Where have all the angels gone?

9. The teaching of Scripture on the creation of angels.

Augustine (354-430) - Twenty-two books on the divine state
11th book

So now that I have resolved to act on the origin of the holy city and believe I should speak first of the holy angels, who make up a large part of this city and who are all the happier as it never makes pilgrimages abroad I seek to explain the divine testimonies about them, as far as the context requires, with God's assistance. In the creation account of the Holy Scriptures it is not explicitly stated whether and where in the order the angels were created; but if they have not gone unmentioned at all, they are to be understood under the word “heaven” in the passage: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth”, or rather under that light of which I just spoke. I conclude that they have not gone unmentioned from the fact that it is said that of all his works that he created, God rested on the seventh day, while on the other hand the creation account begins with the words: "In the beginning God created heaven and earth", so that we must surely assume that he created nothing before heaven and earth. Since the beginning was made with heaven and earth and the earth, as the Holy Scriptures further tells us, was initially invisible and disordered after its creation and, of course, before the creation of light "darkness hovered over the abyss", i. i. over a kind of unseparated mingling of earth and water [where there is no light there must be darkness] and afterwards everything was arranged by acts of creation, which according to the report came to a conclusion in a sequence of six days, how should the angels have remained unmentioned as if they were not part of the works of God, from which he rested on the seventh day? At least at this point, if not unmentioned, it is not clearly stated that the angels are God's work; but elsewhere the Holy Scriptures testify to this in very clear words. Thus in the hymn of praise of the three men1 in the fiery furnace, where it first says: “Praise the Lord, all the works of the Lord”, the angels are also mentioned in the subsequent list of these works; and in Psalms2 we read: “Praise the Lord from heaven, give praise to him in the highest places; praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his armies; praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all shining stars; Praise him, heaven the heavens, and let the waters that are above heaven praise the name of the Lord; for he spoke, and they came to be; he commanded and they were created ”. At this point, too, it is quite unequivocally expressed by divine testimony that the angels were created by God, in that they are listed among the other heavenly beings and then in summary of all it is said: "He has spoken and they have become". Should they only be created after all that is enumerated in the Six Day Work? That would be a very strange assumption. Incidentally, it is refuted and proven untenable by a scripture passage of equal weight in which God says3: "When the stars were created, all my angels praised me with a mighty voice". So the angels were already there when the stars were created. But these were created on the fourth day. So will we postpone the creation of the angels for the third day? But it is obvious what was created that day. As is well known, the solid land was separated from the waters, these two elements took on the peculiarities of their species and the earth brought forth everything that was rooted in it. So on the second day? Not even there. For there the feast between the upper and the lower waters and heaven was called, the feast on which the stars were created on the fourth day. So there is no doubt that if the angels belong to the six-day work at all, they are that light which has been given the name day and which, in order to indicate its unity4, is not designated as the first day but as a day. And the second day is no different, nor the third or the rest; rather, that one day is repeated up to the number six or seven because of the seven times5 knowledge; a six-fold one of the works that God created, and a seventh one that deals with the rest of God. When God said: "Let there be light" and the light came into being, the angels, if one rightly thinks of their creation by this light, have in fact become partakers of the eternal light, which is nothing other than the unchangeable wisdom of God, through whom all was created and whom we call the only begotten Son of God; thus, enlightened by the same light by which they were created, they became light and are called day because of their participation in the unchangeable light and day, d. i. in the word of God, through which they themselves and all other beings were created. Because “the true light that illuminates every person who comes into this world” 6, it also illuminates every pure angel so that he is light, not in himself but in God. If he turns away from him, he becomes impure, like all those who are called impure spirits, no longer light in the Lord, but darkness in himself, detached from participation in the eternal light. Because evil has no essence; rather, what is called evil is the loss of good7.

1: Dan. 3, 57 ff.
2: Ps. 148, l ff.
3: Job 38, 7.
4: The unity of light or “day” in the six-day work is based on the fact that the six days arise through the knowledge of the created on the part of one and the same subject, namely the angelic world.
5: For the text transmission, see Dombart [above volume 1, p. LXI A. 1], 49 f.
6: Joh. 1, 9.
7: See below XII 3.