Messiah And Son Of Man In The Gospels (iii): Apocalypses

My readers are probably aware of the difference between the term משיח  (Mashiach /Messiah), which is used in the Hebrew Bible in reference to an actual ruling king or priest, and the concept of “Messianism”, which originally derives from that noun but refers to images, symbols or concepts of an eschatological savior.  It is a well-known fact that the very title “Mashiach”, and the custom of “anointing”, originated in the world of the Israelite monarchy: in the original context, only one of the thirty-nine occurrences of the word “mashiach” (משיח) in the Hebrew canon refers to an expected eschatological savior. If we ask how this transformation happened, an answer would be that, mainly, it took place through the genre of “apocalypse”. The apocalypses turn out to be the main carrier of eschatological ideas and messianic concepts in the Second Temple period. In apocalyptic writings, the original biblical texts about ‘anointed ones’ were placed in an eschatological framework and therefore transformed into eschatological messianic texts. Consequently, this genre became the center of the whole process of rethinking and reinterpretation of the Bible in the Second Temple period.


At the head of this apocalyptic movement, stands the biblical Apocalypse of Daniel, with Daniel’s famous vision of “One like a Son of Man” in chapter 7. This chapter describes a vision in which the prophet sees four great beasts coming up out of the sea, each one different from the others. The ‘Ancient of Days’ appears in this vision in all his glory. Then, after the fourth beast is destroyed, there appears on the scene ‘One like a Son of man’ who is conveyed on the clouds into God’s heavenly Council, where he stands in the divine presence. We read a beautiful account of this royal audience:  I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like a son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days… And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, 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 ….[1] 


The Apocalypse of Daniel clearly marks the end of the biblically oriented period and at the same time stands at the beginning of a new apocalyptic period, with a totally new view of history and a new messianic paradigm. “The ‘One like a Son of Man’ who comes with the clouds of heaven in Dan. 7:13, gave rise to a different kind of messianic expectation, which emphasized the heavenly, transcendent character of the savior figure.”[2] In the following centuries, this kind of transcendent deliverer will play an increasingly important role in Jewish eschatology and the mysterious figure called ‘Son of Man’ will appear in different apocalyptic writings.


The earliest Jewish evidence for the interpretation and re-use of Daniel 7:13-14 is found in the Similitudes of Enoch, the second sub-book of the First Book of Enoch (I Enoch 37-71).[3] “This book provides us with our most explicit evidence that the Son of Man as a divine-human Redeemer arose by Jesus’ time from reading the book of Daniel.”[4] In a number of places throughout the Similitudes, the expression ‘Son of Man’ or simply ‘Man’ is used (46:1-6; 48:2-7; 62:5-9,14; 63:11; 69:26-29; 70:1; 71:17). The clearest allusions are in 1 Enoch 46:1: “At that place, I saw the to One 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,” and in I Enoch 47:3: “In those days, I saw him – the Antecedent of Time, while he was sitting upon the throne of his glory, and the books of the living one were open before him.” Enoch then asks his angelic guide “regarding the One who was born of human beings”: “Who is this, and from whence is he who is going as the prototype of the Before-Time?” The angel responds: “This is the Son of Man, to whom belongs righteousness, and with whom righteousness dwells.” The figure of the Son of Man is presented here as a heavenly being. Although he looks human, he is a supernatural angelic being standing in a very special relationship to God Himself. The Lord of Spirits has chosen him (46:3; 48:6) and kept him to carry out in his name, a work which is yet to be revealed. God’s choice of him was made “before the creation of the world and for evermore”; “His name was named before the Lord of the Spirits[5] before the sun and the stars were made (compare with later rabbinic tradition, where the name of messiah is listed among the things that preceded the creation of the world); in the purposes of God he was concealed, hidden from the beginning and “his glory is for ever and ever”. In general, the book speaks about a heavenly Son of Man and shows little connection with the idea of messiah.[6]

Daniel 7 is also reflected in 4 Ezra, a Jewish apocalypse from the end of the 1st century CE. “… And I looked, and behold, this wind made something like the figure of a man come up out of the heart of the sea. And I looked, and behold, that man flew with the clouds of heaven …[7] “The clouds of heaven” is a clear allusion to Daniel 7. In the interpretation, the ‘man’ of the vision is identified as “he whom the Most High has been keeping for many ages, who will himself deliver his creation…[8] Intriguingly, in this text, written at approximately the same time as the Gospel of Mark, the Man of the vision is already identified with Messiah: “Behold, the days are coming when the Most High will deliver those who dwell on the earth… then my son will be revealed, whom you saw as a man coming up from the sea… But he will stand on the top of Mount Zion… And he, my Son, will reprove the assembled nations for their ungodliness… and he will destroy them… Therefore when he destroys the multitude of the nations that are gathered together, he will defend the people who remain…”[9]

Now, after this brief review, we can return to the Gospels and face our main question: Why did Jesus call Himself Son of Man, and not Messiah? We will try to answer this question in our next post.

[1] Dan 7:13,14

[2] John J. Collins  The Scepter  and the Star: the Messiah of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient literature (The  Anchor Bible reference library, 1995), p.175

[3] 1 Enoch is a collection of Jewish apocalyptic texts dating from the last three centuries before the Common Era.

[4]Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: the story of the Jewish Christ, The new Press, NY, 2012,

[5] 1 Enoch 48:3-6

[6] It has to be noted though that he is also twice called Messiah here (48:10 and 52:4)

[7] 4 Ezra 13:3

[8] 4 Ezra 13:26

[9] 4 Ezra 13:27,29,35-37,49-50.

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. Jesus Disciple

    Dear Julia,

    Why is my reply censored to VR Peterson and Peter that are not obscene, profane, vulgar, rude but were authored in sincere scholarship of non-agreement with certain claims you make about the pseudo-pigraphica Enoch? This leads one to believe that if you are supposed to be a high level professor of such studies who values intellectual integrity, moral compass, then free and open debate concerning the authenticity of such texts and their origins should be firstly strongly considered and at least mentioned, not that it should be not something to fear if one is really seeking to be honest about the origins of pseudo-pigraphica Enoch and thus whether or not they do parallel the Old and New Covenant as much as you assert. Yet you have censored my comment seemingly as if to not allow VR Peterson and Peter to learn of certain problematic claims with pseudo Enoch, this is disingenuous is it not? I get the impression that any viewpoints counter to the blog author’s are not accepted. Is this how “Israeli Institute of Biblical Studies” functions? that only viewpoints made by commenters on this blog that support the professor’s point of view, are allowed and those against are not? I don’t see how this is ‘fair’ to you and readers of your posts who may not always agree w/ every single statement you make, so truly, open discussion about such historical texts is vital for by censoring my original post, readers won’t at least see & consider other viewpoints left by other commenters on this blog of yours who are historians themselves who are very familiar with pseudo-Enoch. This is infuriating for it sends the message that any views counter to yours is not allowed and thus this is a form of intellectual fascism.

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi, your comment was not published immediately only for one reason: it was a night time here in Israel, and I couldn’t approve it. The comments don’t get published unless i “approve” them (by the way, there were several other comments, along with yours, that had to wait also). Your impression is wrong: I am absolutely open to any debate or discussion and am very interested to hear different opinions. However, I never allow any kind of offensive statements or comments be published on these pages. I will reply to your comment below in a due time.

  2. David Russell

    Hello Julia and others, I did not receive my installment until today, June 25, but am glad to have and continue to follow with interest! In fact, this series motivated discussion on a forum to which I participate concerning the Messiahship of Yeshua/Jesus not being just a mere fact but something that is perhaps personally vibrant in those who believe Yeshua to be the Messiah of the world and each person of faith. I read a fascinating article that briefly touches on how the “son of man” has been interpreted differently over the centuries that is at the Oxford University Biblical Studies web portal. I look forward to part four, with my co-readers and thank you for this enlightening series of posts! I have shared them with some acquaintances!
    David Russell

  3. Jesus Disciple

    @Peter & @V.R. Peterson ; The Pseudo-pigraphica of Ethopic Enoch contradicts the Old Covenant/New Covenant many times. The Ethiopic Book of Enoch is a pseudo-pigraphica i.e. a work with a false author (or written under a pen name). A number of these works date from the time between the Old and New Covenant through the first few centuries appearing to have been a writing fad for awhile. People used the names of famous people, such as characters from the Bible, to lend credibility to the work – to make it appear more authentic. Very few people actually believe the book to have been written by Enoch. For it to have existed all those years, it would have had to survive the flood, and i sure do not recall God telling Noah to make sure to bring the pseudo-pigraphica of Enoch aboard the ark. Something else to considering strongly;

    Tertullian admits that the Hebrews never accepted the Book of Enoch as authentic and that Jesus disciples of his time also rejected it. Some defenders of the pseudo-pigraphica Enoch state that the book was well know by early New Covenant Jesus disciple scribes which may be true, but they conveniently neglect to state that most rejected the pseudo-pigraphica as being from God.

    Further to this, there are several books that go by the name “The Book of Enoch”. Most refer to copies of a book found in 1773 in Ethiopia which are a translation of a Greek text that was in turn a translation of an Aramaic or Hebrew Text but thus far indeterminable. There were small fragments of this large book found among the DSSs, which parts are of Chapter 2, verses 12-14 and Chapter 3, verses 13-16, yet the book seems to have 108 chapters. There were also other texts/documents which cited portions of the pseudo-pigraphica Enoch showing that the book existed. But w/ such small amount of text, it must be emphasized that it is unknown how the complete book read in Aramaic. Most scholars date the pseudo-pigraphica Enoch to circa 300 B.C. and 100 B.C. chronological time frame. There are larger portions of the book that survived in Greek, but again, not nearly the whole. Also they date from a later period (after the church was founded by Jesus & His Apostles). The only whole version are the Ethiopian translations and additionally, a comparison of the Ethiopian translations to the Aramaic and Greek fragments show the Ethiopian translation is fairly, but not entirely, accurate. Most scholars not that the pseudo-pigraphica Enoch, as it currently exists, is a fairly disjointed work and additionally, it doesn’t have a unifying flow, such as would be found in the writings of one author and it generally, it is agreed to be a composition of several works by multiple authors, but exactly who wrote which portions and what time frames in which places, is heavily debated, which only further lends difficulty in trusting the veracity of it’s authors.

    So the pseudo-pigraphica Enoch contradicts the Holy Bible many times, i myself counting 52 times on one page alone in terms of historical accuracy alone.

    When defenders of the pseudo-pigraphica Enoch quote from Iude/Jude 14-15, they don’t seem to notice that Iude/Jude doesn’t state he is quoting from the pseudo-pigraphica Enoch. Neither do they seem to discern that since multiple Enochs are mentioned in the Holy Bible, Iude/Jude does clarify which Enoch he’s referring to in an indirect way. Some ask, how could Iude/Jude know what Enoch stated 4000 years later?. Simple, Iude/Jude is inspired by God/Jesus Canon, so therefore God/Jesus told Him (1Corinthians 2:12-13). It’s the same reason how Moses, ascribed to the be writer of Genesis, was able to write of people lived hundreds of years before him.

    There is much more to mention but here are some other things to consider; Defenders of pseudo-pigraphica Enoch get all excited about this line in the pseudo-pigraphica Enoch;

    Enoch 1:9: “And behold! He cometh wih then thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly; and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

    …so they get excited about these verses thinking Iude/Jude MUST be quoting from the psuedo-pigraphica of Enoch! Please note though, it is not a literal reproduction,m even allowing for multiple translations. Also, Iude/Jude states that God will judge all and convict the ungodly among them. In pseudo-pigraphica Enoch it states God is judging all and will convict all of their ungodliness. Not quite the same. Further to this, quite interestingly, none of the fragments Aramaic or Greek, contain Enoch 1:9.

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi, of course you are right – the books of Enoch belong to the Pseudepigrapha and they are not part of the Bible (except for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church). However, whilst it is important to remember that all these texts are of human origin and not the Word of God, no NT scholar can ignore them: the writings of the NT should be seen against the background of these texts.This is the main purpose of my series on the Son of Man in general and of this review of the books of Enoch, in particular: to understand the religious ideas of the different streams of Judaism in the time of Jesus.

  4. Joyce-Mary Fryer

    As always, Julia, I look forward to your blogs which feed me both spiritually and intellectually. With sincere appreciation.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you so much, Joyce-Mary. Really glad to hear that.

  5. Peter Lintini

    Julia- Many thanks, reading your series is like watching TV in full colour with all the details displayed, coming alive. Peter, ZAMBIA.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you so much Peter, I was amazed by your comment because often times, it’s exactly what I aim for when I write these articles: that the details would come alive and in full colour!

  6. V.R. Peterson

    Enoch is a very interesting book. Would you agree it seems scripturally correct and a mirror image of much of what the NT teaches. What Enoch says about Adam and Eve after the fall is totally fascinating as well. I enjoy your teachings a lot.

    1. Julia Blum

      You are so right, indeed, Enoch is a very interesting and a very important book. Many scholars regard 1 Enoch as one of the most important Jewish texts of the period. And yes, there are many parallels with NT, especially in the Similitudes; moreover, there are some typical NT themes that occur for the first time in the Similitudes.

  7. Pierre-Keefa

    [ Julia Blum you wrote]Although he looks human, he is a supernatural angelic being standing in a very special relationship with God Himself. The Lord of Spirits has chosen him (46:3; 48:6)

    [reply] This would indicate that the Arian view had credibility among ancient Hellenistic Judaism. This “supernatural angelic being ” was created/ begotten as the beginning of the creation by God.(Rev 3.14) He would be subject to the “Lord of Spirits” since he would be classified as a spirit.

    Thanks for the nice article.

  8. Sam

    It seems that Peter’s confession ties together Son of Man, Son of David (Messiah), and Son of God (deity) and identifies them all as one and the same…

    1. Julia Blum

      It was revealed to Peter that Jesus was Messiah; however, Jesus himself, even after this confession and even with his disciples, still avoided this title:
      20 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

      Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.”
      21 And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Luk.9:20,21) IN Matthew He also explains that this knowledge – about Him being Messiah – can come only straight from the Father: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Mat.16:17) .

      1. Sam

        It’s interesting that Nathanael’s confession was close, but missed the Son of Man connection!

        1. Julia Blum

          Peter didn’t say anything about Son of Man either; it was Jesus himself who replied in “Son of Man” terms.

  9. Patrick

    It appears I Enoch( similitudes) interprets the “son of man” of Daniel as divine. Am I reading that accurately?

    Added to the “coming in the clouds” lingo Daniel and Jesus used makes me wonder why many modern scholars do not see it as a Divine claim?

    Coming in the clouds is used 27X in the OT text and explicitly it is YHWH 26 X. Seems likely the 27th was meant to signal that, too.

    I bet the verbiage Jesus used “you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power” was also a claim to Divinity in that ancient context.

    1. Julia Blum

      Yes, Patrick, you are absolutely correct: in 1 Enoch ( and on other apocalypses as well) , the ‘Son of Man’ is a transcendental, heavenly figure – and of course, in the NT these words were Jesus’ claim to Divinity. I will write more about it in my next post.

  10. Henrietta Wisbey

    Dear Julia
    As I read this blog I do feel out of my depth but I was reminded of a line from a hymn I recall:
    One who is all unfit to count as scholar in Thy school
    Thou of Thy love has made a friend O kindness wonderful.(1)
    It is so amazing to be in the company of all those to whom Christ has made Himself known.
    We hear His response in the words to Peter,” Flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you but my Father in heaven.”
    (1) Narayan Vaman Tilak 1861-1919
    Blessings and Shalom