Tuesday, June 29, 2010

B. Reynolds and the Son of Man

No, not that B. Reynolds (though I'm sure Burt would produce some interesting biblical scholarship!).

This morning I started reading the published version Benjamin E. Reynolds's PhD dissertation (University of Aberdeen, 2007): The Apocalyptic Son of Man in the Gospel of John (WUNT II 249; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), which I'm reviewing for Bulletin of Biblical Research. I've only read Reynolds's Introduction (1–23), but so far I'm enjoying the book.

I do detect one methodological quirk, and I'm not sure if this constitutes a problem of any significance.1 I would appreciate any insights on this.

In the first part of the book (25–85), Reynolds sets out to analyze the Danielic "one like a son of man" (Daniel 7) and the interpretation of that figure in Jewish apocalyptic and early Christian texts. He offers three criteria by which he chooses which texts he will include in his analysis here.
(1) Jewish apocalyptic and early Christian works that fall within the general time frame of 150 B.C. and A.D. 100 will be considered. (2) Are there clear verbal allusions to Daniel 7? (3) Is there a figure that is described in terms reminiscent of Daniel 7? These questions will be asked whether or not the phrase 'son of man' is used. (20)

It's a minor problem that the last two are questions rather than criteria, but I assume a positive answer to these questions—Yes, the text at hand clearly alludes to Daniel 7, and yes, the text describes a figure reminiscent of Daniel 7—brings a text within his purview. I'm not entirely sure, yet, how Reynolds will differentiate clear verbal references from more tenuous or obscure references; neither am I sure, yet, which terms Reynolds considered "reminiscent of Daniel 7." But I expect these questions will be answered in the coming chapters.

From here Reynolds will analyze "[t]he works that meet the three criteria, thus showing a connection to the 'one like a son of man' from Daniel 7, . . . in order to determine any similarities and differences between the various interpretations of this figure" (22). Reynolds adamantly claims that he's not trying to resurrection a synthetic, essentialized concept of "the Son of Man" in ancient Judaism; instead, he's trying to identify "common features in the interpretations of the Danielic son of man" (22).

In Part 2, Reynolds turns toward an exegetical analysis of every mention of "the Son of Man" in the final form of John's gospel. The Fourth Gospel fits at the extreme end of his delimited time frame; in fact, the Fourth Gospel set the terminus ad quem (20, ftn 85). But John does not meet Reynolds's other two criteria:
[A]lthough the Johannine Son of Man may share characteristics or features with the figure described in Jewish apocalypses (themselves significantly influenced by Daniel 7), there are no clear verbal allusions to Daniel 7 or any obvious descriptions of a figure reminiscent of Daniel 7 apart from John 5.27. (23; original emphases)

Reynolds's program is, therefore, intentionally comparative:
The characteristics of the Johannine Son of Man will be compared with any common characteristics that may emerge in the examination of the "one like a son of man" in Daniel 7 and the interpretations of this figure (Part 1). If a common set of characteristics emerges and if the Johannine Son of Man also shares these characteristics, it may then be determined appropriate to describe the Son of Man in John's Gospel as an apocalyptic figure, even if there may be no unmistakable influence from Daniel. (23)

It seems to me that Reynolds locates the Johannine Son of Man tradition within the interpretive tradition surrounding Daniel 7's "one like a son of man" rather than against Daniel 7 itself.

But here's my question: How legitimate is it for him to develop a comparative pool of data using one set of criteria, and then to map that data onto a text that doesn't meet those criteria?

1 I want to stress that I have only read the first twenty-three pages of Reynolds's book, so it may be that he discusses this quirk. I'm not yet sure if this is actually a problem for Reynolds's study, but as I prepare to work through Part 1 I'll be looking for him to address the issue I'm raising here.

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