Gabriel (גַּבְרִיאֵל,’Gavri’el “God is my strength“‘, Γαβριήλ, ‘Gabriel’, جبريل, Jibrīl or جبرائيل Jibrāʾīl), in the Abrahamic religions, is an archangel. He was first described in the Hebrew Bible and was subsequently developed by other traditions.
In the Hebrew Bible, Gabriel appears to the prophet Daniel, to explain his visions (Daniel 8:15–26, 9:21–27). Gabriel the archangel is also a character in other ancient Jewish writings such as the Book of Enoch. Alongside archangel Michael, Gabriel is described as the guardian angel of Israel, defending this people against the angels of the other nations.
In the Gospel of Luke, there is the story of the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah and the Virgin Mary, foretelling the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, respectively (Luke 1:11–38). In many Christian traditions including Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic, Gabriel is also referred to as a saint.
In Islam, Gabriel is an archangel whom God sent with revelation to various prophets, including Muhammad. The first five verses of the 96th chapter of the Quran, the Clot, is believed by Muslims to have been the first verses revealed by Gabriel to Muhammad.
In the Latter Day Saint movement, the angel Gabriel is the same individual as the prophet Noah in his mortal ministry.
In Yazidism, Gabriel is one of the Seven Mysteries, the Heptad to which God entrusted the world and sometimes identified with Melek Taus.
Jewish rabbis interpreted the “man in linen” as Gabriel in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Ezekiel. In the Book of Daniel, Gabriel is responsible for interpreting Daniel’s visions. Gabriel’s main function in Daniel is that of revealer, a role he continues in later literature. In the Book of Ezekiel, Gabriel is understood to be the angel that was sent to destroy Jerusalem. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, Gabriel takes the form of a man, and stands at the left hand of God. Shimon ben Lakish (Syria Palaestina, 3rd century) concluded that the angelic names of Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel came out of the Babylonian exile (Gen. Rab. 48:9). Alongside archangel Michael, Gabriel is described as the guardian angel of Israel, defending this people against the angels of the other nations.
In Kabbalah, Gabriel is identified with the sephirah of Yesod. Gabriel also has a prominent role as one of God’s archangels in the Kabbalah literature. There, Gabriel is portrayed as working in concert with Michael as part of God’s court. Gabriel is not to be prayed to because only God can answer prayers and sends Gabriel as his agent.
According to Jewish mythology, in the Garden of Eden there is a tree of life or the “tree of souls” that blossoms and produces new souls, which fall into the Guf, the Treasury of Souls. Gabriel reaches into the treasury and takes out the first soul that comes into his hand. Then Lailah, the Angel of Conception, watches over the embryo until it is born.
The intertestamental period (roughly 200 BC – 50 AD) produced a wealth of literature, much of it having an apocalyptic orientation. The names and ranks of angels and devils were greatly expanded, and each had particular duties and status before God.
In 1 Enoch 9:1–3, Gabriel, along with Michael, Uriel and Suriel, “saw much blood being shed upon the earth” (9:1) and heard the souls of men cry, “Bring our cause before the Most High.” (9:3) In 1 Enoch 10:1, the reply came from “the Most High, the Holy and Great One” who sent forth agents, including Gabriel—
And the Lord said to Gabriel: “‘Proceed against the bastards and the reprobates, and against the children of fornication: and destroy [the children of fornication and] the children of the Watchers from amongst men [and cause them to go forth]: send them one against the other that they may destroy each other in battle: for length of days shall they not have.” —1 Enoch 10:9
Gabriel is the fifth of the five angels who keep watch: “Gabriel, one of the holy angels, who is over Paradise and the serpents and the Cherubim.” (1 Enoch 20:7)
When Enoch asked who the four figures were that he had seen: “And he said to me: ‘This first is Michael, the merciful and long-suffering: and the second, who is set over all the diseases and all the wounds of the children of men, is Raphael: and the third, who is set over all the powers, is Gabriel: and the fourth, who is set over the repentance unto hope of those who inherit eternal life, is named Phanuel.’ And these are the four angels of the Lord of Spirits and the four voices I heard in those days.” (Enoch 40:9)
First, concerning John the Baptist, an angel appeared to his father Zacharias, a priest of the course of Abia, (Luke 1:5-7) whose barren wife Elisabeth was of the daughters of Aaron, while he ministered in the temple:
Luke 1:10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb [deaf], and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
(Luke 1:10-20 KJV) (other versions: Luke 1:1-25)
After completing his week of ministry, Zacharias returned to his house (in Hebron) and his wife Elizabeth conceived. After she completed “five months” (Luke 1:21-25) of her pregnancy, Gabriel is mentioned again:
Luke 1:26 ¶ And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
(Luke 1:26-38 KJV) (other versions: Luke 1:26-38)
Gabriel only appears by name in those two passages in Luke. In the first passage the angel identified himself as Gabriel, but in the second it is Luke who identified him as Gabriel. The only other named angels in the New Testament are Michael the Archangel (in Jude 1:9) and Abaddon (in Revelation 9:11) . Gabriel is not called an archangel in the Bible. Believers are expressly warned not to worship angels (in Colossians 2:18-19 and Revelation 19:10).
The trope of Gabriel blowing a trumpet blast to indicate the Lord’s return to Earth is especially familiar in Negro spirituals. However, though the Bible mentions a trumpet blast preceding the resurrection of the dead, it never specifies Gabriel as the trumpeter. Different passages state different things: the angels of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:31); the voice of the Son of God (John 5:25-29); God’s trumpet (I Thessalonians 4:16); seven angels sounding a series of blasts (Revelation 8-11); or simply “a trumpet will sound” (I Corinthians 15:52).
In related traditions, Gabriel is again not identified as the trumpeter. In Judaism, trumpets are prominent, and they seem to be blown by God himself, or sometimes Michael. In Zoroastrianism, there is no trumpeter at the last judgement. In Islamic tradition, it is Israfil who blows the trumpet, though he is not named in the Qur’an. The Christian Church Fathers do not mention Gabriel as the trumpeter; early English literature similarly does not.
The earliest known identification of Gabriel as the trumpeter comes in John Wycliffe’s 1382 tract, De Ecclesiæ Dominio. In the year 1455, in Armenian art, there is an illustration in an Armenian manuscript showing Gabriel sounding his trumpet as the dead climb out of their graves. Two centuries later, Gabriel is identified as the trumpeter, in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667):
Betwixt these rockie pillars Gabriel sat
Chief of the Angelic guards (IV.545f)…
He ended, and the Son gave signal high
To the bright minister that watch’d, he blew
His trumpet, heard in Oreb since perhaps
When God descended, and perhaps once more
To sound at general doom. (XI.72ff).
Later, Gabriel’s horn is omnipresent in Negro spirituals, but it is unclear how the Byzantine conception inspired Milton and the spirituals, though they presumably have a common source.
Gabriel’s horn also makes an appearance in The Eyes of Texas (1903) where it signifies the rapture.
In Marc Connelly’s play based on spirituals, The Green Pastures (1930), Gabriel has his beloved trumpet constantly with him, and the Lord has to warn him not to blow it too soon. Four years later “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” was introduced by Ethel Merman in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes (1934).
Saint Gabriel Archangel’s festivity day was exclusively celebrated the 18th of March as of many sources dating between the years 1588 and 1921, except for a source published in 1856, where the feast was celebrated on April 7th for unknown reasons (a parentheses notes that the day is normally celebrated on 18 March). Writer Elizabeth Drayson mentions the feast being celebrated in March 18 the year of 1588 in her 2013 book: “The Lead Books of Granada”. Drayson, Elizabeth (January 13, 2016). The Lead Books of Granada. Palgrave Macmillan – 2013 edition. p. 3. ISBN113735884X.
One of the oldest out of print sources pronouncing the feast for 18 March, was first published in 1608 and has the name “Flos sanctorum: historia general de la vida y hechos de Jesu-Christo … y de los santos de que reza y haze fiesta la Iglesia Catholica …” by the Spanish writer Alonso de Villegas, a newer edition of this book was published in the year 1794. Another source published in Ireland in 1886 «The Irish Ecclesiastical Record» also mentions March 18. There is a painting from 1886 by the Italian artist Diodore Rahoult, the 18th of March appears on the painting as well.
The feast of Saint Gabriel was included for the first time in the General Roman Calendar in 1921, for celebration on 24 March. It is unknown whether this was a temporary change, however there is no recent mention of the feast commemoration between the years 1921 and 1969. In 1969 the day was officially transferred to 29 September for celebration in conjunction with the feast of St. Michael and St. Raphael. The Church of England has also adopted the 29 September date, known as Michaelmas.
The Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite celebrate his feast day on 8 November (for those churches that follow the traditional Julian Calendar, 8 November currently falls on 21 November of the modern Gregorian Calendar, a difference of 13 days). Eastern Orthodox commemorate him, not only on his November feast, but also on two other days: 26 March is the “Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel” and celebrates his role in the Annunciation.
13 July is also known as the “Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel”, and celebrates all the appearances and miracles attributed to Gabriel throughout history. The feast was first established on Mount Athos when, in the 9th century, during the reign of Emperor Basil II and the Empress Constantina Porphyrogenitus and while Nicholas Chrysoverges was Patriarch of Constantinople, the Archangel appeared in a cell near Karyes, where he wrote with his finger on a stone tablet the hymn to the Theotokos, “It is truly meet…”.
The Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates his feast on 13 Paoni, 22 Koiak and 26 Paoni.
The Ethiopian Church celebrates his feast on 28 December, with a sizeable number of its believers making a pilgrimage to a church dedicated to “Saint Gabriel” in Kulubi on that day.
Additionally, Gabriel is the patron saint of messengers, those who work for broadcasting and telecommunications such as radio and television, remote sensing, postal workers, clerics, diplomats, and stamp collectors.
Latter-day Saint teachings
In Latter-day Saint theology, Gabriel is believed to have lived a mortal life as the prophet Noah. The two are regarded as the same individual; Noah being his mortal name and Gabriel being his heavenly name.
Main articles: Holy Spirit in Islam and Angel of the Lord
Gabriel (Arabic: جبرائيل Jibrāʾīl or جبريل, Jibrīl in Modern Cairo Edition) is venerated as an archangel and as the Angel of Revelation in Islam. As the Bible portrays Gabriel as a celestial messenger sent to Daniel, Mary, and Zechariah, so too Islamic tradition holds that Gabriel was sent to numerous pre-Islamic prophets with revelation and divine injunctions, including Adam, whom Muslims believe was consoled by Gabriel some time after the Fall. He is known by many names in Islam, such as “keeper of holiness”, “peacock of paradise”.
Gabriel is often misconstrued as the Holy Spirit. The Quran distinctly separates the angels and the Spirit (17:85,70:4,78:38,97:4). A related passage 70:4, reads:
The angels and the Spirit ascend unto him in a Day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousands years:
Another passage 78:38, states:
The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand forth in ranks,
none shall speak except any who is permitted by (Allah) Most Gracious,
and He will say what is right.
And in passage 97:4 the separation continues:
Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah’s permission, on every errand:
According to Muslim belief, God revealed the Quran to the Islamic prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, and the fifty-third chapter of the text describes the angel without naming him, in a passage that Islamic commentators have unanimously interpreted as referring to Gabriel. The passage in question, 53:4-11, reads:
This is naught but a revelation revealed,
taught him by one mighty in power,
very strong; he stood poised
being on the higher horizon,
then drew near and suspended hung,
two bows’-length away, or nearer,
then revealed to His servant that he revealed.
Gabriel is also named numerous times in the Qur’an (2:97 and 66:4 for example). In 2:92-96, the Quran mentions Gabriel along with Michael, who is also venerated as an exalted angel in Islam. In Muslim tradition, Gabriel is considered one of the primary archangels. Exegesis narrates that Muhammad saw Gabriel in his full angelic splendor only twice, the first time being when he received his first revelation.
Muslims also revere Gabriel for a number of historical events predating the first revelation. Muslims believe that Gabriel was the angel who informed Zachariah of John’s birth as well as Mary of the future nativity of Jesus, and that Gabriel was one of three angels who had earlier informed Abraham of the birth of Isaac. All of these events can be found also in the Quran. Gabriel also makes a famous appearance in the Hadith of Gabriel, where he questions Muhammad on the core tenets of Islam.
Contrary to Christian tradition, Islamic traditions depict Gabriel as the warring angel, instead of Michael. Accordingly he aided Muhammed to overcome his adversaries, significantly during the Battle of Badr and against a demon during the Mi’raj. Further, similar to Gabriel in Judaism, Gabriel is also an angel responsible for the acts of destruction of people God wants to be annihilated.
Art, entertainment, and media
Angels are described as pure spirits. The lack of a defined form allows artists wide latitude in depicting them. Amelia R. Brown draws comparisons in Byzantine iconography between portrayals of angels and the conventions used to depict court eunuchs. Mainly from the Caucasus, they tended to have light eyes, hair, and skin; and those “castrated in childhood developed a distinctive skeletal structure, lacked full masculine musculature, body hair and beards….” As officials, they would wear a white tunic decorated with gold. Brown suggests that “Byzantine artists drew, consciously or not, on this iconography of the court eunuch”. Some recent popular works on angels consider Gabriel to be female or androgynous.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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