Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Collins, "The Son of Man and the Saints of the Most High in the Book of Daniel"

John J. Collins, "The Son of Man and the Saints of the Most High in the Book of Daniel" Journal of Biblical Literature Vol. 93 No. 1 (Mar 1974): 50-66.

I apologize for the down time lately, things have been rather busy. Today, I'm reviewing the argument of the above article.

Collins' proceeded to give a rather thorough discussion of the history of the "Son of Man" (hereafter "SM") discussion relative to the book of Daniel. He reduces much of the discussion, helpfully, down to the central theses, namely, that the SM in Daniel refers collectively to "the holy ones of the Most High" or to an individual (with several trajectories flowing out of this distinction). After further nuancing he sets forth two precise positions: 1) following Coppens "the kingdom is given to the angelic hosts under their leader Michael," or 2) following Delcor "the kingdom is given to the people of Israel, who are symbolized by the 'one like a son of man..." (53). His aim is to determine between these options and set forth the meaning of the chapter (Ibid.). Methodologically, he approaches Daniel 7 with the supposition that "there is no reason to doubt that the vision in its present form and the interpretation of the work of one author" (Ibid.). And secondly, the document was composed in the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and even after any modification likely reached its normative form (i.e. its present form) shortly after that time (54).

Collins' articulation of his methodology was helpful, both the structure of the article and the coherence of his argument. Without detailing every movement of the article, he proceeded to articulate the narrative structure of the unified section chs. 7-12 in light of its historico-social context (Antiochus IV Epiphanes). He proceed inversely from Dan 10:12-12:3 back to Dan 7, setting forth the Jewish cosmology of a two-storey universe in which events transpiring in heaven were corresponding to events in the earth (55). Hence, Daniel's essential apocalypticism, in some sense, reflects his notion that the historico-political events on earth, that is, of the Hellenistic wars transpiring on the human level in cosmic, angelic warfare; but there is more, 11:36 depicts an earthly ruler battling or vying for power even over the angelic beings, something Collins' notes is a biblical notion (cf. Isa 24, Jud 5). For Collins "Daniel 10-12, then, makes explicit the conceptual framework within which the apocalypticist saw the career of Antiochus IV Epiphanes" (58).
Next he takes on Dan 8, which though valuable outside the scope of my review. Then he reaches the visions of Daniel 7. He finds the "one like the son of man" to be an angelic identity saying "it is most probable that the figure of "one like a son of man" represents an angelic host and/or its leader" (61). Herein Collins sees play or fluidity between the "holy ones" being purely the kingdom people (e.g. Israelites) and angels (62-63). He rightly notes the ambiguity in various texts that depict this play within the imagery and referentiality (i.e. 1 QM 17:6-8).

Finally, he arrived at the "Son of Man." Between the options of this figure 1) representing the angelic host collectively or 2) representing their leader specifically, he opts for the latter in light of Michael's centrality in Dan 10-12 (63). And thus, "it seems most likely that the figure...represents the archangel, Michael, who receives the kingdom on on behalf of his host of holy ones, but also on behalf of his people Israel" (64). What is most important for my future research is his next statement, "If this interpretation is accepted, then the later development of the "son of man" figure in the Similitudes of Enoch becomes much more readily intelligible" (64). Collins sees this angelic power as a growing tradition within the Jewish apocalyptic movement that becomes a half-breed as it were in the Similitudes and ultimately is a "variant belief in a heavenly, angelic savior figure which we find in a number of other Jewish intertestamental works" (64). Thus, Collins' view in this regard is significant, at least for my thinking.

In sum, presently I'm appreciating the late date for the book of Daniel. I think this readily explains the rise of the visions in response to the chaos which ensued with Antiochus IV Epiphanes; secondly, the figure in Daniel represents a trajectory within apocalypticism, in the shadow of Imperial oppression, that arose in resistance to the tyranny of the wicked overlords and envisioned a deliverance for the oppressed resultant of the rise of an angelic figure representing the masses and receiving a kingdom--that is, one that supplants the present world-stage of post-exilic Israel under Hellenism in the 3rd-2nd century before the common era. This figure is the beginning of a growing tradition that will be developed further in the intertestamental period, most notably, by appropriating and reconstructing the Danielic figure and "his" enthronement in a new socio-political and apocalytico-symbolic way.

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