Last modified on May 3, 2023, at 02:01

Son of Man

El cofrade de San Miguel by Saturnino Herran.

"Son of Man" is a common mistranslation, preferred by liberals, which obscures Jesus's divinity. Jesus used an artful phrase to convey his divinity without committing the capital offense of blasphemy, which would have terminated His ministry before it completed. Notably, the Gospel of John does not use the phrase the same way as the other Gospels do.[1]

A better English translation which conveys the divinity would be "The Son as man."[2] In other words, simply replace "of" with "as" to restore the intended implication of divinity, without committing blasphemy under the strict rules of the time. The versatility of "as" in modern English conveys the meaning of the awkward, unusual Greek phrase better than "of" does.

The then-blasphemous declaration by Stephen which caused him to be martyred is better translated as "The Son as man" rather than as "the Son of Man":

  • NIV: “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56 NIV translation)
  • Better: He said, “Look, I see the heavens open, and The Son as man stands at God's right hand.” Acts 7:56

The use of the phrase in Luke 6:5 shows that "The Son as man" makes more sense than "Son of man":

  • KJV: And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
  • Better: Jesus told them, "The Son as man is also Lord of the Sabbath!"

The use of the phrase in Mark 10:45 illustrates the flaws in the "Son of Man" and the superiority of the "Son as man" as the English translation:

  • For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve (NIV)
  • For even the Son as man did not come to be served, but to serve

In Luke 24:7 use of the phrase "Son of Man" is confusing to the meaning, while use of "Son as man" would be much clearer:

  • the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men (ESV)
  • the Son as man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men

or perhaps better still:

Numerous other passages translate in a stronger way if "Son as man" is used rather than "Son of man," such as: "you may be judged worthy ... to stand before the Son as man."[3]

Of necessity, Jesus could only imply during his ministry that he was divine, in order to avoid being put to death for blasphemy before his preaching and works were completed.[4] Because of blasphemy laws, Jesus often could only imply his divinity without expressly saying so. [5]

Jesus' curing of the beggar blind from birth was followed by Jesus asking him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He responded, "Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus replied, "You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he." The formerly blind man responded, "I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped Him.[6] The translation "Son of Man" in English in that passage fails to capture the implication of "Son of God," which was obviously meant.[7]

In Matthew 26:64, Jesus says something so blasphemous that it caused the High Priest to demand his execution. It was either "Hereafter you will see 'the Son of man, sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven'" or "Hereafter you will see 'the Son as man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.'" The latter rendition is clearly blasphemous while the former is not.

The Greek version of how Jesus described himself is the awkward phrase "ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου," which can be translated as "the Son, a human being" or, more simply, "the Son as man."[8] 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."[9] 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.[10]

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.’'"[11]

Prophecy in Psalms and Ezekiel

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)

Ezekiel also contains a prophecy of the Son of Man, by describing him as "perfection":

Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.

Ezekiel 28:12 (ESV).

Literal Translation

The pedantic translation of "ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου" is "the Son of the Man," as τοὺ ἀνθρώπου is the genitive of ὁ ἄνθρωπος - (the) man. This translation is used, e.g., in the King James Bible, the New American Standard Bible or the New International Version. This rendition is 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" [12] in Luke 10:6, rather than as the literal phrase "a son of peace."[13] (a translation used in the King James Bible and the English Standard Version.) 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.

An analogous phrase, with a genitive that helps define an "ambiguous or metaphorical head noun," occurs at 2 Corinthians 5:5 ("Who has given to us the down payment of the Spirit" is better translated as " ... "the down payment which is the Spirit").[14]

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.

But notice that the divine context is clear in this verse of Daniel, and many translations say "a son of man" rather than "the son of man" here.


  1. "The term, Son of man, is used by Jesus 80 times as a way to refer to himself (32 times in Matthew; 14 times in Mark; 26 times in Luke; and 10 times in a qualitatively different way from the Synoptic Gospels in John). ... The term occurs only five times in the rest of the New Testament outside the Gospels. In Acts 7:56, Stephen says that he sees the heaven open and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God; Hebrews 2:6 quotes Psalm 8:4 and applies the words to Jesus ...; and in Revelation 1:13-15 and 14:14 Jesus is 'One like a Son of man' (ὅμοιον υἱὸν ἀνθρώπου) and described in terms that evoke the imagery of Daniel 7 ...." [1]
  2. Other possible translations are "The Son, a human being," "The Son, a man," or "The Son became Man" (the latter would commit blasphemy, however, which Jesus needed to avoid at the outset of his ministry).
  3. Luke 17-24 (Translated)#21:36
  4. Blasphemy was punishable by death under the Old Testament and by a lesser penalty under Roman law. [2]
  5. This is made particularly clear by how Jesus used the phrase immediately after his divinity was revealed to several Apostles and God confirmed Jesus is His son: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” ... Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Matt 17:5,9 (ESV).
  6. [3]
  7. The blind beggar would not have understood "Son of Man" to be a scriptural reference to a similar term referenced only once in the Book of Daniel.
  8. Literally, a word-for-word translation is "the son of the man" - - Haley Wilson, "A SURVEY OF THE “SON OF MAN” FROM DANIEL TO JESUS, PART 1," p. 1
  10. 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."
  12. The NASB translates the Greek word for "son" non-literally as "man", in order to convey the meaning of the phrase.
  13. "ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ" is translated as "the Son of God"
  14. - see "Epexigetical Genitive")