Wednesday, April 6, 2016

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


By Sam Shamoun

We proceed from where we previously left off.

Worshiping the Most High – Not the Saints!

Contrary to how some versions render v. 27, the passage is not identifying the saints as those who rule forever and whom all dominions shall serve. Rather, a carefully reading of the text itself shows that it is the Most High who is thus being described. Here is the verse again:

“Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom (malkuteh) is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve (yipelachun) and obey Him.” Daniel 7:27

To begin with, it should be noted that there is no pronoun at the end of the sentence in the Aramaic text, and must therefore be supplied in order to make the English run more smoothly. The last part of the verse literally reads, “and all dominions shall serve and obey.” It is the context which determines whether the translator(s) need(s) to supply a singular or plural pronoun, i.e., “him” or “them.”

This brings me to my next point. There are two indications why the pronoun should be singular, and the passage should therefore be taken as a reference to the Most High as opposed to his saints. First, the Aramaic for “whose kingdom” (malkuteh) is in the singular, and is therefore speaking of the kingdom of the Most High, not of his saints who do receive dominion from him.

And now contrast this with what is said about the Son of Man:

I saw in the night visions, and there was one like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. There was given to Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve (yipelachun) Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom (umalkuteh) that which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:14

Here we find the singular form of the word umalkuteh (“His kingdom”) and the exact form of the verb for “serve” (yipelachun) that was employed in v. 27 being used in reference to the Son of Man. This again establishes the fact that in v. 27 it is the Most High who is being thus described, and not the saints and/or their people. 

In fact, the Greek version of Daniel (commonly referred to as the Septuagint [LXX]), which is a translation done by Jews centuries before the birth of Christ, provides additional proof that v. 27 is not speaking about the saints of God, but rather about the Most High:

"And the kingdom and the power and the greatness of the kings that are under the whole heaven were given to the saints of the Most High; and HIS kingdom (kai he basileia AUTOU) is an everlasting kingdom, and all powers shall serve and obey HIM (kai pasai hai archai AUTO douleusousi kai hypachousontai)."

Note the use of the singular pronouns, e.g. AUTOU/AUTO. This signifies the fact that even the Jews who translated the book of Daniel into Greek could see that the context is expressly referring to the Most High reigning forever and receiving worship from all dominions.

Now compare this to the Greek translation of v. 14:

"And to him was given the dominion, and the honour, and the kingdom; and all nations, tribes, and languages, shall serve HIM (AUTO douleusousin): HIS dominion (he exousia AUTOU) is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and HIS kingdom (kai he basileia AUTOU) shall not be destroyed."

It is clear from the foregoing that this ancient Greek version of the OT Scriptures supports the traditional Christian position, not the modern critical and anti-Trinitarian view, which says that v. 27 refers to the saints being worshiped by all creation, as opposed to a single individual.

That v. 27 cannot be a reference to the saints of God receiving worship can be further seen from the Aramaic verb pelach, which is translated in the above texts as serve. This verb always refers to the cultic worship which is to be rendered to God alone.

Moreover, the older Greek witnesses to Daniel employ the word latreuo in place of pelach, a reading that is attested by second century Christian apologist Justin Martyr who cited Daniel 7:9-28 in his dialogue with a Jew named Trypho:

But if so great a power is shown to have followed and to be still following the dispensation of His suffering, how great shall that be which shall follow His glorious advent! For He shall come on the clouds as the Son of man, so Daniel foretold, and His angels shall come with Him. These are the words: 'I beheld till the thrones were set; and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool. His throne was like a fiery flame, His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. Thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The books were opened, and the judgment was set. I beheld then the voice of the great words which the horn speaks: and the beast was beat down, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. And the rest of the beasts were taken away from their dominion, and a period of life was given to the beasts until a season and time. I saw in the vision of the night, and, behold, one like the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven; and He came to the Ancient of days, and stood before Him. And they who stood by brought Him near; and there were given Him power and kingly honour, and all nations of the earth by their families, and all glory, serve Him (latreuousa). And His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not be taken away; and His kingdom shall not be destroyed. And my spirit was chilled within my frame, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and inquired the precise meaning of all these things. In answer he speaks to me, and showed me the judgment of the matters: These great beasts are four kingdoms, which shall perish from the earth, and shall not receive dominion for ever, even for ever and ever. Then I wished to know exactly about the fourth beast, which destroyed all [the others] and was very terrible, its teeth of iron, and its nails of brass; which devoured, made waste, and stamped the residue with its feet: also about the ten horns upon its head, and of the one which came up, by means of which three of the former fell. And that horn had eyes, and a mouth speaking great things; and its countenance excelled the rest. And I beheld that horn waging war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of days came; and He gave judgment for the saints of the Most High. And the time came, and the saints of the Most High possessed the kingdom. And it was told me concerning the fourth beast: There shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall prevail over all these kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall destroy and make it thoroughly waste. And the ten horns are ten kings that shall arise; and one shall arise after them; and he shall surpass the first in evil deeds, and he shall subdue three kings, and he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall overthrow the rest of the saints of the Most High, and shall expect to change the seasons and the times. And it shall be delivered into his hands for a time, and times, and half a time. And the judgment sat, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom, and the power, and the great places of the kingdoms under the heavens, were given to the holy people of the Most High, to reign in an everlasting kingdom: and all powers shall be subject to HIM, and shall obey HIM. Hitherto is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was possessed with a very great astonishment, and my speech was changed in me; yet I kept the matter in my heart.' (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 31. If Christ's power be now so great, how much greater at the second advent!; bold, capital and italic emphasis ours)

This is rather remarkable since according to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, only God is to receive latreuo:

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only (kai auto mono latreuseis).”’” Matthew 4:8-10 – cf. Luke 4:5-8

The foregoing simply provides further evidence that the Son of Man must be a fully Divine Person, otherwise he could not receive pelach/latreuo since that would be idolatry, i.e., rendering to a creature the worship and service due only to the Creator. As the following Evangelical scholars explain:

“… The book of Daniel contains a vision in which people of all nations, tribes, and languages ‘serve’ someone who is ‘like a Son of Man’ (Dan. 7:13 NASB)… In the Septuagint version of Daniel the word translated ‘serve’ is latreuo, which is also used in the Rahlfs edition of the Septuagint and in other critical editions of the Greek Old Testament. In the Greek version of Daniel produced in the late second century A.D. by Theodotion, the word translated ‘serve’ is douloo, a far more common Greek word that has a broader range of meanings.

“Whichever Greek translation one chooses to follow, the underlying Aramaic word (Daniel 2:4-7:28 was originally written in Aramaic, not Hebrew) is pelach, a word that is always used to refer to rendering religious service or performing religious rituals in honor of a deity. In other words, latreuo is an excellent Greek translation of pelach. That is why all extant ancient Greek versions of Daniel usually use latreuo elsewhere in Daniel to translate pelach (Dan. 3:12, 14, 18; 6:16, 20 [6:17, 21 in Greek]). In the early chapters of the book, Daniel and his Jewish friends had refused to ‘serve’ the image of Nebuchadnezzar or to ‘serve’ Darius, identifying themselves as those who ‘serve’ only their God, the living God (3:12, 14, 17, 18, 28; 6:16, 20). In this setting, the vision of people from all nations ‘serving’ the Son of Man presents a startling contrast. The ‘service’ that Daniel and his friends refused to give to Nebuchadnezzar’s image or to Darius, Daniel envisions all nations giving to the heavenly Son of Man.

“Daniel’s reference to the Son of Man being ‘served’ implies a divine status for the Son of Man, not merely because of the use of that one word, but because of the context in which it is used. The universal sovereignty attributed to the Son of Man is earlier attributed to Daniel’s God by the Babylonian and Persian kings… This language of a kingdom that will not be destroyed and that will endure forever is then applied to the kingdom of the Son of Man… Within this larger context, the reference to all peoples ‘serving’ the Son of Man is confirmed as an expression of religious devotion. The One whom you regard as Ruler of your entire universe for all time is by definition your God, and it would be the height of folly not to render devotion or service to him.” (Robert M. Bowman Jr. & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ [Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 2007], Part 1: The Devotion Revolution – Jesus Shares the Honors Due to God, Chapter 5. The Ultimate Reverence Package, pp. 67-69; bold and underline emphasis ours)

As such, the Son of Man cannot be a mere symbol which the prophet used for the saints of God and/or the people that they represent.

This brings us to our final section.

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