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I am currently studying the origin of an uncommon Christian belief that the angel Michael mentioned in the Jewish Bible (Daniel 12:1) is the same person as Jesus. It is becoming a frustrating mystery that ends at John Calvin who says only that "some think" this.

So I thought to start at the beginning. Christians think that Jesus was/is the Messiah. Judaism holds that the Messiah has not come yet, but will one day. So it's not a stretch that the idea that Michael is the messiah, whether having come or not, might have originated with a group of Jews.

Are there are any ancient Jewish sects that taught that Michael was the messiah in some way? If there are none then are there any modern Jewish sects that teach that?


I am a Christian and know very little about modern Jewish customs and preferred terms so please forgive me if I step on any toes. Also feel free to correct me and enlighten me.

Feel free to retag this if necessary.

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I doubt there's any way to prove that there was never any ancient group of Jews who believed this, but I highly doubt that such a group ever existed. The messiah must be a person, and a descendent of King David. An angel would be neither of these things. –  Daniel Aug 27 '13 at 19:35
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@SethJ I linked to my research in the OP. John Calvin's quote and link is there. I have gained the impression that this particular belief might be much older than Calvin and may have started with Gnostic Christians, but often Gnostic Christians took cues from Gnostic Jews that had been around centuries before Jesus. Further, Christianity takes much of what it believes from ancient Judaism; there is no reason to not investigate the possibility that this belief is from an obscure, ancient Jewish sect. –  fredsbend Aug 27 '13 at 20:52
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@fredsbend The concept of angels becoming incarnated in the manner that Christians say Jesus was incarnated does not exist in any stream of Judaism, AFAIK. Not to say that it doesn't exist in any stream... but it probably doesn't exist in any stream. –  Daniel Aug 27 '13 at 21:43
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@fredsbend FYI, Seth and I are not criticizing the investigation of the possibility that the belief comes from an obscure Jewish sect. We (or at least I) simply disagree that such a possibility is likely, or even particularly plausible. –  Daniel Aug 27 '13 at 21:45
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This isn't an answer, just a supposition--perhaps frb read say, Enoch 3, which has a man turning(promoted?)into an angel, and is wondering if there's any tradition anywhere of the reverse being possible...? I couldn't find anything in my limited travels on it. It couldn't be the Messiah, due to all the other posted reasons, but maybe there is a story somewhere of an angel being changed to a man..It sounds like a plot of an old TCM movie... –  Gary Aug 28 '13 at 20:59

2 Answers 2

This answer demonstrates that the messiah must be human. See also Sanhedrin 98a in the Babylonian talmud, which -- in the midst of a discussion of signs that the messiah has come -- calls the messiah the "son of David" several times. "Son of David" -- that is, a Jewish man descended from King David. A man, not a supernatural being. From the Soncino translation:

R. Johanan also said: The son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether wicked. ‘in a generation that is altogether righteous,’ — as it is written, Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever. ‘Or altogether wicked,’ — as it is written, And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; and it is [elsewhere] written, For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it.

And also this (ibid, 98b):

Rab Judah said in Rab's name: The Holy One, blessed be He, will raise up another David for us, as it is written, But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them: not ‘I raised up’, but ‘I will raise up’ is said. R. Papa said to Abaye: But it is written, And my servant David shall be their prince [nasi] for ever? — E.g., an emperor and a viceroy.

But, you might say, maybe angels are also human so Michael could still qualify? But angels are not humans and cannot be. One proof of this is in the g'mara on Shabbat 88b-89a, which relates how when Moshe ascended Mount Sinai to receive torah, the angels in the heavenly court challenged God. "How can you give Your holy torah to mere humans?" they asked. God told Moshe "answer them", and Moshe proceeded through several of the commandments, asking the court if they were capable of fulfilling them. Do you work, that you need to refrain on Shabbat? Are you capable of forming the intent to murder? Do you have relations that you could commit adultery? Do you even have fathers and mothers that you could honor them? In the end the angels conceded that the torah belonged to men, not them. From this we learn that angels are not men, else they would have been able to claim torah for themselves.

How do we know that Michael is an angel when the book of Daniel, where he is named, does not say so explicitly? We know this from the midrash. Bamidbar Rabbah 2:10 names the four "arch-angels" and describes their functions. This is not their only mention in rabbinic writing; for example, B'reishit Rabbah records that Michael was one of the angels who visited Avraham (specifically the one who announced the birth of Yitzchak). This article provides more sourced details while remaining accessible.

It's hard to prove a negative; quite possibly some Jew, somewhere, has believed what you ask about. But it is not a belief that has survived in Jewish sources and, since it runs counter to core Jewish theology, it would need to come with a pretty strong supporting argument.

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Also because Jude and Revelation do explicitly call him an angel, I'd assume there are some pre-NT writings which do as well. –  curiousdannii May 13 at 1:29
    
There is a midrash which has God turning angels into humans. The Yalkut Shimoni on Noah 44 brings a story preceding the flood where angels who complained to God about humanity were subsequently given an evil inclination and went on to sin. Obviously this has nothing to do with messiah, but it might negate your approach. And @Shalom 's for that matter. –  user6591 May 13 at 1:38
    
@user6591 I don't know that midrash, but it sounds like it strengthens my case: if God turned (certain) angels into humans, doesn't that tell us that by default they're not? Or does that midrash claim that God turned all angels into humans? (From your comment it doesn't sound like it, but maybe I'm misunderstanding you.) –  Monica Cellio May 13 at 1:41
    
@MonicaCellio I'd still be interested to find out who first called Michael an angel, because the NT texts just assume everyone already understood him to be one. It's probably from 1 Enoch. –  curiousdannii May 13 at 1:45
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This is definitely better than the other answer, thank you. For a "no" answer to suffice in my mind, I would like to see you support better the historic notion that the messiah must be a normal, natural born human. A few quotes from ancient sources demonstrating that it was the predominant belief at various times would be enough (i.e. from 1000 BC, 500 BC and 0). Obviously, a "yes" answer would find a source that says something related. –  fredsbend May 13 at 3:11

No, no, and no.

The Jewish messiah needs to be a flesh-and-blood paternal descendant of King David.

See the answers to this question for more details.

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There are no sects that say the messiah may have pre-existed, meaning, he existed before he will become flesh and blood? There are no sects that say he does not have to be flesh and blood? This seems like a knee-jerk reaction instead of an answer. –  fredsbend Aug 27 '13 at 18:58
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@fredsbend, your idea assumes first and foremost that the Messiah will be an almost mythical entity and you want to reverse engineer it to find its source. That is fine, of course, but just know that the Jewish idea of the Messiah is very different from the Christian idea. No, we don't believe that the Messiah resides or resided in heaven first before becoming physical. We believe that a human being will lead us back to the Holy Land, rebuild the Holy Temple, and restore the Kingdom of Israel, of which he will be the king. Our idea of the Messiah is pretty down to earth, at least at its root. –  Seth J Aug 27 '13 at 21:04
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@IsaacMoses Thanks for the edit. I'm not bent on the Messiah being non-human. The idea of incarnation gets around that easily. I don't understand how this is out of scope. "With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about Judaism." I'm not proposing site policy; I just don't understand. It seems like you would say that although obscure sects (or any sect) call themselves adherents to Judaism, Mi Yodeya would not, therefore, questions about them are off topic, correct? If so, then the question is what is "Judaism" to Mi Yodeya? –  fredsbend Aug 27 '13 at 21:08
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@fredsbend This site is about Judaism. It's not necessarily about everybody who has ever called himself Jewish. We accept some questions about some quasi-Jewish groups like Karaites and Samaritans, but questions about Jews for Jesus, for example, would be off-topic here. It's simply impossible to speak for everyone who has ever called himself Jewish. We can speak for what adherants to traditional Judaism have believed, though. –  Daniel Aug 27 '13 at 21:53
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