As early as the fifth century A.D., Roman Catholic theologians such as Jerome were teaching that each human had a righteous being assigned to him or her, from birth, in order to protect them (Guardian Angels article, 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia).
In 1608, Pope Paul V set aside a special feast day on the church's religious calendar dedicated to honoring angels who protect humans. The belief in such spiritual protectors was reaffirmed, in recent history, in an address on "Easter Monday" by the Pope (Regina Caeli, March 31, 1997).
Judaism states that guardian spirits do exist and that each person has one assigned to him or her (Adam Clarke's Commentary). Jews also teach that each of the seventy peoples or nations mentioned in Genesis 10 (the "table of nations") had a righteous spirit assigned to them, with the archangel Michael assigned the task of protecting Israel (1906 Jewish Encyclopedia).
The responsibilities of these spirits to guide the affairs of humans are considered so important that it is believed God will punish them before he corrects the sinning humans under their care (Cant. R. viii. 14; Mek., Beshallah, Shirah, ii.).
The primary proof text used to support the teaching certain angels are assigned to protect humans comes from Jesus' words in Matthew 18:10 (see also Mark 9:33 - 50). The context of this passage is that Christ is being asked by his disciples who are the greatest people in God's kingdom (Matthew 18:1). His response is brief and blunt.
And after calling a little child to Him, Jesus set him in their midst, And said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, there is no way that you shall enter into the kingdom of heaven . . .
Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that their angels in heaven continually look upon the face of My Father . . ." (Matthew 18:2 - 3, 10).
Christ used a little child as a living illustration of the humility required for salvation. It is an attitude that must exist in those newly converted and deepened as they live their lives. He then continues to use children ("little ones") to symbolize new believers in him when he warns them not to cause any of them to be "offended" (Matthew 18:6).
These verses in Matthew are not referring to young children who are Christians, in part, because Scripture does not condone the baptizing of infants or children. Jesus is, instead, calling attention to how those in his church should not be treated, especially new believers some may consider "the least."
No rank or authority
In God's eyes there is no rank or hierarchy, no one "greater or lesser" among his spiritual children. Because He cares for all those who have faith in him and his Son, he utilizes his angelic host to serve all those "who are about to inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14).
Some Biblical commentaries support the concept that individual spirits are assigned to guard humans. Others, however, do not support such a teaching. For example, Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament states that God does not assign a dedicated spirit being to each converted person but rather has his whole heavenly army protect them (comments on Psalm 91:11).
MacArthur's New Testament Commentary states, "Neither of these texts (Matthew 18:10, Hebrews 1:14), however - nor any other Scripture - teaches the idea of an individual guardian angel for every believer, as Jewish tradition in Jesus' day taught . . . "
Easton's Dictionary concurs with this assessment on righteous spirits when it says, "The passages (Psalm 34:7, Matthew 18:10) usually referred to in support of the idea that every individual has a particular guardian angel have no such meaning."
Job description of angels
The primary responsibility of almost all righteous spirits is to serve Christians who are to inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14). Believers are watched over and protected by many righteous spirit beings and not just one (Psalm 91:11 - 12), all of whom have direct access to the Father (Revelation 5:11). Definitive evidence proving guardian angels are assigned to every human is lacking in the Bible.