Norman Russell and “one like a son of man”

I started reading Norman Russell’s The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition. Interestingly, the first three chapters don’t really deal with the Patristic tradition at all, but provide background information on Roman/Hellenistic and Jewish ideas of deification.

Concerning the various theories on the identity of the “one like a son of man” from Daniel 7, Russell states:

The simplest explanation, however, is the most satisfactory. The ‘one like a son of man’ is an angel, probably Michael, entrusted with the protection of the people of Israel. Only later, in Christian tradition and in the Book of Parables (I Enoch 37-71) does he become a Messianic figure, the Elect of God.  (p. 67)

I don’t know 2nd Temple Judaism’s literature, so I was wondering: are angels ever called “sons of men”? The identification of the ‘one like a son of man’ as an angel seems wrong to me, but I’m open to hearing evidence for such a theory.


Filed under Patristics

7 responses to “Norman Russell and “one like a son of man”

  1. John J. Collins has been championing this “Michael” interpretation for years. I think he’s wrong. To my knowledge, angels are not referred to as “sons of men” in Second Temple Jewish literature although the phrase “sons of men” is quite common, especially in 3 Baruch, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, and 1 Enoch. The closest we come, I think, would be the Testament of Abraham:

    Having heard this, Death went out from the presence of the Most High, and put on a robe of great brightness, and made his appearance like the sun, and became fair and beautiful above the sons of men, assuming the form of an archangel, having his cheeks flaming with fire, and he departed to Abraham. (T. Ab.16:6)

    But I think it’s pretty obvious that it is death who is personified and said to be made more beautiful than the sons of men (who death apparently is not) and takes the form of an archangel. So this seems to be distinguishing archangels from the sons of men, i.e., humans.

    When I read Daniel 7 and the reference to “one like the son of man” receiving dominion over the kingdoms of the earth that were just represented by various beasts, I hear echoes of Genesis 1 and the first humans being given dominion over the beasts and birds. So that’s my two cents.

  2. In a nutshell, Collins reads Daniel 7 in light of Daniel 10-12 where Michael is identified as one of the chief princes of Israel (Dan. 10:13) who will deliver Israel from the time of great trouble (Dan. 12:1). On my reading though, the end of Daniel 10 suggests against identifying Michael as the one like a son of man because the one in the “likeness of the son of man” (ὁμοίωσις υἱοῦ ἀνθρώπου (Dan 10:16 LXX) and “appearance of a man” (ὅρασις ἀνθρώπου (Dan 10:18 LXX), who Daniel keeps referring to as Lord (Dan. 10:16, 17, 19), distinguishes himself from Michael, Israel’s prince (Dan. 10:21). But by all means, check out Collins’ exegesis for yourself in his Hermeneia commentary or his earlier The Apocalyptic Vision of the Book of Daniel. You might find his arguments more compelling than I do.

    • Living God

      John J Collins = Yale education, examined Dead Sea scrolls.

      Nick Norelli read about it.

      • Joshua McManaway

        I’m not sure if you’re being serious. I hope not. Whether Collins is right or Nick is right is solely contingent upon the strength of the argument in accordance with the data, not on where anyone received a degree or, even more odd, whether they have a wikipedia page.

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