Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Son of Man Rides the Clouds: Putting to Rest Some Typical Muhammadan Objections Pt. 2b

By Sam Shamoun

We now come to the last part of our rebuttal.

Plurality in Unity

Even if we go by the plural pronoun “them” in v. 27 this still doesn’t help the Muslims since this would still be a reference to the Most High as opposed to the saints. The reason being is that the Aramaic word for Most High is actually in the PLURAL!

The Aramaic reads Elyonin, which literally reads HIGHEST ONES/MOST HIGHS. Therefore, the plural pronoun “them” need not refer to the saints, but to the Most Highs who, according to the immediate context, clearly refer to both the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man collectively.

In fact, note what happens when we read Daniel 7:13-14 in light of vv. 18, 21-22 and 25-27:

“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man CAME with the clouds of heaven, and CAME to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 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.” vv. 13-14 AV

“But the saints OF THE MOST HIGHS (Elyonin) shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.” v. 18 AV

“I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; UNTIL THE ANCIENT OF DAYS CAME, and judgment was given to the saints OF THE MOST HIGHS (Elyonin); and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” vv. 21-22 AV

“And he shall speak great words against THE MOST HIGH (‘illayah), and shall wear out the saints OF THE MOST HIGHS (Elyonin), and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints OF THE MOST HIGHS (Elyonin), whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” vv. 25-27 AV

Pay attention to the fact that in v. 22 it is the coming of the Ancient of Days that results in the triumph of the saints. This shows that the coming of the Son of Man corresponds to the coming of the Ancient of Days, thereby equating the two, and therefore explains why Elyonin is plural, i.e., the plural is intended to depict both the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days as reigning together over the entire creation.

Thus, the Son of Man doesn’t symbolize the saints, even though he represents them, but is a figure who is virtually equated with the Ancient of Days himself who is said to be coming to save the saints and give judgment in their favor. This perhaps explains why in Revelation, John depicts Jesus as the Son of Man who has the same appearance as the Ancient of Days in Daniel:

I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And when I turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of the seven candlesticks was one like a Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and with a golden sash wrapped around the chest. The hair on His head was white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters. He had in His right hand seven stars, and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. His appearance was like the sun shining brightly. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though I were dead. Then He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, though I was dead. Look! I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.’” Revelation 1:12-18

Now contrast this with Daniel’s portrayal:

I watched until the thrones were cast down and the Ancient of Days was seated, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool. His throne was like the fiery flame, and its wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came out from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The judgment was set, and the books were opened.” Daniel 7:9-10

It is crystal clear from the above that John portrays Jesus the Son of Man as being both distinct from and identical to the Ancient of Days. This is similar to John 1:1, where the Word is said to be with God and God at the same time.

Now what makes this even more interesting is that in v. 25 Daniel uses two words for Most High, namely illaya, which is a singular adjective, and Elyonin which, as I have already noted, is plural. This shows that Daniel knew of and could have used the singular illaya in all of these occurrences, but chose instead to use the plural for the most part. Is this mere coincidence on the prophet’s part? Not according to the following Biblical scholar:

“These considerations lead to a final observation about the way Daniel deploys language to communicate what he saw in this Daniel 7 vision. Caragounis (1986: 74) observes that once Daniel has seen the vision (Dan. 7:1-14), curious lacunae stand in the interpretation (7:15-28):

Of the vision elements which are not interpreted by name, the most conspicuous are the Ancient One and the [one like a son of man] … Why is [the one like a son of man] not interpreted? Or, is he perhaps interpreted, though without being named expressly, but implicitly, by way of associations made in the text?

“Caragounis (1986: 75) next observes that the normal Aramaic term used in Daniel to refer to God as 'Most High' is… 'illaya' (Dan. 3:26, 32; 4:14, 21, 22, 29, 31; 5:18, 21; 7:25). In contrast with this, in the phrase 'saints of the Most High' (7:18, 22, 25, 27), Daniel always uses the form… 'elyonin. Gentry (2003: 73) builds on these observations from Caragounis, noting that… ('illaya')

is an Aramaic adjective, definite and singular, and may be rendered the Highest One or Most High. It refers to Yahweh, the one God of Israel and is standard in the Aramaic part of the book either as a modifier of God or as a title for God ... By contrast [… 'elyonin] is an honorific plural or plural of majesty of [… 'elyon], the Hebrew adjective for highest plus the Aramaic plural ending.

“Daniel uses the two terms side by side in 7:25, 'He shall speak words against the Most High [… 'illaya'],/and shall wear out the saints of the Most High [… 'elyonin]', prompting Gentry (2003: 73) to ask:

Why does the author use a Hebrew expression (with Aramaic ending) for the Most High in the Aramaic section and side by side with the expression standard in Aramaic? It seems a deliberate attempt to draw some distinction between a divine figure associated with the saints and yet perhaps distinguished from Yahweh in some way.

“Because of the similarity of the statements in Daniel 7:14 and 7:27, we can be certain that the Most referred to with (… 'elyonin) and associated with the saints in the phrase 'saints of the Most High' is the 'one like a son of man'. Considering these two texts side by side will bring out their similarity (see table 6.2).

“The referent of the two third-person masculine singular prnoun at the end of Daniel 7:27, 'his kingdom ... obey him', is the Most High [… 'elyonin]. The word 'people' [… 'am] is also singular and thus could be the referent of these third-person pronouns, but for the following reasons Most High is more probably the referent. First, 'Most High' stands between the third singular pronouns and 'people', and the nearer substantive is more probably the referent. Secondly, the 'people' are referred to throughout the passage with the plural 'saints' (Dan. 7:18, 22, 25, 27), and 'saints' is closer to the pronoun than 'people'. If the pronouns referred to the 'people of the saints', they might be plural rather than singular. Finally, the reuse of a phrase from Daniel 7:13 in 27 identifies the 'one like a son of man' with the 'Most High'. Daniel 7:14 states that peoples, nations and languages will 'serve' the son of man, and the same Hebrew phrase is used in 7:27 (… leh yiplechun) to state that all dominions will serve the Most High. This is language used elsewhere in Daniel to refer to the kind of service one renders to what one worships (cf. the use of the verb in 3:12, 14, 17-18, 28; 6:17, 21 [MT]), and it is more probable that such service would be rendered to the Most High than to the people. Here again, Daniel used the Hebrew adjective with the Aramaic plural ending (… 'elyonin) to refer to the 'one like a son of man' as Most High, distinguishing him from the Ancient of Days, for whom he used the normal Aramaic expression (… 'illaya') when designating him as Most High.

“By using these distinct forms for 'Most High' consistently, Daniel identified BOTH the Ancient of Days AND THE ONE LIKE A SON OF MAN AS THE MOST HIGH, even as he distinguished them from one another. In this passage, Daniel communicates that the one like a son of man will be enthroned alongside the Ancient of Days, that he comes with the clouds AS YAHWEH DOES ELSEWHERE (e.g. Pss 18:10; 97:2; 104:3, etc.), that he receives service and worship - described with terms ONLY elsewhere used for describing obeisance done for deity (Gentry 3003: 72-73), and that he will receive the everlasting kingdom which shall not pass away, which is exactly how God's kingdom is described. The Ancient of Days is described as the Most High with one term, while the one like a son of man is described with another. And the term used to describe the one like a son of man as Most High is always used in the phrase 'saints of the Most High', apparently because the Psalm 8:5 son of man who receives dominion over the beasts, the Psalm 110:1 Lord of David who sits enthroned at Yahweh's right hand, will be king over the saints, their representative who is somehow both identified with and distinguished from the Ancient of Days, even as he is both a descendant of David and a divine figure.” (James M. Hamilton Jr., With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology (New Studies in Biblical Studies) [IVP Academic, Downers Grove, IL 2014], pp. 151-153; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Hamilton’s concluding remarks are most pertinent to our discussion, and we therefore cite them in full:

“In this chapter I have argued that none of the other heavenly beings in Daniel can be confidently identified with the 'one like a son of man' in 7:13. Apart from such an identification, it is difficult to imagine Daniel intending his audience to understand that the figure he saw in that heavenly throne room scene in chapter 7 was the same figure who delivered his friends in the fiery furnace in chapter 3 or who appeared to him in chapter 10. Having examined the way that Daniel describes these other heavenly beings, the remarkable features of Daniel 7 present a figure both human and divine, identified with and distinguished from the Ancient of Days, who represents the saints as their king.

“In Daniel 7, Daniel recounts his vision of the way that the Ancient of Days will be enthroned once the four kingdoms have enjoyed their appointed time and season, a vision of the way that the Davidic king will defeat the little horn from the fourth kingdom and receive the everlasting kingdom with his saints (7:21-27). The one like a son of man is called Most High by using a different expression from the one used to designate the Ancient of Days as Most High. He is clearly the Davidic king, and he is clearly a participant in the heavenly scene, traveling as Yahweh does, on the clouds of heaven.

“This does not demand that Daniel understood the Trinity as that doctrine progressively came to be revealed. Everyone was surprised when Jesus began to exercise divine prerogatives. What Daniel saw and described, however, fits perfectly with what would later be revealed with greater clarity. The New Testament even speaks of Jesus as begotten of the Father (1 John 5:18; cf. John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9; cf. John 5:26), another concept that fits well with there being an Ancient of Days and 'one like a son of man' (cf. Caragounis 1986).” (Ibid., pp. 153-154; bold and underline emphasis ours)

So much for the objections of the Muhammadans.

In an upcoming article we are going to examine Daniel’s prophetic vision of the Son of Man in light of the claims of Islam in order to show how the prophet’s depiction of this truly astonishing figure ends up proving that Muhammad was a false prophet.

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