Distinguishing The Angel Of The Lord -- By: Andrew S. Malone

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 21:3 (NA 2011)
Article: Distinguishing The Angel Of The Lord
Author: Andrew S. Malone

Distinguishing The Angel Of The Lord

Andrew S. Malone

Ridley Melbourne Mission And Ministry College

René López has clarified a number of arguments to assist the identification of the “angel of the Lord” as an agent of God. These recognize that an agent can adopt the speech of his master and be accorded the deference due that master. However, his arguments would apply readily if the angel were himself God. Thus, the veracity of López’s thesis hinges on the ability to distinguish between the angel and his Lord—something not sufficiently established. This response is offered as a dialogical foil. It demonstrates that further clarity is needed in distinguishing the two figures and that doing so can be quite difficult. If the two cannot be adequately distinguished, we gain further evidence for identifying the angel as God.

Key Words: angel of the Lord, theophany, messenger, deity, Christophany


The recent BBR study of René López requires further refinement—and might ultimately lend weight to one of the alternative positions it seeks to dismiss. López has offered a strong affirmation that the enigmatic “angel of Yahweh” should be identified as an envoy sent in his master’s name, who even speaks as that master and receives the worship reserved for him. Yet his presentation has one potentially insurmountable weakness which needs to be redressed if it is to win broader support. The flaw is significant given that López intends his heuristic to apply across the whole Old Testament.1

The position López advocates is commonly labeled the “representation theory.” Its major competitor, against which López reacts, is the “identity theory” which chiefly contends that מלאך יהוה is a personification of God himself. Additional refinements explore whether we might further clarify that the deity involved is the Second Person of the Trinity (the “angel-Christ” or “logos” view), or ascertain whether “מלאך יהוה” is a label invoked for various literary or theological purposes (the “interpolation theory”).2

The representation theory is indeed attractive and is widely held, often summarized with the rabbinic axiom, “A man’s agent is as himself” (m. Ber. 5:5).3 It gains further traction from the many primary and secondary sources compiled by López.4

The dialogue now off...

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