Son of man
'Son of man' is the translation of various Hebrew and Greek phrases used in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. It has diverse meanings, ranging from a normal human being to a prophesied eternal, divine ruler.
The Hebrew expression "son of man" (בן–אדם i.e. ben-'adam) appears one hundred and seven times in the Hebrew Bible. This is the most common Hebrew construction for the singular but is used mostly in Ezekiel (93 times) and 14 times elsewhere. In thirty two cases the phrase appears in intermediate plural form "sons of men", i.e. human beings. As generally interpreted by Jews, it denotes humankind generally.
In the Koine Greek of the New Testament, "the son of man" is invariably used as "ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου" with a definite article. The use of the definite article in "the son of man" in the Christian gospels is novel, and before its use there, no records of its use in any of the surviving Greek documents of antiquity exist. Geza Vermes has stated that "the Son of man" in the Christian gospels is unrelated to Hebrew Bible usages.
In Christian usage, unlike the Son of God title, which has been an essential element of Christian creeds since the Apostolic age, the proclamation of "Jesus as the Son of man" has never been an article of faith in Christianity. The interpretation of the use of "the Son of man" in the New Testament has remained challenging and after 150 years of debate no consensus on the issue has emerged among scholars.
The Hebrew expression "son of man" (בן–אדם i.e. ben-'adam) appears one hundred and seven times in the Hebrew Bible. This is the most common Hebrew construction for the singular and appears 93 times in Ezekiel alone and 14 times elsewhere. In thirty two cases the phrase appears in intermediate plural form "sons of men", i.e. human beings.
In the Book of Job, we see son of man used a total of three times (all of which, interestingly enough, fall within poetry):
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. 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.
In the Book of Daniel, parts of the text were originally written in Aramaic, this portion of the volume (7:13-14) deals with a vision attributed to the author about "the times of the end". Within the context of Daniel 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). 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.
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.). It is also a title frequently given to the prophet Ezekiel, probably to remind him of his human weakness.
In post-biblical Jewish literature the most common use is similar to that of the English word "human." For example in 1QapGen. XXI.13: MT שיא (Gen. 13.16)
In the Hebrew of Genesis 13:16, the word translated as בר אנוש (son of man) was איש (man).
The Book of the Laws of the Countries is the oldest general discussion of mankind in the Aramaic language, dating from the late second to early third century AD; and we can see that ברנשא bar nasha is used in a general form for humanity.
The expression "the Son of Man" occurs 81 times in the four Canonical gospels, and is used only in the sayings of Jesus. However, the use of the definite article in "the Son of Man" in the gospels is novel, and before its use there, there are no records of its use in any of the surviving Greek documents of antiquity.
For centuries, the Christological perspective on Son of Man has been a natural counterpart to that of Son of God and just as Son of God affirms the divinity of Jesus, in many cases Son of man affirms his humanity.
However, while the profession of Jesus as the Son of God has been an essential element of Christian creeds since the Apostolic age, such professions do not apply to Son of Man and the proclamation of Jesus as the Son of Man has never been an article of faith in Christianity.
Although Son of Man is a distinct from Son of God, some gospel passages equate them in some cases, e.g. in Mark 14:61, during the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus when the high priest asked Jesus: "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed one?" Jesus responded "I am: and you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.".
James D. G. Dunn and separately Delbert Burkett state that the interpretation of the use of "the Son of Man" in the New Testament is a prime example of the limits of biblical interpretation in that after 150 years of debate no consensus on the issue has emerged.
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.[page needed] 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, claims that the "Son of Man" is Enoch himself.[page needed]
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,[page needed] but this hypothesis is now rejected by most specialists. 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.[page needed]
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.
See also 
- The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Q-Z by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Jan 31, 1995) ISBN 0802837840 page 574
- Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity by Larry W. Hurtado, ISBN 0-8028-3167-2 Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005 pages 290-293
- Vermes, Geza, Jesus in his Jewish context. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. p. 82. ISBN 0-8006-3623-6.
- Jesus and the Son of Man by A J B Higgins 2002 ISBN 0-227-17221-3 pages 13-15
- Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making by James D. G. Dunn (Jul 29, 2003) ISBN 0802839312 pages 724-725
- The Son of Man Debate: A History and Evaluation by Delbert Royce Burkett (Jan 28, 2000) Cambridge Univ Press ISBN 0521663067 pages 3-5
- An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity, Delbert Royce Burkett]
- Hansbury, Mary. The Letters of John of Dalyatha. Gorgias Press LLC. pp. xv. ISBN 978-1-59333-341-6.
- [Alan F.] (2004). Life after death: a history of the afterlife in the religions of the West. New York: Doubleday. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-385-42299-4.
- 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.
- Christian Theology: An Introduction by Alister E. McGrath 2010 ISBN 1-4443-3514-6 page 270
- "The 'Son of Man'" as the Son of God by Seyoon Kim 1983 ISBN 3-16-144705-0 pages 2-3
- Who is Jesus?: an introduction to Christology by Thomas P. Rausch 2003 ISBN 978-0-8146-5078-3 pages 132-133
- George W.E. Nickelsburg, Son of Man, ABD 6:137-50; Sabino Chiala`, Libro delle Parabole di Enoc (Brescia: Paideia 1997 ISBN 88-394-0555-0); David Suter, Tradition and Composition in the Parables of Enoch (Missoula Mont.: Scholars 1979).
- James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseaudepigrapha and the New Testament (Cambridge 1985).
- 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).
- 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).
- Gabriele Boccaccini (ed.), Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting the Book of Parables (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007).
- Charles, R. H. (2004). The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Volume Two: Pseudepigrapha. Apocryphile Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-9747623-7-1.