AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Professor Hanan Eshel, in memoriam
* The Bifurcation of the Interpretive Tradition
Ancient and modern readers have offered two basic interpretations of the "[One like a] Son of Man" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in Dan 7:13. One line of interpretation holds that the One like a Son of Man is a symbol of a collective, namely, the faithful Israelites at the time of the Maccabean revolt. (1) The other basic line of interpretation sees the One like a Son of Manas a divine figure of one sort or another, a second God, a son of God, or an archangel. (2) The reason for this double interpretation is not hard to find; the text itself, I suggest, is split and doubled on itself. I propose (with other interpreters and scholars) that the vision itself seems almost ineluctably to require that we understand a divine figure. The gloss on the vision in the end of the chapter, or pesher (to which I will return below), on the other hand, seems equally as strongly to interpret the One like a Son of Manas a collective earthly figure, Israel or the righteous of Israel. (3) The text is thus, in a profound sense, divided against itself. In general, I would suggest as a matter of method and even of theoretical principle that almost always when a commentatorial tradition is as split as this is, we should seek for tension within the text itself, such that both interpretations can be said to be supported by the text. (4)
The intertextuality of the text, its heteroglossia, precludes any possibility of textual unity. As I shall argue, the text is made of the interweaving of two earlier, independent apocalyptic visions and then the provision of an interpretation, a pesher, for the newly rewoven cloth. Rather than seeing levels within the text as authentic and inauthentic, I regard the text of the chapter as the work of its author, the author of Daniel (note that I do not distinguish between authors and redactors), who, nevertheless, as all authors at some level and authors of antiquity more openly than moderns, built the text out of existing literary materials and shaped them to his or her own design and designs. To put this another way, I would suggest that the question of unity or disunity in the text is misplaced. The text is a unity; it has been produced by an author, but it has not been made up out of whole cloth by him or her. As such it incorporates other texts and traditions. Texts are felt of patchwork more than they are warp and weft.
In the pesher on the vision, it would certainly seem as if the interpreter takes the One like a Son of Man to be Israel, "the saints of the Most High." The crucial portion of the text in Daniel 7 reads thus:
16 I approached one of the attendants and sought from him the truth about all this. He spoke to me and made known to me the interpretation of the matters. 17 "As for these great beasts which are four: four kings will arise from the earth. 18 The holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess the kingdom forever and forever and ever." (5)
There follows further explanation of the fourth beast and its horns and its fate, and its defeat of the holy ones:
22 Until the Ancient of Days came and gave judgment for the holy ones of the Most High and the time came and the holy ones possessed the kingdom.
The text then goes back to explain once again the fourth beast as a terrible kingdom with ten kings--and an eleventh king worse than any of them who will set aside three previous kings and try to wear down ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] v. 25) the holy ones of the Most High. He will force them to change their law and their appointed times (Sabbaths and festivals), and he will be permitted to do so for a time, and for two times, and a half a time, until:
26 The court will be seated, 6 and his dominion will be taken away, for destruction and perdition until the end. 27 Kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under all heaven were given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High. Its kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and all of the dominions will serve and obey it.
"The people of the holy ones" cannot be other than Israel or its faithful martyrs. I conclude then that from the viewpoint of method two entirely separate issues must not be conflated. The first is the meaning of the One like a Son of Manas interpreted in the pesher and as its meaning is constructed in the quilted apocalypse that joins the two originally separate apocalypses that I shall presently identify. The second is the possible other meanings the figure has when taken out of this context. These meanings can be earlier or later or even synchronic ones, made available via the workings of intertextuality, this intertextuality being signposted in the very roughness of the sewn seams--what Michael Riffaterre refers to as "ungrammaticality"--of the existing text. (7) It is confusion of these two moments that has led to much of the ink being spilled in vain in the interpretation of this chapter.
* The Two Apocalypses of Daniel 7
Let us first take a look at the text as we have it in front of us. The text begins with Daniel's vision of the four beasts in 7:2-8:
1 In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and the visions of his head on his bed. Thereupon he wrote down the dream: 2 "I watched and behold, the four winds of heaven stirred up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts came up from the sea, each differing from the other. 4 The first was like a lion but had wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a human being, and a human heart was given to it. 5 Behold, another beast, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. Thus it was told: "Arise, devour much flesh." 6 After this I watched, and behold, another, like a leopard. It had four wings of a bird on its side and the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I watched, and behold a fourth beast, fearsome and terrible and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth. It ate and crushed and trampled what was left with its feet. It was different from all the other beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and behold, another, little horn emerged in their midst. Three of the former horns were uprooted before it. Behold, there were eyes like human eyes in that horn and a mouth speaking great things.
The first beast is like a lion with eagle wings. Its wings are plucked and it is then made to stand on two feet like a human being and given a human heart. The second beast is like a bear with three fangs (or ribs) between its teeth; it is enjoined to devour much flesh. The third beast is like a leopard with four bird wings and four heads and it is given dominion (or a tongue: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in the MT, but the Greek presupposes [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). The fourth beast is the most terrifying of all, possessing ten horns; it eats with iron teeth and then crushes and tramples what is left. An eleventh horn emerges, three of the former horns are uprooted, and, "Behold, there were eyes like human eyes in that horn and a mouth speaking great things" (v. 8). (8)
We then find the following sequence:
9 I watched until thrones were set, and an Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was white as snow and his hair like lamb's wool. His throne was flames of tire and its wheels flashing tire. A river of tire flowed and went out from before him. 10 A thousand thousands served him, and a myriad of myriads stood before him. The court was seated and books were opened. 11 I watched then from the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking, I watched until the beast was slain and its body was destroyed and committed to the burning fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, and an extension of life was given to them for a time and a season. 13 I watched in the vision of the night, and behold, one like a human being came with the clouds of heaven, and he approached the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 To him was given dominion and kingdom. All peoples, nations, and languages will serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away, and his kingdom is indestructible. (9)
Now, on the one hand, it has to be observed that a very skillful hand has put this text together, so skillful that biblical scholar Ziony Zevit refers to the "essential unity" of the chapter as "obvious." (10) There remain, however, two abrupt changes of scene in these two verses, one that jumps from the description of the speaking horn to the tribunal and then after another two verses one that jumps back even more abruptly to the speaking horn. At least one plausible philological/literary scenario would have it that indeed verses 11-12 originally followed verse 8 (in some pretext to Daniel 7), which then would have read very smoothly:
8 Behold, there were eyes like human eyes in that horn and a mouth speaking great things. 11 I watched then from the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking, I watched until the beast was slain and its body was destroyed and committed to the burning fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, and an extension of life was given to them for a time and a season. (11)
While it is the case, as Collins points out, (12) that this is a somewhat truncated ending for the vision, it remains compelling to see this as the natural continuation from verse 8, just as, I shall propose, the natural continuation of verses 9-10 is verses 13-14. (13)
Looking now at my second hypothesized source text, we will find an even smoother ride. Attaching verses 9-10 to verses 13-14, we now have:
9 I watched until thrones were set, and an Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was white as snow and his hair like lamb's wool. His throne was flames of tire and its wheels flashing fire. A river of fire flowed and went out from before him. 10 A thousand thousands served him, and a myriad of myriads stood before him. The court was seated and books were opened. 13 I watched in the vision of the night, and behold, one like a human being came with the clouds of heaven, and he approached the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 To him was given dominion and kingdom. All peoples, nations, and languages will serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away, and his kingdom is indestructible. (14)
This reconstructed text provides a coherent whole (save only for the lack of a direct sequel for the court scene, but this is no smoother in the current arrangement). Without seeing the appearance of the One like a Son of Man as a direct continuation of the appearance of the Ancient of Days, it is impossible to explain why there is more than one throne (a point of which the rabbis of the midrash were well aware). (15) Second, the fact that the One like a Son of Man approaches the Ancient of Days also suggests that verse 13 is the natural continuation of verse 10. Thirdly, the text as we have it does not provide a smooth narrative, for after the books are opened, there is no judgment scene condemning the beast to the tire. He is merely thrown in. (16)
Next, verses 9-10 and verses 13-14 are in a poetic style marked by their rhythm, elevated diction, and parallelism, while the narrative of the four beasts and its sequel in verses 11-12 are clearly prose. (17) Let me flesh out this claim, for which the original text will be helpful:
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (8-15)
A fresh rendering may help to bear out the claim of the distinction (which does seem to be accepted on virtually all sides) (19) between the prose and the poetry in this Daniel 7 passage:
8 I was …