Tuesday, May 26, 2009

John Calvin vs. “Emotional Exegesis”—Jesus is Michael the Archangel


I am starting a new ‘series’ today under the heading: “Emotional Exegesis”. As the title suggests, this new series will focus on examples of exegesis derived primarily from subjective emotionalism, rather than on objective logical principals.

The first post in this series deals with claim made by modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses that, “Jesus is Michael the Archangel”. I cannot think of one of my 50 plus anti-JW books which does not mention this JW belief in a negative light. A simple Google search reveals the same, as well as the bit more refined Google Book search. But are these myriad of critiques based on solid, sola scriptura, exegetical principles, or, does one sense emotionalism behind the responses? Let’s examine what 3 famous, Reformed theologians, noted for their adherence to the doctrine of sola scriptura, have written.

First, John Calvin:

The twelfth chapter commenced, as we stated in yesterday’s Lecture, with the angel’s prediction as to the future state of the Church after the manifestation of Christ It was to be subject to many miseries, and hence this passage would soothe the sorrow of Daniel, and of all the pious, as he still promises safety to the Church through the help of God. Daniel therefore represented Michael as the guardian of the Church, and God had enjoined this duty upon Christ, as we learn from the 10th chapter of John, (ver. 28, 29.) As we stated yesterday, Michael may mean an angel; but I embrace the opinion of those who refer this to the person of Christ, because it suits the subject best to represent him as standing forward for the defense of his elect people. He is called the mighty prince, because he naturally opposed the unconquered fortitude of God to those dangers to which the angel represents the Church to be subject. We well know the very slight causes for which terror often seizes our minds, and when we begin to tremble, nothing can calm our tumult and agitation. The angel then in treating of very grievous contests, and of the imminent danger of the Church, calls Michael the mighty prince. As if he had said, Michael should be the guardian and protector of the elect people, he should exercise immense power, and he alone without the slightest doubt should be sufficient for their protection. Christ confirms the same assertion, as we just; now saw, in the 10th chapter of John. He says all his elect were given him by his father, and none of them should perish, because his father was greater than all; no one, says he, shall pluck my sheep out of my hand. My father, who gave them me, is greater than all; meaning, God possesses infinite power, and displays it for the safety of those whom he has chosen before the creation of the world, and he has committed it to me, or has deposited it in my hands. We now perceive the reason of this epithet, which designates Michael as the great prince. (Calvin’s Commentaries on The Prophet Daniel, Vol. II, Baker reprint, vol. XIII, pp. 369, 370.)

Second, John Gill:

Another prophecy in Dan. xii. 1, 2, 3. represents the second and personal coming of Christ ; for he is meant by Michael, who is as God, as his name signifies, equal to him ; the great prince, the prince of the kings of the earth, and the head of all principalities and powers. (A Complete Body of Practical and Doctrinal Divinity, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1987 reprint, p. 617.)

And third, Jonathan Edwards:

When Lucifer rebelled and set up himself as a head in opposition to God and Christ, and set himself as a head in opposition to God and Christ, and drew away a great number of angels, the Son of God, manifested himself as an opposite head, and appeared graciously to dissuade and restrain by his grace the elect angels from hearkening to Lucifer’s temptation, so that they were upheld and preserved eternal destruction at this time of great danger by the free and sovereign distinguishing grace of Christ. Herein Christ was the Saviour of the elect angels, for thought he did not save them as he did elect men from the ruin they had already deserved, and were condemned to, and the miserable, state they were already in, yet he saved them from eternal destruction they were in great danger of, and otherwise would have fallen into with the other angels. The elect angels joined with him, the glorious Michael, as their captain, while the other angels hearkened to Lucifer and joined him, and then was that literally true that fulfilled afterwards figuratively. Rev xii. “When there was war in heaven : Michael and his angels fought against the dragon ; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not ; neither was there place found any more heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world ; he was case out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2, Banner of Truth, 1979 reprint, p. 606.)

So, it sure seems to me the teaching of the JWs that Jesus is Michael the Archangel, is not nearly as ‘heretical’ as so many adherents of sola scriptura would have us to believe.


Grace and peace,

David

9 comments:

Nick said...

While I see what you are saying, you should be careful here. Those Reformed exegetes were not making an absolute identification with Michael and Jesus. Instead, in the case of Daniel, they saw Jesus being prefigured in a sense.

The Reformed individuals were orthodox Trinitarians.

JWs on the other hand make it out to be a absolute identification, and that's for the purpose of making Christ to be a creature, inferior to God.

This really should not be used as a critique of Sola Scriptura either.

The strongest slam dunk against equating Michael with Jesus is to look at the two places Michael is mentioned in the New Testament. Jude is one page long, mentions Jesus explicitly and Michael explicitly, yet never gives any hint they are the same person, which effectively disproves the link right there. The next is Rev 12, where a similar case of there being no confusion of identification of Jesus and Michael, despite the fact both are mentioned.

Paul Hoffer said...

It is interesting how Protestants through history apparently do not have a problem using typology when viewing St. Michael as a figure of Christ, but are aghast and are accusatory when Catholics employ the same sort of typology when viewing Mary as the New Eve or the second Ark of the Covenant.

But that is what becomes of those who play "slippery-slope theology."

Nice short, Dave!

God bless!

David Waltz said...

Hi Nick,

Thanks for responding; you wrote:

>>While I see what you are saying, you should be careful here. Those Reformed exegetes were not making an absolute identification with Michael and Jesus. Instead, in the case of Daniel, they saw Jesus being prefigured in a sense.>>

Me: I am not so sure about this Nick—I have done a fair amount a reading into this, and found that unlike most Catholic exegetes, Reformed folk (and many Lutheran scholars) identify the Angel of Yahweh theophanies with the pre-incarnate Word/Son of God; building on this, some then proceed to equate Michael with the Angel of Yahweh—hence the pre-incarnate Word/Son of God (Jesus) IS Michael.

>>The Reformed individuals were orthodox Trinitarians.>>

Me: For sure.

>>JWs on the other hand make it out to be a absolute identification, and that's for the purpose of making Christ to be a creature, inferior to God.>>

Me: IMHO, the real difference lies in the production of the Son of God (i.e. begotten vs. created), and not with the identification itself.

>>This really should not be used as a critique of Sola Scriptura either.>>

Me: Perhaps you could elaborate a bit more on this when you get the time.

>>The strongest slam dunk against equating Michael with Jesus is to look at the two places Michael is mentioned in the New Testament. Jude is one page long, mentions Jesus explicitly and Michael explicitly, yet never gives any hint they are the same person, which effectively disproves the link right there. The next is Rev 12, where a similar case of there being no confusion of identification of Jesus and Michael, despite the fact both are mentioned.>>

Me: I first ran into a Reformed identification of Jesus as Michael in Rev. 12 back in 1987 when I read David Chilton’s, The Days of Vengeance. My hardback copy is 721 pages, but just moments ago, I found a free, online pdf version: HERE.

See page 129 of the pdf version (pages 311-313 in hardback), and note that Chilton cites other exegetes of Revelation (and Daniel) who have the same take—i.e. that Jesus is Michael (especially noteworthy is E. W. Hengstenberg’s, The Revelation of St. John, which is also available online HERE).

In my next thread, Lord willing, I hope explore a few reasons why I believe some Protestant exegetes are lead to identify Jesus as Michael.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Paul,

So nice to see you back at AF! You posted:

>>It is interesting how Protestants through history apparently do not have a problem using typology when viewing St. Michael as a figure of Christ, but are aghast and are accusatory when Catholics employ the same sort of typology when viewing Mary as the New Eve or the second Ark of the Covenant.>>

Me: The same thoughts have been crossing my mind—I plan to dig a bit deeper into this in my next thread, the Lord willing.

>>But that is what becomes of those who play "slippery-slope theology.">>

Me: I have used the “double-edged sword” analogy at times to refer to suspect theological reflections; but perhaps, your “slippery-slope theology”, is a bit more accurate in this case.


Grace and peace,

David

Nick said...

If they don't believe Jesus is literally a creature (Michael), then they're in the realm of speculation.

This is the reason why I think this isn't a good argument against Sola Scriptura is because, a Protestant would say this isn't about any doctrine, but instead more about OT figures and such.

Oh wait, ARE you saying they don't believe in an actual angel named Michael? Instead that's just another name for Jesus (without Jesus being a literal angel)? If so, then that is bad/dangerous news.

Catholic Orthodoxy said...

An SDA told me that Mstthew Henry taught the same about Jesus being Michael

FaithWithLogic said...

Matthew Henry, John Wesley, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, John Gill, Jonathan Edwards, E. W. Hengstenberg, Thomas Scott, Thomas Haweis, Adam Clarke, the Abingdon Bible Commentary, Lange's Commentary, the 1599 Geneva Bible Commentary, Brown's dictionary of the Bible & Wood's Spiritual Dictionary ...

All of these teach/taught that Michael is Jesus. This is the stuff that modern Evangelicals refuse to tell you.

Larissa said...

Here's a fairly substantial list of quotes from legit theologians:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxjb3ZlbmFudGVydGhlb25vbXl8Z3g6NWYxNGEwZDI1NzUwZWE3Yg

David Waltz said...

Hi Larissa,

Thanks much for the link; very informative, especially the quote from Hengstenberg.


Grace and peace,

David