Who is the ‘Son of God’ in 4Q246? An Overlooked Example of Early Biblical Interpretation

In: Dead Sea Discoveries
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  • 1 Department of Bible, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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The Aramaic Apocalypse of Daniel (4Q246) has been the subject of intense debate among scholars, primarily surrounding the enigmatic epithets ברה די אל “son of God” and בר עליון “son of the Most High.” Previous interpreters have suggested either that this character is a human sovereign with divine pretensions or that he is a divine messianic figure. The current study posits a new identification of this figure based upon the analysis of the biblical texts underlying this Qumran scroll: in addition to its dependence upon Dan 7 (which has been previously recognized), 4Q246 also contains a hitherto overlooked allusion to Ps 82. In light of the relationship to these biblical passages, it is proposed that the character described as “son of God/the Most High” should be taken as the heavenly representative of the penultimate kingdom in Dan 7.

The identification of the allusion to Ps 82 within 4Q246 also enriches our analysis of Dan 7 itself, since the Qumran scroll demonstrates that early readers of the apocalyptic vision posited a literary-theological connection between Dan 7 and Ps 82. These texts together formed a cluster of related biblical passages that were read and interpreted in concert by ancient authors.

  • 5

    Collins, Daniel, 306.

  • 6

    Zevit, “Structure,” 394–96; Daniel Boyarin, “Daniel 7, Intertextuality, and the History of Israel’s Cult,” htr 105/2 (2012): 139–62, at 148.

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  • 13

    See the discussion of Israel Knohl, “Biblical Attitudes to Gentile Idolatry,” Tarbiz 64 (1994): 5–12 [Hebrew], which addresses this theme in a number of biblical texts (including Deut 32 and Ps 82) although he does not discuss Dan 7.

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  • 23

    Collins, Daniel, 77–78; idem, The Scepter and the Star: Messianism in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2010), 176; Puech, djd 22, 174; Sharon L. Mattila, “Two Contrasting Eschatologies at Qumran (4Q246 vs 1qm),” Biblica 75,4 (1994): 518–38, at 523; Johannes Zimmerman, “Observations on 4Q246—The ‘Son of God’,” in Qumran-Messianism (ed. J.H. Charlesworth et al.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998), 175–90, at 186; Karl A. Kuhn, “The ‘One like a Son of Man’ Becomes the ‘Son of God,’ ” cbq 69 (2007): 22–42, at 28.

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  • 28

    See Józef T. Milik, “Les modèles araméens du livre d’Esther dans la Grotte 4 de Qumran,” RevQ 15/59 (1992): 321–406, at 383–84 (and already noted as his opinion by Joseph A. Fitzmyer, A Wandering Aramean: Collected Aramaic Essays [sblms 25; Missoula: Scholars, 1979], 92–93), who suggested Alexander Balas. Edward M. Cook, “4Q246,” bbr 5 (1995): 43–66; Klaus Berger, Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Truth Under Lock and Key? (trans. from German 1993; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995), 77–79; Puech, djd 22, 183–84; Hartmut Stegemann, The Library of Qumran: On the Essenes, Qumran, John the Baptist, and Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 248; Annette Steudel, “The Eternal Reign of the People of God: Collective Expectations in Qumran Texts (4Q246 and 1qm),” RevQ 17 (1996): 507–25 preferred Antiochus iv. Israel Knohl, The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 87–95 identifies the “son of God/the Most High” with Augustus. Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (rev. and ext. 4th ed.; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 331–32, did not identify this character with a specific historical king, but rather as the final sovereign of the last empire prior to the eternal dominion of God.

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  • 29

    David Flusser, “The Hubris of the Antichrist in a Fragment from Qumran,” Immanuel 10 (1983): 31–37; repr. in idem, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988), 207–13.

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  • 31

    Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins, King and Messiah as Son of God: Divine, Human, and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 48–74 (“Messiah and Son of God in the Hellenistic Period”), at 70–71.

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  • 34

    Fitzmyer, “The Aramaic ‘Son of God’ Text,” 60.

  • 36

    As has already been noted Cook, “4Q246,” 60–61.

  • 37

    Collins, King and Messiah, 68; idem, The Scepter and the Star, 177.

  • 42

    See the discussion in Mizrahi, “Aramaic,” 42–49. Mizrahi, “Aramaic,” 39, adduces 1 En. 89:73 as an intriguing example of the passive form as a morpho-semantic marker. This verse, found in the Animal Apocalypse, describes the building of the second Jerusalem Temple: “And they began again to build as before and they raised up that tower and it was called the high tower. And they began again to place a table before the tower, but all the bread on it was polluted and not pure” (translation according to George W.E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch Chapters 1–36; 81–108 [Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001], 387). The verb “it was called” is a translation of the Ethiopic yessammay < yetsammay, a denominative t-stem verb from the noun “name”, similar to the Aramaic verbs under discussion here. Mizrahi adopts the interpretation of Devorah Dimant, “Jerusalem and the Temple According to the Animal Apocalypse (1 Enoch 85–90) in the Light of the Ideology of the Dead Sea Sect,” Shnaton 5–6 (1981–1992): 177–93 [Hebrew], at 180 (similarly Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 394), according to which the tower was only called “high tower,” but in fact was viewed with disappointment when compared with the first Temple. The negative portrayal of the second Temple is made manifestly clear by the reference to polluted bread in the second half of the verse (compare both aspects to the description of the first temple in 89:50). Unfortunately, the text here has not been preserved in its original language, and it is therefore unclear if this meaning can be attributed to an Aramaic morpho-semantic marker.

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  • 43

    See Mizrahi, “Aramaic,” 50–51.

  • 47

    Mizrahi, “Aramaic,” 52–53. Cook, “4Q246,” 55, suggests that the use of the Hebraic form here indicates that this is a title, although it is also found in ii 4, 7.

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