Son of Man

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El cofrade de San Miguel by Saturnino Herran.

"Son of Man" is the common English translation of the enigmatic phrase Jesus used to describe himself.

Jesus was careful to avoid wording that committed the crime of blasphemy, which was punishable by death under the Old Testament and by a lesser penalty under Roman law,[1] and which would have resulted in the prosecution of Jesus before he completed his ministry. Hence he implied his divinity without expressly saying so.

The Greek version of how Jesus described himself is "ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου," which is best translated as "the Son, a human being or, more simply, "the Son, a man." A full, wordy translation of the Greek would be "The Son, with the character of man." The Greek is likely a translation of an Aramaic phrase "bar enosha," which has the connotation of "a human."[2] The Greek wording implies the divinity of Jesus in a non-blasphemous manner, without Jesus expressly claiming to be God. Faith is then required to accept the obvious implication that Jesus was divine, and his opponents thereby had a difficult time catching him in the crime of blasphemy during his ministry.[3]

John 9:35 does not make sense as merely "Do you believe in the Son of Man?", and the Greek manuscripts disagree at this verse, some stating "Son of Man" (ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου), others "Son of God" (ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ). A fuller translation might be, "Do you believe in The Son, a human being?"

Also, the verses surrounding John 3:16 refers to the same person as both "the Son of God and "the Son ______." To maintain the logic of the passage, the phrase "the Son _____" should not be translated in a manner inconsistent with "the Son of God." The translation "the Son, a human being" or "the Son, a man" is consistent with "the Son of God."

Notice that the ancient Greek did not have the punctuation of a comma to convey meaning, as English does: ὁ υἱὸς ὁ ἄνθρωπος is the straightforward Greek version of the English "the Son, a human being." The comma is omitted without loss of meaning.

The term highlights Jesus's humanity and how He came to serve and save mankind, but its translation should also emphasize that Jesus was God and not merely man. The term also illustrates how the best of the public comes from ordinary people rather than the elite.

The Common English Bible, which includes a superb pro-life rendition of one controversial verse, translates the Greek for "Son of Man" as "Human One." The translators explain, with other examples, that "Greek usage often refers to 'a son of x' in the sense of 'one who has the character of ‘x.’'"[4]

Prophecy in Psalms

Psalms contains a prophecy of the "Son of Man" as later quoted by the Epistle to the Hebrews (which was possibly written by Jesus himself):

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,

(Psalm 8:3-6 ESV, emphasis added)

Literal Translation

An overly wooden, word-for-word translation of "ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου" would be "the Son of Man", as τοὺ ἀνθρώπου is the genitive of ὁ ἄνθρωπος - (the) man. But this rendition would be inconsistent with how the similar Greek phrase that replaces "of man" with "of peace" is better translated as "a peaceful person," "someone who promotes peace," or "a man of peace" [5] in Luke 10:6, rather than as the wooden, literal phrase "a son of peace."[6] But in English the overly literal translation as "the Son of Man" is incoherent, and the phrase interferes with the clear logic of the important passage surrounding John 3:16.

Logical Basis

The logic of Christianity is that good and insights do not arise from the self-centered elite, but from the opposite. "Man" is fallen and cannot redeem himself, and neither could a "Son of Man." Instead, "the Son, a man" brought salvation in a way that liberals could never anticipate and prevent.

"Son of Adam"

Though the Greek version is clear, the Hebrew term for "Son of Man" could be a mistranslation of "Son of Adam," which emphasized how Jesus was a son (male descendant) of Adam. This meaning is suggested by Proverbs 8:31, where "sons of Adam" was translated by the KJV as "sons of men."

This possible mistranslation in English Bibles then permitted Darwin to deny, with his theory of evolution, that Adam existed as described in the Bible. Had Jesus been known in the English-speaking world as the "Son of Adam," the theory of evolution would have been a non-starter.

Fulfillment of a Prophecy

It is possible that its first use in reference to Jesus Christ is in the Book of Daniel, 7:13, in a prophecy of the Messiah:

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

References

  1. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02595a.htm
  2. https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2011/08/son-of-man-or-human-one-tough-translation-questions-raised-by-the-common-english-bible/
  3. Other possible translations are less consistent with the Greek, and would have constituted the crime of blasphemy: "God as a man," "Son of Man from God," "God became man," "God descended as man," or "Christ, Son of God."
  4. https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2011/08/son-of-man-or-human-one-tough-translation-questions-raised-by-the-common-english-bible/
  5. The NASB translates the Greek word for "son" non-literally as "man", in order to convey the meaning of the phrase.
  6. "ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ" is translated as "the Son of God."