The "Two Powers in Heaven"


Jews after the Exile held a strict monotheistic worldview (the so-called Second Temple Judaism). As the Shema declares, there is only one God; to claim a multiplicity of gods was of course a grave blasphemy and a repudiation of Judaism. However, that did not prevent some Jews at that time from thinking of an intermediary figure - whether human or angel - who is so exalted enough that he is almost like God Himself. That doesn’t mean that they are polytheists however: despite accomodating beliefs and applying very honorific rhetoric to such principal-agent figures, they still drew a sharp line between that figure and God in the area of cultic practice, reserving worship for the one God. Later rabbis were however concerned about these claims of a second ‘divine’ power in heaven alongside God and so considered this belief as heretical.

It would seem that the basis of this tradition are Old Testament theophanies which has God appearing as a human-like figure or “the angel of Yhwh” speaking for, and being confused with, the Lord. Also, the references in some passages to a ‘lord’ alongside the Lord would have also contributed to the speculation, for example Psalm 110: “Yhwh says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Daniel is the earliest Scriptural witness we have to apocalyptic traditions of a heavenly figure - the “one like a son of man” who is exalted by the “Ancient of Days.”

“As I looked,
thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.

…] I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.”

There was also some early Enochic traditions to this effect, although given how late Daniel tends to be dated by many scholars nowadays (2nd century BC), they would argue that these Enoch material are older.


Apparently speaking.


Very interesting, I am curious to find out more about this and arguments against.


I can not speak for the OP, but notice the exclamation by this Jewish commentary on Numbers 12:7-8 which speaks of the communication between G-d and Moses:

7 Not so is My servant Moses; he is faithful throughout My house. ז. לֹא כֵן עַבְדִּי משֶׁה בְּכָל בֵּיתִי נֶאֱמָן הוּא:

8. With him I speak mouth to mouth; in a vision and not in riddles, and he beholds the image of the Lord. So why were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses ?

  • ח. פֶּה אֶל פֶּה אֲדַבֶּר בּוֹ וּמַרְאֶה וְלֹא בְחִידֹת וּתְמֻנַת יְהֹוָה יַבִּיט וּמַדּוּעַ לֹא יְרֵאתֶם לְדַבֵּר בְּעַבְדִּי בְמשֶׁה:
    Mouth to mouth: I told him to separate from his wife (Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:8, Tanchuma Tzav 13). Where did I tell him this? At Sinai; “Go and tell them, ‘Return to your tents,’ but you, remain here with Me” (Deut. 5:27). - [See Shab. 87a]

פה אל פה: אמרתי לו לפרוש מן האשה. והיכן אמרתי לו, בסיני (דברים ה, כז) לך אמור להם שובו לכם לאהליכם, ואתה פה עמוד עמדי: *

*in a vision but not in riddles: “A vision” refers to the vision of speech, for I express My communication to Him with absolute clarity, and I do not obscure it with riddles in the way it was said to Ezekiel, “Present a riddle” (Ezek. 17:2). I might think that it refers to the vision of the Divine Presence [itself]! Scripture therefore teaches, “You are not able to see My face” (Exod. 33:23). - [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:8, Tanchuma Tzav 13]

ומראה ולא בחידות: מראה זה מראה דבור, שאני מפרש לו דבורי במראת פנים שבו ואיני סותמו לו בחידות, כענין שנאמר ליחזקאל (יחזקאל יז, ב) חוד חידה וגו’, יכול מראה שכינה, תלמוד לומר (שמות לג, כ) לא תוכל לראות את פני:

and He beholds the image of the Lord: This refers to a vision of the “back,” as it says,“and you will see My back” (Exod. 33:23). - [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:8, Tanchuma Tzav 13] *


Continuing with a Jewish commentary on Exodus 23:21

The ‘angel’ or messenger which went before Moses and the Israelites is described as such and especially note the explanation for 'My name is within him"

**Beware of him and obey him; do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your transgression, for My Name is within him. **

*כא. הִשָּׁמֶר מִפָּנָיו וּשְׁמַע בְּקֹלוֹ אַל תַּמֵּר בּוֹ כִּי לֹא יִשָּׂא לְפִשְׁעֲכֶם כִּי שְׁמִי בְּקִרְבּוֹ:
do not rebel against him: Heb. ךְתַּמֵּר, an expression of rebellion הַמְרָאָה, like “Any man who rebels (יַמְרֶה) against your orders” (Josh. 1:18). *

  • אל תמר בו: לשון המראה, כמו (יהושע א יח) אשר ימרה את פיך:
    for he will not forgive your transgression: He is not accustomed to that *, for he is of the group that do not sin. And moreover, he is a messenger, and he can do only his mission. -[From Midrash Tanchuma 18] *

כי לא ישא לפשעכם: אינו מלומד בכך, שהוא מן הכת שאין חוטאין, ועוד שהוא שליח ואינו עושה אלא שליחותו:

*for My Name is within him: [This clause] is connected to the beginning of the verse: Beware of him because My Name is associated with him. Our Sages, however, said: This is [the angel] Metatron, whose name is like the name of his Master (Sanh. 38b). The numerical value of מֵטַטְרוֹן [314] equals that of שַׁדַּי [314]. -[From Tikunei Zohar 66b] כי שמי בקרבו: מחובר לראש המקרא, השמר מפניו כי שמי משותף בו, ורבותינו אמרו זה מטטרו"ן ששמו כשם רבו. מטטרו"ן בגימטריא שדי: **



The thing is that neither Daniel nor the earliest Enoch material give the figure any title. Most attributes of the “son of man” or “manlike figure” are left undefined. Instead, the tradition grew trough differing exegeses of a variety of theophany texts. Speculation continued among a number of groups and was later canonized by the rabbinic community. Not every occurrence could be considered ‘heretical’.

That there was ‘heterodox’ speculation on the identity of the Danielic “son of man” may be recorded in some Septuagint versions of Daniel. The original (“Old Greek”) translation of Daniel was very free and should appropriately be considered a commentary rather than a translation. Because of this, it was replaced by Theodotion’s more literal translation. (Theodotion’s Greek Daniel also became the standard for Christians, while the original version was forgotten.) OG Daniel apparently translated the son of man vision in such a way as to make one suspicious that very early “two powers” traditions were being challenged. One version, for instance, says that the son of man approached “as” (ὡς hōs) the Ancient of Days, instead of “as far as” (ἕως heōs) the Ancient of Days. This reading removes the difficulty of two exalted figures by combining them into one. We might explain this as a simple scribal error (there is only the difference of a single letter), but as the text is well attested it may also have been a purposeful change to defend against ‘heretical’ speculation. (Some have also attempted to explain that the “he came as the Ancient of Days” reading is the more original, but the common reading showing two separate figures is more consistent with the context.)

Thre’s also 1 Enoch, an amalgam of different works written in the time period between 300 BC to the 1st century AD. In the Book of Parables (1st century BC-1st century AD; 1 Enoch 37-71), the emphasis has turned to the “son of man.” Most of the portrayals of judgment in this book - as in all the Enoch literature - involve a detailed exegesis of Daniel 7:13. However, the “son of man” of the Parables is a salvific figure of some prominence, having many divine perquisites. But whether “son of man” is this figure’s title or a simple description (“a manlike figure”) has remained a puzzle. Adapted from the vision in Daniel, the story of the “son of man” seems to involve the following:

(1) The wicked oppress the righteous (given as a reason for punishment);
(2) The “son of man” enters God’s throneroom and is enthroned (or alternatively, he is already enthroned before the scene opens);
(3) The son of man passes judgment on God’s behalf;
(4) The wicked are punished by one of the two figures, usually the “son of man;”
(5) Scenes of triumph follow.

Whereas in other apocalyptic judgment scenes outside of Parables, God is perfectly capable of carrying out the plan by Himself, within the work the “son of man” is usually the instrument of divine justice, which shows just how important this figure is for the work. Nowhere however is it certain that “son of man” is a title. The work goes on to call this figure as the messiah (1 Enoch 48.10; 52.4) and describe him (or only his name and office) as premundane, having been foreordained before the Lord of Spirits created the stars. At the conclusion of the book Enoch and his name are elevated to become “the son of man:” he tours heaven, which contains the new paradise (70.4) and is guided by Michael to the throne of the Ancient of Days, whereupon Enoch himself is identified with the don of man (71.14).

There has been some controversy over the Book of Parables: some scholars have argued that the work is actually post-Christian and bears Christian influence (whether friendly or polemical). That no fragments of this section of 1 Enoch were found at Qumran would seem to lend credence to this idea. However, more recent study have come out in favor of the book’s being Jewish and probable pre-70 date. All that aside, Philo does describe the heavenly Adam in terms which are elsewhere used of the “son of man,” and also evidences similar ideas about the heavenly Logos. So at least, some sort of “son of man” traditions preceded the gospels. It wouldn’t be surprising to find that pre-Christian traditions were a variety of conflicting exegeses of Daniel 7, all describing an anonymous figure who could possibly be either God’s human hypostasis or a principal angel who carries the name of God.

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