You are hereIs Michael Christ? (Part 2)
Is Michael Christ? (Part 2)
by John Evans
In this article, I continue my defense of the proposition that the supernatural being called Michael is to be understood in both Daniel and Revelation as the pre-incarnate figure of Christ. In Part 1, I commented on the references to Michael in the only books of the Bible that mention him: Daniel, Revelation, and Jude. In Part 2, I shall finish looking at Jude, which necessitates also looking at 2 Peter and Zechariah 3. I shall then return to Daniel so as to more fully discuss its treatment of Michael. I shall mention Revelation 12 only in passing.In this article, I continue my defense of the proposition that the supernatural being called Michael is to be understood in both Daniel and Revelation as the pre-incarnate figure of Christ. In Part 1, I commented on the references to Michael in the only books of the Bible that mention him: Daniel, Revelation, and Jude. In Part 2, I shall finish looking at Jude, which necessitates also looking at 2 Peter and Zechariah 3. I shall then return to Daniel so as to more fully discuss its treatment of Michael. I shall mention Revelation 12 only in passing.The Book of Daniel refers to Michael as the “prince” who protects Daniel’s people. Revelation 12 presents him as the leader of the angels who fight against the “dragon” (Satan) and his angels to protect the Christian church in its infancy. Jude 9 presents him as “Michael the archangel,” who disputed with the devil about the body of Moses. I indicated in Part 1 that while I cannot be sure that Jude took Michael to symbolize Christ, a proper understanding of how Michael came to be mentioned in Jude 9 suggests that whatever Jude’s view of him may have been, it does not affect the case for holding that Michael is Christ in both Daniel and Revelation.
Jude’s reference to Michael must be understood, I am confident, in light of the influence of the Book of Enoch and various other stories and traditions that led to many first-century AD Jews, including converts to Christianity, being steeped in beliefs about angels as supernatural beings that were at variance with the teachings of Christ and his apostles. The influence of such beliefs no doubt helps explain why 2 Peter devotes much of its message to dismissing the claims of “false prophets” with “cleverly disguised tales” who were circulating “destructive heresies” among the Jews (1:16, 2:1). Although 2 Peter does not mention Michael, its parallel passages can help us understand why Jude does so.
Two Peter 2:4-9 state that if God cast angels who sinned into Tartarus to await their final judgment, if He brought a flood to destroy ungodly people in the time of Noah, if He condemned Sodom and Gomorrah, and if He rescued the righteous Lot from the lawless men around him, then He “knows how to rescue the godly from temptation.” The insertion of the conditional if into these verses opens the door to the possibility that Peter did not believe that all of these things had actually occurred. Because Genesis does not present an account of fallen angels but does bring in Noah, etc., I suggest that Peter’s purpose in inserting the ifs was to challenge the idea that angels had sinned.
With regard to the following analysis of 2 Peter 2 and Jude, I must acknowledge my indebtedness to Steven Cox, a Christadelphian whose Internet writings have been invaluable in accelerating my progress down the exegetical road upon which I had already started in my analysis of Jude. In several detailed, well-written, and tightly reasoned articles posted on the Internet, Cox provides a persuasive explanation of how Jude 9 came to mention Michael, an explanation that leads to the inference that Jude’s treatment of Michael does not contradict his treatment in Daniel and Revelation.
The section of Genesis devoted to Noah and the Flood (chapters 6-9) begins with this passage (NASB): “1Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, 2that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.” In the Book of Enoch, two hundred angels sin by taking human wives and spawning a race of giants who cause the world much trouble. God sends obedient angels to dispose of the giants, and under the leadership of Michael, the fallen angels are bound and thrown into Tartarus to await the final judgment upon them after seventy generations. The Enoch myth and other myths about fallen angels appear to have sprung from these two verses of Genesis 6. That 2 Peter 2:4 was written with this background in mind seems highly probable. Cox cites with approval the view of St. Augustine that the biblically correct view of “the sons of God” of Genesis 6:2 is that they were the sons of Seth who intermarried with the “daughters of men”; i.e., the descendants of Cain.
I pointed out in Part 1 that 2 Peter 2:11 parallels Jude 9, but I did not explain how Michael’s name came to be inserted into Jude 9. I shall now embark upon that daunting task after first quoting 2 Peter 2:9-10 (NASB): “9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties.” For verse 10b, the more “artistic” NIV gives: “Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings.” We must conclude, I think, that Peter did not take “the sons of God” of Genesis 6:2 to be angels and that he did not believe in fallen angels. Among such fallen angels would be Satan.
Here, again, are 2 Peter 2:11 and Job 9 (NASB).
2 Peter 2:11. whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.
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!”
In these verses, the NIV has “slanderous accusations” in place of “reviling judgment” and “railing judgment.”
If we look at the verses that immediately precede 2 Peter 2:11, we see that Peter is saying that although corrupt and ungodly men do not hesitate “to slander celestial beings,” these same “celestial beings” do not return the “favor.” The authority to judge thus belongs to God, not angels. Jude 9 contains the reference to “slanderous accusations” found in 2 Peter 2:11, but it also has material that is not in the parallel verse. Thus, it replaces the “angels who are greater in power and might” with Michael, adds a dispute with the devil about the body of Moses, and also adds “The Lord rebuke you.” These differences merit a brief explanation.
We can be confident that Jude was written later than 2 Peter and that the differences between them reflect this fact. Jude thus had 2 Peter to work from. He probably chose to substitute Michael for Peter’s mighty angels because Michael was believed by many Jews, including converts to Christianity, to be the leader of the “celestial beings” and he wanted to emphasize that even the most powerful angel did not render judgments. I realize that in taking this position, I am opening the door to the possibility that Jude himself regarded Michael as a mere “celestial being” rather than the pre-incarnate Christ. On the other hand, I incline toward the interpretation that although Jude reinforced Peter’s position on angels by suggesting limitations to their authority, he indicated that Michael is more than an “angel” by calling him “the archangel” and empowering him to invoke the authority of God. After all, in saying “The Lord rebuke you!”, that is what Michael is doing.
Incidentally, I think it is possible that the prophet Daniel regarded Michael as an angel rather than deity. What really matters, however, is not what Daniel believed, but how accurately his prophecy has been transmitted to us. Recalling the words of 2 Peter 1:20a-21b, let us remember that “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will” (NASB). The prophets recorded what was given to them; how we understand their revelations reflects our ability to interpret Scripture. Fortunately, as Daniel 12:4 reminds us, “many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.” And although these words of Daniel were written, I am confident, in reference to “the time of the end” of the first century, they continue to be applicable. I tend to criticize what I regard as an over-reliance upon prophetic typology, but I also firmly believe that many prophecies present themes and principles that are repeated in history. What I am reluctant to do is to accept the notion of prophecies that have multiple “primary applications.” That I regard as redundancy.
But what about Jude’s insertion into verse 9 of the dispute between Michael and the devil over “the body of Moses”? When I first read Jude 9 and sought an answer to this question, I discovered the existence of an apocryphal work called The Assumption of Moses. According to a Wikipedia article, this work survives in a single Latin manuscript from the sixth century and purports to contain the secret prophecies that Moses revealed to Joshua at the end of his life. Included in the Assumption of Moses is the account of a dispute between Michael and Satan over Moses’ body. It has been assumed by some biblical scholars that the reference to Michael and the body of Moses in Jude 9 was derived from the Assumption of Moses. This, however, appears to be unlikely. In the first place, it means that a canonical work is made to be the source for the authentication of a non-canonical work whose claim for validity would otherwise be non-existent. As Michael Scheifler notes, this invalidates the principle of sola scriptura. In the second place, as Steven Cox painstakingly points out, it is unlikely that the reference to the body of Moses in the Assumption of Moses could have inspired Jude 9 in any event.
According to Cox, modern commentaries commonly assume that Jude 9 quotes from the Assumption of Moses, which they regard as an important Jewish apocryphal work. It is true, he writes, that “Michael is credited in Jewish myth as being the angel who buries the body and escorts the soul to paradise,” but it is also true that in the Jewish sources that mention Michael or Moses, the devil never attempts to steal the body of Moses, or, for that matter, the body of either Adam or Abraham. In Cox’s opinion, the story of the dispute between Michael and Satan survives outside Jude 9 only in Christian literature based on Jude 9. In other words, it appears that the material in the Assumption of Moses pertaining to Michael and Satan and various legends that must have been derived from this source “are suspect as being after Jude, not before it, and are likely false attempts to explain Jude.” Furthermore, he adds, these sources “lack the references to Deuteronomy 34 that would be found in a genuine Jewish midrash on the burial of Moses.”
If the Assumption of Moses was not the source for Jude 9’s encounter between Michael and the devil, then what was? The obvious choice is Zechariah 3, which features the story of the high priest Joshua. Because of their relevance for understanding Jude 9, here are Zechariah 3:1-2 (NASB): “1Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2The LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not a brand plucked from the fire?” Note the following points of correspondence between these verses and Jude 9: (1) “the angel of the LORD” corresponds to “Michael the archangel”; (2) Satan corresponds to the devil; and (3) both verses have the LORD rebuking the devil/Satan. In addition, it should be noted that in Jude 23, it is stated that God’s love will save some individuals by snatching them “out of the fire.” This corresponds, of course, to the “brand plucked from fire” in Zechariah 3:2. The conclusion that Jude drew upon Zechariah 3 is, I think, inescapable.
To fully analyze the possible links between Zechariah 3 and Jude would require the writing of another article and would take me away from my focus on Michael. I shall, therefore, limit my comments on those links to a few “shotgun” observations. First, I assert that “the angel of the LORD” of Zechariah 3:1 is equivalent to deity and is also the equivalent of Michael. Second, I suggest that the reference to “the body of Moses” in Jude 9 refers not to the corpse of the prophet who led the Exodus, but to Joshua the high priest, who was charged with the responsibility for restoring the Jewish faith during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. The “body of Moses” is thus to be understood symbolically as referring to keepers of the faith rather than literally. Third, Satan, the accuser of Joshua in Zechariah 3:1, symbolizes the human accusers of Joshua/Jeshua (See Ezra 4:7.). This means that in Zechariah 3, “Satan” is human, and this finding is consistent with the theology of 2 Peter 2, where the “fallen angels” are men. A logical conclusion, therefore, is that the “devil” of Jude 9 is also human. Steven Cox provides an invaluable elaboration of the second and third observations.
And now, finally, I can return to Daniel. Here I shall start with the statement that I take it for granted that the “one like a Son of Man” of Daniel 7:13 is Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ. I know that liberals tend to insist that this figure is either the collective symbol of the Jewish people or Michael, the guardian angel of the Jews. I also know that the NAB, the Bible endorsed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops holds (Daniel 7, note 8) that the son of man figure represents “the glorified people of God that will form his kingdom on earth” who are symbolized here in human form and that Jesus chose to adopt the title of “Son of Man” as “his most characteristic way of referring to himself, as the One in whom and through whom the salvation of God’s people came to be realized.” While I regard the NAB’s position as verbose nonsense, at least it allows a secondary application of 7:13 that is Messianic in the Christian sense.
Daniel 7:14 informs us (NASB) that “all the peoples, nations and men of every language” will come to serve the one like a Son of Man and that his dominion will be everlasting. Later in Daniel 7, the terrible “little horn” wages war against the “saints” until (v.22) the Ancient of Days (God) renders judgment in their favor, with the result that “the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.” Verse 27 reaffirms that the “saints” will receive an “everlasting kingdom” in which they “will serve and obey Him,” meaning God. Because 7:14 assigns dominion of the everlasting kingdom to the one like a Son of Man and 7:27 assigns it to God, a reasonable conclusion is that the son of man figure is deity.
Given the great importance that Daniel 7 assigns to the one like a Son of Man, I surmise that someone studying Daniel for the first time who has not been seriously exposed to the received opinions of liberal biblical scholars would naturally expect, before reading Daniel 8-12, that this figure would reemerge in the three visions that constitute those chapters. Such an expectation would be doomed to disappointment, for liberal scholars have collectively done their best to remove the one like a Son of Man from the visions of Daniel 8, 9, and 10-12. On the whole, I concede, conservatives have not advanced a strong case for finding the messianic figure of Daniel 7 in the visions of 8 and 10-12. In my judgment, however, He is there. In the analysis that follows, my biblical quotations are, as usual, from the NASB unless otherwise noted.
Using “angels” in the sense of being divinely appointed messengers, including the Son of Man figure of 7:13, angelic figures first appear in Daniel 8 in verse 13: “Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one that was speaking, ‘How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?’” Then, after next verse informs Daniel that 2,300 evenings and mornings will transpire before “the holy place will be properly restored,” verse 15b records: “behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man.” I submit that this being is the one like a Son of Man of 7:13.
In 8:14, Daniel hears “the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai” ordering Gabriel to “give this man an understanding of the vision.” Being “beween the banks” suggests to me that the “man” of the voice is hovering over the waters of this river/canal, and that is remindful of “the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river” in 12:6. I assume that the “man” who speaks in 8:14 is the “one who looked like a man” in 8:13. That this “man” is the messianic figure of 7:13 follows from his description and his superiority to Gabriel. In the remainder of Daniel 8, Daniel receives an explanation of the vision from a being who can be presumed to be Gabriel, and there is no further mention of the hovering “man.”
For conservatives, the Messianic figure of Daniel 7 reemerges in Daniel 9 as the “Messiah” or “Anointed One” of verses 25-27. Liberals are barred from doing likewise, of course, by their insistence on trying to cram the fulfillment of Daniel’s “seventy weeks” prophecy into a box that can’t hold it, thereby producing some of the most remarkable feats of eisegesis to be found outside of dispensationalism. The “man Gabriel” is named in 9:21 as the messenger who gives the prophecy to Daniel.
Michael is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel, all of them being in the last vision. After informing Daniel in 10:12 that he has heard his words of supplication and has come in response to them, the narrating angel, presumably Gabriel, says this in verse 13: “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.” How my views have changed since I first pondered this verse! I initially assumed that Michael was merely an important angel of the “celestial being” variety, that he was in the same general class of angels as Gabriel, and that “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” was probably a “dark angel” who belonged to Satan’s “legion.” I now believe that Michael is the pre-incarnate Christ, that he is to be regarded as Gabriel’s superior, and that the “prince” of Persia and “the kings of Persia” are to be regarded as mere humans, whose sinful nature compels them to resist the will of “celestial beings.”
Michael is mentioned again in 10:21, when Gabriel (I assume) informs Daniel that “there is no one who stands firmly with me against these [evil] forces except Michael your prince.” Finally, in 12:1, after the villain of 11:40-45 meets his end, Gabriel makes this announcement: “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.”
The Michael of these verses can readily be accommodated to fit the theological view that he is the guardian angel (but not God) who gives special protection to the Jewish people, but making him fit into Christian theology as the pre-incarnate Christ is, I admit, a serious challenge. I don’t have any difficulty with 12:1 in that regard because I am confident that 11:40-45 apply to the period of time that ended with the death of Herod the Great and the birth of Christ (ca. 2 BC, according to Kurt Simmons). Verse 10:13 can best be dealt with, as I pointed out in Part 1, by arguing that “one of the chief princes” is better translated as “first of the chief heads.” That translation can then be combined with the argument that when Michael is called “the archangel” in Jude 9, this means that He is the leader of the “celestial beings” but does not have to be one Himself. The reference to Michael in 10:21 is arguably consistent with this view given the relationship established between God and the Jewish people under the Old Covenant.
There remains the task of considering the identity of the “man in linen,” whom we meet in 10:5-6: “5I lifted my eyes, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. 6His body was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult.” Although the justly esteemed premillennialist Gleason Archer wrote that “Verses 5-6 are probably the most-detailed description in Scripture of the appearance of an angel,” I have to strongly disagree. The man in linen is no angel. He is the Messianic figure of 7:13, which is to say that He is the pre-incarnate Christ. I suggest that you can verify this by comparing these two verses with Revelation 1:13-16, 2:18, and 19:12. Moreover, in Daniel 10:7, Daniel says that he alone saw the man in linen, but that “a great dread” fell over his companions, who ran away; and in the next verse, Daniel states that he turned deathly pale and lost all of his strength. This, of course, is remindful of Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-7). In addition, if we compare Daniel’s reactions to the presence of the man in linen in 10:8-9 and the man between the banks of the Ulai in 8:17-18, we find a big difference from how he reacts to Gabriel’s appearance in 9:21-23. I attribute the difference to the presence of deity in Daniel 8 and 10.
In Daniel 10:10-14, Daniel is spoken to by a being who is evidently not the man in linen. One has to assume that this “man” is Gabriel. In 10:16-18, he is approached by “one who resembled a human being” (v.18), who is evidently not Gabriel. In 10:16, this being touches Daniel’s lips. Daniel is spoken to again in verses 19-21, and while it can reasonably be assumed that the being doing the speaking is again Gabriel, it is not clear just where Gabriel begins and the other being leaves off. Ernest C. Lucas, whose commentary on Daniel I regard as very competent effort by a moderate liberal to produce a genuinely fair and balanced work, states that it is not clear just who is talking to Daniel in verses 15-19. His analysis leaves room for the implication that the awesomeness of the experience could be reasonably understood as having caused some confusion in Daniel’s mind.
Daniel 11 features a long series of prophecies that liberals and even some moderate conservatives believe have their end-time fulfillment during the time of Antiochus IV in the second-century BC, but which, I believe, carry through to the death of Herod the Great. Daniel 12:1 then brings in “Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people,” and 12:5 has Daniel looking out and seeing “two others” who are standing separately on either side of the river, which Daniel 10:4 gives as the Tigris. One of these “others” then speaks in 12:6 to “the man dressed in linen,” who is above the waters of the river, asking, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” The man in linen responds in 12:7b with these unforgettable words (at least for a preterist) “it would be for a time, times and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed” (emphasis added). I again submit that the man in linen is Christ!
But is he Michael? Yes, I believe so. Although there is no clear and unambiguous statement to that effect in the Bible, one has to keep in mind that religious beliefs grounded in the Holy Bible have always had to compete with those of other faiths. From the days of the OT through the first centuries of the Christian Era, the proponents of a biblically based faith had to contend with all kinds of pagan superstitions, including beliefs in fallen angels and demonic spirits, and this fact obviously tempered the manner in which God revealed Himself to “the people of the book.” I do not intend to imply that the Bible is full of lies and half-truths, for I know that is not the case. I do believe, however, that if we are to fully understand what the Bible tells us, we have to take into account the historical conditions that prevailed when it came into existence and the audience to which it was addressed.
We are told in John 1:18 that no one has ever seen God, and we are told elsewhere that no human has talked to Him. Yet there are various passages in the OT that seem to contradict these teachings. What we must conclude, I think, is that the pre-incarnate person of Christ is present in much of the OT and that it was He that brought the person of God into contact with actual human beings. I choose to believe that this pre-incarnate Christ came to be called Michael, and I refer the readers once again to Revelation 12:7 for the final proof.
John S. Evans
I particularly recommend “The Angels That Sinned: Slandering Celestial Beings,” which can be found under Satan, Devil and Demons, Wrested Scriptures, http://www.wrestedscriptures.com/b07/satan/satan. html. I also recommend two other articles that can be found at this link, “2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6—The angels which sinned’ and “Jude 9—Michael contending with the devil.” Similar articles by Cox can be found at http://tidings.org/studypast.htm in articles under the heading “Not Giving Heed to Jewish Fables” appearing in the issues of November 2000, January 2001, April 2001, and May 2001.
Cox, “The Angels That Sinned.”
Cox, “Not Giving Heed to Jewish Fables,” April 2001.
Ibid., “Not Giving Heed to Jewish Fables,” May 2001.
Gleason L. Archer, Jr., “Daniel”, Daniel-Minor Prophets, vol. 7, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelin (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1985), 123.
Ernest C. Lucas, Daniel, vol. 20, Apollos Old Testament Commentary, ed. David W. Baker and Gordon J. Wenham (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 277.