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9:26b "when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels."

Luke 9:26

I have been told that the greek word "ἄγγελος" can be translated to both the english word "angel" (supernatural being) or "messenger" (a human who brought a communication) and the translator selects according to the context.

I notice that english bibles pretty much all use "angel" - what is the rationale behind that choice and is it sound?

The reason I ask, is that immediately after that verse, there is a block of text; 28-36 where it is described; his glory (32), his father's glory (34) but not angels... there are however two holy messengers (30,31).

Perhaps I am reaching a little, but it's almost like the author intends the reader to understand 28-36 as a kind of preview of a final event (26), which would fit pretty exactly if 26 was "messengers" as in OT prophets.

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  • You should also see Rev 21:24 & 26 about human glory as well.
    – Dottard
    Jun 22, 2022 at 22:34

4 Answers 4

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ἄγγελος simply means messenger, the word itself can be equally applied to mortal messengers or non-mortal messengers.

In English, "angel" has come to be understood as a reference to a supernatural being, but that is not the original meaning of the word, which is a slightly modified transliteration of the Greek word.

The dichotomy between "angel" and "messenger" is cultural; you could translate every New Testament instance of ἄγγελος as "messenger" and it would be a correct translation, though it might confuse a modern audience.

The translator, then, decides whether to invoke a supernatural image by using "angel" based on context (and not all translators agree). In this verse, the adjective "holy" and the context of Christ's glorious coming encourage use of "angels", implying to a modern reader a divine and/or supernatural messenger, even though just using the word "messenger" would technically be correct as well.

Translation requires some interpretation--most translators choose to emphasize the supernatural nature of the messengers by using a term modern audiences regularly associate with the supernatural.

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  • 2
    Good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Jun 22, 2022 at 22:33
  • B/c of the bias of the translators context has to guide the meaning.
    – Gina
    Jun 23, 2022 at 17:11
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Stong's Greek 32 - "aggelos" with the phonetic spelling "ang-e-los" a messenger

Excerpt from Biblehub.com -

"32 ággelos – properly, a messenger or delegate – either human (Mt 11:10; Lk 7:24, 9:52; Gal 4:14; Js 2:25) or heavenly (a celestial angel); someone sent (by God) to proclaim His message.

32 (ággelos) is used 176 times in the NT (usually of heavenly angels), but only the context determines whether a human or celestial messenger is intended. For example, 32 (ággelos) in Rev 1:20 can refer to heavenly angels or key leaders (perhaps pastors) of the seven churches." Source: Biblehub

The Greek word was Anglicized in the English translations to "angel" which was not good practice as the word can be used for either a human, earthly messenger or a heavenly celestial messenger. The answer to your question is that translating the word "aggelos" as "angel" is not sound rationale.

We are left with determining which type of messenger is intended from the context of the passages. One of the keys is found at 2 Pet. 2:11.

"whereas messengers, in strength and power being greater, do not bear against them before the Lord an evil speaking judgment;" (YLT) or

"Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord." (KJV)

The celestial messengers are greater in power, mightier than the human messengers. Peter was contrasting heavenly messengers who obey our Father with human messengers who in the past had disobeyed God's commands.

"Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word." (Psa. 103:20, KJV)

The mightier angels are those heavenly angels / messengers that excel in strength above the human messengers and hear God's word, and obey His commands. This speaks much against the commonly believed myth about fallen "angels" which is part of the problem presented by the bad rational of the translation of "aggelos" as "angel."

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The scene in Luke 9:21-27 happened in the last year of Jesus' mission, and it was time to reveal His Death and resurrection to His disciples. Though His disciples did not understand what it meant, but Jesus did imply He would die on the cross, when He asked them to "take up their cross daily and follow me."(vv23). And Jesus continued;

24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose "it", but whoever loses their life for me will save "it". (NIV)

Does "it" refer to life? No, it is not. The "it" refers to "Eternal life", not the life on this earth. With this understanding, then verse 26 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" refer to the 2nd coming of Jesus and His angels, in the presence of the Father, the final judgement to determine who are in the book of life, and who were thrown into their 2nd death (see Revelation). So the translation interpreted correctly they are angels instead of human messengers.

Luke 9:28-36 happened after 8 days of this event. They were not connected.

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  • The meaning comes from the author's interpretation not from the raw historical events; you don't have access to those. The author chooses what "events" to record and how to choreograph those "events" in the text to support his overall message. In this case the author placed these “events” back to back, that may or may not connect them in the author's mind, however the amount of time passed between them is not particularly relevant imho.
    – guesty
    Jul 6, 2022 at 13:14
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Messenger is a secondary characteristic of the prophets and apostles. The final judgment will be wrought through the heavenly angels, not by the servants. The holy ones or saints will be given authority as delegates to pass judgment, sitting on their thrones. But the coming with the heavenly angels depicts the wrath and punishment. The human humans cannot inflict punishment.

ESV2 Thessalonians 1:5-10: “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.”

Daniel 7:21-22: “As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.”

Matthew 13:41-42: “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Luke 22:29-30: “and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Matthew 19:28: “Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Matthew 25:31: ““When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.”

1 Corinthians 6:2-3: “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!”

Revelation 18:20-21: “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more;”

So, the holy ones άγιοι (saints) are different than the holy angels, or mighty angels. However, Jude simply mentions άγιοι holy ones, which refers to angels.

Jude 1:14-15: “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.””

Angel is a name referred to humam emissaries as well, since emissaries are considered holy or reverent in the ancient culture. It can also refer to Satan's emissaries. It is best to understand from context and stick to the literal translations. Heavenly angels of God may be also called elohim in more ancient scripture, don't refer to men. They depict God's powerful army for the punishment of judgment.

See related God leaves judgment to others

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