Today I’ve been pondering the idea of flight, and how angels would do it. An article in The Telegraph a few years ago, called Angels can’t fly, scientist says, declared that those angels on top of your Christmas Tree “did not get there under their own steam.” Wow! Really?
The article itself talks about aerodynamics and that the modern day image of angels (which isn’t so modern apparently) is not aerodynamically sound.
This is because the average angel’s wingspan, depicted in all those medieval statues and paintings, is not possibly large enough to carry them.
But back to science and aerodynamics. Apparently, a large, human-sized male with wings would weigh about 200 lbs. In order for him to be able to fly, his wingspan would have to be about 10 meters or thirty feet to carry him. His breastbone wouldn’t be strong enough to support those wings, his shoulders would get in the way of any flapping motion, and he’d never be able to collapse those wings in a way that would make him capable of walking around–not to mention sitting on the recliner, watching TV.
Our idea of angels and what they look like comes from medieval paintings and statues–made long before people comprehended the aerodynamics of flight. As an aside here, allow me to also note that proportion and scale has been a thing that has been developed over the years. Have you seen the way horses and people were depicted back then? The scale of David’s hands, being extraordinarily large compared to other body parts? Scale.
Of course, that’s a secular view, suggesting that angels are made of flesh and bone and subject to the same laws of gravity as humans. It’s also assuming that angels even have wings to begin with.
If angels were to fly with bird-like wings, then they’d need other things as well:
- hollow bones
- a 10+ meter wingspan (try folding those and walking around!)
- a breast bone or thorax region strong enough to support those wings (imagine the chiropractic bills!)
- no arms
However, this model of angels having wings like birds also assumes that those angels only have two wings. Several passages in the Bible suggest that different ranks of angels have different wings. Isaiah 6.2 says that seraphs have six wings; Ezekiel 1:6-10 says cherubs have four. Muslim lore suggests that the angel Gabriel has 600 wings. That also changes things.
Click the image below for an excellent argument for angel wings and how avian humans would have to be built to support them:
Forget all that. It reminds me of a pseudo documentary I once saw on dragons and how they would need hydrogen gas in their system and hollow bones to fly.
This is all the science side.
What about magic?
The magic side allows for more flexibility. If angels fly because they, according to Christian Saint, John Chrysostom, “manifest nature’s sublimity”, then there’s all sorts of room to defy the laws of gravity. Their wings could be made of anything: clouds, sunlight, or an angelic matter not found on the earth plane.