@james_woods and @Ding:
You know, the clarity of that point had never even occurred to me before. I always thought that the Michael = Jesus notion was just a religious quirk of the JWs - never that it might have been deliberately generated to help them deny the deity of christ.
But I think it is clear that you are absolutely right about this.
and Ding wrote:
MeanMrMustard, I've never understood why they feel they have to equate Jesus and Michael. Why couldn't they just claim that Jesus is unique as the first and greatest creation of Jehovah and that Michael is a separate being who is subject to him?
The reason why I stated this is that I've seen several debates between JWs and non-JWs disintegrate into a Michael/Jesus debate. It didn't surprise me at all that HBJ has discussed this topic with his visiting JWs. I could be wrong, and maybe HBJ brought it up, but it is probable that a discussion started about the Trinity and one of the JWs brought up that Jesus is really an angel, an archangel. And if that is the case, then all this nonsense about Jesus having the nature of God should be thrown away.
*** w58 9/15 p. 559 Who Is the Archangel Michael? ***
Further, note his title “archangel.” This term occurs only twice in the Scriptures (AV), at 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 9. The prefix “arch” means “chief, principal, great.” Certainly both before his coming to earth as a man and since his return to heaven he is the chief or principal one of all God’s spirit creatures or angels. Trinitarians may consider this a downgrading of the “Second Person of the Trinity,” but if we accept the Scriptural testimony that Jesus was “the beginning of the creation by God,” and “the firstborn of all creation,” we will have no diffidence about applying to him the term archangel.—Rev. 3:19; Col. 1:15.
*** w84 12/15 p. 29 ‘Michael the Great Prince’—Who Is He? ***
Jesus an Angel?
Some object to identifying Jesus with the angel of Jehovah mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. For Trinitarians, of course, such an identification poses a problem since it shows conclusively that he is not equal to Jehovah God. But even some who do not accept the Trinity doctrine feel that Jesus’ identity with an angel somehow detracts from his dignity
Ding, I suppose the WTB&TS doesn't *have* to identify Jesus with Michael. Like you have been pointing out, its not like their entire theology would collapse. But in any argument/debate, both sides are trying to bring about defensive and offensive points. If I were a JW and just got hit with John 8:58, I would go on the defensive and say, "Well, it really says 'I have been', at least in my Bible." And then I would hit right back with something like, "But Jesus says he's not equal to the Father." or "Jesus is really Michael the archangel." It's just something else they can use to hammer away at the Trinity, as the above references show. That's what Bible ping-pong is all about anyway, right? :)
The WT really doesn't believe that Jesus and Michael are the same person anyway. In WT theology, all they shared was the same impersonal life force. They don't believe Jesus was an archangel incarnate as a man. They believe Jesus was a perfect man like Adam, no more and no less. And they don't believe the man Jesus rose as Michael. They believe the human being died and stayed dead and that he had no separate soul or personality that survived physical death.
You are, of course, correct. And I am not debating this. I would say its another place where their theology suffers because they don't take the time to truly nail down what they mean by "person" and "nature" and "life force", etc. The WTB&TS loves to swim in a sea of ambiguity, IMHO. They find the best refuge there. Once you start to really get into the details, well, that's when it all breaks down. I think that's what HBJ is trying to do, I suppose. (if they stick around much longer)
Let's use an analogy for the Jesus -- Michael impersonal life force teaching.
Let's say you (Jehovah) have a flashlight (Michael) powered by batteries (impersonal active force). At some point, you take the batteries out of the flashlight and use them to power a transistor radio (deactiviting Michael and giving life to the man Jesus). Then someone breaks the radio (Jesus is killed), so you take the batteries and put them back into the flashlight (empowering Michael again). That's how the WT views what happened with Michael and Jesus.
LOL. I swear I've heard that illustration at a district convention before. Yes, that's how they see it. And I bet if this illustration was read at a DC, all the JWs would "ooooooo" and "ahhhhhhh" ... but try to nail anyone of them down on the specifics of what a "life force" really means or implies about personhood ....
Now, in that analogy, would you say that the flashlight (Michael) became the radio (Jesus) and went back to being the flashlight (Michael) again? Not at all! There's no continuity of identity between the flashlight and the radio (Michael and Jesus). In WT teaching, they were two totally separate entities who happened to share the same impersonal power source.
If you said this to a JW, his/her head might explode....
So in what sense does the WT really teach that Jesus = Michael?
*shrugs*, I don't think it matters. They want to smash the Trinity. It's totally illogical, but it doesn't matter. The ends justifies the means.