Who is Adam?
Updated: Jun 12, 2021
by Trent Dee Stephens, PhD, 14 May 2021
In contrast to the nine references to Michael in the Doctrine and Covenants, Michael is mentioned only five times in all of ancient scripture: two in the New Testament and three in the Old Testament. In each case, his reference is in the context of a major conflict between the forces of good and evil. The most familiar reference, in the book of Revelation, is to Michael’s battle with Satan in the premortal world.
Guido Reni's Michael tramples Satan (in Santa Maria della Concezione Church, Rome, 1636).
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”1
Illustration (1866) for John Milton's Paradise Lost by Gustave Doré,
showing Satan's fall from heaven
Then there is the strange reference to Michael in the book of Jude in the New Testament,
“Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”2
This verse appears to be quite confusing at several levels, and Bible commentators have wrestled with this passage for many years. John Gill (around 1764-1768) proposed that the struggle between Michael and Satan was over where – or even whether to bury Moses’ body after his death.3 How odd, for Michael and Satan to dispute over such a trivial issue. None-the-less, this scenario – of Moses’ dead body needing burial – apparently is a very old Judeo-Christian tradition. In reality, burial of Moses body was unnecessary because Moses body was not laid in the dust, but rather, he was translated so that he had a physical body to lay hands upon and pass his keys to the Savior at the mount of transfiguration.4 An alternative explanation proposed by Gill was that the struggle between Michael and Satan occurred over Moses’ spirit while he was still alive. This strange proposal, however, is completely lacking in context.
One question that may be raised concerning this quote is where did Jude learn this story in the first place? Origen (c. 185–254), an early Christian scholar, mentioned a Jewish-Greek book, “The Assumption of Moses,” as existing in his day. The book, although considered by most scholars to be apocryphal, apparently contained a very similar account of the struggle between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses. Origen supposed that The Assumption was the source of Jude’s account, but, unfortunately, that portion of the book is now lost.5 There appears to be no account in extant ancient scripture of any struggle between Moses and Satan, or between Michael and Satan over Moses.
Illustration by Jan Luyken (1700), showing Origen teaching his students
However, through modern revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, recorded in the Pearl of Great Price, we now have another account of “Moses’ Assumption,” and therein is an account of Moses’ struggle with Satan. We read in Moses chapter 1:
Statue of Moses at the Library of Congress, Charles H. Niehaus (1855–1935), sculptor
“The words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up [assumption] into an exceedingly high mountain, And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.”6
“And it came to pass that…Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me. And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee? For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely? Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve. Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten. And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me. And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory. And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan. And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not.”7
Michael is never mentioned in this scripture, but the passage, “Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength…” (vs 20) is very interesting. Could this be the time when Michael intervened on God’s behalf to strengthen Moses and fight for Moses against Satan, as reported by Jude? Moses chapter 1 certainly appears to contain all the requisite parameters for Jude’s reference and for the missing portion of the Assumption. This incident also appears to be very similar to what Joseph and Oliver experienced on the banks of the Susquehanna.
The concept of being delivered by an angel is presented twice in the book of Psalms: “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.”8 And, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”9 These references certainly sound like what happened to Moses in relation to Satan and Michael.
The remaining three ancient references to Michael are in the Old Testament, all in the book of Daniel, and all part of a very unusual story. According to the account in Daniel 10, Daniel had been mourning, fasting, and praying for his people for “three full weeks.” Chapter 9 tells us the subject of his petition,
Daniel’s Prayer by Sir Edward Poynter, 1865
“Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him… O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.”10
Daniel's Vision by Joannes Ernestus Grabe, 1666-1711
Then, in chapter 10 we read that beside the “…great river…Hiddekel,”
“…a thing was revealed unto Daniel…and the thing was true… a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold…His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.”11
Daniel said that he was the only one who saw the vision, whereas the men with him only experienced a great quaking, fled, and hid themselves. Bible commentators have identified this “man” as the angel Gabriel, who is named as the angel visiting Daniel in the previous two chapters (the only two times that Gabriel is mentioned by name in the Old Testament).
“Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia…But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.”12
Reconstruction of the Persepolis Treasury Relief by Persepolis3d.com.
This story of Daniel’s prayer and answer provides us with a huge amount of information concerning the realm of post-mortal spirits. Daniel was praying mightily for the release of his people, Israel, from Persian bondage, which bondage they were suffering because of their disobedience. God heard Daniel’s prayer immediately and sent the angel Gabriel (who we learn from modern revelation was Noah in his mortal life 13) to Persia to work for the Israelites’ release. Gabriel was there fighting against the evil spirit, which controlled Persia, for three weeks, and ultimately had to enlist the help of Michael, the archangel, to defeat the forces of evil there.
Both Michael (Adam) and Gabriel (Noah) had already passed through their mortal probations and were now in their post-mortal, eternal lives – where time, apparently does not exist. Once Gabriel came back to earth by assignment to help Daniel and the Israelites, however, earth’s temporal constraints apparently pertained to his activities. Although Gabriel struggled against the evil spirits for three weeks, he could not prevail on his own. Therefore, “…Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help [him]…”12 This piece of information gives us tremendous insight into Michael’s (Adam’s) immense spiritual power. The mighty angel Gabriel could not defeat the evil spirits alone, but had to recruit Michael to help, whose power was apparently even greater than Gabriel’s. We, at present, have no more information about Michael’s enormous power over evil aside from the fact that he led the hosts of heaven in the battle against Satan and his host. 2 We also do not know why other angels fall short of having such power.
Michael (left) with archangels Raphael and Gabriel, by Botticini, 1470
In addition to Michael’s great power as the defender of God’s plan against the designs of Satan, whose object it is to destroy that plan, Michael, Adam, also helped create the very earth upon which this struggle takes place. In the October 1996 General Conference, Elder Richard G. Scott, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated, “Adam was Michael who helped create the earth—a glorious, superb individual. Eve was his equal—a full, powerfully contributing partner.”14
It is very important to our understanding of our parent’s nobility to appreciate what Elder Scott said about them. “Adam was…a glorious, superb [and we may add super-human] individual. [and] Eve was his equal…”14 Aside from Christ himself, Adam was the most powerful, spiritual being to ever live, and his wife, Eve was his equal partner. If we want role models to emulate, these two parents of humanity are it.
The Ancient of Days (1794) Watercolor etching by William Blake
Because of modern revelation, we now know that Michael (Adam) was the commanding general of the great premortal host that defeated Satan’s army and cast them out of heaven. We also now know that Michael assisted the Savior in creating the earth, under God’s direction. We know that Michael was designated as the “First Man,” Adam, the father and leader of all humanity on the Earth, the Ancient of Days. We know that after Adam’s life on earth ended, he returned to his role as Michael, apparently battled against Satan in Moses’ behalf, assisted Gabriel in his epic twenty-one-day struggle against the evil forces in Persia and assisted Joseph Smith in detecting Satan on the banks of the Susquehanna (see my blog on the Doctrine and Covenants and Adam). We also know that, at the end of time, Michael will, once again and for the last time, lead God’s forces in defeating the hosts of Satan. He will then play a major role in the resurrection.
Adam stands at the head of the human family, not just because he is Adam, the Ancient of Days, but also because he is Michael the mighty Archangel. He, and his equally noble wife, Eve, thus stand in a place of honor and dignity throughout all eternity – the true “First Family.”
c.f. John Gill, Exposition of the New Testament, 3 vols, 1764-1768
c.f. Matthew 17:1–9
Dean, William John, The Assumption of Moses, biblehub.com
Daniel 9:11 and 16
Daniel 10:12-13, 21
see History of the Church 3:386
Scott, Richard G., The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness, General Conference, October 1996