Matthew’s Son of Man

And the Elect One shall in those days sit on My throne, and his mouth shall pour forth all the secrets of wisdom and counsel: For the Lord of Spirits hath given (them) to him and hath glorified him.  1 Enoch 51:3

My throne – Academicians recognize that the “son of Man” in the gospel of Matthew owes much of its development not to the book of Daniel but to the books of Enoch.

The Book of Enoch is an ancient Hebrew apocalyptic religious text, ascribed by tradition to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah.  Enoch contains unique material on the origins of demons and Nephilim, why some angels fell from heaven, an explanation of why the Genesis flood was morally necessary, and prophetic exposition of the thousand-year reign of the Messiah.

The older sections (mainly in the Book of the Watchers) of the text are estimated to date from about 300–200 BC, and the latest part (Book of Parables) probably to 100 BC.[1]

Matthew isn’t the only apostolic author to rely on Enoch.  Jude’s citation demonstrates the wide acceptance of this pseudepigraphal work.  But this isn’t new to most of us.  What might be new is this: 1 Enoch does not view the son of Man as divine.  In 1 Enoch, the son of Man, the Messiah, is fully and completely human.  1 Enoch does not support anything like the Trinitarian doctrine (or even the early view of the Church fathers without the divine “person” of the Holy Spirit).  For 1 Enoch, the Messiah is a man, chosen by God, empowered as God’s agent, to accomplish God’s purposes.  That’s why the verse above described the “Elect One” sitting on “My” throne, the throne of the One God of Israel.  Of course, this isn’t the only verse in 1 Enoch with this implication.  If Matthew’s view of the son of Man really comes from this apocalyptic material, then it’s very unlikely that Matthew embraced anything like the Trinity.  The implications for the rather famous passage at the end of Matthew’s gospel (“baptizing them in the name of the  . . .) are significant, especially since the earliest texts of Matthew 24 to 28 date from after the 4th century.  One must wonder how much Christian doctrine found its way into these texts.  Perhaps the Shem Tov Hebrew gospel of Matthew is the correct one, ending without the Trinitarian instruction.

At any rate, the acceptance of 1 Enoch in the spiritual communities of Messianic followers is enough for us to raise some questions about the later doctrines of the Church.  It’s also enough for us to speculate about why 1 Enoch was not canonized when it was clearly a part of the scared literature of the early believers in Messiah Yeshua.

Oh, and there’s one more interesting fact that needs a lot more investigation.  In Hebrew there are three words for “man”:  אָדָם (ʾādām), אִישׁ (ʾîš) man, and אֱנוֹשׁ (ʾĕnôš) man.  But only one of these words exists in the plural.  There is no plural of ʾādām or ʾîš.  The plural of “man” is always a plural of the root ʾĕnôš (ʾĕnôšim).  This is particularly odd—and very important.  But we’ll have to investigate that later.  In the meanwhile, it seems to me that 1 Enoch, also from the root ʾĕnôš, is in Hebrew directly connected to what it means to be “man,” not God.  Maybe that’s why Christianity had so much trouble with this book.

So much more to learn.  So much more to unlearn.

Topical Index: Enoch, Trinity, son of Man, ʾĕnôš, 1 Enoch 51:3


IF you’re interested in Jude’s use of 1 Enoch, you may want to purchase this study.  CLICK HERE

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Richard Bridgan

The question implied here and that is relevant for each individual who reads Skip’s posts is “What is it that becomes the horizon of the meaning of being?”

There are in the world multiple forms that may be expressed and compared that serve to articulate ontological meaning and existential “direction,” including those of Judaism, Christianity, and even nihilism. Skip’s postings focus principally on the Judeo-Christian forms, often from a critical perspective that serve to rouse us from dulled awareness and perception, and the self-satisfied smugness and arrogance (which apparently is a prevalent human inclination).

Both Judaism and Christianity in their relative association and historical presentations point us to a fundamental meaning of being. Yes, while commonly grounded on the same sacred texts, each displays a unique perspective concerning ontological purpose and meaning. Moreover, while each claims to worship the same God, who is creator of all that substantively orders our world and its elemental relations, there are also substantive differences in our understanding of man’s relation to this God in his articulation to us the meaning of our being and relationality.

For me, the major issue is the unknown horizon of “death” contrasted with “life” What is the nature of death? We know of death by observing its ability to overcome life… by its obvious effect in the existential conditions of “life.” Yet all we can actually know of death eludes us, until we undergo death itself. And it is then, when death appears to us imminent or certain, that the horizon of the meaning of our being is paramount.

At one point I was nearly overcome by nihilistic despair, and I sought to end my known existential experience in “hope” that the unknown may somehow provide an end to my despair. Nevertheless, having been exposed to an appearance of hope offered in a scant acquaintance with Christian teaching, I made one last desperate cry to that God, requesting that if He indeed was real, to please make himself known. Sparing the details, it was at the final moment he acted in a sufficient and effective way that kept me from taking my life and led shortly thereafter to my coming to acknowledge faith in that God through Jesus Christ.

Within that relation to that God, I continue to wrestle with what it means to be in that relation and how being in that relation implies meaning and how thatmeaningful existence looks in living life. In this peculiar and particular vocation I look to the text of Israel’s testimony that bears witness to that God. On the testimony of particular members of that community of faith (i.e., b’nai Israel), regarding Yeshua of Nazareth— his peculiar teaching, and the particularly unique event of his resurrection from the dead— I identify as a Christian and as a member of his assembly, whose members are described as members of his body in the everyday space of our existence. This is the way I am relationally involved in the “everyday” space that now articulates the meaning of my “being” and also implies an eternal ontological horizon and meaning.

All of the remaining matters are quite interesting details and ways of expressing that not yet possible to comprehend but are, nevertheless, ontologically perceived.