Son of Man--Hurtado
Having read your comments on Boyarin Larry, perhaps it is useful to note that Boyarin further elaborates his case in his book “The Jewish Gospels: the Story of the Jewish Christ”, 2013. Besides the Son of Man as a title, a premise you disagree with Larry, and understandably so, the essential point Boyarin makes is that in the “Jewish unconsciousness and consciousness” of Second Temple Judaisms, Daniel’s “one like a son of man” represents an enigma. The enigma stems from the heritage of two gods. The god EL and the god YAHWEH. The “one like a son of man” in Daniel represents the approaching triumph of YAHWEH. EL has become a remote, ancient father-sky God that long ruled the promised land before YAHWEH’s arrival.. EL is the LORD OF HOSTS (Hebrew) and perhaps also the LORD OF SPIRITS (Aramaic?), or the SOVERIGN OF SPIRITS (2 Macc 3:24). YAHWEH is his son now entered into the promised land. Some Jews felt a tension between the two gods that represented their ONE GOD. In Boyarin’s world, the Jesus movement wins the day by the early-mid second century, because Jesus himself dissolved the tension!!! EL remains Father, but he is no longer remote. EL is accessible in intimate prayer. Jesus is the Son of EL. Jesus is Yahweh! The Son of God, the Son of EL.
John: Boyarin’s claims are all falsified by the evidence (or lack of it). There is no evidence that God was seen as remote or distant or requiring a lesser deity to relate to humans. See my review of matters in One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism. All evidence of Jewish prayer and worship indicates instead a direct and intimate sense of relationship with the biblical God. Furthermore, the man-figure of Dan 7 is explicitly identified as “the saints of the most high”, not as a second deity. To claim otherwise is simply to ignore Daniel 7.
In short, all the premises for Boyarin’s case are non-existent. So, the related claims that he makes likewise dissolve.
The same can be said for Waddell’s claims that Paul as influenced by the Similitudes of Enoch. In historical work we must proceed on evidence, not on supposition and speculation. For further comments, see my essay, “Paul’s Messianic Christology” in Paul the Jew: Rereading the Apostle as a Figure of Second Temple Judaism, ed. G. Boccaccini & C. A. Segovia (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2016), 107-31, esp 121-22 (the pre-publication version on this site under “Selected Published Essays). Let’s bring this thread to a close here.
Just a thought to share Larry. If we claim Jesus was not thinking of “the Son of Man” (himself, or someone else), as a “man from heaven” title, as Paul puts it, then we are left with the Aramaic expression “a (mere) human being”. Some sayings fit this interpretation. For example, “a son of man has no place to lay his head.” We all feel like that rhetorically sometimes. The problem is if we press the Aramaic expression into all the Son of Man sayings in the gospels, the sayings start to make little or no sense at all. Most of the Son of Man sayings imply a title that goes with a revelatory experience — the title for a heavenly being. Why does Paul not use the term? Probably because he thought it embarrassing in the Aramaic sense. Plus Paul wants to promote the second man from heaven and deny the possibility of salvation through Adam, or any son of Adam, as other apocalypses of the time do. Paul has made the leap already, from Son of Man, or man from heaven, to the Lord Jesus Christ.
John: Several errors in your comments: (1) there is no evidence of the expression “the son of man” as a title in Jewish sources . . . period, so you can’t assume otherwise; (2) The Aramaic expression isn’t “a (mere) human being”, but likely the definite/particular form reflected in the articular form of the Greek “theson of man”; (3) The sayings in which the expression appear all make sense when read as simply a self-designation (which is clearly the way the four Gospel writers understood the expression). (4) Why does Paul not use the term? Because it was never a Christological title, for anyone; (5) there was no Pauline “leap” from “the son of man” to the Lord, because the former was never a Christological title.
Please, please, catch up on scholarship. You’re proceeding from outdated and erroneous suppositions.
Thanks again Larry. The more I read your great work, the more fascinating the questions of Christian origins become, my friend. As for fantasy castles in the sand, yes, I confess that is true. When I read the Parables of Enoch over and over again, I fantasize. Who is the Lord of Spirits, or the Lord of the Spirits? Is it El? And who is that Son of Man? Is he Yahweh? And what did Jesus think, if he knew this writing? Your essay, “Wright Critique — Return of YHWH” is great in this regard. I guess you do not like where Boyarin goes with the EL-YHWH, but I can’t help but think Boyarin is on to something important. And that it was important to Jesus too, the two god-heads EL (Father) and YHWH (Son of Man). Fantastic world’s of possibilities when it comes to Historical Jesus theories indeed. Love your work and your comments!
John: As for Boyarin’s proposal, see my posting some time back here:https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/enoch-the-son-of-man/.
The 80 some usages of “the son of man” in the Gospels include a few that may make allusion to Daniel 7:14-15, but no allusions discernible to 1 Enoch.
I repeat (and you don’t seem to catch this): (1) There is no evidence of the expression “the son of man” as a title for a recognized figure in 2nd temple Judaism (and that’s now standard judgement, not simply mine); and (2) the Greek ο υιος του ανθρωπου likely translates the Aramaic expression (definite form) בר נשא which is simply not found in Aramaic texts of the time. The indefinite/generic form (without the final aleph) is found, as is the equivalent in Hebrew. So, Jesus’ usage of this expression seems to be as a distinctive self-designation formula, “the/this man”. I’ve written all this in my concluding essay in the volume Who is This Son of Man?, the pre-publication version available on this site under “Selected Esssay” tab.
Thanks Larry. I think the evidence for Jesus thinking about the Son of Man as a “future” heavenly figure separate from himself is in the gospels, is it not? One example of this is: “Every one who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God…(Luke 12:8). Matthew has changed the saying, as he often does, to replace the Son of Man with “me/I” terminology(Matt 10:32). Or so it seems to me. But I guess the opposite argument can be made, that for some unknown reason it is Luke who has changed such Son of Man sayings into “me/I” sayings, as in the beatitudes (Luke 6:22 roughly equals Matt 5:12a).
I guess it boils down to opinion? Sabino Chiala writes, in “Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting the Book of Parables”, edited by Gabriele Boccaccini, page 168: “By the time the Evangelists were writing the Gospels, and probably already by the time of Jesus’ ministry, the Son of Man was a familiar figure, but what was truly familiar about him was his role as eschatological judge. The rest belonged to developments that are attested exclusively in Christian texts.”
That said, I believe it is possible that when Jesus redefines the Messiah as the Son of Man who must suffer and be rejected and rise again in Mark 8:31 (and “he said this plainly”, Mark 8:32a), Mark could be conveying authentic words of Jesus! In other words, Jesus could have easily conflated Isaiah’s servant with the Son of Man, as the Parables of Enoch sort of foreshadows. Or perhaps it was some other now lost text, like the newly found “Gabriel stone,” that seems to mention rise and three days? If Paul and Mark are both referring to an actual now lost written prophecy that has been fulfilled, that prophecy was even more “fringe”, than the Enochic world view was among Jews of Jesus’ time. Ask me what kind of Jew Jesus was! I will answer, he was probably an “Enochic” Jew, in the sense that he at least believed in the world view as sketched in the Book of Watchers. Sins are forgiven because they are caused by the disembodied spirits of the punished Watchers fallen down to earth, etc…..
Any comment would be great Larry! Thank you again in advance!
John: You’re free-wheeling! I depend upon historical evidence, and you’ve none to offer. As I’ve said, the figure of the Enoch Similitudes isn’t referred to as “the son of man”, but by several different Ethiopic expressions misleadingly translated uniformly as “the son of man”. There is NO evidence of “the Son of Man” as a title in 2nd temple Judaism. The Gospels don’t use “the son of man” as a recognized title, but as an idiosyncratic self-referential device of Jesus. So, there is no third figure to whom Jesus is referring by “the son of man”. And there’s no evidence of “Enochic” Judaism, with groups, worship patterns etc. You’re building castles in the air, my friend.
Thank you Larry. I agree with all you say in your reply, except I must leave open the possibility that Jesus may have originally used the term “Son of Man” not as a self designation, but as an expression of his worship in a “man from heaven” possessing authority as earthly and eschatological judge — a Son of Man who was a separate heavenly being from himself, but on whose behalf, Jesus spoke with authority. As I’m sure you are aware, several Mark and Q-Luke sayings can be made to fit this interpretation also. Granted, the majority of sayings fit the interpretation that he used the term as a self designation. The question in my opinion though is: “Is this a later development by Jesus and the evangelists as he and they experienced the meaning of his life in Son of Man self designation terms, especially as suffering judge?”
Without a time machine to go back and talk to Jesus during his ministry, maybe we can never know how he intended use of the term? If I could go back in time, I would want to ask Jesus whether or not he knew the Parables of Enoch materials in a way similar to the Ethiopian way we know them today. If he said “Yes”, I would want to ask Jesus how these ideas resonated with him and how he may have combined these ideas with other stories of his time. Like tears in the rain, these connections to Jesus’ thought are now so difficult to make. The possibility remains though, that a very small group of Parables of Enoch worshipers beginning with John the Baptist and Jesus, or something similar to this now lost to the sands of time, gave birth to the Jesus movement.
Any thoughts to share, or any criticisms of disagreement are always welcome here Larry. Thank you so much for your time and teaching!
John: But in order for your proposal to work (that Jesus used “the son of man” with reference to another figure) we would need evidence that “the son of man” was a known and used title for some well-known future figure, and the problem for you is that there is no such evidence . . . for any of this. So, do you really want to disregard this, and base your proposal on a supposition that has no basis? How is this good historical method?
And why posit something “now lost in the sands of time” when we have data on which to construct a much more elegant, simpler, and evidence-based approach to the origins of the Jesus movement? But, please, this is not the place to lay out elaborate speculations.
Thank you for this succinct and helpful summary of a thorny question.
I’m curious–what is your view of apologists who appeal to Jesus’ self-designation as SoM in support of CS Lewis’ trilemma?
Hmm. I don’t know what apologists make of the matter.
Thanks for all your great work on the Son of Man issue. I am wondering what you currently speculate about Mark 8:38? The prediction of being “ashamed”, seems to me, to be in perfect sync with the “shame” (1 Enoch 62:11; 63:11) the “kings”, governors”, “high officials”, “all those who rule the earth” and “the landlords” are to experience at the eschaton. In other words, do you think it is possible that Mark is referring here to the Parables of Enoch? Or even, that Jesus himself is here doing his own midrash on the Parables of Enoch? Of course this would also have to assume that the folks now more or less agreeing on the date for the Parables of Enoch (the time of Herod the Great) are correct. Also, briefly, why is the Parables of Enoch not evidence of Son of Man worship in Jesus’ day, if I understand you correctly. It seems to me it is evidence of Son of Man worship.
First, the notion of eschatological joy or shame doesn’t require a direct connection of Mark 8:38 and the Parables of Enoch. They both draw (independently most cogent to me) on Jewish apocalyptic themes.
Second, “the son of man” expression in the Gospels is a fixed semantic form used only by Jesus and only as a self-designation. It is never contested or asserted or raised for discussion by others. It isn’t a “title” in the sense of applying to Jesus some established designation, as was widely assumed till ca. the 1970s.
Third, the figure of the Parables of Enoch is designated variously as “anointed one” (Messiah), and other terms, including at least four different Ethiopic expressions typically rendered into English with a somewhat misleading fixity as “son of man”. So, I see no direct connection of the figure of the Parables and Jesus’ use of this peculiar expression.
Finally, I see no cultic worship of the messianic figure of the Parables of Enoch. The rebellious kings are brought before him and bow in submission. That’s not cultus. There’s no evidence of a worship-community directing worship to this figure.
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