Book Review: The Messiah – A Comparative Study of the Enochic Son of Man and the Pauline Kyrios

jameswaddellTitle: The Messiah: A Comparative Study of the Enochic Son of Man and the Pauline Kyrios

Author: James Waddell

Bibliographic info: XVI + 209 + 30 (of indices and bibliography)

Publisher: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013.

With thanks to Bloomsbury for the review copy!

Buy the book at Amazon.

Note: The Parables of Enoch are also known as the Similitudes of Enoch. I usually use the latter term, but since the author uses the former, I will as well for this review.

This volume is a revised version of the author’s doctoral dissertation completed at the University of Michigan in 2010. In it James Waddell examines Paul’s place in the development of Jewish thought concerning messianism. He summarizes this work in the following snippet:

What is the relationship, if any, between the concept of the messiah figure in the Book of the Parables of Enoch and the concept of the messiah figure in the Letters of Paul? In other words, is there a relationship between the Enochic Son of Man and the Pauline Kyrios? A corollary question is: Where does Paul as a Jew fit within the landscape of Jewish intellectual development of messianic ideology of the Second Temple period? (pp. 2-3)

Chapter One is an introduction which covers the history of research on the topic at hand. The usual suspects are covered (e.g. Dunn, Bauckham), with an emphasis on Larry Hurtado’s work. The introduction also covers a few other issues such as the dating of the Parables of Enoch. Parables is dated from between the end of first century BC to the beginning of first century AD. After providing his reasoning, Waddell specifically suggests a date for Parables “closer to sometime within the latter half of the first century BCE after the Parthian invasion of 40” (27). Also discussed in the introduction are matters of methodology (e.g. the author relies upon the seven undisputed letters of Paul).

Chapter Two examines the nature and functions of the Deity in the Book of Parables. Waddell sees the nature of the divine figure in Parables in terms of God being a heavenly being, a holy being, a merciful being, a righteous being, an eternal being, and as someone who possesses foreknowledge and who repents. The functions of the Deity in Parables are that of creator, the revealer of wisdom, the recipient of worship, and the executor of justice. In a nutshell, Parables doesn’t provide us with a whole lot of info concerning the nature and functions of the Deity, and none of the characteristics given are extraordinary when seen in the Second Temple context.

Chapter Three is on the messianic figure in Parables. For those unaware, Parables contains numerous references to am eschatological messianic figure variously called “Son of Man”, “Elect One”, “Righteous One”, and “Messiah”. Waddell sees the nature of this messiah in Parables depicted as a human being, who is identified with Enoch, but is also a heavenly being, who preexisted, and is associated with wisdom, as well as a righteous being. Furthermore, the messianic figure carries the “Son of Man” title and the divine name (which is seen in the circumlocutory epithet “name of the Lord of Spirits”). The messiah figure in Parables functions as a revealer of secrets, the bringer of salvation to the righteous, and as the one who sits on the throne of glory and judges (Waddell says that only in the Parables section of 1 Enoch is judgment delegated to the messiah).

The section of the “Son of Man” title was interesting (pp. 76-87). Waddell interacts with the work of Maurice Casey (as one would naturally expect), saying that Casey’s conclusion regarding the “Son of Man” title in Parables – i.e. that the title was used in Parables as a normal term for “man” – is “problematic for several reasons” and that “when the evidence unravels Casey’s thesis, Casey is prepared to ignore the evidence or treat it differently from his treatment of the evidence in other primary sources” (79). I found Waddell’s treatment here to be persuasive.

In the end, Waddell sees “clear similarities” between the divine figure and messianic figure in Parables. Though there is the key difference that while the Deity is depicted as being divine, the messianic figure is not (despite the fact, as Waddell notes, that Parables portrays the Son of Man as being worshiped by all who dwell on the earth).

Chapter Four then tackles the nature and functions of the divine figure in Paul’s letters. Waddell sees the nature of God in Paul’s letters under the concepts of being the one true god, a heavenly being, and a righteous being. The functions of God are see in being the creator, the revealer of wisdom, the source of salvation, the object of worship, the executor of judgment, and in his divine acts in the life of the messiah Jesus.

Chapter Five then looks at the messiah in Paul’s letters. Unsurprisingly, Waddell sees Paul portraying the messiah as a human being, a heavenly being, and as a being who had preexistence and a pre-human state (as seen in 1 Cor. 10.1-4; “pre-human” is used in the same sense as Christophany, a term the author judiciously sees as carrying “too much theological freight”). The messiah is also associated with the wisdom of God, the divine image and glory, the divine name, sinlessness, and angelicness (using Gal. 4.13-14). The functions of the messiah in Paul are that of being the agent of creation, salvation, and the forgiveness of sins, as well as the one who judges, is worshiped, and who is associated with the power of God.

This chapter also provides a short excursus on whether Paul referred to Jesus as theos in Romans 9.5 (pp. 172-77). Waddell looks at similar parallels in grammar in 2 Cor. 11.31 and Phil. 3.19. He concludes: “Based on the combination of grammar and usage in [the letters of Paul], we can confidently say that Paul intentionally referred to Jesus as God (θεος) at Rom. 9.5” (176). I’m not convinced that theos refers to Jesus in Rom. 9.5, though I think it could very well go either way. Assuming it does refer to Jesus, it raises the question of what Paul meant. Did Paul mean it in the same sense as how Philo used theos to depict Moses as having an exalted status above all other human beings (Mos. 1.158)? Or did Paul mean it in more of an ontological way? Waddell sees this as more of a theological question than as a historical one and says that, “from a purely historical point of view, we must say that there is not enough evidence to relieve us of the ambiguity” (177).

Chapter Six is a comparative analysis of the messiah in Parables and Paul. What I enjoyed most about this chapter was the very interesting excursus (pp. 186-201) on why Paul didn’t use the “Son of Man” terminology. This involves examining the Greek Life of Adam and Eve, the Carmen Christi of Philippians 2, and the Greek phrase that both texts share – eis doxan theou patros (to the glory of God the Father). Waddell reads the Carmen Christi as “a communal liturgical confession of the uniqueness of Christ over against as Adam whose idolatrous actions rendered him less than God had created him to be”. Waddell suggests translating Phil. 2.11 as follows: “and every tongue confess that Lord Jesus Messiah has become the glory of God the Father” (which is based in part on the assumption of an Aramaic Vorlage for the hymn). In other words, Waddell goes against the standard translation which renders κυριος (in κυριος ιησους χριστος) as a predicate nominative with an assumed copula (i.e. “Jesus Christ is Lord”). Waddell argues that his translation of Phil. 2.11 carries the contrast between Adam and Christ right from the beginning of the hymn through to the end, “maintaining the integrity of the hymn in its entirety” (196). Quite an interesting take on the Carmen Christi.

So to answer the question of why Paul avoided the “Son of Man” terminology, the authors says:

Paul avoided using the Son of Man terminology with reference to Jesus because of the first-century soteriological debate over how one achieved eternal life. … For Paul it was necessary for Christ to replace Adam as the image and glory of God, and for an obedient Christ (the last Adam) to be crucified in order to satisfy God’s justice. It was further necessary, according to Paul , for one to be “in Christ” … in order to gain access to God’s mercy through the forgiveness of sins. It was precisely because of this soteriological difference between Adam and Jesus that Paul chose to avoid using “Son of Man” or “Son of Adam” terminology. By not referring to Jesus as Son of Man or Son of Adam, Paul could then avoid subordinating Jesus to Adam, and thereby avoid the appearance of inconsistency in his argument. (200-01)

The final chapter, Chapter Seven, pulls together the author’s analysis and draws out what this implies concerning Paul’s understanding of the messiah. Waddell says there are four elements that Paul and Parables have in common which are “unprecedented in Jewish literature”. These four elements are that this messiah figure is: 1) a heavenly being, 2) preexistent, 3) like an angel, and 4) associated with the divine name. Four functions that they share and that are unprecedented are: 1) sitting on the throne of judgment, 2) presiding at the final judgment, 3) raising the dead, and 4) being worshiped by humans.

He concludes:

In the end it is the combination of conceptual elements of messianic ideology held in common by the Book of the Parables of Enoch and the Letters of Paul that leads to the firm conclusion that Paul was aware of the Enochic Son of Man traditions, and that he was in fact influenced by these traditions. We really cannot say with any certainty that Paul knew the text of the Parables, because there is no evidence of direct quotation. On the basis of comparative analysis, however, we can say that Paul was familiar with the conceptual elements of the Enochic messiah traditions, and that Paul developed his concept of the Kyrios out of these Enochic messiah traditions and out of the kerygma of the early Jesus movement. Paul indeed was a Jew. Now we can say with a high degree of certainty from which stream of Jewish intellectual tradition Paul developed his concept of the Messiah. It was Enoch. (208-09)

All in all, I enjoyed reading this little book and found the author’s arguments to be fairly persuasive. I would definitely recommend anyone interested in early Christianity and Second Temple Judaism to give it a whirl.

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