Have you ever heard the term Celestial Hierarchy? I haven’t, until I was looking up the definition of “power” in the dictionary. It stated that “powers” were one of the classes of angels in the celestial hierarchy. That was so intriguing, that I just had to do a little more research. Here’s what I discovered.
First, from the dictionary.com definition of angels:
In medieval angelology (which is a doctrine or theory concerning angels), angels constituted the lowest of the nine celestial orders (seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations or dominions, virtues, powers, principalities or princedoms, archangels, and angels).
Second, it looks like the original theory was postulated by Dionysius the Areopagite. His writings have been transcribed and you can find them here – The Celestial Hierarchy.
Finally, I found a chart (here) that makes his theory easier to understand and visualize, at least a little bit. (Those terms Ophanim – or wheels, Galgalim – also wheels, and Kuriotetes still don’t make any sense.)
Note that these nine orders are also classified into three groups by Dionysius, the first (comprising Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones), middle (Dominions, Virtues, Powers), and last (Principalities, Archangels and Angels), to make up the Order of the Celestial Intelligences. Note also just a few of the scriptures in the Bible that use these terms: Genesis 3:24, Romans 8:38, and Colossians 1:16.
Do you find this just as fascinating as I do? Look what you can learn when you follow the prophet’s counsel (to learn more about the Savior and study his attributes – hence looking up the definition of power). You learn that there’s just more to learn!
I’d never really thought of thrones, dominions, virtues, powers and principalities as terms for actual people. Have you? So far I’ve concluded that these words all have leadership in common – royalty, principals, the “powers that be” all come to mind as well. A leader is a person. God is the ultimate leader, and his angel helpers are definitely leaders. Enjoy stretching your brain!
P.S. I want to emphasize that I don’t consider this true and accurate Church doctrine, although I can see bits and pieces of truth in Dionysius’ theory, but that doesn’t lessen my fascination. In fact, it increases it, causes additional questions, and motivates me to study more.