Galatians 4:14 though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me, but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.

According to Bart Ehrman:

I had always simply read the verse to say that the Galatians had received Paul in his infirm state the way they would have received an angelic visitor, or even Christ himself. In fact the grammar of the Greek suggests something quite different. As the aforementioned Gieschen has argued, and has now been affirmed in a book on Christ as an angel by New Testament specialist Susan Garrett, the verse is not saying that the Galatians received Paul as an angel or as Christ; it is saying that they received him as they would an angel, such as Christ.[2] By clear implication, then, Christ is an angel. As I indicated, the reason for reading the verse this way has to do with the Greek grammar. When Paul uses the construction “but as … as” he is not contrasting two things; he is stating that the two things are the same thing. We know this because Paul uses this grammatical construction in a couple of other places in his writings, and the meaning in these cases is unambiguous. For example, in 1 Corinthians 3:1 Paul says: “Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people, but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ.” The last bit “but as…as” indicates two identifying features of the recipients of Paul’s letter: they are fleshly people and they are infants in Christ. These are not two contrasting statements; they modify each other. The same can be said of Paul’s comments in 2 Cor. 2:17, which also has this grammatical feature. But this means that in Galatians 4:14 Paul is not contrasting Christ to an angel; he is equating him to an angel. Garrett goes a step further and argues that Gal. 4:14 indicates that Paul “identifies [Jesus Christ] with God’s chief angel” [p. 11].

The grammatical argument implies that Jesus is called as an angel of God.

The question is why should Paul call Jesus "Angel of the Lord", if we assume that he believed in him as God?

  • 2
    Paul was a messenger, as was Jesus Christ a messenger. The conclusion being drawn in the header of the question is semantically, grammatically and lexically unwarranted. -1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 8:36
  • 1
    Nigel, Paul does call him an angel in the verse, the question is a question as to why, there is no conclusion.
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 9:52
  • The title “prophet” is used many times in the Gospels when other people refer to Jesus (Matthew 21:11; Luke 7:16; John 4:19 see Acts 3:22; 7:37). Jesus also alluded to Himself as a prophet in Mark 6:4. In the basic sense, Christ was a prophet, an apostle, emissary, an angel of God. Facts like this require critical thinking and a strong understanding of the Jewish theology, which cannot be expected from people like Ehrman and his fellow Baptists like Christians.
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 13:51
  • 4
    I’m voting to close this question because the question is about a scholar's theological argument. It is not an hermeneutic question about the actual text of scripture. This is off-topic.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 18:30
  • 1
    @Michael16 thank you for editing the question. now it looks much better. Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 17:53

7 Answers 7


Since the Pauline corpus differentiates between the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the angels, giving to the first a greater, in fact divine honour, in comparison to the first (Hebrews 1:5), and even asserting that the angelic hosts were created by Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:16), then it is more plausible that Paul in this passage of Galatians uses a rhetorical skill called “climax”, that is to say, ascent, to create a stronger impression.

Thus, it is more plausible to read: “you have accepted me as angel of God nay as Jesus Christ Himself”, or, “you accepted me as angel of God, even more, as Jesus Christ Himself”.

  • 2
    While I fully agree with your conclusion, it does not address the grammatical question of the OP, about the construction, ἀλλὰ ὡς ... ὡς ...
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 3:07
  • @LevanGigineishvili. What is your answer to Q "why should Paul call Jesus "Angel of the Lord", if we assume that he believed in him as God"? Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 7:17
  • @AlexBalilo The question “why should Paul call Jesus “Angel of the Lord”” May not be legitimate, as I suggests, for I think Paul uses a rhetoric trope called “climax”, “ascent” for strengthening the impression, like in sentence: “Edgar fought like Achilles, like god of war - Mars!”, here is not said that Achilles is Mars, but the sentence strengthens the impression of how valiantly Edgar fought. Here also, Paul uses this trope in strengthening the praise of Galatians’ hospitality, as if not content by saying “angel” (cf. Achilles) but adding “Christ” (cf. Mars), which puts Christ above angels. Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 8:06

In early Koine Greek, ἄγγελος ángelos simply meant "messenger". It acquired the sense of what we'd now understand as angels as a loan sense from Hebrew מַלְאָךְ malʾāḵ and/or Aramaic מַלְאֲכָא malʾăḵā (which also have the original sense of "messenger", but specialised to a divine messenger at a much earlier stage).

As such, saying that he was accepted as "angel of God" does not inherently mean he is an angel as we would now understand that term, simply that he is acting as a messenger from God.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site, Tristan, and your hermeneutical points about the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic words for what is now translated as 'angel' are relevant. If you could now deal with the point about whether Paul is saying Jesus is an angel, or not, that would complete your answer, as the question deals with that, and not Paul being a messenger. Hope you can add to it!
    – Anne
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 16:32
  • @Anne I understand that Paul is talking about Jesus. My answer addresses that, not Paul talking about himself
    – Tristan
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 15:21

Early this year I perused the Bart Ehrman site, to get the measure of the site. You ask how valid Bart Ehrman's take is on this verse. Well, I don't think Biblical Hermeneutics is about assessing individual's interpretations of specific Bible verses. Ehrman's argument is self-explanatory, and any other scholar's argument (no matter how different to his) is also valid. It does no good to kick off a debate about various scholastic interpretations of scripture, or even one scholar's argument.

This site is for examination of the text in question. It is not even about whether the text is true or not - the text has to be taken as it stands, and exploration made of it. I am not Bart Ehrman, and I have no intention of dissecting his argument, any more than I would another person's argument. If you want examination of an individual's arguments, I suggest you need to find a different site.

To answer the question in the manner that Biblical Hermeneutics requires, I would point out what the apostle Paul was trying to get across to those Galatian Christians. He reminded them that he had first come to share the gospel of Christ with them, for at that time they were in servitude to other gods. Sadly, he now found them in danger of returning to servitude (4:8-11) by thinking they still needed to observe Jewish days and festivals.

Then (4:13-14) he reminds them that though he was infirm in the flesh, yet he proclaimed the good news to them, and they received him as if he was a messenger from God, as Jesus Christ even!

He is building up from the lesser to the greater. The expression "messenger of God" is usually translated as "angel" but I am working from Young's Literal Translation. The Hebrew 'malak' (Greek 'aggelos') means messenger, or agent. Ah, but no matter how authoritative an angelic messenger might be, Paul had started his letter to them with this dire warning:

"There be certain who are troubling you, and wishing to pervert the good news of the Christ, but even if we or a messenger out of heaven may proclaim good news to you different from what we did proclaim to you - anathema let him be!" (Galatians 1:6-9)

Fancy that! We are not to heed even an angelic messenger from heaven if that one preaches a different gospel, which is no gospel at all!

Therefore, Paul knowing that he'd stated that warning just a few pages earlier, builds up from the authority of angelic messengers to the authority of Christ himself. They had received him as having the greatest authority possible, so why were they now being lured to a form of spiritual captivity? Had they been listening to a false gospel? Yes, they had!

And that warning is a solid today as it was then. We do not listen to any false gospel no matter who declares it to us. Not even an angel from heaven is to be heeded, should that one teach falsehood about the gospel. But Jesus Christ is, in his very being, that good news, that gospel. There is no authority greater than his, and Paul came in that authority. The authority of angels from heaven is great, but the authority of Christ from heaven is greater still, indeed, there is no authority greater. Thus, Paul is speaking from the lesser to the greater. He is no more saying he is Jesus Christ than he is saying he is an angel. He is neither. It's the authority he speaks with that is the point.


Christ being (an/the) angel of God doesn't contradict his divinity, as much as his humanity doesn't either. The Messiah is incarnated as a man but he's not an ordinary mortal man. He acted as an angel, emmessary, Malakh-Yahweh but was not actually an angel, he was greater than angels (Hebrews 1). The use of angel means he functions like an angel, a mediator. Compare Galatians 3:19-20, the Law was given through angels.

Below are the relevant study concerning God's or the Messiah's functioning as angel of God to interact with his people.

The quote below is excerpted from our Trinity Study. In it we discuss many of the same passages that Sommer has been presenting in his chronicling of Complex Monotheism within the Hebrew Bible. We include these remarks here alongside Sommer’s presentation in order to demonstrate the exceeding number of biblical passages that depict YHWH existing as more than one person at the same time.

“We saw from Genesis 16, Genesis 22, Exodus 3, Exodus 14, Numbers 22, Judges 6, Judges 13, Zechariah 3, and Zechariah 12 that the figure known as the angel of YHWH is identified as YHWH. We also saw how seeing the angel of YHWH was regarded as seeing YHWH…In addition, from Genesis 21, Genesis 22, Numbers 22, Judges 5, Judges 6, Judges 13, 2 Samuel 24/1 Chronicles 21, 2 Kings 19/2 Chronicles 32/Isaiah 37, Zechariah 1, and Zechariah 3 we saw a distinction made between a figure known as YHWH and the figure known as the angel of YHWH. In some of those passages, YHWH and the angel of YHWH are depicted simultaneously, indicating that God does not simply switch back and forth between different forms. In other passages, YHWH and the angel of YHWH are seen interacting and speaking to and about one another. They express their own conscious distinction from one another.”

A similar phenomenon occurs in the famous J narrative in Genesis 32 in which Jacob wrestles with a being initially described simply as a “man” (32.25). One soon senses that this man is in fact some sort of otherworldly being, because he cannot remain on earth once the sun rises and because his name is a secret. (It is perfectly normal to find a text referring to an angel as an [man] in the Hebrew Bible; see Genesis 18.2, 19.1, Judges 13.16; Zechariah 1.8, 11; Daniel 9.21.) Jacob names the place of this encounter Peniel (“face of God”), saying “I have seen ‘elohim face to face, yet my life was saved” (32.31). The word ‘elohim can refer both to a lower ranking divine being (or angel) and to the God also known as Yhwh, and it is not clear which meaning the text intends here. Hosea 12.4-6, interestingly takes it to mean both as it summarizes this story in poetic parallelism: “In his might he wrestled ‘elohim, He wrestled an angel (mal’akh) and prevailed….It was Yhwh, the God of hosts; Yhwh was His name.” One might initially suggest that in the first of these lines the word ‘elohim means the plural noun “divine beings” and not the singular noun “God,” but the text goes on immediately to identify the ‘elohim: “It was Yhwh…” (12.6). In other words, in Hosea 12 the being who wrestled with Jacob was not a mal’akh who also could be called an ‘elohim; rather, it was the God Yhwh, who can also be termed a mal’akh. The reason for the apparent confusion between God and angel in these verses from Hosea is simply that both passages, Hosea 12 and Genesis 32, reflect a belief that the selves of an angel and the God Yhwh could overlap or that a small-scale manifestation or fragment of Yhwh can be termed a mal’akh. – Benjamin D. Sommer, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel, p. 41

(For a more in-depth examination of passages from the Hebrew Bible which display Complex Monotheism please see our Trinity Study Biblestudying. net) http://www.biblestudying.net/history-of-judaism5.html

Also note:

Malachi 3:1 "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, behold, he comes!" says the Lord of hosts.”

Malachi 3:1 states that the temple belongs to the Angel of the covenant, i.e. “the Lord who you are seeking will come to his temple.” This again proves that the Angel is Yahweh. Malachi also calls this Angel “the Lord” which in Hebrew is Ha Adon, and this is never used for anyone other than Yahweh. The fact that Malachi had no problem applying this title to the Angel demonstrates that Malachi believed that this Angel was God. There are even some Jewish sources that link Malachi 3:1 to Exodus 23:20-23:

“BEHOLD, I SEND AN ANGEL. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: ‘He who guarded the patriarchs will also guard the children’; for so you find in the case of Abraham that when he blessed his son Isaac, he said: The L-rd, the G-d of heaven … He will send His angel before thee (Gen. xxiv, 7). And what did Jacob say to his children? ‘The angel who hath redeemed me from all evil, etc. (ibid. xlviii, 16). He hath redeemed me from the hand of Esau, from Laban, and he it was who fed and sustained me during the years of famine’ (referring all this to an angel – one sent by G-d for that particular purpose). G-d said to Moses: ‘Now also, He who guarded the fathers will protect the children,’ as it says, BEHOLD, I SEND AN ANGEL. Wherever the angel appeared, the Shechinah appeared, as it says, And the angel of the L-rd appeared unto him in a flame of fire. (Ex. iii, 2), and immediately after, it says, G-d called unto him (ibid., 4). Moreover, salvation cometh to Israel wherever they cry unto Him (whenever Israel cries unto G-d and the angel appears, he is a herald of salvation); at the thorn-bush – Behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto Me (ibid. 9); in the case of Gideon – And the angel of the L-rd came … and the angel of the L-rd appeared … and the L-rd … said: Go in this thy might, and save Israel (Judg. vi, 11-14). In the millennium, likewise, when he (the angel; he will be the herald announcing the coming of the L-rd and of true salvation) will reveal himself, salvation will come to Israel, as it says, Behold, I send My messenger, and he shall clear the way before Me (Mal. iii, i).” (Rabbi Dr. S.M. Lehrman, Midrash Rabbah: Volume III: Exodus [London: The Soncino Press, 1983], pp. 412-13)

Jewish Tradition viewed Malachi 3:1 as a prophecy of the Messiah:

The Lord is the King Messiah; He is also the Angel of the Covenant. Rabbi David Kimchi

The Lord is both the Divine Majesty, and the Angel of the Covenant, for the sentence is doubled. Aben Ezra

The Lord may be explained of the King Messiah. Mashmiah Jeshua, fol.76

For those who cannot look upon the Son Himself, behold Him in His reflected light, even thus do they regard THE IMAGE OF GOD, WHO IS HIS ANGEL, THE WORD [Logos], as God Himself. (De Plant Noe) Philo Judaeus

Maimonides (writes to R. Jacob Alfajumi): First shall He (the Messiah) appear in the land of Israel, for in the land of Israel shall be the beginning of His revelation, because it says: “And suddenly cometh to his temple the Lord, whom ye seek; even the Angel of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts”. (Malachi 3:1)

Messiah in the Jewish Scripture:

KIMCHI, or Radak (Rabbi David Kimchi), lived in France 1160-1235. The Jews applied to him, by a play on words, a Talmudic saying (Aboth III,17): “No Kimchi, no understanding of the Scriptures

ABEN EZRA, Abraham ben Meier (called Rabe Rabbi Abraham ben Ezra), born 1093 in Spain, died 1167 in Rome. He was one of the greatest Jewish Bible commentators


Despite the respect I have for the eminence of Bart Ehrman, in this case, I beg to differ - the examples he quotes defeats his own argument. We have:

  • 1 Cor 3:1 - And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as to spiritual, but as fleshly--as to infants in Christ.
  • 2 Cor 2:17 - For we are not like the many, peddling the word of God, but as of sincerity, but as of God, we speak before God in Christ.

Note that in the case of 1 Cor 3:1, "fleshly" people are not synonymous with "infants in Christ". "Fleshly" elsewhere describes people who are not spiritual and unconverted, eg, Rom 8:1-12.

In the case of 2 Cor 2:17 "sincerity" is not equivalent "of God" - the latter implying inspired speech, much more than mere sincerity.

This is not to negate Ehrman's conclusion - see the appendix below. All I am saying is that one cannot deduce that Christ is the Angel of the Lord from Gal 4:14.

APPENDIX - Angel of the LORD in the OT

The following passages make it clear that the “Angel of the LORD” is almost always, the LORD (Jehovah) Himself, probably Jesus in particular. Gen 16:7-13, 22:11-17, 32:24-30, 48:16, Ex 3:2-6, 32:34, Num 22:22-35, Josh 5:13-15, Judg 2:1-4, 6:11-23, 13:3-23, Isa 63:9, Dan 3:25, 28, Hos 12:4, 5, Zech 3:1-7, Mal 3:1, Rev 8:3-5, 10:1-10, 18:1, 20:1-4.

A closely related phrase, “Angel of God” who is clearly God as in Gen 6:13, 8:15, 9:8, 17, 15:13, 17:3, 4, 21:12, 16-21, 35:1, 10, Ex 4:3-8, 6:2, 23:20, 21, Deut 1:6, 1 Kings 12:22, etc. See also Acts 10:3, 4, Gal 4:14.

In Isa 63:9, “the Angel of His [LORD’s] presence saved them”, and is almost certainly a reference to the same being. The same is true of Ex 23:20, 21, Josh 5:13-15.

In view of the clear statements in John 1:18, 5:37, 6:46, 1 John 4:12 that no one has seen God the Father, and the numerous cases listed above of people seeing the LORD and the Angel of the LORD, etc, it appears that these epiphanies were of the pre-incarnate Jesus.


Angel simply means messenger, one who brings the message. It primarily describes a service rather than a type or heirarchy. Compare with Word.

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    – agarza
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 15:02

The earliest generations of Christians viewed the "angel of the Lord" in the Old Testament — in the instances that of themselves prove theophoric, and not every time — to be none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus.

E.g. Justin Martyr, circa 155 A.D., writes:

Now assuredly, Trypho, I shall show that, in the vision of Moses, this same One alone who is called an Angel, and who is God, appeared to and communed with Moses. For the Scripture says thus: 'The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the bush; and he sees that the bush burns with fire, but the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will turn aside and see this great sight, for the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he is turning aside to behold, the Lord called to him out of the bush.' Exodus 3:2-4 In the same manner, therefore, in which the Scripture calls Him who appeared to Jacob in the dream an Angel, then [says] that the same Angel who appeared in the dream spoke to him, Genesis 35:7 saying, 'I am the God that appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother;' and [again] says that, in the judgment which befell Sodom in the days of Abraham, the Lord had inflicted the punishment of the Lord who [dwells] in the heavens;— even so here, the Scripture, in announcing that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, and in afterwards declaring him to be Lord and God, speaks of the same One, whom it declares by the many testimonies already quoted to be minister to God, who is above the world, above whom there is no other [God].

Dialogue with Trypho, cap. 60

There is no question that the early Church viewed Christ as Lord and God, so calling Him an angel cannot be seen as cotnradictory, since this 'contradiction' also applies in Scripture too. That is, the sense in which the creatures called angels are "angels" and the sense in which the Son of God is an "angel" is different: the angels are called "angel" because this is their primary duty, but it can also be used of the Son of God as messenger of the Father, and not as a term for His nature. The word angel, after all, means messenger. That it is used for a class of creatures does not mean it can be used in a non-technical sense as well, as it is being used of Jesus.

Another example of non-technical use of the word angel (again, which simply means "messenger") is with regard to John the Baptist, who was the messenger which went before Christ, to preach His advent:

Matthew 11:10 For this [John the Baptist] is he of whom it is written: Behold I send my angel/messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.

What better word for the Son than the messenger of the Father? No one can know God Himself except through the medium of His Son:

ibid. v. 27 All things are delivered to me by my Father. And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him.

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