The Puritan Exegesis Project: Thomas Manton on Daniel 7:13, ‘The Son of Man’

Rudolph Bultmann famously asked, “Is exegesis without presuppositions possible?” Many Biblical scholars since have made clean distinctions between exegesis and eisegesis, sometimes for good reason. Aichele and Phillips (Semenia vols. 69-70) contrast Bultmann’s statement with the discipline of intertextuality: they maintain that the distinction between exegesis/eisegesis is too sharp, incapacitating scholars and ministers who rely on religious texts to express meaning and identify with their authors.

In a sermon on Hebrews 11:5 Thomas Manton (1620-1677) makes a one-to-one correspondence with Enoch’s translation and Christ’s ascension. “In Adam God would give the world a pledge of the fruit of sin, which is death; and in Enoch God would give a pledge of the fruit of holiness; and that is immortality and eternal life.” The proof is Christ’s taking human nature to heaven in the ascension, and leaving us with His Spirit in pledge of the promise (John 8:51). The interpretive question here is: can Manton read  his NT doctrine of the ascension onto the OT texts, Gen. 5:24 and Dan. 7:13?

To prove that heaven will perfect human nature and communion with God Manton cites Dan. 7:13: “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.” Aben Ezra and many rabbinic interpreters take ‘son of man’ to be Israel. But others, both Jewish and Christian alike, take the phrase to represent the Messiah based on extensive OT and NT references, and R. Ezra’s supporting text (vs. 27 cf. 24) is not compelling.  On the other hand it can refer to a ‘congregation’ of human-like figures opposed to the animal-like figures used elsewhere in the apocalyptic text.

Manton’s reading of Dan. 7:13 is striking and unique. With the reference to the Messiah on one hand and the congregation of the faithful on the other, Manton organizes a cluster of NT texts around Dan. 7:13 to cement the ascension of Christ as fact and promise to the believer’s transmission to heaven.

“As soon as the soul departs out of the body you shall be carried by the angels in triumph to Christ. Believer’s have the same entertainment which Christ had. Christ was welcomed to heaven with acclamations (Dan. 7:13). He was ‘brought’ that is, by a train of angels, and there conducted and welcomed [him] to heaven with a Well done, and well suffered for the souls of men! So shall your souls be carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom, Luke 16:22. Why into Abraham’s bosom? Christ himself was not yet ascended … but you shall be carried into Christ’s bosom. Look, as God did as it were take Christ by the hand when he ascended, therefore it is said, Acts 2:33, ‘Being by the right hand of God exalted.’ It principally notes the power of the divine majesty: but it is an allusion to the entertainment we give to a friend or guest we would welcome … so will Christ entertain you.”

2 Responses

  1. Joel

    It’s almost a ‘mad-scientist’ experiment to juxtapose those names together. Before this article I didn’t think as highly of Manton as I should have. He seems to get lost in his scripture references too often, but here he really hits home for me.

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