The word “halo” does not appear in most English translations of the Bible. However, the concept of a glowing circle or disk of light around a person’s head is associated with the divine and holy in Scripture.
In the Bible, light and radiance are often used as symbols of God’s glory, presence, and blessing. Moses’ face shone after being in God’s presence (Exodus 34:29-35). Jesus’ face became “like the sun” when He was transfigured (Matthew 17:2). Revelation describes God the Father as dwelling in “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16) and says Jesus’ face “was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:16).
Angels, as spiritual messengers from God’s presence, are sometimes depicted as emanating intense light. The angel rolled back the stone at Jesus’ tomb with an appearance “like lightning” (Matthew 28:3). And Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). The prophet Daniel saw a heavenly being whose “face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze” (Daniel 10:6).
The brightness associated with angels likely originates from being in the presence of the glory of God. Their glowing radiance reflects the holy light of heaven. This is likely where the artistic concept of halos originated from – as a way to depict the luminous glory shining from righteous spiritual beings who dwell in God’s presence.
Imagery of crowns and glory in the Bible
The Bible also uses crowns and glory to represent honor, victory, authority, and spiritual blessings. Paul encourages Christians to strive for an “imperishable wreath” or crown as their reward (1 Corinthians 9:25). He later calls fellow believers his “joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1). Jesus promises believers in the church at Smyrna they will receive the “crown of life” for remaining faithful under persecution (Revelation 2:10). And Scripture says when Christ returns, He will come for those who have “longed for his appearing” and will crown them with glory (2 Timothy 4:8, 1 Peter 5:4).
This crown imagery often overlaps with the concept of light and glory emanating from righteous heavenly beings. For example, the 24 elders in Revelation cast their crowns before God’s throne but also “fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4:10-11). Their crowns are symbols of the glory they lay before Christ’s throne.
In summary, though the word “halo” is never used, the Bible associates the visual motifs of glowing light, radiance, and crowns with the glory, blessings, and authority of righteous heavenly beings dwelling in God’s presence.
Biblical descriptions of righteous people shining
Moses provides one of the most vivid Biblical examples of a righteous person emanating light and glory:
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. (Exodus 34:29-30)
The radiance was so intense that Moses had to put a veil over his face after speaking to the people because it frightened them (Exodus 34:33). Having been in God’s presence, Moses reflected the divine light and glory.
In the New Testament, Jesus’ face shone brightly when He was transfigured before Peter, James and John:
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. (Matthew 17:2)
Jesus, as the Son of God, radiated brilliant light because He shared the same divine nature and glory as the Father. His inner divinity shone through His earthly body.
At the end of his life, the first Christian martyr Stephen is described as having a similarly glorious and angelic countenance:
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God…. Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. (Acts 7:55-57)
Because Stephen was “full of the Holy Spirit” and glimpsed the glory of heaven, his face took on an angelic radiance and godly peace that enraged his murderers.
Finally, Jesus implies His followers will one day shine with similar glory:
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matthew 13:43)
When believers are resurrected to immortality, they will reflect God’s glory just as Jesus did during His transfiguration. The inner light of Christ in them will become outwardly visible. The full manifestation of their righteousness will be realized.
Angelic descriptions with glowing light
Angels are spiritual messengers created by God, and as beings who dwell in His presence, they often emanate light reflecting His heavenly glory. Angels shine with radiance as they carry out God’s will on earth.
For example, at Jesus’ tomb, Matthew describes an angel with an appearance “like lightning” descending to roll back the stone:
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. (Matthew 28:2-3)
The book of Revelation also vividly describes angels with glowing features who praise God before His throne in heaven:
And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them. The first sounded his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth… And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”…And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures…The living creatures were covered with eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 8:6-9:17)
These cherubim have features reminiscent of the creatures in Ezekiel’s visions (Ezekiel 1:5-25, 10:1-22). The “eyes” likely symbolize their knowledge, wisdom, and ability to see all things under God’s omniscience. Their six wings convey swiftness, reverence, and glory. Their appearance compels continual praise of God’s holiness.
So in both Old and New Testaments, righteous spiritual beings like angels are described as glowing with light and features reflecting the radiance of God’s presence and glory.
Crowns, victory, and authority
As mentioned earlier, crowns are frequently associated with glory, honor, and authority in the Bible.
1 Peter 5:4 describes the “crown of glory” awaiting those who faithfully serve God:
And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
This crown represents the glory, reward, and victory believers will share with Christ at His return. The radiance from this crown is “unfading” because it reflects the eternal glory of Jesus Himself.
The 24 elders in Revelation cast their crowns at Jesus’ feet, recognizing His supreme authority:
The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:10-11)
Though crowned with victory and blessings themselves, the elders acknowledge their crowns originate from the Lord. All glory is due to Him alone.
Paul reminds believers that he and others will rejoice together as mutual “crowns” in God’s presence:
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)
The crowns here likely represent believers God has blessed through Paul’s ministry. Their lives and growth spur Paul’s rejoicing.
Jesus also promises the church in Smyrna they will receive the “crown of life” for remaining faithful under persecution:
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
This crown represents victory over sin and death through Christ. It brings eternal honor and glory.
So the biblical motif of crowns communicates glory, victory, blessing, and festive joy in God’s presence. The word “halo” never appears, but crowns similarly represent the radiance awaiting the faithful.
Though the word “halo” is not in Scripture, the visual concept originates from biblical descriptions of light and glory surrounding righteous heavenly beings like angels and people dwelling in God’s presence. Radiance emanates from their faces and bodies as a reflection of divine holiness, wisdom, and immortality. Jesus’ transfigured face “shone like the sun” representing the glory He shared with the Father (Matthew 17:2).
Crowns also communicate the blessing, honor, and festive joy awaiting believers who remain faithful to Christ. So while actual “halos” are never described, the motifs of light, radiance, and crowns signify the same meaning – the glory awaiting the righteous who persevere in godly wisdom and holiness.