Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Eisenmania III – On why ‘The Son of Man’ must be foreign

Posted by NT Wrong on June 20, 2008

This has to be my favourite episode of Eisenmania, yet. The quotations below are from Robert Eisenman’s first and second lectures on the Dead Sea scrolls. Although Robert Eisenman’s explanation is far from clear, it appears Eisenman is trying to make the following argument:

    1. Daniel 7 only refers to a (generic) son of man, meaning ‘man’;
    2. Jesus refers to himself as “The Son of Man”, with the definite article, somewhere in ‘The Gospels’;
    3. Only a foreigner could make such a mistake (in interpreting Daniel);
    (therefore) 4. The narrator of ‘The Gospels’ was a foreigner who put these words into the mouth of Daniel, because he misunderstood Daniel’s reference to ‘son of man’.

“‘You will see The Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.’ … Well, to my mind, that shows that the Gospels are, first of all, are written by people who don’t know Hebrew, or Aramaic, and are of overseas origin. And actually, just from that line – I know I’m pushing a lot in that – but they know very little about what is going on in Palestine at all. Most of what they’re talking about is, like, poorly digested hearsay and so on … People are putting their own ideas into Jesus’ mouth.”
– Robert Eisenman ( 4:25–5:43 )

Points (1) and (2) are quite true. But point (3) is nonsense. The phrase “The Son of Man”, referring to a specific heavenly being, was in fact used by Jews. In fact, “The Son of Man” was used by Jews in their own native Aramaic tongue in 1 Enoch 46.

(That Aramaic was the original language of composition for the Parables (or ‘Similitudes’) of Enoch is “obvious” (J. Charlesworth, in Boccaccini, Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man, 2007: 452), so is not in question.)

In 1 Enoch 46, the figure of “The Son of Man” is clearly an individual, another power in heaven alongside God, who will be “the One” to carry out the eschatological judgment. Some Jewish reinterpreters of Daniel had developed the ‘one like a son of man’ tradition, so that at the turn of the millennium some Jews were interpreting it, in their native tongue, as “The Son of Man”. So Eisenman’s argument that only a foreigner could have referred to “The Son of Man” (with the definite article) is seriously flawed, contrary to evidence he should know about, and quite untenable.

Here is Eisenman’s own ‘explanation’ (the explanation is a little hard to follow, because throughout his explanation, Eisenman is searching for Mark’s famous ‘Little Apocalypse’ in Ch 13, but Eisenman has forgotten where it is, or even which book it is in for that matter):

“… Adam being the ‘Son of Man’ coming on the clouds of heaven. I tried to tell you that I thought that that formula probably showed a foreign authorship. I just read something in the Gospels today when I was looking for something for these footnotes that I’m doing. And it said that, “The Son of Man …” Where was it. It was in, um, I don’t know if I can find it quickly. I probably can’t. Let’s see quickly if I can find it […] Let’s see if I can find it. Now … after Jesus is saying that you can eat anything you want … um: “These are the things which defile a man. But eating with unwashed hands does not defile a man” … and, ah … and now I can’t find the Son of Man … Ah well, it was in here some place. I was just seeing it. So um … He was referring to himself … Maybe it’s Mark 7 … um … Let’s see […] We have quotes here with Jesus referring to himself as ‘The Son of Man’. What I’m trying to say is, there is no The Son of Man. So I don’t know if Jesus would have said that himself … What did the President of Columbia say, “You either don’t know what you’re talking about, or you’re uneducated” or something like that? [I don’t know] if he would have been that unsophisticated. Only those people who were putting those speeches down in his name – whether they’re accurate or not, beng no tape-recorders at the time … So, I just came across one of those things. I can’t … I better find it. Hold on a minute, just give me a second, I can’t leave that hanging out there. Let’s just give me a minute here … ahhhhhh, let’s see … um …………….. it doesn’t look like I’m going to find it … ah, this page here I think … um … nah! no way … ha … well, I can’t find where he actually says it, not the narrator – where Jesus actually calls himself The Son of Man … I can’t find it. But anyway the reason I brought up the whole Daniel material is because it comes from Daniel (“One like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven”) and ‘man’ is ‘Adam’ in Hebrew. So that’s why I got off on a tangent, to show how important the concept of Adam is …”
– Robert Eisenman ( 1:10–4:18 )

Of course, there is no word ‘Adam’ in Dan 7, which is in Aramaic (instead: bar enosh). (Although Eisenman does explain this in his first Dead Sea scrolls lecture.)

5 Responses to “Eisenmania III – On why ‘The Son of Man’ must be foreign”

  1. Wrong, you must free yourself from this horrible addiction to Eisenman. Think of the brain cells you’re destroying with every viewing. Oh, the horror!

  2. ntwrong said

    Grantham … clearly your name is linked to the Hebrew for ‘threshing floors’. That’s probably an enclitic mem on the end.

  3. You’ve gone over to the Dark Side.

  4. eklektekuria said

    As an Enoch/Daniel afficianado, I too immediately thought of the BP when I read premise #3. “Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man” is also a great read — been enjoying it quite a bit.

  5. ntwrong said

    I agree. Books in Boccaccini’s series are usually great reads.

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