Shooting holes in the Son of man thesis

Following some discussion on James McGrath’s blog about the thesis of The Coming of the Son of Man, Antonio Jerez has promised to shoot the book full of holes some time in the not too distant future. To facilitate this act of wanton destruction I have copied below an initial criticism made by Antonio and the response I gave on McGrath’s blog.

Isn’t it almost fatal to your reading of things about the NT meaning of the coming of the Son of man / Parousia (= the coming of the Son of man is the destruction of the Jewish nation/Temple and the vindication of Jesus+his disciple) that Daniel 7 is all about the destruction of the PAGAN OPPRESSORS of Israel/God’s people and the VICTORY of Israel/God’s people? If Jesus and/or Mark and the others alluded to Daniel 7 in the Little Apocalypse in the synoptics then they seem to have totally misunderstood Daniel 7 and turned the meaning of the text upside down, since according to your reading of things the Parousia is about the Son of man crushing unfaithful Israel through it’s pagan (Roman) oppressors.

And although Josephus doesn´t say explicitly which text he has in mind when he talks about the Jews in his time believing in a well known “prophecy” that promised them victory against the Pagans it is very probable that Josephus is alluding to Daniel 7. And since the whole theme of Daniel seems to be VICTORY TO GOD’S PEOPLE OVER THE PAGANS and not PUNISHMENT OF GOD’S PEOPLE BY THE PAGANS Jesus and/or would really have had to stretch things to allude to Daniel and reuse it the way you claim they did.

My response to this not unreasonable objection was, first, that the story of the crisis of the covenant is told in Daniel 7-12 in a number of different ways. Daniel 7 is a highly symbolic version that emphasizes the sovereignty of YHWH, the eventual defeat of Antiochus Epiphanes, and the vindication of the righteous. But in the later chapters it is apparent that Antiochus, the pagan oppressor, is also understood to be the instrument of God’s judgment against disloyal and apostate Israel - a point which is reinforced in the Maccabean literature. The suffering of the martyrs is interpreted as a suffering because of Israel’s sin: they are being punished because of Israel’s sin, therefore their suffering is potentially redemptive.

So Daniel 7-12 tells a larger story of Israel’s disobedience going back to the exile (Dan. 9), the attacks of Antiochus as a consequence of or as punishment for Israel’s disobedience, the collusion of many Jews with the pagan oppressor, the loyalty of the saints of the Most High who refuse to abandon the covenant, the defeat of the pagan aggressor by YHWH, and the vindication of the saints before the throne of the Ancient of Days.

Jesus focuses on the parts of that story which fit his prophetic perspective: the vindication of the suffering community that remains faithful to the covenant as he has redefined it. I think he uses the Son of man narrative in a limited way to differentiate between his disciples and an Israel that has violated the covenant (cf. Dan. 11:32). In the Olivet discourse he makes the bold but absolutely reasonable prophetic move of connecting their vindication with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple: for them, from that perspective, the coming of the Son of man is fulfilled, realized, achieved, in this concrete historical demonstration that their Lord was right.

As the church moved into the pagan world, however, the perspective changed and different facets of the Daniel narrative came into view: the conflict between the faithful and the pagan aggressor, the assurance of victory over the Greeks (or Rome), and the giving of the kingdom to the suffering community - represented by the Son of man figure who suffers, is vindicated, and comes to reign at the right hand of the father. In practice the historical locus for this expectation was the victory of the persecuted church over Greek-Roman paganism.

Now we have to wait…

Hi Andrew, I don't have much to add to the debate at the moment, except to say that I'm interested to keep reading. I'm working on eschatology and apocalyptic thought at the moment in my own research, though it takes a bit of a different angle than you and Antonio have been addressing. I actually picked up your book at the library a while back (the Son of Man one), but didn't get around to it at the time. I'm happy to find you online and I've added you to my reader :)