Enoch And Son Of Man (1)

 

SIMILITUDES

By now we know that the Book of Daniel was one of the earliest apocalypses ever written and also one of the most influential. “Whenever in later works ‘that son of man’, ‘this son of man’ or ‘the son of man’ is mentioned, it is the quotation from Daniel.”[1] The later apocalyptic writings made creative use of Daniel 7 and developed their own new expression of faith and hope for the righteous. By the beginning of the 2nd century BC, this shift in religious thought had already become evident. As circumstances on this earth were unjust and the unrighteous were winning, for the first time the clearly defined concept of a transcendent kingdom and transcendent last-day figure made its way into Jewish thought.

The earliest Jewish evidence for the interpretation and re-use of Daniel 7:13-14 is found in the second sub-book of 1 Enoch: The Similitudes.  

The date of the Similitudes has been controversial, since no fragment of this text has been found at Qumran. Some scholars argue, however, that an absence from Qumran does not imply a date after 70 CE. “Since the Similitudes make no allusion to the fall of Jerusalem, a date prior to that event seems most likely,” John Collins writes. [2]  If this is the case, we can state that it is here, in the Similitudes, that some important motifs of the New Testament are found for the first time. As we will see further on, “when we use Enoch as a context for the New Testament, many early Christian ideas come into a much clearer focus, and many of the gaps in the New Testament can be bridged.”[3]. This text is indeed a very valuable resource for understanding the culture and background of the original audience of the Gospels.

The Similitudes consist of three parables (chapters 38-44, 45-57 and 58-69), and a double epilogue (chapters 70 and 71). Chapter 37 introduces the entire composition as the “vision of wisdom”. The revelation proper begins with the ascent of Enoch to the end of heaven. There he is shown all the heavenly secrets. Then in Chapter 42, the first parable is interrupted by a brief wisdom poem. The content of the poem is highly characteristic and fits quite well with the thought of the Similitudes: “Wisdom went forth to make her dwelling among the children of men, and found no dwelling place,”[4] so she returned to heaven and took her seat with the angels. The earth is given over to iniquity; wisdom is not to be found on earth but is with the angels in heaven.

 

A NEW FIGURE

It is the second parable of the Similitudes that is of a great interest to us, because it introduces a new figure: “At that place, I saw the One to whom belongs the time before time. And his head was white like wool, and there was with him another individual, whose face was like that of a human being.”[5] Enoch then asks his angelic guide about him, and the angel answers: “This is the Son of Man to whom belongs righteousness and with whom righteousness dwells.”[6]  The Son of Man is presented here as a heavenly being: though he looks human, he is a supernatural being, standing in a very special relationship to God Himself.

There can be no doubt that the Similitudes of Enoch allude to the Son of Man of Daniel 7.  Later in this book we see that the expressions, “Son of Man”, “Elect” and “Righteous One,” are all to be identified with the same latter-day figure. Thus, “Son of Man” indeed becomes a central image here. This is the most important point for us. While in the Book of Watchers, which we discussed at the beginning of this series, the emphasis is on the reality of the heavenly revelation of Enoch—the reality of the hidden, invisible, heavenly world—in the Similitudes, the focus is not just on the heavenly realm, but on the heavenly image of the invisible Savior, the “Righteous One”, who has been hidden and will be revealed at the end of days. Here it is not just the heavenly world that gives hope to the chosen ones, it is the heavenly Son of Man who assures them of their special destiny.

 

SON OF MAN AND MESSIAH

Even though it may come as a surprise to a modern student of the New Testament   that “other Jews had been imagining various human figures as achieving the status of divinity and sitting next to God or even in God’s place on the divine throne,”[7] the Similitudes provide us with clear evidence that the expectations of the Son of Man as a divine-human Redeemer existed at Jesus’ time. “In the Similitudes of Enoch, a Jewish writer of sometime in the first century A.D. makes extensive use of the term “Son of Man” to refer to a particular divine-human Redeemer figure…, thus exhibiting many of the elements that make up the Christ story….  The Similitudes seem to have been not the product of an isolated sect but part of a more general Jewish world of thought and writing.”[8]  We can conclude, therefore, that “the Son of Man” speculations and expectations were widespread at the end of the Second Temple period.

Those readers who remember my Hidden Messiah series (or who read my book, As Though Hiding His Face), may remember me pointing out the fact that, while Christian readers of the Gospels call Jesus the Messiah of Israel, He Himself continuously discouraged any use of the title ‘Messiah’  throughout the length of his public ministry. He didn’t call Himself Messiah, instead, He called himself the Son of Man – and have you realized that in all the Gospels, “no one ever asked: ‘What is a Son of Man, anyway?’ They knew what He was talking about whether they believed his claim or not.”[9] This means that if we really want to understand the ministry and the message of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, we need to have a thorough understanding of the concept of “Son of Man”. Next time, we are going to analyze the main characteristics of the Son of Man in 1 Enoch, and compare them with what we find in the Gospels. Once again, you will be surprised to hear a very “Christian” sound in some of the quotations from 1 Enoch:

“And from henceforth there shall be nothing corruptible; For that Son of Man has appeared, And has seated himself on the throne of his glory, And all evil shall pass away before his face, And the word of that Son of Man shall go forth. And be strong before the Lord of Spirits.”[10]

To be continued …


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[1] Leo Baeck, Judaism and Christianity: Essays, Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1958 , 28-29

[2] John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star, p.177

[3] Margaret Barker, The Lost Prophet, Abingdon Press, 1988, p.3

[4] 1 Enoch 42:2

[5] 1 Enoch 46:1

[6] 1 Enoch 46:3

[7] Ibid

[8] Boyarin, Daniel. The Jewish Gospels (Kindle Locations 1178-1185). The New Press. Kindle Edition.

 

[9] Ibid.

[10] Enoch 69:29

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Shannon Mcclung

    Shalom Judy- What version would you recommend to study of The Book of Enoch, and other books of the Apocrypha. Todah rabah.

  2. Jeffrey Feinberg

    Prescient synthesis, Julia!
    Wisdom finds no place of habitation on earth, so she returns (cf. Prov. 8:22f) to heaven, setting the stage for God’s righteousness to incarnate—not only into Jewish thought and theology, but into an earth past its tipping point in the struggle between good and evil outcomes for all humankind.

    1. Lionel Levoir

      Shalom and evev Tov! Imagine my Joy being born on July 19, and receiving a scripture proving that Henry the eight addition to our Lords prayer is found elsewhere in Gods Holy word: For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory is found in its entire verse in 1 Chron 29:11, and utilizing John Wesleys methodist approach, is also found in the Pentateuch _Deuteronomy 8:18. allow me this: there is something very special about this year and month of Tish’a bav, with the American embassy being moved to Jerusalem, and B Netanyahu with the Knesset passing and declaring Israel a Jewish state, Hebrew now an official Language.. May I now live to see the physical 3rd and final temple being built, and what Israel gave up fpr peace be regained! all this on my ^)th Birthday!! Thank s be to the G_d of Israel, Isaac and Jacob!

    2. Julia Blum

      Great to hear from you, Jeffrey. Yes, the parallels are striking, and from these texts we can see very clearly that by the first century AD, the stage was indeed set!