Fallen angel

Fallen angels are angels who were expelled from Heaven. In the Abrahamic religions, they are former agents of God and the enemies of humanity. The term "fallen angel" neither appears in the Bible nor in Islamic scriptures but is used of angels who were cast out of heaven or 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". It is also used to describe angels cast down to the Earth during the War in Heaven, as well as Satan, demons,[1] and certain Watchers.[2] A similar notion can be found in Nahj al-Balagha, an Islamic collection of sermons, letters, and narrations attributed to Ali: "Allah, the Glorified One, will not let a human being enter paradise if he does the same thing for which Allah turned an angel from it".[3] Al-Tha'alibi related in his Qisas Al-Anbiya a tradition, in which Satan is held to be chained in the lowest layer of hell in the midst of the rebel angels.[4]

Mention of angels who physically descended (and figuratively "fell") to Mount Hermon is found in the Book of Enoch, which the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church accept as biblical canon; as well as in various pseudepigrapha.

Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha


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 Ancient Greek word for watchers is ἐγρήγοροι (egrḗgoroi, plural of egrḗgoros), literally translated as "wakeful".[5] The Greek term was transcribed in the Jewish pseudepigraphon the Second Book of Enoch (Slavonic Enoch) as Grigori, referring to the same beings as those called Watchers of the (First) Book of Enoch.[6]

First Enoch

The concept of fallen angels is mostly found in the Book of Enoch, verses 6–9; the Qumran Book of Giants; and perhaps in Genesis 6:1–4.[7] These Watchers became "enamored" with human women (1 Enoch 7.2),[8] 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).[8] A number of apocryphal works, including 1 Enoch (10.4),[8] link this transgression with the Great Deluge.[9] This fact was adopted by early Christianity, but abandoned by Rabbinic Judaism and later Christianity.[10] 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.[11]

Second Enoch

The concept of fallen angels is also found in the Second Book of Enoch, which is sequel to the First Book of Enoch.

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.[12][13] 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,[14] but Andrei A. Orlov, while quoting 2 Enoch as saying that three went down to the earth,[15] remarks in a footnote that some manuscripts put them at 200 or even 200 myriads.[12] 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 that "[t]hese 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"[16] or, according to other versions of 2 Enoch, "one of the order of archangels"[17] or "one of the ranks of the archangels"[18] "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,[19][20] the GIM khlyudov manuscript,[21] which is a representative of the longer recension and was used in the English translation by R. H. Charles.


Main article: Jubilees

Like the Books of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees also contains the concept of fallen angels.


The concept of angels rebelling against God and being expelled from Heaven mainly developed in Judaism during the Second Temple period. It is mainly found in Jewish pseudepigrapha, such as the Book of Enoch, and the Book of Jubilees. Although modern Judaism generally rejects the Enochian writings, Jewish traditions aknowledges Samael as the tempter, who is in charge of several subordinative accuser angels.[22][23] However these angels are regarded as being still subordinative to God's plan and act as evil inclinations.

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 as fallen angels.[24] 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.[25][26] Lester L. Grabbe calls the story of the sexual intercourse between angels and women "an old myth in Judaism".[27] Until the mid-2nd evidence that some early Christians including Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria and Lactantius[28] accepted this Jewish Enochic pseudepigraphy and the application of the angelic descent myth to the "sons of God" passage in Genesis 6:1–4.[29] 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.[30] Rabbinic Judaism and Christian authorities rejected the tradition.[31] Those who adopted the tradition viewed the "sons of God" as fallen angels who married human women and begot the Nephilim through unnatural unions.[32]


The Hebrew Bible personifies Satan as a character in only three places, always inferior to God's power: it portrays him as an accuser (Zechariah 3:1-2), a tempter (1 Chronicles 21:1), and a heavenly persecutor (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-7). It uses the Hebrew word, which means "adversary", elsewhere to speak of human opponents or some evil influence[33] and does not explicitly say that Satan is an angel nor that he is fallen.[33] 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.[33] Some also say that Lucifer is one of the archangels before he fell from Heaven. He thought that God's order to "love human kind more than God himself" was ridiculous, which made him hate humanity and that led to his fall.


In Christianity, Satan is often seen as the leader of the fallen angels.[34] 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.[35] Further the Revelation speaks of Satan as 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, Satan is defeated in the War in Heaven 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".[36] 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. The concept of fallen angels is not foreign to the New Testament, though; both 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6 refer to angels who have sinned against God and await punishment on Judgement Day. The Bible records several different times when angels fell to earth. Some have already fallen. Genesis 6:2 Revelation 12:4 and others fall in the future Revelation 6:13 Early Christians also integrated non-biblical details from the Enochian writings, which circulated both in oral and written transmission.[37] Irenaeus referred to fallen angels as apostates, who will be punished by an everlasting fire. Tertullian and Origen referred to fallen angels also as teachers of Astrology.[38]

Fall of 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 as an angel in addition 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[33] and by early Christian writers,[39][40] following the transfer of Lucifer to Satan in the pre-Christian century.[41]

Origen and other Christian writers linked the fallen morning star of Isaiah 14:12 to Jesus' statement in Luke 10:18 that "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" and to the mention of a fall of Satan in Revelation 12:8–9.[42] In Latin-speaking Christianity, the Latin word "lucifer" as 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 Church Fathers and in apocryphal and pseudepigraphic works, but also in rabbinic sources.[43] However, "no modern evangelical commentary on Isaiah or Ezekiel sees Isaiah 14 or Ezekiel 28 as providing information about the fall of Satan".[44]


Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam acknowledges the concept of fallen angels. However Islamic view of fallen angels differs from the Christian view, where fallen angels did not try to usurp the throne of God, a concept alien to Islam. Instead they showed disobedience by despising parts of God's creation.

In Quran

Three entities are mentioned in Qur'an, who are sometimes identified as fallen angels: Iblis, Harut and Marut. The story of their fall are found in Islamic narrations, but not in the Quran.[45] Alternatively Iblis is rather thought as being a Jinni, another entity apart from the angels, supported by the fact, he is created from fire. Those who distinguish between Iblis as a fiery angel and the jinn, differentiate the jinn made out of smokeless fire, and the fire these angels are held to be composed of (according to Ibn Abbas from the fire of samum).[46] Those who reject the angelic origin of Harut and Marut prefer to view them as kings (malikayn) than angels (malak).[47]

Harut and Marut

The Quranexegete Tabari attributed a story to Ibn Masud and Ibn Abbas[48] about Harut and Marut complaining about the mischievousness of mankind and made a request to destroy them. Consequently, God offered a test determine whether or not the angels would do better than humans for long, then they are endowed with humanlike urges and Satan would have authority over them. However on Earth, they entertained and acted upon sexual desires and were guilty of idol worship, whereupon they even killed an innocent witness. For their deeds, they were not allowed to ascend to Heaven again.[49]

The Devil and Demons

Another extra-quranic narrative states that Iblis was once send by God to battle a pre-adamite race, who shed blood and caused corruption on earth. After Iblis defeated them, he returned to heaven. Then God created human, Iblis and some angels argued, why God should create a human being, who will shed blood and confusion like those, whom they had just defeated before, while the angels prostrate before God and sing his glory day and night, never failing God's orders.[50] Since Iblis insisted on being superior than any other creature, even compared to other angels,[51] his status was reduced and he was turned away from heaven, endowed with the task to lead beings towards evil and wrong actions.[52] Those creatures from heaven, who followed Iblis, became demons,[53] not to be confused with the Jinn (another creature that is, unlike a demon, accessible to the good).[54]

Further narrations

Further references to fallen angels can be found in some Shia accounts. In a narrative from Ja'far al-Sadiq, Idris met an angel, which the wrath of God fell upon, and his wings and hair were cut off; after Idris prayed for him to God, his wings and hair were restored. In return they become friends and in request the angel took Idris to the Heavens to meet the angel of death.[55]

In Umm al-Kitab, an 8th-century work of a Ghulat sect, the universe cames into existence because Azazil claims to be like God, but since there can just be one god, Azazil fell into lower spheres until he ends up on earth.[56]

Controversy about fallen angels

Some Islamic scholars denied the possibility of sinning Angels, adherding that Angels always obey God's command and are not able to deviate from His orders. One of the first advocates of this perspection of Angels was Hasan of Basra, who did not just emphasized verses which speaks for absolute obedience of Angels, but also reinterpretated verses against this view. Thus he depicted Iblis as a jinni and Harut and Marut as ordinary men.[57] Advocates of Angels' infalliblity often refer to verses like 66:6 "O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.", which explicitly refers to a certain numbers of Zabaniyya. Another verse speaking for the Angels impeccability is 16:49 is : "To Allah prostrates whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth, including animals and Angels, and they are not arrogant". However according to advocates of fallen angels, these verses can not prove the impeccability for all Angels at any time and in any situation.[58]

Non-Abrahamic religions

Pre-Islamic Arabs believed that fallen angels may descend to earth in the form of men. They may interact with human and even have sexual relations with them. According to a pre-Islamic legend, Jurhum, founder of the tribe by his name, was the son of a union between a fallen angel and a human woman.[59]

Religious views


The concept of fallen angels mainly originated in Judaism from the Jewish texts written during the Second Temple Period, being applied in particular to Satan and his minions. Since the Middle Ages, certain Jewish scholars have rejected the belief in fallen angels; however, the concept of fallen angels persists within Judaism.


Christianity adopted the concept of fallen angels from Judaism, mainly based on their interpretations of the Book of Revelation Chapter 12,[60] which plainly states that Satan and his faction fought against Michael and his team, and Matthew 25:41, which states that eternal fire was prepared for Satan and his followers.


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.[61]


In 19th-century Universalism, Universalists such as Thomas Allin (1891)[62] claimed that Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa taught that even the Devil and fallen angels will eventually be saved.[63]


In Unitarianism, Joseph Priestley suggested that the passages refer to the Korah.[64] William Graham (1772) suggested that they referred to the spies in Canaan.[65] These passages are generally held today to be commentary, positive, neutral, or negative, on Jewish traditions concerning Enoch circulating in the Early Church.[66]


In Islamic tradition, the rebellion of Angels rather resulted from their displeasure towards humanity. Accordingly, they held their way of serving God superior to the service of mankind.[67][68] The Islamic view of the fallen angels' rebellion against God differs from the Christian views in that the rebellion is seen as Satan's refusal to prostrate himself before Adam, not as an attempt to usurp God's throne.


  • In literature, John Milton's Paradise Lost (7.131–134, etc.), refers to the Devil as being "brighter once amidst the host of Angels, than the sun amidst the stars".[69]


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  • Bamberger, Bernard J. (2006). Fallen angels : soldiers of satan's realm (first paperback ed.). Philadelphia, Pa.: Jewish Publ. Soc. of America. ISBN 0827607970. 
  • Charlesworth, edited by James H. (2010). The Old Testament pseudepigrapha. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson. ISBN 1598564919. 
  • Davidson, Gustav (1994). A dictionary of angels: including the fallen angels (1st Free Press pbk. ed.). New York: Free Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-02-907052-9. 
  • DDD, Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter W. van der Horst, (1998). Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible (DDD) (2., extensively rev. ed.). Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9004111190. 
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Further reading

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