Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The High Priest as a Divine Mediator

Andre Lacocque proposed that “the vision in Chapter 7 has the Temple as its framework” and that the “one like a son of man” refers to the eschatological high priest.[i] Fletcher-Louis further develops the idea by first demonstrating that “Daniel 7 is ultimately Temple centred.”[ii] Fletcher-Louis then argues that since 1 Enoch 14 is pre-Maccabean, citing numerous authorities, Dan 7:9-14 is dependent on it. In next part of the argument, Flectcher-Louis assert in effect that the missing link to the understanding of Daniel 7 is the fact that “one like a son of man” and Enoch are both priests citing Suter, Nickelsburg, Kvanvig and Hemmelfarb.[iii]

Fletcher-Louis then introduces the argument of Tigchelaar that 1 Enoch 12-16 is directed at the Samaritans.[iv] Since 1 Enoch 12-16 was directed at the Samaritans as satire, it is a mainstream Jerusalem Temple text.[v] Next Fletcher-Louis develops the theme that “the parallel to Enoch 14 suggests Daniel 7 has a Day of Atonement focus.” After some discussion about the dispute between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, with Flectcher-Louis accepting the position of the Sadducees, Flectcher-Louis states: “We are thus led to the conclusion that Dan 7:9-14 describes the eschatological Day of Atonement (perhaps a jubilee) when the true high priest will come to the Ancient of Days surrounded by clouds of incense.”[vi] “The charge of blasphemy in response to Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man now begins to make sense.”[vii]

This paper was first presented at SBL in 1997 and later posted on the Internet. In 1997, my first article appeared in Evangelical Quarterly wherein I proposed that Luke addressed his gospel to most excellent Theophilus the High Priest.[viii]

Fletcher-Louis demonstrates that the high priest could have been considered as a divine mediator in the first century. Thus, we have Luke addressing his gospel to Theophilus, the High Priest, wherein Jesus, accused of blasphemy, appears before the High Priest who considered himself the eschatological high priest surrounded on the Day of Atonement by clouds of incense. Luke does not include the phrase added by Matthew and Mark: “You will see the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.”

If Crispin Fletcher-Louis is correct, then his analysis of 1 Enoch 14 has finally explained the meaning of "son of man" when used in connection with "clouds of heaven."

Setting aside the question of whether or not the statement, “You will see the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven” was made, Luke does not include it as part of his irenical presentation. Luke elsewhere is clear Jesus is “a prophet like Moses” not greater than Moses as in Matthew and Mark. Thus in omitting these phrases offensive to Theophilus, Luke is consistent in his irenical presentation. Luke does not consider Jesus to be the eschatological high priest. The colloquy of Lucan Jesus with the High Priest is as follow: "If you are the Christ, tell us." But he said to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God."[ix]

Nonetheless, Luke’s presentation is the first class use of irony as a tool of rhetoric because Jesus by the power of God is raised from the dead and does appear at the right hand of the power of God. To the extent, Matthew and Mark present Jesus as the eschatological high priest, this is a later theological development.

Today it is even more ironical that the bones of Caiaphas the High Priest were found in an elaborate ossuary while the tomb of Jesus was empty.

[i] The Book of Daniel, (London, 1979), 124-125.
[ii] The High Priest as Divine Mediator in the Hebrew Bible: Dan 7:13 as a Test Case, SBL 1997 Seminar Papers, 161-193. Available on the Internet at and
[iii] Id. 177.
[iv] Id. 178.
[v] Id. 179.
[vi] Id. 186.
[vii] Id. 192.
[viii] Theophilus: A Proposal, Evangelical Quarterly, 69:3, (1997), 195-215. I. Howard Marshall, Editor.
[ix] Luke 22:67-69.

copyrighted 2005


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