Christ As Angel: The Reclamation Of A Primitive Title -- By: Günther Juncker

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 15:2 (Fall 1994)
Article: Christ As Angel: The Reclamation Of A Primitive Title
Author: Günther Juncker

Christ As Angel:
The Reclamation Of A Primitive Title

Günther Juncker*

This brief overview highlights one of the more important, and at the same time neglected, backgrounds1 for the orthodox

* Günther Juncker is a Master of Divinity candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

trinitarian formulations of Nicea. Such an overview should be helpful from a biblical as well as an historical point of view. For the trinitarianism of Scripture is implicit; and the explicit formulations of Nicea often appear, in the absence of their antecedents, quite removed from the scriptural data.

Unknown to many, the early church fathers often referred to Jesus as an Angel. And they gave him this appellation long before the (alleged) distortions of Constantine, the Controversies, the Councils, and the Creeds. Due to its antiquity, its longevity, and the unusual diversity of Greek and Latin theologians who use it, the word Angel has a prima facie claim to being a primitive, if not an apostolic, Christological title. Before pronouncing judgment on the Fathers, men who were often quite close to first-century apostles and eye-witnesses, we may recall that in antiquity the word “angel” had a broader semantic range than at present. When we think of angels, we immediately think of super-human, bodiless spirits, all of whom were created and some of whom fell with Satan in his rebellion. But in antiquity the word “angel” meant “messenger.” It was primarily a functional (as opposed to an ontological) description and, thus, could refer to messengers who were human,2 angelic, or divine (the best known of the latter being Hermes, “the messenger god”). Likewise in Scripture, in both the OT and the NT, the term angel refers to human as well as to angelic messengers.3 (Whether it refers in Scripture to “divine” messengers is, in a manner of speaking, the subject of this overview.)

The Fathers were keenly aware that Christ was the one who came down from heaven to reveal and to speak for God. He was God’s agent,4 God’s messenger. But this concept is given clear

expression already in the NT—especially in the gospel of John. For there Christ repeatedly claims to be delivering only the word, or message, which the Father has given him (John 12:49; 14:10,

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