Jesus Self Designation The Son of Man and the Recognition of His Divinity

Craig A. Evans

Apart from the divine identity of Jesus as the Son there could not be a Trinity—at least not in the traditional Christian sense. The concept of Trinity expresses the idea that the three Persons that make it up are fully divine, fully God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Theologians, philosophers, and apologists have debated and will continue to debate whether or not Jesus was divine and in what manner he related and/or relates to God. The historical exegete is left to explore the question whether or not our sources indicate that Jesus and/or his contemporaries understood him as in any sense divine. It is this latter point that the present paper explores.

For the last century or so biblical critics have frequently asserted or assumed that the ascription of divine status to Jesus was to be traced to early Christianity's contact with the Greco-Roman influences outside the Jewish Palestinian environment in which the movement had its beginning. The overlap between Greco-Roman language and New Testament language is extensive and meaningful. The former describes kings and emperors as 'gods', 'sons of god', 'saviours', 'lords', 'benefactors', and even 'creators'. A sampling of inscriptions will make this clear. From the Greek world, a third-century bce inscription from Halicarnassus honours nroXe^alov rov awrBpos Kal deov ('Ptolemy, saviour and god'). The famous Rosetta Stone bears the inscription of a later Ptolemy (196 bce), who is described as BaaiXevs nroXe^aEos alwv6l3ios ... vvapxwv deos Kk deov Kal deas ('King Ptolemy, the everliving... being a god [born] of a god and a goddess'). An inscription found over a door of a Temple of Isis on the island of Philae refers to Ptolemy XIII (62 bce): rov Kvplov PaaiX[e]os deov ('of the lord king god'). Another inscription comes from Alexandria and refers to Ptolemy XIV and Cleopatra (52 bce): roEs Kvpiois deoEs ^eyiarois ('to the lords, the greatest gods').

Roman popular culture and politics adopted much of Greek ideology and put it to work to advance the cult of the emperor. The development of this cult

* From S. T. Davis, et al., eds., The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity. © 1999 Oxford University Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

parallels the emergence of the Julian dynasty. In its earliest stages we see it in an inscription from Ephesus, which describes Julius Caesar (48 bce-44 bce) as rov avo Apews kol A^poSelrqs deov em^avq kol kolvov tov avdpwvlvov ßlov awrypa ('the manifest god from Mars and Aphrodite, and universal saviour of human life').1 The language of Titus 2: 13 is immediately called to mind: ivL^aveiav rys So^qs rov jeyaXov deov kol awrrjpos j/wv T-qoov Xpiorov ('the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ'). The people of Carthaea honoured Caesar as saviour and god: Kalaapa... yeyovora Sb awrypa kol evepyirqv kol rys r/eripas voXews ('[The Carthaean people honour] Caesar.. .who has become saviour and benefactor of our city'). And again: o Srj/os o Kapdaiewv rov deov kol avroKparopa kol awrrjpa rys olKovjivqs rdiov 'TovXlov Kalaapa ratov Kalaapos vlov avidqKev ('The Carthaean people honour the god and emperor and saviour of the inhabited world Gaius Julius Caesar son of Gaius Caesar').2 The people of Mytilene hailed Caesar as god (deos), benefactor (evepyirqs), and founder or creator (Krlar-qs).3

The dynasty's greatest ruler was Caesar's nephew Octavius, who assumed the name Caesar Augustus (30 bce-14 ce). Queen Dunamis of Phanagoria honoured Augustus as AvroKparopa Kalaapa deov vlov deov Sepaarov vaaqs yys kol daXaaaqs Kvovr-v ('The Emperor, Caesar, son of god, the god Augustus, the overseer of every land and sea').4 An inscription from Halicarnassus reads: Ala Sb varpwov kol awrypa rov kolvov twv avdpwvwv yivovs ('Hereditary god and saviour of the universal race of humanity').5 The famous calendrical inscription from Priene refers to the birth of Augustus as the j yevidXios rov deov ('the birthday of the god') and the 'beginning of the good news [evayyiXia] for the world', and later refers to Augustus as rov dqorarov Kalaapos ('the most divine Caesar').6 The parallel with Mark's opening verse is obvious: 'The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God' (Mark 1: 1). Libations were offered up vvbp rov deov kol AvroKparopos ('in behalf of the god and Emperor'). An inscription found at Tarsus reads: AvroKparopa Kalaapa deov vlov Seßaarov o Syjos o Tapaiwv ('The people of Tarsus [honour] Emperor Caesar Augustus son of god').7

5 GIBM 994.

6 OGIS 458.

7 For fuller texts and discussion of these and many other related inscriptions and papyrl, see P. Bureth, Les Titulatures imperiales dans lespapyrus, les ostraca et les inscriptions d'Egypte (30 a.C-284 p.C) (Brussels: Fondation Egyptologique Reine Elisabeth, 1964), 23-41; A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East (London: Hodder & Stoughton; New York: Harper & Row, 1927), 338-78; W. Foerster, Herr ist Jesus: Herkunft und Bedeutung des urchristlichen Kyrios-Bekenntnisses (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1924), 99-118; P. Kneissl, Die Siegestitulatur der romischen Kaiser: Untersuchungen zu den Siegerbeinamen der ersten und zweiten Jahrhunderts Hypomnemata 23 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck

& Ruprecht, 1969), 27-57; D. Magie, De Romanorum iuris publici sacrique vocabulis (Leipzig:

Teubner, 1905), 62-9; L. R. Taylor, The Divinity of the Roman Emperor, APAMS 1 (New York: Arno, 1931; repr. Chico: Scholars Press, 1975), 267-83.

With the celebrated accomplishments of Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus the pattern was established, and the successors of these emperors imitated their great patriarchs, but not with equal success. Whereas both Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus were officially deified posthumously, the honour was denied to all of their Julian successors: the eccentric and lecherous Tiberius (14-37 ce), the murderous and insane Caligula (37-41 ce), the stuttering and cowardly Claudius (41-54 ce)—although in his case the honour was bestowed but later rescinded—and the treacherous and maniacal Nero (54-68 ce), the last of the Julians.

That Christianity felt compelled to proclaim Jesus, Messiah of Israel and Lord of the Church, in language that rivalled the language applied to the Roman emperor is understandable. But the important question was whether the assertion of Jesus' divine status is itself to be explained in these terms. Did this tendency arise simply as a result of competition with the Roman cult of the emperor, or did it arise from things that Jesus said and did?

In what follows it will be argued that the trinitarian trajectory has its roots in Jesus' self-predication, claims, deeds, and predictions. The most important of these elements was his definition of messiahship in terms of the 'son of man' of Daniel 7. This identification heightened the significance of the honorific language found in Psalms 2 and 110, whereby Israel's anointed king was thought of as God's son seated at God's right hand. To be sure, these concepts made important contributions to Jesus' messianism, but the appeal to Daniel 7, where the 'son of man' approaches the divine throne and directly from God receives kingdom and authority, takes this messianism to a new level.8 It is this ingredient, which evidently represents an innovation, that launches a messianic trajectory that will find its way to the more formalized expressions of Trinitarian theology.

The points that follow will begin with Jesus' employment of imagery and self-predication from Daniel 7. Not all of the subsequent points flow from this principal argument, but it will be shown that in various ways it conditions our understanding of them. These points are five in number:

(1) Jesus' self-identification as the 'son of man' of Daniel 7 suggests a very special relationship to God.

(2) Jesus' self-identification as God's wisdom supports this suggestion.

(3) Jesus' claims to divine sonship seem to go beyond the merely honorific title that is part of messianology.

(4) Jesus' Passover request that the disciples eat meals in his memory implies that Jesus associated himself very closely with God, for Jews

8 I say 'new level' because most if not all actual attempts to act out messianic programs in Jesus' approximate time (i.e. from the death of Herod the Great to Bar Kokhba) seem primarily to have been efforts to restore an independent Jewish monarchy. Jesus' understanding of his mission seems to have been significantly different in this regard.

ate sacrificial meals in God's presence and, at Passover, in memory of God's deliverance of Israel.

(5) Jesus' claim that he would sit at God's right hand, 'coming with the clouds of heaven', implies that he would sit upon God's chariot throne, a seat reserved for the deity.

Let us now consider each of these points in turn.

One of the oddest features about the teaching of Jesus is his frequent reference to himself as 'the son of man' (> vios rov âvdpwnov).9 Because this epithet, which in Aramaic (WJK tb) simply means the 'human' or 'mortal', played virtually no role in the development of christology (as attested, for example, in the letters of Paul), it may rightly be inferred that this manner of speaking derives from Jesus, not from the early Church. Why would the early Church attribute such an epithet to Jesus, which in the Greco-Roman world holds little meaning and which for Christianity's earliest theologians made no significant contribution to christology? The best answer is that this curious epithet originated with Jesus.

Although many scholars are willing to concede that Jesus probably did refer to himself as 'the son of man', some doubt the authenticity of those sayings that speak of his suffering (the so-called Passion predictions), while others doubt the authenticity of those that speak of the enthronement and coming of the son of man.10 The latter are of importance for the present concerns, for the allusion to the figure of Daniel 7 is more obvious.11 These sayings will receive our attention. The material that is of especial interest to us is that which describes the authority and dominion granted to the 'son of man'. The pertinent material reads:

I beheld till thrones were set up, and One that was ancient of days sat down. His clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels burning Wre. A Wery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The judgment was set, and the books were opened I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like a son of man, and he came to the

9 The epithet is found in the four Gospels approximately 80 times. Outside of the Gospels, it occurs but four times (Acts 7: 56; Heb. 2: 6; Rev. 1: 13; 14: 14). Linguistically, the difference between the Greek epithet attributed to Jesus and the Aramaic and Hebrew equivalents is that the Greek is always definite (i.e. 'the son of [the] man'), while the Semitic forms usually are not.

10 For assessments of these and related issues, see B. Lindars, Jesus Son of Man: A Fresh Examination of the Son of Man Sayings in the Gospels in the Light of Recent Research (London: SPCK; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983); D. R. A. Hare, The Son of Man Tradition (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990).

11 In my opinion, Jesus' Passion predictions also allude to Daniel 7. When Jesus says the 'son of man' will 'suffer' and 'be killed', we have allusion to the struggle described in Dan. 7: 21, 25.

Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given to him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (vv. 9-10, 13-14)

Daniel's vision describes the setting up of thrones, one of which is the chariot throne on which the 'One that was ancient of days' (i.e. God) sat. It is not called a chariot, but the reference to its wheels as burning fire makes that a reasonable assumption (cf. Ezek. 1: 4; 10: 6; 2 Kgs. 2: 11-12). Daniel's vision presupposes Ezekiel's much more elaborate description of God's chariot throne. The vision goes on to describe the appearance of'one like a son of man', that is, a humanlike being. Exactly who this human is, or whether it really is a human (it is said to be like a son of man), is much debated. In any case, this being stands in contrast to the violent, war-like beasts (which represent various Pagan kingdoms) described in chapter 7 and elsewhere in Daniel. The human-like being approaches God and is given 'dominion, and glory, and a kingdom'. In Greek 'dominion' is rendered 'authority' (K^ovaia). The result is that 'all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him' and his kingdom 'shall not be destroyed'.

The feature that is particularly interesting, and would prove to be controversial among some rabbinic interpreters, is that more than one throne is set up (note the plural 'thrones' in v. 9) and that the human-like being is brought before God. What is the meaning of the plural 'thrones' the rabbis asked? 'One is for Him; the other is for David.'12 So opined Rabbi Aqiba. But this interpretation scandalized Rabbi Yose, who replied: 'Aqiba, how long will you profane the Divine Presence?' It was unthinkable that a mere mortal could sit next to God. But Aqiba's interpretation enjoys the support of Psalm 122: 5, which speaks of the tribes going up to Jerusalem, where 'sit thrones for judgment, thrones for the house of Israel'.13 The association of the plural thrones of Psalm 122 with the plural thrones of Daniel 7 is based on the frequently invoked rabbinic interpretive principle of gezera SSawa, whereby scriptural passages containing common terminology may interpret one another. Aqiba evidently thought it possible that a mortal could sit next to God, or perhaps he thought that the Messiah (i.e. 'David' in the rabbinic context) was more than a mere mortal.

That this human-like being could be brought before God is especially surprising when it is remembered that not even the great lawgiver Moses was permitted to see God's face (as in Exod. 33-4). He is told, 'No man shall see me and live' (Exod. 33: 20). Yet, the 'son of man' in Daniel 7 is ushered right into the very presence of God himself, seated on his throne. Indeed, according to Aqiba, David (or the Messiah, and probably the son of man of Daniel 7) will take his seat next to God on his own throne.

•3 See the longer, more involved interpretation preserved in Midr. Tan. B on Lev. 19: 1-2 (Qedosin §1).

The ancient background from which the imagery of the son of man and the Ancient of Days derives is probably Canaanite14 and seems to parallel the relationship of Baal to 'El.15 The former is well known in Ugaritic texts as the 'rider of the clouds', while the latter is called 'father of years' and is often depicted as aged. As such this description seems to parallel Daniel's 'Ancient of Days'. Like the 'son of man' in Daniel 7, Baal is promised an 'everlasting kingdom' and 'dominion for ever and ever'.16 Although 'El confers kingship on Baal, the latter remains subordinate to the former.

John Collins rightly argues that Daniel is not directly dependent on Ugaritic sources (which date to the fourteenth century bce), but on subsequent traditions, whether Pagan or Jewish, that made use of them. According to Collins: 'What is important is the pattern of relationships: the opposition between the sea and the rider of the clouds, the presence of two godlike figures, and the fact that one who comes with the clouds receives everlasting dominion. These are the relationships that determine the structure of the vision in Daniel 7. No other material now extant provides as good an explanation of the configuration of imagery in Daniel's dream.'17 This background helps to clarify Daniel's visionary scene. It also suggests that all of the characters in this celestial drama, the Ancient of Days, the one that is like a son of man, and the holy ones are heavenly beings, not mortals.

Interpreters of Daniel 7 in late antiquity almost always understood the 'son of man' figure as referring to an individual, often to the Messiah (as in the Gospels, 1 Enoch, and 4 Ezra).18 Many modern interpreters, however, think the one 'like a son of man' is none other than the archangel Michael, the prince or guardian of Israel, who receives from God the kingdom in Israel's behalf, and that the 'holy ones' who struggle against the evil forces also are angels.19 It is not necessary to choose between these interpretations. It is significant to note that this celestial figure, closely associated with God and with the angels of heaven, was also understood as a messianic figure in some circles in late antiquity. That this messianic figure might actually have been understood as a supernatural figure, such as an angel, would only add to his heavenly status. That Jesus chose to define himself and, by implication, his messiahship in this way is very significant.

14 So J. A. Emerton, 'The Origin of the Son of Man Imagery', JTS 9 (1958), 225-42; L. Rost, 'Zur Deutung des Menschensohnes in Daniel 7', in G. Delling (ed.), Gott und die Gotter: Festgabe fur Erich Fascher zum 60. Geburtstag (Berlin: Evangelischer Verlag, 1958), 41-3; see now more recently P. G. Mosca, 'Ugarit and Daniel 7: A Missing Link', Eib 67 (1986), 496-517, who emphasizes the royal setting of the traditions.

17 J. J. Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 291; see also the comments on pp. 293-4. J. D. G. Dunn (Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation (London: SCM, 1980), 72) is correct to observe that there is no firm evidence that the 'Son of man' was understood in a messianic sense prior to the time of Jesus.

18 See the discussion by A. Y. Collins in the excursus, ' ''One Like a Human Being''', in J. J. Collins, Daniel, 305-8.

The vision of the 'son of man', or 'human', in Daniel 7 lies behind the following sayings of Jesus:

1. But that you may know that the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2: 10)

2. so that the son of man is lord even of the sabbath (Mark 2: 28)

3. For whoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the son of man also shall be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels (Mark 8: 38)

4. For the son of man also came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10: 45)

5. And then shall they see the son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory (Mark 13: 26)

6. I am; and you shall see the son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven (Mark 14: 62)

7. The son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and those who do iniquity (Matt. 13: 41)

8. Truly I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19: 28 = Luke 22: 28-30; cf. Mark 10: 35-45)

9. For as the lightning comes forth from the east, and is seen even to the west; so shall be the coming of the son of man (Matt 24: 27)

10. and then shall appear the sign of the son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the son ofman coming on the clouds ofheaven with power and great glory (Matt. 24: 30)

11. And as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the son of man (Matt. 24: 37)

12. and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the son of man (Matt. 24: 39)

13. Therefore be also ready; for in an hour that you think not the son of man comes (Matt. 24: 44)

14. But when the son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory (Matt. 25: 31)

15. And I say to you, Every one who shall confess me before people, the son of man shall also confess him before the angels of God (Luke 12: 8; cf. Matt. 10: 32)

16. But watch at every season, making supplication, that you may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the son of man (Luke 21: 36)20

In the first saying, Jesus' claim to have 'authority on earth' alludes to the heavenly scene of Daniel 7. That is, the implication is that the son of man not only has authority in heaven, where that authority was received, but he has it on

20 Limitations of space prohibit discussion of the authenticity and meaning (in Jesus and later in the respective evangelists) of each and every saying. Such discussion will be taken up in future studies.

earth, where he currently ministers. The authority is also understood to extend to the forgiveness of sins. Jesus' critics had reacted to Jesus' pronouncement of forgiveness with the question: 'Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?' (Mark 2: 7). Some think that Jesus' pronouncement of forgiveness constitutes infringement on priestly prerogatives, but then we should have expected the question to be 'Who can forgive sins but priests alone?' In essence Jesus has claimed an authority that bypasses the function of the priests whereby acting in God's place, or perhaps as God's vice regent, he extends forgiveness in an immediate and unmediated manner.

A similar authority is seen in the pronouncement made in the second saying listed above. As the son of man, Jesus 'is lord even of the sabbath' (Mark 2: 28). Given the high view of the sabbath, the day sanctified by God himself (cf. Gen. 2: 2-3), any claim to be 'lord of the sabbath' implies a remarkable degree of authority. Apart from God himself, who could possess such authority? Only the son of man of Daniel 7, who received authority directly from God, could possess such authority.

In the third and fifth sayings Jesus speaks of the son of man coming 'in the glory of his Father with the holy angels' (Mark 8: 38; cf. 13: 26). In the Greek version of Daniel 7: 14 the son of man receives 'all glory', while later in Daniel's vision we hear of the 'holy ones', who are probably to be understood as angels. Indeed, in the seventh saying Jesus speaks of 'his angels' (Matt. 13: 41; cf. the fourteenth saying, Matt. 25: 31). The references to glory and to angels are consistent with the vision of Daniel 7. Even the reference to 'his angels', which implies a measure of authority over the angels, fits the picture in Daniel 7.

In the sixth saying Jesus affirms that he is indeed 'the Messiah, son of the Blessed' (cf. Mark 14: 61) and that the High Priest and his colleagues will 'see the son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven' (Mark 14: 62). The implication of judgement is found in the tenth saying, where 'all the tribes of the earth mourn', the eleventh and twelfth sayings, which make comparison with Noah's flood, the thirteenth and sixteenth sayings, which enjoin preparedness so that one may 'stand before the son of man' and, presumably, escape condemnation. The fifteenth saying makes the remarkable claim, again consistent with the heavenly scene of judgement in Daniel 7, that the son of man will 'confess before the angels of God' every person who confesses him 'before people'.

The ninth saying depicts the suddenness and drama of the appearance of the son of man, 'as the lightning comes forth from the east, and is seen even to the west'. This description is consistent with the heavenly scene of Daniel 7. The tenth saying is similar, referring to a 'sign of the son of man in heaven'. The thirteenth saying underscores the element of suddenness: 'in an hour that you think not the son of man comes'.

Finally, some of these sayings speak of enthronement. The eighth saying promises that the 'son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory' and his disciples also will 'sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel'. What is described here is in eflEct a new government, a celestial government establishment on earth by which all twelve tribes of Israel will be faithfully governed, perhaps even protected.21 The fourteenth saying also speaks of the son of man sitting 'on the throne of his glory'. This is consistent with the plural 'thrones' of Daniel 7: 9 and the later interpretation seen in 1 Enoch22 and the even later interpretation in rabbinic literature.23

Taken together, these sayings (and there are others that were not cited) constitute a remarkable portrait of a figure who has received heavenly authority and acts in many ways as a heavenly being. This may very well explain Jesus' questioning of the scribal tendency to call the Messiah 'the son of David' (Mark 12: 35-7). Jesus counters this interpretation by noting that David calls the Messiah 'lord', thus implying that the Messiah is no mere son of David (which according to conventions of Jewish culture could imply that the Messiah is subordinate to his great ancestor) but is something greater. Yes, the Messiah would be greater than David if he is the one 'like a human' of Daniel 7, the being who receives authority and kingdom from God and possesses prerogatives usually thought to be God's. This is consistent with Jesus' claim to be 'greater than Solomon' (Matt. 12: 42)—David's (mere) son—and even stronger than Satan the strong man (Mark 3: 27).24 How can Jesus be stronger than Satan,

21 What is probably meant is that the tribes will be 'judged' in the Old Testament sense as in the Book of Judges. The tribes will not be condemned (as some patristic interpreters for polemical purposes chose to understand the passage).

22 The 'son of man' is virtually deified in 1 Enoch 37-71 (or the Similitudes of Enoch), where we are told that the 'son of man' had the countenance of'holy angels' (46: 2), that was given the name 'Before-Time' and was so named in God's presence (48: 2), and that he was concealed in God's presence prior to the creation of the world (48: 6; 62: 7). He is also called the 'Chosen One' (48: 6), 'Elect One' (49: 2; 51: 4; 52:6; 53: 6; 55: 4; 61: 8; 62: 1), and'Messiah' (48: 10; 52: 4). We are told that the day is coming when 'all the kings, the governors, the high officials, and those who rule the earth shall fall down before him on their faces, and worship and raise their hopes in that Son ofMan; they shall beg and plead for mercy at his feet' (62: 9). In 1 Enoch the epithet 'son of man' has become titular (and so has been capitalized).

23 The 'bar naphle' pun in b. Sanh. 96b-97a links Dan. 7: 13 to Amos 9:11 (the promise to raise up the fallen tent of David). In Greek nephele means 'cloud', so bar nephele means 'son of the cloud'; while in Aramaic/Hebrew bar naphle means 'son of the fallen'. Dan. 7: 13 is understood in a messianic sense elsewhere in rabbinic literature (cf. b. Sanh. 98a; Num. Rab. 13.14 [on Num. 7: 13]; Midr. Ps. 21. 5 [on Ps. 21: 7]; 93. 1 [on Ps. 93: 1]; Frag. Tg. Ex. 12: 42).

24 The possibility that Judaism of late antiquity could regard as divine a being other than God is seen in the presentation of Melchizedek in one of the Scrolls from Qumran (11QMelch). In this document Isa. 61: 2 is paraphrased to read: 'the year of Melchizedek's favour'. Here the name Melchizedek is substituted for the 'Lord'. Verses from the Psalms are applied to this mysterious figure: 'A godlike being has taken his place in the council of God; in the midst of the divine beings he holds judgment' (Ps. 82: 1). Scripture also says about him, 'Over it take your seat in the highest heaven; A divine being will judge the peoples' (Ps. 7: 7-8). It is interesting that Melchizedek, like the son of man of Daniel and of Jesus' sayings, takes a seat in heaven and judges people. Still later in this document it is said that Melchizedek, a 'divine being ('el)', 'reigns' (quoting Isa. 52: 7).

a heavenly being against whom the archangels have struggled with difficulty (Dan. 10: 13; 12: 1)? Jesus can be stronger only if he is the one'like a son of man' who was presented to God and from him received authority and the kingdom.

Jesus' identification of himself as the being of Daniel 7 not only confirms his messianic self-understanding, but defines the nature of his messianism. It suggests that he saw himself as more than a popular messiah whose mission was to throw off the Roman yoke and restore the kingdom of Israel, as in the days of David and Solomon. The frequent appeal to the figure of Daniel 7 to define himself, his mission, his struggle, his death, and subsequent vindication strongly implies that Jesus understood himself in terms that transcend those of a mere mortal. In the points that follow we shall explore further indications that support this implication. These additional points will be treated more briefly.


The very style of Jesus' teaching and ministry may have prompted his earliest followers to view him as Wisdom incarnate.25 Perhaps the most intriguing saying in the dominical tradition is the one in which Jesus speaks as Wisdom personified: 'Come [SeFre] to me [npo? /u.e] all who labour [Komav] and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest [avanaveiv]. Take my yoke [£vyos] upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest [avanavaiv] for your souls [^t>x^]. For my yoke [£vyos] is easy and my burden is light' (Matt. 11: 28-30).26 This language reminds us of Wisdom's summons: 'Come to me [npo? ^e]' (Sir. 24: 19; cf. Prov. 9: 5); 'Come [SeFre], therefore, let

Probably also relevant is the prediction in 4Q521 that 'heaven and earth will obey his Messiah'. It is hard to see how a messianic figure of such expectation would have been thought of as a mortal and nothing more. 4Q246 should also be mentioned, where there is expected one who will be called 'son of God' and 'son of the Most High'. 4Q369 also speaks of a 'first-born son', a 'prince and ruler', whom God will instruct 'in eternal light'.

25 See B. Witherington, Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1994), 147-208.

26 A few scholars have regarded Matt. 11: 28-30 as authentic dominical tradition, cf. E. Klostermann, Das Matthausevangelium, 4th edn., HNT 4 (Tubingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1971), 102; A. M. Hunter, 'Crux Criticorum—Matt. 11. 25-30', NTS 8 (1962), 241-9; S. Bacchiocchi, 'Matthew 11: 28-30: Jesus' Rest and the Sabbath', AUSS 22 (1984), 289-316; J. P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, 2 vols., ABRL 3 and 9 (New York: Doubleday, 1992-4), ii. 335, 387 n.174. Others have contested this view, cf. R. H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982), 219; C. Deutsch, Hidden Wisdom and the Easy Yoke: Wisdom, Torah andDiscipleship in Matthew 11.25-30, JSNTSup 18 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987), 51; D. C. Allison and W. D. Davies, The Gospel according to Saint Matthew, 2 vols., ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988-91), ii. 293. If the substance of Matt. 11: 28-30 does indeed go back to Jesus, there can be little question that the tradition has been heavily edited (cf. Allison and Davies, Matthew, ii. 287-91). But even if inauthentic, Matt. II: 28-30 does reflect aspects of Jesus' manner of speaking and acting as Wisdom's envoy.

us enjoy the good things...' (Wisd. 2: 6); 'Come [SeFre], O children, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord' (LXX Ps. 33: 12 [34: 11]). Especially interesting is Sirach 51: 23-7: 'Draw near to me [npos /u.e], you who are untaught... Put your neck under the yoke [^vyos], and let your soul receive instruction; it is to be found close by. See with your eyes that I have laboured [Komav] little and found for myself much rest [avanavoiv].'27 These sayings hint that Jesus may have understood himself as God's Wisdom (or as Wisdom's messenger). This suspicion is confirmed when he claims to be 'greater than Solomon' (Luke 11: 31 = Matt. 12: 42), Israel's famous patron of Wisdom.-28 In light of these passages and others Martin Hengel has concluded that Jesus understood himself as the messianic teacher of wisdom, indeed as Wisdom's envoy. 29

The significance of this wisdom element in Jesus' lifestyle and self-reference lies in the observation that Wisdom personified was viewed as a way of speaking of God. Spirit, Wisdom, and Word were three important abstractions that often in late antiquity functioned as hypostases, carrying on the divine function on earth. Among other things, this way of speaking and conceptualizing enabled the pious to affirm the transcendence of God, on the one hand, and the immanence of God, on the other. In Jewish thinking of the first century, Jesus' speaking and acting as though he were God's Wisdom would have made a significant contribution to early christology, out of which ideas of deification [= belief in Jesus' divine status, eds.] would have readily and naturally sprung. The christology of the fourth Gospel is indebted to Wisdom traditions.30 Indeed, what is only hinted at in a few places in the Synoptics is ubiquitous and explicit in the fourth Gospel. To a certain extent Pauline christology is also indebted to Wisdom traditions. This is seen in the apostle's assertion that 'Christ (is) the power of God and the wisdom of God' (1 Cor. 1: 24; cf. 1: 30: 'Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom').

27 See Dunn, Christology in the Making, 163—4.

28 R. Bultmann (The History of the Synoptic Tradition, 2nd edn. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1968), 112—13) accepts the saying as authentic. Meier (A Marginal Jew, ii. 689—90) makes the point that there is no evidence that the early Church showed a tendency to enhance or exploit a Solomon typology.

29 M. Hengel, 'Jesus als messianischer Lehrer der Weisheit und die Anfange der Christologie', in J. Leclant etal. (eds.), Sagesse et religion: Colloque de Strasbourg, Octobre 1976(Paris: Bibliothèque des Centres d'Etudes Superieures Spécialisés, 1979), 147—88, esp. 163—6, 180—8. See also Witherington, The Christology of Jesus, 51—3, 221—8, 274—5; B. L. Mack, 'The Christ and Jewish Wisdom', in J. H. Charlesworth (ed.), The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity, The First Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 192—221, esp. 210-15.

30 See M. Scott, Sophia and the Johannine Jesus, JSNTSup 71 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992). Statements such as 'He who has seen me has seen the Father' (John 14: 9) are illustrative of wisdom christology.


Another important element in Gospel tradition is the various references to Jesus as the 'son', 'son of God', or 'son of the Most High'. The cries of the demonized (Mark 3:11 = Luke 4: 41: 'You are the son of God!'; Mark 5: 7; 'Jesus, son of the Most High God') are in all probability rooted in authentic tradition.31 These epithets remind us of 4Q246, where we find reference to one who will be called 'son of God' and 'son of the Most High'. This Aramaic text, dating from the first century bce, confirms the expectation of a coming world saviour who would be thought of as 'son of God'; it also confirms that this concept was right at home in Palestine. 32 Two other references have a reasonable claim to authenticity, though some have challenged them. Jesus asserts that no one knows the eschatological hour, 'not even the son, only the Father' (Mark 13: 32).33 In one of the Wisdom passages Jesus affirms that 'no one knows the Father except the son' (Matt. 11: 27).34 These references to 'son', especially in contrast to the 'Father', should be understood as a shortened form of'son of God'. To be called 'son of God', as opposed to 'prophet of God' (cf. Ezra 5: 2; Luke 7: 16)/'prophet of Yahweh' (1 Sam. 3: 20) or 'man of God' (cf. 1 Kgs. 17: 24), carries with it the implication that one shares in the divine nature. This is the implication of the inscriptions seen above, where various kings and despots call themselves 'son of God' and 'God'. There is no reason to think that Jesus' Jewish contemporaries, who were themselves very much part of the Greco-Roman worlds5 would have thought of these expressions in terms significantly different from those held by Gentiles. This is not to say that the epithet 'son of God' necessarily implied divinity, for it could be honorific or mystical (as I think we have it in the case of certain Jewish holy men who were supposedly addressed by heaven as 'my son').36 But such an

31 It has to be admitted that these cries complement Markan christology; cf. R. A. Guelich, Mark 1-8: 26, WBC 34A (Dallas: Word, 1989), 148-9. On the possibility of the authenticity of the tradition, see R. H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on his Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 158-9.

32 See the discussion by J. J. Collins, 'The Son of God Text from Qumran', in M. C. De Boer (ed.), From Jesus to John: Essays on Jesus and New Testament Christology in Honour ofMarinus de Jonge, JSNTSup 84 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993), 65-82; J. D. G. Dunn, '''Son of God'' as ''Son of Man'' in the Dead Sea Scrolls? A Response to John Collins on 4Q246', in S. E. Porter and C. A. Evans (eds.), The Scrolls and the Scriptures: Qumran Fifty Years After, JSPSup 26; RILP 3 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 197-209.

33 On the authenticity of this passage, see Gundry, Mark, 747-8, 792-5; idem, Matthew, 492; Meier, A Marginal Jew, ii. 347. Gundry comments: 'That Mark does not exclude Jesus' ignorance of the exact time bears tribute to Mark's respect for the tradition' (Mark, 747-8).

34 On the authenticity of this passage, see Gundry, Matthew, 218; A. E. Harvey, Jesus and the Constraints of History (London: Duckworth, 1982), 160-73.

35 Hengel's discussion in The Hellenization' of Judaea in the First Century after Christ (London: SCM; Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1989) is apposite.

36 Jewish legends relate a story about God addressing Hanina ben Dosa: 'My son Hanina' (cf. b. Ta'an. 24b; b. Ber. 17b).

epithet, given its usage in late antiquity, would have contributed to belief in Jesus' heavenly status.

The words of institution, uttered on the occasion of the Last Supper, are themselves suggestive of Jesus' heavenly status. Jesus associates his body and blood with the Passover sacrifice, implying that in his death a new covenant is established: 'And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ''This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many''' (Mark 14: 23-4).

In what sense could the blood of an ordinary sacrificial victim, even that of a pious human, effect the promise of the new covenant (cf. Jer. 31: 31; Zech. 9: 11)? The sacrifice of one whose status is of a heavenly order, however, may establish a new covenant. Indeed, the words 'my blood of the covenant' in Mark approximate the words in Zechariah 9:11: 'the blood of my covenant'. Because it is God who speaks in Zechariah's prophecy, the verbal parallel is suggestive.

In what is probably an authentic fragment of the words of institution, Paul concludes this scene with these words: 'Do this, as often as you drink it, in memory ofme' (1 Cor. 11: 25). The Passover request that the disciples remember Jesus is in itself interesting, for the Passover was instituted to commemorate God's salvific action in the exodus. Apparently Jesus asks his disciples to remember his action in going to the cross, presumably to effect salvation once again for his people. Remembering God's saving act and Jesus' saving act appear to be parallel.

Indeed, the idea of sharing a meal in memory of Jesus, as though Jesus were present, is in itself very interesting. It may parallel the idea that Israelites shared meals with God when they partook of the sacrifice (usually the so-called fellowship offerings). Just as an Israelite eats a special meal with God, so the disciple eats a special meal with Jesus. The parallel is intriguing and to my knowledge unique in Judaism of late antiquity.

Finally, in the Greco-Roman world drinking and pouring libations in honour of or in memory of various gods, including the Roman emperor, was a common practice. The words of institution, in all probability deriving from Jesus, and not from the post-Easter Church, may also have contributed to the early belief in the divinity of Jesus.


With this last point, we return to an important element that derives from Daniel 7. This element is found in the passage that describes Jesus' hearing before Caiaphas and members of the Sanhedrin (Mark 14: 55-65). Searching for an incriminating charge the High Priest asks Jesus: 'Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed?' (Mark 14: 61).37 Jesus replies: 'I am; and you will see the son of man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven' (Mark 14: 62). Caiaphas accuses Jesus of'blasphemy' (Mark 14: 63). Jesus' answer is not blasphemous simply for affirming that he is the Messiah (or Christ), nor is it necessarily blasphemous for affirming that he is the 'son of God', since sonship was probably understood by many to be a concomitant of messiahship (as seen in Ps. 2: 2, 7; 2 Sam. 7: 14). Jesus' blasphemy lay in his combination of Psalm 110: 1 ('sit at my right hand'38) and Daniel 7: 13 ('son of man coming with the clouds of heaven'), implying that he will take his seat in heaven next to God.

The juxtaposition of these Scriptures suggests to me that Jesus interpreted Daniel 7: 9 much as Aqiba is said to have done almost one century later. That is, the Messiah was to sit on a throne next to God, or at God's right hand (as Psalm 110 requires).39 As Hengel has shown, sitting at God's right hand may actually have implied that Jesus was asserting that he would sit at God's right hand in God's throne (cf. 1 Chr. 29: 23: 'Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king'). Such an idea is not only part of primitive royal traditions in the Old Testament but can even be found in the New Testament in reference to the resurrected Christ: 'I will grant him who conquers to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne' (Rev. 3: 21). When we remember that the throne of Daniel 7: 9 had burning wheels, we should think that Jesus has claimed that he will sit with God on the Chariot Throne and will, as in the vivid imagery of Daniel 7, come with God in judgement.40 This tradition, which I do not think early Christians understood well nor exploited, is authentic and not a piece of Christian confession or scriptural interpretation.41

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