Part 3 of this series looked specifically at the title of “the one who is to come” along with its implications found in Psalm 118:26. For this next part of the series I will take a look at how the title appears in Daniel 7:13-14. As we will see, the one who is to come was not only to be God himself, but God in human form.
Daniel 7:13-14 is a part of the visions that the prophet Daniel receives of the four beasts. Chapter 7 in its entirety deals with these visions along with their interpretations given to Daniel by one of the angels in attendance, possibly Gabriel.1 Since our purposes here are only dealing with the title of ‘the one who is to come’ I will simply be focusing on verses 13 and 14. The ESV reads:
13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.[Emphasis mine.]2
The Greek erchomenos (ἐρχόμενος) is behind the bold in verse 13. This particular instance lacks the definite article ho (ὁ) but is no less important. Both the Septuagint and MT rendering offer very little variance but I’ll note that the LXX has the one like a son of man coming on the clouds rather than with them.
Identifying The Son Of Man
Much is debated over the identity of who this person is that is coming on the clouds and is presented to the Ancient of Days but there are 3 primary views that should be addressed. The first is that this being is the archangel Michael and the “holy ones” or saints in verses 18 and 27 are his followers.3 While the angel view as a whole simply doesn’t work as will be presented, the idea that the “holy ones” are angels is specifically defeated by the text in Daniel 7:27 which reads:
27 and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
The bolded item there would be better translated as “holy people.” The saints, or “holy ones” are not distinct from the people in this verse.
The second view is that the one like a son of man is the personification of the Jewish nation. The reasoning is given primarily due to the believers receiving the kingdom in verse 27 as was quoted just above. While there are several difficulties with this view the primary one stems from verse 14 itself. In that verse it states that “all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.” The problem is that him (can be he/she/it) is singular and all people are to serve, or worship, the singular him. But Revelation 19:10 is very clear, one shouldn’t worship anyone but God. This not only gives us further implications of this beings deity but also hints at the nature of the Godhead.
And that brings us to the third view which has the one like a son of man as none other than Jesus Christ. This view is not only the oldest but is the most prevailing in historical Christian opinion, not to mention Jewish commentary which attributes the being as the Messiah himself.4 That the New Testament holds this view is undeniable from numerous sources but perhaps the most important one comes from John 12:34 which reads:
34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”
In this verse both “the Messiah” (the Christ) and “the Son of Man” are used interchangeably. This demonstrates that the most common view at the time of Christ would have been that “the Son of Man” was a title for the Messiah. Further emphasis can come from Mark 14:61-62, 64 which reads:
61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” … 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.
Many argue that this passage is one of the strongest passages demonstrating that Jesus not only ascribed Deity to himself, but that this would have been the earliest Christian view.5 We can see this because Jesus affirms the question – he is the Messiah, the Son of the Most High, attributes himself as the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds. Their response was that this was blasphemy and punishable by death. He can be referring to no other Old Testament passage of Scripture but Daniel 7:13-14.6
The Son of Man
While the title “The Son of Man” is no doubt messianic with divine implications it also foreshadows something that many might incidentally overlook. The title itself is one that demonstrates the humanity of Jesus. The Messiah was to be God himself, as I’ve already demonstrated both here and in Part 3 of this series. But he would also be the human representative. The “one like a son of man” is alluding to the human form of this being but also that he is a representative of mankind. In fact, the LXX renders the line as “a being like a son of mankind.”7
This is important for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the nature of the Godhead. If the “one like a son of man” is Christ and Deity and the Ancient of Days is clearly Deity, why are they presented as distinct and yet the same? The Messiah is God in human form.
But as a representative of mankind, Christ is then the just judge as Jesus alludes to in Matthew 16:27-28. This is only solidified in Matthew 19:28, Matthew 24:30 and Matthew 25:31. And this authority to judge is not exclusive to the New Testament. It can be seen in Isaiah 2:2-4, Isaiah 9:6-7, most of Isaiah 11 and Ezekiel 34:23-24. Hebrews 4:15 notes specifically that our High Priest is one who was in all ways like us, but did not sin.
The title “the one who is to come” is rooted in Psalm 118:26 and hinted at in Daniel 7:13-14. Through these passages we can see that the Messiah was to be God himself in human form. Jesus clearly associates himself as the “one like a son of man” who is to rule as the righteous judge under full authority of God the Father. In the next few posts I’ll look specifically at the deeds which Christ points to as the witness of who he is.
- See Daniel 8:16 and Daniel 9:21. ↩
- All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, use: English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. ↩
- This view is presented by J. J. Collins in “The Son of Man and the Saints of the Most High in the Book of Daniel,” JBL 93 (1974): 50–66. ↩
- Miller, S. R. (1994). Vol. 18: Daniel. The New American Commentary (209). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers. ↩
- Mark is regarded as the earliest written Gospel narrative and a source text for both Matthew and Luke. See Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. ↩
- Ibid. footnote 4. ↩
- The Lexham English Septuagint. 2012 (R. Brannan, K. M. Penner, I. Loken, M. Aubrey & I. Hoogendyk, Ed.) (Da 7:14). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. ↩
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