This small text ignited a controversy when a portion of it was published in 1974. It speaks of a powerful figure who shall appear in a time of tribulation and be called “the son of God” and “son of the Most High” and whom all nations obey. The expressions irresistibly recall the language that the Gospels use of Jesus especially in the episode describing the angel’s message to Mary that she would bear a son: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High . . . and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33)
At the time, some scholars argued that the published p: tion proved an important idea: that an earthly king destined to come and bring peace (i.e., the Messiah) would also be called by Second-Temple Jews “the Son of God.” Certain biblical texts could be taken to support this idea (e.g., 2 Sam. 7:14), and if true, it would shed substantial light on the New Testament’s portrayal of Jesus. Other scholars, however, understood the text’s “Son of God” as a villain, one who usurps the place of God but is subsequently overthrown by the “people of God,” who have God on their side. Now that the entire work has finally become available, a careful reading confirms this second,”Antichrist” option.
The historical background ofthis text may well be the persecution oftheJews under the Syrian tyrant Antiochus IV in the period 170-164 B.C.E. This rulerÍs chosen second name, “Epiphanes” (Greek for “appearance”), encapsulated the notion of a human king as God manifest. Such human pretensions to deity have never been welcome in Judaism and were condemned out of hand in the prophecies of Isanah (14:12-21) and Ezekiel (28:1-10). Jesus’ claims to morethan-human status were likewise rejected by his Gontemporaries:”We would stone you for blasphemy, because you, though you are a man, are making yourself God” John 10:33). A similar distaste for claims to divinity seems to animate this fragmentary prophecy.
The seer receives the power to interpret the king’s vision.
Col. 1 [. . . a spirit from God] rested upon him, he fell before the throne.
(The beginning of the interpretation: war and slaughter is imminent. This tribulation will culminate in the accession to power of a cruel tyrant.)
2[ . . . O ki]ng, wrath is coming to the world, and your years 3[shall be shortened . . . such] is your vision, and al1 of it is about to come unto the world. 4[ . . Amid] great [signs], tribulation is coming upon the land.
5[ . . . After much killing] and slaughter, a prince of nations 6[will arise . . . ] the king of Assyria and Egypt 7[ . . . ] he will be ruler over the land 8[ , ] ~ W1] be subject to him and all wid obey 9[him].
(The tyrant’s son will succeed him :and begin to accrue to himself the honor due only to God. Yet the reign o father and son will be brief.)
[Also his son] will be called The Great and be designated by his name. CoL 2 ‘He will be called the Son of God, they will call him the son of the Most High. But like the meteors 2that you saw in your vision, so will be their kingdom. They will reign only a few years over the land while pewoples tramples people and nation tramples nation.
Deliverance from distress finally comes when the people of God arise, bringing peace and prosperity. God is working through them and in them and his rule shall finally prevail.
4until the people of God arise; then all will have rest from warfare. Their kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, and all their paths will be righteous. They will judge 6the land justly, and al1 nations will make peace.
Warfare wil1 cease from the land, 7and all the nations shall do obeisance to them. The great Cod will be their help, 8He Himself will fight for them, putting peoples into their power, 90verthrowing them all before them. God’s rule will be an eternal rule and all the depths of iÁ[the earth are His].