Monday, May 28, 2012

Alan Segal:

Jesus Christ,
God's principal angel
who carries the Tetragrammaton /

Ιησούς Χριστός,
ο πρωταρχικός άγγελος του Θεού
που φέρει το Τετραγράμματο

Many "two powers" themes have come together. Jesus is raised from the dead and enthroned as Christ far above the status of any man or angel. He is sovereign in this age and the age to come, a claim explicitly reserved for God according to rabbinic tradition. Furthermore, Christ has been exalted beyond any title that can be named, implying that he has been awarded the secret name of God.

The process of transferring divine names and titles to Jesus is especially characteristic of the Revelation of John where the identification of the Christ with the tetragrammaton is even more obvious. For instance, Rev. 22:12-13:
Behold I am coming soon bringing my recompense to repay every one for what he has done. I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

We have seen that such titles from Isaiah and Deuteronomy are particularly important in the rabbinic polemic. These traditions present some plausible targets for the rabbis' attack. The same can be said of the Christ's victorious coming in Rev. 19.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is the Word of God. And the armies of heaven arrayed in fine linen white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tred the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Many different images are jumbled together in this description. Divine warrior imagery is prominent but the divine warrior has been identified with the messiah (Ps. 2) and Jesus, based on the "son of man" tradition in Daniel. Furthermore, many divine titles are applied to the figure: "true and faithful," "King of Kings," "Lord of Lords" are all divine attributions in Judaism. Lastly and more importantly, he has appropriated the ineffable name, which is identical with "Word of God" (v. 13). On this basis, it seems safe to consider that many Christians identified the Christ with God's principal angel, who carried the divine name, because of his resurrection.

* Alan F. Segal,
Two powers in heaven: early rabbinic reports about Christianity and Gnosticism
[Δύο δυνάμεις στον ουρανό: πρωτοραβινικές αναφορές σχετικά με τον Χριστιανισμό και τον Γνωστικισμό],
Brill, pp./σσ. 212, 213.

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