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Monday, October 10, 2016

M3 Lucifer's Wings

            The show Lucifer is pretty popular with its swaggering, English-accented devil, which drives renewed interest in angels and the Bible. So, how accurate is its portrayal of Lucifer? Let’s take it in pieces. First on the list is what I found to be one of the most striking visuals of the series’ first season: Lucifer’s wings. Without a doubt, the production on the prop wings is top-notch. They are gorgeous.
            The thing is, nowhere in the Bible does it state that angels have wings. There aren’t very many appearances of angels in the Bible, and what we do have is sparse in their descriptions. Cherubim are set to guard the Garden of Eden from Adam and Eve sneaking back in, but no description of them is given. There is a flaming sword, but it’s not clear if the cherubs are holding and spinning the sword. An angel visits Abraham regarding the sacrifice of Isaac, but, again, there’s no description.
            The best description of an angel actually comes from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two angels go in undercover to assess the wickedness of Sodom. Lot, Abraham’s cousin, approaches, asking the two if they have a place to stay. Since they don’t, he invites them in. Throughout the entire encounter, the men in the city and Lot only refer to the angels as men: “Where are the men who came to you tonight?” (Gen 19:5), “do nothing to these men” (Gen 19:8), and “the men seized [Lot] . . . and left him outside the city” (Gen 9:17).
            While there is no actual description of what an angel looks like, they can pass for human with no difficulty. There is no mention of wings, no mention of flying. In fact, if we look closely, Lot, his wife, and his daughters were taken “by the hand” and “brought them outside” (Gen 9:16-17), suggesting an escape on foot is more likely than one by flight. Sorry, fans of Christopher Reeve’s Superman, but flying with someone outstretched and held by one hand just isn’t practical.
            If the undercover routine isn’t enough proof, we can page back to Genesis 6, before the flood, “when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them” (Gen 6:4). Since there’s a differentiation between humans and the sons of God, we have to infer that these would be angels. Not only do they look human, they have to have compatibility with humans in order to sire children.
            So, yes, Lucifer gets points for Lucifer and Amenadiel appearing and passing for human. But the wings are not in the Bible. The closest we come is that angels have a habit of appearing suddenly, such as they did to Abraham or in their appearances to Mary and heralding the birth of Christ. But these are simply sudden appearances. Nowhere does it mention the power of flight.
            So where did this whole thing come from? Angels really came into their own during the Middle Ages as the Catholic church sought to explain things in more detail. There sudden appearances had to be explained as flying, how else could they move so quickly? Moreover, angels come from heaven, which is above the earth. They would have to fly in order to go between heaven and earth, right? And how do things fly other than to have wings. Combine this with passages such as the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and it paints a very vivid picture.
The wing thing gets expanded on as great thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas start differentiating different categories and an entire hierarchy of angels. One of the distinguishing features of higher and lower ranked angels? the number of wings. The higher the rank of the angel, the more wings it has, with Seraphim having the most with six wings (three pairs).
Lucifer, as the highest of angels, would have been a member of this order. So, if angels did have wings—still not supported by the Bible—Lucifer would need more than two wings to denote his (once) high station in angelic hierarchy.
But Hollywood didn’t go with this; that’s fine. Popular belief is that angels have wings, and that the number of the wings shall be two. But it is interesting to see what other corners may have been cut, and while they might have missed this mark, they nailed some of the others, such as the fact that Lucifer can—and frequently does—have physical relationships with human women, just as the passage in Genesis 6:4 stated angels could do. At least, at that point in the Bible. There’s evidence to suggest that the view on angels (and demons, for that matter) evolved throughout the Bible over time, but that has nothing to do with wings.

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