Daniel Boyarin’s new book also offers solutions to some puzzles about Christology - the theology of the divinity of Jesus and his humanity - and how the Gospel texts deal with the Hebrew scriptures and the seeming paradoxes about Yeshua (Jesus):
1. The debate about “Son of Man” as “human one” or “divine redeemer” can be resolved if we understand “Son of Man” as a simile: one who is divine but it is like he is human.
2. Contrary to liberal Christian scholarship, Jesus saw himself as Son of Man from the beginning, not just at the Second Coming.
3. Daniel 7 has two ideas in tension: the Son of Man is divine redeemer but also the Son of Man is Israel.
4. The root of Jesus’ saying “the Son of Man” must suffer is Dan 7:25-27, where Son of Man is Israel and must suffer a time, times, and half a time. Jesus midrashically reads this as the Son of Man (himself) suffering for Israel as Ideal Israel. This is true also about the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.
5. Christianity long ago deemed adoptionism a heresy (Jesus became divine at his baptism when filled with Spirit). This idea is called apotheosis (a man becomes divine by indwelling divine spirit). Yet the gospels contain this theme, especially Mark, argues Boyarin (though he becomes God at his ascension, not his baptism).
6. The opposite of adoptionism (apotheosis, man becomes God) is incarnation (theophany, God becomes man) and the divine man is shown to have pre-existed and been divine before birth as a human. This theme is also in the Gospels and is emphasized over the apotheosis theme.
7. Boyarin sees both theophany (God became man) and apotheosis (a man became God, Jesus became God as his ascension) in the Gospels. Are these two incompatible streams? Boyarin’s notion is that in the Gospels Jesus both becomes God and already was God. In reality, he already was God, but in appearance his divinity was revealed at his ascension. This way of reading it is thus compatible with the creeds of Christianity and the strong deity statements in Paul, Hebrews, and the Johannine writings.
8. Boyarin is the first talmudic scholar I have ever read who argues convincingly that Jews from ancient times until the last few centuries believed Isa 53 describes the Messiah. He utilizes extensively Neugebauer’s work, Isaiah 53 According to the Jewish Interpreters.
The Jewish Gospels is a short, approachable book of 160 pages. Even people who don’t read academic literature can enjoy it and understand most of it, and Boyarin goes out of his way to define terms in simple language.
I think the one serious question that I have is: Were Daniel 7 (neglected) and 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra (ignored) read by a large enough number of first century Jews so that their approach to these issues would be held by a significant number of Jews? In any case, the significance of Boyarin’s suggestions is that they remove some standard Jewish objections to Jesus, namely that Jesus could not be the Messiah because his suffering and his claim to deity were foreign ideas to ancient Judaism. Along with the “Son of God” and “suffering Messiah” texts in the Dead Sea scrolls, this neglected literature (Daniel, Enoch, et. al.) must now be considered afresh in studies of what Second Temple Jews thought about the Messiah.
This book is a mind-opener worthy of being read by thoughtful Jewish and Christian thinkers.
Oh yes. The cover photo of a Greek manuscript of Revelation is upside down!!