The Orthodox Pages

































































Question 34.

Dear Father Christopher,

I want to ask you about the identity of the “Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13 which contrary to what we see in liturgical texts where we read with the “Son of Man” is brought Before the Ancient of days, and that this Ancient of days is Christ our Lord, therefore not God the Father. Against this, we see that none other than a very competent person, disciple of Saint Polycarp, namely according to Saint Irenaeus in 4 instances explicitly declares our Lord Himself is this Son of Man, and that God the Father is the “Ancient of days” before whom our Lord, is brought, advancing on clouds, and so does Saint Justin Martyr in 2 places in his Dialogue with Trypho a Jew, state that the Son of man is Christ our Lord.
The Russian Church in Exile published an official statement declaring that the Son of man is not our Lord, because they have declared that the Ancient of days is Christ himself, and not the Father. I wonder if at times, certain prelates choose to believe they are doctrinally, dogmatically infallible with their own pious persuasion and perhaps ignorance of Holy Scripture, in addition to disregarding what we see left in the writings of Saint Justin the Martyr, and Saint Irenaeus, whom I view as far more credible than Russian prelates, notwithstanding their position in “authority”.


Answer to Question 34

Dear J.

Concerning the identity of the Son of Man in “Daniel 7:13” there has always been contradictory accounts as to who he is.
I would think that the statement made by the Russian Church in exile, that you mention, is only a reconfirmation of the statement made by the Russian Church at the Great Synod of Moscow in 1667 which declared that the Ancient of Days was the Son and not the Father. The occasion for the statement was the Trinity icon known as the Fatherhood. The Council forbade this representation in the following terms; “To represent the God of Sabaoth [that is, the Father] on Icons with a grey beard, with His Only Son on His lap, and a dove between Them is exceedingly absurd and unseemly, since no one has seen God the Father. For the Father has no flesh, and it was not in the flesh that the Son was born from the Father before all ages; although the Prophet David says: ‘I have begotten thee from the womb before the morning’- yet this birth is not in the flesh, but is beyond all understanding or expression. And Christ Himself says in the Holy Gospels, ‘Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son…’ This birth, before all ages, of the only-begotten Son from the Father should he understood by the mind, but must not and cannot be represented on Icons”.
The same Council also condemned the use of the dove to represent the Holy Spirit on Icons other than the Icon of our Lord’s Baptism. The statement by the Russian Church was a necessity to protect the true understanding of the Icon which had gone through a period of decadence and to which it is still recovery from.
Icons are not just images where we are free to use our imagination to depict whatever we want. They are used to teach and for Liturgical veneration and as such must be scripturally and theologically correct so that we do not give added reasons to the many enemies of the Icon to accuse us of idolatry. The iconographic rule is that if something has not been seen by the visible eye whether in life, vision or dream and if it cannot be verified by Holy Scripture or Holy Tradition then it cannot be painted.
On my website I have a book called “Discovering the Icon” that I wrote many years ago before I became a priest so it probably needs a lot of revision, but in it there is a chapter on Trinity Icons on which I am totally against and put forth my viewpoints on the matter. For the Paternitas or Fatherhood I say the following:
“This Icon, of western origin, appeared in the 16th century. It shows the Father and the Son sitting side by side with the Holy Spirit, again represented as a dove, in between Them. The Father is depicted as an old man with silver grey hair and clothed in a white garment. His representation is based on imagination, but also on the vision seen by the prophet Daniel: “I beheld until the thrones were set, and the Ancient of days sat; and his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head as pure wool” [Daniel 7: 9]. The text is not altogether clear as to who is the Ancient of days, which has often led to its interpretation, that he is the Father. Most theologians are opposed to this interpretation and say that the Ancient of days is the Son, and if we look carefully at the 22nd verse of the same chapter, it reads, “until the Ancient of days came, and he gave judgement to the saints of the Most High”. From this verse it is obvious that Daniel’s apocalyptic vision refers to the second coming of Christ, for it is Christ that will come at the end of time and not the Father. Also, the Father hath committed all judgement unto the Son [St. John 5:22].”
After looking at three types of Trinity icons I answer a question that I posed at the beginning of the chapter; “Should we have Icons representing the Holy Trinity?
I answer as follows:
“Christ Himself gives us the answer in the Gospels; “No man knoweth who the Father is but the Son and he to whom the Son will reveal Him” [Luke 10: 22] ;“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” [John 1: 18]; “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is or God, He hath seen the Father” [John 6: 46]. Christ makes it clear that no man has, at any time, seen the Father. This also takes into account the dreams and visions of the Old Testament prophets as well as the appearance of God to Abraham by the Mambre oak tree. This confirms that Abraham only saw the Son of God accompanied by two angels, for it would be logical to say that, if the pre-eternal Word, having not yet received flesh, could appear us a man, then so could the Father and the Holy Spirit. But if this were the case, then it would be in conflict, with what Christ has said and cause His words to hold no truth. This also applies to Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of days; he cannot be the Father if no man has ever seen Him.”
Thus, because I support the view that the Ancient of days is the Son and not the Father, God the Son cannot be both the Ancient of days and the Son of man unless it refers to the two nature of Christ and the Son of man is his humanity that he took upon himself and glorified. Is this not what Christ also means when he calls himself the Son of man, that in himself he has taken our fallen humanity and raised it and glorified it and made it divine. 

But let's take a closer look at the identities of Daniel's Ancient of days and the Son of man.
You yourself mention that the Liturgical texts of the Church, which clearly say that the Ancient of days is Christ, is contrary to the writings of Sts. Irenaeus and Justin Martyr and whom you say you “view as far more credible than Russian prelates”.
You may find the writings of certain fathers as far more credible than Russian prelates, but it is not correct to find them more credible than the Church’s Liturgical text. Fathers have been noted to make mistakes especially in their early writings but the Liturgical text of the Church cannot be dismissed as incredible because in them we find the whole teaching of the Church – her beliefs, her dogmas, her theology, Holy Scripture and Holy tradition.
Thus I have set out below the teaching of the Church on the Ancient of days found in just a few of the hymns:

●“Νηπιάζει δι' ἐμέ, ὁ Παλαιὸς τῶν ἡμερῶν…
“The Ancient of Days becomes an Infant for me...” (Matins, Kathisma, Presentation of the Lord 2 February)
● “Ὁ Παλαιὸς ἡμερῶν, ὁ καὶ τὸν νόμον πάλαι ἐν Σινᾷ δοὺς τῷ Μωσεῖ, σήμερον βρέφος ὁρᾶται…
“The Ancient of Days, Who of old gave the Law to Moses on Sinai, today is seen as an Infant...” (Lity of Vespers, Presentation of the Lord)
● “Ὁ Παλαιὸς ἡμερῶν, ὡς ἐπὶ πόκον ὑετὸς Πάναγνε...
“The Ancient of Days, O all-holy One, descended in thy blessed womb…” (Theotokion, 5th Ode, Matins, St. Polycarp of Smyrna, Feb.23)
● “Νέον ἡμῖν, βρέφος ἀπεκύησας, τὸν Παλαιὸν ἡμερῶν…
“Thou hast borne the Ancient of Days as a new Child unto us...” (Stavrotheotokion, 8th Ode of Tues. Matins in the 6th tone)

Apart from the hymns there are many of the renowned fathers who also support this teaching:
● “But what can I say? For the wonder astounds me. The Ancient of Days Who sits upon a high and exalted throne is laid in a manger.” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily on the Saviour's Birth)
● “Let the earth bow down, let every tongue sing, chant, and glorify the Child God, forty-day old and pre-eternal, the small Child and Ancient of Days, the suckling Child and Creator of the ages.” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Homily on the Presentation of the Lord)
● “The just Symeon received into his aged arms the Ancient of Days under the form of infancy, and, therefore, blessed God saying, ‘Now lettest Thy servant depart in peace...” (St. Methodius of Olympus, P.G.18, 3658)
● “The Ancient of Days became an infant.” (St. Athanasius, Homily on the Birth of Christ)

If Christ is the Ancient of days, who then is the Son of man in Daniel’s vision?
“Daniel's vision of the Son of Man approaching the Ancient of Days is explained by the Fathers as a vision from afar of the union of the pre-eternal Word and flesh. The “Son of Man” in Daniel is not yet the complete Incarnate Lord but an image of His human nature only. The Word and Son of God appears in the form of the white haired Ancient of Days, at once revealing “the fellowship of the mystery which, from the beginning of the world, was hidden in God,”(Eph.3:9) “the mystery which was hidden from the ages and from generations” (Col.1:26), and prefiguring as well (as a type) the certainty of the future Incarnation by receiving the human nature that has come, rather, has consented through the Theotokos, to give Him humanity.” (Father Steven Ritter – Russian Church outside of Russia)

Quotes from the fathers:
● “For it is His humanity that he names Son of man.” (St. Athanasius, Epistle to Antiochus)
● “But if he was a man honoured as God because of a conjunction with God, Daniel would have said he saw one coming on the clouds like the Son of God, but rather says this, namely, like the Son of man.” (St. Cyril of Alexandria, Epistle to Anastasius, Alexander, Martinian, John...No.55.30)
● “Daniel saw a type and image of what was to be in the future, i.e., the invisible Son and Word of God was to become truly man so He could be united with our nature.” (St. John of Damascus, On Div. Images, 3.26)
● “In the likeness of a Son of man, he foresees the incarnation of the Only-begotten One.” (St. Ammonius, P.G. 85, l380A)

For further evidence of the Identities of the Ancient of days and the Son of man of Daniel’s vision we can refer to many parallel passages in the New Testament especially the Book of Revelation where the description of the Son of man that John saw is almost identical to Daniel’s Ancient of days. But we also find a striking parallel in Daniel and text from the Gospels. Christ said that “they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matth. 24:30)
Is this not a quote from Daniel where Jesus identifies himself as the Son of Man who comes as the Ancient of Days in judgment? The Jews understood this figure as representing a Divine being in the apocalyptic imagery, thus when Caiaphas charged Jesus to tell him if he was the Christ the Son of God, Jesus said: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Matth. 26:64) This was a direct reference to Daniel’s Ancient of days; Christ had identified himself as the Divine being and was, according to the high priest, guilty of blasphemy and punishable by death on the Cross.

With love in Christ
Fr. Christopher