Matthew, Jesus, and Law

I had a professor friend who used to say (maybe he still does) that every controversy of the first couple centuries of the church’s life was over the (dis)continuity of the Old Testament and the life/faith of the church.

We see on the pages of the New Testament that questions about circumcision, food laws, and law-keeping in general were pressing pastoral questions. Later the question arose as to whether this world that we live in, which seems like it’s a disaster, could have possibly been created by the good God whom we worship through the work of Jesus.

The point of this post isn’t to argue that historical claim, but there’s sufficient grain of truth in it to suggest that any time we get into questions of (dis)continuity between Jesus and what came before that we are on ground that has been well traversed but often with little consensus.

In other words, three quarters of you who read what follows will probably disagree, but here it goes, anyway.

The Law in particular, and the whole Old Testament in general was of crucial importance for the writer of Matthew. “Don’t think I’ve come to abolish the law, I haven’t come to abolish but to fulfill… Not one jot or tittle will fall away from the law until all things have come to be.”

Moreover, there’s that marvelous little parable in which Jesus says that every scribe trained in the kingdom is like a householder bringing out of his storehouse treasures old and new.

Scribe: expert in the writings.

So obviously law-keeping as such is important to Jesus, as Matthew presents him. Right?

Not so fast.

The law that Matthew’s Jesus upholds as the standard of righteousness is not the Moses-given Torah, but the law and instruction and refracted through the life and teaching of Jesus.

Immediately after saying that he doesn’t come to abolish but to fulfill, Matthew’s Jesus holds up various commandments and says, “You have heard that it was said… but I say to you…”

Even if you translate this “and I say to you,” the point is largely the same: if you want to “fulfill what is written” it is not enough to keep Torah, you have to keep the words of Jesus. Knowing what you are to do is not to be had from Torah alone, but through Jesus’ teaching.

The end of the Sermon on the Mount reinforces this idea.

In 7:21-23 we get the warning that not everyone who says to Jesus, “Lord, Lord” will get into the Kingdom; those who do “get in” are those who obey God’s will, which is the same set of people whom Jesus knows.

What is perhaps oblique in this paragraph of Matthew is made explicit in the next one: Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a person who builds his house on a rock.

Jesus’ words are what must be obeyed, not Torah itself.

The crowd’s reaction bears this out. They were amazed at Jesus’ teaching because he was teaching like one having authority. This doesn’t mean he was a compelling speaker. It means that he was speaking by standing on his own calling to speak for God, not as one passing on a tradition whose authority is vested elsewhere (such as the giving of the law itself or the line of teachers).

Finally, when Jesus sends out the eleven after his resurrection, he commands them to make disciples by teaching them to obey everything that he himself has taught.

For Matthew, discipleship is a matter of following this teacher. The Law and the Prophets are essential, but they are essential inasmuch as they have been given a Christological refraction and fulfillment.

There is a paradox entailed here: for Matthew, Law is more important than it seems to be for the other Gospel writers; but, in weaving the Law so prominently through the story, I believe he creates a Jesus who is less acceptable to a non-Christian Judaism, to a people defined by keeping Torah.

Matthew brings the law in closer, but in so doing brings it into such contact with Jesus that it no longer stands as such. The defining activities of the people of God are no longer found in the Law, but in the teachings of this particular teacher of the way of righteousness.

Why Biblical Studies?

Earlier this week, Bryce Walker provocatively suggested that Biblical Studies shouldn’t exist as a discipline. I wanted to join the conversation, but I fear I dallied too long. He now has three posts, in large part engaged in a back-and-forth with Brian LePort at Near Emmaus.

Take this as a general apologia for Biblical Studies, inspired by the conversation but not directly tackling the challenges, rejoinders, and surrejoinders. However, the two basic complaints were that biblical studies masquerades as science and that its methodology is flawed. The hope for the future was articulated at one point was moving toward something akin to theological interpretation.

Here are a few thoughts in reply:

First, the idea that biblical studies or theology might be a science has a historical rooting. After the Enlightenment, when the Bible is no longer the norm for interpreting the world, why should a theology faculty continue to be a part of a university? That was a very real question, and part of the reply was to speak of it as a science.

However, anyone who still speaks or acts in this way has simply not caught up to the past 40-70 years of biblical studies. If the impression someone has of biblical studies is that it is a science, I can only say that one’s instructors have not been continuing to read since the time they were in seminary. And, of course, that one is not up to speed on the discipline that is being critiqued.

Thinking with Bryce

The pistis christou debate was mentioned. This is not, in fact, an area where most proponents act as though they are scientists with the answer. Richard Hays would say (while I was at Duke) that he was convinced about the subjective genitive. Four or five days a week.

Historical claims are always reconstructions, and though we argue vociferously, the idea of theology as a “science” is outdated and, in most quarters I’d say, dead.

The existence of biblical studies as a unique discipline also has a historical root. Critical study of the Bible arose at the same time people were claiming that theology is a science. Why? Because it was becoming increasingly clear that dogmatic commitments were hindering our ability to interpret the Bible.

Now, a good deal of that had to do with wanting to take the Bible apart into a million different historical pieces. And, much of this has been less than helpful in making sense of the Bible.

But the reason that Biblical studies has to exist as a separate discipline is, if nothing else, to keep reminding the church that the Bible is not a systematic theology, that the Bible is not a philosophy text, that the Bible is not ultimately a book of historical antiquarian interest, either.

Biblical studies at its best is simultaneously doing two things:

(1) Positively, it is continuing to keep the Bible as a book to God’s people located in particular times and places in front of the church. This means both: reading it as a book written for the people of God (there is a theological dimension and it calls forth certain praxis) and that it was written in the past to people in different situations.

(2) Negatively, it serves as a gadfly, showing the church where due to cultural, philosophical, and theological blinders, it has misconstrued the words in which it thinks it finds its validation.

Of course, in a healthy theological environment this is not an autocracy or dictatorship! At both points 1 and 2 the theologians and historians and ethicists and preachers and pastors will provide push-back, reinterpretation, and further reflections.

But the history of the church has shown that where Biblical Studies either does not exist as a separate entity or where it exists in a context where theology controls everything (such as a conservative confessional seminary) that the hearing of the Bible, and the hearing of the Bible as the word of God, suffers.

There is no methodological flaw in understanding the texts better as they were deeply contextualized in certain social settings, as they were written by authors whose tendencies we can sometimes discover, and as they were written as part of a larger narrative in which God reveals Himself as the one who saves in Jesus Christ.

Abide with Me

I hadn’t ever heard of Abide with Me until a friend sent it in the mail, thinking I’d enjoy it. It’s a beautiful book about a pastor whose wife dies, leaving him with two small children.

The opening lines tell you that in the town of West Annett “the winters used to be especially long.” This introduces one of the recurring features of the book: the weather, the seasons, and especially the winter provide more than simply a setting. They almost become a character in their own right.

The book itself is filled with all the stereotypical crap of small-town church folk using the church for self-satisfaction, positioning, and a gossip channel, a situation into which a gifted and idealistic young seminary grad steps for his first call.

The book is laced with Bonhoeffer and hymnody. It’s the kind of work that clearly would repay multiple readings, as the various threads of the story-telling are too rich to be taken in on a first pass (at least, if you read like I do…). Abide with Me does not posses the haunting beauty of Gilead, but is still well worth reading.

The story is one of unraveling. The first 260 of the less than 300 pages are spent descending into a nadir of seemingly irreconcilable antagonism. As the pastor finds himself less and less able to cope with the strain of his loss and the strain his daughters are experiencing, relationships begin to sour and rumors start flying.

Without giving too much away, what made the story for me was the scene in which the story finds its redemption. Honestly, I had gotten to the point with the parishioners that I assumed most of them were beyond redemption and we were going to be left with a huge mess at the end. But Strout puts together a scene that resonates deeply with the sort of redemption scenes Luke constructs for us in Acts: a moment when people look upon the one in whose misery they are complicit and realize that they need forgiveness.

Some of the most penetrating insights come as the story begins to resolve. They include this realization: often it is as hard, if not harder, to receive love as it is to extend it.

Jewish Anticipations of a Suffering Christ

Was a suffering Messiah a surprise?

It need not have been: there were psalms of a suffering, lamenting king. There was Isaiah 53. Plenty of precedent existed for claiming that the Messiah would die. And, the NT writers depict this suffering as the focal point of the OT’s anticipations of Jesus (e.g., Luke 24).

In his final argument for the Jewish nature of the early church’s claims, Daniel Boyarin argues that a suffering Messiah is at home in the exegetical traditions of Judaism.

He wants to argue that the church’s construction of a suffering messiah is not a theology that was created after the fact, in light of its conviction that the suffering one was (and is) the Messiah, but a category that was already extant and applied to Jesus.

The chapter does not accomplish this.

What it accomplishes instead is the following: Boyarin demonstrates that one can use traditional Jewish hermeneutical moves to demonstrate from scripture that the Messiah had to die.

While he shows that the biblical interpretation is Jewish, he does not demonstrate that these moves had been made previous to the church’s claims about Jesus, such that he was simply fitting into one possible type of expected Messiah.

In fact, one might argue in parallel with Qumran that after-the-fact readings of Scripture in light of the realities being experienced by one’s community are, themselves, a hallmark of the type of midrash Boyarin sees in play in early Christianity.

He states on p. 132:

The notion of the humiliated and suffering Messiah was not at all alien within Judaism before Jesus’ advent.

What evidence does he offer?

He offers two arguments:

(1) The exegetical methods used in the Gospels are perfectly traditional Jewish, midrashic moves.
(2) Such an understanding of the Messiah as one who must suffer, in step with say Isa 53, continues in the later period of the Talmud, etc.

In other words, the evidence of non-Christian Jews making these precise moves comes from texts a couple hundred years later than the NT.

I think that Boyarin is offering in this chapter an excellent, challenging reading of Daniel 7 as a suffering son of man. In fact, I think that we should mine the suffering of the saints in Daniel 7 as part of what Jesus refers to when he says the son of man must suffer before entering his glory. I’ve not researched this possibility, but I’ve thought there might be something to it, and Boyarin encourages more research along these lines.

But to say that the NT writers use a Jewish way of talking about Jesus, and Jewish exegetical methods to demonstrate his messianic identity, is a very different thing from saying that they are putting Jesus into an already extant category of suffering messiah.

Such a category may have existed, but Boyarin has not shown it.

That Jews in the Talmudic period and later depicted a coming suffering Messiah in step with Isa 53, for example, does constitute an interesting piece of circumstantial evidence. It would have been easy, in the wake of the separation between Christianity and Judaism, to leave such argumentation entirely in the hands of the Christians. But arguing backwards a few hundred years is tricky business.

I have a few overall thoughts about Boyarin’s challenging and provocative book, including a revisiting of Jesus’ declaring all foods clean in Mk 7. So look for one more pass at Boyarin in the coming days.

Us and Them?

Genre note: this blog post is about suggestions and questions. It’s about thoughts clanging around that haven’t found a way to resolve in some sort of palatable harmony. Like real life, it’s a mess of happenings and thoughts and interpretations and rightness and wrongness.

Now that the caveat’s behind us…

I’ve been thinking about “us and them” a good bit this past week.

It started with a blog post: There Is No They. I was wrestling with my own tendency, more broadly observed in others as well, to distance myself from the folks to whom I’m joined.

No, there is no “they” that is the Evangelical church, for example, that’s doing it all wrong. It’s we. It’s I.

Sunday I gave a little talk on sexuality for a church group. Again, I found myself compelled to give a word of warning: despite our tendencies to adopt such a posture, there is no “they” who fail to live up to the gold standard in contrast to the “us” who attain to it.

When we gather to talk about sexual brokenness and sin, there is no “they” about whom we are speaking. We are all people whose lives are touched in every realm by some measure of brokenness and shame, failure and guilt. This includes our sexuality. And it includes even people who have only ever had sex with the one spouse to whom they’ve ever been married.

When we talk as Christians about homosexuality, there is no “they” about whom we are speaking. We are speaking about us, Christians, among whose number and in whose body are gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgendered sisters(-)and(-)brothers.

No, there is no “they” that are the sexual failures in contrast to the “we” who have our stuff all together.

Yesterday in the car a conversation with my seven-year-old went something like this:

    “Who’s more important, Jesus or God?”

    “Well, Jesus shows us how much God loves us. Like that Bible verse we sing about.”

    [Insert the singing of John 3:16 here.]

    “Did Oma believe in God?”

    “Yes.”

    “She died.”

    “Well, this is die in a different sense. John’s talking about life as knowing God forever.”

    “So people who don’t believe won’t get to go to heaven and know God forever?”

What kind of “us” are we talking about, what kind of “them” do I want my 7-year-old to carry in mind?

I started thinking about how people act in the world–not just the love God part, but the love neighbor part. If only “they” lived down to the lists of vices that pepper the pages of the Bible, and if only “we” lived up to the lists of Spirit-empowered virtues.

In the middle of all this messifying of the world, I was driving home today and debriefing the Mountain Goats concert I missed by being in Cambridge at the end of June. John Darnielle sang 1 Samuel 15:23:

The song lyrics sit in tantalizing disjunction to 1 Samuel 15:23. A crystal healer who, as AKMA put it,

is not a maleficent enchanter dedicated to a degraded deity, nor a mere charlatan; he provides clothing and shelter for outcasts, and heals the sick. His account of himself sounds more like the description of the works of the Messiah in Matthew 11:1-6, on the basis of which one might (biblically) say regarding the healer, “Blessed is whoever takes no offence at him.”(“‘What These Cryptic Symbols Mean'”, BibInterp 19 (2011): 124

“They” are sometimes more “us” than we are–a surprise reflected in the scene of Matt 25 as much as anywhere. “Lord, lord, whenever did we?” “Lord, lord, whenever did we not?”

“Us and them” can be a dangerous and self-serving weapon. For the most part, even if not always, we might want to put it away before someone gets hurt.

Interpreting an Inspired Bible

Last week there was a bit of conversation on my Facebook page about what difference it might make for interpreting the biblical book of Daniel if someone believes that the Bible is inspired by God.

By “interpreting Daniel” I mean, specifically, what sorts of conclusions might one come to about the date on which it was written, the legitimacy of its rather “unique” naming of kings, etc. Historical questions.

And, when we’re talking about “inspired by God” we’re talking about something more than one might say for other “inspired” pieces of literature–something that would distinguish the Bible from even, say, Flannery O’Connor (pbuh).

This is a challenging question for many folks, especially as we start getting knee-deep into biblical studies. Do critical scholars question the historicity of certain passages simply because they don’t believe in the God who wrote it? Do scholars read the theological intent of certain passages, in ways that we don’t, due to their rejection of the God whose hand is behind it?

What difference does it make that the Bible is inspired?

First, a positive:

If the Bible is, as we believe, inspired, then this is the particular Bible that God wants us to have.

If we strain the data to make the Bible into something we presume it should be based on our theories of inspiration, we call into question God’s goodness in giving us the Bible we actually have.

If a doctrine of scripture constantly causes us to deny the data about the actual Bible we have, we are clinging to an idol of our own devising rather than gratefully receiving what God has given.

This brings us to the question of history.

We should be very careful about when we demand a different reading of history–limiting our different “readings” to instances when, in faith, we are called to recognize the hand of God at work in a narrative.

Christians will interpret history differently from non-Christians. We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.

We believe that Jesus did miracles, fed thousands, walked on water.

But we don’t have to believe that Quirinius was governor with authority over Judea while Herod was still alive, or that the census that he took about ten years after Herod died occurred ten years earlier.

The former questions are questions of faith. The latter questions are questions of historical record. The Bible we actually have contains a number of geopolitical statements that do not line up with what we know from historical sources that had access to better records.

We need to exercise caution when we confront a historical discrepancy. The Bible God actually gave us contains this sort of thing, and we need to allow it to shape what can qualify as an “inspired” text.

What about theology?

We should not disallow an interpretation of a passage because we know that such an interpretation is theologically incorrect.

If a passage tells us that God changed his mind, we should assume, at least at first, that the writer intended to tell the reader that God changed His mind.

This is not to displace the issue of hermeneutics: we may very well reread a passage in light of the fuller Biblical picture. But such “rereading” should not overwhelm the voice of the text we’ve come into contact with until full justice is given to the text itself.

But this leads to the question of why we should reread at all? What positive value does inspiration have? Here, I go back to the famous 2 Timothy passage:

The purpose of scripture is to make us wise for salvation in Christ Jesus.

Everyone loves the part that comes after: “all scripture is God-breathed…”

But the part that precedes helps us understand what the content of this inspiration is. Scripture can teach, correct, and reprove because it is the God-inspired, yes. But it is an inspired story:

“You have known the sacred writings that are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

To claim an inspired Bible is to claim an overarching unity that is found in a story that climaxes in Jesus Christ. Inspiration means that I can read the parts as tied to a whole.

That whole isn’t a systematic theology. That whole isn’t a history of the entire world. That whole is the story of God reconciling the cosmos to himself in Christ Jesus.

Jesus Kept Kosher (Boyarin, Pt. 3)

Did Jesus say that it doesn’t matter what people eat?

Did he say, in effect, that people can eat pig and shrimp, that Jewish food laws are no longer binding?

In what I found to be the freshest part of Daniel Boyarin’s The Jewish Gospels, he argues no. Unlike the interpretation he offered of Daniel 7, Boyarin makes his claim based on the interpretation of the biblical text as it currently stands.

Here’s the passage in question:

14 Then Jesus called the crowd again and said, “ Listen to me, all of you, and understand. 15 Nothing outside of a person can enter and contaminate a person in God’s sight; rather, the things that come out of a person contaminate the person. ” k

17 After leaving the crowd, he entered a house where his disciples asked him about that riddle. 18 He said to them, “ Don’t you understand either? Don’t you know that nothing from the outside that enters a person has the power to contaminate? 19 That’s because it doesn’t enter into the heart but into the stomach, and it goes out into the sewer. ” By saying this, Jesus declared that no food could contaminate a person in God’s sight. (Mark 7, CEB).

The traditional interpretation is this: Mark is telling us that Jesus just overturned the whole system of food laws–food can’t make you unclean before God, not even pig or shrimp.

Contextually there is one particularly problematic feature of such an argument: Jesus had just condemned the Pharisees for abolishing the commandments of God in favor of their own tradition. Could Jesus really, then, turn around and abolish the law of God in favor of a new tradition?

Boyarin follows the argument of Yair Furstenberg in saying no.

He distinguishes between laws of impurity and laws of kosher food.

Food laws tend to be about certain foods that are always off limits, or situations that differentiate between kosher and non-kosher foods.

Purity laws are about contagion that comes from different sources: often from the body itself (through sores, through menstruation, through ejaculation), sometimes through circumstances such as death.

Boyarin’s point is this: the kosher laws are not purity laws.

What Jesus and the Pharisees are arguing about is not whether certain foods are kosher, but whether certain ways of handling foods could make them impure.

In this context, the Pharisees have created an additional tradition: even kosher foods can be rendered unclean if eaten with defiled hands.

Jesus, according to Boyarin, is arguing against this “liberalizing” of the tradition, arguing for a more “conservative” reading of the law. Jesus disagrees that purity or impurity is transferred to and through food. You can still transgress the law if you choose to eat a detestable thing. However, eating kosher food with impure hands or that has overshadowed a corpse is not going to make you impure.

Thus, for Boyarin, this is an intramural Jewish debate, among kosher Jews, about an innovation in the food laws added by the Pharisees.

He extends his argument by focusing on things coming out of the body as the typical sources of impurity (fluids, for example). Jesus says that things going in don’t make you impure, but instead, things coming out.

The one point where I would have liked to see a bit more concession from Boyarin is that here Jesus’ “what comes out of a person” is not body fluids, but instead actions that spring from the heart.

It’s a point that needs to be addressed, because it seems that Jesus’ definition of what makes impure does not, in fact, uphold the law as such. If he is refusing the Pharisees’ redefinition of “impure,” he is still creating his own new definition when we does not revert to fluids but instead to the actions that spring from the heart.

I need to do more research on OT laws, and see what folks more versed in them, and Jewish traditions, than I think about this argument. But it is the one thing that I’ve read so far where I’ve stepped back and thought that Boyarin might be presenting something that truly has the potential to transform how we read a crucial text.

Selling Sex

There is a sex industry because people are willing to pay for it. There is a sex industry because men (mostly) want to have sex, yes, but also because we want to be aroused by it.

Last night I attended a screening of Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, a Christian documentary about the sex industry. It focuses on the lack of freedom that the women and children have who are servicing the “Johns.”

They are entrapped. They are enslaved. They are held there through physical and psychological coercion.

There were two bright spots in the film, one of them in the progress that Sweden is making in cutting down on its sex industry.

Sweden criminalizes the hiring of a prostitute at the level of what would be a felony in the U.S.

And the prostitutes? They are treated as people who need social services, counseling, protection, and rehabilitation in order to escape the industry, recover their dignity, and reenter society.

The chief enforcement officer of Sweden’s sex industry policies demonstrated what it takes to institute these kinds of laws. Here’s the mentality behind them:

Every act of prostitution is a degradation of a woman.
Every act of prostitution is an exploitation of a woman.
Prostitution is not sex, it is a man masturbating inside of a woman.

Sweden’s laws are undergirded by a cultural shift in understanding of how to think about sex for money.

In America, we are in no place to institute such laws because all of us, all day long, are paying for sex.

Every time we buy our clothes at Abercrombie and Fitch, we are paying for the sexual titillation they have offered us through their hyper sexualized ads.

As Julie Clawson was lamenting earlier this week, NBC won’t even try to sell us Olympic sports where women are large athletes or compete fully clothed or covered.

And we’re not even talking about the $13 billion dollar per year porn industry. (In the U.S., that is.)

There is a sex trade industry because there is a market for it, a market that does not contain solid borders from which those of us who have never paid a sex worker are hermetically sealed. It is a market whose black fades to grey in the everyday purchasing of sex that drives our marketing- and consumer-dollar economy.

Men want sex. A lot. And we pay for it in various ways, even when sexual intercourse is not the actual product we’re buying. (The year that I worked in a restaurant, women servers typically made more money than men; men typically were paying the bill.)

The point in this is that treating women as sex objects, and exploiting that deep seated tendency, is a deeply seated disposition in our hearts and in our culture.

Behind the terrible stories of girls being kidnapped, of mob bosses paying for safe border crossings, of terrified children huddled in out of the way apartments–behind all of this is a market. Men who want sex. Men who will pay for it. Men who are paying for it every day even when we’re not soliciting prostitutes.

As I reflect on my week–watching the Chick-fil-A dust-up, reading Julie’s article on the Olympics, watching a little Olympic coverage here and there, and now screening this film, I’m humbled by a couple of things.

First, most of us are complicit in the selling and buying of sex. And I might say that all of us men are so complicit.

But second, I’m struck afresh by the message that the Church has been sending in the latest wave of our culture wars. We are acting as though the most egregious thing a man can do sexually is to desire and have sex with another man.

While all the time there is this multi-billion dollar sex industry, representing one of the gravest human slavery industries in the modern world, being driven, mostly, by men’s insatiable desire for women.

If only we could redirect our righteous indignation here, against the objectification of women that runs right through the middle of not only the dark alleys but our own living rooms. If only we could agree that the selling of women for sex is degradation and exploitation–and see, also, how we’re all complicit.

Apocalyptic Flying Humans

Is the “Son of Man” God?

Daniel Boyarin suggests that Daniel 7 (rightly deconstructed) provides us with a first affirmative answer, and then moves on to demonstrate that this affirmation is echoed in other early Jewish texts.

Chapter two of The Jewish Gospels provides his reading of the Son of Man in First Enoch and Fourth Ezra.

The material from First Enoch provides a much stronger basis for arguing that the “son of man” was considered some sort of divinity in early Judaism than Daniel does, in my opinion. This figure is clearly preexistent, one who becomes incarnate at a particular time in order to be messiah, redeemer, savior.

One indication that this figure is divine comes from the statement that his name is known before creation came to be:

Even before the sun and the constellations were created,
Before the stars of heaven were made,
His name was named before the Lord of Spirits. (cited from Boyarin, 78)

In addition to this figure’s preexistence, at the end (in what is perhaps a later addition to the vision), Enoch is revealed to be the son of man.

Boyarin reads the text as a whole, indicating, first, that Enoch on earth was an incarnation of this eternal son of man, and that he is then deified in his ascent into heaven.

Presumably, this means that Enoch will return in order to fill the role on earth of the Son of Man who is the saving messiah.

But this presumption raises a question for me: Is the text that precedes Enoch’s exaltation a description of Enoch before he comes to earth as Enoch? Or is it, instead, a description of the heavenly Enoch after his exaltation to heaven, who will come again as Messiah?

The idea that someone’s name is known from all eternity need not entail their actual existence. Compare Revelation, where people’s names are known and written in the books from all eternity.

Moreover, a significant theme of First Enoch is that the name of this son of man is revealed to God’s people–a revelation that happens at the end, when we discover that he is none other than Enoch.

Finally, there is the repeated use of “son of man.” This word means “human.” I want to see more from Boyarin about why this figure is called “human being” if he is not, in fact, human being throughout most of the apocalypse?

This ties into another general question I have, both from last time and this: to what extent does the fact that this is apocalyptic literature–literature that depicts earthly realities using heavenly visions, literature that is highly symbolic and stylized–influence how we read these descriptions? If sometimes feel that Boyarin is reading too literally.

In this case, however, most scholars agree with Boyarin that the Son of Man in 1 Enoch is a preexistent deity and not simply an exalted Enoch who comes back as a messiah. Here there is some good fodder for discussing the presence of a preexistent, perhaps even divine, messiah figure as present in non-Christian Judaism.

In the discussions of both 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra, however, I have a larger problem with Boyarin’s work. It’s not that there are not parallels between Jesus as son of man and these early figures. There certainly are. Even important dynamics of their life such as receiving worship are entailed across different texts.

But Boyarin has adopted Richard Bauckham’s heuristic of “divine identity Christology” as a measure for saying “here is a figure who is being described as God.” This is problematic.

Receiving worship does not make someone God. Not even in Judaism. Unless, of course, Solomon was God (1 Chro 29:20).

Controlling the waters of the sea does not make someone God. Not even in Judaism. Unless, of course, Moses is God (Exod 14).

Ruling the world does not make someone God. Not even in Judaism. Unless, of course, Adam is God (Gen 1).

Being called Lord does not make someone God. Not even in Judaism. Unless, of course, David is God (Ps 2).

I agree wholeheartedly with Boyarin that the Jesus tradition is participating in a larger Jewish tradition of exalted son of man figures redeeming, saving, coming as David’s seed, receiving worship, and riding on the clouds.

Where I am not yet convinced is that all of this entails divinity, as such, for an early Jewish audience. There is a whole tangle of unexplored possible implications that swirl around a very different possibility.

Perhaps “son of man” really intends to connote “human one.” Perhaps rather than a divine christology, this is all part of a larger Adam Christology in which the early Jewish people are envisioning human beings, or a Human Being, restored to the primal place of ‘adam: God’s son, ruling the world on God’s behalf.

Telling the story of the story-bound God