Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Son of Man Rides the Clouds: Putting to Rest Some Typical Muhammadan Objections Pt. 1b


By Sam Shamoun

Now begins our refutation to the Muslim objections to the Son of Man being an eternal divine Being who became incarnate in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ our.

Not A Symbol for the People But A Single Individual 

A careful reading of the immediate context will show that the figure like a son of man is not a symbol or metaphor for the saints of God whom the prophet depicts as eventually possessing God’s indestructible kingdom. Rather, he is the King of the kingdom which the saints shall inherit. As such, the one like a son of man doesn’t symbolize the saints, but represents them as their head and ruler.

This brings us to our next point. The oldest Jewish interpretations of this passage saw the Son of Man not as a symbol, but as a preexistent, heavenly being and Israel’s Messiah. This is clearly demonstrated from the Jewish pseudepigraphal writings known as 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra, both of which identify the Son of Man as a heavenly messianic figure dwelling in God’s presence whom God shall reveal at the last day. As the liberal Biblical scholar John J. Collins explains:

“IV. Traditional Interpretations. The EARLIEST INTERPRETATIONS and adaptations of the ‘one like a human being,’ Jewish and Christian alike, assume that the phrase refers to an individual and IS NOT a symbol for a collective entity.263 In the Similitudes of Enoch (1En 46:1), the white-headed ‘head of days’ is accompanied by one ‘whose face had the appearance of a man, and his face [was] full of grace, like one of the holy angels.’ He is explicitly called ‘messiah,’ or anointed one, in 48:10; 52:4, and ‘his name was named’ before creation (48:3). In 4 Ezra 13 the man who rises from the sea and flies with the clouds of heaven is also a messianic figure, but like ‘that Son of Man’ in the Similitudes, he is a preexistent, supernatural figure (13:26; ‘This is he whom the Most High has been keeping for many ages’). The messianic interpretation prevails in rabbinic literature264 and remains the majority of opinion among the medieval Jewish commentators. The tradition is not entirely uniform. In some circles the two figures in Dan 7:9-14 were taken as two manifestations of God, apparently to the heretical view that they represented two powers in heaven. The collective interpretation is not clearly attested in Jewish circles until the Middle Ages… In summary, the traditional interpretations of the ‘one like a human being’ in the first millennium overwhelmingly favor the understanding of this figure as an individual, not as a collective symbol. The most usual identification was the messiah, but in the earliest adaptations of the vision (the Similitudes, 4 Ezra, the Gospels) the figure in question had a distinctly supernatural character.” (Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, by John J. Collins with an essay, “The Influence of Daniel on the New Testament,” by Adela Yarbro Collins, edited by Frank Moore Cross [Fortress Press, Minneapolis 1993], pp. 306-308; bold, capital and italic emphasis ours)

263… Montgomery (320), who argues for the collective interpretation, nonetheless writes, “It must be admitted that the earliest interpretation of ‘the Son of Man’ is Messianic.” See also Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 170-172; and the list of passages in H. L. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch (Munich: Beck, 1922) 1.486.

264. Undisputed examples include b. Sanh. 98a; Num. Rab. 13:14; ‘Aggadat Ber’esit 14:3; 23:1 (Casey, Son of Man, 80). It is probably implied in Akiba’s explanation of the plural “thrones” as one for God and one for David, which we noted at v. 9, above (so, e.g., Montgomery, 321). Casey (Son of Man, 87) points out that it is not a necessary inference in the case of Akiba, but his arguments do not lessen its probability… (Pp. 306-307; underline emphasis ours)

As Collins shows, there simply isn’t any early extant textual evidence which interprets the Son of Man as a mere symbol for the saints of the Most High. All the data that we have confirm that the Son of Man is an individual personality, one who has been dwelling in God’s very own presence even before the creation of the universe.

Here are a few other authorities which confirm that the Son was understood to be an individual, specifically the Messiah himself:

I saw in the night visions

Very probably the same night in which he had the dream and vision of the four beasts; but this that follows, being a new object presented, is introduced and prefaced after this manner; as well as, being something wonderful and worthy of attention, has a "behold" prefixed to it: and, behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven; not Judas Maccabaeus, as Porphyry; nor the Roman people, as Grotius; nor the people of Israel, as Aben Ezra; nor the people of the saints of the most High, as Cocceius; but the Messiah, as most Christian interpreters, AND EVEN THE JEWS THEMSELVES, both ANCIENT and modern, allow. In the ancient book of Zohar F21 it is said,

in the times of the Messiah, Israel shall be one people, to the Lord, and he shall make them one nation in the earth, and they shall rule above and below; as it is written, ‘behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven’; this is the King Messiah of whom it is written, ‘and in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven, set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed’ (Daniel 2:44)”

So in the Talmud F23 this prophecy is thus reconciled with another, concerning the Messiah, in (Zechariah 9:9), to what R. Alexander said, R. Joshua ben Levi objects what is written, and, behold, one like to the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven; and it is written, "poor, and riding upon an ass": which is thus adjusted, “if they (the Israelites) are worthy, he (the Messiah) comes with the clouds of heaven; but if they are not worthy, he comes poor, and riding on an ass;” and so it is interpreted in their ancient Midrashes F24, or expositions, as well us in more modern ones: Jarchi on the text says, “he is the Messiah;” and so R. Saadiah Gaon and Jacchiades, this is Messiah our righteousness; and Aben Ezra observes, that this is the sense R. Jeshua gives, "that one like to the Son of man" is the Messiah; and he adds, it is right, only along with him must be joined the holy people, who are the Israelites: and, with the Jews, Anani, which signifies "clouds", is the name of the Messiah, founded upon this text, in the Targum of (1 Chronicles 3:24) , where mention is made of the name of a person, Anani, it is added,

who is the Messiah that is to be revealed;”

so in an ancient book called Tanchuma F25, speaking of Zerubbabel, it is asked, from whence did he spring? it is answered from David, as it is said, (1 Chronicles 3:10) “and Solomon's son was Rehoboam”; and so all in the line are mentioned unto Anani, (Daniel 7:24) and then it is asked, who is this Anani? this is the Messiah, as it is said, (Daniel 7:13):

FOOTNOTES:

F21 In Gen. fol. 85. 4. Ed. Sultzbac.
F23 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 1.
F24 Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 13. fol. 209. 4. Midrash Tillium apud Galatin. de Arcan. Cathol. ver. l. 10. c. 1.
F25 Apud Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 85. 2.
(John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible; underlined italicized emphasis ours)

Whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him; the people of the saints of the most High, all shall be subject to them, all dominions, and the governors of them; or Christ the head of them, under and with whom they reign. So Saadiah F19 paraphrases it,

“the kingdom of the King Messiah is an everlasting kingdom, and his government is to generation and generation, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”

This spiritual reign of Christ, which will take place in a more glorious manner at the destruction of antichrist, will continue until the Millennium, or the personal reign of Christ, begins; and after that will be the ultimate glory, in which Christ and his people will reign to all eternity.

FOOTNOTES:

F19 And R. Isaac in Chizzuk Emunah, par. 1. p. 44. applies it to the Messiah.
(Ibid.; underlined italicized emphasis ours)

And:

one like a man was coming: THAT IS THE KING MESSIAH.                  

and… up to the Ancient of Days: Who was sitting in judgment and judging the nations.                        
came: arrived, reached. (The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary; capital and underline emphasis ours)

and obey: They will obey HIS command to execute it. (Ibid.)

“I will now proceed to my exposition. 13 Behold my servant shall have understanding. From the prophet’s saying ‘understanding,’ it may be seen that all the lofty predicates which he assigns to him have their source in this attribute; in virtue of his comprehensive intelligence he will attain an elevation above that even of the most perfect men in the world. He shall be high and exalted, and lofty exceedingly. According to the Midrash of our Rabbis; he will be higher than Abraham, who was first of all a ‘high father,’ and afterwards a father of a multitude. He will be more exalted than Moses, who was ‘exalted’ above the exalted ones of Levi (cf. Num. iii. 32), who was a prophet such that ‘none arose like him in Israel,’ (Deut. xxxiv. 10), who ‘saved’ Israel ‘with a great salvation’ (cf. I Chron. xi. 14) when they came out of Egypt, and the report of whom spread into all places until ‘the dukes of Edom were confounded’ before him, and ‘trembling seized the mighty men of Moab, and all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away’ (Ex. xv. 15). But this one will be exalted far above Moses: for when he gathers together our scattered ones from the four corners of the earth, he will be exalted in the eyes of all the kings in the whole world, and all of them will serve him, and will exalt him above them, as Daniel prophesies concerning him, ‘All nations, peoples, and tongues shall serve him’ (Dan. vii. 14, 27). He will be loftier than Solomon, whose dignity was so lofty that he is said to have ‘sat on the throne of the Lord’ (I Chron. xxix. 23), and our Rabbis say that he was king over both the upper and the nether world. But the King Messiah, in his ALL-COMPREHENDING INTELLIGENCE, will be loftier than Solomon. Exceedingly above the ministering angels, because that same comprehensive intelligence will approach [God] more nearly than theirs. For it is an exceedingly high privilege, that one whose nature is compound and material should attain to a grade of intelligence more nearly Divine than that which belongs to the incorporeal; and so it is said of him that ‘his strength is greater than that of the ministering angels,’ because these have no impediment in the exercise of their intellect, whereas that which is compound is continually impeded in consequence of material element in its nature. Accordingly, the grade of his intelligence being such as this, he is said to be ‘lofty exceedingly,’ and his strength to be ‘greater than the angels.’… And when this ‘servant of the Lord’ is born, he will continue to be marked by the possession of intelligence enabling him to acquire from God what it is impossible for any to acquire until he reaches that height wither none of the sons of men, EXCEPT HIM, have ever ascended: from that day he will be counted with his people Israel, and will share their subjugation and distress; ‘in all their affliction’ (Is. lxiii. 9) he will be exceedingly afflicted; and because of their being outcasts and scattered to the ends of the world, his grief will be such that the colour of his countenance will be changed from that of a man, and pangs and sicknesses will seize him (for great grief, as physicians know, by producing melancholy, subjects a man to many diseases); and all the chastisements which come upon him in consequence of his grief will be for our sakes, and not from any deficiency or sin on his part which might bring punishment in his train, BECAUSE HE IS PERFECT, IN THE COMPLETENESS OF PERFECTION, as Isaiah says (xi. 2f.). Truly all his pains and sicknesses will be for us…” (R. Mosheh Kohen Ibn Crispin (14th century AD), as cited by Driver and Neubauer, The “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah, pp. 101-103; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Here is another quote that combines the prophecy of Daniel with Isaiah 42:1 and 52:13, along with a host of other OT references which are all interpreted in relation to the Messiah:

9. I will declare of the decree of the Lord. He said unto me: ‘Thou art My son’ (Ps. 2:7): The children of Israel are declared to be sons in the decree of the Law, in the decree of the Prophets, and in the decree of the Writings: In the decree of the Law it is written Thus saith the Lord: Israel is My son, My first-born (Ex. 4:22). In the decree of the Prophets it is written Behold My servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high (Isa. 52:13), and it is also written Behold My servant, whom I uphold: Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth (Isa. 42:1). In the decree of the Writings it is written, “Sit thou at My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Ps. 110:1), and it is also written I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him (Dan. 7:13, 14).

In another comment, the verse is read I will tell of the decree: The Lord said unto me: Thou art My son… Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for thy possession (Ps. 2:7, 8). R. Yudan said: All these goodly promises are in the decree of the King, the King of kings, who will fulfill them for the lord Messiah. (The Midrash on Psalms, William G. Braude (translator) [Yale University Press, New Haven 1959], Yale Judaica Series, Volume XIII, Leon Nemoy (editor), Book One, Psalm 2:9; bold emphasis ours)

Here we see the rabbis applying Psalms 2:7-8 and 110:1, along with Daniel 7:13-14, to the Messiah, much like the inspired authors of the NT do!

Note the following NT examples where Psalms 2 and 110 are specifically applied to Christ:

While Jesus taught in the temple, He said, ‘How can the scribes say that Christ is the Son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies under Your feet.’” David himself calls Him “Lord.” How then is He his Son?’ And the large crowd heard him gladly.” Mark 12:35-37

We preach to you good news: The promise which was made to the fathers, God has fulfilled to us, their children, raising Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.’” Acts 13:32-33

He is the brightness of His glory, the express image of Himself, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He was made so much better than the angels as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He at any time say: ‘You are My Son; today I have become Your Father’? Or again, ‘I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me’?… But to which of the angels did He at any time say: ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool’?” Hebrews 1:3-5, 13

With the foregoing in perspective we are now ready to proceed to the second part of our rebuttal.

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