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As a Reformed Christian, a take a Christological reading of Daniel 7:13-14:

I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

I'm interested in Jewish interpretations of this text. Is it still understood to be Messianic? In particular, who is the "son of man" and why the differential of this person from the Ancient of Days?

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@GoneQuiet Daniel Block, in the introduction to his commentary on Ezekiel, says that in contrast to the ben adam construction of Ezekiel, this one in Daniel is "the semantically related Aram. bar enas, 'son of man,' which intentionally identifies a heavenly figure with humans in Dan. 7:13." So yes, Aramaic. – Kazark May 21 '12 at 20:00
From middle of 2:4 until end of 7 is Aramaic. "bar enash" is the same as the Hebrew "ben adam", meaning, "human being". – Eli Rosencruft May 23 '12 at 12:48
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The Rabbinic interpretation is:

  1. Messianic
  2. "Ancient of Days" is a name of God
  3. "son of man" is a mistranslation

The term "ben adam" or "bar enosh" is used in OT Hebrew to mean a mortal, fallible human being. Used commonly by God when addressing mortals to remind them of their place in the general scheme of things. (And used commonly in modern Hebrew to indicate that someone is a regular chap, he's a "ben adam". 'Don't be so hard-nosed, be a "ben adam"!')

The everlasting dominion given to the "ben adam" (by inference the Seleuicids were not that) is the House of David that will be re-established, and this time permanently, as promised by previous prophets. The messiah is a human king, who gets married and hopefully has righteous kids, one of whom continues the line after his death.

As time went by and the House of David looked less and less likely to return, the concept of messiah took on ever more mystical overtones and lent itself to speculative excesses. In light of the bad experiences with various claimants to the title over the generations, the Rabbis now take a dim view of any speculation concerning the nature of the messiah and his estimated time of arrival. Among non-religious Jews today, particularly those on the left of the political spectrum in Israel, "messianic" is an epithet used to infer that someone on the other side of the spectrum is backward, dangerous, reactionary, etc.

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It is not "ben enosh" (which is Hebrew), it is the Aramaic כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ k'var enash, "[something] like a man (human)." The allegory of this passage is that though other nations will rise, they will all fall. In the end Israel and the messiah (who ushers in an age of universal knowledge of G-d and global peace) will come to help all of that happen.

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Ms. Sophie - can you provide us any references to midrash, Talmud, or Scripture? For example, how do you see the rise and fall of Gentile nations in this passage (through the appearance of something like the "Son of Man"?). Thanks! Also, please peruse our website tour if and when you have a moment. – Joseph Feb 6 at 17:36

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