Here is post number five containing my review and thoughts on Daniel Kirk’s newest volume, A Man Attested by God: The Human Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels. Today we will examine Kirk’s arguments regarding the noteworthy Son of Man in Daniel 7 and later extrabiblical sources. I will also comment briefly on his conclusions for the first chapter. Here are a few bullet points covering his arguments along with a few comments from me in italics.
- The Son of Man in Daniel – I am happy to say that Kirk came to the same conclusion that I have in the past regarding the function of Daniel 7, a vision which deals with the problem nations by moving from chaotic animals back to the idealized role of humanity in Genesis 1 (where humans rule over the animals). Just as the beasts represents nations, so too does the Son of Man represent Israel as a nation/people, albeit as a single figure. Much discussion and conversation with John Collins regarding the interpretation of the “holy ones” (angels or humans). Here Kirk sees the Son of Man as one enthroned alongside God in heaven and receiving universal worship, although still existing as a human figure (rather than angelic). He also notes that the Son of Man, having suffered persecution from the “little horn” in Daniel 7, is vindicated precisely as a suffering figure. It will be interesting to see where Kirk ends up going with this line of argumentation, as I can already see the dialogue with Jesus and the priest in Mark 14 as a strong candidate for this evidence.
- Son of Man in 1 Enoch – The Son of Man here is reckoned quite clearly as the “messiah” and is the recipient of universal worship. He also possesses glory, might, and the authority to judge secret things. This Son of Man even judges the angels, suggesting that he is categorically distinct from them. Kirk notes that even Hurtado regards 1 Enoch’s Son of Man as “God’s chief agent.” Kirk correctly points out that the Son of Man is openly identified with Enoch. Of no small importance is Kirk’s suggestion that Enoch is better understood as a human translated to heaven before returning to judge as messiah rather than preexisting in heaven before his earthly life. Furthermore, the supposed reference to preexistence might better be explained as a development of Psa 72:17 where the messiah’s name was before the sun. Matters are complicated because it is difficult to know for certain if chapter 71 of 1 Enoch, where the reference to Enoch appears, is original to the Similitudes. In a footnote Kirk argues that concluding that the Son of Man in 1 Enoch possesses personal preexistence is debatable. It would clearly seem that this issue of whether 1 Enoch teaches literal preexistence of a messiah figure has been reopened by Kirk’s analysis, and this interpreted move will be welcomed by many readers.
- Son of Man in 3 Enoch – Enoch is again identified as a heavenly figure. This time, however, he is described by Rabbi Ishmael as greater than all the princes, more exalted than the angels, more honored than all the hosts, and elevated over all in sovereignty, greatness, and glory. This is surely a lot to say about a human being and is therefore pertinent evidence for Kirk’s “idealized human figure” thesis.
- Prayer of Enosh (4Q369) – This passage does not specifically deal with Daniel’s Son of Man, but it does piggyback on Enoch’s exalted status (and 1 Enoch was a highly cherished textual tradition at Qumran). This document described Enoch as God’s firstborn son, prince, and ruler over the world. In fact, the father-son relationship is precisely what enables Enoch to possess this role of rulership. The same could be said about the implications of 2 Sam 7:14 and Psa 2:7.
- Son of Man in 4 Ezra – Although this text clearly comes after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, it shows how the traditions developed from what is articulated back in Daniel 7. The Son of Man in 4 Ezra is none other than the messiah, the son of God. This messiah figure suffers death after a 400 year reign, and so is not an eternal figure. He plays the role of judge and deliverer, both in a manner which mediates God’s initial initiative. Kirk considers these configurations ample examples of participation in the divine identity (re: Bauckham) in a manner which does not equate the Son of Man with God but instead acts as one standing in for and act on behalf of God. Kirk rightly notes that the Son of Man in 4 Ezra is a preexisting figure and does not debate this as he does in regard to 1 Enoch.
It is interesting to see how the Son of Man tradition develops over a period of 250 years. Granted, 250 years is no short span of time, as America has been an independent nation for around that much time and a lot has taken place during that period.
Kirk concludes his massively important (and what I regard as highly persuasive) survey of Jewish literature with some noteworthy quotes. I thought this one best represented the fruit of his argumentation thus far in the book:
…being identified with God is not the same as being identified as God…we find in early Jewish literature wide-ranging claims for various human figures sharing in the divine identity, without any sense that this puts pressure on the inherent identity of God, demanding its reconfiguration. (p.174)
My take on this first chapter is that it could have been an entire book itself, one which would have (indeed it does have) massive implications for understanding Jesus’ relationship with God in all of the NT documents, not just the Synoptics.