The 2001 Commentaries

MichaEl the Archangel

info All commentaries are written by volunteers, readers, or supporters of our Bible translation project. These are not official views of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.

At Jude 9, most Bibles translate the Greek word ArchAggelos as ‘Archangel’, however, this translation more accurately puts it as ‘Highest Messenger [of God]’. Why?

Arch (pronounced ark) means highest (or beginning) and aggelos (pronounced ahn-gell-ose) just means messenger. As described in the translator note for the word aggelos, it does not necessarily imply a rank, but could just imply an assigned role or task of being a messenger, or in this case, the chief messenger.

Indeed, anyone who delivers messages on behalf of God could be described using the Greek word aggelos (messenger), even Jesus delivered messages from God (see Hebrews chapter 1). In the original Bible text, many humans are described using the same word for ‘angel’ because they delivered messages. Please see the translator note for more information.

Who was this ‘highest messenger of God?’

Jude gives his name as MichaEl. It is widely believed that he is a high ranking angel, while some believe that MichaEl is what Jesus is called when he is in heaven.

Supporters of this view latter quote 1 Thessalonians 4:16, which says:

‘Because, the Lord himself will come down from heaven and give the command in the voice of the highest messenger (Greek: archaggelou) [of God] with God’s trumpet.’

Since ‘the Lord’ is an obvious reference to Jesus, this could imply that Jesus and Michael are the same person.

Having said that, since ‘angel’ is not necessarily a rank, but a certainly a task meaning ‘messenger’, for all we know, the assignment of being ‘the highest messenger’ may be given to different persons and different times. Perhaps the verse is only saying that Jesus will one day take on the role of being the highest messenger.

The truth is, the Bible gives very little information.

More than one archangel?

Note that other Bibles translate the above verse as saying something like ‘with the voice of an archangel’. This leads some to argue something like this:

‘by saying AN archangel, the text implies that there are many archangels’.

We’re sorry to disappoint, but the word ‘an’ is not present in the Greek (or Aramaic) source texts. It is added by translators who want to make it sound better in English. There is nothing in the source text to indicate that there is more than one highest messenger, or archangel.

In our translation we have added the word ‘the’ instead of ‘an’, but again, this cannot be used to imply that there is definitely only one archangel, because we only added it to make the English grammar work. It is not in the original text.

However, we feel that ‘the’ is a more appropriate choice than ‘an’, because the Greek prefix ‘arch-’ implies the highest, and generally there is only one highest, just as there can only be one highest peak on a mountain. Likewise in the Aramaic text, the word used is rysh, meaning the head, the top, the tip, the extremity. There cannot be two ‘highests’.

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