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The phrase 'son of man' is a primarily Semitic idiom that originated in Ancient Mesopotamia, used to denote humanity or self. The phrase is also used in Judaism and Christianity. The word used in the Greek, translated as Son of man is ἀνθρώπου, Anthropos. As an idiom for the future human, it may better be translated genderneutrally as offspring of Mankind, or Man's child.

Ancient languages

In Sumerian, child of (a) man is:

  • DUMU.LU.A (?)

In Akkadian, son of man is:

  • mar awelim

In Hebrew, son of man is either:

  • בן אדם [ben 'adam] (Adam)
  • בן אנוש [ben 'enosh] (Enos)

In Aramaic, son of man due to spelling variants and morphological shifts is either:

  • ברנש [barnash]
  • ברנשא [barnasha']
  • בר נש [bar nash]
  • בר נשא [bar nasha']
  • יליד נשא [yelid nasha'] (lit. "Born of a Human")
  • בר אנש [bar 'anash]
  • בר אנוש [bar 'anowsh]
  • בר אנשא [bar 'ansha']
  • ברה דאנשא [breh dansha']
  • (and a few others)

Ancient Semitic literature

The most common use is similar to that of the English word "human." For example:

1QapGen

1QapGen. XXI.13: MT שיא (Gen. 13.16)

ואשגה זרעך כעפר ארשא די לא ישכח בר אנוש לממדיה
And I will multiply your seed like the dirt of the earth which no son of man (בר אנוש : [bar 'anowsh]) can count. (Aramaic)

In the Hebrew of Genesis 13:16, the word translated as בר אנוש (son of man) was איש (man).

Book of the Laws of the Countries

The Book of the Laws of the Countries is the oldest general discussion of mankind in the Aramaic language, dating from the late secound to early third century AD;[1] and we can see that ברנשא bar nasha is used in a general form for humanity:

Bardaisan, The Book of the Laws of the Countries, p. 559, lines 11-14:

כינה דברנשא הנו דנתילד ונתרבא ודנקום באקמא ודנולד ודנקש כד אכל וכד שתא וכד דמך וכד מתתששעיר ודמות
This is the nature of the son of man (דברנשא : [debarnasha']), that he should be born and grow up and reach his peak and reproduce and grow old, while eating and drinking and sleeping and waking, and that he should die.

Story of Haninah ben Dosa

Similarly we can see in the 8th or 9th century AD[2] story of how Haninah ben Dosa was bitten by a snake while praying:

y. Ber 5. 1/26 (9a)

כד הוות נכית לבר נשא אין בר נשא קדים למיא חברברא מיית ואין חברברא קדטם למיא בר נשא מיית
When it bites the son of man (בר נשא : [bar nasha']), if the son of man (בר נשא : [bar nasha']) reaches the water first, then snake dies; and if the snake reaches the water first, the son of man (בר נשא : [bar nasha']) dies.

Here we see that it is not only a method for referring to mankind, but as a way to piously refer to oneself.

Letters of John of Dalyatha

This is further illustrated within the letters of John of Dalyatha, from the eighth century AD;[3] where the author is describing a vision:

John of Dalyatha Letters 49. 13

מן בתר הנא שוחלפא אתא בתרה שוחלפא אחרנא דלבשא לה לברנשא נורא מן פסת רגלה ושמדא למוחה דמא דחאר ברנשא הו בה לא חזא לפגרא מרכבא אן להד נורא דלביש
After this transformation, there follows another transformation in which fire clothes the son of man (ברנשא : [barnasha']) from the soles of his feet up to his brain, so that when the son of man (ברנשא : [barnasha']) looks at himself he does not see his composite body, but only the fire with which he is clothed.

Hebrew Bible

Numbers

Within the Hebrew Bible, the first place one comes across the phrase son of man is in Book of Numbers 23:19:

לא אישׁ אל ויכזב ובן־אדם ויתנחם ההוא אמר ולא יעשׂה ודבר ולא יקימנה
God is not a human being (איש : ['iysh]), that he should lie,
or a mortal/son of man (בן–אדם : [ben-'adam]), that he should change his mind:
Has he promised, and will he not do it?
Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Job

In the Book of Job, we see son of man used a total of three times (all of which, interestingly enough, fall within poetry):

Job 16:18-21

18 ארץ אל־תכסי דמי ואל־יהי מקום לזעקתי׃
19 גם־עתה הנה־בשׁמים עדי ושׂהדי במרומים׃
20 מליצי רעי אל־אלוה דלפה עיני׃
21 ויוכח לגבר עם־אלוה ובן־אדם לרעהו׃
22 כי־שׁנות מספר יאתיו וארח לא־אשׁוב אהלך׃
18 "Earth, don’t cover my blood,
Let my cry have no place to rest.
19 Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven.
He who vouches for me is on high.
20 My friends scoff at me.
My eyes pour out tears to God,
21 That he would maintain the right of a man (גבר : [gabar]) with God,
Of a son of man (בן–אדם : [ben-'adam]) with his neighbor!
22 For when a few years are come,
I shall go the way from whence I shall not return."

Job 25

1 ויען בלדד השׁחי ויאמר׃
2 המשׁל ופחד עמו עשׂה לום במרומיו׃
3 הישׁ מספר לגדודיו ועל־מי לא־יקום אורהו׃
4 ומה־יצדק אנושׁ עם־אל ומה־יזכה ילוד אשׁה׃
5 הן עד־ירח ולא יאהיל וכוכבים לא־זכו בעיניו׃
6 אף כי־אנושׁ רמה פ
1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered,
2"Dominion and fear are with him;
He makes peace in his high places.
3 Can his armies be counted?
On whom does his light not arise?
4 How then can man be just with God?
Or how can he who is born of a woman be clean?
5 Behold, even the moon has no brightness,
And the stars are not pure in his sight;
6 How much less man (אנוש : ['enowsh]), who is a worm!
The son of man (בן–אדם : [ben-'adam]), who is a worm!"

Job 35:6-8

6 אם־חטאת מה־תפעל־בו ורבו פשׁעיך מה־תעשׂה־לו׃
7 אם־צדקת מה־תתן־לו או מה־מידך יקח׃
8 לאישׁ־כמוך רשׁעך ולבן־אדם צדקתך׃
6 If you have sinned, what effect do you have against him?
If your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him?
7 If you are righteous, what do you give him?
Or what does he receive from your hand?
8 Your wickedness may hurt a man (איש : ['iysh]) as you are;
And your righteousness may profit a son of man (בן–אדם : [ben-'adam]).

Psalms

Within the Book of Psalms we find the same classical forms employed within Numbers and Job wherewith son of man is used in parallel with man to describe humanity as a whole.

Psalms 8:4-5(5-6)

5 מה־אנושׁ כי־תזכרנו ובן־אדם כי תפקדנו׃ 6 ותחסרהו מעט מאלהים וכבוד והדר תעטרהו׃
4 What is man (אנוש : ['enosh]), that you think of him?
The son of man (בן–אדם : [ben-'adam]), that you care for him?
5 For you have made him a little lower than God,
And crowned him with glory and honor.

This passage is also quoted in Hebrews chapter 2; see below.

Psalms 80:14-18(15-19)

15 אלהים צבאות שׁוב־נא הבט משׁמים וראה ופקד גפן זאת׃ 16 וכנה אשׁר־נטעה ימינך ועל־בן אמצתה לך׃ 17 שׂרפה באשׁ כסוחה מגערת פניך יאבדו׃ 18 תהי־ידך על־אישׁ ימינך על־בן־אדם אמצת לך׃ 19 ולא־נסוג ממך תחינו ובשׁמך נקרא׃
14 Turn again, we beg you, God of hosts.
Look down from heaven, and see, and visit this vine,
15 The stock which your right hand planted,
The branch that you made strong for yourself.
16 It’s burned with fire.
It’s cut down.
They perish at your rebuke.
17 Let your hand be on the man (איש : ['iysh]) of your right hand,
On the son of man (בן–אדם : [ben-'adam]) whom you made strong for yourself.
18 So we will not turn away from you.
Revive us, and we will call on your name.

Psalms 144:

3 יהוה מה־אדם ותדעהו בן־אנושׁ ותחשׁבהו׃ 4 אדם להבל דמה ימיו כצל עובר׃
3 YHWH, what is man (אדם : ['adam]), that you care for him?
Or the son of man (בן–אנוש : [ben-'enosh]), that you think of him?
4 Man (אדם : ['adam]) is like a breath.
His days are like a shadow that passes away.

Psalms 146:

1 הללו־יה הללי נפשׁי את־יהוה׃ 2 אהללה יהוה בחיי אזמרה לאלהי בעודי׃ 3 אל־תבטחו בנדיבים בבן־אדם ׀ שׁאין לו תשׁועה׃ 4 תצא רוחו ישׁב לאדמתו ביום ההוא אבדו עשׁתנתיו׃
1 Praise Yah!
Praise YHWH, my soul.
2 While I live, I will praise YHWH.
I will sing praises to my God as long as I exist.
3 Don’t put your trust in princes,
Each a son of man (בן–אדם : [ben-'adam]) in whom there is no help.
4 His spirit departs, and he returns to the earth.
In that very day, his thoughts perish.

Isaiah

Isaiah 51:11-13

11 ופדויי יהוה ישׁובון ובאו ציון ברנה ושׂמחת עולם על־ראשׁם שׂשׂון ס ושׂמחה ישׂיגון נסו יגון ואנחה׃ 12 אנכי אנכי הוא מנחמכם מי־את ותיראי מאנושׁ ימות ומבן־אדם חציר ינתן׃ 13 ותשׁכח יהוה עשׂך נוטה שׁמים ויסד ארץ ותפחד תמיד כל־היום מפני חמת המציק כאשׁר כונן להשׁחית ואיה חמת המציק׃
11 The ransomed of YHWH shall return, and come with singing to Zion; and everlasting joy shall be on their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 12 I, even I, am he who comforts you: who are you, that you are afraid of man (מאנושׁ : [me'enosh]) who shall die, and of the son of man (ומבן־אדם : [umiben-'adam]) who shall be made as grass; 13 and have forgotten YHWH your Maker, who stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and fear continually all the day because of the fury of the oppressor, when he makes ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?

Isaiah 56:1-2

ה אמר יהוה שׁמרו משׁפט ועשׂו צדקה כי־קרובה ישׁועתי לבוא וצדקתי להגלות׃ 2 אשׁרי אנושׁ יעשׂה־זאת ובן־אדם יחזיק בה שׁמר שׁבת מחללו ושׁמר ס
1 Thus says YHWH, Keep you justice, and do righteousness; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. 2 Blessed is the man (אנושׁ : 'enosh) who does this, and the son of man (ובן־אדם : [uben-'adam]) who holds it fast; who keeps the Sabbath from profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.

Jeremiah

Ezekiel

The Book of Ezekiel is unique within the tradition of the Tanakh, in that as the story unfolds, the phrase son of man is used approximately 94 times by a divine being to refer to the author. For example:

Ezekiel 2

1 He said to me, Son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), stand on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2 The Spirit entered into me when he spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard him who spoke to me. 3 He said to me, Son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), I send you to the children of Israel, to nations that are rebellious, which have rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me even to this very day. 4 The children are impudent and stiff-hearted: I do send you to them; and you shall tell them, Thus says the Lord YHWH. 5 They, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there has been a prophet among them. 6 You, son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), don’t be afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you, and you do dwell among scorpions: don’t be afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You shall speak my words to them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear; for they are most rebellious. 8 But you, son of man (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam]), hear what I tell you; don’t be you rebellious like that rebellious house: open your mouth, and eat that which I give you. 9 When I looked, behold, a hand was put forth to me; and, behold, a scroll of a book was therein; 10 He spread it before me: and it was written within and without; and there were written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.

Son of man here appears to be a title referring to the humanity of the author, much how the word "human" may suffice in English. It is not a respectful appellation, but a humbling one (in some cases, an arguably abject one), and this use is a consistent pattern throughout Ezekiel.

All uses of son of man within Ezekiel are:

  • 2:1,2,6,8;
  • 3:1,3,4,10,17,25;
  • 4:1,16;
  • 5:1;
  • 6:2;
  • 7:2;
  • 8:5,6,8,12,15,17;
  • 11:2,4,15;
  • 12:2,3,9,18,22,27;
  • 13:2,17;
  • 14:13;
  • 15:2;
  • 16:2;
  • 17:2;
  • 19:10;
  • 20:3,4,27,46;
  • 21:2,6,9,12,14,19,28;
  • 22:2,18,24;
  • 23:2,36;
  • 24:2,16,25;
  • 25:2;
  • 26:2;
  • 27:2;
  • 28:2,12,21;
  • 29:2,18;
  • 30:2,21;
  • 31:2,5;
  • 32:2,18;
  • 33:2,7,10,12,24,30;
  • 34:2;
  • 35:2;
  • 36:1,17;
  • 37:3,9,11,16;
  • 38:2,14;
  • 39:1,17;
  • 40:4;
  • 43:7,10,18;
  • 44:5;
  • 47:6;

Daniel

The Book of Daniel's use of the phrase son of man is different because it describes an event of eternal significance.[4] Parts of the text originally written in Aramaic, this portion of the volume deals with a vision attributed to the author about "the times of the end":

Daniel 7:13-14 (WEB)
13 חזה הוית בחזוי ליליא וארו עם־ענני שׁמיא כבר אנשׁ אתה הוה ועד־עתיק יומיא מטה וקדמוהי הקרבוהי׃ 14 ולה יהיב שׁלטן ויקר ומלכו וכל עממיא אמיא ולשׁניא לה יפלחון שׁלטנה שׁלטן עלם די־לא יעדה ומלכותה פ
13 I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man (כבר אנש [kibar 'anash]), and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 8:16-18
16 ואשׁמע קול־אדם בין אולי ויקרא ויאמר גבריאל הבן להלז את־המראה׃ 17 ויבא אצל עמדי ובבאו נבעתי ואפלה על־פני ויאמר אלי הבן בן־אדם כי לעת־קץ החזון׃ 18 ובדברו עמי נרדמתי על־פני ארצה ויגע־בי ויעמידני על־עמדי׃
16 I heard a man's voice (קול–אדם) between the banks of the Ulai, which called, and said, "Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision." 17 So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I was frightened, and fell on my face: but he said to me, "Understand, son of man (בן–אדם) ; for the vision belongs to the time of the end." 18 Now as he was speaking with me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face toward the ground; but he touched me, and set me upright. ...

Within the context of these passages, the use of son of man is more consistent with the concept of self-reflection. It has been argued that "there came with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man" describes one "like a human being" or "one like [himself]." In the interpretation of the vision given later, this figure represents "the saints of the Most High"(Dan 7:16-18, 21-22, 25-27). [5] By extension, this may have later led to the idea of "the son of man," an eschatological Messianic figure, within Judaism. Such interpretation appears in the Similitudes of Enoch and 4 Ezra.

The son of man figure with in the book of Daniel seems clearly based on the Divine figure presented in the Merkabah of the book of Ezekiel.[3][6]

New Testament

In the Koine Greek of the New Testament, the term "the son of man" is invariably "ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου", which might be rendered more literally "the son of the human being"; however, due to conventions of interpreting the definite article in Greek, "the son of man" most scholars believe is a better translation.

The expression occurs 82 times in the four Gospels, and is used only in the sayings of Jesus. It only occurs four times in other New Testament books.[7]

Synoptic Gospels

Due to the nature of the Synoptic Gospels and how their sources are intertwined, son of man sayings here are broken down into pericopes, comparing parallel stories between Mark, Matthew and Luke.

The Foxes have holes...

Matthew 8:20, cf. Luke 9:58

Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head."

The Foxes have Holes pericope represents a poem that probably existed first in oral tradition before it was recorded in the hypothetical source document Q. Various reconstructions of this short piece in Aramaic, from the proper period, show possibility of puns and wordplay associated with this particular array of comparisons, which appear to portray the phrase son of man as a general reference to mankind.[8] The phrasing seems to tie in with the Old Testament prophetic expressions used by such prophets as Ezekiel, and it shows Jesus understanding of himself as the "man" that God has singled out as a friend and representative.[7]

Lost sheep

Matthew 18:11 (KJV)

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

In this verse, "son of man" is clearly used in reference to Jesus, within the common use of humble self-reference (see the Story of Haninah ben Dosa above) rather than referring to generic humanity.

This verse appears in the KJV in the parable of the lost sheep (cf. Luke 15.3–7); however, it does not appear in the oldest existent manuscripts of the New Testament. Due to that and other reasons, some scholars believe it is a later addition to the Gospel tradition and is not included in newer, more critical translations, such as the RSV, NIV or Scholars Version.

Lord of the sabbath

Mark 2:27-28, cf. Matthew 12:8, Luke 6:5

And he [Jesus] said unto them [the Pharisees], "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: so that the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath."

Christians commonly take the phrase "son of man" in this passage to refer to Jesus himself. Alternatively, many scholars believe the passage may be more accurately rendered as "a man" or "humanity" in this pericope. This is due to the sequence of "man" → "son of man" as a common literary device in semitic writing as demonstrated earlier.

Request for a sign

Matthew 12:38-42, Mark 8:11-13, Luke 11:29-32

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. (NKJV, emphasis added)

Most scholars and theologians agree that the use of son of man in this pericope is consistent with that of self-reference. See also Typology (theology).

Parable of the Weeds

In explaining the Parable of the Weeds: Matthew 13:37,41-42

He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.... The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Christians commonly take the phrase "son of man" in this passage to refer to Jesus himself, rather than humanity in general.

Predicting His Death and Resurrection

Passages referring to Jesus' own imminent death and resurrection.[9]

Luke 18:31-34, Mark 10:32-34, Matthew 20:17-19

Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.

Mark 8:31-32:38

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him....If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

Return of the Son of Man

Mark 8:38-9:1 (NRSV), Matthew 16:27-28, Luke 9:26-27

Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’

Mark 14:62 (ESV), Matthew 26:64 (at his Trial before the Sanhedrin)

And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’

Matthew 24:30

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

- in medieval, and modern Eastern Orthodox art the hetoimasia or empty throne was considered to be the "sign of the Son of man".

Matthew 25:31-32

But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

John

John 1:49-51 (NKJV)

Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter[j] you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (emphasis added)

This passage may be an allusion to Jacob's Ladder. In any case, the implication is that seeing the angels ascending and descending on the "son of man" (i.e. the speaker, Jesus) would be a great wonder.

John 5:25-27 (NKJV)

Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. (emphasis added)

John 8:28

When you see the Son of Man lifted up, then you shall know I am. (emphasis added)

John 9:35-37

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" "Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him." Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you." (emphasis added)

John 12:34-36 (NRSV)

The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’ After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. (emphasis added)

Acts

Acts 7:54-57(NRSV)

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.

It is thought by Christian scholars that the author of Acts (also believed to be the author of Luke) includes this reference to "the Son of Man" as a direct reference to Jesus and his previous ascension. They would purport that in Daniel 7, "the Son of Man" refers to his ascending back to his rightful throne and this is the precise picture of him fulfilling such a role as he receives the spirit of Stephen and judges the Pharisees who stoned Stephen, although the complete Judgment will occur at the "Great White Throne" judgment at the end of the age.

Hebrews

Hebrews 2:6-9

But one testified in a certain place, saying:
"What is man that You are mindful of him,
Or the son of man that You take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet."
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

Here we see a quotation from the Psalms in which "son of man" appears to refer to humanity in general, but which the author of Hebrews appears to interpret as referring specifically to Jesus.

Revelation

Revelation 1:12-18

Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death....

Christians believe that "the Son of Man" described in this passage is Jesus.

Revelation 14:14

Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. (NKJV)

In the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

The phrase "Son of Man" appears in the Book of Parables, the second section of the Ethiopic Book of Enoch (1 En. 37-71), a Second Temple Jewish text probably composed around the turn of the era.[10] Here the phrase is used in reference to an eschatological protagonist with heavenly attributions, who is also called “Righteous One,” “Chosen One,” and “Messiah”. This character was expected to preside over the final judgment, pronouncing the sentence against the unrighteous and the sinners (1 En. 61:8-9) and delivering them “to the angels for the punishment “ (1 En. 62:11). He was also supposed to be worshipped by the “kings and the mighty,” (1 En. 62:9), identified throughout the entire Book of Parables with the wicked, who would ask for his mercy during the eschatological judgment. The ending of the Book of Parables, which some scholars view as a later addition,[11] claims that the "Son of Man" is Enoch himself.

The Book of Enoch claims also the pre-existence of the Son of Man: before the sun and the signs were created, before the stars of the heaven were made, His name was named before the Lord of Spirits (1 En. 48:3) and narrates that from the beginning the Son of Man was hidden, and the Most High preserved him in the presence of His might, and revealed him to the elect ones (1 En. 62:7). The Messianic attributes of Isaiah 11:2-5 are referred to him: in him dwells the spirit of wisdom, and the spirit which gives insight, and the spirit of understanding and of might...(1 En. 49:3). The Son of Man is often said to be sitting on a throne of glory.

As no evidence of the Book of Parables resurfaced among the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jozef Milik suggested in 1976 that the document could be a later Christian text,[12] but this hypothesis is now rejected by most specialists.[13] The third meeting of the Enoch seminar at Camaldoli in 2005 was entirely devoted to academic discussion on the Messiah "Son of Man" in the Book of Parables of Enoch.[14]

The first known use of "The Son of Man" as a title in Jewish writings comes from the book of 1 Enoch and its use played a role in the early Christian understanding and use of the title.[15]

Theological interpretation

Christian interpretation

Some argue that the phrase son of man took on Messianic significance within the Christian movement primarily due to the Jewish eschatology during the time of its early conception. These people originate the phrase in the book of Daniel, in a vision, one like a son of man is described coming upon the clouds of the sky to unite the world. Contenders point out that the phrase "the son of man" and "one like a son of man" are not the same and that in Daniel 8 the phrase "son of man" is translated as merely "mortal" therefore the eschatology is added later.

As a result, some Christians believe that the New Testament's, primarily the Gospels, usage of the son of man eighty-three times represents an apocalyptic title of Jesus.[16] Some scholars and Christians have argued that the apocryphal tradition of this phrase even goes back to Jesus, himself, though not necessarily as a phrase Jesus used as a reference to himself but rather another figure alluded to in Daniel 7:13.[17] Other scholars and Christians believe Jesus did not use the phrase, originally, as a title at all and that he used it primarily to refer to humanity generally. The phrase then became reworked toward an apocryphal slant[18] Later, especially during the medieval ages, Christians interpreted it as Jesus showing humility[19] Still other Christians believe the title is meant to signify Jesus upholding his identification with his humanity and fellowship with mankind, perhaps also conveying the idea that Jesus is the man par excellence. In this last context it serves as putting humans and Jesus on the same level.

Jewish interpretation

  1. As generally interpreted by Jews, denotes mankind generally, with special reference to their weakness and frailty (Job 25:6; Psalms 8:4; 144:3; 146:3; Book of Isaiah 51:12, etc.).
  2. It is a title frequently given to the prophet Ezekiel, probably to remind him of his human weakness.

Son of man in Job 25 and Psalm 146[20] is ben adam (Hebrew: בן־אדם‎), and "son of man" in Psalm 144 is ben enosh (Hebrew: בן־אנוש‎).

Other interpretations

Jesus Seminar

According to the Jesus Seminar, the phrase "son of man" (or "son of Adam") sometimes refers to a heavenly figure that is to come, but when Jesus uses this phrase he is not referring to himself. When he uses the term to refer to one who will suffer, die, and rise, he seems to be referring to himself. In other verses, such as those referring to the "lord of the sabbath," he is referring to human beings.[21]

Geza Vermes

Geza Vermes, professor emeritus of Jewish studies at Wolfson College, Oxford, has argued that "the son of man" in the Gospels is unrelated to these Hebrew Bible usages. He begins with the observation that there is no example of "the" son of man in Hebrew sources. He suggests that the term originates in Aramaicbar nasha. Based on his study of Aramaic sources, he concludes that in these sources and in the Christian Bible, "son of man" is simply a synonym for man, and a substitute for the indefinite pronoun ("one"). Based on context, he claims that one should translate "bar nasha" as someone, anyone or I. He further argues that "son of man" is in no way a title.

Bibliography

  • Randall Buth, "A More Complete Semitic Background for bar-enasha 'Son of Man'" in Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders, eds. The Function of Scripture in Early Jewish and Christian Tradition (JSNT Suppl 154) Sheffield Academic Press, 1998: 176-189.
  • Hugh J. Schonfield, The Passover Plot: A New Interpretation of the Life and Death of Jesus. Harper Collins - UK, first published October 1965 (Hutchinson & Co.): Part Two, The Sources and Growth of the Legend, Chapter 3 "The Suffering Just One and the Son of Man"
  • Maurice Casey. (1998). Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel. Cambridge University Press.
  • Robert W. Funk et al.. (1997). The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? HarperSanFrancisco.

References

  1. Lund, Jerome. The Book of the Laws of the Countries: A Dialogue on Free Will Versus Fate: A Key-Word-In-Context Concordance. Gorgias Press. pp. xi. ISBN 978-1-59333-374-4. 
  2. Vermes, Geza; Verms̈, Gža; Vermš, Gz̊a (2003). Jesus in his Jewish context. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. pp. ix. ISBN 0-8006-3623-6. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hansbury, Mary. The Letters of John of Dalyatha. Gorgias Press LLC. pp. vii. ISBN 978-1-59333-341-6. 
  4. New Catholic Encyclopedia: “There can be little doubt that Daniel is here speaking of an event that is of eternal significance at the end of time.”
  5. An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity, Delbert Royce Burkett]
  6. [|Segal, Alan F.] (2004). Life after death: a history of the afterlife in the religions of the West. New York: Doubleday. pp. 336. ISBN 978-0-385-42299-4. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Dunn, Edited by James D.G.; McKnight, Scot (2005), The historical Jesus in recent research, Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, pp. 337, ISBN 1575061007, http://books.google.com/books?id=37uJRUF6btAC&pg=PA349&dq=A+New+Perspective+On+Jesus:+What+The+Quest+For+The+Historical+Jesus+Missed+(Acadia+Studies+in+Bible+and+Theology)&ei=6nJoSauTJaDkzQSgitkS&client=firefox-a#PPA337,M1 
  8. See Bibliography: Funk, et al.; Casey
  9. j., SDB Moloney, Francis. Mark: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist. Hendrickson Publishers. pp. 50. ISBN 978-1-56563-513-5. 
  10. George W.E. Nickelsburg, Son of Man, ABD 6:137-50; Sabino Chiala`, Libro delle Parabole di Enoc (Brescia: Paideia 1997 ISBN 8839405550); David Suter, Tradition and Composition in the Parables of Enoch (Missoula Mont.: Scholars 1979).
  11. James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseaudepigrapha and the New Testament (Cambridge 1985).
  12. Jozef Milik, The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976); see also E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia 1977).
  13. George W.E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam, The Book of Enoch: A New Translation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004); George W.E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001).
  14. Gabriele Boccaccini (ed.), Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting the Book of Parables (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007).
  15. Charles, R. H. (2004). The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Volume Two: Pseudepigrapha. Apocryphile Press. pp. 185. ISBN 978-0-9747623-7-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=z60UVlN6HgYC&pg=PA185&. 
  16. Hurtado, Larry W. Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity.Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005 pp. 293, see section on Son of Man.
  17. Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. 1999.
  18. See The Jesus' Seminar's Fifth Gospel and the work of Helmut Koester, and Crossan's Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. It should also be pointed out that despite the consensus that Jesus was not apocalyptic in his teachings, the method for getting there varies a good deal.
  19. Burkett, Delbert. The Son of Man Debate: A History and Evaluation. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  20. http://scripturetext.com/psalms/146-3.htm
  21. Funk, Robert W., Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar. The Five Gospels. HarperSanFrancisco: 1993. p. 76-77.

See also

External links

This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.

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