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Q: Source for notion that dead people become angels ( Answered,   9 Comments )
Subject: Source for notion that dead people become angels
Category: Relationships and Society > Religion
Asked by: lectiodifficilior-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 11 Jun 2004 20:17 PDT
Expires: 11 Jul 2004 20:17 PDT
Question ID: 359945
I would like one or more early and influential sources for the notion 
that humans become angels after death. I understand this is not well
grounded in the Bible, has never been standard Christian theology,
Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, but I'm quite sure it was dreamed up
by _Its a Wonderful Life_ either. The source must be
clear and influential, rather than something that you find suggestive.
Do not submit biblical citations, Swedenborg, Blavatsky, or the like,
and I won't take modern productions?novels, cartoons, television or
movies?without rock-solid academic proof that this is the origin of
the idea. A stray comment by Tertullian? A medieval mystic? Dante? I
don't expect they'll be anything in Jewish or Islamic, but something
really solid there would also count.
Subject: Re: Source for notion that dead people become angels
Answered By: digsalot-ga on 11 Jun 2004 23:23 PDT
Hello there

We must first understand that angels and angelic type divinities and
divine messengers are creatures common to many ancient and current
religions other than Judaism and Christianity.  Angels announced the
birth of Mithras to shepherds just as they announced the birth of
Jesus.  Angels are a feature in Zoroastrianism.  Angel type winged
divinities were part of the ancient world from the winged godesses of
Egypt to Sumeria to Babylon and beyond.  And many concepts of angels
have no wings at all.

Even the appearance of angels has changed with time.  The Sumerian
original version of them was that they were entities that were
relatively fierce looking beings that had the body of an ox or horse
and the face of a man with a long beard and wings. They were supposed
to have been sent to guard the Tree of Life in the Garden of Creation

Angels or angelic type beings have in most all ancient religions
divine messengers sent to humans to instruct, inform, or command them.
An angel can function also as a protective guardian, as a heavenly
warrior, and even as a cosmic power. Moreover, the line between a good
angel and a bad angel, or demon, is sometimes unclear. Hence, angels
can be broadly described as personified powers mediating between the
divine and the human.

In Islam, the Koran says: "He [God] sends forth guardians who watch
over you and carry away your souls without fail when death overtakes
you."  Guardian angels are angels assigned by God for protection.
There are guardian angels for almost everything including people,
nations, planets, plants, animals and governments.  In the Book of
Enoch, where he speaks of being taken to the First and Sixth Heavens
by the angels, you will see that they are watching the stars and the
heavens - counting and measuring the motions of said stars and planets
and cycles of time.

In Zoroastrianism there are the Fravashi, spirits of ancestors who are
also guardian angels.  Zoroastrianism has exercised an influence on
the doctrines of other religions disproportionate to its size. It was
founded in ancient Persia in about 1000 BC (some sources say much
earlier) by the prophet Zoroaster.  Due to this influence and the
process of religious syncretism, this belief passed into western
culture and has been accepted even without the authority of western
scriptures to support it.  Such syncretism may also have altered the
story into one in which all the 'blessed' dead become angels.

This syncretism took place during the Babylonian Exile, The Jews had a
different cultural environment in Babylon.  They no longer had their
Temple for it was destroyed, and some Jews proclaimed Yahweh's defeat
at the hands of Marduk Bel, the supreme deity of Babylon.  However,
after the Exile was over, and some of the Jews returned to Israel and
the Jewish religion acquired a stronger identity.  For example,
Yahweh's status as the One and Only God, for the first time started to
appear in Biblical literature after the Exile, as well as the
conceptualization of the hierarchy of angels, dualism, creation, life
after death, laws, the Messiah, and the last judgement.

How did this happen?

The answer to this is that it was the influence of Zoroastrianism, the
first monotheistic religion in written history.  Through its
interaction with Zoroastrianism during the Exile and the two hundred
years after, The Jewish religion adopted, assimilated, and
appropriated the main tenets of Zoroastrian religious thought. 
Zoroastrianism had a tremendous effect on the development of
post-Exilic Judaism and had defined the main tenets of Judeo-Christian
thought.  Though the concept of the dead becoming angels did not
formally enter scriptures (according to some interpretations - more on
that later), just as in other faiths, popular devotion as opposed to
official teaching is often too strong to overcome.

The pre-Christian cult known as Essenes also had a concept of the dead
becoming angels (or beings with perfected bodys).  The Essenes were
preparing for the introduction of Heaven on earth by trying to be as
holy as they could, perfection if they could achieve it. They
expected, if successful, to be resurrected as angels, and so eschewed
sex and lived a life of chastity?practising to be angels. For this
reason too they identified the Messiah with the leader of the Heavenly
Host, the archangel Michael, whose arrival would sweep evil to
destruction.  Many of the first Christians believed Jesus would be the
archangel Michael when He returned.  Once again syncrestic tendencies
may be found between the Essenes and early - even later - Christianity
and Judaism.

This next source some might consider modern and others state point
blank that it has an ancient origin depending on one's own personal
religious views.  Here I am speaking of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints (Mormons).

According to Mormon teachings: - "There are two kinds of beings in
heaven who are called angels: those who are spirits and those who have
bodies of flesh and bone. Angels who are spirits have not yet obtained
a body of flesh and bone, or they are spirits who have once had a
mortal body and are awaiting resurrection. Angels who have bodies of
flesh and bone have either been resurrected from the dead or

Another part of the same definition states, "The word angel is used in
various ways. A person who is a divine messenger is called an angel.
Thus Moroni, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elijah, and
Elias all ministered to Joseph Smith as angels. These all shall be
exalted and inherit celestial glory. The scriptures also speak of
another class of persons who, because of failure to obey the gospel,
will not be exalted and will become angels in eternity.... This latter
designation should not be confused with the use of the term angels
having reference to the heavenly messengers sent forth to minister to
the inhabitants of the earth." Thus when the term angel is used it
usually means the person is a resurrect being, such as the Angel

So according to this religious teaching, the dead can and do become
angels.  Not necessarily all of them but the process is real and does
take place according to LDS teachings.  As I say, whether you consider
the source modern or as a new revealing of ancient truth is
subjective.  However, I feel it has merit as a "rock-solid" modern
source of the belief.  Once again syncretism may also be at work as
LDS influence in the modern religious world is strong.

And of course there are other Christian denominations who state people
become angels and provide Biblical backing for the claim in just as
strong terms as those who claim the Bible provides no such backing. 
Such as: - "Many people take it as a matter of course that when we
die, if we are good, we will become angels in heaven. There are many
Christians, on the other hand, who believe that angels are members of
a superior race of spiritual beings, who were created before the world
began. Some even picture angels, as having wings and living among the
clouds. This concept of angels, however, is not solidly based on the
Bible. In fact, the Bible gives us quite a few reasons for believing
that angels are simply people who have died and gone to heaven." -
While we get away from the wings here, you will learn just why some
believe this way: 

So as you can see, the concept of the dead becoming angels has its
believers from the remote past and into the modern with the modern
sources claiming ancient origin.  The earliest source for which there
is ample evidence is to be found in Zoroastrianism.

It would be impossible to point to a single source and say "this is
THE point of origin for the idea."

We also need to remember that every single faith practiced in ancient
and modern times alike is in reality 'two' faiths.  There is the
"church" as understood by the leadership who are versed and trained
into what the "church" actually teaches - and there is the church of
the 'pew potatoes' who have a "popular" view of what the church or
faith teaches and often the two views are very far apart.

It is very easy for a religious body to officially teach that the
"deceased become AS angels" and the pew potato to interpret it as
"when we die, we become angels."

The ultimate source for the idea would be an amalgamation of ancient
teachings, syncretism (especially in 'popular devotion'),
misinterpretation of official doctrine, wishfull thinking and some
poetic license.  The belief has been around for many thousands of

Search - Google
Terms - angels, death and angels, history of angels, concepts of angels

Other sources used for the answer than the one found within the answer: - "Fravashis by
Micha F. Lindemans" from and Encyclopedia Mythica - a
brief description of Fravahis
- This is the HTML version of a downloadable "doc" file - the doc file
is - Angels. Jewish Mythology. AskWhy! Publications -
Essene and Christian Parallels and Commonalties - Catholic Encyclopedia - Essenes - Angels and
Resurrected Beings - LDS -

Plus personal knowledge as an archaeologist, anthropologist, historian

If I may clarify anything before you rate the answer, please ask.


Request for Answer Clarification by lectiodifficilior-ga on 12 Jun 2004 00:07 PDT
Thanks for writing so much, but your answer doesn't meet specs. For
starters, I was not asking for general info on angels, so much of your
answer is off-topic. The Zoroastrian connection, for example, was both
known to me and underwhelming. Zoroastrian conceptions of the angelic
were *more* abstract than Christian and Jewish ones, and certainly did
not include the concept of dead-as-angels. Islam is no better. The
Essene material?hardly to spec anyway?may claim antiquity, but can't
claim to *influence*. The Dead Sea Scrolls were lost until modern
times and the sum total of information on them could be found in a few
lines of Pliny. As for your "other Christian denominations" you
offered what I specifically requested you omit: Swedenborgians!

As I see it, the one piece of meat was the bit about Mormonism.
Unfortunately, I fall into the camp of those who don't credit
Mormonism with antiquity. So, this proves that conceptions of the
dead-as-angels was knocking around Protestant circles in early 19th
century America. But that's hardly surprising, is it? It was clearly
current in 18th century Sweden too.

Your comments about popular belief and syncretism certainly have
merit. Angels are certainly an interesting case. Like magic or
astrology, angels crossed the pagan-monotheist divide, and found a
home in Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Zoroastrian faiths. As with
magic, popular sentiment is no doubt crucial. But even popular belief
has an origin in time and finds tangigle expression. I don't recall
the early chuch fathers or heresy-writers condemning the belief in
dead-as-angels, as they certainly would if it were known to them.
(Angelolatry, which was condemned, is of an entirely different
character.) There are certainly such voices today, but how far back
can we push it? I'm betting past Luther.

So, some Mormon meat, but no answer per se.

Clarification of Answer by digsalot-ga on 12 Jun 2004 05:42 PDT
Hello again

Yes, much of the answer was for the purpose of providing a general
background on the subject.  It does become a guessing game as to just
what a question asker actually knows about a particular subject and
what they don't.  Some complain if general background is not provided
before a specific answer is given and others complain that such
information is not necessary, as in this case.  There is no way of
knowing short of being a mind reader and that perhaps is only within
the provenence of the angels. I now simply provide it as a matter of
course as part of an answer and the "thanks for the extra" usually
outweigh the complaints.

There is a writing sometimes called the "manifesto" of the Italian
Renaissance, Pico della Mirandola's "Oration on the Dignity of Man." 
And it does address the subject of man becoming angels in a direct
manner.  But until your clarification request came in, I didn't think
it fell under the criteria.  Now I see that it possibly does.

"If these seeds are intellectual, he will be an angel and the son of
God. And if, satisfied with no created thing, he removes himself to
the center of his own unity, his spiritual soul, united with God,
alone in the darkness of God, who is above all things, he will surpass
every created thing. "
- From Washington state University

"But on man, the Father conferred, at the moment of birth, the seeds
and germ of every form of life. Those which he cultivates will grow in
him and bear fruit. If they are the plant seeds, he will vegetate; if
he follows the senses, he will become an animal; if he cultivates the
power of reason within him, he will become a celestial creature; if he
follows intelligence, he will become an angel and a son of God.'" - A
discussion list from Sheffield University

My Latin is extremely hazy, but this looks like the right bit: 

28. Nascenti homini omnifaria semina et omnigenae vitae germina indidit Pater. 

29. Quae quisque excoluerit illa adolescent, et fructus suos ferent in illo. 

30. Si vegetalia planta fiet, si sensualia obrutescet, si rationalia
caeleste evadet animal, si intellectualia angelus erit et Dei filius. -
From Brown University

As for the early chuch fathers or heresy-writers condemning the belief in
dead-as-angels, as they certainly would if it were known to them, - -
there is also much they missed and much they misunderstood.  As I
mentioned in another post found in comments for another question, St.
Augustine even stated the God worshipped by the Mithran priests was
the same God he worshipped and Augustine was one of the great pillars
of Christian doctrine.  And that is certainly a subject that should
have met with condemnation rather than with simple misunderstanding
and acceptance.

And while it is true that the Dead Sea scrolls were lost till modern
times, that does not negate the influence of their teachings on the
early church and the passing on of such beliefs through oral popular

So Pico will perhaps provide some of the "meat" and his influence from
the Renaissance forward cannot be denied.

You will also find additional material about Pico as well as other
information in Gordon Fisher's book, *The Marriage of Astronomy and
Astrology: History of Astral Prediction from Antiquity to Newton

It may be that a continued exchange of clarifications will be needed
in order to pin down just what you are looking for.  If so, please
continue to ask for them or make suggestions.  I don't like cutting
things off before the asker is happy.


Clarification of Answer by digsalot-ga on 12 Jun 2004 06:07 PDT
P.S. - My apologies about the Swedenborgians.  I went back to that
website and after going through a few pages found a link called "to
learn more."

I had heard of "New church" which is why I went there to start with
but never made the connection between them and Swedenborgians till

My learning curve grows.

Subject: Re: Source for notion that dead people become angels
From: probonopublico-ga on 11 Jun 2004 23:59 PDT
Digs ...

Permit me to say MARVELLOUS!

I've always suspected that you were an angel ...

Could you please quote for me 24/7 Guardianship?


(I already subscribe to the on-line Guardian crossword.)
Subject: Re: Source for notion that dead people become angels
From: mister2u-ga on 12 Jun 2004 07:35 PDT
Interesting question,there is no Biblical evidence that people(dead or
alive)ever become angels(who were God's first creation,they shouted
with joy when the universe was created)neither do they go to heaven or
hell when they die.Angels are indestructable as they are composed of
spirit,the book of Revelations tells us that flesh and blood human
beings will be resurrected as spirit beings(but not angels) at the
first resurrection,there are a great deal of myths regarding this and
related issues.Hope that helps.
Subject: Re: Source for notion that dead people become angels
From: apteryx-ga on 12 Jun 2004 10:45 PDT
The Apostle's Creed says "the resurrection of the *body*."
Subject: Re: Source for notion that dead people become angels
From: pugwashjw-ga on 14 Jun 2004 06:18 PDT
Dear Lecti. I don`t think it is possible to comment on spiritual
matters WITHOUT using the Bible. Many commentaries have been written
about the subject but in most cases the source material IS the Bible.
And it would be interesting to hear from a practising Jewish or Muslim
person just what their scriptures say about it. But as for the Bible,
Revelation 14;1 to 5 says that 144,000 persons who once lived on the
earth will be "bought" from the earth to live with Jesus as Kings and
Priests. The word "bought" is because they were "paid for" by Jesus
sacrifice or spilled blood. The word should not be translated
"brought", even though they were taken up to heaven. The number may
not yet be filled. Because of their earthly experience, which angels
do NOT have, their position in heaven will be above the angels. Jesus`
position is made clear at Colossians 1;15."He is the image of the
invisible God, the FIRSTBORN
Subject: Re: Source for notion that dead people become angels
From: pugwashjw-ga on 14 Jun 2004 06:48 PDT
of all creation". God created Jesus to be beside Him as a master
worker, before creating the heavens, and stars,  and earth, and
animals and people last [Adam and Eve]. Proverbs 8;22"Jehovah himself
produced me as the beginning of His way, the EARLIEST of His
achievements of long ago. 23. From times indefinite I was installed,
from the start, from times earlier than the earth".Verse 30.."then I
came to be beside Him as a master worker". And Hebrews 2;5..For it is
NOT to angels that He has subjected the inhabited earth to come, about
which we are speaking". The earth was not made for angels.. They
already existed. The earth was made for man. And what happens when man
dies? Psalms 115;17..The dead themselves DO NOT praise Jah { God}.
What is the condition of the dead? Ecclesiastes 9;5..The living are
conscious that they will die, but as for the dead, they are conscious
of nothing at all. verse6; their love and their hate and their
jealousy have already perished, and they have NO PORTION ANYMORE to
time indefinite in anything that has to be done under the sun". Isaiah
26;14."They are dead, they will not live, impotent in death, they will
NOT rise up". All these scriptures put together show that peoplke DO
NOT becomes angels at death. The commenter Apteryx is right about
mentioning the "body". After Armageddon, people will be resurrected
back to earth, with NO death awaiting them. Revelation 21;4. And He
will wipe out every tear from their eyes, AND DEATH WILL BE NO MORE
neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore, The former
things have PASSED AWAY. All these scriptures point to a much better
Subject: Re: Source for notion that dead people become angels
From: lectiodifficilior-ga on 14 Jun 2004 22:07 PDT
Pugwash: The Bible is, of course, central to Christian theology and to
Christian writings of all periods. Nevertheless, in the 2000-odd years
since then, Christians have believed many ideas which are poorly
supported by the Bible, or even directly contradicted by it, and
attitudes toward the appropriate way to interpret the Bible have
varied considerably. These are facts of intellectual history, however
you deplore them. Moreover, Christians of all periods and places, with
the exception of a splinter group of relatively recent origin, have
acknowledged other sources of authentic religious understanding, such
as creeds and documents produced by councils, writings of Christian
writers judged to have spoken the mind of the church, and the acts and
words of certain exemplary Christians. This splinter group includes
some whose critical and interpretive faculties are so wholly shriveled
by their own idiosyncratic and ahistorial approach that they hold many
opinions that Christians of the first three-quarters of Christian
history would have hardly recognized them as coreligionists.
Fortunately, the rest of the Church is more tolerant than it once was,
and they are merely regarded as curious and a bit funny. Look, if you
poke them, they move.

In any case, my question was not "do the dead become angels?" but
"where does the notion come from that the dead become angels?" As you
apparently agree, this notion is not well-grounded in the Bible.
Despite being unanswerable from the Bible?alongside other questions
like "what is the specific gravity of lead?" and "what's for
dinner?"?it's still a perfectly respectable and perhaps even
interesting question.

The passage from Revelation has scant relation to angels, but deserves
comment anyway. First, the word is "bought" not "brought" because it's
egorasthesan, from agorein, the plain-Jane word for "to buy." There is
no other answer--I believe in the text too, you see. In addition to
being "bought" by Jesus, they are also said to have "kept their
virginity, and not been defiled by women." It's unclear whether they
are the same mentioned at 7.4 et seq., but, in neither passage does
John mention they are above angels. Perhaps this sort of unsupported
assertion is what John meant when he closed his book by calling down
punishment on those who add words to his book.
Subject: Re: Source for notion that dead people become angels
From: slakemoth-ga on 09 Jul 2004 15:00 PDT
Here is a link to an excellent article on "the Straight Dope" website
called "Whats the deal with Angels". While it doesn't answer your
question directly, it is however something I think you will enjoy
reading. It covers their history, biblical accounts, evolution over
time, and orders and heirarchies....
Subject: Re: Source for notion that dead people become angels
From: pugwashjw-ga on 29 Jul 2004 02:28 PDT
Hi Lectio, Better late than never. In your very interesting comment,
you said the apostle John " does not mention they are above angels".
Firstly, angels were created and are immortal, never to die [ except
in the case of Satan and his demons, who once were angels but defied
God] . The one hundred and forty four thousand mentioned in Revelation
14;1, are again mentioned in Revelation 20;4..and they came to life
and ruled as kings WITH THE CHRIST for a thousand years". Angels in
the Bible are regarded as holy "messengers", not kings and priests.
Where angels are mentioned, they are always carrying out duties and
praising God. The scripture at Revelation 14;4, about not defiling
themselves with women, can be a bit misleading because it refers to
their SPIRITUAL condition of purity , not to their previous behaviour
when they were alive as men on the earth. Once they died, their sinful
state was negated because " the wages sin pays is death". Their sinful
state was inherited from Adam, the first man but once they
died....14;5..."and no falsehood was found in their mouths, they are
without blemish" . These ones are the twenty four elders, dressed in
white robes. Revelation 7;13-17 explains that they come out of the
GREAT TRIBULATION, and have suffered on the earth. Angels CANNOT
suffer in any physical sense. In Revelation 19;1 the angels are
referred to a a great crowd in heaven. The twent four Elders are
mentioned as a separate group in verse 4. Revelation 20, verse 6 also
states..but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will
rule as kings with him for the thousand years. The book of Revelation
IS very deep but can be understood if God allows it.
Subject: Re: Source for notion that dead people become angels
From: answersguy-ga on 09 Aug 2004 07:00 PDT
Any account of angels that is factual can only be found in the Holy bible.
All other accounts, such as islamic, or anything other than the
Christian account are false.
The Holy bible is the only book that can be backed up by facts and/or
mere reason.  The origin of the idea people turn into angels, is
mainly from the imaginations of people.  Just like other imagined
ideas such as evolution, vampires, and crazy ideas like people inherit
a planet in the after-life.  has many facts on this subject.
ThanX <><

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