Major Earlier Studies on Michael the Archangel

The earliest major work on the archangel Michael that I am aware of is by Wilhelm von Luecken (Michael: Eine Darstellung und Vergleichung der jűdischen und morgenländisch-christlichen Tradition vom Erzengel Michael [Gőttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1898]). His particular interest, however, is understanding the worship of angels in early Jewish and Christian traditions. While many of the roles of Michael that are expressed in current scholarship were already explored in Luecken’s work, he shows little interest in Revelation 12, mentioning it only in passing and even then only on pages 27, 106 and 109.

A century later, the book by Darrell. D. Hannah (Michael and Christ: Michael Traditions and Angel Christology in Early Christianity, WUNT 2/109 [Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1999]) seeks to update and replace Luecken’s work on Jewish angelology and also explore its role in early Christian christology. It serves as a history of the Michael traditions within the larger field of Jewish angelology. In the New Testament portion of the book, Hannah concludes that functions associated with Michael are attributed to Christ without implying that Michael and Christ are the same individual. Another narrowly focused major work is by J. P. Rohland (Der Erzengel Michael: Artzt und Feldheer: Zwei Aspekte des vor- und frűhbyzantinischen Michaelskultes [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1977]). This book focuses on Michael’s roles as healer and field marshal in pre- and early Byzantine theology.

Several recent dissertations come much closer to the topic. One of these is the dissertation of Leo. R. Percer (“The War in Heaven: Michael and Messiah in Revelation 12” [Ph.D. Dissertation, Baylor University, 1999]). Percer’s dissertation examines the role of Michael in Revelation 12 from two perspectives; 1) the ideal, first-century audience, and 2) that of the author of the book. His study considers the roles of Michael and the Messiah in Revelation 12, seeking to understand the relationship between the two. He concludes that Michael is subservient to the Messiah in Revelation 12 rather than equated with him.

A more tangential dissertation on Michael the Archangel is by Lewis O. Anderson (“The Michael Figure in the Book of Daniel” [Ph.D. Dissertation, Andrews University, 1997). The focus of Anderson’s dissertation is limited to the evidence concerning Michael in the book of Daniel. Anderson poses the research questions: Who is Michael? and What is his function in the book of Daniel? He concludes, in contrast with Percer, that Michael is identified in Daniel with the Prince of the host of Yahweh (a veiled reference for God) and with the messianic Son of Man. He is equivalent to the Angel of the Lord, found elsewhere in the Old Testament.

More recently, and closest to the specific purpose of this paper, is the dissertation by Michael O. Akpa (“The Identity and Role of Michael in the Narrative of the War in Heaven: An Exegetical and theological Study of Rev 12:7-12” [Ph.D. Dissertation, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, 2007]). He concludes, in direct contrast with Percer, that Michael in Revelation 12 is the same entity as the male child (Rev 12:5), Christ (Rev 12:10), and the Lamb (Rev 12:11). Michael functions in the narrative as both a divine warrior and as a judge. It is evident from this quick survey of the three relatively recent dissertations that the identity of Michael the Archangel in the Bible is not a settled issue.