Son of Man
The Bible uses phrases and terms that might be subjected to different interpretation by various people. Some phrases have been used in the bible to portray different meanings, which can best be established depending on the context. One of such cases is the use of the phrase “son of man.” The phrase, “Son of Man” is used severally in the Bible. Son of Man may not solely imply to the Son of God, especially in the Old Testament. Son of Man is a prophetic phrase in the Old Testament referring to Jesus Christ but other meanings are brought about by the phrase in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, Son of Man is used imply man in general, some specific key figures, and Jesus Christ in terms of prophesies. In numbers 23: 19, the Bible states that God is hardly a man that should lie and neither the “son of man.” In this phrase, son of man refers to man is general but not to particular individual. The Old Testament has about twelve instances where son of man is used to imply man in general (Buttrick 89). The same case applies to the New Testament where the phrase is mainly use to imply either Jesus Christ or John the Baptist. The context within the phrase usage brings out the specific meaning that portrays the individual being referred to by the phrase.
In the Old Testament, son of man is applied as a synonym for man but in poetic manner. The phrase is used to imply the idea man, like the Bible states that God is not a man such that he can lie like the son of man can do. The word is use in some case to avoid the poetic repetition of the word man. In the Old Testament, son of man is used in the most number of cases to refer to Prophet Ezekiel. In this case, the prophet is addressed by God as the son of man. Only one case of the same phrase is used in the Old Testament to refer to a prophetic case in form of vision that shall be fulfilled. The son of man in this case refers to the prophesied Messiah in which case Daniel in his vision indicates that he saw one who was like the son of man coming with the heavenly clouds. This image of son of man is said to have come to the ancient days as well but he had been presented before human kind. In this prophesy, son of man is said to have been given power by God. He was also given glory and kingdom and that all tribes and human kinds shall serve him. This kind of power is said to be everlasting and that it shall hardly be taken away. This phrase seems to talk of the Messianic Kingdom and the Messiah as the everlasting King (Hartman 56). The four beasts in the same context refer to five kings but not five kingdoms as many could interpret. In the Book of Enoch, the son of man phrase refers to the Messiah. The major controversy in this case is that during the time of Christ, the Messiah was not widely used as a title.
In the New Testament, the Gospels use the phrase, son of man, to refer mainly to Jesus Christ as compared to any case in the New Testament. The phrase is used about eighty-one time to refer to Jesus Christ in particular. The mode of usage to refer to Jesus Christ is broken to thirty occasions in the Book of St. Matthew, Fourteen times, in the Book of St. Mark, twenty-five times in the Book of St. Luke, and twelve times in the Book of St. John. While it is mostly used in the New Testament to refer to Jesus Christ, the title hardly refers to the Messiah in the Old Testament. The Greeks assert that the phrase “son of man” may hardly refer to a particular person of Son of God but widely used to refer to people in general. The phrase would be too different to the phrase, “son of the man,” where the article “the” would imply a specific being and particularly God. The phrase is therefore ambiguous and seldom uses to refer to Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Remarkably, the phrase is used often by Jesus Christ Himself and it would in this case refer to the son of God (Leon-Dufour 71). The employment of the phrase in the Old Testament is ambiguous and the application of an article to make specification is hardly used. The Scripture talk of one God and is in any case, the phrase would refer to Son of God, the article “the” could be used before man, to refer to the only known god. This aspect implies that the phrase is mainly a poetical synonym for man. Most of the phrase usage in the Old Testament However refers to Prophet Ezekiel a being addressed by God as the son of man. The only case referring to Jesus Christ is in Daniel’s prophesied about the coming Messiah.
While the phrase is solely applied in the Gospels to refer to Jesus Christ, the phrase is hardly used in the Disciples or in the Evangelists. The early Christian writers hardly used the same phrase as well. The phrase is only used one time in Acts in a prophetic way of Jesus Christ standing in God’s right hand. This phrase is used in the case to indicate the prophetic Throne of God where Jesus Christ is said to be ruling alongside His Father, God. Man in this case refers to God the Father and not a mare man. The use of Son of Man is even capitalized to show an aspect of proper noun whereby Son refers to Jesus Christ and Man refers to God the Father. The failure to use the phrase in some Books in the New Testament could be in the attempt to get rid of the Greeks’ ambiguity in the use of the phrase to refer to Jesus Christ or to man in general. Some books like St. Paul hardly use the phrase but make use of other terms to refer to Jesus Christ such as the Second Adam or Last Adam. The Epistles also avoids the use of such phrase probably as a way of avoiding the Greeks’ in the phrase (Buttrick 32).
Jesus Christ referred Himself as the Son of Man to mean divined Son of God. He seemed to have had more interest in the use of the phrase “Son of Man” than the use of the phrase “Son of God.” He used to two phrases to pose the same meaning of being the divine Son of God. The sceptic would always want to establish whether Jesus Christ meant the son of man to be Son of God or where there could be other reasons when He preferred using Son of Man to Son of God. The same idea was adopted by the writers of the Gospels, who often use the same phrase to refer to Jesus Christ as the Son of man. In the Gospels, Jesus Christ takes the phrase as His favorite self-designation. This aspect brings a contrast to the Epistles where the phrase is hardly used of Jesus Christ. The Gospels account for the most occurrences in the New Testament with the phrase being used only four times elsewhere in the New Testament. The same phrase has never been use in non Biblical Christian writing specifically in the first century following Christ (Leon-Dufour 41).
The term could have been use by Jesus to refer to His humanity rather than being the Son of God. Son of God is stronger in placing the divine nature of Jesus Christ unlike Son of Man, which He could have used to show that he was also human despite being God. The reference of Son of man to Jesus Christ by the Gospel writers could be different from what Jesus meant by often referring Himself to as the Son of Man. The context in which He used the phrase to refer to Himself can bring out some other meaning other than what is predicted by many believers. The historical context of the usage of the phrase by Jesus can b reflected back to the words of Prophet Daniel in the Old Testament. In the vision, Daniel sees one like a son of man. He was coming with the Heavenly clouds and approached the Ancient days and he was led into his presence (Hartman 65). All people, kingdoms, and tribes worshiped this man. Jesus Christ in the New Testament can link the same phrase by Daniel to the statements. In the two cases, the phrase implies the Son of God but born of human flesh. The phrase is used in many cases to portray different meanings and not just an implication of Jesus Christ. Jesus prefers the phrase to “Son of God” to make people understand that He is born of human flesh and his body is subjected to the normal human feeling and abilities only that He has divine power from God making Him God as well.
Buttrick, G. A., ed. Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. (4 volumes plus supplementary volume). New York: Abingdon, 1962.
Hartman, L. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible. New York: McGraw Hill , 1963.
Leon-Dufour. X. Dictionary of Biblical Theology . New York: Desclee, 1967.
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