Thursday, January 28, 2016

Angelomorphic Christology




Back in 2009, I published a thread (LINK) that provided selections from three esteemed Reformed theologians (Calvin, Edwards, Gill), who identified the preexistent Jesus as Michael the Archangel.

In the combox of that thread, a link was provided to a ten page online document by Michael Daniels that cited more than a dozen theologians (from various traditions) who also taught that Jesus is Michael the Archangel (an updated, 2014 PDF edition available HERE).

Yesterday, a thread published by Dr. Edgar G. Foster (link), brought back to mind an informative and substantive work by Charles A. Gieschen: Angelomorphic Christology - Antecedents & Early Evidence. [A Google Books  preview is available online HERE.]

This book was originally published back in 1998, and I purchased and read it shortly thereafter. I did not start blogging until 2007, but I suspect that if my blogging endeavors had begun before I read the book, I would have devoted a thread to it. With that said, and thanks to Edgar's post, I am now going to share a few selections from Gieschen's masterful contribution, and then provide links to other germane works that I have found to be worth reading.

In the prologue, Gieschen provides a definition for the term "Angelomorphic";

"Angelomorphic" is an inclusive term which means having some of the various forms and functions of an angel, even though the figure may not be explicitly called an "angel" or considered to have the created nature of an angel... (Page 3, footnote #2)

He then writes:

The study of Angelomorphic Christology has been plagued by two foundational misconceptions. First, the lack of much overt "angel" terminology in first century Christology has misdirected our understanding of its influence far too long...The relative lack of labeling Christ as an angel in the pages of the NT does not warrant the conclusion that he was understood and depicted by NT writers without the significant influence of Jewish angelology. For this reason "angelomorphic" is a more helpful term to broaden the discussion beyond overt "angel" terminology. Furthermore, "angel" terminology also raises ontological questions that has moved some interpreters to dismiss a priori the impact of such concepts on early Christology. It is curcial to understand that distinctions which early Christian documents make between Christ and the "created" angels do not preclude the use of angelomorphic traditions in expressing Christology. Angelic forms and functions do not of necessity imply a nature that is less than divine. This conclusion is evident from the OT texts which equate God and his angel.

The second major misconception plaguing the study of Angelomorphic Christology is that many scholars believe that it developed at a later date and could not have influenced the origin and very early expression of Christology. (Page 4)

A couple of pages later we read:

This study will address this need by arguing the following thesis: Angelomorphic traditions, especially those growing from the Angel of the Lord traditions, had a significant impact on the early expressions of Christology to the extent that evidence of an Angelomorphic Christology is discernible in several documents dated between 50 and 150 CE. (Page 6)

On pages 27-29, he provides definitions for ANGEL, ANGELOLOGY, ANGELOMORPHIC, ANGEL CHRISTOLOGY, ANGELOMORPHIC CHRISTOLOGY, ANGELOPHANY, THEOPHANY, EPIPHANY, AND CHRISTOLOGY, and then made the following important distiniction:

ANGEL CHRISTOLOGY is the explicit identification of Jesus Christ as an angel. ANGELOMORPHIC CHRISTOLOGY is the identification of Christ with angelic form and functions, either before or after the incarnation, whether or not he is specifically identified as an angel. (Page 28)

Chapter one focuses on "History of Research" concerning angelomorphic traditions, referencing over thirty authors/theologians who have written on the subject.

Chapters three through six deals with the angelomorphic traditions found primarily in pre-Christian Jewish literature, including the OT.

Chapters seven through ten examines pre-Nicene Christian authors whose extant writings contain some form of angelomorphic Christology, and chapters eleven through fourteen reflects on the NT evidence.

The conclusion, chapter fifteen, ends with:

The seeds that were needed to express a sophisticated Christology were sown in the Israelite and Jewish texts from which early Christianity sought to understand Jesus as Lord. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the angelomorphic traditions of this literature, among which the Angel of the Lord texts are foundational, were some of the oldest and more significant traditions that inspired the Christology which we now find in early Christian literature, including the New Testament. (Page 351)

I highly recommend this book to those folk who have an interest in Christological issues. It is informative and well written, and IMO worth its rather high cost.

In ending, I would also like to recommend the following related contributions (the links provided are Google Books previews):

Michael and Christ: Michael Traditions and Angel Christology in Early Christianity, by Darrell D. Hannah (LINK).

Angel Veneration and Christology - A Study in Early Judaism and in Christology of the Apocalypse of John, by Loren T. Stuckenbruck (LINK)

Two Powers in Heaven - Early Rabbinic Reports About Christianity and Gnosticism, by Alan F. Segal (LINK)


Grace and peace,

David

10 comments:

ANNOYED PINOY said...

I'm open to the possibility that Jesus and Michael are the same person. As you know, some Trinitarians have done so in the past. The fact that the name Michael means something like "Who is like God" would fit such a hypothesis. But it's also the case that the name Gabriel means something like "Mighty Man of God." That too would fit Jesus' description. So would the description of Satan as "shining one" or "light bearer."

I'm also open to your position of Nicene Monarchism. Though, for the meantime I'm sticking with some form of Trinitarianism. It seems to do better justice to the unity of God.

I don't engage your materials much on my blogposts because you're so much more advanced than I am in these topics. Though, I do browse your materials because they are so chock-full of information and insight.

ANNOYED PINOY said...

If I recall correctly, you and Drake Shelton don't believe Jesus could properly be called or identified with Almighty God, and that whenever Jesus is identified with or as Yahweh, it's always in a representational way. But how do you account for passages like Rev. 2:23 which seems to allude to Jer. 17:10 (cf. Ps. 62:12; 1 Kings 8:39).

In Rev. 2:23 Jesus is described as doing what ONLY YHWH is said to do in Jer. 17:10. To, search the heart and test the mind, and to give every to man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. Jesus doesn't say, "I [merely] represent the one who searches and judges hearts." Rather, Jesus says, "I am he" who does it. Jesus is referring to his own person.

"I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."- Jer. 17:10

and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he [i.e. Jesus] who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.- Rev. 2:23

then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind),- 1 Kings 8:39

In Rev. 2:23 Jesus doesn't indicate that He's able to read men's minds on account of the Father's giving Him that ability. Rather Jesus seems to be claiming that's His inherent prerogative and ability.

Forgive me if I'm misrepresenting your position. I'm still trying to understand it. I do know you're not Arian, or even Semi-Arian but affirm homoousios as originally intended at Nicaea ("of same substance" rather than "one substance" which would be better termed monoousios). It's my understanding that you believe Constantinople I redefined homoousios to mean monoousios. From my limited understanding that seems to be the case.

Finally, IMO it's unfortunate that Drake Shelton has made his website http://eternalpropositions.wordpress.com/ private. And the mirror site DrakeShelton.com is down. I think he has physically moved to a location near or at a religious community that nearly matches his theological distinctives. Many of which you don't seem to share.

David Waltz said...

Hi Annoyed,

Thanks much for taking the time to comment. In your first post, you wrote:

==I'm open to the possibility that Jesus and Michael are the same person. As you know, some Trinitarians have done so in the past. The fact that the name Michael means something like "Who is like God" would fit such a hypothesis. But it's also the case that the name Gabriel means something like "Mighty Man of God." That too would fit Jesus' description. So would the description of Satan as "shining one" or "light bearer."==

I would say that the Reformed folk who equate Jesus with Michael do so because of what the Scriptures have to say about Michael, and not so much because of what the name means. I personally believe that the portrait of Michael in the Scriptures coincides with the one who is termed "The Angel of Yahweh"; but, I do not think the same can be said of Gabriel, and especially not of Lucifer.

==I'm also open to your position of Nicene Monarchism. Though, for the meantime I'm sticking with some form of Trinitarianism. It seems to do better justice to the unity of God.==

I believe that when correctly understood, Nicene Monarchism is a form of Trinitarianism, just as Eastern Orthodox Monarchism is a form of Trinitarianism.

==I don't engage your materials much on my blogposts because you're so much more advanced than I am in these topics.==

You are much too kind here. I have found a good number of your posts to be quite substantial, and sincerely believe that both of us would derive benefit from interactive dialogue.

==Though, I do browse your materials because they are so chock-full of information and insight.==

It is good to hear that my musings have been of interest to you. Hope you know that you are always welcome hear at AF, and that I do not mind constructive criticism.

From your second post:

== If I recall correctly, you and Drake Shelton don't believe Jesus could properly be called or identified with Almighty God, and that whenever Jesus is identified with or as Yahweh, it's always in a representational way.==

I cannot speak for Drake (I think he is now a Unitarian in the Socinian sense), but I personally do not believe that the Scriptures have ever termed Jesus Christ (pre or post His incarnation) as "Almighty God" (See THIS POST). Yet, with that said—and this importantly—I believe that the key property which makes God the Father "Almighty" (i.e. omnipotence) is fully shared by His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Cont'd

David Waltz said...

==But how do you account for passages like Rev. 2:23 which seems to allude to Jer. 17:10 (cf. Ps. 62:12; 1 Kings 8:39).

In Rev. 2:23 Jesus is described as doing what ONLY YHWH is said to do in Jer. 17:10. To, search the heart and test the mind, and to give every to man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. Jesus doesn't say, "I [merely] represent the one who searches and judges hearts." Rather, Jesus says, "I am he" who does it. Jesus is referring to his own person.

"I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."- Jer. 17:10

and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he [i.e. Jesus] who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.- Rev. 2:23

then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind),- 1 Kings 8:39

In Rev. 2:23 Jesus doesn't indicate that He's able to read men's minds on account of the Father's giving Him that ability. Rather Jesus seems to be claiming that's His inherent prerogative and ability.==

My position/understanding is virtually identical with Dr. Murray J. Harris', who wrote:

"A careful distinction should be drawn between the Father as κύριος ὁ θεὁς (= Yahweh Elohim*)—a designation never used of Christ in the NT—and Christ as ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου. While distinct from Yahweh, Christ shares his status and his nature." (Jesus as God, footnote 86, p. 123.

==Forgive me if I'm misrepresenting your position. I'm still trying to understand it. I do know you're not Arian, or even Semi-Arian but affirm homoousios as originally intended at Nicaea ("of same substance" rather than "one substance" which would be better termed monoousios).==

In the above, you have correctly understood my thought.

==It's my understanding that you believe Constantinople I redefined homoousios to mean monoousios. From my limited understanding that seems to be the case.==

I think the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381) can be read either way, but firmly believe that the original Nicene Creed (325) and Chalcedonian Definition (451) only be read in a strict homoousios sense.

==Finally, IMO it's unfortunate that Drake Shelton has made his website http://eternalpropositions.wordpress.com/ private. And the mirror site DrakeShelton.com is down. I think he has physically moved to a location near or at a religious community that nearly matches his theological distinctives. Many of which you don't seem to share.==

Though in early our interactions, it seems that Drake shared a few of my views on the doctrine of God and Christology; apart from these two subjects, I don't think we had much in common.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts. It is always good to hear from you. Sincerely hope that I have been helpful in my responses...


Grace and peace,

David

ANNOYED PINOY said...

I personally believe that the portrait of Michael in the Scriptures coincides with the one who is termed "The Angel of Yahweh";

As you probably already know, traditionally those who reject Jesus as being the same person as the pre-incarnate Jesus appeal to Dan. 10:13 where Michael is called "ONE OF the chief princes." Implying that Michael is one of other equals. Since we know that Jesus higher than all the angels, it's unlikely (though not impossible) that Jesus would be called one among equals. It's not impossible because even human kings can be called, or actually be or function as a general, and so have others who equal to him in one sense; though inferior to him in another sense. Michael is called an archangel in Jude 1:9 and traditionally Jews (as far back as the intertestamental period) and Christians have often considered Gabriel an archangel as well.

I would say that the Reformed folk who equate Jesus with Michael do so because of what the Scriptures have to say about Michael, and not so much because of what the name means.

Agreed. However, if among the archangels Michael possessed a name that uniquely prefigured Christ, that might have hinted at him being Jesus. Since both the meaning of Gabriel's name and the (likely) description of Satan in Isa. 14 both could be applied to Christ to a higher degree, there's no reason to think that Michael is Jesus on account of the meaning of his name.

I believe that when correctly understood, Nicene Monarchism is a form of Trinitarianism, just as Eastern Orthodox Monarchism is a form of Trinitarianism.

I thought that myself, but the way Drake railed against the Trinity and the terms Trinity and Trinitarianism, I thought all Nicene Monarchists eschewed the the identification of NM with some form of Trinitarianism.

It is good to hear that my musings have been of interest to you.

Absolutely, I wish I had found your website sooner.

CONT.

ANNOYED PINOY said...

Hope you know that you are always welcome hear at AF, and that I do not mind constructive criticism.

I appreciate the welcome and invitiation.

I'm inclined to agree that the phrases "Lord God", "the Almighty", "one God ", "the only God", "the only wise God" and "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" in the NT are titles used in the NT only to refer to the Father. However, I'm not convinced that it's inappropriate to use them to refer to Christ since other terms, attributes, honors, works etc. normally reserved for the one true God of Israel are applied to Christ. And there are OT passages that originally referred to the one true God of Israel and are applied to Christ or the Holy Spirit. Regarding the Holy Spirit, I'd refer people to pages 414-422 in Robert Morey's book The Trinity Evidence and Issues. Regarding Christ, one example would be Yahweh's OT title of "first and last" which is applied to Christ. If my blogpost HERE is correct, then the titles "Alpha and Omega" as well as "Beginning and End" are also applied to Christ in Rev. 22:12-13 even though they are also used of the Father in Rev. 1:8. A second example would be the ">apparent identification of Jesus with Yahweh by NT authors.

In the above list of names reserved for the Father only, I didn't include "true God" or "only true God" (as you do) since, as you know, a case could be made that the ending of 1 John 5:20 refers to Jesus (though presumably you disagree). My collection of evidences for it likely referring to Jesus is at this blogpost if anyone's interested.

I'm sure if I search your blog more thoroughly I could find the answers to the following questions. My knowledge is still so limited I'm still at the stage of trying to understand the "Whats" (i.e. the definitions) and have not really gotten to the stage of "Whether" such and such position(s) is true/plausible/correct. The following are some questions I plan to research on your blog. Does Nicene Monarchism (NM) teach that Father, Son and Spirit are actually three different beings (i.e. separate and distinct entities/substances/essences)? Does NM teach that the Son and Spirit are eternal emanations of the Father? The Father being fons deitatis? Does NM take a stance on (presumably against) the filioque? How is NMism different from Eastern Orthodox (EO) Trinitarianism? What exactly is the EO view of the Trinity anyway? What is Social Trinitarianism and Latin Trinitarianism?

Not understanding these basics, there's little point in me interacting with you. I'd just slow you down.

Back to Rev. 2:23, it seems to me that Jesus is saying I'm the Yahweh in Jer. 17:10. Or at the very least, I too am fully Yahweh like the person in Jer. 17:10 (i.e. the Father). As you know there are passages in the OT that suggest Yahweh is more than one person or that more than one person is named/called Yahweh. There are so many such pasages that around the 1st century there were already some Jews who started to distinguish between "the greater Yahweh" and the "lesser Yahweh" or the Yahweh in heaven and the Yahweh who occasionally visited/descended upon earth.

ANNOYED PINOY said...

I notice a link I provided doesn't work. Here's the link again. I wrote:

"A second example would be the apparent identification of Jesus with Yahweh by NT authors."

Here's the direct link: http://trinitynotes.blogspot.com/2014/07/identifying-jesus-with-yahwehjehovah.html

David Waltz said...

Hello Annoyed,

Just now checked in on AF before Super Bowl 50 starts, and noticed your Friday posts. There is a lot to cover, but it will have to wait until Monday. I think I will try to concentrate on one point at a time if you do not mind, starting with Dan. 10:13 and how it (and other Michael passages) is related to the 'Angel of Jehovah' texts. I suspect my initial response will be quite lengthy, so I will probably create a new thread to cover the material. Looking forward to further dialogue with you...

Grace and peace,

David

ANNOYED PINOY said...

I will try to concentrate on one point at a time if you do not mind...

I prefer it that way. We can interact as slowly as you wish. I'm sure you're busy too. Yet from the volume and quality of your posts I know you're as passionate about the doctrine of God as I am (if not more so).

Looking forward to further dialogue with you...

Same here. :-)

David Waltz said...

Hi Annoyed,

Thanks much for being so understanding. My thread concerning Dan. 10:13 is now up. Much more to follow (the Lord willing), but the next couple of days are full, with virtually no time for the internet; so it will be Thursday before I can jump back into this stimulating dialogue.

God bless,

David