When Jesus was growing up he read the Old Testament Scriptures, that much is clear. But how did he view the Scriptures? Increasingly I’ve been coming across the idea that when Jesus was reading the Old Testament he wasn’t really reading about himself as such, but rather just a general concept of ‘God’ that was revealed to those ‘primitive’ desert dwellers! (That’s a whole other blog post!) So, for example, when Jesus claims the title ‘Son of Man’ in the Gospels we have two options:
a) He is simply a master-illustrator who uses unrelated things to speak of himself (rather like how a preacher illustrates in a sermon)
b) He is saying, ‘that is me!’
For those thinking, ‘of course it’s answer b),’ it might shock you to hear that answer a) is more common than you might think!
So when Daniel speaks about the Son of Man in Daniel 7 being led into the presence of the Ancient of Days do we think the Son of Man is some sort of human priestly figure who the incarnate Jesus then reads about and goes, ‘oh, that Son of Man character is a bit like me, I’m going to use him to illustrate what I am like’? If that is so then who is this Son of Man who is led into the presence of the Father? Some say that the Son of Man that Daniel is speaking about is actually King David. If this is true, then what Jesus is doing by claiming the title ‘Son of Man’ is saying, ‘I’m a bit like David.’ Is that really what Jesus means? I mean, for starters, David clearly at no point had direct access to the Father – only one person has ever enjoyed that privilege – the Son of God. Also, we are then saying that Jesus is a shadow of David and not the other way round? Nevertheless, there seems to be an obsession with having a temporal (or worldly) meaning of the prophecy before we can even begin to think about a Christological reading of a prophecy.
So if we are to say that the Son of Man was someone else and the prophecy had a temporal fulfilment then is Jesus the Son of Man or isn’t he? Are we saying he is the Son of Man… but he isn’t really… because it had an original meaning… but now he is the Son of Man… because he has said he is as well…!?…confusing?!…Yes!
If, however, we take Jesus at his word then it is all rather simple really. What if when Jesus claims the title ‘Son of Man’ we just say, ‘oh yeah, that makes sense, I’ll take him at his word, that was Jesus back in Daniel 7.’ Jesus is the only one who has been in the presence of the Father so that suddenly makes sense. And also, we now no longer have to scrabble around for reasons why Jesus would claim a title that wasn’t originally attributed to him – because it in fact IS him!
We could do this with almost any prophecy in the Old Testament. My question is, why do we so crave for prophecy to have a temporal meaning or fulfilment? By doing so, we simply push any Christological meaning back to a secondary meaning (whatever that means)! Is this because we don’t actually believe that prophecy is possible?