Statue of the Fallen Angel, Retiro Park (Madrid, Spain)

"The Fallen Angels" by Albano IMG 3886

Statue of "The Fallen Angels" (1893) by Salvatore Albano at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City

A fallen angel is a wicked or rebellious angel. The term is found neither in the Hebrew Bible nor the Deuterocanonical Books nor the New Testament. Nonetheless, biblical commentators often use fallen angel to describe angels who sinned or angels cast down to the earth from the War in Heaven, Satan,[1] demons,[2] or certain Watchers.[3]

Mention of angels who descended (not "fell") to Mount Hermon in the days of Jared is found in the Book of Enoch, which the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church accept as canonical, as well as in various pseudepigrapha.

Primary sources in relation to fallen angels

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 with fallen angels.[4] 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.[5][6] Lester L. Grabbe calls the story of the sexual intercourse of angels with women "an old myth in Judaism".[7] Indeed, until the mid-2nd century AD, Jewish writing (such as midrashim) can be taken to identify the "sons of God" of Gen 6:1 and 4 as angels.[8] By the 3rd century, there is evidence that some early Christians accepted this Jewish Enochic pseudepigraphy and the application of the angelic descent myth to the "sons of God" passage in Genesis 6:1-4,[9] 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.[10] Rabbinic Judaism and Christian authorities rejected the tradition.[11] Those who adopted the tradition viewed the "sons of God" as fallen angels who married human women and by unnatural union begot the Nephilim.[12]Template:Qn

Watchers, "Grigori"

The reference to heavenly beings called "Watchers" originates in Daniel 4, in which there are three mentions, twice in the singular, once in the plural, of "watchers, holy ones". The Greek word for watchers is ἐγρήγοροι egrḗgoroi,[13] pronounced play /ɛˈɡriɡɒri/. The Greek term was transcribed in the Jewish pseudepigraphon Second Book of Enoch (Slavonic Enoch) as Grigori, referring to the same beings as those called Watchers of the (First) Book of Enoch.[14]

First Enoch

A Jewish myth of angels coming down to earth rather than being cast down, referred to as the myth of angelic descent,[15] is found chiefly in the Jewish pseudepigraphic Book of Enoch, 6-9 and the Qumran Book of Giants and perhaps in Genesis 6:1-4.[16] The angels in question were Watchers[17] who were inveigled by the beauty of human women,[16] had intercourse with them and corrupted mankind.[18] They were the prime instigators of the sinfulness that led to the Great Deluge.[19] This myth was adopted by early Christianity, but abandoned by Rabbinic Judaism and later Christianity.[17] 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.[20]

Slavonic Enoch

The Slavonic Second Book of Enoch refers to "the Grigori, who with their prince Satanail rejected the Lord of light". The Grigori are identified with the Watchers of 1 Enoch.[21][22] 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,[23] but Andrei A. Orlov, while quoting 2 Enoch as saying that three went down to the earth,[24] remarks in a footnote that some manuscripts put them at 200 or even 200 myriads.[21] 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 "These 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"[25] or, according to other versions of 2 Enoch, "one of the order of archangels"[26] or "one of the ranks of the archangels"[27] "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,[28][29] the GIM khlyudov manuscript,[30] which is a representative of the longer recension and was used in the English translation by R.H. Charles.

Fall of Satan

The Hebrew Bible does not say that Satan is an angel, nor that he is fallen: it uses the corresponding Hebrew word, which means "adversary", of human opponents or some evil influence, but in three places it personifies Satan as a character, always inferior to God's power: it portrays him as an accuser (Zechariah 3:1-2), a seducer (1 Chronicles 21:1) or a heavenly persecutor (Job 2:1.[31] In Jewish pseudepigrapha, especially apocalypses, he appears as the chief evil figure, "ruler of a demonic host, influencing event throughout the world, cast out of heaven as a fallen angel".[31] Later texts present him as destined to be conquered by the angels or the messiah.[31]


In Christianity also Satan, though capable of disguising himself as an "angel of light" (2 Cor 11:14), is the leader of the fallen angels.[32] 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.[33] Luke 10:18 has Jesus say: "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven", a phrase that, according to Ben Witherington, can mean either "fall from heaven, like lightning" or "fall, like lightning from heaven".[34]

A dragon and his angels

In the New Testament, Revelation 12:3-4 speaks of 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, after defeat in a War in Heaven in which the dragon and his angels fought 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."[35] Thus, amongst Christians, fallen angels have been associated with the term “cast out”.[1]Template:Qn

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 a fallen morning star (in Hebrew, הילל ). When this description was interpreted as regarding an angel, not a human king, the image of the fallen morning star or angel was applied to Satan both in Jewish pseudepigrapha[dubious ][31] and by early Christian writers,[36][37] following the transfer of the Lucifer myth to Satan in the pre-Christian century.[38] Origen and other Christian writers linked the fallen morning star of Isaiah 14:12 to Jesus' statement in Luke 10:18, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" and to the mention of a fall of Satan in Revelation 12:8-9.[39] In Latin-speaking Christianity, the Latin word lucifer, employed in the late 4th-century AD Vulgate to translate הילל, gave rise to the name "Lucifer" for the angel believed to be referred to in the text.[dubious ]

Religious views


The concept of fallen angels is first found in Judaism among texts of the Second Temple era, being applied in particular to Azazel[40] and Satan.[31] However, from the Middle Ages certain Jewish scholars, both rationalist and traditionalist, rejected belief in rebel or fallen angels, since they considered evil as simply the absence of good or at least as not absolute.[41]


Christians adopted the concept of fallen angels mainly based on their interpretations of the Book of Revelation Chapter 12.[1]

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.[42]

In 19th-century Universalism, Universalists such as Thomas Allin (1891)[43] claimed that Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Gregory of Nyssa taught that even the Devil and fallen angels will eventually be saved.[44]

In Unitarianism, Joseph Priestley suggested that the passages refer to Korah.[45] William Graham (1772) suggested that it referred to the spies in Canaan.[46] These passages are generally held today to be commentary, either positive or neutral or negative, on Jewish traditions concerning Enoch circulating in the Early Church.[47]


The Quran mentions angels (malak ملاك) around ninety times, usually in the plural and referring to obedient angels.

The Quran states that Satan was a jinn (as in Islam, angels cannot disobey Allah) and also he is mentioned with the angels in verses (2:34,[48] 7:11, 15:29, 17:61, 18:50, 20:116, 38:71) prior to his fall. Satan (also called Iblis and in Greek diabolos, "the devil") rebelled and was banished on earth, and he vowed to create mischief on earth after being given respite by Allah till the Day of Judgment, according to verses (80-85:38).[49] In Islamic terminology, jinns, like humans, have the capacity to choose whether to obey Allah or disobey him, which means they have free will.

Harut and Marut (Arabic: هاروت وماروت) are two angels sent to test the people of Babylon. That there are fallen angels is not in the Quran and the Quran explicitly states angels have no free will, but are like appendages of Allah.[50][51] But, it is said Allah gave free will to those two angels for 2 months to show them why human beings are superior creatures, and then they were taken back to the heavens. In the meantime, they taught some spiritual things and magic to human beings.(Quran 2:30)


In literature, John Milton's Paradise Lost (7.131-134, etc.), refers to Satan as being "brighter once amidst the host of Angels, than the sun amidst the stars."[52]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Davidson 1994, p. 111
  2. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary 2011, p. 350
  3. Reed 2005, p. 1
  4. Gregory A. Boyd, God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict (InterVarsity Press 1997 ISBN 9780830818853), p. 138
  5. Lester L. Grabbe, A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period (Continuum 2004 ISBN 9780567043528), p. 344
  6. Matthew Black, The Book of Enoch or I Enoch: A New English Edition with Commentary and Textual Notes (Brill 1985 ISBN 9789004071001), p. 14
  7. Grabbe 2004, p. 101
  8. George J. Brooke, Exegesis at Qumran: 4Q Florilegium in Its Jewish Context (Continuum 1985 ISBN 9780905774770), p. 31
  9. Reed 2005, pp. 14, 15
  10. Heinz Schreckenberg, Kurt Schubert, Jewish Historiography and Iconography in Early and Medieval Christianity (Van Gorcum 1992 ISBN 9789023226536), p. 253
  11. Reed 2005, p. 218
  12. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary 2011, p. 1384
  13. Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940. p. 474
  14. Andrei A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology (SUNY Press 2011 ISBN 978-1-43843951-8), p. 164
  15. Reed 2005, p. 14,15
  16. 16.0 16.1 Lester L. Grabbe, An Introduction to First Century Judaism: Jewish Religion and History in the Second Temple Period (Continuum International Publishing Group 1996 ISBN 9780567085061), p. 101
  17. 17.0 17.1 Reed 2005, p. 2
  18. Charlesworth 2011, p. 5
  19. Biblica (Vol. 58 ed.). St. Martin's Press. 1977. p. 586. 
  20. Gregory A. Boyd, God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict (InterVarsity Press 1997 ISBN 9780830818853), p. 138)
  21. 21.0 21.1 Orlov 2011, p. 164
  22. Anderson 2000, p. 64: "In 2 Enoch 18:3... the fall of Satan and his angels is talked of in terms of the Watchers (Grigori) story, and connected with Genesis 6:1–4."
  23. Sources presenting one version of 2 Enoch and sources using a different version
  24. Andrei A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors (SUNY Press 2011 ISBN 9781438439518), p. 93
  25. Most sources
  26. Marc Michael Epstein, Dreams of Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature (Penn State University Press 1997 ISBN 9780271016054), p. 141 and other sources
  27. James Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible (1898 edition reproduced 2004 by the University Press of the Pacific ISBN 9781410217288), vol. 4, p. 409
  28. James H. Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha-set (Hendrickson 2010 ISBN 9781598564891), p. 149
  29. Robert Charles Branden, Satanic Conflict and the Plot of Matthew (Peter Lang 2006 ISBN 9780820479163), p. 30
  30. Charlesworth 2011, pp. 149, 92
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 31.4 "Adele Berlin, Maxine Grossman (editors), ''The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion'' (Oxford University Press 2011 ISBN 9780199730049), p. 651". Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  32. Packer, J.I. (2001). "Satan: Fallen angels have a leader". Concise theology : a guide to historic Christian beliefs. Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House. ISBN 0842339604. 
  33. Revelation 12:9
  34. "The question remains as to what the phrase 'from heaven' modifies— Satan's fall, or 'like lightning'. If it modifies 'like lightning', then we may not be told from where Satan fell. Yet even if we translate, 'I saw Satan fall, like lightning from heaven', it could still be implied that Satan's fall is from the same place" (Ben Witherington, The Christology of Jesus 1990, p. 147).
  35. Revelation 12:9
  36. Charlesworth 2010, p. 149
  37. Schwartz 2004, p. 108
  38. Jewish Encyclopedia: "Lucifer"
  39. "John N. Oswalt, ''The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39'', The International Commentary on the Old Testament (Eerdmans 1986 ISBN 9780802825292), p. 320". Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  40. "Adele Berlin, Maxine Grossman (editors), ''The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion'' (Oxford University Press 2011 ISBN 9780199730049), p. 94". Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  41. Bamberger 2006, pp. 148, 149
  42. "Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The Fall of the Angels" (391-395)". Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  43. Allin, Thomas (1891). Christ Triumphant or Universalism Asserted as the Hope of the Gospel on the Authority of Reason, the Fathers, and Holy Scripture. [page needed]
  44. Itter on Clement, Crouzel & Norris on Origen, etc.
  45. The theological and miscellaneous works of Joseph Priestley, Vol.2
  46. William Graham, An enquiry into the scripture meaning of the word Satan, and its synonimous terms, the devil, or the adversary, and the wicked one. Wherein the notions concerning devils or demons are brought... MA 8vo. is. 6d. Johnson. 1772
  47. The Jewish apocalyptic heritage in early Christianity p 66 ed. James C. VanderKam, William Adler - 1996 "... who would not bring forth fruit to God. since the angels that sinned had commingled with them. ... 206 The translation is from Bauckham, "The Fall of the Angels', 320. 207 'Enoch says that the angels who transgressed taught mankind "
  48. Iblis became Satan: "Behold! We said to the Angels, 'Bow down to Adam': they bowed down except Iblis. He was One of the Jinns, beings born of Fire, making Iblis think he was superior to a being born of Earth, and he broke the Command of his Lord....(Koran, 18:50)"
  49. Jeffrey Burton Russell Lucifer, the Devil in the Middle Ages chapter 'The Muslim Devil' p55
  50. مصباح المنير في تهذيب تفسير إبن كثير Ismāʻīl ibn ʻUmar Ibn Kathīr, Shaykh Safiur Rahman Al Mubarakpuri, Ṣafī al-Raḥmān Mubārakfūrī / The Meaning And Explanation Of The Glorious Qur'an: 1-203 Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman "The Story of Harut and Marut, and the Explanation that They were Angels Allah said, (And such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels, Harut and Marut, but neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they.."
  51. Jan Knappert, Islamic legends: histories of the heroes, saints and prophets of Islam 1985 p59 "Harut and Marut - When the Prophet Idris (sometimes identified with Enoch) entered Paradise after his long life on earth, it is said that he was met by two naughty angels, whose names were Azaya or 'Uzza and 'Aza'il."
  52. "". Retrieved 2012-07-03. 


  • Anderson, ed. by Gary (2000). Literature on Adam and Eve. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9004116001. 
  • Bamberger, Bernard J. (2006). Fallen angels : soldiers of satan's realm (1. paperback ed. 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. 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. ed.). Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9004111190. 
  • Orlov, Andrei A. (2011). Dark mirrors : Azazel and Satanael in early Jewish demonology. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 1438439512. 
  • Platt, Rutherford H. (2004). Forgotten Books of Eden. (Reprint ed.). Forgotten Books. p. 239. ISBN 1605060976. 
  • Reed, Annette Yoshiko (2005). Fallen angels and the history of Judaism and Christianity : the reception of Enochic literature (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-521-85378-1. 
  • Schwartz, Howard (2004). Tree of souls: The mythology of Judaism. New York: Oxford U Pr, N Y. ISBN 0195086791. 
  • Wright, Archie T. (2004). The origin of evil spirits the reception of Genesis 6.1-4 in early Jewish literature. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. ISBN 3161486560. 
  • Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary, [edited by] J.D. Douglas; Silva, Merrill C. Tenney ; revised by Moisés ([Rev. ed.] ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan. ISBN 0310229839. 

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