Daniel 7:13

13. I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

13. Videbam in visionibus noctis: et ecce in nubibus 1 coeli, vel coelorum, tanquam Filius hominus veniebat, et usque ad Antiquum dierum venit, et coram eo repraesentarunt. 2


After Daniel has narrated how he saw God on the throne of judgment, openly exercising his power and laying open to the world what was formerly hidden from it, namely, his supreme authority in its government, he now adds the second part of the vision, As it were the Son of man appeared in the clouds. Without doubt this is to be understood of Christ, and the Jews, perverse as they are, are ashamed to deny it, although they differ afterwards about Christ. But the object of the vision was to enable the faithful certainly to expect the promised Redeemer in his own time. He had been endued with heavenly power, and was seated at his Father's right hand. Hence Daniel says, He was intent on these nightly visions. And this repetition is by no means superfluous, as it informs us of the Prophet's alertness when God shews himself present. Daniel expresses this fully in his own words, for he roused himself when he perceived important, and rare, and singular matters set before him. This attentive disposition of the Prophet ought to stir us up to read his prophecy without listlessness, and with awakened minds earnestly to derive from heaven true and sincere intelligence. I was, then, says he, attentive in visions of the night, and beheld as it were the Son of man. I have already said this passage cannot be otherwise taken than concerning Christ. We must now see why he uses the word "like" the Son of man; that is, why he uses the letter k, ke, the mark for likeness. This might be twisted in favor of the folly of the Manichees, who thought Christ's body to be only imaginary. For, as they wrest the words of Paul, and pervert their sense, that Christ was in likeness as a man, (Philippians 2:7.) so also they may abuse the Prophet's testimony, when Christ is not said to be a man but only like one. With respect to Paul's words, he is not speaking of the essence of his human nature, but only of his state; for he is speaking of Christ being made man, of his condition being humble and abject, and even servile. But in the passage before us the reason is different. For the Prophet says, He appeared to him as the Son of man, as Christ had not yet taken upon him our flesh. And we must remark that saying of Paul's: When the fullness of time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman. (Galatians 4:4.) Christ then began to be a man when he appeared on earth as Mediator, for he had not assumed the seed of Abraham before he was joined with us in brotherly union. This is the reason why the Prophet does not pronounce Christ to have been man at this period, but only like man; for otherwise he had not been that Messiah formerly promised under the Law as the son of Abraham and David. For if from the beginning he had put on human flesh, he would not have been born of these progenitors. It follows, then, that Christ was not a man from the beginning, but only appeared so in a figure. As also Irenaeus 3 says: This was a "prelude," he uses that word. Tertullian also says: "Then the Son of God put on a specimen of humanity." 4 This was a symbol, therefore, of Christ's future flesh, although that flesh did not yet exist. We now see how suitably this figure agrees with the thing signified, wherein Christ was set forth as the Son of man, although he was then the eternal Word of God.

It afterwards follows, .He came to the Ancient of days. This, in my judgment, ought to be explained of Christ's ascension; for he then commenced his reign, as we see in numberless passages of Scripture. Nor is this passage contrary to what the Prophet had previously said -- he saw the Son of man in the clouds. For by this expression he simply wishes to teach how Christ, although like a man, yet differed from the whole human race, and was not of the common order of men; but excelled the whole world in dignity. He expresses much more when he says, in the second clause, He came even unto the Ancient of days. For although the Divine Majesty lay hid in Christ, yet he discharged the duty of a slave, and emptied himself, as Paul says, (Philippians 2:7.) So also we read in the first chapter of John, (John 1:14,) Glory appeared in him as of the only begotten Son of God; that is, which belongs to the only begotten Son of God. Christ, therefore, thus put off his glory for the time, and yet by His miracles and many other proofs afforded a clear and evident; specimen of his celestial glory. He really appeared to Daniel in the clouds, but when he ascended to heaven, he then put off this mortal body, and put on a new life. Thus Paul also, in the sixth chapter to the Romans, says, he lives the life of God, (Romans 6:10;) and other phrases often used by our Lord himself agree very well with this, especially in the Evangelist John, "I go to the Father." "It is expedient for me to go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I," (John 16:7; John 14:28;) that is, it is expedient for me to ascend to that royal tribunal which the Father has erected for me by his eternal counsel, and thus the whole world will feel the supreme power to have been entrusted to. me. Now, therefore, we understand the full meaning of the Prophet's words.

But as there are many fanatics who wrest what has been said of the person of the Mediator, as if Christ were not the true God, but had a beginning from the Father at some definite period of time, we must observe how the Prophet's expression are neither the human nor the divine nature of Christ properly speaking, but a Mediator is here set before us who is God manifest in flesh. For if we hold this principle that Christ is described to us, not as either the word of God, or the seed of Abraham, but as Mediator, that is, eternal God who was willing to become man, to become subject to God the Father, to be made like us, and to be our advocate, then no difficulty will remain. Thus he appeared to Daniel like the Son of man, who became afterwards truly and really so. He was in the clouds, that is, separated from the common lot of mankind, as he always carried with him some marks of deity, even in his humility. He now arrives as the Ancient of days, that is, when he ascends to heaven, because his divine majesty was then revealed. And hence he says, It is expedient for you, for me to go to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. (John 14:28.) Christ here detracts nothing from his deity, but as his nature was not known in the world, while his divine majesty lay hid in the form of a servant, he calls the Father simply God; as if he had said, If I remain with you upon earth, what would the presence of my flesh profit you? But when I ascend to heaven, then that oneness which I have with the Father will become conspicuous. When, therefore, the world shall understand that I am one with the Father, and that the Deity is one, the hope of all the pious will become more firm and unconquered against all temptations; for they will know themselves to be equally under the protection of both God and man. If, therefore, Christ were always dwelling upon earth, and had borne witness a thousand times to his being given to us by his Father as the guardian of our salvation, yet there always would have been some hesitation and anxiety. But when we know him to be seated at his Father's right hand, we then understand him to be truly God, because all knees would not. be bent before him, unless he had been the eternal God. We must hold that passage of Isaiah, (Isaiah 42:8,) As I live, saith the Lord, my glory I will not give to another. As, therefore, God's glory can never be transferred to either man or any other creature, the true unity and nature of God necessarily shines forth in the human nature of Christ, for every knee is bent before him. Now, therefore, we understand the sense in which the Prophet says, Christ came as the Son of man, that is, like a man, even to the Ancient of days. For after Christ had passed through the period of his self-abasement, according' to Paul, (Philippians 2:7,) he ascended into heaven, and a dominion was bestowed upon him, as the Prophet says in the next verse. This passage, then, without the slightest doubt, ought to be received of Christ's ascension, after he had ceased being mortal man. He says, He was represented before God, namely, because he sits at his right hand. It follows, --

1 For Me, gnem, is taken in this passage in Chaldee, like b, be. This usage is customary: hence "in the clouds." -- Calvin.

2 Verbally, "made him approach." -- Calvin. The Latin text of 1561 has "eum" at the end of the verse, and the French translation implies it. See the Dissertations at the end of this volume. -- Ed.

3 The Latin translation of Irenaeus is "proeludium." The French here has "une approche et entree." and then adds, "He uses a word which we cannot translate into French." It means a preface or introduction. -- Ed.

4 Tertullian's words are, "Tunc praeluxit Filius Dei humanitate sua." -- Ed.


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