By permission of the British Library (Add 11695, Folio 240)

Daniel envisions “one like a son of man” given “an everlasting dominion” by God (Daniel 7:13–14). In the illumination shown here, from a 12th-century edition of a commentary on the Apocalypse by the 8th-century Spanish monk Beatus of Liebana, God is surrounded by the angels of the divine court; the four beasts mentioned in Daniel’s vision—a winged lion, a four-headed leopard, a tusked bear and a beast with ten horns—hover below. One of the angels tells Daniel that the four beasts represent four kingdoms (probably the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian and Greek empires), all of which will fall; but a final kingdom, established by God’s agent, who is like a son of man, will “never be destroyed.”

Like Daniel, Jesus uses the phrase “Son of Man” to refer to an angelic being close to God. Such references to the Son of Man as a heavenly being—in the Gospels and in other apocalyptic works—may derive from Daniel (mid-second century B.C.E.).