Study Guide

Angels in Gospel of Luke

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Who doesn't love these otherworldly mailmen? Their job is basically to deliver God's messages to mortals. In fact, the Greek word for "angel" can be translated simply as "messenger" or "envoy". These are complicated suckers, though, and definitely worth a look.

Angels in America

Tony Kushner's angels are somewhat terrifying, very playful, highly sexualized, but conservative females, whose orders may (even should) be resisted. But for the most part, in our culture, angels are pretty tame. They are usually thought of as heavenly guardians and are—let's be honest—super-cute. They have the adorable figurine and little girl Halloween costume markets totally cornered.

Angels in Luke

Luke's angels are all males who appear in the opening and closing chapters of the story. We like to think of them as sandwich angels:

  • An angel named Gabriel announces to Zechariah that Elizabeth will bear John and then to Mary that she will bear Jesus (1:8-20, 26-38).
  • Another angel appears to shepherds and announces the birth of Jesus. With him there comes a whole heavenly army praising God (2:8-14).
  • In the final chapter, two angels appear in the empty tomb and inform the women that Jesus has risen (24:4-7).

In each case, the human response to angels—who are members of a "heavenly army" (2:14)—is a total freak-out (1:12, 30; 2:9; 24:5). Not surprising, given that, in the empty tomb, the angels are wearing clothes that flash forth lightning bolts (24:4). So much for wings and halos. We're at an ancient rave here. No fuzzy feeling here, just fear and awe. What would Luke's Gabriel think of angels in America today?

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