Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Who did Jesus say he was?

Did Jesus ever declare that he was the second person of the impersonal Trinitarian Godhead?


Did Jesus ever declare that he was Michael the archangel?


Or did he?

One thing Jesus did declare was that he is the apocalyptic Son of Man figure. This person was first introduced in Daniel 7:13-14 and is completely subordinate to God, the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7. Regarding this Son of Man figure, the NET Bible footnote for Daniel 7:13 “one like a son of man” states:
This text is probably the main OT background for Jesus’ use of the term “son of man.” In both Jewish and Christian circles the reference in the book of Daniel has traditionally been understood to refer to an individual, usually in a messianic sense. Many modern scholars, however, understand the reference to have a corporate identity. In this view, the “son of man” is to be equated with the “holy ones” (vv. 18, 21, 22, 25) or the “people of the holy ones” (v. 27) and understood as a reference to the Jewish people. Others understand Daniel’s reference to be to the angel Michael. (italics added)
The “corporate identity” however is a modern novelty and is at odds with the historical Jewish position that it is to be understood as “an individual, usually in a messianic sense.” Supporting this observation, Professor Collins wrote:
The “one like a son of man” is not a corporate symbol, but should be identified with the archangel Michael, the “prince of Israel” in [Daniel] chapters 10-12.[1]
Supporting this, Professor George Nickelsburg wrote:
in the present context of a heavenly scene, it [the “one like a son of man”] almost certainly denotes an angel—quite likely Michael (cf. 12:1)—being present before God.[2]
Also, Professor G. K. Beale wrote:
the “one like a son of man” in [Revelation] 14:14 may be considered an angelic being in his relation to the six other angels in the immediate context (see on 14:14-16; furthermore, there is a close association, if not an identification, of the Son of man in Dan. 7:13 and the archangel Michael in Daniel 8).[3]
The Jewish Study Bible offers the same understanding in its note on Daniel 7:13, saying the Son of Man is “perhaps Michael.” As the Son of Man is a person and not a collective, this identification with Michael makes sense, for there can only be one subordinate ruling figure as seen in Exodus 23:20-23. Thus in the visionary Daniel 7 he is described as “one like a son of man” and in Daniel 10-12 he is called Michael the archangel.

UPDATE: In his massive new translation and commentary on the Hebrew Bible, Dr. Robert Alter concurs with the Michael interpretation in his comment on Daniel 7:13. Rejecting the interpretation that it refers to a “collective representation of the Jewish people,” he writes, tipping his hat to Professor Collins:
Collins, after a thorough and scrupulous survey of all possible readings, plausibly concludes that the term refers to an angelic being, most likely Michael, descending into the scene “with the clouds.” This would explain the force of “like”—this figure looks like a human being but is more than that.[4]

Therefore, since Jesus (1) believed in Daniel and (2) called himself the Son of Man, he (3) logically then believed he was Michael the archangel in his pre-human existence.

  1. Jesus said he was the Son of Man from Daniel 7:13-14.
  2. A number of scholars agree Daniel 7's Son of Man is Michael.
  3. Thus, Jesus said he was Michael.

Jesus=Son of Man=Michael, or Jesus=Son of Man/Michael.

[1] King and Messiah as Son of God (2008), page 78. By Professors John J. and his wife Adela Yarbro Collins, both of whom are Roman Catholic.

[2] Jewish Literature Between The Bible And The Mishnah, 2nd edition (2005), page 78.

[3] The Book of Revelation (The New International Greek Testament Commentary) (2013), page 522.

[4] The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary. (2018)

First, we must appreciate the following:
In the Gospel accounts the expression [“the Son of Man”] is found nearly 80 times, applying in every case to Jesus Christ, being used by him to refer to himself. (Mt 8:20; 9:6; 10:23) The occurrences outside the Gospel accounts are at Acts 7:56; Hebrews 2:6; and Revelation 1:13; 14:14. (Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 2, Son of Man, Christ Jesus, “the Son of Man.”)
While this expression has been used in the Bible for humans, 93 times for Ezekiel and once for Daniel himself (Ezekiel 2:1; Daniel 8:17), being an idiom for “human,” for the figure in Daniel 7:13-14 it takes on apocalyptic meaning as someone in the form of a human being elevated to the divine realm and being given royal status by none other than God himself to rule in God’s righteous name.

Thus while Jesus was indeed born from a woman and was a literal human (Galatians 4:4), after researching how this term was used in Second Temple Judaism, I believe that when Jesus identified himself as the “Son of Man,” he was referring to the figure in Daniel 7:13-14, and not intrinsically to his humanity. But as he was human, the apostle Paul (or the penman of Hebrews) could correctly apply Psalm 8:4-6 as prophetic of Jesus Christ as seen in Hebrews 2:5-9. Additionally, as a true human, Jesus Christ is “the great Kinsman of mankind, having the power to redeem them from bondage to sin and death,” and may be identified as “the great Avenger of blood.—Le 25:48, 49; Nu 35:1-29.” (ibid.)

Demonstrating how Jesus’ use of this expression points to Daniel 7:13-14 as its primary origin can be seen in thematic similarities. In Matthew 16:27 the Son of Man comes in the glory of his Father, in Matthew 19:28 he is enthroned. In Matthew 24:30 he will appear in heaven coming on the clouds of heaven with power. In Matthew 25:31 and 26:64 he is enthroned, the later adding on the clouds of heaven. In Mark 8:38 he comes in the glory of his Father. In Mark 13:26 and 14:62 he comes in the clouds with power. In Luke 21:27 he comes in a cloud with power. In Luke 22:69 he is enthroned. In John 5:27 he has authority from God to judge. In John 6:62 he ascends back to heaven. Thus Jesus used the themes found in Daniel 7:13-14 of ascending, being exalted and enthroned in power amidst the clouds of heaven. Since he identified himself as this apocalyptic Son of Man figure, he used the designation retroactively and applied it to what the Messiah would do (forgive sins as in Matthew 9:6, be the Lord of the Sabbath as in Matthew 12:8, etc.) and experience (hardship as in Matthew 8:20, death as in Matthew 12:40, resurrection in Matthew 17:9, etc.). To repeat, none of these other aspects are seen in Daniel 7:13-14 because Jesus applied them retroactively to himself as the Son of Man. Jesus could do this as he was well-read in the scriptures and was brilliant at determining their message and meaning. This is clearly seen in how he condensed messianic prophesies as recorded in the Passion Narrative of Luke 18:31-33:
Then he took the Twelve aside and said to them: “Look! We are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things written by means of the prophets [Psalms, Isaiah, Daniel, etc.] about the Son of man [used synonymously with “Christ”] will be accomplished. For instance, he will be handed over to men of the nations and will be mocked and treated insolently and spat on. And after scourging him, they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise.”
So here we see that Jesus was a master exegete who blended these messianic prophesies into one with the “Son of Man” from Daniel being the chosen designation for the Messiah.

Does Hebrews 1-2 prevent Jesus from being the Archangel?
In a word: No. Let us look at the relevant scriptures from Hebrews 1-2 from the NET Bible and see why.

In what follows Hebrews 1-2 presents contrasts and comparisons between Jesus and the angels.

Hebrews 1:4
Thus he became so far better than the angels as he has inherited a name superior to theirs.

As “archangel” means the chief of the angels, then this scripture does not address the question.

Hebrews 1:5, 13
For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my son! Today I have fathered you”? And in another place he says, “I will be his father and he will be my son.” …
But to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

Jesus being the archangel would put him in an elevated class over the other angels that appeared after him. Thus, there is no conflict. Even if one views the archangel as a rank within the angels, it would still separate him from the angels as he is superior in so many ways as described in Hebrews 1:2-3.

Hebrews 1:6
But when he again brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all the angels of God worship him!”

Yes, the angels acknowledge Jesus’ superiority. Thus, bowing to him in proskuneo (Greek word used here for “worship”) does not necessarily support Trinitarianism nor does it mean Jesus is not the archangel.

Furthermore, one scholar noted: “An argument, however, that emphasizes a clear distinction between Christ and angels is not necessarily a disavowal of Angelo­morphic Christology, much less a polemic against it. … The “Firstborn” terminology is used in Heb 1.6 to distinguish the Son as an object of worship for the angels: “When he [God] brings the Firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.”’ This worship by angels does not preclude Angelo­morphic Christology since it has already been demonstrated that angels can and do worship an angelomorphic being in some texts.”[B1]

Hebrews 1:8
but of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.

This is a quotation from Psalm 45:6 where the Davidic king may be called “God” in a representational sense, as the finest Trinitarian scholars affirm. See the related blog entry: The Throne of God.

Hebrews 1:9
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. So God, your God, has anointed you over your companions with the oil of rejoicing.”

Here we see how Jesus, if called “God” like the Davidic king, has a God and thus is not a person of the impersonal Trinitarian Godhead.

Hebrews 1:10-13
And, “You founded the earth in the beginning, Lord, and the heavens are the works of your hands. ...

These verses quote the creation doxology directed to God at Psalm 102:25-27 and apply it to Jesus since he was involved with creation under his Father as his representative. This definitely highlights in a climactic way Jesus’ superiority over the angels. Yet it clearly does not mean he is not a created person himself, nor would it mean that he cannot be the archangel.

Hebrews 2:5
For he did not put the world to come, about which we are speaking, under the control of angels.

That’s right, it was put under the control of the supreme angel instead.

Thus Hebrews 1-2 does not prevent Jesus from being the archangel. This is especially seen in the opening verses of Hebrews chapter 1, where verses 1-2 contrast Jesus with the prophets. Even though he is being contrasted with them, this would not mean he is not one, as he was also a prophet. Instead, this contrast is merely stressing a certain vantage point, as in God had used prophets, now he is using Jesus. Thus, with the angels, the vantage point is Jesus’ unique superiority that is being isolated.

[B1] Gieschen, Charles. Angelomorphic Christology. Brill Academic Pub (1998). Pages 294, 298-299

Jude and the Archangels of 1 Enoch
Since the non-canonical, pseudepigraphal 1 Enoch predates Christianity and has multiple archangels,[C1] and since Jude 1:14-15 appears to refer to 1 Enoch 1:9, does that mean Jude believed in multiple archangels?

Not necessarily. In fact, in Jude 1:9 he referred to Michael as THE archangel, using the definite article in Greek.[C2] There he contrasted the archangel with the Devil. As there is only one Devil, this indicates he logically believed in one archangel.[C3]

Additionally, Jude referring to 1 Enoch 1:9 would not mean that he believed in the entire fanciful collection of 1 Enoch. As one scholar admonished: “We must be careful, however, to avoid saying that Jude necessarily agreed with everything found in 1 Enoch ... A general appropriation of a tradition is not the same thing as accepting every detail of the tradition.”[C4] As he was inspired by holy spirit to write his letter, he used an authentic quote that his audience was familiar with that harmonized with divine revelation. There is therefore no firm evidence that Jude believed in multiple archangels.

[C1] While it does list seven archangels once (in chapter 20), it thereafter lists only four, all with relatively simple tasks assigned to them. I thus feel that it is possible that they represent different capacities and roles of the same person. Following this reasoning, while the Parables of 1 Enoch employ the Son of Man figure from Daniel 7:13-14 (who incidentally is called by three other designations, the Chosen or Elect one, the Anointed one, and the Righteous one), this figure in my estimation is therefore not necessarily presented as outranking the archangel figure, if these different names represent the same person in different yet related roles. (Compare with Philo’s comment that the archangel is the “great archangel of many names.”—On the Confusion of Tongues 28:146) However, the appendix material in 1 Enoch 71:14 seems to identify Enoch as “that Son of Man,” which it adds “who was born for righteousness.” This is the only time in the Parables where the Son of Man is spoken of as being born. I therefore think it may cryptically mean that the Son of Man would be born from Enoch. Interestingly, the messianic genealogy in Luke 3:23-38 includes Enoch in Luke 3:37. (As this genealogy has 77 names with Enoch at the seventh place, that would make Jesus the 70th from Enoch.)

[C2] At 1 Thessalonians 4:16 there is no definite article for archangel, but the NET Bible supplies it and explains in its footnote that “archangel” is “most likely monadic,” a single person and not a class of people. (The latest edition of the NET Bible modified this note to read “is most likely par excellence,” that is, ‘better than all others of the same kind.’ Thus, “archangel” is superior to other spirits and requires the definite article.)

[C3] Although one authority cautions that “one should not conclude from the use of the article in [the archangel], that Jude identified Michael as the only archangel.”—Darrell D. Hannah, Michael and Christ: Michael Tradition and Angel Christology in Early Christianity, (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, Dec 31, 1999), 132 n. 43.

[C4] Schreiner, Thomas. The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (New American Commentary, 37). Holman Reference (2003). Page 450.

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