Revelation mailing list: Dissertation Abstracts 4.003: Leo R. Percer: The War in Heaven

The War in Heaven: Michael and Messiah in Revelation 12

Leo R. Percer (PercerL@baylor.edu)

This 260 page Ph.D.-thesis was successfully defended on August 13, 1999 at Baylor University. Mentor was Robert B. Sloan, Jr., D. d. Theol.

The book of Revelation is notorious for an almost chaotic diversity of interpretations, no doubt as a result of the surprising symbols like those found in other apocalypses. The book is saturated in apocalyptic symbolism, and many of the characters are not so much named as caricatured. Revelation 12, a central chapter both in location and theology, contains characters whose importance and background have been thoroughly investigated: (1) the celestial woman, (2) the dragon (Satan), and (3) the Messianic child. John throws an unexpected name into this mix of characters—the angel Michael.

This study examines the role of Michael in Revelation 12 from two perspectives: (1) that of the ideal, first century audience, and (2) that of the author of the Apocalypse. In Revelation, angels assume a variety of roles, and even Jesus is depicted in what may be called "angelic" terminology. Michael, the only angel mentioned by name, appears at a pivotal point in Revelation's narrative and embarks on a significant battle with the dragon, Satan. The role Michael assumes in this story would seem to belong naturally to the child Messiah of Rev. 12:5, yet instead of Messiah removing the dragon from heaven, Michael and his angels fight the war.

This study considers the roles of Michael and Messiah in Revelation 12, looking specifically for a paradigm through which the first century author and audience may have understood the story. This paradigm grows from an investigation into the various interpretive streams used by John in Revelation 12 and how his audience understood those streams. These streams present various roles for Michael in the developing eschatology of Jewish (and Christian) theologies. Some of Michael's roles mirror aspects later assigned to Messiah. Although these concepts could lead to a confusion of Messiah with Michael, a close reading of Revelation actually indicates that Michael was understood as subservient to Messiah. Indeed, this examination of the Michael traditions suggests that John may have reinterpreted Michael's eschatological function in Revelation 12. This study investigates that reinterpretation and compares Michael's new function to the role of Messiah in Revelation.

The thesis is available from UMI order no. 260689
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Date of original posting on Revelation mailing list: November 11th, 2001 (?)
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