Fast forward a good fifteen years later. For some odd reason, every time I’d read through the Bible in my teens and early twenties, I hadn’t noticed the possible implications of a short passage:
A couple of years ago, when a woman at church mentioned there were no female angels, I posed the question to her: What are these creatures? She couldn’t answer. I made a suggestion.
Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. - Zechariah 5:9 (ESV)
Now, you might argue that “angel” (מַּלְאָ֖ךְ in Hebrew, ἄγγελον in the Greek LXX) is used for the messenger with whom the prophet interacts throughout the book. The beings in 5:9 are distinctly described as “women” (נָשִׁ֤ים, γυναῖκες), not “angels.” But recall that many beings we call “angels” are just as distinctly described as “men” (e.g., הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים or ἄνδρες Genesis 18:22, אִישׁ in Daniel 10:5, ἄνδρες in Acts 1:10), without “angel” used in the near vicinity or even at all. Often we read the word into the text, assuming that it’s appropriate.
Now the Jews and the Roman Catholics have organized entire hierarchies of angelic beings according to their perceived natures and roles. I have no idea where these two “women” would fit into them. What is questionable is why Christians feel so strong about there never being female-looking “angels.” The argument I remember hearing as a child was that angels had to appear as men in a patriarchal society in order to be respected. Now as an adult, I see that this fails on multiple points:
- Human women in positions of authority (at minimum one judge, a number of prophetesses, and a few queens) have the same problem.
- Strange men don’t automatically earn people’s respect just because they’re male. (Case in point: Luke 1:18).
- Anyone, regardless of apparent sex or gender, doing supernatural things is going to get people’s attention, including the son of a carpenter from the wrong side of the tracks.
- Angels obviously have different roles to play.