This is part one of an eight part blog response to a posting by Daniel O. McClellan entitled, “The Angel of Yahweh in Early Hebrew Bible Narrative,” which was dated June 16, 2011 on WordPress.
Daniel references two works which he uses to build his case. I certainly would not endeavor to respond to the referenced material but can only assume that he has presented the material from those books as he intended. I did my best to speculate why he shared certain things over others, and I clarified what I understood to be the most common critical claims on the ‘angel’. When I felt further explanation was needed from the critical viewpoint, I did my best to present those perspectives.
Daniel started by describing , “…two general approaches to explaining the angel…,”. The first and most prevalent view as he stated is, “…the angel, as a divine messenger, represents his patron so completely that he may be referred to and even described as the patron.” This is all he had to share regarding the first and most prevalent viewpoint.
It could be that Daniel simply intended to communicate that the first view does not take into account the possibility of interpolation of the word “angel”, but seems more likely to be a description of how the ‘angel’ is mistakenly identified as his patron. This viewpoint can be tied up in arguments about the non-specific identity of ‘an angel’ of the LORD versus ‘The Angel’, but since Daniel has forgone further explanation I will leave this and move to the next point.
The second view is, “…the word “angel” is simply an interpolation where it was originally Yahweh himself interacting with humanity.” In other words where the scriptures state, “Malach Adonai,” they supposedly originally referenced Adonai or Elohim alone. The Hebrew word for messenger or angel, “Malach”, is speculated to have been inserted in front of the four letter Name of the LORD, or as most scholars refer to the Name, “Yahweh.” As a side note, In this article my preference is to refer to the Sacred Name as, ‘LORD’ in all caps or ‘Adonai’ instead of “Yahweh”, as I consider “Yahweh” a technical name which I only use in describing the ideas of current critical scholarship.
In Daniel’s opening summary he explained how the person of the ‘angel’ is incorrectly identified in two general approaches. He referred to both views as, “…general approaches…where his (the angel’s) identity seems to be conflated or confused…” In other words there are two ways to misidentify the ‘angel’, and both ways seem to be the result of conflation and/or confusion. This is how I understand what Daniel is stating but I hesitate to conclude that this is what he was trying to convey. In the end it matters less about his view on the first and most prevalent view of the ‘angel’ as he spends the remainder of his article presenting the second view. As he stated, “In this post I’d like to explain why I find the latter view to be far more convincing.” That is to say he finds the view of the interpolated ‘angel’ more likely. He is not concerned with going into explanations about the most prevalent view or any other viewpoint. His focus is only on two ways to misidentify and he does not consider any other views outside of this scope.
He has identified two general approaches but both of them are in regard to conflating or confusing the identity of the ‘angel’. His opening summary does not seem to adequately separate the ‘two approaches’. It seems more likely that Daniel has divided the ‘two approaches’ simply for the sake of stating that some people believe the texts and some people do not. Those who hold the first and most prevalent view are associated from the start with being confused about the identity of the ‘angel’. He carefully inserts the keywords, “…seems to…” in regard to conflating or confusing. In this way he acknowledges that it is only a possibility, but his point seems to be about associating both views with confusion, and this is even only if it seems to be the case.
Now in regard to the concept of conflation. It is a word which negatively portrays the condition of the Biblical manuscripts, for if the texts are more reliable than speculated by some, then what is being called conflation could actually just be conservatively interpreting the texts. It is one thing to state that the identity of the ‘angel’ seems to be conflated and it is another to state that it is conflated. I applaud Daniel McClellan for correctly stating that it seems to be conflated because too many have begun to assume that this matter is settled.
This view which Daniel is more inclined to hold has simply come to be known as ‘The Interpolation Theory’ with regard to the Angel of the LORD. Now, I am not the first one to claim this as a theory, but it has been addressed as such in books on the topic for some time. Something else needs to be brought up with regard to the Interpolation Theory which is tied up in ideas of the Documentary Hypothesis. This is in regard to seeing the names of God as a means of dividing up stories of the Biblical Texts into schools which call God either by the name Elohim or Yahweh. Daniel stated, “…it was originally Yahweh himself interacting with humanity.” This is the hint which keys in the reader that the arguments of the Documentary Hypotheses are in play. How are these arguments part of the mix? Well the most simple explanation would be that there is a dependence on the ideas of a theoretical Yahwist or Elohist narrative which is being rewritten by a hypothetical Post-Deuteronomic redactor.
In Daniel’s concluding paragraph he makes it clear that the reasons for the most prevalent view are due to possible interpolations of the word ‘angel’. He has essentially used the second view as an explanation of why the first view might be incorrect. Of course if this was his intent then he has only truly presented us with one viewpoint on the matter which simply stated is only a possibility of an explanation of why another viewpoint is probably incorrect.
If the Interpolation Theory is to be considered more likely true, it should be shown in a number of ways with regard to multiple possibilities. This is so that the theory can be shown as plausible by taking into account other factors which also might be true as well. Most of these of factors have to do with questioning whether other likely possibilities exist, which if true, would invalidate the Interpolation Theory. It only needs to be shown that other possibilities are just as likely to be the case in order to point out that the Interpolation Theory still remains in the realm of a claim which is not well substantiated. It is my aim in the next seven blogs to show all of the other very likely possibilities and thus show that the Interpolation Theory falls drastically short of being a likely possibility in explaining the Angel of the Lord.
I look forward to writing part two of this series and wish you all the best. Peace be with you and Keep Ceeking Truth. :-)