Son of man
Overview
 
The phrase 'son of man' is a primarily Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 idiom
Idiom
Idiom is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is comprehended in regard to a common use of that expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made...

 that originated in Ancient Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, used to denote humanity or self. The phrase is also used in Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 and Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. The phrase used in the Greek, translated as Son of man is ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου. As an idiom for the future human, it can be translated gender-neutrally as offspring of Mankind, or Man's child.
The most common use is similar to that of the English word "human." For example:
1QapGen.
Genesis Apocryphon
The Genesis Apocryphon, originally called the Apocalypse of Lamech and labeled 1QapGen, is one of the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in Cave 1 near Qumran in the West Bank. Composed in Aramaic, this document consists of four sheets of leather, and is the least well preserved document of...

 XXI.13: MT שיא (Gen.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
The phrase 'son of man' is a primarily Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 idiom
Idiom
Idiom is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is comprehended in regard to a common use of that expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made...

 that originated in Ancient Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, used to denote humanity or self. The phrase is also used in Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 and Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. The phrase used in the Greek, translated as Son of man is ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου. As an idiom for the future human, it can be translated gender-neutrally as offspring of Mankind, or Man's child.

Ancient Semitic literature

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

1QapGen

1QapGen.
Genesis Apocryphon
The Genesis Apocryphon, originally called the Apocalypse of Lamech and labeled 1QapGen, is one of the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in Cave 1 near Qumran in the West Bank. Composed in Aramaic, this document consists of four sheets of leather, and is the least well preserved document of...

 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 second to early third century AD; 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, there is an 8th or 9th century AD 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, 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; 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.

Numbers

Within the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, the first place one comes across the phrase son of man is in Book of Numbers
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 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
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

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

Job 16:18-21
18
19
20
21
22

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
2
3
4
5
6

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
7
8

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
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 and Job
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

 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

Jeremiah 49:18 (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam])
18 As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the , no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it.


Jeremiah 49:33 (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam])
33 And Hazor shall be a dwelling for dragons, and a desolation for ever: there shall no man abide there, nor any son of man dwell in it.


Jeremiah 50:40 (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam])
40 As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the ; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein.


Jeremiah 51:43 (בן־אדם : [ben-'adam])
43 Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness, a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby.

Ezekiel

The Book of Ezekiel
Book of Ezekiel
The Book of Ezekiel is the third of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah and preceding the Book of the Twelve....

 is unique within the tradition of the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

, 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
Book of Ezekiel
The Book of Ezekiel is the third of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah and preceding the Book of the Twelve....

 are:

Daniel

Parts of the text originally written in Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

, 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). 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
Book of Enoch
The Book of Enoch is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from Beta Israel...

 and 4 Ezra.

The son of man figure within the book of Daniel seems based on the Divine figure presented in the Merkabah
Merkabah
Merkabah is the throne-chariot of God, the four-wheeled vehicle driven by four "chayot" , each of which has four wings and the four faces of a man, lion, ox, and eagle...

 of the book of Ezekiel.

New Testament

In the Koine Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

 of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old 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
Definite Article
Definite Article is the title of British comedian Eddie Izzard's 1996 performance released on VHS. It was recorded on different nights at the Shaftesbury Theatre...

 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.

Synoptic Gospels

Due to the nature of the Synoptic Gospels
Synoptic Gospels
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in the same sequence, and sometimes exactly the same wording. This degree of parallelism in content, narrative arrangement, language, and sentence structures can only be...

 and how their sources are intertwined, son of man sayings here are broken down into pericope
Pericope
A pericope in rhetoric is a set of verses that forms one coherent unit or thought, thus forming a short passage suitable for public reading from a text, now usually of sacred scripture....

s, comparing parallel stories between Mark
Gospel of Mark
The Gospel According to Mark , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Mark or simply Mark, is the second book of the New Testament. This canonical account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the three synoptic gospels. It was thought to be an epitome, which accounts for its place as the second...

, Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 and Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

.

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. The phrasing seems to tie in with the Old Testament prophetic expressions used by such prophets as Ezekiel, and it shows Jesus's understanding of himself as the "man" that God has singled out as a friend and representative.

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
Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

 tradition and is not included in newer, more critical translations, such as the RSV
Revised Standard Version
The Revised Standard Version is an English translation of the Bible published in the mid-20th century. It traces its history to William Tyndale's New Testament translation of 1525. The RSV is an authorized revision of the American Standard Version of 1901...

, 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
Jonah
Jonah is the name given in the Hebrew Bible to a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BC, the eponymous central character in the Book of Jonah, famous for being swallowed by a fish or a whale, depending on translation...

. 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
Nineveh
Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and capital of the Neo Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq....

 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
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

 is here. (NKJV, emphasis added)


Most scholars and theologians agree that the use of son of man in this pericope
Pericope
A pericope in rhetoric is a set of verses that forms one coherent unit or thought, thus forming a short passage suitable for public reading from a text, now usually of sacred scripture....

 is consistent with that of self-reference. See also Typology (theology)
Typology (theology)
Typology in Christian theology and Biblical exegesis is a doctrine or theory concerning the relationship between the Old and New Testaments...

.

Parable of the Weeds

In explaining the Parable of the Weeds
Parable of the Weeds
The Parable of the Tares, , is one of the parables of Jesus, which appears in only one of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament...

:
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
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

 and resurrection
Resurrection
Resurrection refers to the literal coming back to life of the biologically dead. It is used both with respect to particular individuals or the belief in a General Resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. The General Resurrection is featured prominently in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim...

.

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."


Mark 10:35-45 (Son of man came to serve
Son of man came to serve
Son of man came to serve refers to a specific episode in the New Testament.In the Gospel of Matthew , and the Gospel of Mark Jesus explains that he "came as Son of man to give his life as ransom".The ransom paid by the Son of man is an element of a common doctrine of atonement in Christianity.In...

)
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

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
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

 has come with power.’


Mark 14:62 (ESV
English Standard Version
The English Standard Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible. It is a revision of the 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version...

), Matthew 26:64 (at his Trial before the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus
The Sanhedrin trial of Jesus refers to the Canonical Gospel accounts of the trial of Jesus before the Jewish Council, or Sanhedrin, following his arrest and prior to his trial before Pontius Pilate...

)
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
Hetoimasia
The Hetoimasia, Etimasia , prepared throne, Preparation of the Throne, ready throne or Throne of the Second Coming is the Christian version of the symbolic subject of the empty throne found in the art of the ancient world, whose meaning has changed over the centuries...

 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.


(See The Sheep and the Goats
The Sheep and the Goats
The Sheep and the Goats or "The Judgment of the Nations" was a discourse of Jesus recorded in the New Testament. It is sometimes characterized as a parable, although unlike most parables it does not purport to relate a story of events happening to other characters.One explanation is that it tells...

)

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
Jacob's Ladder (Bible)
Jacob's Ladder is a ladder to heaven, described in the Book of Genesis, that the biblical patriarch Jacob dreams about during his flight from his brother Esau.-Source:...

. 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 argue that in Daniel
Daniel
Daniel is the protagonist in the Book of Daniel of the Hebrew Bible. In the narrative, when Daniel was a young man, he was taken into Babylonian captivity where he was educated in Chaldean thought. However, he never converted to Neo-Babylonian ways...

 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
Great White Throne
The term Great White Throne is taken from :Many Christians believe that the Great White Throne in Revelation 20:11 is the Last Judgment when all people will stand in judgment before Jesus after the investigation and a verdict of their salvation will be made.According to the teaching of some...

 judgment at the end of the age.(see Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 20)

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

In both and , John
John of Patmos
John of Patmos is the name given, in the Book of Revelation, as the author of the apocalyptic text that is traditionally cannonized in the New Testament...

 reports seeing one "like the Son of Man". In 1:12, he is identified as the author of the letters to the seven churches
Seven churches of Asia
The Seven Churches of Revelation, also known as The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse and The Seven Churches of Asia , are seven major churches of Early Christianity, as mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelation and written to by Ignatius of Antioch...

 in Revelation 2 and 3.

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
Book of Enoch
The Book of Enoch is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from Beta Israel...

(1 En. 37-71), a Second Temple Jewish text probably composed around the turn of the era. Here the phrase is used in reference to an eschatological protagonist with heavenly attributions, who is also called “Righteous One,” “Chosen One,” and “Messiah
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

”. 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.

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
Book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...

 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
Józef Milik
Józef Tadeusz Milik was a Polish biblical scholar and a former Catholic priest. Fluent in Polish, Russian, Italian, French, German, and English plus many ancient languages Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Syriac, Old Church Slavonic, Arabic, Georgian, Ugaritic, Akkadian, Sumerian, Egyptian, and...

 suggested in 1976 that the document could be a later Christian text, but this hypothesis is now rejected by most specialists. The third meeting of the Enoch seminar
Enoch seminar
The Enoch Seminar is an academic group of international specialists in Second Temple Judaism and Christian Origins who share information about their work in the field and biennially meet to discuss topics of common interest...

 at Camaldoli in 2005 was entirely devoted to academic discussion on the Messiah "Son of Man" in the Book of Parables of Enoch.

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.

Christian interpretation

Some argue that the phrase son of man took on Messianic significance within the Christian movement primarily due to the Jewish eschatology
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

 during the time of its early conception. These people originate the phrase in the book of Daniel
Book of Daniel
The Book of Daniel is a book in the Hebrew Bible. The book tells of how Daniel, and his Judean companions, were inducted into Babylon during Jewish exile, and how their positions elevated in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. The court tales span events that occur during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar,...

, 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
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

's, primarily the Gospels', usage of the son of man eighty-three times represents an apocalyptic title of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

. 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. 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. Later, especially during the medieval ages, Christians interpreted it as Jesus showing humility. 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
    Book of Job
    The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

     25:6; Psalms
    Psalms
    The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

     8:4; 144:3; 146:3; Book of Isaiah
    Book of Isaiah
    The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...

     51:12, etc.).
  2. It is a title frequently given to the prophet Ezekiel
    Ezekiel
    Ezekiel , "God will strengthen" , is the central protagonist of the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Ezekiel is acknowledged as a Hebrew prophet...

    , probably to remind him of his human weakness.


Son of man in Job
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

 25 and Psalm
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

 146 is ben adam , and "son of man" in Psalm
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

 144 is ben enosh .

Jesus Seminar

According to the Jesus Seminar
Jesus Seminar
The Jesus Seminar is a group of about 150 critical scholars and laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk under the auspices of the Westar Institute....

, 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.

Geza Vermes

Geza Vermes
Geza Vermes
Géza Vermes or Vermès is a British scholar of Jewish Hungarian origin and writer on religious history, particularly Jewish and Christian. He is a noted authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient works in Aramaic, and on the life and religion of Jesus...

, professor emeritus of Jewish studies at Wolfson College, Oxford
Wolfson College, Oxford
Wolfson College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Located in north Oxford along the River Cherwell, Wolfson is an all-graduate college with over sixty governing body fellows, in addition to both research and junior research fellows. It caters to a wide range of...

, 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 Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

 — bar nash/bar nasha. Based on his study of Aramaic sources, he concludes that in these sources: (1) "Son of man" is a regular expression for man in general. (2) It often serves as an indefinite pronoun ("one" or "someone"). (3) In certain circumstances it may be employed as a circumlocution. In monologues or dialogues the speaker can refer to himself, not as 'I', but as "the son of man" in the third person, in contexts implying awe, reserve, or modesty. (4) In none of the extant texts does "son of man" figure as a title.

See also

  • Son of God
    Son of God
    "Son of God" is a phrase which according to most Christian denominations, Trinitarian in belief, refers to the relationship between Jesus and God, specifically as "God the Son"...

  • Dumuzid
    Dumuzid
    Dumuzid can refer to:*Dumuzid the Shepherd, an antediluvian king according to Sumerian mythology;*Dumuzid the Fisherman, a king of the 1st Dynasty of Uruk named on the Sumerian king list;...

  • The Son of Man
    The Son of Man
    The Son of Man is a 1964 painting by the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte.Magritte painted it as a self-portrait. The painting consists of a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat standing in front of a short wall, beyond which is the sea and a cloudy sky. The man's face is largely obscured...

    , René Magritte painting, 1964
  • Son of Man, Robert Silverberg
    Robert Silverberg
    Robert Silverberg is an American author, best known for writing science fiction. He is a multiple nominee of the Hugo Award and a winner of the Nebula Award.-Early years:...

     S-F novel, 1971
  • Son of man came to serve
    Son of man came to serve
    Son of man came to serve refers to a specific episode in the New Testament.In the Gospel of Matthew , and the Gospel of Mark Jesus explains that he "came as Son of man to give his life as ransom".The ransom paid by the Son of man is an element of a common doctrine of atonement in Christianity.In...


External links


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