…like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old
In this article, we are going to discuss some titles of Jesus that come from the Tanach (Hebrew Bible). As always, I want you to see the continuity between the Testaments: even what seems to be a completely New Testament motive may in fact be rooted in Tanach. We have already seen it with “the other cheek” theme. Today, we are going to discuss some additional examples.
WHO IS THIS SON OF MAN?
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered and said, “The Christ (Messiah) of God.”
And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things…
We have already learned that Jesus continuously discouraged use of the title ‘Messiah’ throughout the length of his earthly ministry. Instead, He repeatedly used the expression ‘Son of Man’ with reference to himself. Would it not be logical to suppose that He preferred to express His mission in terms of ‘Son of Man’, rather than ‘Messiah of Israel’? Why?
The majority of Christians today believe that the title Son of Man reflects the human nature of Jesus: not only is He divine, but He is also a completely human, Son of Man. In fact, the opposite is true: in the intertestamental period, the mysterious ”one like the son of man” from the book of Daniel—behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!—clearly emphasized the heavenly, eternal, and universal character of the Savior.
In the first century CE, these two sets of ideas came to represent two separate strands of ‘messianic’ hope: a this-worldly, national and political Savior, versus a transcendental, eternal and universal Savior. They were designated by different names—‘Messiah’ and ‘Son of Man’—and articulated the worldview and expectations of different groups of Jews. In some writings of this period, the concepts of Son of Man and Messiah are clearly distinguished, whilst in others they are brought together, yet nowhere are they completely fused. Therefore, if we really want to understand the ministry and the mission of Jesus in its totality, we need to understand that 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.”
HIGH PRIEST FOREVER
In the Epistle to Hebrews, we read: “And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest … according to the order of Melchizedek.” Why? What is the connection between Melchizedek of the Hebrew Bible and Melchizedek of the New Testament?
In Genesis 14, Melchizedek meets Abraham after he came back from his victory over Chedorlaomer. Melchizedek brings out bread and wine to Abraham, blesses him and praises El Elyon, the creator of heaven and earth, who is responsible for the victory of Abraham. In Genesis 14, Melchizedek is referred to as both “king of Salem” and “priest of the Most High God”. Psalm 110 seals the importance of his priesthood by the solemn oath: You are the priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Who was Melchizedek? Was he a purely mythical figure, or was he a historical person from patriarchal times, to whom mythical features were later attributed? The main quality of Melchizedek in Hebrews is his anonymous character: nobody had known him before he revealed himself to Abraham. However, it is not only the Epistle to Hebrews that emphasizes it: it is precisely because of this anonymous, without genealogy or descent character, that in different Jewish circles of the Second Temple period, the biblical story of Melchizedek expanded into a sort of mythical biography. Melchizedek became a pre-existent and immortal being; he was even thought of as having been begotten in his mother’s womb by the Word of God: for instance, one of the oldest and most astonishing documents discovered at Qumran – 11QMelchizedek – belongs to the genre of eschatological midrashim typical of Qumran and depicts Melchizedek as an eschatological — even messiah. “There were those who expected him to be the judge of the Latter Days, when he, together with the celestial powers, will indicate the judgments of God so that the righteous would become his lot and his heritage.”  From 11QMelch, it is clear that he is not an earthly messiah: Melchizedek is depicted here as an exalted, heavenly figure; in this sense, the parallels between Melchizedek of the New Testament, and that of Qumran are really quite striking.
THE DEATH OF THE HIGH PRIEST
The motif of the High Priest dying the atoning death, and of a sinner whose sin is covered by this death, is prominent in the New Testament. Hebrews explains that Jesus was both the perfect sacrifice and also heavenly High Priest who died once for all and redeemed sinners with his own death: But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come…with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all. At first glance, it seems that we don’t find anything about the redemptive death of the High Priest in the Hebrew Bible. Is that really so?
In Numbers 35, we read about the cities of refuge providing protection for whoever “kills a person without intent”. In the description of the cities of refugee, we find an interesting detail: an unintentional murderer must remain in the city of refuge till the death of the high priest. When the high priest dies, he may return to his home, without fear of blood revenge. Why? How is the death of the high priest relevant in this situation?
The answer given centuries later in the Talmudic discussion might surprise New Testament readers. The Jewish interpreters explain that homicide is a sin which must be atoned. A murder cannot be compensated by a ransom; the blood must be redeemed by the death of another person. According to this interpretation, only the death of the high priest may be a proper atonement. Once the high priest dies, the blood is redeemed and the slayer is free.
This seemingly unexpected link between the time of asylum and the death of the high priest is saying, in effect, that only death could atone the blood. Thus, for the first time in the Bible, the death of the High Priest becomes an atoning event. The New Testament authors picked up on this motif from the Hebrew Bible and elaborated on it.
Excerpts from my new book “Unlocking the Scriptures” are included in this article (and many other posts here), and I wanted to let you know that the book is published already and is available on Amazon. It will be available here in a few days. You might enjoy also my other books, you can get them from my page: https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/
 Lk. 9:20-22
 Matthew Black, The Son of Man in the teaching of Jesus, Expository Times, lx, pp.32
 Ps. 110:4
 David Flusser, Judaism and the origins of Christianity, Jerusalem, 1988 , p.192
 Num. 35:31