You are hereIs Michael Christ? (Part 1)
Is Michael Christ? (Part 1)
by John Evans
During the three years that have elapsed since I finished writing The Four Kingdoms of Daniel, I have had ample time to rethink a few positions that I took in that book about which I entertained some doubt at the time that I wrote. When I submitted my manuscript to the publisher, I knew that I could be (and probably was) wrong on a few points, but I felt that someone needed to be putting out a book that refutes the general thrust of the interpretations of Daniel that have for far too long been dominant—the liberal or critical approach (dominant in academia), which treats it as “a pious fraud,” and the futurist approach, which insists that its “end-time” prophecies have yet to be fulfilled. During the three years that have elapsed since I finished writing The Four Kingdoms of Daniel, I have had ample time to rethink a few positions that I took in that book about which I entertained some doubt at the time that I wrote. When I submitted my manuscript to the publisher, I knew that I could be (and probably was) wrong on a few points, but I felt that someone needed to be putting out a book that refutes the general thrust of the interpretations of Daniel that have for far too long been dominant—the liberal or critical approach (dominant in academia), which treats it as “a pious fraud,” and the futurist approach, which insists that its “end-time” prophecies have yet to be fulfilled. My understanding of Daniel has deepened considerably during the past three years. On a number of occasions, I have posted articles here that reflect this deepening. In the present article and the one that will follow it, I shall address the problem of the identity of Michael, whom the Book of Daniel mentions three times, all of them being in the last vision (chapters 10-12). In my book, I offered an ambiguous analysis of Daniel’s Michael in which I called attention to the possibility that he symbolizes Christ, but I stopped short of endorsing that position and opined that it is probably better to regard him as an angel. I have subsequently examined this issue with a good deal more care, and I hereby proclaim that I now am firmly of the view that the Michael of the Book of Daniel is the pre-incarnate Christ and is not an angel.
The first reference to Michael in the Book of Daniel is found in 10:13, which reads as follows (NASB): “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.” Note here that the narrator refers to Michael as “one of the chief princes” (emphasis added). It was this identification that, more than anything else, persuaded me three years ago that it was probably correct to classify Michael as an angel. I could accept that the Book of Daniel refers to Christ as a “prince” in 10:13 because I was sure that it does so in 9:25 and also because I was aware of other biblical passages in which messianic references could be translated as “prince.” What I could not accept was allowing Christ to belong to a group of princes whose status was approximately equal to His own. To do so would be to deny His uniqueness and divinity. Moreover, the Bible’s supernatural beings called “angels” are created, but Christ “was in the beginning with God” (John 1:2, emphasis added).
The possibility that Michael is Christ first came to my attention when I looked at David Chilton’s masterful commentary on Revelation. Although Chilton did not address the issue arising from the language of Daniel 10:13, he briefly noted some evidence supporting the Michael as Christ thesis and concluded: “Even at first glance, therefore, there is much to commend the view that Michael is a symbolic representation of Christ.” In reaching this conclusion, Chilton drew upon the authority of Milton Terry (1840-1914), whose work was totally unfamiliar to me three years ago. Terry observed that Revelation presents Christ “under various names and symbols” and that in Revelation 12, Michael and his angels are to be understood as “a symbolic designation of Christ and his apostles, together will all the angelic forces in sympathy and cooperation with them.” Terry did not suggest, as Chilton did, that Michael symbolizes Christ in Daniel as well as in Revelation, and neither Terry nor Chilton addressed the problem posed by the language of Daniel 10:13.
Another prominent commentator on Revelation who has endorsed the idea that Michael is Christ is Kurt Simmons. Simmons makes what I find to be a highly persuasive case for believing that this is what Revelation 12 indicates, and he offers a brief analysis of supporting biblical passages elsewhere than in Revelation to arrive at the conclusion that “it seems clear that Michael is a divine manifestation identified with Christ.” Unfortunately, Simmons does not address the obstacle posed by Daniel 10:13.
If the Michael of Revelation 12 is Christ, and if both Revelation and Daniel are divinely inspired works that are genuinely prophetic, it would seem to follow that the Michael of Daniel must also be Christ. How, then, is one to reconcile the apparent conflict between Revelation 12, which portrays Michael as the being who leads the angels in their struggle against Satan and his angels, with Daniel 10:13, which refers to Michael as “one of the chief princes”? One possibility is to surmise that the original text of Daniel 10:13 was altered before being finalized as we have it today. Another is that we are not correctly translating it. I lean toward the second explanation.
Although its applicability in this particular instance is debatable, a fact that one should keep in mind in considering questions about the accuracy of Daniel’s text is that the Septuagint’s translation of Daniel from Hebrew and Aramaic has been substantially altered from the original. This explains why translations of Daniel from Greek are generally made from Theodotion. Writing in the 1920s, Charles Boutflower carefully demonstrated that the Septuagint’s rendering of the seventy “weeks” prophecy of Daniel 9 had been doctored so as to try to force a second-century BC fulfillment. Boutflower also argued that most of the text of Daniel 11 has been altered by targumic additions that could have been made as early as 164 BC.
Weighing against the possibility that the text of 10:13 has been altered is the fact that translations of Daniel that are based primarily upon the Masoretic Text (MT) also have 10:13 referring to Michael as one of the chief princes. It should be kept in mind, however, that the MT dates from the eighth to tenth centuries AD and that the rabbinical theology that it reflects looked on Michael as the guardian angel of the Jewish people rather than a part of God Himself. Because of this late-date rabbinical influence, I trust translations of Daniel based on Theodotion more than those that follow the MT.
Sensing that the standard translation “one of the chief princes” in 10:13 might be subject to question, I recently searched the Internet and was rewarded by the discovery of an article by Bryan T. Huie that suggests that this translation is indeed debatable. Huie points out that Young’s Literal Translation (YLT), published in 1898, renders 10:13 as follows: “And the head of the kingdom of Persia is standing over against me twenty and one days, and lo, Michael, first of the chief heads, hath come in to help me, and I have remained there near the kings of Persia.” Huie argues, and I agree, that the language “first of the chief heads” differs significantly from “one of the chief princes” because it makes Michael superior to the other “princes.” This difference in translation arises, he writes, from the fact that Young translated the Hebrew word 'echad as “first” whereas most translators have taken it to mean being one of a group of equivalent rank. I suggest that a presumption on the part of translators that Michael is an angel probably accounts for this preference.
Even if the YLT offers the more accurate translation of 10:13, one can still argue that it does not necessarily indicate that Michael is a divine being. If he is viewed as the most important of the leading angels, this still evidently makes him an angel. Indeed, the term “archangel” is often applied to Michael in this very sense. Interestingly, although this term has come to mean a high-ranking angel in common usage, its biblical meaning is that it refers to the leader of God’s angels. And who is this leader? I suggest that He is God, as embodied in the person of Christ.
The term “archangel” appears only twice in the Bible, both times in the NT. Here are the relevant verses, as translated in the NASB.
1 Thessalonians 4:16. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead
in Christ will rise first.
Jude 9. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment,
but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”
According to Huie, “archangel” comes from the Greek word archaggelos, a compound word that literally means “chief messenger.” Christ was indeed God’s chief messenger to mankind, he observes, as well as the “voice” that would raise “the dead in Christ.” That Christ is this “voice,” he adds, is confirmed by John 5:25: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” I find this analysis to be convincing.
While the reconciliation of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 with the Michael is Christ thesis is easily accomplished, the reconciliation of Jude 9 with this thesis is an entirely different matter. I have not read Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure, but I have no doubt that Hardy’s choice of this title was motivated by the difficulty of understanding the epistle attributed to Jude, “a bond-servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (NASB, v.1). Jude’s obscurity has caused me considerable anguish in recent weeks, but after having exhausted quite a few of my remaining neurons trying to understand its context, I have arrived at the conclusion that although I am not at all confident that Jude identified Michael with Christ, this does not undermine the case for believing that in both Daniel and Revelation, Michael is—again quoting Simmons—“a divine manifestation identified with Christ.” In fact, Jude’s treatment of Michael may have contributed to John’s mention of him in Revelation.
Opponents of the Michael is Christ thesis have used Jude 9 to claim that Michael clearly cannot be Christ there because he lacks the power to pronounce judgment against the devil and has to call on God to rebuke him. After all, the argument goes, since Jesus rebukes demons on various occasions in the NT, then, if Michael is Christ, why isn’t he able to rebuke the devil in Jude 9 as well? On the surface, this argument seems persuasive, but when you carefully examine the factors that appear to have influenced the author of Jude, it loses its force.
I concede that it is possible that the author of Jude—let’s assume he was Jude—actually believed that Michael was an angel. After all, as the popularity of the pseudepigraphal Book of Enoch makes clear, angelology was highly developed among the Jews by the first century AD, and many of the Jews regarded Michael as first among the angels. Given this, it is not surprising that Jude mentions Michael, but does this mean that we should understand Jude 9 as indicating that the power of the devil exceeds that of Michael? I don’t think so, but given the space that I have already consumed in this article, I shall have to defer a good part of my analysis of Jude 9 until the companion article that will follow this one in the very near future.
Revelation contains numerous points of contact with the Book of Daniel, one of which is the presence of Michael in Revelation 12. I believe that Michael’s appearance there helps us to better understand just who Michael is in Daniel, and I also believe that it is quite possible that the insertion of Michael into Revelation 12 was motivated, in part, by the desire to counter the notion that the devil (or Satan) wields greater power than he does. Revelation 12 records the struggle of Michael and his angels against Satan and his angels when the latter attempt to destroy the male child born to the woman who escapes with the child by fleeing into the wilderness. Michael and his angels defeat their foes, with the result that “there was no longer a place for them in heaven” (v.8).
According to Kurt Simmons—whose analysis of Revelation 12 is superb—Satan and his angels are not to be understood as demonic beings with supernatural powers. In Revelation 12, he insists, these beings are symbolic of sin and death “and express themselves through the agency of Imperial Rome and the Jews.” They are thus to be viewed as human agents of evil, not supernatural demons. Satan—also called “the dragon”—symbolizes Rome, while “his angels are those opposing the gospel from the Jews, including men like Herod, Ananus, and Joseph Caiaphas.” Simmons also points out that “the Greek term angelos simply means a messenger.”
Does this mean that Jude 9 is bad theology because it contradicts Revelation 12 and has Michael’s power being inferior to the devil’s? I am convinced that the answer to this question is no. In the first place, one could argue that the wording “did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment” simply means that Michael did not choose to engage in harangues against a prominent evildoer because to do so would be out of character. This argument is especially appealing if you take the position that Michael is Christ even in Jude 9 because “The Lord rebuke you” can then be interpreted to mean that Michael/Christ simply chose to rebuke the “devil” rather than argue with him. This would be equivalent to saying “You had your chance, be gone.” There is, however, a better argument, one that involves taking a careful look at the scriptural context of Jude 9 and the religious situation existing among the Jewish people before AD 66, the year in which the ill-fated war with Rome began.
The epistle of Jude is, of course, closely related to 2 Peter, and it particularly parallels 2 Peter 2, which deals with the “false prophets” who were circulating “destructive heresies” among the Jews, thereby condemning themselves before God. These “destructive heresies” included “cleverly disguised tales” (1:16) that contradicted the authentic teachings of those who spoke for God. Among these tales was the collection of stories known as the Book of Enoch, in which “fallen angels” cause mankind much torment. Specifically, in the earliest part of Enoch, which is commonly called the Book of The Watchers, the fallen angels take human wives and father a race of giants who unleash much evil upon the world. God sends Michael, Gabriel, and other archangels to deal with the fallen angels and their progeny. The giants are destroyed, and under the leadership of Michael, the fallen angels are bound and thrown into Tartarus to await their judgment after seventy generations.
Religious scholars consider The Book of the Watchers to be among the earliest of the pseudeipigraphal writings that are commonly dated from about 200 BC to about AD 200, and some critical scholars maintain that portions of it probably precede the writing of the Book of Daniel, which, they believe, reached its final form ca. 164 BC. That it was well-known among the Jews by the time of Christ is certain, and one can plausibly surmise that when Christ said to the Sadducees that “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (NIV; Mark 12:25), His mention of angels was motivated, in part, by a desire to dispose of the common but mistaken notion propagated by the Book of Enoch that angels can be sexual beings. One can also plausibly surmise that both 2 Peter and Jude are much concerned with refuting commonly held notions associated with the Book of Enoch.
Following the warnings about “cleverly devised tales” and “false prophets,” 2 Peter presents several verses about God’s actions against evildoers and on behalf of the righteous that begin with verse 4, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;” and reaches this conclusion in verse 9: “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment” (NASB). Verse 10 then condemns those who indulge the corruptions of the flesh, despise authorities, and “revile angelic majesties,” and verse 11 again refers to angels: “whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them [those who are corrupt] before the Lord.”
Jude was undoubtedly written somewhat later than 2 Peter, and it is reasonable to assume that the passages in Jude that parallel passages in 2 Peter were written with 2 Peter literally in view. Jude 9 parallels 2 Peter 11. For comparison, here, again, is Jude 9: “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’” Obviously, Jude 9 substantially modifies 2 Peter 11. It does so, I am confident, in reaction to the angelology that was circulating among the Jews during the first century, particularly that found in the Book of Enoch. I am also confident that while Jude may or may not have believed that Michael is Christ, his insertion of Michael into verse 9 does not undercut this idea.
But I have now exhausted the space limit for this particular article and must bring it to a close. As soon as I can recharge the neurons sufficiently to finish the job, I shall submit Part 2. In that installment, I shall finish my analysis of Jude 9 and offer a detailed explanation of why I have become confident that the Michael of the Book of Daniel is the pre-incarnate Christ.
Isa, 9:6, Acts 5:31, Rev. 1:5.
David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Tyler, Tex.: Dominion Press, 1987,
Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ, 386 (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1898; reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House), 386.
Kurt M. Simmons, The Consummation of the Ages: A.D. 70 and the Second Coming in the Book of Revelation (Bimillennial Preterist Association, 2003), 244-48. The quotation is found in the footnote on p. 244.
Charles Boutflower, In and Around The Book of Daniel (New York: Macmillan, 1923; reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1977), 170-75.
Bryan T. Huie, “Christ in the Old Testament,” http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:PhIx8fV_-jOJ.www. aristotle.net/bhuie/christot.htm+%22Mi.
Simmons, Consummation, 246.
Ibid., 244, 244n6.
See also Matt. 22:30, Luke 20:35-36.