Son of Man

Jonathan Robie Jonathan.Robie at
Wed Aug 23 12:53:24 EDT 2000

At 11:13 AM 8/23/00 +0000, James Crossley wrote:
>Apologies for continuing this thread but I felt something needed to be 
>said concerning Casey's view of the Son of Man problem.  Bearing in mind 
>the warning about moving too far a way from the concerns of biblical Greek 
>I will restrict the following comments to the effects on the Greek text.

Personally, I find several recent messages on this thread to be both 
interesting and relevant - we're actually talking about the text, which 
makes the messages useful.

>Buth wrote that Casey's view of the Aramaic 'son of man' involves a 
>reference to 'somebody/anybody'.  This is true but we should not overlook 
>the fact that Casey's view also includes a reference to the speaker.  This 
>can help explain why some of the synoptic sayings can be read as a title 
>in Greek but without explicit reference to Daniel 7:13, 
>Mt.  8:20/  Lk.  9:58 for example.
>Taking Casey's view for the moment,  when such Aramaic sayings are 
>translated into Greek we are already on the way to a title of some sort,
>not least because *ho huios tw anthrwpou* does not function as a Greek 
>idiom.  With such a strange saying where better than Scripture to find the 
>explanation!  Daniel 7:13 was perfect for the early church.  This can help 
>explain why texts such as Mark 13:26 include a titular use of *ho huios tw 
>anthrwpou* with explicit reference to Daniel 7.

I'm just beginning to think about this, so this is pure unscholarly 
speculation, but...

In the Gospel of John, EKEINOS and hOUTOS sometimes have a clear referent 
to Jesus, and act almost as a Johannine idiom for Jesus. But to say that 
either of these words actually means Jesus would be wrong, this is a 
specific, cryptic usage that is played to effect in John.

In the LXX, many uses of "the son of man" are in apposition to "man", and 
seem to be used for rhetorical effect. In fact, up to Ezekiel, this is the 
only use of "son of man" that I see. Excuse the English, but I didn't want 
to type in the Greek for all of these. I checked a little less than half of 
them to make sure that the relevant phrases are reflected in the LXX:

Numb 23:19 (NASB) "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, 
that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He 
spoken, and will He not make it good?
Job  25:6 How much less man, [that] maggot, And the son of man, [that] worm!"
Job  35:8 "Your wickedness is for a man like yourself, And your 
righteousness is for a son of man.
Psal 8:4 What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of 
man, that Thou dost care for him?
Psal 80:17 Let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand, Upon the son of 
man whom Thou didst make strong for Thyself.
Psal 144:3 O Lord, what is man, that Thou dost take knowledge of him? Or 
the son of man, that Thou dost think of him?
Isai 51:12 "I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you are 
afraid of man who dies, And of the son of man who is made like grass;
Isai 56:2 "How blessed is the man who does this, And the son of man who 
takes hold of it; Who keeps from profaning the sabbath, And keeps his hand 
from doing any evil."
Jere 49:18 "Like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah with its neighbors," 
says the Lord, "no one will live there, nor will a son of man reside in it.
Jere 49:33 "And Hazor will become a haunt of jackals, A desolation forever; 
No one will live there, Nor will a son of man reside in it."
Jere 50:40 "As when God overthrew Sodom And Gomorrah with its neighbors," 
declares the Lord, "No man will live there, Nor will [any] son of man 
reside in it.
Jere 51:43 "Her cities have become an object of horror, A parched land and 
a desert, A land in which no man lives, And through which no son of man 

Ezekiel uses the phrase quite differently - God often refers to Ezekiel as 
"son of man":

Ezek 2:1 Then He said to me, "Son of man, stand on your feet that I may 
speak with you!"
Ezek 2:3 Then He said to me, "Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of 
Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their 
fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day.
Ezek 2:6 "And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, 
though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither 
fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a 
rebellious house.


In Daniel, the phrase occurs twice. Once it might be taken as a title, but 
if you look at both occurrences, the titular view seems unlikely:

Dani 7:13 "I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds 
of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient 
of Days And was presented before Him.
Dani 8:17 So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was 
frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, "Son of man, understand 
that the vision pertains to the time of the end."

In Daniel 8:17, this clearly refers to the prophet, not to the one who is 
said to be "like" a Son of Man in Daniel 7:13. There is also a significant 
difference between Jesus' usage and Daniel 7:13 - Jesus talks about "*the* 
Son of Man", not one who is *like* *a* Son of Man. If "Son of Man" means a 
human being, as it seems to in all the other LXX passages, then Daniel 7:13 
does not commit itself to saying that the One who is brought before the 
Ancient of Days actually is a human being, it says only that he had a form 
like that of a human being.

Jesus refers to himself as "ton huion tou anqrwpou" in all four gospels, on 
many occasions. This usage seems to be *none* of the usages above - Jesus 
adds the definite article, *the* Son of Man, and makes it clear that this 
refers to a specific individual.

It is precisely this reference to one very specific individual, using a 
phrase that is quite generic, that reminds me of the use of EKEINOS / 
hOUTOS in John.


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