My dear readers, I really appreciate your patience. To some of you, my last posts might have seemed a bit dry, but without this evidence, even dry evidence, we cannot fully comprehend the story of Israel and Jesus. In our last article, we saw that apocalypses turned out to be the main carrier of eschatological ideas and messianic concepts in the Second Temple period and became the center of the whole process of rethinking and reinterpretation of the Bible during that time. By now we also know that, at the head of this apocalyptic mentality, stood the Book (Apocalypse) of Daniel, with Daniel’s famous vision of “One like a Son of Man” who comes on the clouds of heaven. Daniel’s apocalypse provided a new paradigm for messianic expectations, quite different from the Davidic one. In this new paradigm, we clearly see a new figure, a heavenly savior— Son of Man.
The Book of Daniel is one of the earliest apocalypses ever written, and also one of the most influential. As Leo Back, a Jewish theologian and scholar wrote: “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.” And indeed, in our last article we saw different variations and reinterpretations of Daniel’s ‘Son of Man’ in other Jewish apocalypses. The later apocalyptic writings made creative use of Daniel 7 and developed their own new expression of faith and hope for the righteous. In some writings, the conceptions of Son of Man and Messiah are clearly distinguished, whilst in others they are brought together—yet nowhere are they completely fused. These ideas are not only different in their origin, they also represent, in their development, two separate strands of eschatological expectations and indicate two distinct emphases of ‘messianic’ hope: a savior who is this-worldly, national and political, and a savior who is predominantly transcendental, eternal and universal. These two different complexes of ideas are reflected in two different names: ‘Messiah’ and ‘Son of Man’.
Thus, the apocalyptic Son of Man articulates the worldview of a particular group of Jews in the first century CE: He is a fully transcendent figure, a heavenly counterpart of the righteous on the earth. While they are oppressed and lowly, he is enthroned and exalted, but when he is manifested at the eschatological judgment, they will then be exalted also.
A transcendental savior in Qumran
Before we address our main question—why did Jesus call Himself Son of Man?—I would like to turn for a moment to the Qumran sectarians and show that they too thought of their leader as the transcendent Savior. True, they didn’t use the term ‘Son of Man, ‘ but one of the oldest, as well as one of the most astonishing and controversial documents discovered at Qumran, the fragment called 11QMelchizedek, relates several themes of biblical eschatology to the biblical figure of Melchizedek, and the most striking feature of Melchizedek here is that he is not an ordinary, mortal human being. He is described as an exalted, heavenly figure, and his transcendent character is obvious; moreover, several biblical passages, the original subject of which is God, are related here to Melchizedek.
The whole text of 11QMelchizedek presents an eschatological scenario of the coming judgment. The eschatological themes here include: the liberation of Israel from captivity; Israel’s return to the Land; a final atonement for Israel’s sins; the judgment of their captors; a proclamation of peace to Israel; and the inauguration of God’s reign. Melchizedek is given here a central role in the eschatological salvation of the righteous and judgment of the wicked. At the completion of the ninth Jubilee, in the first week of the tenth Jubilee, on the Day of Atonement, atonement will be made for “all the sons of light and the men of the lot of Melchizedek”. At this time, Melchizedek will also execute judgment on Belial and on the spirits of his lot. Melchizedek here is presented as the instrument of God’s eschatological judgment, and the eschatological Savior of the righteous ones. As the instrument of God, he will judge on the Day of Atonement at the time of God’s final judgment, when Belial and the spirits of his lot will be defeated.
“Melchizedek will carry out the vengeance of Go[d’s] judgments [on this day and they shall be f] r[eed from the hand of] Belial and from the hands of all the sp[irits of his lot].”
Thus, the Qumranic figure of Melchizedek is a superhuman, transcendent image being revealed and manifested in the Day of Judgment. In this sense, we find here the same “Transcendent Savior” pattern, as the one we saw in 1 Enoch. 11QMelchizedek probably dates from the end of the second half of the second century BCE, and therefore, this text, as well as some other texts from Qumran, is definitely relevant to our quest.
The main question
When believing Christians look at the Old Testament through the Gospel narratives, they see many Messianic prophecies being fulfilled in Jesus. However, as Alfred Edersheim wrote: ”It is the combination of letters which constitute words, and the same letters may be combined into different words.” Judaism and Christianity might read the same prophecies, but they would be combined into different words for them.
We can now confront our main question: Why did Jesus call Himself Son of Man and not Messiah? My answer is very simple: He called Himself Son of Man precisely because He came as Son of Man. He didn’t come to fit Jewish expectation of Messiah. You probably know that many messianic expectations Israel had for their Messiah were not fulfilled during Jesus’ first coming, because He was not ‘the Messiah’ of Jewish conception. He was, however, “Son of Man” of Jewish conception: He came as a transcendental, eternal and universal Son of Man, and “no term was more fitted both to conceal, yet at the same time to reveal to those who had ears to hear, the Son of Man’s real identity”.
 Leo Baeck, Judaism and Christianity: Essays, Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1958 , 28-29
 11QMelchizedek, 2.8
 11QMelchizedek, 2.13
 Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Hendrickson publishers, 1994),
 Matthew Black, The Son of Man in the teaching of Jesus, Expository Times, lx, pp.32