SON OF MAN:
By: Emil G. Hirsch
The rendering for the Hebrew "ben adam," applied to mankind in general, as opposed to and distinct from non-human relationship; expressing also the larger, unlimited implications of humanity as differentiated from limited (e.g., national) forms and aspects of human life. Thus, contrasted with the "sons of God" ("bene Elohim") are the "daughters of man" ("benot ha-adam"), women taken by the former, non-human or super-human, beings as wives (Gen. vi. 2 et seq.). As expressing difference from God, the term occurs in the blessing of Balaam: "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent" (Num. xxiii. 19). Similarly, David appealing to Saul puts
"Son of man" is a common term in the Psalms, used to accentuate the difference between God and human beings. As in Ps. viii. 4 (A. V. 5), the phrase implies "mortality," "impotence," "transientness,"as against the omnipotence and eternality of God.
"Sons of men," or "children of men," designates also the slanderers and evil-doers in contrast to the righteous, that is, Israel (Ps. lvii. 5 [A. V. 4], lviii. 2 [A. V. 1]). It occurs most frequently, however, as a synonym for "mankind," "the human race" (Ps. xc. 3, cvii. 8, cxv. 16, cxlv. 12); it has this sense also in the passage in which wisdom is said to delight with the "sons of men" (Prov. viii. 31). Job(xvi. 21) employs the expression in the passionate plea for his rights while he is contending against God and against his neighbors. But Bildad insists that the "son of man," who is a mere worm, can not be justified with God (Job xxv. 4-6). In the same spirit the prophet (Isa. li. 12) censures Israel for being afraid of "the son of man which shall be made as grass" when
The meaning of the term as employed in these passages admits of no doubt; it connotes in most cases the mortality of man, his dependence upon God, while in only a few it serves to differentiate the rest of the human race from Israel.In Ezekiel, Daniel, and Enoch.
In Ezekiel the term occurs in
Similarly in Aramaic, "son of man" is the usual designation for "man," and occurs in the inscriptions in Syriac, Mandaic, Talmudic, and other dialects (see Nathanael Schmidt in Cheyne and Black, "Encyc. Bibl." iv. 4707-4708). In Dan. vii. 13, the passage in which it occurs in Biblical Aramaic, it certainly connotes a "human being." Many see a Messianic significance in this verse, but in all probability the reference is to an angel with a human appearance, perhaps Michael.
"Son of man" is found in the Book of Enoch, but never in the original discourses. It occurs, however, in the Noachian interpolations (lx. 10, lxxi. 14), in which it has clearly no other meaning than "man," if, indeed, Charles' explanation ("Book of Enoch," p. 16), that the interpolator misused the term, as he does all other technical terms, is untenable. In that part of the Book of Enoch known as the "Similitudes" it is met with in the technical sense of a supernatural Messiah and judge of the world (xlvi. 2, xlviii. 2, lxx. 27); universal dominion and preexistence are predicated of him (xlviii. 2, lxvii. 6). He sits on God's throne (xlv. 3, li. 3), which is His own throne. Though Charles does not admit it, these passages betray Christian redaction and emendation.
Among Jews the term "son of man" was not used as the specific title of the Messiah. The New Testament expression ὅ ὑιὸς τοῦ ἀνθρόπου is a translation of the Aramaic "bar nasha," and as such could have been understood only as the substitute for a personal pronoun, or as emphasizing the human qualities of those to whom it is applied. That the term does not appear in any of the epistles ascribed to Paul is significant. Psalm viii. 5-7 is quoted in Ḥeb. ii. 6 as referring to Jesus, but outside the Gospels, Acts vii. 56 is the only verse in the New Testament in which the title is employed; and here it may be a free translation of the Aramaic for "a man," or it may have been adopted from Luke xxii. 69.
In the Gospels the title occurs eighty-one times. Most of the recent writers (among them being II. Lietzmann) have come to the conclusion that Jesus, speaking Aramaic, could never have designated himself as the "son of man" in a Messianic, mystic sense, because the Aramaic term never implied this meaning. Greek translators coined the phrase, which then led, under the influence of Dan. vii. 13 and the Logos gospel, to the theological construction of the title which is basic to the Christology of the Church. To this construction reference is made in Abbahu's controversial saying in Ta'an. 65b. Indeed, examination of many of thepassages shows that in the mouth of Jesus the term was an equivalent for the personal pronoun "I."