Who Is the Archangel Raphael?

Q. What do we know about the Archangel Raphael?

A. The Archangel Raphael (the name in Hebrew means “God has healed”) appears by name only in the Book of Tobit in chapters 5–12. (Since Protestant Bibles don’t include that book, Protestant tradition is largely silent about Raphael.)

He first appears, disguised as a man, as the traveling companion of the young man Tobias. In the account that follows, Raphael is involved in the healing of Tobias’s blind father, Tobit, and in the banishment of a demon.When Raphael finally reveals his true identity, he tells Tobias that he brought the family’s prayers before God, and that God sent Raphael to heal them (Tobit 12:12–14).

John 5:4 tells how an angel occasionally appears at the Pool of Bethzatha in Jerusalem to stir up the water. Whoever first steps into the water when that happens is miraculously healed of any ailment suffered. Given the archangel’s name and his activity in the Book of Tobit, Christians have considered that angel at the pool to be Raphael. In light of these biblical passages, then, Raphael is traditionally viewed as God’s angel of healing.

In Tobit 12:15, the archangel says, “I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Lord.” These seven angels are traditionally understood to be the archangels, the same angels referred to in the New Testament as those “who stand before God” (Revelation 8:2).

Though Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael are the only archangels named in Scripture, ancient Jewish tradition names the other four as well. The apocryphal Book of Enoch, to which the New Testament epistle of Jude may allude (Jude 6), names them as Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jerameel. Other apocryphal sources agree on the name Uriel but offer alternate names for the other three: Izidkiel, Hanael, and Kepharel.

In light of these biblical passages, Christians have traditionally viewed Gabriel as God’s messenger of mercy and consolation.