Thursday, January 08, 2009

Jesus re-cognizes himself as prophet in the like of Ezekiel

Famous author Neale Donald Walsch recently got into trouble for unintentional plagiarizing. He posted one of his real life encounters as his Christmas sharing last month on his blog. The problem is that the encounter is not his. It belongs to Candy Chand.

Neale has written an apology on his blog for that, "As a published author myself, I would never use another author's words as my own. Yet I have apparently done just that -- although with no deliberate intent to do so."

Read it all at the New York Times.

But what is remarkable, and the point of this post, is how a person able to cognize a non-experienced experience as one's own experience. The process from cognition to recognition (or "re-cognition").

Here is how Neale puts it, "I have told the story verbally so many times over the years that I had it memorized...and then, somewhere along the way, internalized it as my own experience."

And I think that Jesus of Nazareth had similar experience. He might been telling his contemporaries about Ezekiel so much so that he saw himself as the 'Son of Man', the nickname that God used to refer to Ezekiel whenever they corresponded (Eze 2.1, 3.1, 3.17 and the numerous others in the book). And Jesus was telling that story long before his ministry took off, probably when he was as young as twelve (Luke 2.46-47).

Hence I think Ezekiel is Jesus' favorite book. And on this I'm differing with people like Ben Witherington, Klyne Snodgrass, A. J. B. Higgins, and N. T. Wright who think that Jesus' self-designation 'Son of Man' is adopted from the vision found in Daniel 7.13.

Add to that, the prophetic task of divine judgment and eternal promise that Jesus set on the temple and Jerusalem is more inline with the divine task YHWH gave to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 11 and 21).

Besides that, there are two passages in Ezekiel that support this understanding:
Ezekiel 20.49 - Then I said, "Ah, Sovereign LORD! They are saying of me, 'Isn't he just telling parables?'
Even though the term 'parable' used by Ezekiel in a negative way (his contemporary doubt his prophetic warnings, and took them as parables instead), it points to the cryptic way how Jesus uses parables in his teachings. Jesus uses parables as a subtle way to proclaim prophetic warnings. He was swapping the categories used by Ezekiel from left to right. Anyway, Ezekiel did uses parables in his ministry (Eze 24.3).
Ezekiel 4.4 - Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the house of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. (Emphasis added)
One argument against this case is that Ezekiel's prophetic task is different from Jesus' ministry, especially his suffering and crucifixion. But this passage disputes that. It speaks about Ezekiel's task to lie on his side to symbolize the bearing of Israel's sin upon himself. This is very similar with the New Testament authors' interpretation of Jesus' death on the cross as bearing the sins of others (John 1.29). And all the 'imputation' doctrines are derived from this imagery. Hence the 'prophetic task' that Jesus had in mind was not merely proclaiming but acting out, embodying, or incarnating the divine message.

After conceiving the above, I found out that there are others such as Edwin A. Abbott and Daniel Volter who shared similar findings about a century ago.


Tony Siew said...

Hi Joshua, I think you are onto something about Jesus' self-designation. Ezekiel certainly plays a part though I think Dan 7 is significant too. The "son of man" in 1 Enoch could be another source.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Tony,

Thank you for your comment. I'll check out Enoch.