“Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.” Acts 12:6-7

Around the time of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison, there was a common belief that every person had a guardian angel assigned to them. Professor Mark Muska expands on this story in Acts 12 to help us understand what the Bible really says about guardian angels.

“This is really kind of a wacky passage because Peter’s been arrested and then in the middle of the night, this angel comes and releases him and Peter’s not really with it. He thinks it’s all a dream until the angel leaves and he’s outside the prison. He goes back to the disciples and pounds on the door.”

“The servant girl, Rhoda, comes down and sees Peter there. She’s so excited that she shuts the door and runs upstairs to tell everybody – and doesn’t let him in!”

When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so they said, “It must be his angel.” Acts 12:14-15

“So evidently they must have believed that every one of us has this angel. In fact they even went so far as to say that the angel resembled the person that they were assigned to.”

Professor Muska adds that the Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about guardian angels, so we have to be careful to not make assumptions. Professor Brad Sickler reiterates the importance of not taking the Scriptures out of context.

“Just because scripture records what Rhoda said, it doesn’t mean that Rhoda was right in saying that or that that’s proper theology. It’s just a report. It may be a report of some semi-superstitious belief that was prevalent then.”

While Scripture doesn’t deny the existence of guardian angels, it also doesn’t affirm that every believer has a guardian angel assigned to them. 

Ask the Professor: On the third Thursday of every month we invite Bible professors from the University of Northwestern into the studio and open the phone lines for your questions on the Bible, faith, and the church. Call in during the live show, or submit your questions via email on Connecting Faith’s show page.

Ask the Professor: Guardian angels