The Background of the “Son of God” Text -- By: John J. Collins

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 07:1 (NA 1997)
Article: The Background of the “Son of God” Text
Author: John J. Collins

The Background of the “Son of God” Text

John J. Collins

The Divinity School, University Of Chicago

E. M. Cook has proposed that the background of 4Q246 is to be found in Akkadian prophecies (BBR 5 [1995] 43-66). This interesting suggestion has the merit of expanding the horizons of the discussions, but it is not ultimately persuasive. 4Q246 has far closer parallels, both in its visionary genre and in actual phraseology, in the Book of Daniel. The argument that the “son of God” should be understood as a negative figure is in no way corroborated by the alleged Akkadian parallels. The argument still depends on the assumption that there is a single turning point in the text, and that everything before it is negative. This assumption is not warranted by comparison with other apocalyptic texts. By far the closest parallel to the language of 4Q246 about the “son of God” is found in the Gospel of Luke, where the “son of God” is associated with “the throne of David his father” and so is explicitly messianic.

Key Words: Son of God, messiah, Akkadian prophecies, Luke 1:32, 35; 4Q246; 4Q174; Psalm 2; 2 Samuel 7

4Q246, better known as the “Son of God” text, was already the subject of scholarly debate for twenty years before its official publication in 1992, and has attracted renewed attention in recent years.1 Most of the discussion has focused on the identity of the figure who is called “the son of God” and “son of the Most High” in col. ii, line 1. Scholarly opinion is divided between those who regard this figure as a future Jewish king (usually identified as the messiah) and those who see him as a negative figure (usually a Syrian king).2 The editor

of the text, Emile Puech, insists that neither interpretation can be excluded. Recently E. M. Cook has offered the most extensive defense to date of the negative interpretation, and has also broadened the discussion by attempting to place the text in a literary context.3 It is Cook’s contention that the most convincing background for 4Q246 is provided by Akkadian prophecy. The relevance of Akkadian prophecy to Jewish apocalyptic literature, especially the Book of Daniel, has long been recognized,4 but Cook argues for a direct relationship with the Qumran text. I wish to argue, to the contrary, that while there i...

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