Creating Jesus 11: The Name Angel

I hope that these posts aren't getting too long and disjointed. I worry that bits and pieces are getting lost in between the posts. I want to keep reminding us that this tagging of Jesus with these various titles and scriptures isn't a linear process. And when one tag is made, it brings with it a host of connected tags and ideas. I also want to keep reminding us that what we have, even in Paul, is the "end" of the process of tagging - I don't mean by this that the tagging doesn't continue, it does, but every author is giving us the result of the tagging process he is aware of. So what we have to do as scholars is try to figure out how that particular picture of Jesus came about. We have to work backwards, often against the grain.

So what we know from the early sources is that Jesus' death was central in the development of Christology, not so much that they were trying to give his death theological meaning (i.e. atonement or overcoming passions), but that they were trying to figure out why he died when they weren't expecting it, at least as a criminal. They begin with what would have been a very natural explanation - he was a prophet who was rejected and a righteous man of God who was martyred. His death was important because it was a martyr's death which atones for the sins of Israel. This explained to them the visions of him that they claimed to have had - it wasn't his ghost or his spirit, but his resurrected body! He was glorified and exalted to heaven, receiving the reward every martyr expects.

As a prophet, he wasn't just any prophet. He was a messianic prophet (remember I argued that they likely saw him as a Messiah during his lifetime). He must have been the Prophet-like-Moses, a real hero. Like Moses and the other Jewish heroes (including Enoch, Jacob, even Adam), he was highly exalted, given God's Name and enthroned.

This meant that Jesus had been transfigured into some kind of angelic body, since the body-resurrected was the body transformed into a star/angel. Again, there is one great angel that is most appealing to tag to him. The Angel of YHWH (=the Angel of the Lord). This was God's principal angel. He bore God's Name and Image, and operated as God's visible manifestation. As such he is either operating with God's power, voice and authority or he is indistinguishable from God. It is this early identification of Jesus with this angel and the Name of God that was invoked at baptism (Acts 2:38) and for healings (Acts 3:6, 16; 4:30; cf. 16:18; 19:13, 17). It was the Name that had the magic power to get the results they wanted, be it the drawing down of the spirit or healing.

The YHWH angel is SUPER IMPORTANT. Without understanding this angel and his early association with Jesus, it is impossible to explain early Christology in my opinion. This association with the Name Angel brought with it the title "Judge" too, created from a pesher of images from the scriptures (Zech 3:1-7; Isa 66:15-16; Mal 3:1-5). Keep in mind, where the Jewish scriptures reads "LORD", the Name YHWH is in the manuscript. YHWH and the angel YHWH were understood by many Jewish and Christian readers to be indistinguishable entities.

Also remember that Paul knows the tradition of the eschatological Judge as it is applied to Jesus, but he doesn't appear to know that Judge as the "Son of Man" (Rom 2:16; 14:10; 1 Cor 4:5; 11:32). This very old line of thinking is preserved in the Ps. Clem. materials associated with the Ebionites, the Jewish-Christians who have connections with Jerusalem. Jesus is appointed by God as the greatest of the archangels, the "god of princes, who is Judge of all" (Ps. Clem. Rec 2.42).