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Re: Son of man

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  • Mahlon H. Smith
    ... You reproduce the first line of C. Aherne s article accurately, Joe. But that author s wording is misleading. The LXX regularly renders Hebrew *ben Adam*
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 29, 1998
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      joe baxter wrote:
      > According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
      > In the Old Testament "son of man" is always translated in the Septuagint
      > without the article as
      > anthropou.

      You reproduce the first line of C. Aherne's article accurately, Joe. But
      that author's wording is misleading. The LXX regularly renders Hebrew
      *ben Adam* or Aramaic *bar 'nasha* as hUIOS ANQRWPOU. "Anthropou" by
      itself is a genitive & therefore cannot stand by itself as subject or
      object of a statement. I think what Aherne meant to stress was that the
      use of the NT's use of articles in the idiom (hO hUIOS TOU ANQRWPOU) in
      sayings ascribed to Jesu was unprecedented in pre-NT Greek. In fact,
      apart from citation of sayings of Jesus early Christian writers
      generally preferred the anarthous (i.e., article-less) hUIOS ANQRWPOU.
      The only exceptions I have found to this are in Luke's report of
      Stephen's confession & Epiphanius' report of Jesu's brother's last
      words. Both of these writers, however, were obviously familiar with &
      influenced by similar sayings that the gospels ascribe to Jesus. So the
      use of the article in the idiom seems to be a linguistic peculiarity
      associated with Jesu himself.

      > The employment of the expression in the Gospels is very remarkable. It is
      > used to designate Jesus
      > Christ no fewer than eighty-one times -- thirty times in St. Matthew,
      > fourteen times in St. Mark,
      > twenty-five times in St. Luke, and twelve times in St. John.

      If memory serves me there are only 36 distinct SofM sayings in the
      synoptics once one eliminates parallel versions.

      > Contrary to
      > what obtains in the
      > Septuagint, it appears everywhere with the article, as ho huios tou
      > anthropou.

      Not quite. There's a single exception in John 5:27 where the text reads
      hUIOS ANQRWPOU with no article. Translators regularly render this verse
      "And he has given him authority to exercise judgment because he is *the*
      Son of man" there is no linguistic justification for inserting the
      definite article "the" in this context. Jesus is here reported to claim
      that he ("the Son") has authority to judge because he is *A* son of man,
      i.e., a human. The context of John 5 echoes the use of "son of man" in
      Ezekiel (esp., Ezek 22:2 & 37:3-10), where God gives his earthly human
      spokesman authority to judge the living & revive the dead.

      > Greek scholars are
      > agreed that the correct translation of this is "the son of man", not "the
      > son of the man".

      Actually, there is no exact colloquial translation of hO hUIOS TOU
      ANQRWPOU into English, just conventions inherited from previous
      generations of translators. As a student of a scholar with some claim to
      a broad detailed knowledge of the Greek language & grammar (Bob Funk) I
      learned early on that traditional translations are not always "correct"
      in representing the sense of the original. And other competent scholars
      (Lindars, Casey, Bauckham, Murphy-O'Connor) have written long learned
      articles debating the "correct" meaning of hO hUIOS TOU ANQRWPOU without
      reaching any clear consensus other than the conclusion that it was *not*
      meant to be a title, which is the impression given by translating it
      "the son of man."

      > The possible
      > ambiguity may be one of the reasons why it is seldom or never found in the
      > early Greek Fathers as a
      > title for Christ.

      "Never" is correct -- at least in any known extant document. The idiom
      is regularly interpreted as a self-reference by Jesus.

      > If I may ask, what exactly does "as ho huios tou" add here?

      "hO hUIOS" ("the son") points to a specific offspring in Greek. The same
      thing is accomplished in Hebrew or Aramaic without use of a definite
      article (*ben* or *bar*). When this is qualified by the genitive "TOU"
      it has the effect of indicating the person or species from which one has
      sprung. hO hUIOS TOU ANQRWPOU indicates a particular offspring of *the*
      human being per se. Thus "hO hUIOS TOU..." functions as a pointer ("this
      human," "this child of humanity," "this son of Adam."

      > What is the
      > ambiguity? To what is it traced? If this expression ( as ho huios tou
      > anthropou) means human being, how is that ambiguous?

      Most of the modern debate over the connotations of the idiom in the
      sayings of Jesus is over whether the first article (in hO hUIOS)
      functions generically or individually. Casey favors a generic reading &
      thus declares all sayings that cannot be interpreted generically as
      inauthentic. Bauckham favors a watered down indeterminate usage (i.e.,
      "someone" or "anyone"). But I think (as does Lindars) that the use of
      the *bar 'nasha* idiom & the gospel sayings themselves favor
      interpretation as a particular member of the human species. If a purely
      generic or indeterminate meaning was intended there would have been no
      reason to coin the neo-logism hO hUIOS TOU ANQRWPOU in translating
      sayings of Jesus into Greek.





      Mahlon H. Smith,
      Associate Professor
      Department of Religion
      Rutgers University
      New Brunswick NJ

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