Michael and Christ: Michael Traditions and Angel Christology in Early Christianity, Issues 109-110
In recent years a number of New Testament scholars have argued that Jewish beliefs and traditions about the principal angel hold the key to understanding why early Christians came to make such exalted claims about Jesus of Nazareth. Jewish and early Christian traditions about the archangel Michael provide a ready test for this thesis. For Michael is very often the principal figure in Jewish and early Christian angelology. Darrell D. Hannah examines Michael traditions from the Old Testament, Jewish apocalyptic, Qumran, Philo, the Rabbis, Merkabah mysticism, the New Testament, Christian apocalyptic, the New Testament Apocrypha, and the Fathers of the second century. From this mass of literature three forms of angelic Christology are evidenced. First, some early 'orthodox' Christians developed an 'theophanic angel Christology'. That is, they interpreted Old Testament passages about the 'angel of the Lord' as 'pre-incarnate manifestations' of Christ. Secondly, some 'heretical' forms of Jewish Christianity identified Christ as an incarnation of the highest archangel. Finally, some Christians found in Jewish speculations about the Principal Angel (Michael, Metatron, Yahoel, etc.) a conceptual framework within which to place a second divine figure. Principal angel traditions, particularly those about the archangel Michael, were useful for elucidating the significance of Christ. However, 'orthodox' Christians who made use of these traditions were very careful to avoid any implication that Christ possessed an angelic nature. 'Orthodox' Christians never regarded Christ merely as an angel, not even as the angel. The Shepherd of Hermas identified Christ with Michael, but would seem to have been unique in this.
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