When did angels become cute? This is one of the ranking mysteries of religious studies. In ages past, way back before monotheism, most people in western Asia believed in a plethora of deities, sub-deities, and heroic characters. A cosmic continuum of animal-to-human-to-superhuman-to-divine seems to have characterized their universe. They had little reason to suspect that anyone or anything more powerful than a human might be “cute!”
The first angels mentioned in the Bible, cherubim, are today often associated with Hallmark and Valentines: cute little nude boys with wings playing with their bows and arrows. In the world of the Bible, however, cherubim were not so tame. I tell my students to think of sphinxes when they read “cherubim” — scary hybrids of human and lion or ox and eagle. These creatures were intended to be guardians of the very throne of God; they had to be scary.
Your garden-variety angel was indistinguishable from a human being. They had no wings, halos, or — (gasp!) — harps. The reaction to angels by the people of the Bible was essentially that of a visit of a stranger, a stranger who sometimes said weird stuff about what the big guy wanted you to do.
But somewhere along the line, angels had an extreme makeover. They became winged, effeminate people who could save your life or that of your puppy. They became guardians of human interests and loves. In so doing they lost the awe and majesty of being the Frankensteins of the supernatural world. Is this what a fallen angel really is?