How Many Angels Are There?

In Hebrews 12:22, the New Testament’s original Greek uses the word murias to describe the number of angels that God created. It is from this word that we get our word “myriads.” While it isn’t hard for translators to understand the basic meaning of murias, they do struggle somewhat with figuring out the best way to translate it into English. Take the translators of the classic King James Version for instance. In Hebrews 12:22, they go with “innumerable” to translate murias, but they render it “ten thousand times ten thousand” in Revelation 5:11-12. In Acts 19:19, they translate it as “fifty thousand,” but in Luke 12:1 they again use “innumerable.” In Acts 21:20, it’s “many thousands,” while in Jude 1:14 it’s “ten thousands.”

The challenge of precisely translating murias has led some translators to basically jam the Greek word straight into the English by rendering it “myriads.” This could be called a transliteration rather than a translation. For example, in the New American Standard Version, Hebrews 12:22 reads “myriads of angels.” Likewise, Revelation 5:11 reads “myriads of myriads.”

While I understand why murias might be translated as “innumerable,” we shouldn’t think that God created an infinite, limitless, never-ending number of angels. To the contrary, there really is only a certain number of them. No doubt it is an exceedingly high number, but it is a countable number, at least countable by God.

How do we know this? We know it because Revelation 12:4 says that when Satan fell from heaven, “His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (N.K.J.V.). Obviously, Satan doesn’t have a literal tail, and the angels that followed him in his rebellion against God aren’t literal stars. Nevertheless, the point is made. A third of the angels that God created can now be classified as “fallen” with the angel Satan. And to have a third of something, that something must have a set number, right? There simply is no such thing as one-third of innumerable.

So, now that we understand all this, how do we answer the question, “How many angels are there?” Well, it’s clearly impossible for us to calculate an exact number, but we can feel very safe in saying that there are at least many tens of thousands. I myself wouldn’t argue with anyone who believes there are hundreds of thousands. Truth be told, I suspect that there are millions, perhaps even billions. I guess that all we can really know for sure is that however many angels there are, the more the better, because the majority (two-thirds) of them are still out there doing God’s bidding and opposing the one-third who are doing Satan’s bidding.

This entry was posted in Angels, Demons, Satan, Spiritual Warfare, The Devil and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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