8243Re: Son of Man
- Oct 2, 2008--- In email@example.com, "jmgcormier" <cobby@...> wrote:
>is to suggest that "Son of Man" as used in the New Testament is
> The more traditional interpretation (certainly the Christian one)
generally a way of linking up Jesus of Nazareth with the promised
Messiah as announced by the prophets of the Old Testament (especially
in Ezekiel where the expression is used unsparingly close to a
hundred times). The other (less popularized) interpretation of "Son of
Man" is to suggest that because "Son of Man" literally means "Son of
Adam" (Ben-Adam), that it is meant to convey the human or material
nature of Jesus as opposed to his spiritual nature.
Thank you for your post. I think the short answer is basically what
you state, although I believe "son of man" usually means simply
"person" or "human being" (no contrast with spirit intended). A
literal rendering would be "descendant of Adam." At least that seems
to be the clear context in the older Hebrew scriptures. So Job 25:5-6:
Behold, even the moon has no brightness,
And the stars are not pure in his sight;
How much less man ['enowsh], who is a worm!
The son of man [ben-'adam], who is a worm!
Let us hope "worm" does not refer to a future messiah! This example,
and others, are cited in a Wikipedia article that includes many fine
examples, all interlinear:
Son of man. (2008, September 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 16:37, October 2, 2008, from
(One thing this article lacks is a summary of LXX usage. I have not
made a complete study, but it appears LXX simply carries over "son of
man" as "uie anthrwpou").
In my opinion, usage in more recent Hebrew scriptures reflects the
same basic meaning: human being. In Ezekiel "son of man," although
used repeatedly, does not seem to be any sort of title. It seems to
serve as a constant reminder to Ezekiel that he is a mere human being
who receives instruction from a superior spiritual being. And despite
differing Christian interpretation, "son of man" in Daniel (c.
mid-second century BCE) still refers to a human being:
* As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being
coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and
was presented before him (Dan 7:13, NRSV).
* But he said to me, `Understand, O mortal [uie "son" (G5207);
anthrwpou "of man" (G444)], that the vision is for the time of the
end' (Dan 8:17).
Arguments that identify Daniel's "son of man," as Jesus, while
ubiquitous, do not convince. I would argue that widespread reference
to Dan 7:13, as if usage there somehow differs from that in Dan 8:17,
demonstrates only that adherents of this argument have no real case.
The real trajectory that develops "son of man" as some sort of title,
possibly messianic, begins in 1 Enoch (c.200 BCE - 50 CE). For example:
(The translation of 1 Enoch here is that of RH Charles, online at:
And there I saw One who had a head of days,
And His head was white like wool,
And with Him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of
And his face was full of graciousness, like one of the holy angels.
And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden
things, concerning that 3 Son of Man, who he was, and whence he was,
(and) why he went with the Head of Days? And he answered and said unto me:
This is the son of Man who hath righteousness,
With whom dwelleth righteousness,
And who revealeth all the treasures of that which is hidden,
Because the Lord of Spirits hath chosen him,
And whose lot hath the pre-eminence before the Lord of Spirits in
uprightness for ever.
(1 Enoch 46:1-3)
Here the author begins an elaboration of Dan 7:13 that looks like the
source of a later Christian doctrine of final judgment:
For 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.
And the congregation of the elect and holy shall be sown,
And all the elect shall stand before him on that day.
And all the kings and the mighty and the exalted and those who rule
Shall fall down before him on their faces,
And worship and set their hope upon that Son of Man,
And petition him and supplicate for mercy at his hands.
(1 Enoch 62:7-9)
However this Son of Man is often associated with a "Lord of Spirits"
in 1 Enoch. Two examples that illustrate how closely 1 Enoth themes
resemble those of the New Testament:
And the Lord of Spirits will abide over them,
And with that Son of Man shall they eat
And lie down and rise up for ever and ever.
And the righteous and elect shall have risen from the earth,
And ceased to be of downcast countenance.
And they shall have been clothed with garments of glory,
And these shall be the garments of life from the Lord of Spirits:
And your garments shall not grow old,
Nor your glory pass away before the Lord of Spirits.
(1 Enoch 62:14-16)
When the congregation of the righteous shall appear,
And sinners shall be judged for their sins,
And shall be driven from the face of the earth:
And when the Righteous One shall appear before the eyes of the righteous,
Whose elect works hang upon the Lord of Spirits,
And light shall appear to the righteous and the elect who dwell on the
Where then will be the dwelling of the sinners,
And where the resting-place of those who have denied the Lord of Spirits?
It had been good for them if they had not been born.
When the secrets of the righteous shall be revealed and the sinners
And the godless driven from the presence of the righteous and elect,
From that time those that possess the earth shall no longer be
powerful and exalted:
And they shall not be able to behold the face of the holy,
For the Lord of Spirits has caused His light to appear
On the face of the holy, righteous, and elect.
(1 Enoch 38:1-4)
These I think clearly demonstrate that usage of "son of man" as a
messianic title began with 1 Enoch and was carried into the New
Testament by the gospel authors. Paul never uses this term.
I agree with your important observations on "son of man" in Thomas.
L.44 could have employed the term but does not. L.86 observes the
irony that animals have homes but people do not. L.106 usage is not
messianic. Apparently the author is unfamiliar with "son of man" as a
- << Previous post in topic Next post in topic >>