Friday, January 16, 2009

Revelation Bonanza - Part I: Angel-Christology

I'm having a Revelation bonanza this weekend. In the first installment I look at angelomorphic christology in Revelation 10. That chapter reads in the TNIV:

1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. 2 He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3 and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. 4 And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down."

5 Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. 6 And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, "There will be no more delay! 7 But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets."

8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: "Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land."

9 So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but 'in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.' " 10 I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11 Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings."


Bob Gundry asserts the presence of an angelomorphic christology in Revelation 10. He argues for a theophany with Jesus appearing in angelic form. He notes the similarity between ch. 10 where the angel has a scroll in his hand and ch. 5 where Jesus the Lamb took a seven-sealed scroll in his hand. Also, the description of the angel's feet as likened to pillars of fire recalls the divine theophany that led Israel in the wilderness. He then states:

"The great variety of Christologies in Revelation makes the presence there of angelomorphic Christology unsurprising; and the role of Yahweh's angel in the Exodus-narrative and later Jewish literature concerning it combines with the prominence of Exodus-typology throughout Revelaltion and with the promiennce of angelology elsewhere in apocalyptic literature to provide multiple impetusues for an angelomorphic Christology in Revelation comparable to angelomorphic theology in the OT and later Judaism. Inasmuch as such Christology provides an angelic connection for the saints on earth with God in heaven, a further impetus may be found in the felt need of such a connection, due to the original audience's having suffering ostracism from Jewish synagogues, Greco-Roman civic life and culture, the Roman government and its agents ... and the rich and powerful elite."

On the one hand, in the NT there is clearly a critique of christologies that venerated Jesus as merely a supreme angel (Hebrews 1 and Colossians 1.15-20, 2.18 come immediately to mind). And yet, angelomorphic christology evidently manifested itself without necessarily undermining other facets of a christology of divine identity. For case in point, the "I have come" (ἦλθον) sayings in the Gospels (e.g. Mk. 2.17) with coming + purpose have their most analogous background in the coming of angels for specific purposes (e.g. Dan. 10.11). According to Simon Gathercole, these sayings function to demonstrate Jesus' pre-existence, his heavenly origins, and his transcendence of the heaven-earth divide.


Brent said...

I would disagree with Gundry's assessment that the angel represents Jesus. Compare this text in Revelation 10 with Daniel 12:5-12. This is the same angel in both texts. The point, I believe, is that in Daniel the angel swore it would be "the time of the end" before these things would be revealed. In Revelation 10:6-7, the same angel stands up and swears that there is no more delay. Judgment and the revelation will come when the seventh trumpet sounds. The seventh trumpet sounds in Revelation 11:15. The scroll that was sealed in Daniel 12 is now revealed (Revelation) by the same angel.

Anyway, that is my take. Great blog, by the way. I write over at

Alan Bandy said...

Be sure to read the outstanding work of Matthias R. Hoffman, The Destroyer and the Lamb. It is absolutely stunning.

Angelomorphic Christology is a fascinating study. See also Rev. 1:13-16; Revelation 14 and 19.

Alan Bandy said...

By the way, I would agree with Bauckham and Aune that the Angel in Revelation 10 is an angel. I believe it is Aune who suggests that it may be the angel that represents Christ (Rev. 1:1).

Tim Bertolet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Bertolet said...

Let me try again:
Interesting point byy Gundry. Do you think this could bridge the gap between Hurtado on exalted figures and their relationship to Christology (eg.One God, One Lord) vs. Bauckham's thesis on divine identity (God Crucified)?

Tim Bertolet said...

agh, another stupid typo.