1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gabriel

GABRIEL (Heb. גַּבְרִיאֵל, man of God), in the Bible, the heavenly messenger (see Angel) sent to Daniel to explain the vision of the ram and the he-goat, and to communicate the prediction of the Seventy Weeks (Dan. viii. 16, ix. 21). He was also employed to announce the birth of John the Baptist to Zacharias, and that of the Messiah to the Virgin Mary (Luke i. 19, 26). Because he stood in the divine presence (see Luke i. 19; Rev. viii. 2; and cf. Tobit xii. 15), both Jewish and Christian writers generally speak of him as an archangel. In the Book of Enoch “the four great archangels” are Michael, Uriel, Suriel or Raphael, and Gabriel, who is set over “all the powers” and shares the work of intercession. His name frequently occurs in the Jewish literature of the later post-Biblical period. Thus, according to the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, he was the man who showed the way to Joseph (Gen. xxxvii. 15); and in Deut. xxxiv. 6 it is affirmed that he, along with Michael, Uriel, Jophiel, Jephephiah and the Metatron, buried the body of Moses. In the Targum on 2 Chron. xxxii. 21 he is named as the angel who destroyed the host of Sennacherib; and in similar writings of a still later period he is spoken of as the spirit who presides over fire, thunder, the ripening of the fruits of the earth and similar processes. In the Koran great prominence is given to his function as the medium of divine revelation, and, according to the Mahommedan interpreters, he it is who is referred to by the appellations “Holy Spirit” and “Spirit of Truth.” He is specially commemorated in the calendars of the Greek, Coptic and Armenian churches.