Chapter 7 of the book of Daniel that speaks of a powerful being who is given power over the earth by Yahweh himself:
Four great beasts came up from the sea… [The] fourth beast [was] dreadful, terrible, and exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth with which it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that came before it, and it had ten horns… [and] among them another little horn… and in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
The thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days sat. His garments were white as snow, and the hair of his head like lambs wool. His throne was like the fiery flame, and its wheels like burning fire. A fiery stream issued forth before him. A thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. Judgment was set, and the books were opened.
The beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame… One like the Son of man came amid the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him before him. He was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Early Christians took this figure, the Son of Man, to be Jesus. The book of Matthew puts the exact words of Daniel in the mouth of Jesus himself:
“I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God,” the high priest … said to [Jesus]
“So you have said,” Jesus replied. “Nevertheless I say unto you that soon you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest rent his clothes.
“He has spoken blasphemy,” he said. “What further need have we of witnesses, now we have heard his blasphemy?”
Clearly either the author of Matthew or Jesus himself was aware of the divine nature of the Son of Man in the book of Daniel, and made claim of Jesus’s divinity (if not explicitly claiming that he was Christ) by declaring him to be the Son of Man. Jesus claims the title “The Son of Man” throughout this book.
Where did the story of the Son of Man in Daniel originate? Is it, as Christians assert, a prophecy of Christ? Is it simply a Hebrew myth? Perhaps neither. The article What’s Ugaritic Got to Do with Anything? shows an incredible parallel between the Son of Man in Daniel and legends of the Semitic god Baal found in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit.
|Ugarit / Baal Cycle||Daniel 7|
|El, the aged high God, is the ultimate sovereign in the council.||The Ancient of Days, seated on the fiery, wheeled throne, is the God of Israel (see Ezekiel 1). Like the Ugaritic god El, he is white haired and aged.|
|El bestows kingship upon the god Baal, the Cloud-Rider, after Baal defeats the god Yamm in battle.||Yahweh-El, the Ancient of Days, bestows kingship upon the Son of Man who rides the clouds after the beast from the sea (yamma) is destroyed.|
|Baal is king of the gods and El’s vizier. His rule is everlasting.||The Son of Man is given everlasting dominion over the nations. He rules at the right hand of God.|
As noted in my post “Was Yahwe the Only God of Judah?“, mentions of gods other than Yahweh were removed from the old testament during the Babylonian exile. Ironically, early Christians (or possibly, Jesus himself) claimed for Jesus the identity of the ancient Semitic god Baal who, by their time, had been declared a demon, and whose former glorious position as ruler of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth remained only as a sanitized story in the book of Daniel.