Boyarin on the Jewishness of High Christology

Daniel Boyarin starts his article “Enoch, Ezra, and the Jewishness of ‘High Christology’,” in Fourth Ezra and Second Baruch: Reconstruction after the Fall (ed. Matthias Henze and Gabriele Boccaccini; JSJSup 164; Leiden: Brill, 2013) saying:

The proposal being advanced in this paper is that at least since Daniel and almost surely earlier, there had been a tradition within Israel that saw God as doubled in the form of an old man and a younger human-like figure, sharing the divine throne (or sharing, rather, two equal thrones). Although not necessary for the present argument, my guess is that this doubling of the godhead within much of Israel’s tradition goes back to the original El/Yʾ merger. The vision of Daniel 7, which represents this tradition, has been eventually suppressed (but not entirely successfully) by the author of Daniel 7 in his pesher on the vision rendering it a metaphor for the faithful of Israel. We find the same divine human figure in both the Similitudes of Enoch as well as in 4Ezra 13, where again the import of the image as a second anthropomorphic divine figure has been “suppressed” in the pesher to this vision as well (as seen already by Michael Stone and Jonas Greenfield). Only in the Similitudes has this religious position been “allowed,” as it were, free rein. In the two apocalypses (both c. 1st cent. ce), moreover, we see how the second younger divine “man” has been associated with the Messiah. According to all of these traditions the Messiah is a kind of divine man or man-God. These texts, which, of course, have not in any way “influenced” the Gospels, provide, nonetheless, strong evidence for the Jewish religious background of the divinity of Jesus. It is this view of God, given full rein in Enoch, that explains the development of High Christology as fully explicable within Jewish religious history, with the enormous innovation on the part of the Gospels being only the insistence that the divine man is already here as a historical human being and not as a prophecy for the future. Apocalypse now! This provides, on my view, a much more appropriate historical explanatory model than one that depends on visionary experiences of Jesus on the Throne allegedly ungrounded in prior speculation, as per the view of, e.g. Larry Hurtado and others who advance similar views. Finally, as a coda, it is suggested that the figure of Metatron as well as the efforts of suppression of that figure in late ancient rabbinic and associated literature continue the ongoing history of inner-Jewish conflict around the human-like divine figure that is evidenced in the earlier literature as well.

This point of view contributes to a way of conceiving of ancient and late ancient Jewish religious history that is not dependent on the notion of discrete and bounded Judaisms (including even Christian Judaism!). When I lectured on this topic recently at Lehrhaus Judaica in Berkeley, one of my audience asked me why I rely so much on the “out takes” of Judaism, Enoch, and Baruch, and Ezra. I answered that I am interested in Judaism, the Director’s Cut. My overall contention is that a historical description of the disputatious religious practices (including textual practices) of the Israelites of the first century can accommodate the Gospels (and even Paul) and the very highest of New Testament Christologies within the borders of what can be historically, phenomenologically described as Jewry. I thus disagree with views that see “early Christianity” as something other than “Judaism” or, alternatively, in order to save the phenomena, deny the originary nature of high Christologies altogether, seeing them as later and externally motivated mutations. The “out-takes” of the extracanonical apocalypses, the Similitudes of Enoch and Fourth Ezra, are crucial to my argument. (pp. 337-38)

It’s a fascinating piece. I don’t know how convinced people will be by it but if these couple of paragraphs don’t have you curious to read it then I don’t know what will!



7 thoughts on “Boyarin on the Jewishness of High Christology

  1. Brian & Michael; It is interesting indeed! Not super convincing once you get into it, but interesting nonetheless!

    Chris: I haven’t been able to bring myself to purchase the book. This particular article hasn’t pushed me toward doing so either.

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