Clearing the Heir: A Critical Examination of Ernst Herzfeld’s Reading of Dan 7.13
In his massive two-volume, 851-page tome on Zoroaster published in 1947, German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld assigned thirteen pages to the Book of Daniel, seven of which were devoted to discussion of the term “son of man” used in Dan 7.13. In these seven pages, Herzfeld attempted to show that the technical meaning of “son of man” in Aramaic (בר אנש) at the time and place of Daniel 7’s composition was “heir to the throne.” Herzfeld contended that the “son of man” figure in Daniel 7 is depicted as the rightful heir to the divine throne. In his conclusion, Herzfeld states that בר אנש (“son of man”) “does not mean ‘individual of mankind,’ son of nobody, but ‘youth of noble extraction,’ ‘successor, heir to the throne.’ It is a synonym of the two other terms for the Messiah, ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of David.’”1
Though published more than sixty years ago, Herzfeld’s argument has had some continuing influence on scholarship over the decades. Arthur Jeffery cited Herzfeld in favor of an Achaemenid era enthronement background to Daniel 7, noting Herzfeld’s reading of “son of man” as “heir.”2 F. H. Borsch quoted Herzfeld’s “heir to the throne” reading approvingly, in support of his thesis that a “Primal Man” mythology resides behind the Danielic vision.3 Following Borsch, Howard Clark Kee referenced Herzfeld’s argument to the same end.4 In his recent monograph on Daniel 7, Jürg Eggler identified Herzfeld’s argument for an Achaemenid iconographic background to the vision.5 Recently in addition, Herzfeld’s argument has trickled down into some pulp biblical apologetics, where it is used to defend the thesis that the “Son of Man” figure in Daniel 7 constitutes a divine heir to the throne of Yahweh.
Despite its favorable use, Herzfeld’s argument has never to my knowledge undergone a sustained critical analysis. This essay, therefore, will seek to remedy the lack of critical engagement with Herzfeld’s thesis. I will argue that the arguments Herzfeld employs are unable to stand up to careful scrutiny, that in fact Herzfeld’s conclusion is based on a selective presentation of the linguistic data and on fallacious logic. In short, there are insufficient grounds upon which to base Herzfeld’s claim that בר אנש is a technical term meaning “heir to the throne.” The essay will conclude with a defense of the thesis that the term as employed in Dan 7.13 is a non-titular reference to an angelic being, and not to a human messianic figure.
Dating Daniel 7
Herzfeld acknowledges explicitly,6 and rightly, that Daniel chapters 10-12 date to the second century BCE during the period of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Presumably Herzfeld dates chapters 8-9 to this same period.7 With the majority of scholarship, Herzfeld dates chapters 2-6 to an earlier period, although his attempt to date these court tales as far back as the period of Achaemenian (Persian) rule over Babylonia is based on tenuous linguistic arguments that will not detain us here.8
Herzfeld’s attempt to date Daniel 7 to the period of Achaemenian rule over Babylonia is even more tenuous, but is not based on any linguistic evidence. Herzfeld argues that the vision of the four beasts in Daniel 7 is borrowed from sculptures in Persepolis, capital of the Achaemenid Empire. In one of Darius’s halls, three such beasts are found, and again in a hall of Artaxerxes I, four such. In both cases, the beasts are fought and conquered by a hero figure. This loose connection is the only evidence Herzfeld marshals for his claim that Daniel 7 should be dated to the same period as chapters 2-6. But this claim is riddled with problems.
Herzfeld states of the visions in Daniel 7 that their “Iranian character has been recognized,” but that the details in the dream “are not only Iranian but [more specifically] Achaemenian, and that affects their interpretation.”9 Herzfeld’s assumption here of the “Iranian character” of the visions is reflective of the scholarship of his period, which is now quite dated. Very few scholars continue to assert an Iranian influence behind the son of man figure.10 His second claim, that the background is more specifically located in the Achaemenian period, is based on the tenuous connection between the aforementioned sculptures in halls of fifth-century Persepolis and the four beasts depicted in Daniel 7.11 There are several problems with this argument.
First, only two of the beasts in Persepolis are composite beasts. The first two he mentions are non-composite (a lion and a bull), whereas all four beasts in Daniel 7 are composite in nature. Second, as Herzfeld himself notes, the authors of the original book of Daniel (that is, prior to the final redaction in the second century) would not have had access to the halls of Persepolis.12 He acknowledges that similar imagery would have been found in Babylon and Susa. But this brings us to our third point. Composite beasts in paintings and in sculptures were symbols of celestial powers ubiquitously throughout the ancient Near East, including in Israel, well prior to and post-dating the Babylonian exile.13 Related to the third point is a fourth: the beasts in Daniel 7 arise from the sea, a picture that has ample precedent in the Hebrew scriptures themselves.14 There was also a tradition applying this imagery of the beast from the sea to the political enemies of Israel, as is the case in Daniel 7.15 Therefore, to argue for an influence on Daniel 7 as specific as Achaemenian art is wholly untenable, when so many viable sources are available, many of which would have been much more accessible to the authors of Daniel than the architecture in the royal halls of Persepolis.
Moreover, the visions in Daniel 7 have many more features in common with the Canaanite Ba‘al Cycle than with the sculptures in Persepolis. Herzfeld notes one such similarity,16 but apparently does not see this as threatening to his thesis of Persian dependence. Of course, the Ba‘al Cycle from Ugarit dates to the mid-second millennium BCE, and cannot therefore have had direct influence upon Daniel 7, but it is evident from the aforementioned passages in the Hebrew scriptures that elements of the Ba‘al cycle (such as the war between the god of heaven with the god of the sea) were transmitted throughout Israel’s history down to the period of Daniel’s composition.17
Finally, it is extremely doubtful that Daniel 7 was part of the earlier block reflected in chapters 2-6, as Collins and others have argued persuasively. Daniel 2-6 and 7-12 are wholly separate genres (2-6 are fictional court narratives, while 7-12 are a series of apocalyptic visions). The dreams and visions in the former block are not apocalyptic in nature, and they are distinct in character from the visions beginning in chapter 7. In 2-6, the dreams are not Daniel’s; rather, he is the interpreter of the dreams. But in chapters 7-12, Daniel himself is the visionary, and Daniel himself requires an interpreter. Further, the stories in 2-6 follow a chronological pattern from one king to the next, but from 7 onward, the chronology begins anew. Finally, there are clear references in Daniel 7 to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, which are made again later in 10-12, but are nowhere found in chapters 2-6.18
For these reasons, Herzfeld’s only argument for a pre-Hellenistic, Achaemenian date for Daniel 7 fails. This is not insignificant, because the remainder of Herzfeld’s argument for the meaning of בר אנש as “heir to the throne” hinges upon his dating Daniel 7 to the Achaemenian period.19 Nevertheless, as we shall see, his larger argument fails on multiple other grounds. Even if we were to concede an Achaemenian date for the composition of Daniel 7, Herzfeld is not ultimately successful in making the case that בר אנש should be understood as “heir to the throne,” as I will now show.
Heir or Subordinate?
From the very beginning, Herzfeld makes a category mistake. He asserts that in Daniel 7 and 1 Enoch 69.27 the enthronement of the son of man figure is exactly “the enthronement and the proclamation of the accession of the new king, the heir to the throne. . . . The giving of sovereignty to the Son of man means his investiture as heir to the throne.”20 The question is, to whose throne is the “one like a son of man” heir? Herzfeld’s argument necessitates that it is to the throne of Yahweh.
He compares both Daniel 7 and 1 Enoch 69.27, again, to sculptures in Persepolis depicting King Darius, seated on a golden throne, and standing to his right, Xerxes, the royal heir.21 Herzfeld sees the son of man figure as an heir to the divine throne because he immediately cites Mark 14.62,22 arguing that the image of Jesus sitting/standing to the right hand of God’s throne is identical in meaning to the sculpture of Darius and Xerxes in Persepolis.
The problem with this argument should be plain enough: Darius relinquished his throne to Xerxes; the same cannot be said of Yahweh. Yahweh does not relinquish his throne to an heir; rather, Yahweh assigns sovereignty to a subordinate. At most, the “son of man” figure can be said to be a co-regent, analogously. But there are differences still between the various sources that must be teased out.
In the case of Daniel 7, the “one like a son of man” is not said explicitly to be enthroned, though this is certainly implied in the fact that he is given kingship. The difficulty here is that we are not told which throne is given to this figure. Ostensibly, it is a heavenly throne.23 We can infer that the “one like a son of man” is given the preeminent throne in heaven, but this is not Yahweh’s throne. (Note the reference to “thrones” in the plural in 7.9.) Thus, the scene in Daniel 7 is not comparable to the picture of Xerxes standing in line to take the throne of Darius upon his demise. Xerxes succeeds Darius, and is thus appropriately identified as an heir. The “one like a son of man” does not succeed Yahweh, but reigns alongside Yahweh, yet subordinate to him.
The same is true of the “son of man” identified as Jesus of Nazareth in Mark 14.16 and elsewhere in the Gospels and Acts. To be seated at the right hand of God is not to be heir to God’s throne; it is to be given a secondary throne.24 There is a sense from early Christian tradition in which Jesus is granted equality with God, in order to execute judgment against the nations.25 But according to Paul, this functional equality with God is temporary, lasting only until the hostile powers have been brought into subjection to Jesus’ sovereignty, at which point, Jesus himself is then subjected to God (1 Cor 15.24-28). If Jesus ever stood in God’s place, it was only temporarily. Most importantly, Jesus does not replace God, and does not succeed God on God’s throne. Jesus is therefore not depicted as an heir in the sense of succession.26
In the case of the “son of man” figure in the Similitudes of Enoch, there it seems that the figure is indeed placed on God’s own throne (God “seated him on the throne of his majesty,” where “his majesty” most probably refers to God’s majesty). Indeed, the “son of man” figure in 1 Enoch is invested with the divine authority to judge the nations, and it is on that day of judgment that the “son of man” will sit on the “throne of glory” (1 Enoch 43.3), but as in 1 Corinthians 15, after the last judgment has taken place, the Son of Man no longer sits on God’s throne but instead is sent to dwell with the people of God on earth (1 Enoch 43.3-5), being made subordinate again to God after a period of temporary, functional equality.
As an archaeologist who worked primarily in Iran, Herzfeld’s familiarity with Persian materials may have obscured from view more apposite antecedents. Herzfeld does note the relevance of the Ugaritic Ba‘al Cycle but only in passing.27 In his defense, the materials at Ugarit were only discovered just under two decades prior to the publication of his work, leaving not much time for the arguments pertaining to Ugarit’s relevance to circulate and settle. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Ba‘al Cycle provides a better model for understanding the relationship between the “one like a son of man” and the “ancient of days” in Daniel 7.28
The “one like a son of man” is said to be “coming with the clouds of heaven”; the stock epithet for Ba‘al Shamayim (“Lord of the Heavens”) was “rider on the clouds” and in the Ba‘al Cycle itself, Ba‘al is referred to as “Rider on the Clouds” before he is given an “everlasting kingdom” and “dominion forever and ever,” just as is the “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7. Moreover, in the Ba‘al Cycle, the high god ’El is given the epithet “father of years,” which is a close parallel to Yahweh’s epithet in Daniel 7, “ancient of days.”
In the Ba‘al Cycle, after defeating Yamm (the god of the sea, representative of chaos) Ba‘al is enthroned and given an everlasting dominion, but does not take the place of ’El. Ba‘al remains subordinate to ’El, but functions as king of the gods. In the same way, the “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7 is given everlasting dominion after the fourth beast from the sea (representative of chaos) is destroyed, but he does not replace Yahweh. The “rider on the clouds” in Daniel 7 remains subordinate to the “Ancient of Days” in the same way that the “rider on the clouds” from the Canaanite myth remains subordinate to the “Father of Years.” In both cases, the Rider on the Clouds is not the heir to the Ancient One’s throne, but is granted dominion on the authority of the high god.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered and studied subsequent to Herzfeld’s passing, reveal a parallel concept. In 11QMelchizedek, the figure of Melchizedek is presented not as a human king but as a heavenly, angelic being, charged with the task of executing God’s justice on earth. Strikingly, the scroll applies the first verse of Psalm 82 to Melchizedek. The verse reads:
Elohim (God) stands in the assembly of El, in the midst of elohim (gods) he judges.
The interpretation of the passage offered by the scroll says that “Melchizedek will exact the vengeance of El’s judgments.” The scroll identifies Melchizedek as the Elohim who stands in the assembly of El in order to judge on the high god’s behalf. John Collins explains:
In the view of the midrash, the Most High God is El. Elohim is a lesser deity, an angel, if you prefer. But the striking thing about this passage is that the term Elohim, which is usually understood to refer to the Most High in the biblical psalm, now refers to a lesser heavenly being. There are, at least, two divine powers in heaven, even if one of them is clearly subordinate to the other.29
Here, as in the Ba‘al Cycle and Daniel 7, a god (celestial being) is given preeminent status over the other gods (celestial beings), yet remains subordinate to the high god (El, at Ugarit and in Psalm 82; Yahweh in Daniel 7). The notion of two powers in heaven (one subordinate to, yet in congress with, the other) is one that would only gain traction as Jewish apocalyptic progressed. We see it in Daniel 7, at Qumran, in the early Christian literature, and in some post-second-temple Jewish literature;30 it was not expressly denounced by “official” Judaism until the rabbinic period, some few centuries into the Common Era, after the demise of Jewish apocalyptic.31
Given the genre of Daniel 7, and the close parallels to Canaanite and other Jewish sources, this is the appropriate backdrop against which to understand the Danielic vision, and not the Persian sculptures in Persepolis, with which the authors of Daniel could not have been familiar. The image is not of one king’s succession to another’s throne, but of the delegation of power to a subordinate celestial being by the high god.32
In order further to support his claim that בר אנש in Daniel 7.13 should be understood as “heir to the throne,” Herzfeld embarks upon a series of linguistic arguments in order to show that אנש should not be understood in its ordinary generic sense of “man” or “humankind” but in a special, rare sense of “elite,” “nobleman”; moreover that בר should not be understood as “son,” generically, but in the special sense of “heir.” Herzfeld asks, “Did ‘Son of Man’ have the meaning ‘heir’ in the languages spoken in Babylon during the fifth century B.C.?” answering, “yes, in all of them.”33 But as I will show, Herzfeld’s “yes” is based on a series of selective presentations of the evidence; more importantly, he ultimately fails to show that this was the case with Aramaic בר אנש.
The Great Wall of Semantics
First, it should be noted that Herzfeld acknowledges that אנש in Aramaic had a very broad semantic domain. If it does refer at all to “upper crust citizens,” it is also used, much more frequently, in other ways, including the generic “human being.”34 Herzfeld argues that its interpretation in Dan 7.13 requires a special sense, “nobility,” but first he must establish that אנש in fact carries this sense at all in Aramaic.
Herzfeld begins by distinguishing between two words for “man.” “The Semitic languages usually have two words for ‘man’: ’dm, as genus, opp. to animal, Germ. Mensch; and ’nš, for man in social relations, Germ. Mann.”35 But already this is a fallacious distinction. The semantic domain of the two words cannot be so neatly separated as that. In the Northwest Semitic languages, אנש and אדם are both frequently used generically for “mankind” (singular collective). They are both used in the sense of “anyone,” or, with negation, “no one”; and with כל to signify “everyone.” And they are both used to contrast humans from gods or animals.36 In the Aramaic Deir Alla texts also, אנש is used to refer generically to humankind.37 The phrase בר אנש occurs as an idiom in Aramaic texts from the pre-Christian period with either a generic sense (“human being”) (1QapGen 21.13; 11QtgJob 9.9; 26.3) or with an indefinite sense (someone) (Sefire 3.16).38
The word אנש can also be used synonymously with איש (“male”) in contrast with אישה (“female”),39 which is not surprising since the plural of איש (“male”) is אנשים, indicating that איש was very likely originally derived from the אנש root. This contradicts Herzfeld’s claim that the semantic domain between the words can be neatly demarcated in terms of “man as genus” and “man in his social relations.”
In fact, this claim is further vitiated in that אדם (which Herzfeld claims is reserved for “man as genus”) is used in Old South Arabic to denote “slave” (clearly falling under the domain of “man in his social relations”).40 אדם is in fact used for Herzfeld’s synthetic category of “man in his social relations” with some regularity.41
From the other direction, אנש (which Herzfeld claims is reserved for “man in his social relations”) is used for “man as genus” or “man” as contrasted with gods, females, and animals, with even greater frequency. אנש is used for “man” as contrasted with “god” in Job 4.17; 5.17; 7.17; 9.2; 10.4-5; 13.9; 14.19; 15.14; 25.4; 32.8; 33.12; 33.26; Ps 8.4; 9.19-20; 56.1; 103.15; 144.3; Isa 13.7; 51.12; 2 Chron 14.11. In the Aramaic of Daniel אנש is used in contrast with animals twice (4.16; 7.4). We have already noted above that it can also be used to denote a male in contrast to a female. All of this stands in decisive contradiction to Herzfeld’s claim that אנש denotes “man in his social relations” and not “man as genus,” as contrasted with gods, females, and animals.
Arabic and Late Persian
Nevertheless, on the assumption that Herzfeld’s artificial distinction between the semantic fields of the two words obtains, Herzfeld proceeds to demonstrate this, first, not with Aramaic but with Arabic sources. He first notes that in modern Arabic dialect of Mossul (the Baghdad dialect), banī ādam means “it is human,” as in human weakness, or “they are human beings,” as opposed to animals. Conversely, hūwa min al-nās or min aulād al-nās mean “he is of good family.” The injunction to behave mithl al-nās means to behave “like decent, educated people.” Similarly, Herzfeld notes, in classical Arabic, banū ādam and banū al-nās denote “something totally different,” though they are both translated into English as “sons of man.”42
He goes on to point out that in manuscripts of 1001 Nights, the term for “sons of man” (aulād al-nās) and “freemen” are sometimes interchangeable. In the Persian stories nās is used exclusively in reference to the high aristocracy. Likewise in Iranian, nar (“man”) is sometimes interchanged with hvētu (“nobleman”).43
This is all well and good, but there is a selectivity to Herzfeld’s use of the sources. The fact is, al-nās in Arabic is primarily the generic term for human being, and is used most frequently to refer to humankind in its mortality, or to contrast the human species with God or other creatures. al-nās (“the people”) is used throughout the Qur’an, for instance, to refer to humankind in general, and to the whole congregation of believers. In the final surah of the Qur’an, which is entitled al-nās, the word is specifically used in contrast with the jinn (Surah 114.6), which are the spiritual beings of the celestial realm, of whom Iblis (i.e., Satan) is one.
The only sources Herzfeld can provide to support the use of nās (cognate to the Hebrew/Aramaic אנש) as “freemen” or “high aristocracy” are very late. The earliest function of nās does not carry this specificity, and in fact is most frequently used for humankind generically. Herzfeld attempts to defend the relevance of these late examples, saying, “Though the Arabs were the latest of the Semitic peoples to enter history, their language and customs are very archaic.”44 Despite this plea, however, Herzfeld has failed to establish the relevance of his selective use of the Arabic and late Persian sources, which is unfortunate since he expends one full page on them.
Overcompensating for his use of very late Arabic and Persian sources, Herzfeld later turns to very early sources, namely, to the Old Babylonian of the Code of Hammurabi. The Code of Hammurabi dates to ca. 1760 BCE, about twelve hundred years prior to Herzfeld’s dating of the composition of Daniel 7, and sixteen hundred years prior to the consensus dating.45
Herzfeld identifies three social classes in the Code: (1) the free or noble (awēlum); (2) the half-free (muškēnum); (3) the slaves (wardum).46 Herzfeld notes that awēlum simply means “man.” He admits that in this period it can also mean “prisoner of war,” and that with the negation, it simply means “nobody.” He further notes that its abstract form refers to “humanity” or “mankind” in general.47 He notes the existence of a synonym for awēlum, namely tēnišētu, which is cognate to the Hebrew and Aramaic אנש, but the special meaning of this synonym for humankind is not “freemen” but “inhabitants,” broadly speaking.48 Nonetheless, in the Code, “juridically and socially awēlum, or as individual mār awēlim ‘son of man,’ is the free man of the highest class,” as distinguished from the second class citizens (muškēnum), or “those who have nothing.”49
This is true. The construction mār awēlim did denote a citizen of the upper class in the Code of Hammurabi in the Old Babylonian, in certain contexts. But Herzfeld’s case again depends upon a highly selective use of his sources. What he fails to note is the incredibly broad semantic domain that awēlum had in this period and in all later periods.
Contradicting his earlier distinction between a semantic domain covering “man in his social relations” and “man as genus,” awēlum is defined by the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary as
1. human being (in contrast to gods and animals), man, person, somebody, anybody, (negated) nobody, one (another), 2. grown man, male, 3. free man, gentleman, 4. man (as designation of a person in relation to another person, to an organization, to a city).50
The collective form of awēlum (i.e., awīlūtu) also reflects the same broad semantic domain:
1. mankind, the human species, man, human being, people (old and young, male and female), somebody, anybody, 2. soldier, workman, retainer, slave, 3. status of being freeborn, behavior of a gentleman, mature old age, 4. status of a retainer.51
All of these definitions were operative from the Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian periods on, with the exception of 3. (status of being freeborn), which is attested primarily in the OB and OA period.
We will consider a few examples: lušzizma lullâ lu a-mē-lu šumšu (“I will make a creature in human form, his name shall be amēlu”).52 šittašu iluma šullultašu a-me-lu-tú (“two-thirds of him is god, one-third human”).53 ṣilli ili a-mē-lu [x x] ṣilli LÚ a-mē-li-e [a]-mē-lu (“god is the protection of the king and the king is the protection of men”).54 In this case the same word (amēlu) is used three times in the same sentence, twice in reference to the king, and once in reference to the king’s subjects. Both the king and his subjects are called amēlu; the only way to distinguish them is through fluency. a-wi-lam šuāti lu LUGAL lu EN (“such a man, be he a king or an ēnu”).55 Here awēlum is used to refer both to a king and to a priest.
ištēn a-mē-lu ana ūmu 110 (“110 bricks [to be made] per day per man.”)56 In this case awēlum refers to a slave-laborer. Similarly, a-me-lu-tú mah-rītu (“a former slave girl”).57 30 LÚ a-me-lu-tum GAL-ú TUR halqa maškanāta (“30 slaves, old and young, fugitive or left as pledges”).58 šumma a-wi-lu-ú šunu wardū ša nadiātim ana bēlētišunu litūru (“if these men are slaves of nadītu-women, they should return to their mistresses”).59 Here again, awēlum is used to refer to slaves, but note also that the word for slaves is wardum, precisely the word Herzfeld portrays as clearly distinct from awēlum in terms of social classes in this period. a-wi-lúm ma-ṭí-um anāku (“I am a man of lower rank”).60 Finally, ma-ri a-wi-li-im (“the man’s son”).61 Though mar awēlum can in some cases denote “heir,” in most cases it simply means what it says: “the man’s son.”62
Note further that nowhere is mar awēlum attested with the specific meaning, “royal heir” or “heir to the throne,” which is what Herzfeld contends is the meaning of Aramaic בר אנש in Daniel 7.13. This raises the question, how does Herzfeld take us from special meaning 3 of OB mar awēlum (freeborn citizen) to Aramaic בר אנש as “heir to the throne” in the Babylonian Achaemenian period (according to Herzfeld’s dating of Daniel 7)? It requires two further steps, and then a leap.
Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenian Translations
First, Herzfeld notes that in the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenian periods, there were three terms corresponding to the same three classes he delineated from the Code of Hammurabi: (1) mār.banūtu (full-freedom); (2) arad.šarrūtu (king’s bondage); (3) qallūtu (slavery).63
Second, Herzfeld identifies the Old Persian word āδāta as the corresponding term for the Iranian nobility. Herzfeld then notes that the Neo-Babylonian scribes used mār.banūtu when translating the word āδāta from the Behistūn Inscription.64 He concludes, “This translation was made in 520 B.C., a time when the Babylonian scribes, many of them Arameans, had a perfect knowledge of the languages in question.”65
Of course, the Neo-Babylonian banūtu had just as broad a semantic domain as its Old Babylonian predecessor awēlum, but Herzfeld does not note this. Regardless, even if we were to accept the tenuous connection made based on a few isolated translations by Persian scribes, we are still left with the problem of how to bridge the gap between mār.banūtu and Aramaic בר אנש. Devastating to Herzfeld’s thesis is the fact that this is a gap he never bridges. Herzfeld is only able to assert (on multiple occasions) that Aramaic בר אנש corresponds to special meaning 3 of awēlum, and the late and rare special meaning of Arabic al-nās.
For instance, after his presentation of the Arabic materials, Herzfeld acknowledges that Hebrew בנ אדם and בנ אנש are synonymous in parallelism in Pss 8.4 and 144.3, where both words are used synonymously in contrast with, in the first instance, God and angels, and, in the second instance, God.66 In fact, בנ אדם and בנ אנש are used in synonymous parallelism also in Job 25.6 (for man in his mortality); Ps 73.5 (for men in general); Isa 13.12; 51.12 (in contrast with God); and 56.2 (for any man that keeps the Sabbath holy). In response to these uses of בר אנש, Herzfeld only asserts that “[t]his is entirely different from bar ’enāš in Daniel.”67 But he has not yet proven this crucial difference.
Again, directly after his presentation of the special “intense” meaning of the Old Babylonian awēlum, and the corresponding special meaning of mār.banūtu of the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenian periods, Herzfeld merely asserts that mār.banūtu was the Akkadian equivalent of Aramaic בר אנש but he never shows this to be the case with the latter.68 He makes the same assertion again in his conclusion,69 but fails again to provide any documentary evidence for this meaning of Aramaic בר אנש. It seems as if Herzfeld’s entire case hinges on a tenuous connection from a rare special meaning of the Old Babylonian construction, and a rare special meaning of the Old Persian construction, to a rare special meaning of the NB Akkadian, and then a leap to the Aramaic. Does his thesis hinge upon a well-hidden non-sequitur?
Searching for That Special אנש
Herzfeld does make one attempt at a case for a special meaning of (Hebrew) אנש. He notes the ostensible root connection between אנש (“man”) and the personal name אנוש (Enos), the grandson of first אדם (Adam). He notes that the Genesis narrative follows two genealogical trajectories—the genealogy of Cain, and that of Enos, son of Sēth. Herzfeld writes, “The Cainite genealogy is that of all wayfaring people; the progeny of Enos, on the contrary, are the settled tribes. Many of the proper names in these genealogies are personifications of tribes or classes of population.”70 But already Herzfeld’s narrative has run into significant problems.
First, the genealogy in Genesis 5 begins with Sēth, not with Enos. Second, it is flatly false that the genealogy of Cain “is that of all wayfaring people,” whereas that of Enos is one of “the settled tribes.” In fact, the son of Cain, Enoch, was the builder of the first city (Gen 4.17). Moreover, although Cain is cursed to be a wanderer of the earth (4.12), he in fact only wanders until he settled in the land of Nod (4.16). The descendants of Cain were just as much settlers as the descendents of Sēth, and there is therefore no basis for Herzfeld’s artificial distinction between the genealogies.
Nevertheless, Herzfeld continues, his case only becoming more tenuous as he proceeds. “Sēth, št, is the same tribal name as in Balaam’s words in Num.24,17, where it stands in parallel to Moab. Enos, son of Seth, or benē ’enōš hence correspond to Arab. banū l-nās, noblemen.”71 Herzfeld makes three untenable moves here. First, the tribal name used in Num 24.17 is notably Sethites and not Enoshites. Moreover, the Sethites are identified alongside the Moabites as the enemies of Israel. This can hardly qualify as an example showing that Sethites functions to identify a social stratum, let alone the “Enoshites,” which is a tribal name nowhere attested. Second, and related, Herzfeld employs a sleight of hand: “Enos, son of Seth, or benē ’enōš.” בני אנוש is found neither here nor elsewhere in reference to a tribe or class of human beings.
Third, even if we were to accept all the tenuous moves made heretofore, conceding for the present moment that Enos is the name of a tribe and that it has a symbolic sense meaning “settled peoples” as opposed to Cain’s alleged “wayfaring peoples,” this still does not at all add up to an equivalent to Herzfeld’s definition of the Arabic banū l-nās as “noblemen” (which is itself a very tenuous definition).
Perhaps most problematic for this whole line of reasoning is the assumption of Herzfeld that אנש is derivative of the personal name אנוש. This is a questionable move, especially given that the verb root אנש has two separate and unrelated lexical meanings: (1) to be weak; (2) to be intimate. It is quite possible that the noun אנש is derived from either or both of these verb roots, and not at all from the personal name. Indeed, if noun אנש were derivative of verb אנש 1, it would connote weakness, human frailty, or mortality, as it clearly does for example in Job 4.17; 5.17; 7.1; Ps 90.3; 103.15 etc. If it were derivative of verb אנש 2, it would connote friendship, as it does in Jer 20.10.
Of course, it may be wholly unrelated etymologically to these roots. It is also used with most regularity for man or mankind generically in the instances cited above and in Aramaic Dan 2.10; 3.10; 5.7; and 6.12. It is synonymous with “one born of woman” in Job 15.14. It is used in contrast with animals in Aramaic Dan 4.16 and 7.4. It is used for poor men in contrast to the wealthy in Ps 73.5, for soldiers in 2 Kgs 25.19; Jer 41.16; 52.25; Joel 2.7; 3.9; and as “scoffers” in Isa 28.14. The semantic domain is clearly too broad to pin its etymology down with any degree of specificity, but nowhere is it used in any way derivative of the personal name אנוש.
Herzfeld further attempts to establish a “special meaning” for אנש by reference to later Syriac, an Aramaic dialect, in which ’enāšā can, in addition to its normal meaning (homo, generic), carry the connotation of agnati and cognati, and translated (as in the case of Luke 2.44) “kinsfolk.”72 But this again is not the connotation Herzfeld requires in order to make his case for בר אנש in Dan 7.13 as “heir to the throne.” In sum, Herzfeld fails to demonstrate that Aramaic אנש is anywhere equivalent to the rare special meaning of OB awēlum and NB mār.banūtu.
Söhne sind die Erben
Herzfeld would no doubt reply that although there are insufficient grounds to conclude that אנש on its own should constitute the sense of “heir to the throne,” when it is coupled in construction with בר (“son”), this is the most plausible reading, given the context of enthronement (albeit only an implied enthronement in Daniel 7). Herzfeld makes several moves to substantiate the claim that “son,” generally speaking, can carry the special sense of “heir.” This is certainly true as far as it goes, but Herzfeld’s case for this reading of Dan 7.13 is based yet again on tenuous grounds.
Herzfeld begins with a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, The Book of Pilgrimage: Du bist der Erbe / Söhne sind die Erben / denn Väter sterben.73 Herzfeld writes, “The word ‘son’ evokes the association of ‘hei[r].’ . . . And the word can and does assume this connotation in all Oriental languages.”74 He then notes the correspondence between “son” (υιον) and “heir” (κληρονομοϛ) in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants in Mark 12. In Akkadian, “son” = māru, “heir” = aplu. In Arabic, the respective terms are ibn and walad. He notes that at times in Akkadian, the heir to the throne is referred to as mār šarri (“king’s son”), or mār šarri rabū (“great son-of-the-king”), as a stand in for apal šarri (“king’s heir”).75 Herzfeld concludes, “Both elements of bar ’enāš have beside their general a more intense meaning which together gives ‘heir of a privileged class,’ or ‘of the royal house,’ not ‘individual of genus homo.’”76
But problematic for Herzfeld’s argument is that Dan 7.13 reads בר אנש (“son of man”), not בר מלך (“son of the king”). We note that Herzfeld has not established that Hebrew or Aramaic אנש ever takes the special meaning “royalty.”
The Case of the Missing Kāph
More problematic still, and ultimately devastating for Herzfeld’s thesis, is his inattention to the lack of the definite article and to the crucial kāph (כ) preceding the construction בר אנש in Dan 7.13. In fact, the כ goes unmentioned throughout Herzfeld’s entire chapter. He treats בר אנש unapologetically as a titular construction (“the Son of Man”), but as countless scholars have shown, the construction in 7.13 is non-titular.77 It does not read בר אנשא (“the son of man”) but rather כבר אנש (“[one] like a son of man”). Herzfeld would need the definite article if it were a reference to a specific heir, and the presence of the כ (“like/as”) is a definite indication that the vision is depicting a figure coming in the appearance of a “son of man.” Herzfeld rejects this reading, but does so (expressly) without substantiation:
It does not require a specific proof, one can simply state that bar ’enāš in Dan.7,13 does not mean an anthropomorphic being as opposed to the four beasts. Neither does it mean that a superhuman being appears in human shape, like, e.g. in Dan.10,; 10,18; 8,15, where angels assume human form.78
Contrary to Herzfeld, a specific proof would be necessary to show that the figure in Daniel 7 is not to be construed as an anthropomorphic being. Several considerations in fact lend themselves to this reading.
First, as noted, the figure is not identified as “a son of man,” let alone as “the son of man.” Rather, the figure is identified as “one like a son of man.” Herzfeld ignores this, but the fact is this is a clear indication that the figure is to be understood as a being that is not quite, or perhaps more than, a son of man.
Herzfeld notes that in other places throughout Daniel, angelic beings appear in human form. He cites three examples: 10.5 (והנה איש אחד לבוש בדים “and behold! a man clothed in linen”); 10.18 (כמראה אדם “as the appearance of a man”); 8.15 (כמראה גבר “as the appearance of a man”). To these we may add: 8.16 (ואשמע קול אדם “and I heard the voice of a man”) and 10.16 (והנה כדמות בני אדם “and behold! one like the resemblance of the sons of man”). Angels are simply referred to as “men” in 9.21 (האיש גבריאל “the man Gabriel”) and 12.6 (האיש לבוש הבדים “the man clothed in linen”).
In the above anthropomorphic visions, various synonyms for “man” are used. From 8.15, גבר is a noun meaning “man,” and can have a special sense of “strong man” in poetic texts. In Aramaic it can have the connotation of “hero,” but here it is in the Hebrew, and simply refers to a human male, generically.79 The other three are איש (“man,” “male”), אדם (“man,” “human”), and בני אדם (“sons of man”), idiomatic for “men.”
The word used in Aramaic Dan 7.13 is of course אנש, the broad semantic domain of which we have already established above. It is used synonymously with אדם and בנ אדם, as also is בנ אנש, in numerous instances, and its most common sense is generic. Nothing should be made of the fact that the more common בנ אדם is not used in Dan 7.13, since as Herzfeld himself acknowledges,80 אדם was not in use in Aramaic in either the Achaemenian period or in that of Antiochus IV, except in rare references to the personal name of primordial אדם. It came into use in later Jewish Aramaic, but then only rarely.81 The absence of generic אדם in the Aramaic of the period, coupled with the generic use of בנ אנש in Ps 144.3,82 indicates that this is very probably its function here in Dan 7.13.83
Thus it is clear that אנש כבר (“one like a son of man”) refers to a figure who comes in the likeness of a human being, as contrasted with the four composite figures who appear in the vision as beasts. This point was put succinctly in 1956 by Arthur Jeffery: “One like a son of man need denote no more than a figure in human form. In apocalyptic men are symbolized by beasts, but celestial beings by the human form.”84 That the כבר אנש is an angelic being is a position taken up by a number of scholars.85
Third, and finally, there is the background of the Ba‘al Cycle from Ugarit. We have already noted above several of the correspondences between the Ugaritic Ba‘al combat myth and the vision in Daniel 7. It is very likely that some form of this early tradition was passed down until it appeared here in Daniel 7.86 The strong similarities between the two narratives lend further support to the reading of the “one like a son of man” as a lesser divine being, enthroned by the high god.
Ernst Herzfeld attempted to argue that the term “son of man” in Dan 7.13 carries a special meaning, “heir.” In order to make this case, Herzfeld appealed to a selective presentation of Old Babylonian, Arabic and Late Persian sources, which he used to show that in some cases the word for “man” could be used with the special sense of “freeborn citizen” or “nobility.” But Herzfeld never demonstrated that this was the case in Aramaic or in Hebrew, because it was not. His attempt to derive a special meaning of אנש from a tenuous etymological connection to the PN אנוש was also a failure. Moreover, throughout his entire chapter, Herzfeld made no mention of the kāph (כ) at the beginning of the “son of man” construction in Dan 7.13. The presence of the kāph and the absence of the definite article in כבר אנש undermine Herzfeld’s titular reading of “son of man,” and reinforces the common generic meaning of Aramaic בר אנש (simply, “man”).87 Finally, parallels between the כבר אנש construction and anthropomorphic angelic appearances throughout Daniel on the one hand, and broader Canaanite combat mythology on the other hand, suggest that the best understanding of the כבר אנש in Daniel 7 is that of an angelic figure who is enthroned by the high god without replacing or succeeding the high god, in other words, a second, subordinate power in heaven.88
- Ernst Herzfeld, Zoroaster and His World 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947), 840. [BACK]
- Arthur Jeffery and Gerald Kennedy, “The Book of Daniel” in The Interpreter’s Bible 6 (New York: Abingdon, 1956), 461. [BACK]
- Frederick Houk Borsch, The Son of Man in Myth and History (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967), 115n1. [BACK]
- Howard Clark Kee, Community of the New Age: Studies in Mark’s Gospel (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1983), 130, 206n79. [BACK]
- Jürg Eggler, Influences and Traditions Underlying the Vision of Daniel 7:2-14: The Research from the End of the 19th Century to the Present (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 177; University Press Fribourg Switzerland / Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2000), 109-10. [BACK]
- Ibid., 827, 833. [BACK]
- See his comment on chapter 8 on p. 831. [BACK]
- See ibid., 830. Several of the Persian titles used in Daniel that Herzfeld uses to argue for an Achaemenian date of composition are also found in Ezra and Esther, as Herzfeld himself notes, thus the author’s awareness of the titles in a later period is easily explained. Herzfeld claims that “exact knowledge of these and some other details cannot have survived the Achaemenian epoch, and the original book of which we have only the redaction of 170 B.C. must have been composed in Babylon under the Achaemenids” (ibid.). But this claim is flatly contradicted by the evidence, and is one example of the many ways in which Herzfeld’s argument is now dated. Imperial Persian had widespread influence not only on Eastern but also on Western Aramaic well into the Hellenistic period. John J. Collins shows why the use of Persian loanwords in Daniel does not necessitate a pre-Hellenistic date. See John J. Collins, Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 18-20, concluding that “linguistic observations can carry no weight in the discussion of the provenance of the stories in Daniel” (19-20). [BACK]
- Herzfeld, Zoroaster and His World, 830-31. [BACK]
- See the refutation of the Iranian background thesis in Collins, Daniel, 282-83, which is representative. [BACK]
- Herzfeld argues that the original vision of Daniel 7 only described three beasts; the fourth beast, representing Antiochus IV Epiphanes, was added by a redactor in the second century BCE. Herzfeld is of course right in his identification of the fourth beast with the Greek empire generally and Antiochus IV specifically, but his argument for a three-beast original is baseless. The four beasts correspond to the four kingdoms of Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece. On the question of the unity of Daniel 7, see Collins, Daniel, 277-80. [BACK]
- Herzfeld states, “The authors of the original book of Daniel hardly knew Persepolis, but did know Babylon and Susa, where similar figures in enameled tiles must have adorned the walls, since Achaemenian art is wholly stereotyped” (832). [BACK]
- See P. A. Porter, Metaphors and Monsters: A Literary-critical Study of Daniel 7 and 8 (Lund: Gleerup, 1983), 17-22. [BACK]
- E.g., Isa 27.1; 51.9-10; Ps 74.14; 89.9-11; Job 26.12-13. [BACK]
- Isa 17.12-14. [BACK]
- Herzfeld, Zoroaster and His World, 833n16. [BACK]
- On the question of the transmission of the Ugaritic Ba‘al Cycle, see Collins, Daniel, 291-294. [BACK]
- For a fuller elaboration of these points, and for others, see Collins, Daniel, 42-56, 277. [BACK]
- Herzfeld writes, “‘Son of man’ appears in a context where it must signify ‘heir to the throne.’ The act described does not belong to Palestine nor to the time of the redaction, 170 B.C., but to Babylon under Achaemenian rule. That is the region and the period where alone the solution of the problem can be found” (834). Later again, “For explaining this term [i.e., בר אנש] in Babylonia under Achaemenian rule, it is not Hebr. ben ādām, but Akk. mār-awēlim, later replaced by mār-banū which we must compare” (838-39). [BACK]
- Ibid., 833. [BACK]
- Ibid. [BACK]
- Ibid., 834. [BACK]
- In fact, “thrones” are mentioned in the plural in Dan 7.9, but it is not clear whether these refer to two thrones (one for the Ancient of Days and a second for the “one like a son of man”) or to the thrones of Yahweh’s heavenly entourage. [BACK]
- See the parallel in TJob 33:3 wherein Job claims to be seated at the right hand of God: “My throne is in the upper world, and its splendor and majesty come from the right hand of the Father.” [BACK]
- As Herzfeld points out (ibid.), this is not true of the son of man figure in Daniel 7, who is only given dominion after the judgment of the beasts. [BACK]
- Of course, Jesus is called an “heir” of God in another sense in a few places throughout the New Testament (Rom 8.17; Heb 1.2), but in both of those cases, the rest of humanity (in Christ) is said to be co-heirs with him. This means that humanity (as represented by Christ) is given dominion over creation, but not that humanity (or Christ) succeeds God on God’s throne. Whereas Xerxes would move from Darius’s right hand to take his place on the throne, Jesus is forever relegated to the right hand of God so that, in the words of Paul, “God may be all in all.” [BACK]
- Ibid., 833n16. [BACK]
- On this see J. A. Emerton, “The Origin of the Son of Man Imagery,” JTS New Series IX/2 (1958), 225-42. [BACK]
- John J. Collins, “Powers in Heaven: God, Gods, and Angels in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Collins and Kugler, eds., Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 19. [BACK]
- See ibid., 9-28; also Alan F. Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism (Boston: Brill, 2002). [BACK]
- Ibid., 150. [BACK]
- So too Norman W. Porteous, Daniel: A Commentary (The Old Testament Library; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965), 110: “the one like a son of man does not assume but is granted sovereignty.” [BACK]
- Herzfeld, Zoroaster and His World, 835. [BACK]
- Ibid., 837. [BACK]
- Ibid., 835. [BACK]
- See Jacob Hoftijizer et al., Dictionary of the North-West Semitic Inscriptions 1 (Leiden: Brill Academic, 1994), 14; 84-85. See also the broad range of uses for both words detailed in Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament 1 (Leiden: Brill Academic, 1994), 14; 70. [BACK]
- DA ii 10. [BACK]
- See Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX (The Anchor Bible; New York: Doubleday, 1970), 208-209; Collins, Daniel, 304-10. [BACK]
- Koehler et al., Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, 14. [BACK]
- Ibid. [BACK]
- E.g., Lev 24.17; Num 31.35; Judg 18.28; 2 Sam 23.3; Zech 8.10c; 13.5; etc. [BACK]
- Herzfeld, Zoroaster and His World, 835. [BACK]
- Ibid., 836. [BACK]
- Ibid., 836. [BACK]
- So James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Christianity in the Making 1; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 730n99: “There is a large-scale consensus that Daniel is a product of the Maccabean period and that Daniel 7 reflects the crisis occasioned by the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes in the period 175-167 BCE.” [BACK]
- Ibid., 838. [BACK]
- Ibid. [BACK]
- Ibid. [BACK]
- Ibid. [BACK]
- A. Leo Oppenheim et al., The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago 1/1 (Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1964), 48. [BACK]
- Ibid., 57-58. [BACK]
- Enuma Elish VI 6. amēlu here functions precisely as אדם (Adam) in Hebrew. [BACK]
- Gilgamesh IX ii 16. [BACK]
- R. F. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters, 652 r. 10. [BACK]
- Review of Assyriology and Oriental Archaeology 11 92 ii 17. [BACK]
- Babylonian Inscriptions in the Collection of J.B. Nies, 1 40.16. [BACK]
- Texte und Materialen der Frau Professor Hilprecht Collection of Babylonian Antiquities im Eigentum der Universität Jena 2-3 1.15. [BACK]
- Textes cunéiformes du Louvre 12 43.15. [BACK]
- F. R. Kraus, Old Babylonian Communiqué, 1 115 r. 8’. [BACK]
- Old Assyrian; Textes cunéiformes du Louvre, 19 53.26. [BACK]
- Yale Oriental Series, Babylonian Texts, 41.53. [BACK]
- For numerous examples of other uses of awēlum, including an adjectival use describing a thing as “human,” and its use to distinguish men from animals, males from females, and old or mature men from boys, see Oppenheim et al., Assyrian Dictionary of Chicago 1, 54-62. [BACK]
- Herzfeld, Zoroaster and His World, 838. [BACK]
- §§ 13, 43. [BACK]
- Herzfeld, Zoroaster and His World, 840. [BACK]
- Ibid., 836. [BACK]
- Ibid. [BACK]
- Ibid., 838. [BACK]
- Ibid., 840. [BACK]
- Ibid., 836. [BACK]
- Ibid., 836. [BACK]
- Ibid., 837. [BACK]
- You are the heir / Sons are the heirs / because fathers die. [BACK]
- Ibid., 837. [BACK]
- Ibid., 837-38. [BACK]
- Ibid., 838. [BACK]
- E.g., Seyoon Kim, The Son of Man as the Son of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 15; Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981), 172; Collins, Daniel, 304-05. [BACK]
- Ibid., 837. [BACK]
- Cf. Deut 22.5 (“man” as distinct from “woman”); Job 3.3 (“man-child”); Ps 18.26 (“one,” generic male); etc. See BDB, 149-50. [BACK]
- Herzfeld, Zoroaster and His World, 837. [BACK]
- See Koehler et al., Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, 14. [BACK]
- The generic use of “son of man” is already attested at Ugarit. See Mark S. Smith, “The ‘Son of Man’ in Ugaritic,” CBQ 45 (1983) 59-60. [BACK]
- Furthermore, Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 732, writes, “the fact that 4 Ezra simply speaks of a ‘man’ (rather than ‘son of man’) strongly implies that the Aramaic idiom was still well known at the time of writing, and that Dan. 7.13 was recognized as a case in point.” [BACK]
- Jeffery and Kennedy, “Daniel,” 460. [BACK]
- John J. Collins, Daniel, 279-324; Adela Yarbro Collins, Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism, 548-51; Christopher Rowland, “The Vision of the Risen Christ in Rev. i. 13ff.: The Debt of an Early Christology to an Aspect of Jewish Angelology,” JTS n.s. 31 (1980) 1-11; idem, The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity, 100-101, 103, 178-89; Nathaniel Schmidt, “The ‘Son of Man’ in the Book of Daniel,” JBL 19/1 (1900) 22-28; J. Day, The Old Testament Utilisation of Language and Imagery Having Parallels in the Baal Mythology of the Ugaritic Texts (diss.; Cambridge 1977) 141-46; among others. [BACK]
- For a fuller argument and for the relevant scholarship, see Collins, Daniel, 286-94; also, Emerton, “Origin of the Son of Man Imagery.” [BACK]
- On “son of man” as an idiom for “human being” see Maurice Casey, The Solution to the Son of Man Problem (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 56-81. [BACK]
- My thanks to Dr. Christopher Rollston and to Adam Bean for their guidance throughout the composition of this essay. [BACK]