Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rewriting Daniel 7

Waiting on tables, the lengthy series on Acts 6 and 7 of Acts of the Apostles, has provided me new insight with respect to one particular interpretation of Daniel 7. 1st century Judaism interpreted Daniel 7 as a prediction that a messiah will come who will lead Israel in military victory against her oppressors. The Lucan Jesus rewrites Daniel 7 saying in effect that they [the twelve disciples] who serve like him will be the new role models. This role reversal, where the Host waits on tables, was not the eschatological reversal that was expected to happen.

Dunn believes that Luke has rewritten Mark to weaken the allusions to Daniel 7. This interpretation is undermined by the simple observation that Luke is the only New Testament writer to mention the angel Gabriel who as God’s messenger reveals divine mysteries to Daniel and Zechariah. Luke wants the First Reader to understand what Jesus actually preached about Daniel. It was not what the zealots wanted to hear. It is more likely that Luke is the original version because the Lucan Jesus has combined two unrelated traditions in a unique way to provide a pacifist servant reading of Daniel 7 to and about the disciples consistent with the Sermon on the Plains. It is important to note that only the Lucan Jesus restores the ear of the servant of the high priest. He abhors violence.

Luke 22:24-30 is the more difficult reading. Mark has based 10:35-45 on Lk. 22:24-27 while Matthew has based 19:27-29 on Lk. 22:28-30. Both Matthew and Mark have included an explicit allusion to Dan 7:13 in the public colloquy with the High Priest. Finally Matthew has also expanded the number Daniel allusions.

Luke is not without its Danielic influences. In a saying found only in Luke, Jesus says “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This saying is based upon Daniel 2:37 or 7:13-14 and is combined with the sheep being the followers of Jesus. Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke has located his “Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” in a private teaching to the disciples.

Until the time of his morning trial before the High Priest, Jesus has avoided publicly declaring that he is the Messiah, though his disciples knew. Nevertheless, popular speculation in Jerusalem had been rampant that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Messiah. But when asked directly, Jesus prefers the less politically-charged title “Son of Man.”

“‘If you are the Christ,’ they said, ‘tell us.’
Jesus answered, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer....’”

In Matthew and Mark's account, Jesus answers their question about whether he is the Christ before he goes on to speak of the Son of Man. In Luke, Jesus points to their unbelief: “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer.” They do not really want to know the answer. They just want Jesus to admit it so they can accuse him of being a political threat to Rome.

But Lucan Jesus does not end the colloquy with the question of whether he is the Messiah. He points to his favorite title, “Son of Man.” “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of God.” This is a reference to the glorious reign of the Son of Man at God's right hand found in Daniel's prophecy:

“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. And to him was given dominion and glory and 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." (Daniel 7:13-14).

“They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am.’ Then they said, ‘Why do we need any more testimony?’” Notice Jesus' answer is somewhat ambiguous. The KJV renders the Greek quite literally: “Ye say that I am.” Marshall gives the sense of it:

“The form of expression is not a direct affirmation; but it is certainly not a denial, and is best regarded as a grudging admission with the suggestion that the speaker would put it otherwise or that the questioners fail to understand exactly what they are asking.”

The new interpretation of Daniel presented by the Lucan Jesus portrayed the Messiah as a king but not totally of this world. The High priest and the members of the Sanhedrin did not understand that the kingdom was more comprehensive than David ever imagined. According to Bock, the indirect reference to himself as Son of Man is really an allusion to the authoritative figure of Daniel 7. Consequently the real power and glory belongs to the man condemned by the High Priest.

See my Son of Man in Luke (2-10-06) and The High Priest as a Divine Mediator (2-20-06).

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007


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