The second installment of the 'Jesus Christ, the Angel of Jehovah, and Michael the Archangel' series, is coming later than I had originally anticipated, due to the fact that this area of study is much more complex and diverse than I had recalled. I suspect that it would take an entire book length treatment to do full justice to this genre; but with that said, it is my sincere hope that this continuing series will suffice, by providing selections from a number of conservative scholars whose views are quite close to mine. In this post, I am going to focus on the Anglican, Oxford scholar, Dr. H. P. Liddon's, 1866 Bampton Lectures, published in a number of editions under the title: The Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—more specifically his second lecture of the eight he delivered—wherein he explores the relationship between the 'Angel of the Lord' and Jesus Christ (links to various editions available online HERE). [NOTE: all selections provided below will be from the 1908 edition.]
The second lecture of Liddon's eight 1866 Bampton Lectures, was published under the title: ANTICIPATIONS OF THE DOCTRINE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, and comprises pages 45-98 in the 1908 edition. I have chosen Liddon's reflections on Christ in the OT as a foundation of sorts, and this because he articulates important presuppositions and principals that Christian exegetes need to consider when approaching the question as to whether or not Jesus should be equated with the 'Angel of Jehovah' in the OT. Dr. Liddon begins his second lecture by quoting Gal. 3:8, which is followed with:
IF we endeavour to discover how often, and by what modes of statement, such a doctrine as that of our Lord s Divinity is anticipated in the Old Testament, our conclusion will be materially affected by the belief which we entertain respecting the nature and the structure of Scripture itself. At first sight, and judged by an ordinary literary estimate, the Bible presents an appearance of being merely a large collection of heterogeneous writings. Historical records, ranging over many centuries, biographies, dialogues, anecdotes, catalogues of moral maxims, and accounts of social experiences, poetry, the most touchingly plaintive and the most buoyantly triumphant, predictions, exhortations, warnings, varying in style, in authorship, in date, in dialect, are thrown, as it seems, somewhat arbitrarily into a single volume. No stronger tie is supposed to have bound together materials so various and so ill-assorted, than the interested or the too credulous industry of some clerical caste in a distant antiquity, or at best than such uniformity in the general type of thought and feeling as may naturally be expected to characterize the literature of a nation or of a race. But beneath the differences of style, of language, and of method, which are undeniably prominent in the Sacred Books, and which appear so entirely to absorb the attention of a merely literary observer, a deeper insight will discover in Scripture such manifest unity of drift and purpose, both moral and intellectual, as to imply the continuous action of a Single Mind. To this unity Scripture itself bears witness, and no where more emphatically than in the text before us. Observe that St. Paul does not treat the Old Testament as being to him what Hesiod, for instance, became to the later Greek world. He does not regard it as a great repertorium or store house of quotations, which might he accidentally or fancifully employed to illustrate the events or the theories of a later age, and to which accordingly he had recourse for purposes of literary ornamentation. On the contrary, St. Paul's is the exact inverse of this point of view. According to St. Paul, the great doctrines and events of the Gospel dispensation were directly anticipated in the Old Testament. If the sense of the Old Testament became patent in the New, it was because the New Testament was already latent in the Old. Προϊδοῦσα δὲ ἡ γραφὴ ὅτι ἐκ πίστεως δικαιοῖ τὰ ἔθνη ὁ θεὸς προευηγγελίσατο τῷ Ἀβραὰμ. Scripture is thus boldly identified with the Mind Which inspires it ; Scripture is a living Providence. The Promise to Abraham anticipates the work of the Apostle ; the earliest of the Books of Moses determines the argument of the Epistle to the Galatians. Such a position is only intelligible when placed in the light of a belief in the fundamental Unity of all Revelation, underlying, and strictly compatible with its superficial variety. (Pages 45, 46)
With the above, Dr. Liddon places before us the extremely important guiding principal that one must keep in mind when approaching Scripture: an organic, providential unity between the NT and OT with a "Single Mind" behind it all.
Dr. Liddon continues with the following:
And this true, internal Unity of Scripture, even when the exact canonical limits of Scripture were still unfixed, was a common article of belief to all Christian antiquity. It was common ground to the sub-apostolic and to the Nicene age ; to the East and to the West ; to the School of Antioch and to the School of Alexandria ; to mystical interpreters like St. Ambrose, and to literalists like St. Chrysostom ; to cold reasoners, such as Theodoret, and to fervid poets such as Ephrem the Syrian ; to those who, with Origen, conceded much to reason, and to those who, with St. Cyril or St. Leo, claimed much for faith. Nay, this belief in the organic oneness of Scripture was not merely shared by schools and writers of divergent tendencies within the Church ; it was shared by the Church herself with her most vehement heretical opponents. Between St. Athanasius and the Arians there was no question as to the relevancy of the reference in the book of Proverbs [8:22] to the pre-existent Person of our Lord, although there was a vital difference between them as to the true sense and force of that reference. Scripture was believed to contain an harmonious and integral body of Sacred Truth, and each part of that body was treated as being more or less directly, more or less ascertainably, in correspondence with the rest. This belief expressed itself in the world-wide practice of quoting from any one book of Scripture in illustration of the mind of any other book. Instead of illustrating the sense of each writer only from other passages in his own works, the existence of a sense common to all the Sacred Writers was recognised, and each writer was accordingly interpreted by the language of the others. (Pages 46, 47)
Dr. Liddon knew all too well that higher critical methods were making huge inroads into Anglican Biblical scholarship. He repeatedly, and consistently, maintained that Sacred Scripture cannot be placed on the same level of non-revelatory (i.e. non "God-breathed") literature. My continuing exploration into the "Angel of Jehovah" issue has revealed to me that those scholars who have abandoned, "an organic, providential unity between the NT and OT with a 'Single Mind' behind it all" view for higher critical methods are much more prone to reject any concrete connection between Jesus Christ and the "Angel of Jehovah".
With above in place, I will now move on to Dr. Liddon's reflections on what he terms, "The Theophanies", of the Old Testament.
Though Dr. Liddon clearly affirms his belief in "the doctrine of the Trinity", he makes some very important distinctions between the person termed Jehovah (in an absolute sense), and the person called the "Angel of Jehovah". On pages 52-53 we read:
From these adumbrations of Personal Distinctions within the Being of God, we pass naturally to consider that series of remarkable apparitions which are commonly known as the Theophanies, and which form so prominent a feature in the early history of the Old Testament Scriptures. When we are told that God spoke to our fallen parents in Paradise, and appeared to Abram in his ninety-ninth year e, there is no distinct intimation of the mode of the Divine manifestation. But when ' Jehovah appeared ' to the great Patriarch by the oak of Mamre, Abraham ' lift np his eyes and looked, and lo, Three Men stood by him.' Abraham bows himself to the ground ; he offers hospitality; he waits by his Visitors under the tree, and they eat. One of the Three is the spokesman : he appears to bear the Sacred Name Jehovah ; he is seemingly distinguished from the 'two angels' who went first to Sodom; he promises that the aged Sarah shall have a son, and that 'all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in Abraham.' With him Abraham intercedes for Sodom; by him judgment is afterwards executed upon the guilty city. When it is said that 'Jehovah rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven",' a sharp distinction is established between a visible and an Invisible Person, each bearing the Most Holy Name. This distinction introduces us to the Mosaic and later representations of that very exalted and mysterious being, the מלאך יהוה or Angel of the Lord. The Angel of the Lord is certainly distinguished from Jehovah ; yet the names by which he is called, the powers which he assumes to wield, the honour which is paid to him, shew that in him there was at least a special Presence of God. (Bold emphasis mine.)
After citing and commenting on other OT Theophanies, Dr. Liddon then writes:
But you ask, Who was this Angel ? The Jewish interpreters vary in their explanations. The earliest Fathers answer with general unanimity that he was the Word or Son of God Himself. (Page 56.)
And on the next page, he continues with:
The Arian controversy led to a modification of that estimate of the Theophanies which had prevailed in the earlier Church. The earlier Church teachers had clearly distinguished, as Scripture distinguishes, between the Angel of the Lord, Himself, as they believed, Divine, and the Father. But the Arians endeavoured to widen this personal distinctness into a deeper difference, a difference of Natures. Appealing to the often-assigned ground of the belief respecting the Theophanies which had prevailed in the ante-Nicene Church, the Arians argued that the Son had been seen by the Patriarchs, while the Father had not been seen, and that an Invisible Nature was distinct from and higher than a nature which was cognizable by the senses. St. Augustine boldly faced this difficulty, and his great work on the Trinity gave the chief impulse to another current of interpretation in the Church...The general doctrine of this great teacher, that the Theophanies were not direct appearances of a Person in the Godhead, but Self-manifestation of God through a created being, had been hinted at by some earlier Fathers and was insisted on by contemporary and later writers of the highest authority. This explanation has since become the predominant although by no means the exclusive judgment of the Church ' ; and if it is not unaccompanied by considerable difficulties when we apply it to the sacred text, it certainly seems to relieve us of greater embarrassments than any which it creates.
But whether the ante-Nicene (so to term it) or the Augustinian line of interpretation be adopted with respect to the Theophanies, no sincere believer in the historical trustworthiness of Holy Scripture can mistake the importance of their relation to the doctrine of our Lord's Divinity. If the Theophanies were not, as has been pretended, mythical legends, the natural product of the Jewish mind at a particular stage of its development, but actual matter-of-fact occurrences in the history of ancient Israel, must we not see in them a deep Providential meaning ? Whether in them the Word or Son actually appeared, or whether God made a created angel the absolutely perfect exponent of His Thought and Will, do they not point in either case to a purpose in the Divine Mind which would only be realized when man had been admitted to a nearer and more palpable contact with God than was possible under the Patriarchal or Jewish dispensations ? (Pages 57-59.)
Dr. Liddon points out the fact that Augustine introduced, "another current of interpretation", and though his, "explanation has since become the predominant [view]", it is "by no means the exclusive judgment of the Church".
What I find interesting is that Dr. Liddon's own reflections on the Angel of Jehovah passages seems much more in line with the pre-Augustinian view (i.e. the ante-Nicene Church Fathers); and perhaps even more importantly, it is the the pre-Augustinian view that most post-Reformation conservative scholars embrace.
Shall end here for now, with the hope that I will have part 3 ready for next week.
Grace and peace,