God is Judge

Chapter 11

A Commentary on the book of Daniel

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One Like a Son of Man


In many respects Daniel 7 is pivotal not only to the book of Daniel but also for the NT, as it forms the basis of much of the apocalyptic imagery in the book of Revelation and also introduces the concept of “the son of man”, a focal point in Christology – indeed Jesus is asked the specific question, “Who is this son of man?” in John 12:34 and during his trial Jesus references Dan. 7:13 (in Matt. 26:64). The charge against Jesus is that he had come to destroy the temple and this is the same context as Daniel chapters 7-8 where the blasphemous “little horn” exalts himself and seeks to desecrate the temple and to, “change times and laws” (Dan. 7:25 cf. Acts 6:14; “for we have heard him [Stephen] say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us”).


The Temple


Once again it is the temple that features large in Daniel chapters 7-8. The anti-Christ figure is modelled on Antiochus Epiphanes whose desecration of the temple and claim to divinity was tantamount to entering heaven itself and “casting down some of the host and of the stars to the ground” – of course the Ancient of Days could not allow such a blatant challenge to his authority and judgement was bound to follow.


Unfortunately scholarship has focused its energies on relating the background of the chapter either to Ugaritic or Babylonian creation mythology, which has proved a distraction.[1] It is true that Daniel 7 shares much of the same metaphors and imagery as its ANE neighbours (as one would expect)[2] but the imagery is not that of the    Continued  ˃


[1] See Appendix 1 Chapter 11: Summary of the SM debate

[2] Fletcher-Louis comments; “So, whilst the ancient Near Eastern mythological material provides data which are indisputably in the background of Daniel 7, there is a significant gap between that background and the text’s foreground”. Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis, “The High Priest as Divine Mediator in the Hebrew Bible: Dan 7:13 as a Test Case”, (SBL Seminary Paper: Oxford, England, 1997), 163

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imposition of order on the chaotic creation or of Baal riding his rain clouds but rather that of Jewish temple worship, particularly that associated with the Day of Atonement and Daniel’s expectation of a eschatological Jubilee Atonement “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity” (Dan. 9:24).  Fletcher-Louis (1997:180,181) believes that the cultic setting of Daniel 8 and 9 has implications for the setting of the “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7; “It is not insignificant that there [Daniel 9:24] the interpretation of Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10 is given an interpretation in terms of ten Jubilees (490 years). The echoes of an eschatological Day of Atonement that this interpretation might sound chime in very well with the vision in Dan 7:9-14 if that too envisages a similar eschatological festival”.[3]


The “one like a son of man” surrounded by “clouds” who approaches the Ancient of Days is then analogous with the high priest who enters the Most Holy place surrounded by clouds of incense. In Daniel the “one like a son of man” enters the heavenly sanctuary and we are presented with an image similar to that of John in Revelation who sees a throne surrounded by twenty four seats (Rev. 4:1-4 cf. Dan. 7:8 plural thrones). There can be no doubt that the principal “throne” that is    Continued  ˃


[3] Extra-biblical literature also emphasises the cultic setting of the Day of Atonement. The Qumran Melchizedek text (11 QMelch) also describes the day of Judgement in terms of an eschatological Day of Atonement at the end of the tenth Jubilee. The text combines allusions to Psalm 82.1, (where the `elohim are judged); Isa 61:1-2 (‘proclaim liberty’); Isa 52:7 (‘Your God reigns’) with a conflation of the anointed one of Dan. 9:25 and the Spirit of Isa. 61:1 to achieve the ‘anointed of the Spirit.’ The priestly and cultic background of 1 Enoch is also increasingly recognised, particularly the role of the Day of Atonement ritual in the “Watchers Cycle” where scholarship understands the story of the “Fallen angels” as a mythological satire against the Samaritan schismatic’s - who (joined by some of the Jerusalem priests) established their own priesthood and form of worship.

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both on fire and running on flaming wheels (Dan. 7:9) in a description similar to Ezek. 1:15-21 (the merkabah chariot-throne)[4] is depicted in the earthly temple by the Ark of the Covenant on which the shekinah glory resided. André Lacocque explicitly states; “The vision of chapter 7 has the temple as framework........the imagery is Ezekiel’s, in particular that of Ezekiel 8-11 which describes God’s presence in the Temple...”[5]


Fletcher-Louis’ (1997:186) concludes, “that Dan 7:9-4 describes the eschatological Day of Atonement (perhaps a Jubilee) when the true high priest will come to the Ancient of Days surrounded by clouds of incense. In this very specific context it is worth noting ample evidence that on this day the high priest was angelomorphic. So, for example, in a tradition shared by Philo and the rabbis;
“לא יהיה באהל מוצד בבאו כל אדם”(Lev 16:17) is interpreted to mean that there is no mortal man in the holy of holies on the high priest’s entry because the latter  is actually an angel at this point (De Somnis 1:216-7).[6] Jacob Milgrom has now concluded that it was the original of the biblical text for the high priest’s simple attire to symbolise an angelic identity pertinent to his access to the heavenly assembly”.[7]




“….the judgement was set, and the books were opened” (Dan 7:10)


[4] This is supported by iconographic evidence from a third century synagogue at Capernaum were a piece of decorated frieze pictures the Ark with wheels. Yahweh is therefore depicted on his Ark-throne in the heavenly temple.

[5] André Lacocque, The book of Daniel,(Atlanta: John Knox Press),124-5

[6] Lev.Rab.21:12. Philo: Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres 84; De Somnis 2:188-89; 2:231.

[7] Leviticus, 1016.

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The ten days (known as the ‘Ten Days of Repentance’ or ‘Days of Awe’) commencing with the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and ending with the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) form the background to Daniel 7. Rosh Hashanah represents either analogically or literally the creation of the World, or Universe and according to the Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah was also the Day of Judgment. In the Talmud tractate on Rosh Hashanah [8] it states that three books of account are opened on Rosh Hashanah, wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate class are recorded. The names of the righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life, and they are sealed “to live.” The middle class are allowed a respite of ten days, until Yom Kippur, to repent and become righteous; the wicked are blotted out of the book of the living.


Creation in Daniel 7


To an extent scholars are correct in detecting the theme of creation in Daniel 7 but in contrast with other ancient near eastern traditions Daniel 7 has been thoroughly demythologized. The Jewish New Year was the day that the world was created and Psalm 8 features largely[9] as background to Daniel 7:


What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your    Continued  ˃


[8] Rosh-ha-Shana 16b

[9] Interestingly, the subsequent Psalm highlights the judgement of the nations: “For You have maintained my right and my cause; You sat on the throne judging in righteousness. You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever”. (Ps 9:4-5)

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hands; You have put all things under his feet (Psalm 8:4-6)[10]


The “son of man” has “all things put under his feet” including the “beasts of the field” (v.7). This has obvious connections with Daniel’s “one like a son of man” who receives authority from the Ancient of Days to exercise dominion over the beast-empires. The “one like a son of man” is accorded the same agency status as Adam, who was created in the divine image with the commission to exercise sovereignty.  How does this adamic imagery compliment the priestly/temple imagery that has already been identified?  It is the analogy between Adam in Eden and Israel at Sinai[11] that forms the basis of the twined themes of priestly election and adamic agency. Parallels between Exodus 39-40 and Genesis 1:31-2:3 have long been recognized.[12] In Genesis, Eden    Continued  ˃


[10] Green argues that the Psalm is, “not referring to humanity in general – at least not primarily – but to Israel’s king, David, the New Human, who was the individualization and representation of all that the New Humanity, Israel, was meant to be. Read from this perspective, I would define Psalm 8 as a royal psalm – like Psalms 2 and 110– and therefore also a song of re-creation.”(p.4) Green suggest that the background should be read against the defeat of Goliath (see also G. Booker,Psalm Studies (Austin, Texas: Booker Publications, 1988) online [cited Feb. 2010] @ Access here) where the narrative in 1 Sam 17:36-37 “encourages readers to make mental links between the wild beasts and Israel’s Gentile enemies”(p.6). Douglas J. Green, Psalm 8: What Is Israel’s King that You Remember Him? (Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, 2003),4,6 online  @ Access here [cited  Feb. 2010]

[11] Compare the description of the theophany at Sinai in Deut 33:2 with Dan 7:10

[12] Nehama Leibowitz discusses Abranavel’s and Rashi’s comments on the parallels. She also states that Martin Buber discovered seven correspondences between the creation and tabernacle accounts.  See her Studies in Shemot: Part Two, trans. Aryeh Newman (Jerusalem: World Zionist Association, 1983), 479.  See also Moshe Weinfeld, “Sabbath, Temple and the Enthronement of the Lord-the Problem of the Sitz im Leben of Gen. 1: 1-2:3,” in Melanges bibliques et orientauxen l’honneur de M. Henri Gazelles, ed. A Caquot and M. Delcor (Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1981), 501-12

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functions as the tabernacle/temple with Adam given a Law and a Sabbath. At Sinai the nation of Israel receives a Law and a command to keep Sabbath thus becoming a priestly/kingly nation (mamleket kōhănîm), elected as God’s son to mediate the divine will to the seventy nations enumerated in Genesis 10.


“‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Ex. 19:6).


The trial narrative in the NT is set against this background. Jesus is brought before the judgement seat of the high priest and the Sanhedrin (seventy), who traced their authority back to the seventy elders (judges) at Sinai. The Sanhedrin were the legitimate authorities but they had failed (like Adam) in their commission to be mamleket kōhănîm, and now not only did they questioned the legitimacy of Yahweh’s anointed, but they accused Jesus of acting like Antiochus Epiphanes by plotting the destruction of the temple and making himself equal to God (John 10:33).[13] This explains why Jesus referenced Dan. 7:13 – he was    Continued  ˃


[13] The charge of blasphemy levelled at Christ has Dedication (Hanukkah) as background (John 10:22) the Feast celebrated (among other things) the rededication of the temple after the desecrations committed by Antiochus Epiphanes. James F. McGrath observes that over one third of all the occurrences of blasphemy are found in the book of Maccabees. Further, in 2 Maccabees 9.12 which describes Antiochus on his deathbed, Antiochus is depicted as repenting and asserting that “no mortal should think that he is equal to God”, a phrase which is not unlike the accusation here, “You, although you are a human being, make yourself God” (see also John 5.18 where it is equality to God that is specifically mentioned). It thus seems highly plausible to suggest that John does intend his readers to recall something of the overtones and significance of this feast and of the scriptural texts that recount its origins”. “You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High” (Ps.82:6). James F. McGrath, John’s Apologetic Christology: Legitimation and Development in Johannine Christology, (Cambridge University Press, 2001),120-121

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warning the Sanhedrin that he would return as the eschatological judge – the elected king/priest coming in clouds/incense from the heavenly Sanctuary in order to pass judgement (Daniel – God is judge) on them.


Corporate representation


C.H. Dodd has given voice to the corporate interpretation; Dunn is largely in accord, perceiving that “one like a son of man” is identical with the “saints of the Most High”[14] concluding that the man-like figure represents the people of Israel, just as the beast-like figures represent the enemies of Israel. With regard to the New Testament individualizing interpretation Dodd says, “The New Testament use of the title “Son of Man” for Christ results from the individuation of this corporate conception.” [15]  


Although the context of the “son of man” in Daniel 7 seems to demand corporate interpretation there is fluidity between corporate and individual conceptualization. J. Dunn argues; “It is certainly true that Dan.7 itself interprets the four beasts as ‘four kings’ (Dan 7.17), but this was not unnatural where ‘king’ was a widely recognised metonymy for ‘kingdom’ (cf. Dan 2.44; 8.21f.).”[16]   However, against    Continued  ˃


[14] James D.G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation, (London: SCM Press, 1989), 68-69., Dunn adds, “Indeed the author seems to take some pains to bring this out: no less than three times he states that what the vision describes as the triumph of the ‘son of man’ is in fact the triumph of ‘the saints of the Most High’ (7.17f., 21f., 26f.).


[15] C.H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures, (London, 1952), 118

[16] Op. cit., pp.69

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this we must place Daniel’s statement to Nebuchadnezzar – “Thou art this head of gold” (Dan. 2:38).  This opens up the prospect of representation; the individual (in this case Nebuchadnezzar) represented Babylon and embodied all the characteristics of the empire in his person – as a consequence the individual was literally changed into a beast (Dan. 4:30-37).[17]  Certain individuals in Israel had a representative role – for example the anointed high priest on the Day of Atonement. Similarly, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (Hezekiah) represented in his person the idealized corporate identity that the nation (as Yahweh’s servant, cf. Isa. 41:8) should have manifested.


The Beasts of Daniel and the Apocalypse


It is not within the scope of this commentary to engage in an exposition of the Apocalypse however it is impossible to understand the full implications of Daniel’s visions without investigating their NT development. Unfortunately, a priori assumptions surrounding the late dating of the Apocalypse ensure that it has no relevance for the Jewish nation.[18]   Here is not the place to present the case for an early dating (pre-70 AD) of the Apocalypse but simply to state the position that internal evidence demands an early date (before the destruction of the temple) and to refer the reader to the relevant literature.[19] The    Continued  ˃


[17] The first visionary beast of Daniel 7 is anticipated by the literal transformation of Nebuchadnezzar into a beast in Daniel 4:33. The winged-lion of Daniel 7:4 is “given a man’s heart” demonstrating that for the Jews Nebuchadnezzar was the heart-beat of the neo-Babylonian empire.  The Babylonian empire is depicted here as a beast rather than a splendid head of gold.

[18] Liberal scholarship also assigns a late date to Daniel, a position rejected by conservative scholars – yet these same scholars often accept a late date for the Apocalypse.

[19] Carefully weighed inner-biblical evidence is always to be prefered to uncorroborated external patristic evidence. For early dating of the Apocalypse see: John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (London: SCM Press, 1976) and Kenneth I Gentry Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation, (Atlanta: American Vision, 1998). See also my series of articles in the eJournal regarding the relationship between the Fourth Gospel (4G), Hebrews and Revelation where it is proposed that Hebrews (and the 4G) were written to the Jews at Ephesus and that Hebrews shows awareness of the Revelation warning to Ephesus, thus arguing that Revelation has priority over Hebrews and that both were composed before AD 70. P. Wyns, The Christadelphian eJournal of Biblical Interpretation: Annual 2009, (eds., P. Wyns,  A. Perry, Willow Publications,2009),56-69,141-147,154-163 Online [cited Sept 2010] @ Access here

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problems surrounding the interpretation of the beast-empires of Daniel 7 are due to the perception that Daniel 7 and Daniel 2 are parallel visions but even towards the end of the first century AD it was realised that equating the fourth beast of Daniel 7 with the Roman Empire was an innovation. In the apocryphal book 2 Esdras (also known as 4 Ezra) a beast-vision (influenced by Daniel) is found depicting the Roman Empire as an eagle:


“The eagle which you saw coming up from the sea is the fourth kingdom which appeared to your brother Daniel. But it was not explained to him as I now explain or have explained to you.”(2 Esdras 12:11-12 RSV)


Ernest Lucas comments, “the explicit reinterpretation of the fourth beast as the Roman Empire in 2 Esdras (also known as 4 Ezra)12:11-12, from a Jewish author writing about the same time as Josephus….indicates that at that time this was a new interpretation that was only then beginning to replace an earlier one.” [20]


Daniel 7 and Daniel 2 are not strictly parallel – the visions complement each other until the third metal/beast (Greek Empire) – at the point where Daniel 2 continues with the Roman Empire, Daniel 7 digresses    Continued  ˃


[20] Ernst Lucas, Daniel,77

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on the Syrian-Greek Empire focusing on the Antiochene crisis. Therefore the dream-visions of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 have a different terminus. Whereas the vision of Daniel 7 terminates in the second century BC during the Antiochene crisis the vision of Daniel 2 terminates with the judgements on Rome and Jerusalem in the first century AD.[21] 


This does not imply that either vision was completed by the second century Antiochene crisis or by the historical events of the first century AD. The vision of Daniel 2 is a process whereby the stone “becomes a great mountain that fills the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35) and Daniel 7 informs us that the first three beasts have “their lives prolonged for a season and a time” (Dan. 7:12). The beasts that have their lives prolonged reappear in the Apocalypse.[22] Therefore both visions are “apocalyptic moments” or “already/not yet” realisations of the eschatological in-breaking of God’s sovereignty that will only attain completion at the Second Advent.


The Apocalypse commences with the words; “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him to show his servants what must soon take place” (Rev 1:1a). G.K. Beale has noted[23] that the formula    Continued  ˃


[21] Rome was severely judged in AD 69 (the year of the four Emperors) and Jerusalem in AD 70. The storming and the burning of the Capitol by the foreign mercenaries of Vitellius, and the subsequent capture and sacking of Rome by the infuriated Flavian army under Mucianus and Antonius Primus is described by the ancient Roman Historian Tacitus and also by Josephus. Tacitus notes that, “Lamentation was heard from every quarter, and Rome was filled with cries of despair and the horrors of a city taken by storm.” Tacitus, The Histories,83 and  Josephus, Wars 4.11.4

[22] The beast of Rev13:2 has leopard/bear/lion characteristics

[23] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary of the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, ed. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner,(Grand Rapids, Michigan:Eerdmans,1998),153-4,1130

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translated in Revelation 1:1 (and also 4:1 and 22:6) as “what must….take place” is found in only one other place in the Bible, namely in Greek versions of Daniel 2, where it occurs in verses 28, 29 and 45:


    […..] he showed . . . what things must take place in the latter days (Dan 2:28 LXX)


    […..] to show . . . what things must take place quickly (Rev 1:1)


According to Beale, the verbs translated “show” are “semantic equivalents,” both used to describe the “role of the prophets in revealing what God has ‘shown’ them.” The important matter to note is the change from the expression “in the latter days” to “quickly,” which “appears to indicate that fulfilment has begun (that it is being fulfilled) or will begin in the near future. Simply put, John understands Daniel’s reference to a distant time as referring to his own era and he updates the text accordingly. What Daniel expected to occur in the distant ‘latter days’ -- the defeat of cosmic evil and the ushering in of the divine kingdom -- John expects to begin ‘quickly,’ in his own generation, if it has not already begun to happen.”


Therefore the Apocalypse in 1:1a anticipates (via Daniel) an imminent fulfilment in the first century. This is reinforced by Rev 1:7; “Behold, He is coming with clouds “an allusion to Daniel 7:13, followed by a description of the “Son of man” in Danielic terms in Rev1:13-17 (cf. Dan 7:9; 10:6). Significantly Jesus warned the judges at his trial that they, “…will see the Son of Man…coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64) indicating that they would personally experience his coming in judgement.  All of the allusions to Daniel in the first chapter of the Apocalypse point to an imminent first century fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecies. This of course agrees with Jesus’ other use of Daniel in the Olivet Prophecy regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The conclusion is inescapable that the prophecy of Daniel/Revelation had at least a partial fulfilment in the first century in the same manner as the Olivet Prophecy.


The Apocalyptic “beasts” that appear in their various roles in Revelation chs. 12-17 share the same genetic make-up as they all have    Continued  ˃

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seven heads and ten horns. This is a composite creature that has the totality of heads of the beasts-empires of the vision in Daniel 7 together with the ten horns of the last (fourth) beast of Dan 7:20. As such the ‘beast’ represent the totality of the ‘kingdom of men’(Dan. 4:32) with each temporal appearance differentiated by the number of crowns – seven crowns (Rev. 12:3), ten crowns (Rev. 13:1) and finally no crowns (Rev. 17:3).[24] The seven-headed monster of the Apocalypse, which is the composite of Daniel’s beasts, is reincarnated as an eighth (head) - the angel clearly intends John to understand that although the first century incarnation of the monster was the seven headed dragon of Rev. 12:3 this did not represent its last manifestation, indeed it could not, for it had transferred its authority and power to the last monster (13: 2). 


The motif of ‘war in heaven’ in Rev. 12:7-9 is an allusion to Dan. 8:11 and Dan. 12:1-3 where the ‘prince of the host’ is the archangel Michael (who is like God?). The background in Daniel is the Maccabean crisis which saw collaboration between a corrupt priesthood and Antiochus Epiphanes, who styled himself as ‘god manifest’.  The attempt at self-exaltation combined with forcefully changing Jewish temple worship (cf. Dan. 7:25) is equivalent to ‘war in heaven’ (cf. “And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them”- Dan 8:10). The first century AD saw emerging cooperation between imperialistic and religious powers in a manner similar to the second century BC. The accusation brought against Christ of seeking equivalency with God was thrown out of the earthly and heavenly courts by means of the crucifixion (cf. John 12:31; Rev. 12:3). Christ’s victory anticipates the eschatological resurrection (Matt. 27:52-53 cf. Dan. 12:2). Finally, the ‘image of the beast’ which must be worshipped on pain of death (Rev. 13:15) recalls    Continued  ˃


[24] The ‘seven crowns’ are the seven contemporary authority figures enumerated by Luke (3:1-2) that sets the scene for the birth of the ‘man child’ (Christ) – a cooperation between an imperialistic power (Rome) and a corrupt religious power (Judaism). Towards 65 AD the corporate counterpart of the ‘man child’ (the church) is persecuted by the sixth successive Roman Emperor (Nero) who is to be followed by a seventh (Rev. 17:8) future protagonist.

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Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Dan. 3:6) and is partially realized in the worship that the Roman Emperor’s demanded. [25]




Daniel 7 offers a glimpse into the “heavenly sanctuary” where “one like a son of man”, surrounded by incense clouds, approaches the throne– this is the great “eschatological” Day of Atonement when the heavenly priest/son of man emerges from the heavenly temple with the authority to exercise dominion over human affairs and judge the world.  The visions of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 do not run completely parallel – Daniel 7 ends with the second century BC Antiochene crisis and Daniel 2 with the first century BC Roman crisis, both involving the temple.  However, both of these events are “already/not yet” manifestations that are not completely fulfilled by the historical events of their time. The book of Revelation makes it clear that although the first century saw the fulfilment of much of Daniel’s prophecies the final manifestation and defeat of the antichrist must wait until the end. The “one like a son of man” in the vision of Dan.7 represents faithful Israel, whose corporate destiny is realized in Jesus Christ.


Appendix 1 Chapter 11: Summary of the SM debate


The history of interpreting the SM in Dan. 7:13 can be broadly divided into two camps - the older view represented predominately by Germanic OT scholarship (Gunkel, with more recent developments    Continued  ˃


[25] In AD 39, the half mad tyrant Gaius Caligula ordered his governor Petronius to place his statue in the Jerusalem temple, this catastrophe was only averted by the death of Caligula. (See, Jos.Antiq. 18.8.1-9; for the horror of the alarm this raised amongst the Jews cf. Philo, Leg. ad. Gaium, 184-348). Emperor worship was often used to test loyalty. First century Christians understood Nero as the embodiment of the beast, this is apparent from the manuscript change of 666 to 616 (Rev. 13:18), undoubtedly meant to better reflect Nero’s name.  However, Nero (like Antiochus Epiphanes before him) is only a type of the antichrist, who is to be revealed at the very end, as the Parousia will coincide with the outbreak of persecution.

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by; J. J. Collins, J. A. Emerton, J. Day, D. Bryan, Rowland) and in the 1970’s and 1980’s a view represented by English-speaking NT scholarship (Manson, Moule, Caird, Dunn, Wright). The German view traces the background to Mesopotamian and Canaanite traditions - the “Chaoskampf” (literally, chaotic battle) of creation mythology. The defeat of the sea monster by Baal (known as the ‘rider on the clouds’), the pantheon surrounding El (known as the ‘Father of years’), etc., bear similarities with the SM vision in Daniel 7. In this scenario the “one like a son of man” takes up the role of the divine warrior Baal. The mechanism for mediating this mythological pattern is unclear but an annual New Year enthronement festival has been hypothesized. In the ritual drama of the annual festival, the king combats the forces of chaos and after ritual humiliation involving his death and resurrection finally defeats them and is enthroned on the divine mountain. Many of the Psalms are thought to have an annual enthronement festival as their cultic setting but such reconstructions are speculative.[26]


[26] A specific Sitz im Leben for each Psalm is preferable to the generic “cultic setting” suggested (such as an Annual New Year festival) by modern scholarship. It is of course indisputable that Psalms written to commemorate a particular historic occasion were adapted for liturgical purposes in the cult, but the primary historical setting (however difficult to determine) should not be neglected for speculative cultic reconstructions. D.J. Clines observes; “It has become a commonplace of Psalm criticism that not only the Psalm Gattungen, as Gunkel maintained, but also the individual psalms themselves are of cultic origin. The large majority of scholars in our period have, following Mowinckel’s Psalmenstudien, looked for a cultic situation to which each psalm may be assigned, but the question has remained open whether there may not be some psalms that were not composed for a cultic purpose. Stamm remarked in his survey that it would be ‘a task for future research to determine more exactly the scope and peculiarity of both groups [sc. cultic and non-cultic psalms] and to distinguish them from one another’, yet comparatively little fundamental research has been forthcoming on this topic”. D.J. Clines , Psalm Research since 1955: The Psalms and the Cult, (published in: On the Way to the Postmodern: Old Testament Essays 1967-1998, Volume 2; JSOTSup, 292; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 639-64

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According to the history of religions view it is through such syncretising mechanisms that the Canaanite El with his accompanying pantheon is transformed into the High God and his angels; thus German scholarship assumed that Dan. 7:13, the Similitudes, 4 Ezra 13 and one or two other texts speak of a heavenly angelic man.  Hebrew religion did not develop in vacuo and undoubtedly drew on common metaphors and language, but shared cultural backgrounds do not imply wholesale adaption of polytheistic theologies. Fletcher-Louis comments; “So, whilst the ancient Near Eastern mythological material provides data which are indisputably in the background of Daniel 7, there is a significant gap between that background and the text’s foreground”.[27]


English-speaking scholarship


In contrast English-speaking scholarship understands the Danielic SM as purely representative of a righteous Israel. J. Dunn observes;


“First, the ‘one like a son of man’ is identical with the ‘saints of the Most High’. Indeed the author seems to take some pains to bring this out: no less than three times he states that what the vision described as the triumph of the ‘son of man’ is in fact the triumph of ‘the saints of the Most High’ (7.17f., 21f., 26f.). We may note particularly how closely the wording of 7.14., 26f., and how vision and interpretation seem to be intermingled in 7.17f.and 21f., with ‘the saints of the Most High’ taking the place of the ‘son of man’ over against the beasts. Second, the ‘one like a son of man’ is one of five figures in a vision set over against four other visionary figures. They are depicted like beasts (‘like a lion’, ‘like a bear’, ‘like a leopard’). The fifth is depicted ‘like a man’ – ‘son of man’ as is well known simply denoting a human being (cf. e.g. Ps.8.4). The conclusion seems clear enough: the man like     Continued  ˃


[27] Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis, “The High Priest as Divine Mediator in the Hebrew Bible: Dan 7:13 as a Test Case”, (SBL Seminary Paper: Oxford, England, 1997), 163

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figure represents the people of Israel, just as the beast-like figures represent the enemies of Israel – not surprisingly a very prejudiced presentation on Israel’s behalf”.[28]


The view of the SM as a symbol rather than an angelic referent gained prominence when it was realised that the Similitudes (with their evidence for a Jewish apocalyptic SM) were not part of the Qumran Enochic corpus.[29] In a recent offshoot from the English “school” (B. Lindars and M. Casey both following G. Vermes’ lead) suggest that the NT “Son of Man” logion, at least at the level of the historical Jesus reflects a form of self-referential circumlocution (“I”, or “someone like me” etc.).




The interpretive framework surrounding the ‘one like a son of man’ (human being) is therefore delineated by the Germanic (predominately OT) ‘school’ which identifies the SM with the pious Jews (the usual view), with angels (Noth, Coppens-Dequeker), with the archangel Michael (Collins), and with others; and by the English-speaking    Continued  ˃


[28] J.D.G. Dunn, Christology in the Making, (SCM Press, London: Second edition, 1989),68-69

[29] J. Goldingay comments as follows on the Similitudes; “The Parables are uninstanced at Qumran, and current opinion regards them as belonging to the Roman period. Their most interesting parallel to Daniel (more likely suggesting dependence on Daniel than on a common source) is their taking up the humanlike figure and the one advanced in days of 7:13. “That Son of Man” (1Enoch) 46-48, alongside the “head of days” with hair white like wool; see also chaps.62; 69), God’s elect and righteous one, is eventually identified with Enoch (71.14). Thus Daniel 7 is one of the texts that is used to interpret the significance of Enoch and his translation, reported with such tantalizing brevity in Gen 5; and it leads to or justifies a belief in Enoch’s functioning as eschatological judge”. J. Goldingay, Daniel,(Word Biblical Commentary, ed., D.A. Hubbard, G.W. Barker, J.D.W. Watts, R.P. Martin; Nelson Reference & Electronic, 1989), Intro, xxviii

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(predominately NT) ‘school’ that understands the SM as a representative symbol (Dodd, Dunn, etc) within its own immediate literary context and the wider religio-political situation of the Antiochene crisis (Casey, Ferch).