Friday, November 10, 2006

Worship and the Son of Man in Daniel 7

It is often argued that Jesus is not depicted anywhere in Scripture as receiving "worship" in the same sense that God is worshipped. I have written about the Father and Son together receiving true worship in Rev 5:13 here.

Daniel 7:14 offers additional evidence that Messiah would receive true worship. Here, the Aramaic word 'pelach' is rendered latreuo in the oldest versions of the LXX, a Greek term none deny refers to the sacred service (= "worship") offered to God alone.

Some have tried to avoid the implications of the Messiah receiving true worship by suggesting that the title "Son of Man" refers to humanity collectively. I will offer five reasons why I think Daniel 7:14 refers specifically to Messiah, and thus offers another testimony that Jesus is worthy of the praise, honor, and worship reserved for God alone.

1. Whenever the title "Son of Man" is used in the OT to represent humanity collectively, it always occurs in the formula "man...son of man" (Nm 23:19; Jb 25:6, 35:8; Ps 8:14, 80:17, 144:3; Is 51:12, 56:2; Jer 50:40). There are two "exceptions" - Jer 49:18, 49:33. But here, "no one" serves the function of "man" (cf., Jer 50:40, in which the wording is nearly identical, except "no man" replaces "no one"). Outside of this formula, the title belongs to a specific person (who, perhaps, is representative of the race). The NT usage, of course, is entirely Messianic.

2. While modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish exegetes. The Babylonian Talmud associates this passage with Messiah (Sanhedrin 96b-97a, 98a, etc.). A fragment in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q246) quotes this verse and calls the messianic figure "Son of God," "Son of the Most High," and "a great god of gods," which indicates that the Qumran community looked for a divine messiah of some sort, and believed Dan 7:13ff referred to Him. The Midrash Numbers (13:14) says that Dan 7:14 refers to "King Messiah." I'm unaware of any earlier testimonies of the rabbis.

3. The early church fathers who commented on Dan 7 all associated it with Jesus. Not one understood it as mankind collectively (cf., Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, 31; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4:20:11; Tertullian, Against Marcion, 3:7, 4:10, etc.; Hippolytus, Christ and AntiChrist, 2:26; etc.).

4. Modern Jewish interpreters prefer the translation "their kingdom ... serve them" in verse 27 (JPS). This translation also occurs in the RSV and NRSV. This translation reinforces their view that the Son of Man refers to mankind. The problem is that now 'pelach/latreu' is given to men - when Jesus said we should latreu God alone (Mt 4:10; Lk 4:8).

5. There is only one occasion in the OT where the Son of Man is said to "come on the clouds," and that's here. Whenever one is said to come on or with clouds in the OT, that "one" is God (cf., Ex 19:9; Lev 16:2; Isa 19:1; Jer 4:13). When the High Priest asks Jesus if He is the Messiah, Jesus answers:

"You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN." (Mt 26:64, cf., Mk 14:62).

So, Jesus specifically identifies Himself as Messiah - the Son of Man who sits at the right hand of power (Ps 110) and is coming in the clouds (Dan 7:14). He makes the same association in Mt 24:30 (Mk 13:26). It is a real stretch to think that Jesus is not quoting Dan 7:14 here - every Bible I'm aware of cross-references these verses; every commentator I'm aware of notes the association. Jesus refers to Himself 84 times as 'the Son of Man;' thus, it is certainly a Messianic title arising from the OT - and Dan 7, which teaches that the Son of Man receives an everlasting kingdom from the Father - is in perfect harmony with what we know about Jesus as King Messiah elsewhere in Scripture - thus, it really is pressing Scripture to the breaking point to deny that the Son of Man here is Messiah. And I doubt anyone would contest this association, if the word 'pelach' were not used.