The Son of Man – final draft
Is there a true mystical tradition in Judaism already at the time of Jesus and Paul as stressed by Alan Segal, April DeConick, C. Morray-Jones, A. Orlov, A. Golitzin, Jarl E. Fossum, Erwin Goodenough and Hugo Odeberg? Outstanding scholars like Peter Schäfer and David Halperin are not so convinced.
It is important to focus on the enigmatical figure of the SON OF MAN. Mostly this title is combined with the notion of “GLORY”. 1.En 69,29: “For that Son of Man has appeared and has seated himself upon the throne of his glory”. Jesus talks about “the Son of Man coming in his glory”, cf. Matt 24,30, cf. “To him was given dominion and glory… Dan 7,13f.
In the Testament of Abraham it is Adam “who is adorned in such glory….the first-formed Adam who is in such glory”, 11,8f. In Qumran important texts refer to “Adams Glory” 1.QS 23; CD 3.20; 1 QH 17,15.
Cf. the Shepherd of Hermas Sim 9,12,7f: “so you see, saith he, the six men, and the glorious and great man in their midst…The glorious man, said he, is the Son of God”.
Now it is very important that both the Son of Man in 1.En and Adam in Test Abr have an unusual appearance (like the “master’s”) and are put on a throne (“a golden throne”, Test Abr.). The notion of glory comes from the vision of Ezekiel 1,28: “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the Glory of the Lord”, where God is seen as something “in the likeness and appearance of a man” on a “throne” of Safire.
The Son of Man is this human appearance of God, the likeness and visible image of the invisible God and therefore identified with the “first-formed man” created “in the image of God”, Gen 1,27.
The “glorious Son of Man” is closely connected to visions Ez 1, Dan 7, Acts 7,56, it is the form in which God can be seen. In Rev 1,12ff the Son of Man is seen with the characteristic features of the Ancient of Days Dan 7,9: “hair like wool”, “white as snow”. His appearance is like the blazing light of the sun and he is seen together with the mystical symbol of the sevenfold light, Rev 1,16, known from the visions of Sacharja where the divine light is seen as a seven times sevenfold flame.
In 1.En the Son of Man is introduced in chapter 46: Enoch sees a figure who had “the appearance of a man”, and this figure is subsequently referred to as “that son of man”. Important is what is said about this Son of Man in 62,7: “For from the beginning the Son of Man was hidden and the Most High kept him in the presence of his power and revealed him (only) to the chosen.” He is only revealed to the chosen few. How? In visions I presume! Otherwise he is hidden until the day of judgement.
In chapter 71 Enoch is identified with the Son of Man. This identification creates a major problem as noticed by J.J.Collins: “The problem is that throughout the Similitudes Enoch has observed “that son of man” with no indication that he is seeing himself. Then in 71,3 and possibly in 70,1 he is identified with the figure in his visions.” (The Son of Man in Enoch in George W. Nickelsburg & J.J. Collins, Ideal Figures in Ancient Judaism, 1980, p.120)
Some scholars including Collins tend to solve this problem by treating chapter 71 as a secondary addition. But in 2. and 3. Enoch the culmination of Enoch’s fate is his transformation to a highranking angelic being, in 3.En to Metatron, the “lesser JHVH”, God’s viceroy, sitting on a throne next to God, in 2.En he is made to stand by God’s left hand and receiving secrets hidden even to the angels. In 1.En 71 he is put on God’s throne of glory to reign in eternity on God’s behalf. Seen in the light of Dan 7 and 2. & 3.En there could be no other end of the story.
So we have to seek the solution of this problem along other lines: In early Syrian Christianity we find the description of Jesus or the Holy Ghost as the heavenly twin.
Acc. to Tatian the Holy Ghost is the syzygos of the believer. In the Acts of Thomas Judas-Thomas is the earthly twin brother of the heavenly Jesus. In the religious environment that fostered Manichaeism prophetic vocation was to meet ones “angel-twin”. Cf. Hermas’ vision of his guardian angel, his “Shepherd”. Man has a higher ego, his angel, his ideal eikon, sometimes more or less identified with Christ. And man has finally to be changed into the likeness of Christ. Behind John 1,51 stands as already shown by H. Odeberg (later by J. E. Fossum), the notion of Jacob lying at the foot of the ladder while angels are going up and down the steps to compare his face with the face engraved on the throne of God. J.J. Collins has (without taking any notice of the Iranian background) called the Son of Man “the heavenly mythological Doppelgänger of the righteous community” (The Son of Man in Enoch, p.116). “And it is the destiny of all the righteous to be with that son of man in the heavenly resting places 62,14” (ibd.p.124).
This motif, man’s meeting his heavenly counterpart, is ecstatic ideology, according to Geo Widengren taken from typical Iranian ecstatic ideology surrounding “God’s Messenger” or “Apostle”. Already Rudolph Otto pointed to the Iranian connection to solve the problem of Enoch’s transformation into the Son of Man.
Another traditional motif from the ecstatic ideology surrounding “God’s Messenger” is the heavenly book. In 1.En Enoch is preaching what he has seen on the heavenly tablets: “I will speak these things…according to that which appeared to me in the heavenly vision, and (which) I know from the words of the holy angels, and understand from the tablets of heaven”, 93,2. The heavenly book, the “Book of Life” plays an important role in Revelation and an important writing from Qumran the socalled 4QInstructions writes about the vision of Hagu, where Hagu is a writing “of remembrance” before the very eyes of God. A leader in the Qumran-movement has to be well instructed in the book of Hagu. How can he be that when it is a heavenly book? The answer is that mystical vision culminates in a feeling of being close to divine Omniscience. The book of Hagu contains all the knowledge of past, future and present history. In the mystical vision the Merkabah-mystic often has a vision of the entire world history painted on the curtain hiding the merkabah-throne.
4QInstructions constantly refers to raz nihyeh, “the mystery of being”. Scholars have vividly discussed the proper translation of raz nihyeh and what is behind this special phrase. In my opinion it is the total and intuitive knowledge of future history, of right and wrong, of cosmic order and the perfect halakah, a participation in divine knowledge and a participation in God’s heavenly council where his will is made known. The true prophet has stood in the circle of the sons of God and heard God proclaim his will.
The reason for this notion must be an old cult- prophetic institution and ideology in the temple of Jerusalem: The priest initiated by baptism and unction in the heavenly sphere of God, where he is standing among angels before the throne. This ideology is taken over by the “sons of Zadok” living in the desert by Qumran. Acc. to 1QS 4,22f God intends to make “the wisdom of the sons of heaven” attainable for the elect, that they may receive “Adam’s glory”.
The prophet is seen as having knowledge of the heavenly book where world-order and world-destiny is written: 4Q 417 1 i 16: “That is the vision of the meditation on a book of memorial.” Vision of Hagu is here translated by “vision of meditation”. Another translation of the whole paragraph 4Q417 1 in 13-18 is given by Matthew Goff, The Worldly and Heavenly Wisdom of 4Qinstruction, 2003,s84:
“And you, understanding one, inherit your reward by remembering the mi(ght because) it is coming. Engraved is the statute, and ordained is all the punishment, because engraved is that which has been ordained by God against all the in(iquities of) the sons of Seth. The book of remembrance is written before him for those who keep his word – that is, the vision of Hagu for the book of remembrance. He bequeathed it to Enosh together with a spiritual people, be(cau)se he fashioned him according to the likeness of the holy ones. Moreover, he did not give Hagu to the fleshly spirit because it did not distinguish between (go)od and evil according to the judgment of its (sp)irit.”
The true receivers of revelation are “a spiritual people in the likeness of the holy ones” (= the angels) cleaning their heart and mind from the “fleshly spirit”. “You have purified man from offence, so that he can make himself holy…to become united wi(th) the sons of your truth and in the lot with your holy ones”, 1QH 19,10-12. There is obviously in Qumranic society a cultic initiation culminating in the old theofanic “coming of the Lord” to his holy temple (spiritual temple in Qumran) with a cultic vision of the Lord – cultic with a mystical colouring. Among the desert-dwellers and ascetics in Qumran there are visions like the prophetic vision Ez 1 and Jes 5, but for most of the members vision is only a cultic vision.
The cultic initiation results in a new status of becoming united with the angels and worshipping together with angels: “..begin (with) a song of all the holy ones” 4Q418 81 4. In The Similitudes of 1.En there are besides “the holy ones” on earth “the holy ones who dwell in the heaven” 47,2. “The human community of the elect and righteous stands in a very close association with the angelic world and will be ultimately merged with it” (J.J.Collins: “The Son of Man in Enoch”, p.113).
The two types of humankind mentioned in 4Q417 “the spiritual people” and those of a “fleshly spirit” are, as shown by M.Goff, taken from Genesis 1-3 with its description of the two Adams. “While Genesis 1,27 emphasizes Adam’s affinity with the divine realm, in 2,7 his base and earthly nature is stressed: formed from the dust of the ground” (The Worldly and Heavenly Wisdom, p.98). Acc. to Goff Enosh (Hebrew for “man”) stands for Adam as in 1QS 3,17f: “He created Adam (Enosh) to rule over the world”. This first Adam, also called simply enosh, “Man”, is “fashioned acc. to the likeness” of the angels 4Q417 1 i 17, acc. to Collins a paraphrase of “in God’s likeness” Gen 1,27 where Elohim (=God) is taken in its plural sense: gods, that is the angels, the “sons of God” as they are called in the OT. (“In the likeness of the Holy Ones”, in The Provo International Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed D.W.Parry & E.Ulrich, Leiden Brill 1999, s.609-19) The same tradition about the two Adams the heavenly and the earthly is found by Philo. Acc. to him the earthly Adam “is an object of sense-perception”, Opif.134, while the first Adam coming into existence in the image of God is “incorporeal, neither male nor female”.
This Adam, who transcends sense-perception and the duality between the sexes, has at least by Philo to be understood in mystical terms as the Glory of mystic vision or man transformed to Glory during his mystic vision.
Mystic vision is often felt as the experience of divine unity behind all opposites, cf. that Enoch, when he enters the heavenly temple, enters a “house, which was hot like fire and cold like ice” 14,8-14. It is built of ice crystals and surrounded by tongues of fire.
In the early Christian apocalypse, Ascension of Isaiah, Isaiah is shown the firmament with Sammael/Satan and his hosts. It is full of struggle and they were all envying one another, but above the firmament is the first heaven with an empty throne in the middle and to the left and right angels singing praises to the throne. But the praise of those on the left was not like the praise and voice of those on the right. This difference between left and right continues in the descriptions of the following heavens, but “from the sixth heaven and upwards there are no longer those on the left” 8,7. Duality is overcome.
In 1.En 14,8ff we have a very early merkabah-vision (i.e. vision of the divine throne):
"And behold I saw the clouds: And they were calling me in a vision; and the fogs were calling me; and the course of the stars and the lightnings were rushing me and causing me to desire; and in the vision, the winds were causing me to fly and rushing me high up into heaven. And I kept coming (into heaven) until I approached a wall which was built with stone of hail (acc. to the Greek text) and surrounded by tongues of fire; and it began to frighten me. And I came into the tongues of the fire…And I entered into the house, which was hot like fire and cold like ice, and there was nothing inside it; fear covered me…I fell upon my face and saw a vision. And behold there was an opening before me – a second house which is greater than the former and everything was built with tongues of fire. And in every respect it excelled (the other)…to the extent that it is impossible for me to recount to you its glory and greatness… And I observed and saw inside it a lofty throne – its appearance was like crystal and its wheels like the shining sun; and the voice of the cherubim; and from beneath the throne were issuing streams of flaming fire."
Mystic vision is often defined as an experience of the ultimate unity. "One"
and Monas are the names chosen for the ultimate reality by Plotin and the Neopythagoreans. Here the seer experiences the unity and coexistence of the strongest possible opposites: Frozen water and flaming fire.
The addressee of 4QInstruction is like Adam before the fall. He is even given authority to till the Garden of Eden 4Q423 1 2. He has knowledge of good and evil. “Your glory he has magnified greatly and he has established you for himself as a firstborn son among..” 4Q418 81. Very important is the word “authority” (memshelet, m-sh-i-l). The addressee has authority over the Garden of Eden and “over an inheritance of Glory” 4Q416 2 iii 11f. Cf. Genesis 1,27f: Adam was created to rule over the world. “The firstborn son” given “authority” to rule is a clear trace of the old royal ideology: The King as the Image of God and gardener in the Paradise Garden with the branch of the tree of life as his sceptre. Obviously we have a complex of ideas centred round an ideal figure “Man” or “Son of Man”, cf. John 3,31: “He who is from above” versus “he who is from earth”.
The final salvation in The Similitudes of 1.En is to be eternally united to the Son of Man: “Together with you shall be their dwelling places; and together with you shall be their portion. They shall not be separated from you forever and ever and ever” 71,16f. Before the Lord Enoch is shown “all the secrets of mercy” and “all the secrets of righteousness” and “all the secrets of the extreme ends of heaven and all the reservoirs of the stars and the luminaries”. There could be no better name for this vision than “the mystery of being”. The “mystery of being” is this total insight in the reservoirs where all light is born or reborn together with a feeling of being filled with divine mercy and righteousness.
The Son of Man is called “the prototype of the Before-Time…the Son of Man, to whom belongs righteousness, and with whom righteousness dwells.” 46,2f. No doubt the Son of Man is the one who gives righteousness to his followers, a divine source of righteousness more important than the law of Moses. “He shall reveal the light to the righteous” 38,2.
In 2.En Enoch is appointed to make “a written record of all God’s creation” 64,5 cf. “I know everything, and everything I have written down in books, the heavens and their boundaries and their contents. And all the armies and their movements I have measured” 40,2. True knowledge is a deep insight in the world-order, mystical intuition for the countless marvels of creation. Creation starts with the disintegration of the angel Adoil. When he opens himself a great light comes forward: “the great age” 25,2f. Cf 65,1: “Before ever anything existed, and before ever any created thing was created, The Lord created the whole of creation” (or “the Aion of creation”). This Aion is divided into times but the eon will be whole again at the end of the world (Leif Carlsson, Round Trips to Heaven, 2004, p.94, n152). The master-plan for creation is seen as great mystical light and primeval unity and wholeness. Mysticism and mystical vision of primeval light and unity is the key to these strange notions. Mystic vision is ecstatic transformation into unity with the “Son of Man”, the heavenly Adam of primeval Glory.
In the farewell discourse John 17,21ff Jesus uses very strong words about the unity between himself and God and his disciples. The same unity is seen Rev 1,14 where Jesus is described as being one with the Ancient of Days, and later the believers receive the same divine name as Jesus and the same sitting on God's throne, cf. Rev 20,4 (they will become "kings together with Christ"). The sealing with God's name on the forehead and the mystical reciprocal formula used in connection with the eucharistic dining together 3,20 show that the mysticism hinted at is more liturgical and sacramental than ecstatic. The "open door to heaven", Rev 4,1 & 3,8 with the merkabah-vision, is seen "on the Day of the Lord", 1,10. But this does not exclude strong ecstatic elements.
The merkabah-vision is most of all a calling to serve as a prophet. The vision Ez 1 culminates in a receiving of the spirit and the heavenly book or scroll, John's vision results in receiving the "word of the Spirit for the churches" and a scroll Rev 10,9; also the merkabah-vision of Enoch is followed by the voice of God: "Come near to me and to my holy word" 1.En 14,24f., and he is sent with a divine message to the fallen angels.
The background for this ideal figure, the Son of Man, is the old divine kingship ideology. Initiated into his divine status by baptism, Matt 3,16f, and unction the king is the "image of God", the epiphany of Adam ruling over the garden of Life and initiated in heavenly mysteries and heavenly wisdom. He is the Apostle and earthly representative of God. And by baptism and holy meal the ordinary believer can participate in this symbolism, Matt 20,22f. Part of this initiation in cosmic divine kingship is that the initiated is becoming even more elevated than the angels:
In both 1. & 2. & 3.Enoch Enoch is exalted to a higher status than the highest among the angels, cf 1. En 14,21: "None of the angels was able to come in and see the face of the Excellent and the Glorious One". Cf. how Christ in the New Test. is exalted higher than the angels, Heb 1,4; Fil 2,9-11. 1.Tim 3,16. This ruling even over angels shows how depending NT is on the worldview of an early merkabah-mysticism. This is probably also the reason for the important motif that Satan's dethronement was brought about by his refusal to bow down to Adam.