Was the angel Gabriel Jesus? I know some of you must think I’ve lost my theological mind in asking a question like this. I ran across this idea in preparing yesterday’s post on the Angel of the Lord. In the essay by MacDonald that I refered to in that post he mentions this view from a book by H. Harold Kent called The House of Christmas. MacDonald only gave a brief quote so I didn’t want to mention it till I could see it in context. As it turns out we had a copy Kent’s book in our used book department. Here’s the MacDonald quote in a larger context. (Words in bold are Kent’s emphasis.)
“The angel Gabriel came to Nazareth to this virgin called Mary. I believe that in this context the angel Gabriel is God the eternal Son. If you carefully collect the references to Gabriel in the Bible you will find that there is no other explanation. We are told in other references to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ that it was ‘an angel of the Lord’ who came. Gabriel by that time is the Incarnate One, awaiting birth by the virgin. That is the first point to emphasize: no matter how unlikely our own environment and circumstances may be, no matter how sorely tempted we are, it is possible for us to be visited by the eternal Son of God and for the miracle of God’s grace to take place in our hearts and lives.
‘And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you.’ Note the emphasis here–‘the Lord is with you,’ i.e., in my coming. It was the Lord who came, Gabriel, the One who stands forever in the presence of the Father. ‘The Lord is with you.’ It was fitting that no created angel, that no one except Himself, the eternal Son who was about to make His dwelling place and whose mother, according to the flesh, she was to be, that He and He alone should come and announce it: ‘Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you.’ Never again in the same sense, but in millions of cases in just as vital a sense, the presence of the eternal Son of God has made itself known. It may be so in your case and in mine.” (39-40
This is certainly a strained reading of the text but surprisingly not without precedent. A similar view is espoused in the Epistle of the Apostles (also known as Epistula Apostolorum). This document dates back to the late fourth or early fifth centuries. Paragraph 14 from the Coptic text reads:
14 For ye know that the angel Gabriel brought the message unto Mary. And we answered: Yea, Lord. He answered and said unto us: Remember ye not, then, that I said unto you a little while ago: I became an angel among the angels, and I became all things in all? We said unto him: Yea, Lord. Then answered he and said unto us: On that day whereon I took the form of the angel Gabriel, I appeared unto Mary and spake with her. Her heart accepted me, and she believed (She believed and laughed, Eth.), and I formed myself and entered into her body. I became flesh, for I alone was a minister unto myself in that which concerned Mary (I was mine own messenger, Eth.) in the appearance of the shape of an angel. For so must I needs (or, was I wont to) do. Thereafter did I return to my Father (Copt. After my return to the Father, and run on).
I’m not convinced by this view at all (not even close). The House of Christmas is, I believe, out of print but copies can be found on some online stores. (Whose name shall not be mentioned but I did give you a link above.) It was originally published by Eerdmans in 1964. It is a hardcover with 123 pages.