Horbury Argued Similarly: Jewish Messianic Ideas Explain Christianity

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by Neil Godfrey

For most scholars, Boyarin’s thinking is a complete paradigm shift and in many ways something that “just isn’t done.”74
74   Horbury, Jewish Messianism, argued similarly to Boyarín yet not as forcefully.

Those quotes are from Benjamin Reynolds, page 29 of his essay “The Gospel of John’s Christology as Evidence for Early Jewish Messianic Expectations: Challenges and Possibilities” for Reading the Gospel of Johns Christology as Jewish Messianism (2018). The hypothesis being advanced is that the Christology in the earliest Christian texts — a preexistent, heavenly messiah, sitting alongside God, was also the human messiah who died — can be explained with reference to messianic ideas in Second Temple Judaism.

Since I have been posting on Daniel Boyarin’s articles recently it is time to offer some “balance” and quote from William Horbury’s Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ (1998).

If you thought Daniel Boyarin is “too far left field” then perhaps the more conventional conservative image of William Horbury is more to your liking.

What can be the relevance of post Second Temple era rabbinic texts?

The Targums and rabbinic literature are considered from time to time among the evidence which may shed light on Judaism at the time of Christian origins. Most of their wealth of material is later, but when viewed in conjunction with the Septuagint and the writings of the Second-Temple period they can be seen to preserve much exegesis and tradition which will have been current then. (3)


What are the respective roles of Judaism and gentile beliefs in the development of the Christ cult?

Early Christianity also offers signs of continuity with the developed messianic expectation of ancient Judaism, especially in respect of conceptual links between spirit and messiah, and those narratives of advent and reign which make up a kind of messianic myth. These developments of an inherited messianism were encouraged by its parallel continuation in the Jewish community throughout the period of Christian origins, and by the importance of ruler-cult under both Greek and Roman rule. Within Christianity the Christ-cult developed side by side with the cults of the angels and the saints. For all three customs there were Greek and Roman counterparts, but the origins lay in Jewish practice which had already been influenced by the Greek and Roman world. In the case of the Christ-cult, messianism in particular formed the link between Judaism and the apparently gentilic acclamation of Kyrios Iesous Christos. (4)


What are messianic prophecies about?

[M]essianic prophecies are not simply predictions of deliverance, but affirmations of the ideal of the Israelite state as it should be. (14)


What Old Testament figures appear to have influenced the development of messianic ideas?


(a) Moses is represented as a king in Ezekiel the Tragedian (probably second century BC), Philo, and much rabbinic tradition. . . . . A royal interpretation of Moses seems to appear in any case in Isa. 63. 11 , where Moses is the shepherd of the flock, and Exod. 4. 20 LXX , where he receives his sceptre from God. . . . . At the heart of the Pentateuch, then, is a figure which could be and was interpreted as that of a royal deliverer. Note that his pleading for his people (e.g. Exod. 32. 11, 32) and his rebuttal by them introduce an element of suffering into this royal picture. (31)


(b) David emerges as a suffering and humiliated yet ultimately victorious king, notably in Ps. 18 = II Sam. 22; Pss. 21-22 , and the psalms associated in their titles with his flights from Saul and from Absalom into the wilderness (3; 54; 57; 59; 62; 142); . . . . he is an exorcist (I Sam. 16. 14-23) and an inspired prophet (II Sam. 23. 1-7 ; cf. I Chron. 28.12, 19). . . . .

The suffering aspect of the royal figure of David goes unmentioned for the most part in sources from the time of Christian origins, but its biblical prominence in the histories and psalms will have kept it in view, as is suggested by the reference to David’s flight in Mark 2.25-26 and parallels. This aspect of the figure of David will then have contributed, together with the suffering of Moses noted above, to the messianic interpretation of the suffering servant of Isaiah and the smitten shepherd of Zechariah. (32-33)

The Servant of Isaiah 53

(c) The servant of Isa. 53 is interpreted as messiah in the Targum, but as victorious rather than suffering. This interpretation is not unnatural, for the passage is preceded by a prophecy of [redemption and followed by a vision of restoration]. . . . The Israelite king appears as a suffering servant in Ps. 89. 39, and the messiah is God’s servant in Zech. 3. 8. . . . . It was perhaps originally formed on the model of the suffering king, and a messianic interpretation was probably current in the Second-Temple period, but the passage was not then regarded as obviously messianic. (33)

Smitten shepherd of Zechariah 13:7

(d) The smitten shepherd of Zech. 13. 7 forms part of a series of prophecies in Zechariah, beginning with the advent of the lowly king in 9. 9, which find a messianic interpretation both in the New Testament and in rabbinic literature. In the latter they are associated with Messiah ben Joseph or ben Ephraim, who fights Gog and Magog and dies in battle. The death of a messiah is already envisaged in II Esdras 7, at the end of the messianic age, and the cutting off of a rightful ruler called messiah is foretold in Dan. 9. 26, quoted already. The notion of a slain messiah is then likely to have been current in the Second-Temple period, partly on the basis of Zechariah, although it seems clearly to have been less prominent than the expectation of a great and glorious king. The objections of the disciples to Christ’s expectation of suffering, as depicted in the Gospels, might then be ascribed not to their total ignorance of the notion of a humiliated messiah, but to their unwillingness to accept that it might apply in this case. (33)

The Son of Man in Daniel 7

(e) The Son of man in Dan. 7 is viewed messianically in the earliest interpretation, ranging from the middle of the first century BC to the middle of the second century AD in the Parables of Enoch, II Esdras, the Fifth Sibylline Book, a saying attributed to R. Akiba, and Justin Martyr’s Dialogue. In its setting in Daniel, however, it is widely taken at present to represent an angelic deliverer, probably Michael, the patron of Israel, who is mentioned as such in 12. 1. . . . This is an attractive view, because human figures often represent angels, in Daniel and elsewhere, and the importance of angels as
regulating terrestrial affairs is clear not only in Daniel but also in the Qumran War Scroll. Nevertheless, the early messianic interpretation seems more likely to be right. Both angelic and human leaders functioned in the Exodus, both are mentioned in the War Scroll, and both can be envisaged without difficulty in Daniel. In Daniel 2, the coming of the kingdom of God, represented by the stone which breaks the image, can naturally be associated with a messianic figure, just as in the War Scroll the kingdom is said to belong to God pre-eminently at the moments when Israel is delivered by David, the kings of his line, or the messiah. In Dan. 7 the beasts represent kings or kingdoms (7. 17, 23-24), not the angel-princes who are the expected foes of Israel’s angel-patron (10. 13 , 20-21). Finally, the designation ‘Son of man’ is close to the use of various words signifying ‘man’ in pre-Danielic messianic oracles, including Num. 24. 17; II Sam. 23. 1 and Zech. 6. 12 , quoted above, and Ps. 80. 18, which has ben adam. (34)


Of these five figures, then, Moses, David, the smitten shepherd and the Son of man will have influenced the growth of messianism from the first. In each case they fitted well into the royal messianism which we have seen to predominate, despite the importance of dual messianism. In the end the servant of Isa. 53 also contributed to the picture of the messianic king. (34)


How does the Septuagint translation change the Hebrew to introduce messianic prophecies?

I’ll discuss this question about the Septuagint’s messianic interest, including Horbury’s discussion, another time. There is too much to cover for this post.


What pre-rabbinic Jewish texts speak of the pre-existence, albeit humanity, and death of the messiah?

II Esdras 3-14 (Apocalypse of Ezra) 

Like the Parables of Enoch and the Fifth Sibylline book, it reflects the integration of Daniel, especially the vision of one like a son of man, with the traditions of a Davidic messiah in the Pentateuch, Prophets and Psalms. So in II Esdras the messiah is symbolized by a lion, clearly the lion of Judah’s blessing in Gen. 49. 10, who destroys an eagle, said to represent the fourth kingdom which appeared to Daniel (II Esdras 12. 11 ); he is to bring joy to his own for four hundred years in a messianic kingdom, but then to die before the last judgment (II Esdras 12. 34; cf. 7. 33); and he is symbolized again by a man flying with the clouds of heaven, who recalls by his form the man-like figure of Dan. 7, but whose deeds of judgment and redemption, including victory over the multitude of the heathen, are those expected of the Davidic messiah in Isaiah 11 and Psalms 2 and 110 (II Esdras 13. 1-53). (58, my highlighting)

The Parables of Enoch (1 Enoch 37-71)

The Danielic Son of man is understood as the Davidic messiah, on an interpretation already attested in the Parables of Enoch, perhaps to be dated near the beginning of the Herodian period. This understanding implies the pre-existence and revelation of the messiah, notions already suggested by such biblical passages as Micah 5. 1 and Ps. 110. 3. As II Esdras shows in its present form, heavenly origins were not held to be inconsistent with an earthly reign of fixed length. The messiah rules from the top of mount Zion (13. 35). The specification of four hundred years itself implies that the thought of a messianic reign is already familiar, and its length a known topic of speculation. The length favoured in II Esdras 7 is one of a number suggested in rabbinic interpretation on the principle that the time of comfort and joy should correspond to the years of affliction, as Moses prayed (Ps. 90. 15); in this case it corresponds to the four hundred years of affliction prophesied in the vision between the pieces (Gen. 15. 13 ). Among factors contributing to expectation of the death of the messiah at the end of his reign is perhaps the influence of Dan. 9. 26 (compare the discussion of the smitten shepherd at the end of the previous chapter), and of the view exemplified in the Apocalypse of Weeks (I Enoch 91. 14) that this world is entirely dissolved before the new creation. The expectation attested in the apocalypse of Ezra is therefore rich, but by no means unparalleled. (58-59, my highlighting)


Was the messiah also believed to have been a pre-existent “angelic” being?

Pre-existence, then, is suggested by biblical oracles such as Isa. 9. 5(6) and Micah 5. 1(2) . . . .; and it characterizes the glorious messianic figure depicted with traits of the Danielic Son of man in the Parables of Enoch, II Esdras and the Fifth Sibylline book . . . . with special reference to II Esdras. This material has often been interpreted as presenting an angel-like messiah, with reference also to Septuagintal renderings including ‘angel of great counsel’ at Isa. 9. 5(6). The conception of an angelic messiah has sometimes been identified almost exclusively with the Jewish apocalypses; but the apocalyptic sources themselves show that the Danielic figure of the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven had come to be associated closely with the series of messianic oracles in the Pentateuch, Prophets and Psalms. Bousset urged that the royal title ‘angel of great counsel’ in the LXX Isaiah is only one of a number of indications, in the LXX and elsewhere, that the messiah of the biblical oracles was envisaged as a preexistent angelic figure. (89-90)

. . . . 

It seems likely, as A. M . Goldberg holds, that the temporal interpretation of Ps. 72. 5, 17 on the king and his name has influenced the Parables of Enoch on the royal Son of man: ‘And before the sun and the signs [cf. Gen. 1. 14] were created, before the stars of the heavens were made, his name was named before the Lord of spirits‘ (I Enoch 48. 3 ). The view that the psalm was already interpreted in this way before the end of the Second-Temple period is further supported by Ps. Sol. 17. . . . and by the similar Septuagintal and Targumic understanding of Micah 5. 1 . . . which arises very naturally from the Hebrew of Micah.

This view in turn bears on assessment of Ps. 110(109) LXX. Here a divine oracle of the enthronement and dominion of ‘my lord’, ‘on the day of your power, in the brightness of the holy ones‘, is understood to declare: ‘From the womb before the daystar . . .  I have begotten you.’ . . . .

In the LXX Psalter, therefore, Ps. 72(71), and probably also Ps. 110, were texts taken in the Second-Temple period as prophecies attesting the view that the messianic king is a glorious pre-existent figure; Ps. 110 sets him beside a star in a way which recalls Num. 24. 17. (95-96 — I have omitted the lengthy and technical argument leading to this “therefore” conclusion.)

. . . .

The Fifth Sibylline book, compiled after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus . . . . In this book of the Sibyllines the pre-existence of the expected deliverer is implied by an oracle of the advent of the ‘blessed man’, sceptre in hand, ‘from the expanses of the skies’ (Sib. 5. 414-5) . . . . The combination of prophetic and Danielic allusions in the passage confirms that this is indeed the messianic ‘man’. (102-103)

. . . .

Finally, in the Parables of Enoch and II Esdras, biblical theophany passages relating to God himself are sometimes strikingly applied to a messianic figure. Examples are Parables of Enoch 52. 6, where the hills melt like wax (Ps. 97. 5; Micah 1. 3-4) before the presence of the Chosen One; II Esdras 13. 3-4, where when the man from the sea turned his countenance to look, all things trembled (Ps. 104. 32), and those who heard his voice burned up like wax (Ps. 97. 5 again, probably in combination with the royal prophecy Isa. 11. 4). Outside these books, Isa. 66. 18-20, ‘they shall see my glory . . . they shall bring your brethren . . . as a gift to the Lord’, are significantly adapted in Ps. Sol. 17. 34-35(31-32), giving ‘to see his glory’ [the king’s] as well as ‘to see the glory of the Lord’. . . . 

Such uses of the biblical theophany passages indicate a messiah endued with divine traits, which in the outlook of the Second-Temple period would have been classified as angelic characteristics; but they also suggest that some biblical theophanies could be understood to speak of an angelic messiah acting on behalf of God himself. These passages may then form an antecedent for the familiar New Testament phenomenon of the application to Christ of biblical texts which in their own contexts appear to refer to God. (103-104)


Can a pre-existent heavenly and an earthly human messiah be reconciled in Jewish thought?

Schürer and his revisers, in the carefully balanced estimate cited above, pointed out that both before and after the rise of Christianity the messianic figure was envisaged among Jews as fully human, but that the speculation reflected in II Esdras and the Parables of Enoch had moved in the direction of a supra-mundane figure, whose appearance is raised to the level of the supernatural. This depiction of the messiah might seem at first sight to reflect Christian influence, but can in fact be fully explained as an inner-Jewish development of Old Testament ideas. (104)

. . . . 

[I]t is clear from II Esdras, as Vermes noted, that a markedly superhuman presentation of the pre-existence and advent of the messiah did not prevent his reign from being understood as that of a glorious but ultimately mortal king — exceptional though the reference to his death in II Esdras 7. 29 appears to be among messianic depictions. The coherence in principle of superhuman portraiture with mortality is underlined by the Sibylline oracles, where the king from heaven is depicted in a fashion which could also readily be applied to Ptolemaic or Roman rulers, as is evident in modern exegetical debate over the application of particular oracles. In the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch (II Baruch), similarly again, the superhuman presentation is extended to the end of the messianic reign, which is concluded by the return of the messiah in glory to heaven rather than by a baldly-stated death (II Baruch 30. 1, probably expressing what is implied in I Cor. 15. 24-28); but the messianic advent is also considered as the climax of a series of good dispositions of affairs by past patriarchs and kings of Israel . . . (see II Baruch 56-74). These superhuman depictions accordingly seem to cohere with other depictions of a messianic figure more readily than might at first sight seem likely. They come from the same stock of biblical expectations of a coming king which can also issue in seemingly less elevated presentations of a messianic reign, such as the relatively matter-of-fact description of ‘the messiah’ at the dinner of bread and new wine in the ‘Messianic Rule’ of IQSa, or the glorious but ‘entirely human king’ of the Psalms of Solomon.

The spiritual messiah as outlined above then seems, in the light of the emphasis laid by Billerbeck, Moore and Vermes on the abiding humanity of the exalted figures, not to be incoherent with expressions of messianic hope in which superhuman features may appear less prominent – although it may be often be a question whether they are not implied. (105-106)

. . . . .

It is true that the superhuman and spiritual aspects of the descriptions do not abolish the humanity of the messiah; but it is also true that the messiah is widely, not just exceptionally, depicted with emphasis on his superhuman and spiritual aspect. The mainstream character of this depiction is indicated by its place in both scripture and tradition. This aspect of the messiah presents itself strikingly in the Hebrew Pentateuch, Prophets and Psalms, especially the royal psalms and oracles which were central to the discussion of messianic development outlined in chapter I, section 2, above; and this same superhuman aspect was perpetuated and developed in the interpretative tradition of the Hebrew scriptures, as witnessed above from the LXX , the apocalypses and the Jewish Sibyllines, the Targums and the midrash. (107)

. . . . .

This concession is true to the interpretation of Daniel current in the second century in the apocalypse of Ezra and the Fifth Sibylline book. The messiah as king is close to the ‘gods’ in the form of angels, as is repeatedly shown by the ‘spiritual’ strand in the messianic depictions just noted, including the messianic understanding of biblical theophanies. This biblical and inherited strand in Jewish messianism was close in turn, as the Sibylline oracles show, to the court praise of the surrounding Greek and Roman world.

Lastly, the conception of the God of Israel as king of gods and powers was shared by the early Christian heirs of Jewish biblical tradition. This is one of the points which indicates, as suggested already, that the contrast between Jewish messianic depictions and early Christian messianism is overdrawn in the body of critical opinion just outlined. The emphasis on the divine being of Christ in the New Testament writings . . . must be viewed against this background, common to Jews, Christians and pagans, of a cosmos with a range of divine beings. Similarly, as noted already, conceptions of pre-existence, whether Christian or Jewish, did not leave the messiah in solitary state. Ancient Jewish presentation of the messiah as a glorious mortal king with spiritual and superhuman aspects is then not necessarily far removed from the contemporary New Testament and early Christian depictions of a crucified but spiritual and glorious ‘Christ’. Moreover, the Christian messianic depictions were influenced by the same interpretative tradition of the scriptures which has just been illustrated, and had some biblically-inspired elements which to later Christians looked archaic or even heretical, above all in the presentation of a pre-eminent yet still subordinate Christ. . . . The modification of an influential scholarly contrast between Judaism and Christianity which is being suggested here would allow more weight to be placed on apparent resemblances between ancient Jewish and early Christian messianism. . . . . (107-108)

. . . . .

Yet, to sketch a different view very briefly, ‘Son of God’ can be associated with widespread Jewish messianic application of biblical verses on the Davidic king as God’s son: II Sam. 7. 14 (see 4Q174 [Florilegium] line 11), its analogue in Ps. 89. 26-27, and especially Ps. 2. 7, from a psalm which came to be called ‘the chapter of Gog and Magog’ – the great foe(s) of the messiah.

Similarly, the pre-existent angel-like figure of Phil. 2 recalls . . . the lord begotten before the daystar in Ps. 110(109). 3 LXX, the messianic title ‘angel of great counsel’ (Isa. 9. 5 LXX), the Philonic link beween the heavenly Adam and the dayspring-man, and the pre-existent ‘spirit of the messiah’ in rabbinic exegesis from third-century Tiberias (Ber. R. 2. 4, on Gen. 1. 2, in the name of Resh Laqish); when compared with detailed messianic descriptions from the end of the Second-Temple period, the pre-existent figure can be linked with the assertion in the Psalms of Solomon that the beauty of the coming Davidic king of Israel is known (beforehand) to God (Ps. Sol. 17. 42 . . .), and seems particularly close to the exalted messiah described, with traits taken from Dan. 7, in the Parables of Enoch, II Esdras 13 and Sib. 5. 414-33. The depiction of the messiah in Ps. 110 and II Esdras 13 finds correspondence elsewhere in Paul.

Paul’s two statements, accordingly, reflect the presence of antecedents for both in psalms and prophecies which were messianically interpreted by Jews. These texts were woven into narratives of messianic victory and judgment . . . . notably in the combination of Pss. 2 and 110 with Dan. 7 in II Esdras 13 ; and probably, therefore, they were not thought to be mutually incompatible. (113)

Horbury, William. 1998. Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ. London: SCM Press.

Reynolds, Benjamin. 2018. “The Gospel of John’s Christology as Evidence for Early Jewish Messianic Expectations: Challenges and Possibilities.” In Reading the Gospel of Johns Christology as Jewish Messianism, edited by Benjamin Reynolds and Gabriele Boccaccini, 106:13–42. Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. Leiden ; Boston: Brill.


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11 thoughts on “Horbury Argued Similarly: Jewish Messianic Ideas Explain Christianity”

  1. This IS somewhat better. In that it at least briefly acknowledges Greco Roman contributions.

    He neglects to fill those out though.

    Among other things, we might note that the doctrine of pre existence had long been found in thousands of cultures. Which asserted many gods who had long or always existed, or from in earlier times or heaven. Disappearing then reappearing in various “avatars,” etc..

    Plato’s theory of forms also asserted that the things we see here on earth, had eminated from earlier, preexisting forms or models, in presumably, Heaven. And Philo was reasserting that Platonic idea c. 30 AD.

    So there was nothing new, or uniquely Jewish, or even unusual, about pre-existence by the time of Moses, the Septuagint, and then Jesus.

    In fact, it was an all too common idea.

    1. One of the most obvious parallels to the pre-existence of the son of god is found in ancient Egyptian religion.

      Temples of Ancient Egypt Edited by Byron E Shafer

      The royal ka was the immortal creative spirit of divine kingship, a form of the Creator’s collective ka. The ka of a particular king was but a specific instance, or fragment, of the royal ka…Possessing the royal ka and being possessed by it were potential at a person’s birth, but they were actualized only at his coronation, when his legitimacy upon the Horus Throne of the Living was confirmed and publicly claimed. Only at a person’s coronation did he take on a divine aspect and cease to be solely human. Only in retrospect could he be portrayed as predestined by the Creator to rule Egypt as truly perfect from the beginning, as divine seed, son of the Creator, the very flesh of god, one with the Father, god’s incarnation on earth, his sacred image…

      Becoming Divine: An Introduction to Deification in Western CultureBy M. David Litwa

      The ka was the divine spirit of the king, a spirit he shared with all pharaohs who came before him and all who would come after… It was the spirit of the creator and king of gods Amun-Re himself. Apart from his ka, Amenhotep III was a normal human being, subject to all human foibles and frailties. Endowed with the divine force of ka, however, Amenhotep III was son of the living God and god himself.

      Assessing representations of the imperial cult in New Testament studies Pieter J J Botha

      In this article my aims are: • to indicate that a fairly typical and standard concept of the imperial cults can be found in NT scholarship…• to criticize this depiction as inadequate to the evidence and basically ethnocentric; • to argue that the imperial cults provide us with powerful insights into the “mentality” of the
      Roman Period; • to point to some aspects of the New Testament writings and early Christian developments interacting with imperial cult practices which might be reinterpreted in the light of a more comprehensive understanding of the imperial cults… The imperial cult, it is claimed, is of Hellenistic and especially Egyptian background…Long before the principat the Romans believed that gods became humans — or revealed themselves in human form in order to help people in need…

  2. The book “King and Messiah as Son of God: Divine, Human, and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature” by Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins seems to support a lot of what’s written in this post.

    Eckart Otto has argued persuasively that Psalm 2 combines Egyptian and Assyrian influences. He finds Assyrian influence in the motif of the rebellion of the subject nations, and in the promise that the king will break the nations with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. These motifs suggest a date for the
    psalm in the Neo-Assyrian period. The declaration that the king is the son of God, however, has closer Egyptian parallels. The idea that the king was the son of a god is not unusual in the ancient Near East. We have noted some Mesopotamian evidence. Kings of Damascus from the 9th century BCE took the name “son of Hadad”, and at least
    one king of the strian state of Sam’al was called “son of Rakib”. Only in the Egyptian evidence, however, do we find the distinctive formulae by which the deity addresses the king as “my son.” The formula, “you are my son, this day I have begotten you,” finds a parallel in an inscription in the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut:

    “my daughter, from my body, Maat-Ka-Re, my brilliant image, gone forth from me. You are a king, who take possession of the two lands, on the throne of Horus, like Re.”

    Reliefs at the temple of Amenophis III at Luxor show Amun touching the royal child and taking it in his arms. Another inscription of Amenophis III has the god declare:
    “He is my son, on my throne, in accordance with the decree of the gods.” At the coronation of Haremhab, Amun declares to him: “You are my son, the heir who came forth from
    my flesh.” Or again, in the blessing of Ptah, from the time of Rameses II: “I am your father, who have begotten you as a god and your members as gods.” Such recognition formulae occur frequently in Egyptian inscriptions of the New Kingdom period. Otto suggests that the psalm does not reflect direct Egyptian influence, since the closest
    Egyptian parallels date from the New Kingdom, before the rise of the Israelite monarchy. Rather, the Hofstil of pre-Israelite (Jebusite) Jerusalem may have been influenced by Egyptian models during the late second Millenium, and have been taken over by the Judean monarchy in Jerusalem…

    The interpretation of Isiah 9 in terms of an enthronement ceremony is not certain. The oracle could be celebrating the birth of a royal child. The word is not otherwise used for an adult king. But the accession hypothesis is attractive, nonetheless, in light of Psalm 2. The list of titles is reminiscent in a general way of the titulary of the Egyptian pharaohs. Most importantly, the passage confirms that the king could be addressed as elohim, “god”.
    The latter point is further illustrated in Ps. 45:6, which is most naturallly translated as “Your throne, O God, endures forever.” The objection that the king is not otherwise addressed as God loses it’s force in light of Isaiah 9. The fact that the king is addressed as God in Ps. 45:6 is shown by the distinction drawn in the following verse, “therefore God, your God,has anointed you.” The king is still subject to the Most High, but he is an elohim, not just a man.

    In light of this discussion, it seems very likely that the Jerusalem enthronement ritual was influenced, even if only indirectly, by Egyptian ideas of kingship. At least as a matter of court rhetoric, the king was declared to be the son of God, and could be called an elohim, a god. This is not to say that the Judahite and Egyptian conceptions were identical. Most probably, the Israelites took over their conception of kingship from the Canaanite forebears in Jerusalem, and modified it in various ways…

    The invitation to the king to sit at the right hand of the deity, however, has long been recognized as an Egyptian motif, known from the iconography of the New Kingdom. Amenophis III and Haremhab are depicted seated to the right of a deity. The position is not only one of honor, but bespeaks the very close association of the king and the deity. The invitation to the king suggests that at his enthronement he was thought to be seated at the right hand of the deity…That which comes forth at, or from, Dawn is the sun, the primary image for the deity in the Egyptian tradition. The imagery of the Psalm associates the king with the rising sun, with all it’s mythological connotations. Compare the hymn of Akhenaten, cited above at n. 28:
    “You beget him in the morning like your own forms”…If we refrain from any emendation, however, with Johnson and Day, then the dew is the means by which the deity has begotten the king,
    and it infuses him with divine vitality. We may compare the role of the divine “dew” or “fragrance” in the begetting of Hatshepsut, in the Egyptian inscriptions, where the queen responds to Amun: “Thy dew is in all my limbs.” Since the translation of the Egyptian word is disputed, we cannot be sure that the Hebrew “dew” is an allusion to the Egyptian motif. The motifs of seating at the right hand and sun-like emergence from the dawn, however, strongly suggest an Egyptian background. It seems reasonably clear that the psalm refers to the begetting of the king. Like Psalm 2, it should be viewed as reflecting a Jerusalemite enthronement ceremony, which was influenced, if only indirectly, by Egyptian mythology about the divine birth of the king…

    The most obvious way in which the “begetting” of the king is qualified in the Psalms is by the assertion in Psalm 2 that the begetting is “today”. Most commentators have taken this, quite rightly, as an unequivocal indication of the metaphorical character of the begetting. Similarly, in Ps 89:27 the Lord says of David, “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” Even here, the contrast with Egyptian understanding may not be as extreme as is usually assumed. In an account of the Opet festivel depicted at Luxor, Lannie Bell writes:
    “It should not be forgotten that all reports of oracular nomination to office or divine conception and birth were recorded only after they had manifested themselves undeniably: succession to the throne was normally de facto proof of legitimacy.”

    So a lot of the motifs associated with the divine king or son of god are already found in the Hebrew scriptures and other ANE and Greco-Roman cultures before Christianity.

  3. Could it be that this is a matter of language, translation, veneration and interpretation?

    It is quite possible to see things in different ways based on familiar ideas and imagery and then to cast those ideas on to words from texts when translated – and they may start to take meanings on that vary in a spectrum of ways based on those held ideas and they could deviate from the intent of the authors.

    I guess this is the reason we have semantics as an area of study.

    This way a Greek translator from Hebrew to Greek could be injecting ideas into his rather mundane lexical works without realising it, but could also be doing so quite consciously as his own understanding could be driven by his own beliefs that might be more leaning towards the ideas prevelant in his culture – i.e. signs of Greek paganism in Jewish and Christian scriptures.

    So I think there is a risk of trying to back calculate to arrive at a possible belief based on the use of text … Rather the belief should be “known” and then text should be viewed in the light of the belief system.

    But I understand that would be far more difficult to do from a historical science point of view. This is the reason for an oral tradition. So not only the text but the keepers of its meaning remain alive. It needs to be verified from other than texts alone, I feel, that there really was a Jewish High/Angelic Messianic belief – that resembles the more divine nature we see in Christianity.

    I am still skeptical this view is true – but I can accept that a sequence of translations and esoteric interpretations have led to the threshold of divine attribution without actually doing so – which was then completed through platonic philosophic thought processes by the later Church fathers in to a dogmatic creedal form.

    1. Have you read the texts cited? We only have the evidence of the texts to know about beliefs and ideas extant. Obviously these need to be read and compared with careful judgment. I think another trap some have fallen into is being so certain that Christianity can never have had any common beginning within Judaism alone that certain texts are ignored or rationalized out of the equation.

  4. I’m not sure where to put this, but given the mention of ‘the Danielic Son of Man’ under ‘The Parables of Enoch’ subheading/ reference above, I’ll put these here: all from Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho

    “Of these and such like words written by the prophets, O Trypho,” said I [Justin Marty], “some have reference to the first advent of Christ, in which He is preached as inglorious, obscure, and of mortal appearance: but others had reference to His second advent, when He shall appear in glory and above the clouds; and your nation shall see and know Him whom they have pierced, as Hosea, one of the twelve prophets, and Daniel, foretold.” [end chapter XIV]

    Chapter XXXI — If Christ’s Power Now Be So Great, How Much Greater At The Second Advent!

    “But if so great a power is shown to have followed and to be still following the dispensation of His suffering, how great shall that be which shall follow His glorious advent! For He shall come on the clouds as the Son of man, so Daniel foretold, and His angels shall come with Him [Martyr inserts Daniel 7:9-28].”

    Chapter LXXVI — From Other Passages The Same Majesty and Government of Christ Are Proved.

    “For when Daniel speaks of ‘one like unto the Son of man’ who received the everlasting kingdom, does he not hint at this very thing? For he declares that, in saying ‘like unto the Son of man,’ He appeared, and was man, but not of human seed. And the same thing he proclaimed in mystery when he speaks of this stone which was cut out without hands. For the expression ‘it was cut out without hands’ signified that it is not a work of man, but[a work] of the will of the Father and God of all things, who brought Him forth. And when Isaiah says, ‘Who shall declare His generation?’ he meant that His descent could not be declared. Now no one who is a man of men has a descent that cannot be declared.”

    Chapter LXXIX — Justin Proves Against Trypho That The Wicked Angels Have Revolted From God.

    [Typho said], “The utterances of God are holy, but your expositions are mere contrivances, as is plain from what has been explained by you; nay, even blasphemies, for you assert that angels sinned and revolted from God.”

    And I [Justin], wishing to get him to listen to me, answered in milder tones, thus: “I admire, sir, this piety of yours; and I pray that you may entertain the same disposition towards Him to whom angels are recorded to minister, as Daniel says; for[one] like the Son of man is led to the Ancient of days, and every kingdom is given to Him for ever and ever. But that you may know, sir,” continued I, “that it is not our audacity which has induced us to adopt this exposition, which you reprehend, I shall give you evidence from Isaiah himself; for he affirms that evil angels have dwelt and do dwell in Tanis, in Egypt. These are [his] words:

    ‘Woe to the rebellious children! Thus saith the Lord, You have taken counsel, but not through Me; and [made] agreements, but not through My Spirit, to add sins to sins; who have sinned in going down to Egypt (but they have not inquired at Me), that they may be assisted by Pharaoh, and be covered with the shadow of the Egyptians. For the shadow of Pharaoh shall be a disgrace to you, and a reproach to those who trust in the Egyptians; for the princes in Tanis are evil angels. In vain will they labour for a people which will not profit them by assistance, but[will be] for a disgrace and a reproach [to them].’ [Isaiah 30:1-5]

    And, further, Zechariah tells, as you yourself have related, that the devil stood on the right hand of Joshua the priest, to resist him; and [the Lord] said, ‘The Lord, who has taken Jerusalem, rebuke thee.’

    And again, it is written in Job, as you said yourself, how that the angels came to stand before the Lord, and the devil came with them. And we have it recorded by Moses in the beginning of Genesis, that the serpent beguiled Eve, and was cursed. And we know that in Egypt there were magicians who emulated the mighty power displayed by God through the faithful servant Moses. And you are aware that David said, ‘The gods of the nations are demons’.”

    Chapter CXXVI — The Various Names of Christ According To Both Natures. It is Shown That He Is GOD, and Appeared To The Patriarchs.

    “But if you knew, Trypho,” continued I [Justin], “who He is that is called at one time the Angel of great counsel, and a Man by Ezekiel, and like the Son of man by Daniel, and a Child by Isaiah, and Christ and God to be worshipped by David, and Christ and a Stone by many, and Wisdom by Solomon, and Joseph and Judah and a Star by Moses, and the East by Zechariah, and the Suffering One and Jacob and Israel by Isaiah again, and a Rod, and Flower, and Corner-Stone, and Son of God, you would not have blasphemer Him who has now come, and been born, and suffered, and ascended to heaven; who shall also come again, and then your twelve tribes shall mourn. For if you had understood what has been written by the prophets, you would not have denied that He was God, Son of the only, unbegotten, unutterable God.


    Martyr comes across as Philo mark II / 2.0: doing exegesis or eisegesis or a combination on the OT scriptures. He seems to be espousing things as the NT was being developed.

    1. Yes, indeed. I also sometimes think that the evidence of Justin belongs to the period when the gospel narratives were being formed — various strands of story being worked out from the OT “prophecies”.

      1. I agree with this evaluation if Justin.

        Here therefore we see in fact, consideration of Egyptian and angelic influences. And though Justin argues against them, it may be they were so deeply integrated into Jerusalem culture, say, that they would be hard for many to identify and root out.

        Our present author suggests many very longstanding Greco Roman influences. That had been there so long, that Jews might have identified them as fully Jewish. Though others might have noted some contrasts and inconsistencies.

        1. “Joseph”, your comments are becoming tedious; they constantly violate the guidelines we have set out in the right hand column for comments. Simply coming here and expressing your own views on every tangential or background point and failing to directly address the question of the post itself is not acceptable. For such expressions of views you can set up your own blog of find a forum where those sorts of comments are welcome.

          Lines are often blurred in comments but when someone makes frequent comments that are clearly dogmatic and generally uninformed expressions of opinion on, for example, what is “Jewishness”, and ignoring the substance of critical responses to ones comments (except to dig in with more mere opinion), then we find ourselves moderating or blocking the commenter.

        2. I agree we see consideration of Egyptian and angelic influences in the writings of Justin Martyr, though am not sure if they would have been deeply integrated into Jerusalem culture; maybe after a decade or three after the fall of the second Temple.

          Justin M. occasionally espouses angelic theology, eg. he identifies the Angel of the Lord with the pre-incarnate Christ or the Lord in 1st Apol chap. 63; 2nd Apol 86; and Dial. 56, 58 (twice), 59.

          Greco-Roman influences are often said to have been greater in places like Alexandria (and perhaps more so in regions around it, eg. up the Nile).

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