Monday, June 14, 2010

The Malak Yahweh

It has been a little while since this was a hot issue, but since I promised in the comments section of an earlier post that I would write a more formal defense of the Bible's teaching on the divine identity of the Malak Yahweh, a significant part of the Old Testament's witness to the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of the coming Messiah, I wanted to inform those who are interested that part I has been released on the Answering Islam website.

Here is how the article begins:

A diverse body of writings attests the belief among pre-Christian Jews that the Malak Yahweh, who features so prominently in the Old Testament, was a divine figure, properly denominated Yahweh, but nonetheless distinct from another called Yahweh.[i] The earliest Christians,[ii] as well as many other Christian worthies throughout the centuries,[iii] have also viewed the Malak Yahweh as a distinct divine person within the Godhead, further explicating it as a Christophany, that is, an appearance of the pre-incarnate Logos or Word of God – the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptural basis for this view, beginning with the Old Testament and concluding with the New, is the subject of the following articles.


[i] Aside from the fact that the Targums, such as the Targum of Pseudo Johnathan, Onkelos, and Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum, mention the Angel of Yahweh, and even identify Him as the Word (Hebrew, dabar; Aramaic, memra; Gr. logos) of Yahweh, and that the Septuagint, although to a much lesser degree, provides some interesting evidence of His divinity and distinct identity as well, as in its rendition of passages like Isaiah 9:6, mention can be made here of the testimonies that abound in 1 Enoch. After the coming of Christ, when apostate Israel rejected Jesus as “the Messenger (Heb. Malak; מַלְאָך) of the Covenant” (Malachi 3:1), all talk of the Memra or Word of the LORD, the predominant way the targumim referred to the Angel of Yahweh, and which was the way the apostle John spoke of Jesus in his Gospel, providing thereby a most potent link between Jesus and passages about the Angel of the LORD in the Hebrew text, was expunged from certain rabbinic teachings. For example, the Memra/Word of the Targums is nowhere to be found in the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmud (though the Talmud, in the nature of a hostile witness, does provide some relevant indirect evidence in its discussions of “heresies” pertaining to Metatron), which often reflect, among other things, the polemical interests of post-Christian and anti-Messianic Jews. For more on this issue as it pertains to the Talmud (and other early Jewish writings), consult the now standard work by Alan F. Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism (Leiden: E. J. Brill., 1977), 313 pp.

[ii] Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 58, 59, 60, 61, 76, 86, 116, 126, 127, 128; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.6.1-5, Fragments, 53; Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 16, De Carne, 14, Against Marcion 2.27, 3.9; Novatian, On the Trinity, 18, 19, 31; Apostolic Constitutions, 5.3.20; Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 1.7; Eusebius, The Proof of the Gospel, 1.5, 4.10, 5.10, Church History, 1.2.7-8, Preparation for the Gospel, VII. 5, 14-15; Origen, Contra Celsus, 5.53, 8.27; Methodious, Symposium, 3.4; Melito, New Fragments, 15; Ambrose, Exposition of the Christian Faith, 1.13.83; Athanasius, Against the Arians, 3.25.12-14; Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, 11.3. (For an excellent discussion of the views of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Theophilus and Tertullian, see the following: Günther Juncker, “Christ as Angel: the Reclamation of a Primitive Title”, which originally appeared in the Trinity Journal 15:2 (Fall 1994), p. 221-250)

[iii] Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Gill, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, Adam Clarke, Hengstenberg, Dr. John Pye Smith, A. H. Strong, John Wesley, Keil, Delitzsch, and F. F. Bruce, are only a small number of well-known individuals from the Reformation to more modern times who taught this view.


To read the rest of the article, go here: The Malak Yahweh: Jesus, the Divine Messenger of the Old Testament.

(There are many other articles on the update. As always, they are all very good and worth the time of all who are interested in showing the truth of Christianity and the falsity of Islam.)


minoria said...


I just posted again all the detailed info I had before about the "Jesus or Muhammed" marathon on jihadwatch.

It was necessary.Alot of links are provided for ease.I am sure more will check it out.I also told them "Jesus or Muhammed" is in youtube(which I forgot to mention before).Knowledge is power

minoria said...

I forgot to say that my new publicity about the "Jesus or Muhammed" marathon was posted in jihadwatch's comment section(5th comment) in today's jihadwatch article "Pakistan:Christian women and girls report sexual abuse..".I made it as user-friendly as possible so they can just click and watch the show.

Michelle Qureshi said...

Hey Anthony--

Good post. I went to AI and read a bunch, though I don't have enough time to read it all and analyze it. I'm just looking for this:

What evidence is there that, in pre-Christian days, the Angel of the Lord was seen as a divine being distinct in some way from Yahweh?

I'm looking for something very simple, like a quotation or a reference where a rabbi or a targum is saying this quite clearly. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

In Christ,

Anthony Rogers said...

Hi Nabeel,

Here is one line of evidence.

In the Hebrew text of Genesis 28, Jacob is responding to the words spoken to him by the Angel of Yahweh.

The Targum of Onkelos translates/paraphrases Jacob’s words as follows:

-And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, "If the Word [Memra] of the Lord will be my support/helper, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Word of the Lord be my God.”-

Here the Aramiac phrase “the Word/Memra of Yahweh” is used as a circumlocution for "the Angel of Yahweh", i.e. the one who spoke to Jacob:

Before moving on to show that the “Word” is distinguished in the Targums from another person of the Godhead, here is one more on the deity of the Word from the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan:

-But the custom of (other) nations is to carry their gods upon their shoulders, that they may seem to be nigh them; but they cannot hear with their ears, (be they nigh or) be they afar off; but the Word/Memra of the Lord sitteth upon His throne high and lifted up, and heareth our prayer what time we pray before Him and make our petitions. (Deut. 4:7)-

In this light, notice what it says in passages like the following and how it makes a distinction between Yahweh and His Divine Word:

-And the Memra of the Lord said, “Let there be light,” and there was light by his Memra. (Gen. 1:3)-

-And the Memra of the Lord created man in His likeness, in the likeness of the presence of the Lord He created him, the male and his yokefellow He created them. (Gen. 1:27)-

-Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be broken before them; for the Word of the Lord thy God will be the leader before thee, He will not forsake thee, nor be far off from thee. (Deut. 31:3)-

Anthony Rogers said...

Of course the term “Word/Memra” is not always used in the same way, so one should be careful to discern in the Targums when “Word” is being used of a divine hypostasis or in a more pedestrian sense. While there is agreement on the fact that the Memra is often treated as a divine hypostasis in various Targums, there is some debate over the precise number of passages that refer to the Word as a personal subsistence and those that are using the term in another way.

There is much more that could be said from the Targums (and other sources), and I am considering doing an appendix on pre-Christian Jewish evidence after I finish presenting the Biblical evidence.


Since I have brought up the Targums and their use of the phrase “The Word of the Lord”, I can’t help but bring up the following passage from the Targum. Everyone who has read the Qur’an or who has heard Muslims appeal to the Qur’an to say why they don’t believe in the deity of Christ will immediately note something very interesting about the following:

-And the Word of YHWH said to Moses: "I am He who said unto the world 'Be!' and it was: and who in the future shall say to it 'Be!' and it shall be." And He said: "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'I Am' has sent me to you." (Exodus 3:14, Jerusalem Targum)-

This of course ties in once again to the discussion of the Angel of Yahweh, for once again the Hebrew text says it was the Angel of Yahweh who appeared and spoke to Moses from the burning bush (cf. Ex. 3:1ff). But the reason I bring it up here is because it is obviously the source of the refrain found in the following passages of the Qur’an, one of which actually uses it to state the very opposite about God Word, i.e. Jesus. According to the Targum the Word of God said “Be! and it was”. According to Muhammad in the Qur’an, God’s Word, Jesus, was created by His word “Be”.

“To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: When He decreeth a matter, He saith to it: ‘Be’, and it is.” (Surah 2:117)

“She said: ‘O m Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: when He hath decreed a Plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be’, and it is!” (Surah 3:47)

“It is He who created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): the day He saith, ‘Be’, behold! it is. His word is the truth.” (S. 6:73)

“For to anything which We have willed, We but say the word, ‘Be’, and it is.” (S. 16:40)

“It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be’, and it is.” (S. 19:35)

“Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is, ‘Be’, and it is!” (S. 36:82)

“It is He Who gives Life and Death; and when He decides upon an affair, He says to it, ‘Be’, and it is.” (Surah 40:68)

“The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: ‘Be’: and he was.” (Surah 3:59)

-----End of Excursus-----

Anthony Rogers said...

Here are some later but still valuable quotes from the Talmud, various Rabbi’s, and the Zohar on the divine identity of the Angel of Yahweh, sometimes referred to by the title Metatron or identified as the Messiah. The value of some of these tesimonies, such as those found in the Talmud, is that they reflect the currency of such beliefs and debates about them in Jewish circles at the time when they were put down in writing and sometime before that when they circulated as oral teachings/traditions. The value of others, such as found in later Rabbi’s and the Zohar, show that Jewish people, reflecting on the writings that came before them, such as the Targums, writings of earlier Rabbis, etc., led them to conclude that the Angel of Yahweh was both distinct from Yahweh and yet was identified as Yahweh.

-The same heretic said to Rav Idith, It is written, And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord (Exod. xxiv. 1), but it ought to have been written, Come up unto me. The rabbi answered, 'The speaker here is Matatron, whose name is the same as that of his master, for it is written, For my name is in him. (Tractate Sanhedrin, fol. col. 2)-

"The Ten Commandments did not come to Israel in the simple way of writings. And the angel who gave them...he is the redeeming angel, and it is he of whom it is written 'and the angel of God went.' This angel is God, and it is He who announces the commandments to Israel, as it is written: "and God said all these things." (Rabbi Meir Bei Gabai, sefer Avodat Kodesh)

"'And the angel of God went' this angel is the house of judgment of the Holy One, blessed be He… this angel is the Shekhinah and is called ‘the angel prince of the world’ because the guidance of the world is carried out by him. (Rabbi Menahem of Rekanati, "BiShlach" portion, Ex 14:19)

"The Lord, He is the Messiah-King, and He is the Angel of the Covenant." (Rabbi David Kimchi on Mal 3:1)

"The great and exalted name speaks to Moses and tells him to come up to YHWH, He is Metatron, sometimes called by the name YHWH." (Rabbi Menahem of Rekanati, p. 145)

"Who is the way to the tree of life? It is Metatron… Metatron is called "the Angel of God"… every petition and plea brought before the King must go through Metatron… Metatron is the emissary responsible for everything that is sent from heaven to this world, or from this world to heaven…" (Tamtsit haZohar, vol. 2, Ex., col. 51)

The garment of El Shaddai is Metatron. (Zohar, vol. 3, p. 231)

"There is a man who is angel and Metatron. He is a man in the image of the Holy One, blessed be He. And He is the emanation from Him, for He is YHWH, and about Him it cannot be said that He was created, formed, or made, but that He emanated from God." (Tikunei haZohar, chap. 67, p. 130)

"Rabbi Simeon Ben Zoccai took me into the inner chambers of mystery, mystical Judaism. This is of the saving marriage of God, and instructed me that Metatrone existed from eternity. He took me to the chamber of mystery. Not just ordinary mystery, but mystery of the saving knowledge of God, God’s salvation, the mystery of salvation and he showed me that the Metatrone is the Redeemer but more than that, he pre-existed.” (Zohar Breshiet Midrash K’olam)

“To keep the way of the tree of life, there is but one mediator between God and man and that is Metatrone.” (Zohar, vol. 2, p. 51; Amsterdam Edition)

I know I wasn’t brief, but I hope I still provided what you were looking for. If not, as I said, if the Lord is willing I will provide an appendix to the articles I am writing on the Malak Yahweh that discusses this more.

Fifth Monarchy Man said...

Excellent post Anthony,

I really wish that Muslims would interact your argument. I think it’s a slam dunk and the absence of attempts at rebuttal make it seem all the more so.

I’m also quite interested in learning what Muslims and other Unitarians have to say about the
SHEKINAH GLORY passages in the Old Testament.

I’ve yet to hear anyone on that side address these things seriously and until they do their claims that Trinitarianism is a corruption of the original message of the Prophets will ring hollow


Sepher Shalom said...

Shalom Anthony. Great article brother! I just wanted to point out something of interest to note:

"Who is the way to the tree of life? It is Metatron… Metatron is called "the Angel of God"… every petition and plea brought before the King must go through Metatron… Metatron is the emissary responsible for everything that is sent from heaven to this world, or from this world to heaven…" (Tamtsit haZohar, vol. 2, Ex., col. 51)

Keep this in mind and then read:

And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51)

Coincidence?....not likely ;-)