:14: "If their souls should perish in their youth (through rashness) yet their life shall be wounded by the angels"; and 20:15: "The riches unjustly accumulated shall be vomited up, an angel shall drag him out of his house;" cf. Proverbs 17:11; Psalm 34:5-6 and 77:49, and especially Ecclesiasticus 39:33, a text which, as far as can be gathered from the present state of the manuscript, was in the Hebrew original. In some of these passages, it is true, the angels may be regarded as avengers of God's justice without therefore being evil spirits. In Zechariah 3:1-3, Satan is called the adversary who pleads before the Lord against Jesus the High Priest. Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are for the Fathers the loci classici regarding the fall of Satan (cf. Tertullian, Against Marcion 2.10); and Our Lord Himself has given colour to this view by using the imagery of the latter passage when saying to His Apostles: "I saw Satan like lightning falling from heaven" (Luke 10:18).
In New Testament times the idea of the two spiritual kingdoms is clearly established. The devil is a fallen angel who in his fall has drawn multitudes of the heavenly host in his train. Our Lord terms him "the Prince of this world" (John 14:30); he is the tempter of the human race and tries to involve them in his fall (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 11:14; 12:7). Christian imagery of the devil as the dragon is mainly derived from the Apocalypse (9:11-15 and 12:7-9), where he is termed "the angel of the bottomless pit", "the dragon", "the old serpent", etc., and is represented as having actually been in combat with Archangel Michael. The similarity between scenes such as these and the early Babylonian accounts of the struggle between Merodach and the dragon Tiamat is very striking. Whether we are to trace its origin to vague reminiscences of the mighty saurians which once people the earth is a moot question, but the curious reader may consult Bousett, "The Anti-Christ Legend" (tr. by Keane, London, 1896). The translator has prefixed to it an interesting discussion on the origin of the Babylonian Dragon-Myth.
In addition to works mentioned above, see St. Thomas, Summa Theol., I, QQ. 50-54 and 106-114; Suarez De Angelis, lib. i-iv.
APA citation. Pope, H. (1907). Angels. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved June 21, 2023 from New Advent
MLA citation. Pope, Hugh. "Angels." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 21 Jun. 2023
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Jim Holden.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.