Number and Hierarchy of the Angels
Number of the Angels
I. We are certain, from Revelation. that the number of Angels is exceedingly great, forming an army worthy ot the greatness of God. This army of the King of heaven is mention in Deut. xxx. 2; then in the vision of Daniel (vii. 10), and in many other places.
How Many Kinds?
II. If the Angels can be numbered, there must exist between them at least personal differences; that is to say, each angel has his own personality. But whether they are all of the same kind, like man, or constitute several kinds, or are each of a different kind or species, is a question upon which Theologians differ.
The Nine Choirs
III. The Fathers have divided the Angels into nine Orders or Choirs, the names of which are taken from Scripture. They are: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels. The first two and the last two orders are often named in Holy Writ; the five others are taken from Ephes. i. 21 and Col. i. 16. It seems clear enough, especially if we take into account the all but unanimous testimony of the Fathers, that these names designate various Orders of Angels; whence it follows that there are at least nine such Orders—not, however, that there are only nine. Considering, however, that for the last thirteen centuries the number nine has been accepted as the exact number of angelical Choirs, we are justified in accepting it as correct.
It is impossible to determine the differences between the several Orders of Angels with anything like precision. The three highest Orders bear names which seem to point to constant relations with God, as if these Angels formed especially the heavenly court; the three lowest express relations to man; the three middle ones only point to might and power generally.
The fallen angels probably retain the same distinctions as the good ones, because these distinctions are, in all likelihood, founded upon differences in natural perfections. Scripture speaks of “the prince of demons” (Matt. xii. 24), and applies some of the names of angelic Orders to bad angels (Eph. vi. 12).
Source: Wilhelm, Joseph and Thomas B. Scannell. A Manual of Catholic Theology: Based on Scheeben’s “Dogmatik”, Volume 1. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Lt., 1906.