Identifying The “Angel Of The Lord” In The Book Of Judges A Model For Reconsidering The Referent In Other Old Testament Loci -- By: René A. López

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 20:1 (NA 2010)
Article: Identifying The “Angel Of The Lord” In The Book Of Judges A Model For Reconsidering The Referent In Other Old Testament Loci
Author: René A. López


Identifying The “Angel Of The Lord” In The Book Of Judges
A Model For Reconsidering The Referent In Other Old Testament Loci

René A. López

Dallas Theological Seminary

The construction “angel of the Lord” appears more times in Judges than any other book in the Hebrew Scripture, but there is no scholarly consensus on the identity of this nameless angel. Some interpreters see this messenger as one of many angelic envoys. Others assert that this angel is a theophany or Christophany, arguing variously that (1) grammar indicates the definiteness of the angel; (2) the angel speaks in the first person; (3) looking at the angel is viewed as looking at Yahweh; (4) many feared for their lives upon encountering the angel; (5) the angel possesses attributes similar to God’s; and (6) the angel no longer appears after Jesus arrives. All but one of these arguments can be applied in identifying this angel in Judges. This article reviews the common lines of evidence by appealing to proper conventions of grammar, ancient Near Eastern customs regarding envoys, and Jewish theology. After reviewing the difficulties with each of these arguments, the article will propose a coherent view that is in keeping with sound hermeneutics and can serve as a model for reconsidering the referent when it appears elsewhere in Scripture.

Key Words: angel of the Lord, theophany, Christophany, Jesus, messenger, envoy, ontological equivalence, deity, Jewish monotheism, ancient Near Eastern customs

Introduction

An unresolved issue that deserves reexamination is the specific referent of the Old Testament (OT) term the angel of the Lord. Interpretations that have been proffered include a theophany, a Christophany, and a messenger1 from God’s heavenly assembly. “Each interpretation has difficulties,” so

that “there is no consensus” among scholars.2 Who is the angel of the Lord in the book of Judges? Is there a conclusive way to identify this messenger? The purpose of this article is to examine the identity of the angel of the Lord in the book of Judges and propose a view that is consistent with conventions of proper grammar, ancient Near Eastern (ANE) customs, and Jewish theology of Hebrew Scripture. This view is suggested as a model for understanding the identity of this being in other OT loci.3

The Grammatical Argument For A Definite Versus Indefinite Angel

The nouns יהוה and מלאך have an important gramma...

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