Having traced Couchoud’s argument for the development of the New Testament it’s time I returned to the beginning of his two volume work, The Creation of Christ, and outline his views on the development of Christianity itself. (The entire series is archived here.)
I once posted links to pdf version of Couchoud’s opening chapters:
Foreword (approx 2.2 MB pdf)
Apocalypses (168 b.c. – a.d. 40)
I. Preliminary (approx 1.8 MB pdf)
II. Profaned Temple (approx 2.2 MB pdf)
III. The Dream of Daniel (approx 3.3 MB pdf)
IV. Revelations of Enoch (approx 6.7 MB pdf)
V. Revelations of Moses (approx 2.8 MB pdf)
I will comment on only a few aspects of some of these chapters. Read them — they are not long — to understand Couchoud’s argument for the background to Christianity and the references to much of what is below. I will only address a few points here.
These chapters are an overview of the pre-Christian development of the Jewish concept of the heavenly Son of Man figure. Daniel begins the process with a clearly symbolic figure, but later apocalypses turned that symbol into a more literal Heavenly Man.
Though the prophecies of Daniel failed, apparently, to materialize, Daniel’s work did set the trajectory for future apocalyptic hopes with its symbolic Son of Man figure. But he did not remain a symbol for too long.
What in Daniel is only a dazzling vision told in a few verses becomes in Enoch a detailed picture, a complete drama divided into several acts. This picture has a central figure; this drama boasts a hero. The Son of Man, who in Daniel is mere symbolism, is here a dweller in celestial halls, a heavenly Man who is not kneaded of dust and blood, but is pure like God, eternal like God, just like God, to whom God has allotted the mission of destroying the world and of making it anew. (p. 15)
This figure is the Chosen of God, the Great Judge, the Revealer. He thus takes on a theological significance. And he has a name, but the name is kept secret by Enoch (Enoch 47; 48:2-3). Until the day that God has chosen for him to fulfil his destiny he must remain hidden — even hidden before God (Enoch 47:6). God will reveal him only to the Elect — Enoch 62:7. And the world will learn to their terror that he is their Judge.
Enoch also calls him the Light to the Nations (Enoch 48:4) — a reference to Isaiah’s 49:6. He is also the hope of broken hearts — a reference to Isaiah 61:1. So this figure in Enoch has become a complex synthesis of
- Daniel’s Son of Man — with heavenly attributes of a throne and stars
- Isaiah’s Elect or Servant of Yahweh — with human attributes
Thus emerges the a figure with a double nature, god and man.
The contradictory logic of faith unites the two finest mythic creations of Israel. In a unique spiritual being are combined two allegorical persons who, in the Bible, are separate and without interrelation other than personifying Israel — the one gloriously, the other sorrowfully. (p. 18)
This figure takes from Isaiah’s allegorical person the role of the consoler, the sufferer, the elect, the redeemer, the man of sorrows whose passion is expiatory.
When Daniel’s Son of Man will have assimilated all the Man of Sorrows of Isaiah, Christianity will be in existence. (p. 18)
This is the prototype we see in Enoch. Enoch worships this figure with the twin nature of being the terrible judge and the gentle teacher. But he is not yet a divine martyr.
The first destiny of this Son of Man figure was to wreak God’s vengeance on the earth. After all the bloodletting the righteous will inherit the earth in the company of the Heavenly Man.
It is in this book of Enoch (as Margaret Barker has also stressed in her publications) that we first see the outlines of Christianity. This figure will mature as he moves from Daniel to the Gospel of Luke. Paul, the author of Revelation, Jude, Matthew, Luke all knew this book well. The adherents of this book were in a sense our proto-Christians, keeping apart from the other sects, waiting the coming of the Son of Man, hating the world.
In The Revelations of Moses chapter we read of the meaning of the name Shiloh to pious Jews; the culmination of Daniel’s prophecies in a soon-expected calamitous judgement; and significantly in the Assumption of Moses we find reference to the Heavenly Man. Here he takes a new name, Messenger. This time unbelievers would be left on earth and the Elect, the saved, taken to heaven. Bands of readers sharing the hope wondered when it would all be fulfilled.
This is the background to the advent of John the Baptist. To be continued in next post. . . .