Re(2): Re: Son of Man

yochanan bitan-buth ButhFam at
Tue Aug 22 14:57:32 EDT 2000

dennis hukel egrapsen:
>'As I have specialized in Greek, I am not familiar with the linguistic
>issues of Aramaic or Hebrew on the difficulties of construing "Son of
Mankind" as a title or even how there could be
>difficulties. Perhaps you can explain them in a post to the b-greek group.

OK, I'll outline the linguistics/philology as appropriate for a Greek list,
but will leave the other questions to the side.

Basically, (Hebrew) ben adam, ben ha-adam, and (Aramaic) bar enasha, and
bar enash 
all mean 'somebody/anybody' when used in their approriate language (Hebrew
in Hebrew, or Aramaic in Aramaic),
though they could all be literally translated 'son of man'. 
It was a common enough idiom in both hebrew and aramaic. 
No one hearing the phrase would think it strange or special or a title of
any kind but would immediate think of 'somebody', 'a person'.

On the other hand, the Greek phrase o uios tou anqrwpou is an immediate
curiousity in Greek: "the son of the person/man".

Casey, following many a predecessor, claims that, because 'son of man' only
means 'somebody/anybody' in Aramaic, the Greek 'o uios tou anqrwpou' in the
Gospels must be interpreted as "somebody/anybody". 
Then for any occurrence, if the sentence makes sense for 'somebody/anybody'
it should be interpreted that way and is potentially a saying from the
historical Jesus. 
If the saying is not true for "somebody/anybody" then it was a secondary
development with the Greek gospel tradition and cannot be historical. 
For Casey, the strange Greek found in the Gospels had allowed itself to be
transformed into a title and it thus became the vehicle for theological
development within Greek that was impossible in Aramaic.

Against Casey it needs to be pointed out that bar enash (Aramaic) can
immediately be recognized as a title if it were used within a Hebrew
sentence. If people are not aware of this kind of thing then they are out
of touch the linguistic scene of the times (see the article below). 
Thus, there was no linguistic impossibility that prevented  such sentences
underllying the occurrences in the gospels from having been communicated
within an original Jewish, Hebrew context. Furthermore, such a usage would
carry an implicit tie-in to Daniel as the one bar-enash occurrence in the
scriptures. [This also explains why the phrase would get into the Gospels,
sometimes with explicit or implicit Danielic connections, yet was pretty
much de-linked, ignored and downplayed within the early Greek traditions of
the church.  This contravenes Casey whose view would have predicted
understanding and maintaining the titular/danielic link in the early Greek
church if the Greeks had invented it. But such a follow up history didn't

For more clarity and detail, I would suggest the article:
Randall Buth, "A More Complete Semitic Background for bar-enasha 'Son of
Man'" in Craig Evans and James Sanders, eds. The Function of Scripture in
Early Jewish and Christian Tradition (JSNT Suppl 154) Sheffield Academic
Press, 1998: 176-189.

And with that I will drop from the thread. Hopefully, this helped to
explain why the Greek phrase is a problem. Further discussion belongs

Randall Buth

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