In part 1 of the review of J. R. Daniel Kirk’s A Man Attested by God, Kirk’s hypothesis is that Jesus in the Synoptics is best understood as “an idealized human figure,” which is an established category in 1st century Jewish literature. Rather than understanding Jesus in a high divine Christology (Jesus is ontologically God), Kirk proposes a high human Christology.
In part 2, the category “idealized human figures” is affirmed by Kirk’s analysis of the Jewish Old Testament and non-canonical writings—the purpose of chapter 1- “Idealized Human Figures in Early Judaism” (44-176). Kirk defines idealized human figures as “non-angelic, non-preexistent human beings, of the past, present, and anticipated future…playing some unique role in representing God to the rest of the created realm, or in representing some of the created realm before God ” (45). Kirk elaborates, “The category of ‘idealized human figure’ seeks to chart a third way between ‘low Christology’ that defines Jesus as ‘a mere human being,’ and a ‘high’ Christology that depicts Jesus as the God of Israel” (47). The idealized human figures are:
Adam as past and future. Kirk probes Genesis and the verbs “rule,” and “subdue,” and the terms “likeness” and “image.” “…[A]n image was not merely a representation, but was seen as the embodiment of the thing signified” (53). Kirk discusses Psalm 8, Ezekiel 28, the Wisdom of Solomon, the Dead Sea Scrolls (numerous texts), Philo, 1 Enoch, Life of Adam and Eve, and Testament of Abraham. The recurring key feature is “the God who is sovereign (Pss 22:28; 47:2) shares sovereign rule with humanity, especially idealized human figures” (77).
Moses and the Prophets. Kirk discusses Moses in the Bible, Philo’s Moses, The Exagogue of Ezekiel the Tragedian, and Moses at Qumran. Often, Moses’ “shining face” is equated with “may YHWH’s face shine upon you.” Tight identity. Kirk’s conclusion about Moses is “The ascription of the title God, the actions of conquering hostile, even cosmic powers, sitting on God’s throne, and receiving celestial adoration—all these place Moses in a unique standing vis-à-vis God, yet without transforming the identity of God in any other way than binding God’s identity to the identity of this human agent through whom God has chosen to act” (87). Prophets past and future. Kirk considers Elijah in the Jewish Scriptures (along with Elisha as his Great Successor), Elijah in Sirach, and Elijah in several Qumran texts. These human prophetic figures are “tasked to play the role of God on earth” (96).
Kings in Worship and Rule. David and Solomon in the biblical text are primarily featured, with comments about Psalm 2—nations responding to the son are responding to God himself; Psalm 45—a king of Israel (or Judah) as an idealized human figure “might well be be included in Israel’s worship…” and “the king himself is the object of praise” (99); Psalm 72—“The idea would be that God is worshiped through this service [see vss 9-11] because God stands behind the king” (101); Psalm 89—the king is invested with sovereignty over creation (vs 9) that is reserved for God alone. Solomon’s throne and worship in 1 Chronicles 29:20, 23) includes this phrase “They bowed to the LORD and to the king.” Solomon is on the throne (sovereignty) and receives worship. Isaiah 9 presents a human child who is declared to be “almighty God, Everlasting Father” and sovereignly rules. Ezekiel 34, Micah 5 and Zechariah 12 are discussed.
Priests of Divinity. Melchizedek in Scripture and at Qumran and Priests in Sirach are examined. Priests in The Testament of Levi and Jubilees and at Qumran (DSS) are presented. Kirk’s conclusion: “Idealized priests provide another lens through which to see that early Jewish monotheism plays little role in limiting how Jewish writers can depict (human) figures whom they and their communities recognize as being specially endowed for some task or function” (139). Prerogatives of God are shared by these idealized priests.
Son of Man. This title in Daniel 7 and in Enochic Literature and 4 Ezra receives careful scrutiny and this title comes up again in Kirk’s chapter 3- “Son of Man as the Human One.” Kirk prefers Boyarin’s view that “‘the one like a human being’ speak[s] of the human beings who make up the faithful people of Israel” (157-58).
The Community of the Elect. From his biblical and post-biblical citations, Kirk’s main point is to affirm that the community is called “the Son of God,” that is, God is on display in Israel. “…Zion on earth is a proxy for God” (164).
Kirk’s Four Conclusions. “1. Idealized human figures are a wide-spread and wide-ranging reality in the literature of early Judaism. … 2. Although there are angelic figures who play such [God] roles as well, early Judaism maintained a special role for humans as God’s idealized agents. … 3. Idealized human figures are identified with God in various ways in early Judaism, including sharing in God’s sovereignty and receiving worship. … 4. Despite the assertions of some early Jewish writers, we discover a notable absence of anxiety about applying divine attributes to people in both biblical and post-biblical Judaism” (173-174). A recurring point made by Kirk is that idealized human figures do not jeopardize fierce Jewish monotheism.
As the one reviewing, I admit, I still need convincing about why Kirk’s hypothesis is necessary.