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Enthroned Beside God and Riding on the Clouds

It is a bold claim for any monotheist to imagine oneself enthroned in heaven alongside God and enacting God’s judgment on the world. Indeed, when the high priests hears it, he tears his garments and cries “blasphemy” (Mark 14:63-64). For readers interested in a defense of the historicity of the trial of Jesus and the blasphemy charge from a conservative evangelical perspective, I came across Darrell Bock’s “Blasphemy and the Jewish Examination of JesusBulletin for Biblical Research 17 (2007): 53-114.

Bracketing the debate on the historical Jesus, let’s look at how Mark represents Jesus in the trial scene. Bock points out the biblical images of Yahweh coming in the clouds (Exodus 14:20, Numbers 10:34, Psalm 104:3, Isaiah 19:1) (page 77). The ancient Israelites also knew that the Canaanite deity Baal was a rider on the clouds. Even so, Moses could be transported in a cloud (Josephus, Antiquities 4.325-326). Although some scholars take the “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14 to be an angelic or messianic representative of Israel, it still seems to me that Daniel 7:18 explicitly interprets the apocalyptic imagery with reference to the saints of Israel. Jesus’ followers, too, will one day meet their Lord in the air to join him on his triumphal and visible return to the world (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Bock adds, “The self-made claim to sit at the right hand and ride the clouds would be read as a blasphemous utterance, a false claim that equates Jesus in a unique way with God and that reflects an arrogant disrespect toward the one true God” (page 78). Nevertheless, Bock is aware that other human figures could be seated on the divine throne such as Moses (see the Exagōgē of Ezekiel the Tragedian) and Enoch in the Similitudes interpretation of Daniel 7 (see 1 Enoch 61:8; 62:2, 5; 69:27, 29) (page 78). True, the priest may have judge it to be especially audacious for a Galilean labourer to see himself as the equivalent of an illustrious past hero such as Enoch or Moses. Moreover, if we recall James Crossley’s post that the accusation of blasphemy could be leveled at the opposing parties in the dispute over the high priestly office (see Josephus, Antiquities 13.293-295), or how Paul treads lightly after he appears to insult the high priest (Acts 23:3-5), the high priest may have reacted against Jesus’ presumption that God would both vindicate Jesus to the highest status over his judges and that Jesus would come back to judge them!

 

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