Archangel: Jesus of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that Jesus is archangel Michael (Jude 9) since He speaks “with the voice of archangel”. Watchtower’s “Aid To Bible Understanding? ” claimed:

Scriptural evidence indicates that the name Michael applied to God’s Son before he left heaven to become Jesus Christ and also after his return. Michael is the only one said to be the “archangel” […] At 1 Thessalonians 4:16 the voice of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is described as being that of an archangel, suggesting that he is, in fact, himself the archangel. This text depicts him as descending from heaven with a “commanding call.” It is only logical, therefore, that the voice expressing this commanding call be described by a word that would not diminish or detract from the great authority that Christ Jesus now has as King of kings and Lord of lords. (Watchtower 1971:1152)

Going alongside this understanding of 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Jehovah’s Witnesses point out that Michael is called “the archangel” (Jude 9). “This suggests that there is only one such angel. In fact, the term “archangel” occurs in the Bible only in the singular, never in the plural.”(Watchtower 2005: 218-9) Hence Jesus is Michael.

Is “Aid To Bible Understanding” reasoning true? Is this what the Bible really teaches? In my previous article, Jesus, Michael And Jehovah’s Witnesses, I argued that Watchtower Society read it’s presupposed theology into 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

I showed that the text, viz., oti autos o kurios en keleusmati en phōnē archangelou kai en salpingi theou” does not say Jesus spoke “with the voice of an archangel” but descended “with the voice of an archangel”. Beside, Watchtower Society’s reading would necessarily entail that Jesus is also God since He descended en salpingi theou.

In this article I attempted to deal with phrase: “with the voice of archangel” as used in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, showing that Watchtower reasoning is not biblically warranted, while in my next article I will show that, contrary to Jehovah’s Witnesses, the notion of “one archangel” is alien to Second Temple Jews and early Christians since they believed in many “archangels”.

ἐν φωνή  ἀρχάγγελος (MSS Trl: en phōnē archangelou)

What did Paul mean when he wrote that the Lord Himself will descend from heaven en keleusmati en phōnē archangelou kai en salpingi theou? (with a cry of command,with the voice of an archangel and with the sound of trumpet call of God”).

ἀρχάγγελος (archangel) appears only here and Jude 9 in New Testament. Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible correctly translated “an archangel” since 1 Thessalonian 4:6, unlike Jude 9, misses an article (ho) before “archangel”.

Craig Keener correctly pointed out that in Jewish literature[1], Michael is the chief archangel that “was considered Israel’s guardian angel”. Kenner argued that “Jesus seems to assume Michael’s role on behalf of believers, God’s people.”(Keener 1993: n.p)

The absence of an article, “however, before φωνῇ and ἀρχαγγέλου”, argued George Milligan “makes it very doubtful whether any special archangel is thought of, and for the same reason the [genitive] both here and in σάλπ.” (Milligan 1908: 60). Citing G. B. Winer, Milligan further explained “θεοῦ is best treated as possessive—‘a voice such as an archangel uses,’ ‘a trumpet dedicated to God’s service’”.

John Calvin understood that Paul “employ[ed] the term κελεύσματος, (shout,) and afterwards adds, the voice of the archangel, by way of exposition, intimating what is to be the nature of that arousing shout—that the archangel will discharge the office of a herald to summon the living and the dead to the tribunal of Christ. (Calvin 2010: 282-3)

Observing three virtually simultaneous phrases that herald the personal return of Lord Himself, Gene L. Green wrote,

The royal parousia of the Lord is also accompanied by the voice of the archangel. Jude 9 names one of the archangels, Michael, but in Jewish literature other names are mentioned besides his. Michael may not be the archangel whom the apostle has in mind. According to Jewish thought, the archangels are the rulers of the angels or the principal messengers among the multitude of angels. (Green 2002: 224)

D. Michael Martin maintained that the “phrase “with the voice of the archangel” connotes the involvement of the heavenly host. Mark also recorded that Jesus will come “with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38) and that he will send them to “gather his elect from the four winds” (13:26–27). The reference to an “archangel” implies a ranking of heavenly beings that was a common feature of Hellenistic Judaism”(ibid 151). He continued,

“Although New Testament authors did not involve themselves in the elaborate naming and ranking of the heavenly host in general, the New Testament does refer twice to archangels (here and Jude 9) and names two angels. Michael is called an archangel (Jude 9; cf. Dan 10:13; 12:1), and Gabriel is an angel who “stands in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19). Implied with the use of the term “archangel” is both status and the existence (if not the presence) of subordinates. The Lord is not alone but is accompanied by an angelic entourage. The archangel functions either as the herald proclaiming remarkable news—the arrival of the Lord—or calls the angelic army to advance with the Lord.”

I concur with Tim Shenton’s conclusion;“The archangel may or may not be Michael—the Bible does not say”(Shenton 2006: 91). If indeed, the archangel is Michael, it does not nonetheless follow that Jesus is Michael because we ought to translate it possessively as in “with the trumpet call of God”

In the next article, I will briefly explore the third part, “with the trumpet call of God” and examine Jewish and Early Christians’ understanding of  “archangels”.

Question To Jehovah’s Witnesses: Jude 4 and 9 seemly quoted Jewish tradition (1 Enoch, “pseudo-apocryphal”) in which Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel are among God’s archangels. What reasons could you offer to persuade a Second Temple Jew and early Christian that  Michael is the only archangel?

Bibliography:

Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Green, G. L. (2002). The letters to the Thessalonians. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos.

Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (1 Th 4:16–17). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Martin, D. M. (1995). Vol. 33: 1, 2 Thessalonians. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Milligan, George (1908). St. Paul’s Epistles to the Thessalonians. Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament. London: Macmillan and Co., ltd.

Shenton, T. (2006). Opening up 1 Thessalonians. Opening Up Commentary. Leominster: Day One Publications.

Watchtower. (1971) Aid To Bible Understanding. Watchtower Bible And Tract Society of Pennsylvania

___________ (2005) What Does The Bible Really Teach? Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A


[1] They also depicts the resurrection of the dead and inauguration of the kingdom,

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