Seeing the Son of Man: How Reading Daniel and Revelation Together Illumines Both

The number of connections between Daniel and Revelation are numerous and normally observed by readers of both books. A point that is more easily missed or misunderstood is “how” Daniel is used by John, when records the revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1). As most commentators have observed there are few, if any, quotations from the Old Testament in Revelation. Instead, John combines imagery and language from all over the Old Testament as he records the words of Jesus.

A good example of how this works is seen G. K. Beale and Sean McDonough’s commentary on Revelation. Describing the glorious vision of Christ among the lampstands in Revelation 1:13–16, they demonstrate how John’s words form a kaleidoscope of Old Testament images, but especially images from Daniel 7, 10, and 12. The number connections, and pieces from different passages, may be missed by the casual reader of Revelation, but when we see just how much John depends on Daniel, or Jesus as he reveals himself to John, we begin to appreciate the intra-biblical connections and arrive at a better reading of both books.

As I go to preach Daniel 10 this Sunday, I offer their Beale and McDonough’s full quotation as an argument for why the figure in Daniel 10:5–6 is a revelation of the preincarnate Christ and an example of how we should read Revelation and other apocalyptic books like it.

Often, images in apocalyptic literature are supplied by previous Scripture. Accordingly, to understand the meaning of an apocalyptic vision in the Bible, and especially in Revelation, one must know the many inspired passages that they draw upon. Likewise, when texts like Daniel 10 have a clear vision of Christ in places like Revelation 1 (i.e., passages that come later with a clearer referent to who is in view), they receive light from the later, greater revelation, thus informing who this glorious but enigmatic figure is.

To the end of reading Daniel and Revelation better together, along with their shared vision of Christ, let us consider this rich commentary from Beale and McDonough. For those reading Daniel, take note of all the places where Daniel is mentioned.

An analysis of OT allusions in 1:13–16 shows that the predominant features of the “son of man” are drawn from Dan. 7; 10, with other texts contributing to the depiction. Most commentators agree that the significance of this is that Christ is portrayed as a kingly and priestly figure, since the figure in the two Daniel texts has the same features. Although the clothing in 1:13 could also resemble kingly attire, its use here evokes the image of a priest because of the temple atmosphere of the lampstands in 1:12 and also because of the angels coming out of the heavenly temple, who wear the same clothing in 15:5–8. The ambiguity may be due to the possibility that both a king and a priest are in mind, which has precedent in the two figures of Zech. 4:3, 11–14 (see commentary on Rev. 11:4 below; cf. 1 Macc. 10:88–89; 14:30, 32–47).

The transferal of the attributes from the judicial figure of the Ancient of Days (cf. Dan. 7:9–12) to Christ also evokes his role as latter-day divine judge, which is clear from 19:12. This is underscored further by the observation that Dan. 10 is also behind the “son of man” image: the primary purpose of the heavenly man in Dan. 10 is to reveal the divine decree that Israel’s persecutors would assuredly be judged (see 10:21–12:13). Daniel 10:6 even depicts the “son of man” as having “eyes … like flaming torches.” The application of the attributes from the Ancient of Days to Christ also points to the eternal life that he has together with his Father (so Sickenberger 1942: 49).

The portrayal of the “son of man’s” head and hair (1:14a) is taken from that of the Ancient of Days in Dan. 7:9, while the description of his eyes and feet again follow Dan. 10:6 LXX. The mention of the “furnace” that follows (1:15b) echoes the description from Dan. 3:26 (3:93 Θ), although Ezek. 1:27 perhaps also is in view. The conclusion of 1:15 mentions the roar of the “son of man’s” voice, in the same way as Dan. 10:6, although the actual language describing the voice is taken from Ezek. 1:24; 43:2 MT, where God’s voice is compared to the roar of many waters, so that this enhances the portrait so far of Christ as a divine being.

Like the seven lampstands, the number of “seven stars” may also have arisen in part from the “seven lamps” of Zech. 4. In later Judaism the Zech. 4:2 lampstand is said to symbolize the righteous in Israel and is equated with the wise who will shine like the stars in Dan. 12:3 (Midr. Rab. Lev. 30:2; Sipre Deut. Piska 10; Pesiq. Rab Kah. Piska 27:2; Pesiq. Rab. Piska 51:4). McNamara (1966: 197–99) sees the Palestinian Targum to Exod. 40:4 as the background for 1:20a, where the “seven lamps” of the tabernacle are viewed as “corresponding to the seven stars which resemble the just that shine unto eternity in their righteousness,” the latter phrase being a clear allusion to Dan. 12:3.

The fact that the stars are explicitly identified with angels in 1:20a (cf. the apparent identification of stars and angels in, e.g., Judg. 5:20) does not preclude the influence of Daniel. The angels may be seen as representatives of the people of God, in keeping with texts such as Dan. 10:13; 12:1.

The “sharp two-edged sword” proceeding from Jesus’ mouth is based on the prophecies of Isa. 11:4; 49:2, which add further to his depiction as the fulfillment of the eschatological judge. The last description of the “son of man” as having a face “like the sun shining in its strength” (1:16c) still follows the Dan. 10 outline, although the actual wording is derived from Judg. 5:31 LXX (B). The link with Judges may lie in the descriptions of the bright appearance of the victorious Israelite warrior in Judg. 5:31 and of the “son of man” in Dan. 10, and the immediately preceding portrayal of Jesus as a warrior with a sword.[1]

With these connections in place, let us go and read Daniel and Revelation again with greater clarity and confidence in what God has said and done.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds 


[1] G. K. Beale and S. M. McDonough, S. M, “Revelation” in Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament1092.

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