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The Divine Claims of Jesus: "Son of Man"
[A Title in Disfavor] [Sources of the Title] [Seated at the Right Hand of God] [Not Found Outside Gospels; Not Used in Judaism at the Time] [Is It Just "I"?] [Did Jesus Not Mean Himself?] [Third Person References] [Corporate Reference] [Views of Son of Man in the Gospels] [Critical and Analytical Views: Representative Samples and Replies]

Three studies on other topics lay the groundwork for this essay:

  1. The eschatology of Daniel and of the Olivet Discourse;
  2. The usage the phrase "Son of Man" in Babylonian and early ANE literature.
  3. The added meaning that is derived from the specific that the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of God, as expressed as well in later NT texts (like from Stephen in Acts 7).

It is clear that these three issues are seriously intertwined with what Jesus was "on about" when he used the Son of Man (hereafter SOM) title, and yet it is in just these very areas that most commentators on the subject are least informed or most misguided.

In the case of the first issue, the commentators (whether liberal or conservative) are hung up either on a late date for Daniel and an assumption that it predicts nothing past the Maccabean period, or else on the problem of trying to interpret the "this generation" passages of the Olivet Discourse under a dispensational paradigm.

In the case of the second, commentators are simply, and shockingly, completely misinformed.

On the third, it is simply not always noted.

None of this makes it easy to figure out the key SOM passages, but once we do put Daniel at its right date, and once we know about the ANE background, the pieces fall into place remarkably easily: This is one of Jesus' most clear claims to divinity.

Sources for the "Son of Man"

Most commentators start their journey on the SOM with Daniel 7. Sometimes, they look into the ANE to find comparable pagan divine figures, but somehow and some way, if we are to believe an entirely neutral source, they have missed the most relevant key of all.

It was as a result of my research on Zoroaster that I found the most important data, which comes from Ernest Herzfeld's Zoroaster and His World. [835-840] Herzfeld notes the uses of phrases containing "son of..." in the ancient world and what purpose they served. The phrase as used in Daniel is bar enash.

Note: This is an important distinction from other uses of the phrase in the OT, which generally use Adam for man.

The combination bar enash and its parallels in Old Babylonian carry the meaning of an heir or successor to royalty, or of a free man of the highest class. A "man" here is not just any man, but as we might say, "THE MAN" as in royalty. Herzfeld notes an example of this usage in the Code of Hammurabi.

Daniel was written at a time when this phrase had a specific and known meaning. In the context of Daniel 7:13, in which the one "like a son of man" comes to the Ancient of Days (Almighty God) and is given dominion of the sort that God possesses, the significance of Jesus' "son of man" usage cannot be overstated. It is functionally equivalent to saying that the one like a son of man is rightful heir and successor to the divine throne. "Son of man" is essentially the same as "Son of God" in this context.

It is therefore clear that if Jesus is using the phrase consistent with its original meaning, it is a powerful and clear claim to deity. But before we take that further, let's look at some Jewish parallels that might substantiate the case.

From the Jewish apocryphal Book of 1 Enoch, in a section referred to as the Similitudes (Chapters 37-71), we find a description of the Son of Man as one who was given that name before time itself; one who would become a light to the Gentiles, will be worshipped throughout the earth, and will "dethrone kings and crush the teeth of sinners." [Chars.JesJud, 40, 48]

In 1 Enoch 48 specifically, the terms "Son of Man," "Messiah" and "Elect One" are used interchangeably, indicating that in the mind of that author, they meant the same thing. [With.JQ, 214] The Similitudes may be later than Jesus, but they would serve to demonstrate the existence of a personal concept of the "Son of Man" at the time of Jesus or shortly thereafter, albeit not in a titular form.

However, the matter is complicated by the fact that this part of 1 Enoch is only available in a late, Ethiopic translation, and as such this material cannot be used decisively for any argument.

Relevant also is material from the book of 4 Ezra, written late in the first century. Here there are also obvious allusions to the character of Daniel 7 as a Messiah - although the words "son of man" are not used. [Todt.SOM, 24; Hare.SOM; Case.SOM, 124]

Later interpretations, by rabbis and Christian commentators, of Daniel 7 are relevant, but varied. [see Case.SOM] Some saw the figure as corporate Israel and some saw it as Messianic. Little suggests that SOM was considered a title.

A considerable factor in Jesus' words is his comment that the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of God. This is far more significant than our phrase, "right-hand man" would suggest. In a study of the matter in Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism, [203ff] Darrell Bock discusses parallels in Jewish texts and offers these conclusions:

In short, Jesus thereby claims the prerogatives of God with the combined honor of being seated at the right hand of God, and therefore asserts his divine identity.

As an added note for fans of eschatology, it is a good idea to check passages in the NT which refer to Jesus at God's right hand. By our eschatological view, Jesus' "seating" corresponded with events of 70 AD (see more here). In this light it is noteworthy that Jesus in Acts 7 is still standing at God's right hand (not yet seated). Other passages (like Eph. 1:20 and Heb. 12:2) speak of Jesus being set at God's right hand, though whether seated, or standing in place, is not specified.

We will consider these matters now in the context of individual scholars' analyses, and the arguments often used to "defuse" or affirm the power of the SOM title.

Objection #1: SOM is found only in the Gospels. It was a late invention of the church.

Crossan [Cross.MedP, 109, 141; see also Case.SOM, 209] uses this argument, though others actually argue that the presence of this title in the Gospels serves to indicate that it guarantees that it was genuinely from Jesus. It ignores the obvious fact pointed out by Goulder [Hick.MyG, 52; see also Full.FNC, 65] that the churches ministered to by Paul, being mostly Greek and non-Jewish, would have no frame of reference for the title as it came from the Jewish Scriptures.

Further, Paul and other writers in the NT, even when writing to Jews, had little proper occasion to refer to Jesus' role as Son of Man, with the exception of the Book of Revelation, where Jesus is portending that role.

Objection #2: SOM was never used as a Messianic title in the time of Jesus.

This point is rife with discussion. The options and pathways break down like this. Either:

  1. SOM was a known Messianic title and Jesus was claiming it for his own.


  2. SOM was not a known Messianic title and Jesus initiated it as such.

The former assertion is tied in to the provenance, date and authenticity of the Enoch material. If it preceded the NT era, then there was definitely a SOM titular usage of a Messianic figure available for Jesus to take advantage of. If it postdates the NT era, then they may or may not have been such a title around for Jesus to hang his hat on.

One can find the full range of views here, and ideology is not a factor. E. P. Sanders believes that the Similitudes in the Book of 1 Enoch "show the work of Christian revisers." [ibid., 248] He provides no direct evidence or explanation for this view, other than that the Similitudes were not found among the books at Qumran.

Fuller [Full.FNC, 36-9] rejects the argument that the 1 Enoch Similitudes are late, for they lack "the distinctively Christian differentia, viz., the identification with Jesus of Nazareth in his ministry and in his passion"; however, he does argue that there have been some Christian interpolations in the text.

Jeremias [Jerem.NTT, 269] remarks upon the "complete absence of Christian features" in 1 Enoch, although he does acknowledge that not finding the Similitudes at Qumran argues against a date for them as early as the rest of 1 Enoch.

This leaves our second option -- and there is no reason why Jesus could not have taken up the phrase as a title of his own making based on Daniel 7. But does this mean he expected his audience to "get the drift"? Jewish familiarity with their own Scriptures was a point of pride, and the creative use of Scriptural tradition as a source of honor, suggests that this would be the case.

On the other hand, some say that SOM was intentionally vague and for good reasons. O'Neill supposed that perhaps, in line with Jewish thinking that the Messiah would not reveal Himself, the Son of Man title could be used in a roundabout way to proclaim His identity as Messiah.

In relation to this, I have previously cited social reasons why Jesus had to be circumspect in His proclamations of divinity:

First, the term "Messiah" was a loaded one. As shown in the Gospels, some who concluded that Jesus was the Messiah wanted to make Him a king by force. This would have been contrary to Jesus' salvific mission, so Jesus naturally had to use the title circumspectly, as he used "Son of Man."

It should be noted that although Jesus' salvific mission required revealing his divinity at some point in his mission, the agonistic tenor of the ancient world disdained the practice of making extreme, public proclamations, about one's own status or identity. Such proclamations, outside of one's own circle, would result in hostile, sometimes violent reactions.

Thus open revelation of Jesus' divinity would be a substantial obstacle, with the risk of bloodshed and chaos, to say nothing of that making such an audacious claim of honor (see more here) had its own obstacles.

Second, according to Jewish apocryphal texts (and in line with the honor strictures of the day), including the Psalms of Solomon and 4 Ezra, only God could declare who the Messiah was. By this line of thinking, "Any self-designation only proves that the proclaimer cannot be the Messiah." [Chars.DSS, 142] Thus, Jesus' relative silence on the issue "may well be an implicit indication that he thought of himself as the Messiah." (ibid.) (See also O'Neill, [ONi.WhoD, 48-53]: "The Messiah had to remain hidden and could not say who he was.")

Naturally, whether we take it to be an actual event of history or not, this explains the significance of the voice from heaven declaring Jesus' divinity after His baptism. Jesus would never, by the honor strictures of this day, be eligible to reveal himself as divine to a wider public audience; it would have to come first from an outside source: In order to make his salvific mission most successful, would have to work with, a constraint of history.

Indeed, such open self-proclamation would have been seen as dishonorable, and taken as a strike against Jesus' divine identity.

Such are the arguments, and by themselves they have some relevance, and though it is the view I have held before, after further consideration, I no longer consider it likely that Jesus was using SOM specifically to keep things under wraps.

For one thing, Jesus was not at all hesitant to publicly identify himself with Wisdom, as we have noted above -- an even bolder and more clear claim than that to be SOM. He was also not hesitant to speak of himself taking God's prerogative in forgiving sins or in altering laws.

Finally, in spite of other arguments to the contrary (see below) the phrase behind SOM, bar enash, would have been unique and easily identifiable -- it is found in the OT only in Daniel 7, and in Ps. 144:3, where it is not filled with any sort of content.

I therefore conclude, now, that there is no reason to think that Jesus was being secretive in his use of the SOM title (though after the fashion of honor in his day, he used it roundaboutly of himself, as in the third person). I would further say that it makes no real difference whether there was such a title known in Judaism or not -- there is no indication (again despite arguments below) that SOM as a phrase would be identified with anything but the divine figure of Daniel 7.

Objection #3: It's Only a Self-Referent

This is the most popular and most-used argument for defusing the SOM title as something special. The argument takes two forms:

  1. SOM is just another "poke in the I". This argument, popularized by Geza Vermes, [Verm.JJ, 160-191] claims that "son of man" was a typical Aramaic circumlocution for "I" in the time of Jesus. Fuller, Fitzmyer and others have rejected this view.

    Vermes' answer to Fitzmeyer and his other critics is his citing as evidence uses of similar phrases in the second and third century (!) as circumlocutions; and of this, he says: "Nothing suggests that the idiom was a second-century innovation and no valid argument can be raised against its being in use in the previous century also."

    Well, of course, that is how it is with ANY argument from silence. If we want to go in that direction, then nothing suggests that SOM as a divine title was a late innovation, and no valid argument can be raised against its also being used by Jesus.

  2. SOM is just human. A variation on this theme argues that SOM means "any human being." Some point to the related phrase "son of man" (bar adam) found in Ezekiel, or as Casey [157] to the evidence cited by Vermes. It is also suggested that underlying the Greek of the Gospels, which says "the Son of Man", there was actually an Aramaic phrase, "a Son of Man" -- the change having been made, of course, to make SOM look more like a title.

Neither of these views withstands scrutiny. Too many sayings of Jesus clearly cannot have this meaning (see below) and it is just piling one presumptive argument on another to "slice and dice" the different SOM sayings into categories of "this one was said by Jesus, this one wasn't".

The date of Vermes' data, as noted, is far too late and it also tends to rely on passages which refer to "a son of man" rather than "the son of man".

Casey's response to Fitzmeyer is merely to assert that "there is sufficient evidence" [227] for use of the phrase thusly before Jesus, but he gives absolutely no documentation or evidence to back this up, other than the begged interpretation of the NT evidence. It is telling enough that he sees fit to cite a paucity of surviving sources that would support this view.

As the data stands, Daniel's phrase (bar enash) is found nowhere else in the OT, other than Ps. 144:3, which is the Hebrew version (bar enash is Chaldean) and where, spoken by David, it also likely means an heir to royalty. In any event, without the late 2nd and 3rd century evidence, there is no recourse for Casey's argument that Jesus' hearers, on hearing the SOM phrase, would in no way connect it to the SOM in Daniel 7 because that is the only place, other than Ps. 144, they could get it from in the OT.

Objection #4: Jesus Didn't Mean Himself This is an odd one, since it stands in direct opposition to Vermes "circumlocution" argument. One has to wonder how such opposing views can crop up and be taken seriously.

The position is held to varying degrees. Sanders [Sand.HistF, 246] agrees that "Jesus used (the name); sometimes he used it of himself; he expected the Son of Man to come from heaven, but it is not certain that he identified himself as that future Son of Man." Sanders goes on to argue that the more explicit claims of Jesus are later interpolations. Sanders almost, but not quite, gets it in his earlier book: "I must confess that I have no answer to the question of precisely how Jesus saw the relationship between himself, the Son of man, and the Father. In some passages it is Jesus' kingdom, in others God's, in others, apparently, the Son of man's." [Sand.JesJud, 308]

The solution is obvious -- all three are ontologically the same person. Moreover, in line with the ANE usage, the kingdom is God's, and Jesus, the Son of Man, is the heir.

Crossan [Cross.MedP, 109, 141] offers a more serious version of this argument, following his Jesus Seminar colleagues in stating that, while Jesus may have used the words to refer to himself in the sense of "a human being" (as in Ezekiel), the use of it as a reference to a divine figure was put in Jesus' mouth by His followers. [See also Cross.RevB, 50; Schnack.BC, 56]

A similar idea is proposed by Burton Mack, who believes that the "innocent use" of the title by Daniel, merely intended to say that the heavenly figure looked like a human being, was twisted and misunderstood, and the use of the term by Jesus was also not intended to reference Daniel's apocalyptic figure. [Mack.Q, 160-1] In simple terms: places where SOM means something harmless are genuine; places where SOM means some possibly divine figure were added by the church later on.

Needless to say, like many arguments of the Jesus Seminar, this supposition is based on the questionable reading of multiple layers of tradition into the Gospels and presumes a social theory of Christian development through which the evidence is manipulated and interpreted. One cannot come to such conclusions by taking the text "as it stands" -- the only way there is any hard evidence it existed.

Objection #5: Third Person Distance This argument, which is often intertwined with these others, asks why Jesus so often referred to Himself in the third person if He wanted to apply the various divine titles and claims to Himself. Albert Schweitzer, for example, took the third-person references to indicate that Jesus was speaking of someone other than Himself.

However, this is an unnecessary conclusion. God sometimes spoke of Himself in the third person in the Old Testament -- read for example Ex. 20:7 ("...for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless..."), 20:8 and 20:12. The usage of the third person in these and the New Testament passages is an indication of a particular role that God and Jesus will fulfill when taking a particular action.

For example, when using the "Son of Man" title, Jesus sometimes said things like, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man shall be ashamed of him at the day of judgment." This refers to a future time when Jesus will fulfill a specific duty in His role as the Son of Man. Or, as Fuller says [Full.FNC, 123]:

The distinction between Jesus and the coming Son of Man corresponds to the distinction between the kingdom as it is breaking through in Jesus and its final consummation. Jesus could not identify himself with the coming Son of Man, since that figure was to come at the End on the clouds of heaven.

While Fuller does not regard all of the Son of Man references as genuine, and while we do not agree (see essay on the Olivet Discourse linked above) that "the End" is in mind, he has here hit the nail on the head. Because it was a future role for Himself, Jesus could not always properly call Himself the Son of Man in as direct a manner as He would when fulfilling the role; and thus at times, He seemed to be referring to a figure other than Himself.

Or, as Jeremias puts it, there is "a distinction not between two different figures, but between (Jesus') present and the future state of exaltation...his is not yet the Son of man, but he will be exalted to be the Son of man." [Jerem.NTT, 276]

Nor would it make sense to include the title in confessional creeds (especially when more general, overarching terms like "Lord" and "Messiah" were easier to spread around, especially to the Gentile converts with no Daniel 7 background). Thus, while Jesus does refer to Himself by this title quite clearly, as we will see, there were times when it had to be used with the context of a future role in mind.

But the ultimate rebuttal against this option is that which we have noted in the linked essay above: The "third person" references satisfy two ancient requirements of honor, and of not claiming too much honor for one's self.

Objection #6: SOM Corporation A final objection is that Daniel's SOM figure is a corporate symbol for the saints and not an individual. Casey [Case.SOM] argues that the Danielic "son of man" was merely a symbol of the Saints of the Most High found in the same chapter, and that therefore, the "son of man" can in no sense be identified with an individual. [see also Dunn.CM, 74] Two points stand against this.

First, there would be nothing arguable against Jesus lifting the description from Daniel and re-applying it as a title for Himself. As Cullman also notes, in Judaism representation could easily become identity, [Cull.CNT, 140] so there would have been no conceptual problem with Jesus using the symbol in an individualistic way. Of course, one may also as well see in this a parallel to the doctrine of the body of Christ.

Second, even in Daniel there is an example of this sort of representation, as Nebuchadnezzar is identified with the full kingdom of Babylon as the golden head of the statue (2:38).

Casey is aware of this possibility, but argues that Daniel itself shows no such awareness (30), which, if true, is of no moment since we would respond that Jesus himself made the connection. However, he concludes of such an idea (207):

It is perhaps too much to claim that this makes (son of man) completely impossible as an Aramaic title...Nevertheless, this does not enhance its usefulness; it is a strange item to extract from Daniel 7:13, and its use as a title should have caused difficulties for Jesus' hearers, difficulties of which there is in fact no trace in the synoptic tradition.

This sort of argument is representative of Casey's tactics as a whole. As noted, even without the possible 1 Enoch evidence, there is no reason why Jesus' hearers could not have had the intelligence to figure this one out. Moreover, that there was no confusion recorded in the Gospels (which are high-context documents written directly to Christians who already knew whatever details were involved) over the title just as well means that the use of it was perfectly understood by Jesus' hearers.

But even if there was confusion on that particular point, why should the evangelists have recorded confused comments from the crowds? (Although, see the reaction of the crowds in John 12:34!) Moreover, is it not clear in the Gospels that many people (including the disciples) had difficulty understanding Jesus' mission on certain points?

Bruce, likewise, observes that if there was no antecedent for the use of "Son of Man," Jesus was free to "fill it with whatever meaning he chose - representative man, righteous sufferer, obedient servant of God, or the one foreordained to be invested with universal authority." [Bruc.JLS, 66]

Son of Man, Son of God: Some Positive Arguments Not all scholars, not even all on the liberal/moderate side, are so confident that SOM can be done away with as of no moment. Fuller [Full.FNC, 36-9] for example refers to the argument that Daniel's son of man is a type of corporate figure for Israel, but believes that both with that figure and those of the symbolic beasts of Daniel, there is some individual king or personal representative that is represented. (This is again clearly the case with Nebuchadnezzar as head of the gold statue.) He describes the Son of Man in Daniel as "the transcendental agent of redemption in Jewish apocalyptic" and "a pre-existent divine being," "hidden in the presence of God from before all Creation" and "revered at the End." This Son of Man delivers the elect from persecution, judges kings and rulers who do the persecuting and "presides as a ruler in glory over the elect as a redeemed community in eternity."

What of the Gospel evidences themselves? Citing all 80+ incidences of this term would take up an inordinate amount of space; the reader is referred to these passages in which Jesus refers to Himself as "the Son of Man" (again, using only the Synoptics). These passages are chosen because they represent places where, only by stretching their meaning and context to the breaking point, can it be said that Jesus was not referring to himself when He spoke of the Son of Man:

Matt. 8:19-20 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Casey, in his book on Aramaic sources of Mark, argues that Jesus here speaks of "human beings" and not himself. This is incorrect as the class of not having a place to lay one's head is not a characteristic of human beings as a whole, and the response is made to a person asking to follow Jesus on his ministry effort -- which was an "on the road, on the run" affair.

Moreover, it is an oddity that Casey on the one hand claims that extracting SOM from Daniel 7 in the way we suppose is "strange" and yet has Jesus speaking in a convoluted fashion about "a human being" -- as a representative of a group.

Matt. 9:6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.(Mark 2:10)

Here again Casey opts for the "human being" approach -- but once again, this is hardly a characteristic of the race as a whole. There is again also no reason why SOM had to be attended by Danielic references in order to clearly be referring to the Danielic figure.

Matt. 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
Mark 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

In this instance Casey allows that there is a clear allusion to the Daniel 7 tradition. However, he turns at once to another objection in the collection and puts it off as the work of the early church -- based on a presumed schema of theological development.

Luke 12:8 Also I say unto you, whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God...

In addition, there are passages where Jesus referred to "the Son of Man" as undergoing some tribulation which was fulfilled in his own crucifixion - prophecies of His death that Flusser refers to as "defensive use" of the Son of Man title [Youn.JesJT, 249]: Matt. 12:40; 17:9-12; 20:18; Mark 8:31, 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33; 14:21-2, 41; Luke 9:22; 9:44; 18:31. That this does not in any sense (as Casey argues, and which we will grant for the sake of argument) relate to Daniel 7 is of no relevance.

Other passages are just a little easier to stretch, using a little grammatical gymnastics. However, if Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man in the above passages, then logically - and outside of any suggested Jesus Seminaresque textual layering conspiracy that may be invented - we have excellent grounds for assuming that in the other 60+ passages, Jesus was referring to Himself also. Taken together, these 80+ passages are indisputable evidence that Jesus proclaimed His divine identity through the title "Son of Man."

We now offer, alphabetically by name, a summary and evaluation of the presentations of various writers (positive and negative) on the SOM issue. We would remind the reader that none of these writers shows any awareness of the points made by Herzfeld about the use of SOM in terms of an heir to royalty.

Maurice Casey -- Constant Qualification: Casey's Son of Man: The Interpretation and Influence of Daniel 7. In not all areas is Casey so heavy-handed, and many of his arguments against other interpretations are valid, but he clearly operates under the weight of certain false presumptions as well.

  1. The foremost of these is a late date for Daniel, into the Maccabean era (see here for rebuttal to this), which he combines with the idea of SOM as a corporate symbol (see above) to argue that it represents the faithful Jews under Antiochus. Of course even if this is correct, there would be nothing to prevent Jesus from taking the symbol for his own use. However, the late date does affect Casey's interpretations and responses.
  2. It is assumed that the SOM figure rides the cloud from heaven to earth rather than the other way around. See our material on eschatology linked above for comments.
  3. Against the idea that Dan's SOM is a divine figure, Casey argues first that the SOM is clearly subordinate to the Ancient of Days; second, that it is improbable that Daniel would introduce such a figure at a time when Antiochus was encroaching on traditional Israelite faith.

    However, this fits in very well with the identification of Jesus as Wisdom, functionally subordinate to the Father, and we might add, a category of thought that wasn't apparently problematic for the Jews in this very php.

  4. It is argued, based on the evidence offered by Vermes (see above), that most SOM references show no direct influence from Daniel 7 and that SOM means only a human being. [157]

    We have answered the former above. As to the latter, it is, again, hard to see why SOM cannot have been invested with further, yet relatable meaning and roles by Jesus, and other than by parsing the texts after the manner of the Jesus Seminar, no reason to suppose that Jesus did not or could not have made such expansions. For specific cites, see above.

  5. Matt. 24:30 and parallels offer an indisputable reference to Daniel 7 and the figure there as a person, in Jesus. Casey tries to explain this away by again claiming ancient woodenness in thinking ("no one would have understood what Jesus meant" [166] and by giving Jesus advice that if this is what he meant to do, he should have used the first person singular to make it more clear (see points on third person and usage, and honor strictures, above). [167]

    However, he admits that this argument is not decisive. He suggests putting it down yet again to redactive activity of the early church, based on the correspondence of the use of one word in a later church midrash on Zech. 12:10. Why the church and translators could not have chosen the same word, even independently, and what alternative words could have been used, is not explained.

    It is, however, admitted that the word in question is not rare and the proof is not conclusive.

  6. Casey also tries to explain away cites in the Olivet Discourse as referring to the fall of Jerusalem [172] by insisting on a "straightforward" reading of the text. In other words, literal blood on the moon. This in itself assumes a crass and unsophisticated literalism by the ancients.

    The counter that Dan. 7 is a symbolic vision whereas the Discourse and other Gospels texts are in a narrative is of no relevance and does not make such references literal. There is no barrier to Jesus or anyone else using figurative language to refer to a literal event for, if it were, then all of the parables would need to be interpreted literally as well, and a person really could have a log in their eye. See our material on the Discourse, linked above.

  7. Acts 1:9-11 is cited as evidence that Luke did not view the return on the clouds as symbolic:
    And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

    Casey's argument assumes, however, that the movement of the SOM is "heaven to earth" and makes much of the correspondence of the word "cloud" as found in Luke's version of Jesus before Caiaphas and the promise of the Son of Man coming -- a non-issue, since if Jesus ascended, the odds were very good that he would cross paths with a cloud anyway.

    Moreover, the account has far greater thematic affinities with the ascension of Elijah in 2 Kings 2, [Witherington, Acts, 112] and "the passing on of the power and authority to Jesus' witnesses so that they might continue the kingdom work he had begun." The word for "come" is the extremely common erchomai (it means both "come" and "go") and cannot be reckoned to be specially linked to the parousia or any other event. More likely is a reference of Jesus' "going" to the throne to be seated, as the Danielic Son of Man.

  8. Typical of Casey's demand for "adequate textual markers," is this one in Matt. 25:31, where Jesus, as Son of Man, sits enthroned for judgment. A connection to Daniel is discounted because "the man-like figure (in Daniel) is not enthroned in Dan. 7:13-14, and it is not clear that Matthew thought he was." [190]

    What does Casey need here to make a connection? A full account of the Son of Man's bottom hitting the chair and the number of inches it depressed the cushion? Daniel says that this figure was given dominion, glory and a kingdom. Kings, even in this era, sat on thrones. There is no need to be so wooden in our reading of Daniel.

  9. In the end it is finally concluded, based on factors discussed and arguments refuted above, that the SOM cites which show affinity to Daniel 7 were invented by the early church. It is also concluded that Dan. 7 was not much of an influence on Jesus' thought, which in a sense is an acceptable description because Jesus filled SOM with greater meaning and depth. This should not surprise us nor be more of a problem than there being more history to the Greek and Roman empires than Daniel's vision would suggest.

    But in fact, Jesus did not have to do much filling in at all. Since Dan. 7 is to be linked to events of AD 70, and thereby also to the judgment upon Jerusalem and the inauguration of the age of the Messiah, it is quite understandable that Jesus would use it in a broader way, connected with other ministerial activities and his salvific mission. And, it is hardly surprising that more elements of Dan. 7 do not make an appearance in the NT: one suggests that just as Josephus avoided explicitly mentioning the fourth beast as Rome (though he clearly did hold that view) it would have been just as unwise for the Gospels to offer a fuller development than they did.

    Casey's question, "Why use SOM from Daniel 7 to describe one who would suffer?", is a non-difficulty in this light. The entire ministry of Jesus, including his suffering and resurrection was oriented towards the establishment of "a kingdom" in which "all people, nations and languages, should serve him," a "dominion (which) is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and [a] kingdom that that shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:14). Realizing that Daniel 7 was fulfilled in 70 AD opens doors on the "Son of Man" question and ties the title inextricably (along with the ANE evidence cited by Herzfeld) to divinity.

Douglas Hare: The Son of Man Tradition Hare issues a number of needed correctives to Casey and Vermes, which we have also made use of, notably the point against intentional alteration of Aramaic "a son of man" to Greek "the son of man" being "entirely conjectural" and not able to be assumed in advance [24-5] and the supposed presence of SOM as a generic term in the time of and prior to Jesus.

Hare notes [22n] that there is no evidence at all of such usage earlier than the Bar Kochba revolt. Hare is most helpful in arguing that Jesus uses SOM regularly as a self-referent, but does also opt at times to attribute sayings to the church or to NT writers' redaction.

Overall Hare concludes -- rightly -- that most SOM references do not contribute to a case for Jesus' divinity at all. We agree, for it is the background of the phrase from Daniel and the ANE that does this, and makes it equal to "Son of God." In other places Jesus uses it as a self-referent to describe a certain action like judgment, and these implicitly suggest divinity. Once those are established, apart from slice or dice games, the rest fall into place behind them.

Geza Vermes We have already noted Vermes' thesis and the general reply above. To this we may add that Vermes also tries to justify his stance by saying since we don't have first-century Aramaic documents, it is fair to use later ones as a guide.

I have had much to-do with a certain critic over the meaning of the word enosh in the Hebrew Bible (and the corresponding enash in Aramaic). Whereas most scholars and translations, indeed, take these words to refer simply to humans generically, I follow Herzfeld in maintaining that it refers to persons who are royalty or members of the highest free class.

Inevitably, when I revise my work on the Son of Man title, I would have to do what follows anyway – and that is, look at each and every instance of these words to see how far Herzfeld’s contention bears out.

And yes, that took a while – because while enash is not used that much, enosh is used over 500 times.

It is my thesis, however, that a ruthless tendency to democratize the text, and a failure to recognize the stratified nature of ancient society, has led translators to apply the more general meaning of “generic human being” to these words. To the end of seeing if this is so, we surveyed all passages in the OT that used either word. I will divide uses into three categories:

  1. Those that can only mean a royal person or person of high class.
  2. Those that could mean either one – though I will indicate if I think there is any weight to either meaning.
  3. Those than can only mean “generic human being”.

My expectation was that a large number would fall into the second category, because royal/high class persons are not exclusive of the “generic human being” class. However, as long as few – or none – fall into the third category, my thesis will be supported, and this turns out to be the case. Let's now report the results of the survey.

Those that can only mean a royal person or person of high class. In other words, you can only make it mean “generic human being” by ignoring certain contextual realities.

Gen. 34:20, 21, 22: The sons of Jacob confer with the “men” of a city to negotiate trade and peace. Only the upper class men of the village would have the power and authority to broker such an agreement with strangers.

Gen. 47:6 Pharaoh tells Joseph to look for “men of activity” to make rulers over his cattle. Such a responsibility would not merely be entrusted to a “generic human being” but to a trusted person of the upper class.

Exod. 18:21, 25 Moses is advised to appoint “men” to certain ruling offices. No average Joshua would be chosen for this.

Exod. 35:22 “Men” bring gold for the golden calf. It would only be upper class men who would possess gold in such quantities.

Judges 6:30 is one of several verses that show “men” of the city demanding certain actions that are only suitable to leading citizens: Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that [was] by it. Low status everyday Joes didn’t have the authority to demand such things of a tribal chieftain like Gideon’s father. See also Ruth 4:2 for an example.

1 Kings 21:21 refers to “the men of his city, [even] the elders and the nobles who were the inhabitants in his city…” and thus regards enash as synonymous with “elders and nobles.”

Those that could mean either one – though I will indicate if I think there is any weight to either meaning.

Subset: Uses that could be generic, but make more contextual sense as references to royalty, or members of the upper class.

Gen. 6:4 refers to the “men of renown” before the Flood. Members of the upper class would be associated with “renown” or honor. Also, Num. 16:2 and 1 Chr. 5:24, 8:40, 12:30.

Gen. 12:20 refers to the Pharaoh commanding his “men”. Pharaoh would here be supposed to be giving commands to his upper level court members concerning the disposition of Abraham.

Gen. 13:8 has Abram referring to he and Lot as “men”. They were both members of the upper class, wealthy tribal chieftains.

Gen. 18:2, 16 and 22 refer to Abraham’s angelic visitors as “men”. Abraham’s reaction to them and his show of hospitality indicates that he recognizes them as visitors of some distinction – not merely any particular person. The same could perhaps be said of the angelic visitors to Lot, Gen. 19:8, 10, 12, 16, though with less evidence.

Gen. 29:22, Laban gathers “men” for a feast. As a tribal chieftain he would gather the well to do, not just anyone who was around. Similarly, Deut. 1:13, 15.

Gen. 37:28 refers to Midianiate merchants who are “men”. Merchants were of the upper class.

Gen. 43:15-18, 24, 33; 44:1, 3, 4; 46:32, 34; 47:2 – several references to Jacob’s sons as “men”. As sons of a wealthy tribal chieftain, they were of the upper class.

Ex. 4:19, the “men” who sought to kill Moses were dead. It was Pharaoh and his people who were the ones seeking to kill Moses.

Subset: Uses that could make contextual sense for either meaning. These are too numerous to list, but here are the examples from the Pentateuch:

Gen. 14:24. 17:23, 27; 19:4, 5, 11; 20:8, 24:13, 32, 54, 59; 26:7; 32:28; 34:7; 38:21, 22; 39:11, 14

Ex. 2:13, 10:7, 16:20; 21:18, 22; 22:31

Lev. 18:27

Num. 11:26, 13:2, 3, 16, 31-2, 14:22, 26, 37-8; 16:14, 26, 30; 22:9, 22, 35; 25:5, 31:3, 31:21, 28, 42. 49. 53; 32:11, 14; 34:17, 19.

Deut. 1:22, 23, 35; 2:14, 16; 13:13; 19:17; 21:21; 22:21; 25:1, 11; 31:12; 32:26.

Those than can only mean “generic human being”.

Subset: Those that may seem to mean only “generic human being.”

Ex. 5:9 has Pharaoh ordering more work put on the “men” of Israel. This seems generic until me read it in light of references to “officers” (5:10, 19) over Israel who are held responsible for the output of the people below them. It is the officers, essentially brokers for the labor duties, who are having more work put on them, as representatives of those below them.

Josh. 8:14 typifies a few verses:

And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw [it], that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he wist not that [there were] liers in ambush against him behind the city.

One might read this to mean all military men, but the catch-all “people” is where the everyday Joes are to be found. The “men” would refer to the king’s personal retinue and his leading citizen-warriors. Note as well that 8:25 preserves a distinction between “men” as a whole (ish) and the enosh:

And [so] it was, [that] all that fell that day, both of men (ish) and women, [were] twelve thousand, [even] all the men (enosh) of Ai.

As does Judges 9:49:

And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech, and put [them] to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; so that all the men (enosh) of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men (ish) and women.

Isaiah 28:14 says, “Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which [is] in Jerusalem.” Thus enosh are in some way regarded as synonymous with those who rule the people and are in some way in a different category than the people.

Other verses preserve a distinction as well, such as Judges 16:27 and Judges 18:22 (which uses ben, not ish).

2 Samuel 12:16 And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.

Initially it is hard to account for a man of the highest rank being “poor”. Yet wealth is not always the same as personal honor, or status in a village. Even a high class citizen can have financial reverses. The situation is anomalous, but not impossible. (A similar issue emerges with leprous enosh found in 2 Kings 7:3.)

2 Chr 2:17 says, “And Solomon numbered all the strangers that [were] in the land of Israel, after the numbering wherewith David his father had numbered them; and they were found an hundred and fifty thousand and three thousand and six hundred.” Could there be this many foreigners of high station in the land? Yes – these are all specialty artisans working on the Temple; this meant they were not always in Israel, but travelling to and fro working in shifts. (Of course, these numbers would be disputed even if they were ordinary men, so in the end it makes no difference.)

Jonah 1:13 has “men” rowing a boat – seemingly not the sort of thing a first class citizen might do, though if it was a smaller craft used by merchants, and the situation was desperate as in a storm, it is not impossible or even unlikely that even the highest class men would lend a hand for the survival of the whole. On the other hand, restricting enosh to higher ranking citizens makes Jonah 3:5 more intelligible, such that it is not the entire city than dons sackcloth (where would all those people find so much sackcloth?) but just a handful of members of higher rank.

Thus ends the survey of enosh. What now of enash? This has only 25 uses, and most are equivocal . We start with those that are not equivocal, by including below our answers to claims from our prior opponent.

Dan 2:10 uses anosh as a general term for “man”, and there it clearly cannot denote royalty, because it refers to every man on earth, except the king!

The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a *man* upon the earth that can shew the king's matter: therefore [there is] no king, lord, nor ruler, [that] asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.

It does not refer to every man on earth. Stratified experts like the Chaldeans would hardly lessen their own honor by so much as implying that any common man might be able to match their skills at interpreting dreams and such. Rather, enash makes perfect sense here in terms of some high class person – here, likely in mind is someone within the Chaldeans’ class of astrologers.

It is used in Dan 3:10, again, to refer to every male in the land, except the king, because the men are to bow down to the king.

Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every *man* that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image:

Oh really? So Nebuchadnezzar wanted every human in the land to do this, right down to Farmer Joash? No: We can hardly expect that they thought people all over Babylon’s enormous empire would be able to hear the call to worship, so to speak, in such a localized place. This makes far better sense as a call for all of the king’s high class men and heirs to take a loyalty oath. (Rather amusingly, I once had an atheist make this very objection about all those people being able to hear that call.)

The same mistake can also be made with Daniel 6:12.

It is used in Dan 4:16, contrasting the heart of man with the heart of an animal.

Let his heart be changed from *man's*, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him.

It refers to the king himself. The king is royalty. I have said that enash means royalty. See also 7:4.

It is used again in Dan 5:7 to refer to men who are not royalty.

The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. [And] the king spake, and said to the wise [men] of Babylon, *Whosoever* shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and [have] a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.

But enash also means free men of the highest class. That’s who the king ends up calling on of course – Chaldeans and high placed people.

Ezra 6:11 is used to “refer to any man in Judaea.”

Also I have made a decree, that *whosoever* shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this.

Here, in an English, no-context reading, one could arguably make a case that any man in Judaea could be meant, but I’m not so sure. For one thing, to the best of my recollection, timber was a fairly limited resource that the average Judean Joe didn’t get to use in his house construction. So if my recollection is right, the threat would only make sense if it was directed to the higher classes. ("Change this decree, and I'll turn a hose on your mud hut!")

In addition, the warning is not to alter the words of the decree, which only makes sense if said person is 1) literate; 2) is in a position to be able to alter it. That only makes sense if they’re a member of the highest class, or royalty, because the average Judean was illiterate and certainly did not have the ability to change decrees made by the higher class.

To these we may add:

Daniel 6:7, 12 relates the prohibition to not petition any “god or enash” other than the king. It makes little sense to forbid the petitioning of some everyday Joe with nothing to offer but poverty. This must only mean persons of the higher class.

Our survey is now complete. In all, the evidence weighs positively in favor of enosh/enash carrying Herzfeld’s meaning, so that our conclusion is supported.