Early Christology question

by M.J. 19 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • hmike


    I am not familiar with the work of John Day. Is that the basis for WT Christology? It looks to me like the Son of Man must have been considered to be Jesus:

    Daniel 7:13-14, "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was lead into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." (NIV)

    I Chron. 17:11-14, "When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take away my love from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever." (NIV)

    Luke 1:32,Gabriel to Mary: "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (NIV)

    Here in Luke, the connection appears to be made between the "one like a son of man" and the descendent of David, who would also be called the Son of God, through the everlasting throne. Also, Psalm 1:2 strongly implies a link between the Son of God and the Annointed One--Messiah--and is quoted in Acts 4 and applied to Jesus. The writer of Hebrews picks this up in Heb. 1:8, clearly distinguishing the Son from angels by virtue of the everlasting throne.

  • El blanko
    El blanko


    This book was recommended to me:

    The Christians As The Romans Saw Them - Robert Louis Wilken (check Amazon)

    I have a few pages to go and it has been a fascinating read. The book draws upon the work of great Roman & Greek writers/philosophers mainly sourced from the 1st to the 4th century regarding their observation and criticism of Christianity.

    Consider buying the book, I think you will learn a lot

    It is also easy to read and will not give you a headache.

  • peacefulpete

    hmike...it must be remembered that the Gospels are themselves complex compositions incorporating various traditions from oral and written sources. In some palces in the Gospels "son of man" still means simply "man/human" but in others it assumed the messianic overtones of eschatological Judaism. In their final form the canonical Gospels are the sum of a number of divergent themes melded into one persona. The Logos,Wisdom, Angel (LXX Is.9:6), Son of David,Son of God, and Son of Man, themes and liturature were reinterpreted and homogenized.

    That being said, it is not certain that the book of Daniel's 'son of man' was intended to be understood as an individual, tho it certainly was so interpeted by later generations. the context suggests rather that the "man" was a composite reference to the 'saints" who inherit the kingdom of the world in language similar to Isaiah's 'Servant'. IOW the members of the author's sect of Judaism.

  • Leolaia

    hmike...No, John Day is a Semiticist who specializes in the OT and Ugaritic texts. He has made a pretty good case that within the text of Daniel, the "one like a son of man" is a heavenly being subordinate to the Ancient of Days (= El), and should be identified with the prince that leads God's people, Michael -- whose political function is analoguous to Yahweh/Baal (as the patron deity, having kingly rulership), who is described as a bringer of rain and snow (= Yahweh/Baal in the OT and in Ugaritic texts) in extracanonical texts, who is described as coming on the clouds (exactly like Yahweh/Baal), and so forth. In the "Parables of Enoch" (1 Enoch 37-71), the title "Son of Man" refers to such a being also called the "Anointed One" and who is revealed to be none other than the future Enoch himself (cf. the angel Metatron in 3 Enoch, also revealed to be Enoch). This is analogous to other intertestamental texts which describe the eschatological priest or judge as a heavenly Melchezidek (11QMelch), as a heavenly Moses, as a heavenly Adam, and so forth. The early Son of Man christology of the synoptic gospelists cast Jesus into this role. However, since this title refers to Jesus' eschatological function and since the concept was diverse and malleable, it is not clear from the title itself what kind of being the Son of Man was, as Jesus was also referred to (or made to refer to himself) as the Son of God, divine Wisdom, Christ, Lord, and other interlocking concepts. That a high christology is not precluded by the term can be seen in the dependence of the synoptic Son of Man language on the apocalyptic theophany of 1 Enoch 1, which draws on OT concepts about the "Day of Yahweh" and the coming of God in judgment on the earth. These and other OT references to Yahweh were applied to Jesus as the "Lord". Thus, the original concept of God/Yahweh coming in judgment and vengeance on the earth is reinterpreted as the heavenly coming of the Son of Man/the Lord on Judgment Day. Most if not all the references to Judgment Day in Matthew refer to the Son of Man. However if Yahweh/Lord is seen as subordinate to God/Ancient of Days, as Yahweh/Baal originally was to El, then he would be God's divine agent. One interesting detail is that in some versions of the LXX (specifically P967 from the second-third century AD, Codex Chisianus, and others), there is a copyist error in Daniel 7:13 that would have equated the Son of Man with the Ancient of Days: these texts have hós palaios hémerón "as the Ancient of Days," instead of the correct heós palaios hémerón "to the Ancient of Days". This may have influenced some to regard the Son of Man as a hypostasis of God, and this has been suggested as a factor in the theology of Revelation and the mixing of Son of Man and Ancient of Days language in Revelation 1:12-16. Note also that the archangel Michael is distinguished from the Messiah in ch. 12 of Revelation; the author likely views the Son of Man in Daniel and the angel Michael as separate figures.

  • hmike


    I checked the materials I have on hand, and I didn't find any suggestions of the "one like a son of man" being Michael. In "Christology in the Making" by James Dunn, he mentions possibilities as the Messiah, Adam, Wisdom, an angel, or the "saints of the Most High." He personally sides with the saints as the original intent, which I can understand, but it looks like quite a stretch to say this is Michael, even though he is called the Prince, and even if he can be equated with the "Angel of the LORD."

    I wondered if this had anything to do with JW theology because it looks like something the WT would love to say--that a Biblical scholar calls the "son of Man" Michael, who, in the NT would be the Christ. They would use that and disregard everything else Mr. Day said, am I right?

  • Terry

    As an active Witness I would have gladly ignored any discrepency pertaining to the view that Jesus was anything other than what the Society said he was. Why?

    Because, once I mastered the teachings of JW-dom I'd have to start all over and learn everything again if I were wrong. Lazy bum.

    The early history of the Jesus movement is basically a mess of opinions.

    Imagine the outright shock. You have your guru, your Rabbi, your Messiah all picked out and BAM! He is given the Capital Punishment treatment and you are left looking very very foolish indeed for believing in him.

    What do you make of it? Confused? Certainly. Angry? More than a little. Admit you were dead wrong? Hell no! You must have missed something. Go back and think about it. Talk to the others.

    So, one by one the old gang gets together and opines what it all meant. Each one engages in a bit of pious fraud in retelling an incident or two in which Jesus said or did something really spectacular. Each person knows he himself is fudging the truth; but, he wants to believe what the others are telling. So, the lie is born. The stories are told and retold and the exaggerations get larger and larger and more wondrous until that wack Rabbi who got executed is now, gulp, regarded as maybe GOD HIMSELF! Wow. Not only were you right to believe in him, you were very very lucky to have walked and talked with God himself. Yahooooo.

    There were more fish stories about Jesus than you could ever imagine. A lot of them were obviously bad writing and poor imagination. But, the more reasonable ones were selected out for safekeeping and the awful ones ignored or destroyed again and again and again until....PRESTO, you have the bible canon we all know and love today.



  • Leolaia

    Fortunately, someone has put up this chapter of John Day's book on the web, so you may read what he says for yourself:


    Here are some of the main lines of evidence that Day discusses:

    (1) Daniel never outright identifies Michael with the Son of Man figure ("one who is like a son of man"), but it definitely implies this when we compare the various visions together which all relate the same thing: the destruction of the Seleucid kingdom by the coming Messiah, who will establish a kingdom that will last forever (cf. Daniel 2:41-45; 7:14, 18; 8:11, 25; 11:45-12:3). In Daniel 12:1, Michael is designated as the "great prince" (hsr hgdwl) who resists the forces of the "king of the North" (the Seleucid king), who "stands up" (an idiom meaning "begin ruling as king", see below), and ushers in the eternal Messianic kingdom with the resurrection of the dead (v. 3-4). The description of Michael as "mounting guard over your people" in 12:1, in the midst of a description of the war between the king of the North and the king of the South (cf. 11:40-45), the mention of "Michael your prince" as supporting the "fight against the prince of Persia" and the "prince of Javan" (10:21), and "Michael one of the leading princes" is described in 10:13-14 as "confronting the kings of Persia". All this suggests that the angelic "prince" (hsr) bearing the name of Michael leads the military fight against the nations persecuting the Jews.

    (2) Daniel 8:10-11 refers to the Seleucid king as challenging "the armies of heaven" and flinging "armies and stars" to the ground, and "even challenging the power of the army's Prince (sr-hzb')". Since Michael is elsewhere described as having this role (cf. 10:21), it is thus important to note that the "army's Prince" is later called the "Prince of Princes (sr-srym)" in 8:25 -- an epithet that is reminiscent of "Prince of the kings of the earth" in Revelation 1:5.

    (3) As for the Son of Man figure, he is described as a heavenly (i.e. angelic) figure "coming on the clouds of heaven", who was also part of God's heavenly court (Daniel 7:10, 13). The description of this individual as like a son of man suggests that the figure is not actually human but rather resembles a human being. Such descriptions frequently occur in Daniel as referring to angels. Thus in Daniel 8:15 Gabriel is described as "one having the appearance of a man" and in Daniel 10:16, an angel (possibly Gabriel) is referred to as "one in the likeness of the sons of men", and again in Daniel 10:18 as "one having the appearance of a man". Similarly elsewhere the anthropic appearance of the angels is alluded to (cf. Daniel 3:25; 9:21; 12:6-7). The fact that this "one like a son of man" comes with the clouds of heaven suggests a heavenly being. We must take Daniel on its own terms not read Christian theology and eschatology into the book and not read this as a reference to the "second coming" of a resurrected Christ; such a notion is foreign to Daniel.

    (4) The Son of Man figure is "conferred sovereignty, glory, and kingship" in 7:14, and in 12:1 Michael is the one who "stands up" ('md), an idiom that repeatedly in Daniel refers to beginning one's kingship (cf. 8:22-23; 11:2-3, 20, 21). And the books of judgment are mentioned in connection with Michael in 12:1-2 and with the Son of Man figure and the Ancient of Days in 7:10-13 (cf. Revelation 20:12). So there is a general equivalence between the Son of Man figure who "comes" in kingship and Michael who "stands up" in kingship.

    (5) The "one like a son of man" is described in Daniel 7 in very Baal-like terms, with the "Ancient of Days" filling in the mythological role of El, the father god. Thus like Baal/Yahweh, he is given kingship after defeating the "beasts" of the sea, subject to El, who also walks upon the clouds like Baal (who has as one of his epithets "Rider of the Clouds"), etc. Now what is interesting is that Michael is also mythologically derived from Baal, according to Day. Michael's role as patron deity and commander of armies is precisely that of Baal and pre-exilic Yahweh, and rabbinical traditions on Michael present him as the bringer of rain and snow in fall and winter, just like Baal (cf. Midrash Rabba, Job 25:2). Further evidence consists of the notion that Yahweh, as one of the sons of El-Elyon (cf. Deuteronmy 32:8), was allotted Israel as his inheritance as the other sons of God were allotted the seventy other nations (cf. Targum, Pseudo-Jonathan) of the world. In Daniel, we encounter the nations as each being led by angelic Princes (e.g. "the Prince of Greece", "the Prince of Persia", etc.). Michael, as the Prince of the Jewish people, is thus functionally equivalent to Yahweh who formerly protected Israel/Judah and was enthroned as divine king.

    Of course, all this only pertains to Daniel. If the Society wants to cite Day to support their angel christology of Jesus, they would have to ignore the fact that he bases part of his argument on Canaanite mythology and also that he recognizes that Michael drew on Yahweh as a model. Moreover, they would have to also ignore the fact that as Michael was not the only archangel in early Judaism and that he is distinguished clearly from the Messiah in Revelation.

  • Narkissos

    As much as I agree that the El / Baal pattern most probably lies in the background of both the "Son of Man" figure and the Michael character, I am somewhat reluctant to simply identify them in the context of Daniel.

    My main objection is, roughly, that the apocalyptic genre maintains a globally consistent distinction between two planes: (1) the vision, with its symbols (signifiers); (2) the interpretation, with its supposedly "real" characters (signified).

    The "one like a son of man" in Daniel 7:13f, just like the "beasts" before him, belongs to the language of vision (1). The corresponding "real character" in (2) is collective:

    As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter:
    "As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth.
    But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever--forever and ever."

    Whether the "holy ones" are human or angelic (as Day holds) is actually an independent question.

    On the other hand, Michael in Daniel belongs to plane # 2: he is not presented as a figure in a vision, but as a "real" character (just as the "other princes") in the author's conception of "reality". As such he would hardly be used, I guess, as a visional figure.

    Or, to put it differently: Day's interpretation actually ascribes two consecutive meanings the "Son of Man" figure: the "Son of Man" represents "Michael" who represents "the holy ones". I don't think this exactly suits the working of symbols in the text.

  • Leolaia

    Narkissos....Collins in his critical commentary has this to say about the passage in question:

    "II. The kind of symbolism involved. In the context of Daniel 7, it is quite clear that the four beasts are viewed as allegorical symbols; hence the angel's interpretation in v 17 identifies them as four kings or kingdoms. The interpretation does not necessarily exhaust the sense of the symbols, but it gives their reference. The beasts stand for entities that are more familiarly recognized as kings. Because there is an evident contrast between the beasts from the sea and the human figure who comes with the clouds, many scholars have assumed that this figure too must be an allegorical symbol. However, the apparition of the "one like a human being" is separated from the beasts in the text by the description of the Ancient of Days, which is generally accepted as a mythic-realistic symbol for God. The Ancient One is assumed to exist outside the dream, and there is no more appropriate or familiar language by which he might be described. Accordingly, we are subsequently given no identification of the Ancient of Days by the angel. It is highly significant that the "one like a human being" is not interpreted either. He is associated with "the holy ones of the Most High" insofar as they too are said to receive the kingdom, but there is no one-to-one equation, such as we have with the beasts and the kings. If an argument is to be drawn from the nature of the symbolism, then, it should favor the view that the "one like a human being" is a symbol of the same order as the Ancient of Days -- a mythic-realistic depiction of a being who was believed to exist outside the vision" (John J. Collins, "Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel", Hermeneia Series, Fortress Press: 1993, p. 305).

    So while the four beasts are explicitly interpreted as four kings (7:17) or four kingdoms (7:23), we do not find the same kind of identification between the "one like a son of man" and the "holy ones" in v. 18, tho there is an association since both receive the kingdom (cf. also Rowland, The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity, p. 180). The visional "one like a son of man" is not identified in the interpretation of v. 25-27, but neither is the visional "Ancient of Days" who certainly is a real character corresponding to the "Most High" of v. 25. Rather than saying that Michael represents the holy ones, it would be better to say that Michael is a holy one, for the "holy ones" is an expression denoting angelic beings (cf. 4:10, 14, 20, 8:13; compare 1QH 3:21-22, which equates the "army of the holy ones" with the "congregation of the sons of heaven", 1 Enoch 14:23-25, Sirach 42:17, 45:2, Jubilees 17:11, 31:14; Tobit 8:15; Psalms of Solomon 17:43, Wisdom 5:5, 10:10), and significantly, earlier texts such as Deuteronomy 33:2 refers to the theophanic "coming" of Yahweh accompanied with his "holy ones" as his heavenly host, and Zechariah 14:5 and 1 Enoch 1:9 similarly refer to this eschatological coming of "holy ones" as at a time of divine judgment. Michael is the leader of the heavenly host which had suffered attack by Antiochus and his angelic Prince, the "Prince of Greece" (cf. 8:25, 10:20-21), as 8:10-13 makes clear: "It grew great up to the host of heaven, and it threw down some of the host and some of the stars to the earth and trampled on them. He grew great even to the Prince of the host (i.e. Michael), from whom the daily offering was taken away and whose sanctuary place was cast down". This trampling of the host of heaven parallels the following statement in the interpretation of the Ancient Days vision: "This was the horn I had watched making war on the holy ones and proving stronger...He shall speak words against the Most High and shall wear out the holy ones of the Most High" (7:21, 25). Similarly, the holy ones are "given into his hand" for 3 1/2 years in 7:25, just as the "host is trampled" by the little horn for 2,300 half-days (=3 years, 2 months) in 8:14. So when the kingdom is given to the "holy ones", it is given to the angelic host and its leader, Michael.

    The picture would thus be similar to that in the Qumran War Scroll, which depicts the final battle between Michael and his forces against the forces of darkness, and which declares that God "will raise among the angels the authority (mshrt) of Michael and the dominion (mmshlt) of Israel among all flesh" (1QM 17:7-8). This has the same two-tiered conception as Daniel of earthly battles being paralleled as heavenly battles, and has the dominion being given to Michael at the heavenly level and the kingdom being given to Israel (= "the people of the holy ones" of 7:27) at the earthly level.

    Another point that is made is that in the interpretation of the four beasts, there is an ambiguity between the beasts as symbols of "four kings (mlkyn)" or "four kingdoms (mlkw)" (7:17, 23), and elsewhere in Daniel, we read of the metals in Nebuchadnezzer's statue being symbolic of "kingdoms" (2:39, 40, 41) and "kings" (2:27-28, 44), and while "horns" were used in the visions to distinguish the kings from the kingdoms, there was still a blurring between the two; see, for instance, 8:20 in which the "hairy he-goat" is "the king of Greece" and its horn "is its first king". The indeterminacy between the kingdom and the king ruling it may be compared to the ambiguity between the "holy ones" who receive the kingdom and the "one like a son of man" who receives it as an individual. There is also an indeterminancy between the kingdom being given to the "holy ones of the Most High" in 7:22 and to the "people of the holy ones of the Most High" in 7:27. The wording in 7:22, 27 can also be compared to 5:28: "The time came for the holy ones to possess (hchsnr) the kingdom (mlkwt')....The kingdom (mlkwth) and dominion ... will be given (yhybt) to people of the holy ones of the Most High" (7:22, 27); "Your kingdom (mltwtr) has been divided and given (yhybt) to the Medes and Persians" (5:28). In both cases, there is giving of the kingdom to a collective entity, yet 5:30-31 goes on to name an individual as receiving the kingdom: "That same night, the Chaldean king Belshazzar was murdered, and Darius the Mede received the kingdom (qbl mlkwt'), at the age of sixty-two". Here an individual and the collective people he leads is given the kingdom. Regarding the differing statements in ch. 7 among whom the kingdom is given to ("the one like a son of man", "the holy ones", "the people of the holy ones"), Collins states: "That the kingdom is variously given to an individual, to the holy ones, or to the people of the holy ones is analogous to the vacillation that we find between kings and kingdoms in the interpretation of the beasts...The references to the giving of the kingdom are nicely complementary. The first, in v 13, refers to the leader of the host, the second and third to the host itself (vv 18, 22) to the host itself, and the final reference (v 27) to the people on earth".

    The "people of the holy ones of the Most High" in 7:27 parallels the "holy people" of 12:7 persecuted by Antiochus Epiphanes, and it is possible (tho not entirely clear) that the holy people martyred by Antiochus join the holy ones in heaven in the resurrection; in 8:10-13, the host of heaven is described in astral terms (cf. Job 38:7; Isaiah 14:13), and in 12:3 the resurrected martyrs (and virtuous ones) are described as "shining as brightly as the vault of heaven" and "bright as stars for all eternity". There is also the parallel noted above in 1QH 3:19-23 which claims that the members of the Qumran community as exalted to the angels even in the present life: "I give thanks to you, O Lord, for you have redeemed me from the pit, and from Sheol Abaddon you have lifted me up to an eternal height ... to be stationed with the host of the holy ones and to enter into fellowship with the congregation of the children of heaven". The "Parables of Enoch" also interpret Daniel 7 in a similar light. 1 Enoch 46-49 has a throne scene obviously modelled on that described in ch. 7 of Daniel, which refers to "the holy ones dwelling in the heights of heaven" (1 Enoch 47:2), and claims that the righteous dead have "their dwelling with the angels and their resting places with the holy ones" (39:5) and "all will become angels in heaven" on Judgment Day (51:4), and the righteous would take part in the judgment of the wicked (38:1-5). The throne scene of the Ancient of Days chosing the Son of Man is borrowed from Daniel, and it designates the Chosen One as an individual who "causes the house of his congregation to appear" (53:6), and "when the congregation of the righteous appears, the sinners are judged for their sins ... then the kings and the mighty will perish, and they will be given into the hand of the righteous and the holy ones" (38:2, 5).

  • Narkissos


    Thanks for this documented and enlightening response.

    I am not entirely convinced by Collins' argument about the "Ancient of days" though. From our point of view, both "Ancient of days" and "Most High" can work as equivalent and interchangeable designations of "God" (both deriving from ancient Canaanite speech about El btw) but I feel they don't work this way in Daniel. While "Most High" regularly occurs as a straightforward name-title of "God" in "plain speech" (e.g. "interpretation," cf. 4:14,21s,29,31; 7:25), "Ancient of days" occurs only in the vision (which is true also of v. 22, cf. v. 21 "I looked"). The former is a signifier, the latter is a symbol. Similarly "one like a son of man" is a graphic description pertaining to the vision (a young man opposed to an old one?), which calls for interpretation in plain speech, and only the plural "holy ones" appears at this level (although I concede that the correspondence is not expressed as formally as the "beasts" - "king[dom]s" one).

    The angelic interpretation of the "holy ones" nicely fits most of Daniel, and is evidently derived from ancient Canaanite/Israelite designations of "gods" as attested both in Ugarit and in the Bible (Proverbs 2:5; 9:10; 30:3 are other good examples for "knowledge of the holy ones" meaning "knowledge of the gods"). Yet, as you pointed out, Daniel 7:27 and 12:7 are indications of a somewhat concurrent human interpretation of the "holy ones". Probably two different kinds of distinctions/representations overlap there, (1) vision vs. interpretation within the apocalyptic literary setting, (2) heavenly characters vs. earthly entities within the apocalyptic mythical-realistic mindframe. At level # 1 we have "one like a son of man" / "the (people of the) holy ones," at level # 2 "Michael" / "Israel". The two pairs are obviously related, but only indirectly as they involve a different kind of relationship (# 1 = literary, # 2 = mythical-realistic).

    Of course 1 Enoch will change the perspective by making the visional "one like a son of man" a mythical-realistic character, "the Son of Man," which is a decisive step in the NT background.

    Perhaps I am splitting hairs but it's always interesting with you...

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