The Expression “Son of Man”

Jesus, the Son of Man?
The concept of the Son of Man was not known until the time of Jesus. Jesus was the first to introduce this appellation, which was an idea or an expression He used many times in His teaching. Until now however, many of us have assumed that with this expression or appellation, Jesus was referring to Himself.

However, if one were to examine the words of Jesus objectively, one would discover that He was in fact referring not to Himself but to another other than He. One would realise that in many places He referred to the Son of Man in the third person.

What we will try and do is to examine the evidence objectively and draw our conclusions from there. What is most important is for the individual to exercise his or her ability to think and also to intuitively perceive. Which is to say the individual must be able to use his or her intuition to examine these issues.

The idea of a Son of Man itself is not new, only the name is. Jesus Christ, towards the end of His ministry first introduced the name “Son of Man” as mentioned above especially when He started making predictions about the end of the world. In Matthew 24:27 we read “for as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man” thereby indicating that someone called the Son of Man will come in the future.

Conventional interpretations have assumed however that this Son of Man was Jesus and that He was referring to Himself with these predictions. In Matthew 24:44 we read further “Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” This further illustrates the idea mentioned above that a “Son of Man” indeed is to be expected. Indeed everybody expects the “Coming of the Son of Man” but most of us who care to think about the matter assume just because that is the popular opinion then this Son of Man must be Jesus.

Who however is the Son of Man? We have to look into Jesus’ words for an answer to this question. We have already seen as mentioned above that a “Son of Man” is expected because Jesus promised the coming of a “Son of Man”. Jesus also called Himself the Son of God. The question is: are the names “Son of Man” and “Son of God” interchangeable? Are these two names referring to the same person? Let us look at John 16:7 for enlightenment on this matter “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away for if i go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him to you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgement: of sin because they believe not on me; of righteousness because I go the my Father and ye see me no more; of judgement because the prince of this world is judged.”

We will first examine this statement before we move on. Jesus had indicated here that He was going and that His disciples would no longer see Him and that He would send a Comforter who would not come until and unless He (Jesus) goes. The coming of the Comforter was dependent on the going away of Jesus. He then went ahead and described the role that this Comforter would play. This Comforter will reprove the world of sin and righteousness and also of judgement. The Comforter would if we know the meaning of this word reprove rebuke or so to speak judge the world concerning righteousness and sin and obviously bring the Judgement. The Comforter therefore is concerned with judgement, with judging mankind. Therefore Jesus will send a Comforter who would reprove or judge the world concerning righteousness and sin. He went further and said that He was doing this because “they believe not in me” thereby indicating that this Comforter is different from Him.

The Comforter will be sent because the world did not believe in Jesus. He also said that “ye see me no more” which is to say that there will be no second coming of Jesus in the way that we had imagined this. The one that we should be on the look out for is this Comforter. One could feel the tone that Jesus was using here. He was obviously not happy. He was sad that His Mission did not bear the fruit that normally It should have borne. Seeing the failure of mankind, he said that He was going back to the Father but that He was not going to leave us without a helper. He was going to send another helper to us, a Comforter.

The reference that Jesus made to the Comforter refers to a specific personal fulfillment of a Mission. A mission to reprove or in some Bible interpretations convince the world of sin and righteousness and judgement. To reprove the world of sin and judgement involves a personal fulfillment which would have to be carried out by someone meant for this task which in this case is this “Comforter.” We read further in John 14:25-26 “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Jesus here has identified the Comforter as the Holy Spirit, the Counselor. We must realize here that Jesus used the pronoun he which refers to an individual who would “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Obviously to teach would involve a personal fulfillment and to bring the words of Jesus to our remembrance would also require a personal fulfillment.

It is not possible to teach and bring Jesus’ words to our remembrance without a personal fulfillment involved. Jesus spoke in the third person. He referred to the Holy Spirit as he who would carry out all these. If the Comforter then is the Holy Spirit, it can be inferred that He is the one mentioned in connection with reproving the world of sin and righteousness.

We go further to examine in John 16:13-15 “Howbeit when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear shall he speak and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me for he shall receive of mine and shall show it to you. All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, that he shall take of mine and shall show it to you.” Jesus therefore has identified the Comforter as the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit and also called Him the Counselor. And Jesus has identified the task of this Counselor as being that of teaching the world all things and also guiding us into all truth. So the Holy Spirit, the Comforter according to Jesus is a guide, a teacher and a judge. We must note again that Jesus used the pronoun he. He did not say it which indicates that the Holy Spirit is not some amorphous substance that is widely believed but a personality on its own who would fulfill all that Jesus promised that He would.

Therefore from the words of Jesus Himself, we can clearly see that the Holy Spirit or the Comforter is a personality whom Jesus has promised and whose duties Jesus had clearly outlined and defined. The widespread belief that the outpouring of the Power of the Holy Spirit at Whitsuntide which came on the disciples was the fulfillment that Jesus referred to can be disputed by the fact that that outpouring did not fulfill any of the duties that Jesus already said would be fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. It did not reprove the world of any sin or righteousness, did not bring about the judgement nor was there a new teaching that reminded us of Jesus or glorified Him.

The happening at Whitsuntide is the outpouring of Power by the Holy Spirit which is an annual event in which the Creator renews the power for the sustenance of the entire Creation. This event at Whitsuntide corresponds to an outpouring of this renewal of vital energy which energy or Power everyone is in a position to absorb for himself if open to it. The disciples, being psychically open at that time were able to absorb of this Power which gave them the impetus to accomplish all they did and fulfill their destinies. As human beings and at the present time it is perfectly possible if we open ourselves enough to receive of this Power and experience what the disciples experienced at the time.

There was therefore no personal fulfillment for mankind at Whitsuntide. That event did not fulfill the prophecy of Jesus concerning the coming of the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit whom He referred to as the Son of Man. We quote Matthew 24:27 again “For as lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even to the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” From this point onwards in the chapter, Jesus described in some detail what the conditions on earth would be like during the time of the Son of Man and also what the mission of this Son of Man would be.

Matthew 24:37-40 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. (38) For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, (39) and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. (40) Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. This clearly proves that this Son of Man is connected with the Judgment, with reproving the world of all sins and in all logic corresponds with the aforementioned attributes of the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. We have seen above that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, the Counselor and He is concerned with Judgment. But we also have Jesus here speaking about a “Son of Man” who is concerned with the same issues of judgment. If the facts are examined objectively, we would conclude that the Holy Spirit is identical with the Son of Man since they have the same characteristics and duties. These characteristics and duties should stipulate an identical personality.

Jesus had called Himself the Son of God from Matthew 16:16-17 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (17) And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. It is difficult to imagine that He could also have called Himself the Son of Man. Jesus never referred to Himself personally concerning the Judgment, He always referred to the “Spirit of Truth”, “the Counselor” or the “Son of Man” in this regard. Therefore, we have two personalities based on the words of Jesus alone: Jesus, the Son of God and the Spirit of Truth, the Counselor or the Son of Man.

We could go further however by considering the Old Testament and the Revelations and indeed other works to see whether we can be a bit more clear about the Son of Man whose characteristics must define His identity. Jesus had linked Him with the Judgment. In Isaiah 9:6-7 we read For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (7) Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore…. Isaiah has prophesied that a Child would be given to mankind whose name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor (the exact word of Jesus) and the government shall be upon his shoulders (ruler of the world) as Jesus called Him. In John 14:30 we read I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; Jesus here has clearly distinguished Himself from this ruler of this world who He referred to as the Holy Spirit., the Son of Man. Isaiah went on to say that “he shall establish his kingdom with judgement.” Clearly indicating that this “Child” that will be born will be concerned with the Judgment which is a characteristic identical with the promised Counselor or the Spirit of Truth of Jesus.

Isaiah 7:14-15 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman’u-el. (15) He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. Being able to refuse evil and choose the good indicates that this “Child” called Imanuel is concerned with judgment and bears an identical personality with the Counsellor, the Son of Man or the Spirit of Truth whose duties indicates an identical personality (the same person).

We look into the works of Virgil. In the 4th Eclogues we read from line 4: “Ours is the coming era foretold in the prophecy: Born of time, a great new cycle of centuries begins. Justice returns to earth, the Golden Age returns and its first born comes down from heaven above…..For with him shall hearts of iron cease and hearts of gold inherit the whole earth….All stains of our past wickedness being cleansed away. This child shall enter into the life of the gods, behold them walking with antique heroes, and himself be seen of them and rule a world made peaceful by his father’s virtuous acts.” Virgil here has identified that a Child would be born whose reign would be characterised by world peace and harmony. Jesus says the same. Isaiah says the same. They have all identified the characteristics of this Child. A Child concerned with righteousness and Judgment. It would be logical for us to assume that Isaiah, Jesus and Virgil spoke of the same person. Isaiah spoke of Imanuel Whose reign would be characterised by peace, Jesus spoke of the Son of Man Whose reign would be characterised by the same. Virgil predicted the birth of a Child whose reign shall bring peace. Identical characteristics must stipulate an identical personality. Hence Imanuel prophesied by Isaiah is the Son of Man, the Spirit of Truth of Jesus and the Child of Virgil.

We all in the past have assumed that the Child mentioned by Isaiah was Jesus not even noticing that the names are different and that Jesus’ roles and duties did not correspond to what Isaiah said would be the duties and roles of Imanuel. The coming Spirit of Truth was thought to have been fulfilled at Whitsuntide forgetting that Jesus had promised a personal fulfilment and that specific conditions on earth must mark the appearance of the Son of Man for example wars, famine and all kinds of tribulations which were not present at the time of the happening at Whitsuntide. The Child of Virgil has largely been ignored and the few scholars who concerned themselves with it have interpreted the prophesy in too earthly a way. They indicated that this Child may be that of Augustus, not realising that here was a prophecy of the greatest depth and importance.

In the gospels Jesus is frequently depicted as referring himself as the “Son of man.” What this label means has been the subject of a great deal of debate among theologians and biblical scholars, with no clear resolution in sight. There are many possible uses, all of which serve to complicate more than they resolve.

Depending on how one counts, references to the “Son of man” appear between 50 and 70 times in the four gospels. Their importance to Jesus’ self-identification cannot be downplayed, and since Jesus’ identity is at the heart of what the “good news” is all about, the meaning of the “Son of man” is arguably one of the most important puzzles in New Testament scholarship. That’s what makes the lack of any solution all the more curious.

The gospel texts themselves unfortunately do not provide any hints as to what Jesus meant. The gospel authors themselves didn’t seem to think that such a gloss was necessary, suggesting that they expected their audiences to already understand. If Jesus were using it in an unusual or unique manner, at least one of the gospel authors would have said something. This leads to one of two likely conclusions: either people generally knew it to be the title of the Messiah, or they knew it to mean something different.

Jesus was a Jew and there are two Jewish sources for identifying possible meanings of the title. The Hebrew ben adam appears in the Septuagint as a very generic label meaning something like “man,” “one,” “human,” or “human being.” In Ezekiel 2:1, 6, the prophet is addressed as “son of man” by an angel in a manner that implies his human weaknesses are being contrasted with divine power.

The Aramaic bar enas appears just once, in the apocalyptic book of Daniel, in reference to “one like a (son of) man.” Here the label is thought to refer to the faithful, chosen follower of God, and is contrasted against the members of other kingdoms who are more like animals. Others, though, think that the label is describing an angelic figure related to Israel. Some argue that this same figure appears to have developed into one of messianic judgment in the first book of Enoch, but it’s not clear if this development occurred before or after Jesus.

Which of the two is the most likely background of Jesus’ self-identification as the “Son of man”? This may depend upon the context in which the label appears. Most of the time when Jesus refers to himself as the Son of man, he is describing the Son of man’s fate on earth: to suffer, to be misunderstood, and ultimately to die and then rise again.

At the same time, though, there are passages where use of the label would have been appropriate yet it does not appear. Why would this be? This suggests to some that the title “Son of man” refers to Jesus’ status as the chosen leader of God’s chosen people, the messiah.

It is curious, though, that the label is also only ever used by Jesus before his crucifixion. There are no post-resurrection appearances of Jesus where he continues to describe himself as the “Son of man.” Could this suggest, then, that he wasn’t the Son of man anymore?

There is also another school of thought which argues that Jesus uses “Son of man” to describe a messianic, apocalyptic figure, but that this figure was not himself. Mark 8:38, for example, appears to create a distinction between Jesus and the Son of man: “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.” After Easter, though, a Christological faith in a risen Jesus came to blend the two.

Others have argued, contrary to the above, that “Son of man” was used by Jesus in a manner like that used in the Hebrew. When Jesus describes himself as the “Son of man,” he is saying that he just human — perhaps a generalization meaning “I” or “one.” It is also thought that this may have been a common way to humbly say that one is merely another human being like others. None of the creedal confessions about Jesus include this title. Christians have recited that Jesus is “Lord” or “Son of God, not “Son of man.”

On this view, the interpretation of an exalted “Son of man” with apocalyptic connotations was a product of how the early Christian community interpreted traditions about a resurrected man who had conquered both death and sin. Not understanding the idiomatic meanings of the Hebrew and Aramaic that were common in Galilee, especially when encountering the titles in an awkward Greek translation, early Christians created entirely new meanings based upon the presumed example of Daniel, a popular text at the time.

All of this is rather speculative, though. There exists interesting evidence for a variety of interpretations and none are unambiguously superior to the others. There are better arguments in some cases, but not enough to pretend to have a certain answer.
Jesus used the phrase “Son of Man” 88 times in the New Testament reffering to himself. The employment of the expression in the Gospels is very remarkable. It is used to designate Jesus Christ no fewer than eighty-one times — thirty times in St. Matthew, fourteen times in St. Mark, twenty-five times in St. Luke, and twelve times in St. John. Contrary to what obtains in the Septuagint, it appears everywhere with the article, as ho huios tou anthropou. Greek scholars are agreed that the correct translation of this is “the son of man”, not “the son of the man”.

According to Christians this term is used by Jesus to refer to a prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” Accordingly the expression “Son of Man” was a Messianic title according to Christian thought. Again, in their view Jesus is the One who was given dominion and glory and a kingdom. When Jesus used this phrase, He was assigning the Son of Man prophecy to Himself. (The Jews who were intimately aware of the old testament would have understood it as such, but they did not).

A second meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” is that Jesus was truly a human being. God called the prophet Ezekiel “son of man” 93 times. This is also accepted by Christians world over.

One interesting point, about this ambiguity of this phrase may be one of the reasons why it is seldom or never found in the early Greek Fathers as a title for Christ. But the most remarkable thing connected with “the Son of Man” is that it is found only in the mouth of Christ. It is never employed by the disciples or Evangelists, nor by the early Christian writers. It is found once only in Acts, where St. Stephen exclaims: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God” (7:55). The whole incident seems to suggest that it was a well-known expression of Christ’s. Though the saying was so frequently employed by Christ, the disciples preferred as a reaction to use some more honorific titles; and we do not find it at all in St. Paul nor in the other Epistles. St. Paul perhaps uses something like an equivalent when he calls Christ the second or last Adam. The writers of the Epistles, moreover, probably wished to avoid the Greek ambiguity just alluded to.

The ambiguity being referred to here is that the phrase “Son of God” does not seem to give Jesus a very high position. We will delve more into this more later.

The early Fathers were of the opinion that the expression was used out of humility and to show Christ’s human nature, and this is very probable considering the early rise of Docetism. This is also the opinion of Cornelius a Lapide. Others, such as Knabenbauer, think that He adopted a title which would not give umbrage to His enemies, and which, as time went on, was capable of being applied so as to cover His Messianic claims — to include everything that had been foretold of the representative man, the second Adam, the suffering servant of Jehovah, the Messianic king.

The expression is Christ’s, in spite of the futile attempts of some German Rationalists and others to show that He could not have used it. It was not invented by the writers of the Gospels to whom it did not appear to be a favorite title, as they never use it of Christ themselves. It was not derived by them from what is asserted was a false interpretation of Daniel, because it appears in the early portions of the public ministry where there is no reference to Daniel. The objection that Christ could not have used it in Aramaic because the only similar expression was bar-nasha, which then meant only “man” — bar having by that time lost its meaning of “son” — is not of much weight according to some scholars. However, the follow problem does exist:-

In Aramaic Bar-Enash is a synonym of Bar-Nasha with a bit of highbrow touch, like English “human” (noun) is synonym of “man”. However, when translated into hebrew ben-adam” does not even have the etymology of “Son of Man”, but that of “Son of Soil”. “Adama” means in Hebrew “soil”, which explains the name of the “First Man” being “Adam”.)

Only little is known of the Aramaic spoken in Palestine in the time of Christ and as Drummond points out special meaning could be given to the word by the emphasis with which it was pronounced, even if bar-nasha had lost its primary meaning in Palestine, which is not at all proved. As the same writer shows, there were other expressions in Aramaic which Christ could have employed for the purpose, and Sanday suggests that He may have occasionally spoken in Greek.

In the course of the many discussions of this term, it has been suggested that Jesus was not referring to himself at all by this title and that it was attributed to him by the post-resurrection Church. However, the lack of its use outside the gospels suggests that it was avoided because it was regarded as sacred to the utterances of Jesus himself. Other scholars have distinguished those sayings which refer to Jesus’ present life and imminent death from the sayings which anticipate the future Kingdom and the place of the Son of Man in it. Most German scholars take the view that ‘Son of Man’ could only have the latter, apocalyptic, significance; it was part of Jesus’ expectations of the future. Sayings which do not fall into this category are creations of the Church. Yet another view, increasingly accepted, is that Jesus did use the term and did mean himself by it, but that it was an elusive, round about, deliberately enigmatic way of saying: ‘I, being the man I am’. Matt. certainly intends ‘Son of Man’ to mean ‘Jesus’ for he sometimes substitutes ‘I’ for ‘Son of Man’ (Matt. 10: 32 for Mark 8: 38). Some scholars view maintains the authenticity of the ‘present’ sayings, while allowing that the apocalyptic sayings affirming the future glorification of the Son of Man may be creations of the Church as part of mainstream Christian interpretation. (W. R. F. BROWNING. “Son of Man.” A Dictionary of the Bible. 1997. Encyclopedia.com. 1 Apr. 2010 )

The concept of the Son of Man was not known until the time of Jesus. Jesus was the first to introduce this appellation, which was an idea or an expression He used many times in His teaching. Until now however, many of us have assumed that with this expression or appellation, Jesus was referring to Himself.

However, if one were to examine the words of Jesus objectively, one would discover that He was in fact referring not to Himself but to another other than He. One would realise that in many places He referred to the Son of Man in the third person.

What we will try and do is to examine the evidence objectively and draw our conclusions from there. What is most important is for the individual to exercise his or her ability to think and also to intuitively perceive. Which is to say the individual must be able to use his or her intuition to examine these issues.

The idea of a Son of Man itself is not new, only the name is. Jesus Christ, towards the end of His ministry first introduced the name “Son of Man” as mentioned above especially when He started making predictions about the end of the world. In Matthew 24:27 we read “for as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man” thereby indicating that someone called the Son of Man will come in the future.

Conventional interpretations have assumed however that this Son of Man was Jesus and that He was referring to Himself with these predictions. In Matthew 24:44 we read further “Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” This further illustrates the idea mentioned above that a “Son of Man” indeed is to be expected. Indeed everybody expects the “Coming of the Son of Man” but most of us who care to think about the matter assume just because that is the popular opinion then this Son of Man must be Jesus.

Who however is the Son of Man? We have to look into Jesus’ words for an answer to this question. We have already seen as mentioned above that a “Son of Man” is expected because Jesus promised the coming of a “Son of Man”. Jesus also called Himself the Son of God. The question is: are the names “Son of Man” and “Son of God” interchangeable? Are these two names referring to the same person? Let us look at John 16:7 for enlightenment on this matter “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away for if i go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him to you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgement: of sin because they believe not on me; of righteousness because I go the my Father and ye see me no more; of judgement because the prince of this world is judged.”

We will first examine this statement before we move on. Jesus had indicated here that He was going and that His disciples would no longer see Him and that He would send a Comforter who would not come until and unless He (Jesus) goes. The coming of the Comforter was dependent on the going away of Jesus. He then went ahead and described the role that this Comforter would play. This Comforter will reprove the world of sin and righteousness and also of judgement. The Comforter would if we know the meaning of this word reprove rebuke or so to speak judge the world concerning righteousness and sin and obviously bring the Judgement. The Comforter therefore is concerned with judgement, with judging mankind. Therefore Jesus will send a Comforter who would reprove or judge the world concerning righteousness and sin. He went further and said that He was doing this because “they believe not in me” thereby indicating that this Comforter is different from Him.

The Comforter will be sent because the world did not believe in Jesus. He also said that “ye see me no more” which is to say that there will be no second coming of Jesus in the way that we had imagined this. The one that we should be on the look out for is this Comforter. One could feel the tone that Jesus was using here. He was obviously not happy. He was sad that His Mission did not bear the fruit that normally It should have borne. Seeing the failure of mankind, he said that He was going back to the Father but that He was not going to leave us without a helper. He was going to send another helper to us, a Comforter.

The reference that Jesus made to the Comforter refers to a specific personal fulfillment of a Mission. A mission to reprove or in some Bible interpretations convince the world of sin and righteousness and judgement. To reprove the world of sin and judgement involves a personal fulfillment which would have to be carried out by someone meant for this task which in this case is this “Comforter.” We read further in John 14:25-26 “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Jesus here has identified the Comforter as the Holy Spirit, the Counselor. We must realize here that Jesus used the pronoun he which refers to an individual who would “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Obviously to teach would involve a personal fulfillment and to bring the words of Jesus to our remembrance would also require a personal fulfillment.

It is not possible to teach and bring Jesus’ words to our remembrance without a personal fulfillment involved. Jesus spoke in the third person. He referred to the Holy Spirit as he who would carry out all these. If the Comforter then is the Holy Spirit, it can be inferred that He is the one mentioned in connection with reproving the world of sin and righteousness.

We go further to examine in John 16:13-15 “Howbeit when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear shall he speak and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me for he shall receive of mine and shall show it to you. All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, that he shall take of mine and shall show it to you.” Jesus therefore has identified the Comforter as the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit and also called Him the Counselor. And Jesus has identified the task of this Counselor as being that of teaching the world all things and also guiding us into all truth. So the Holy Spirit, the Comforter according to Jesus is a guide, a teacher and a judge. We must note again that Jesus used the pronoun he. He did not say it which indicates that the Holy Spirit is not some amorphous substance that is widely believed but a personality on its own who would fulfill all that Jesus promised that He would.

Therefore from the words of Jesus Himself, we can clearly see that the Holy Spirit or the Comforter is a personality whom Jesus has promised and whose duties Jesus had clearly outlined and defined. The widespread belief that the outpouring of the Power of the Holy Spirit at Whitsuntide which came on the disciples was the fulfillment that Jesus referred to can be disputed by the fact that that outpouring did not fulfill any of the duties that Jesus already said would be fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. It did not reprove the world of any sin or righteousness, did not bring about the judgement nor was there a new teaching that reminded us of Jesus or glorified Him.

The happening at Whitsuntide is the outpouring of Power by the Holy Spirit which is an annual event in which the Creator renews the power for the sustenance of the entire Creation. This event at Whitsuntide corresponds to an outpouring of this renewal of vital energy which energy or Power everyone is in a position to absorb for himself if open to it. The disciples, being psychically open at that time were able to absorb of this Power which gave them the impetus to accomplish all they did and fulfill their destinies. As human beings and at the present time it is perfectly possible if we open ourselves enough to receive of this Power and experience what the disciples experienced at the time.

There was therefore no personal fulfillment for mankind at Whitsuntide. That event did not fulfill the prophecy of Jesus concerning the coming of the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit whom He referred to as the Son of Man. We quote Matthew 24:27 again “For as lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even to the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” From this point onwards in the chapter, Jesus described in some detail what the conditions on earth would be like during the time of the Son of Man and also what the mission of this Son of Man would be.

Matthew 24:37-40 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. (38) For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, (39) and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. (40) Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. This clearly proves that this Son of Man is connected with the Judgment, with reproving the world of all sins and in all logic corresponds with the aforementioned attributes of the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. We have seen above that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, the Counselor and He is concerned with Judgment. But we also have Jesus here speaking about a “Son of Man” who is concerned with the same issues of judgment. If the facts are examined objectively, we would conclude that the Holy Spirit is identical with the Son of Man since they have the same characteristics and duties. These characteristics and duties should stipulate an identical personality.

Jesus had called Himself the Son of God from Matthew 16:16-17 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (17) And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. It is difficult to imagine that He could also have called Himself the Son of Man. Jesus never referred to Himself personally concerning the Judgment, He always referred to the “Spirit of Truth”, “the Counselor” or the “Son of Man” in this regard. Therefore, we have two personalities based on the words of Jesus alone: Jesus, the Son of God and the Spirit of Truth, the Counselor or the Son of Man.

We could go further however by considering the Old Testament and the Revelations and indeed other works to see whether we can be a bit more clear about the Son of Man whose characteristics must define His identity. Jesus had linked Him with the Judgment. In Isaiah 9:6-7 we read For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (7) Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore…. Isaiah has prophesied that a Child would be given to mankind whose name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor (the exact word of Jesus) and the government shall be upon his shoulders (ruler of the world) as Jesus called Him. In John 14:30 we read I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; Jesus here has clearly distinguished Himself from this ruler of this world who He referred to as the Holy Spirit., the Son of Man. Isaiah went on to say that “he shall establish his kingdom with judgement.” Clearly indicating that this “Child” that will be born will be concerned with the Judgment which is a characteristic identical with the promised Counselor or the Spirit of Truth of Jesus.

Isaiah 7:14-15 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman’u-el. (15) He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. Being able to refuse evil and choose the good indicates that this “Child” called Imanuel is concerned with judgment and bears an identical personality with the Counsellor, the Son of Man or the Spirit of Truth whose duties indicates an identical personality (the same person).

We look into the works of Virgil. In the 4th Eclogues we read from line 4: “Ours is the coming era foretold in the prophecy: Born of time, a great new cycle of centuries begins. Justice returns to earth, the Golden Age returns and its first born comes down from heaven above…..For with him shall hearts of iron cease and hearts of gold inherit the whole earth….All stains of our past wickedness being cleansed away. This child shall enter into the life of the gods, behold them walking with antique heroes, and himself be seen of them and rule a world made peaceful by his father’s virtuous acts.” Virgil here has identified that a Child would be born whose reign would be characterised by world peace and harmony. Jesus says the same. Isaiah says the same. They have all identified the characteristics of this Child. A Child concerned with righteousness and Judgment. It would be logical for us to assume that Isaiah, Jesus and Virgil spoke of the same person. Isaiah spoke of Imanuel Whose reign would be characterised by peace, Jesus spoke of the Son of Man Whose reign would be characterised by the same. Virgil predicted the birth of a Child whose reign shall bring peace. Identical characteristics must stipulate an identical personality. Hence Imanuel prophesied by Isaiah is the Son of Man, the Spirit of Truth of Jesus and the Child of Virgil.

We all in the past have assumed that the Child mentioned by Isaiah was Jesus not even noticing that the names are different and that Jesus’ roles and duties did not correspond to what Isaiah said would be the duties and roles of Imanuel. The coming Spirit of Truth was thought to have been fulfilled at Whitsuntide forgetting that Jesus had promised a personal fulfilment and that specific conditions on earth must mark the appearance of the Son of Man for example wars, famine and all kinds of tribulations which were not present at the time of the happening at Whitsuntide. The Child of Virgil has largely been ignored and the few scholars who concerned themselves with it have interpreted the prophesy in too earthly a way. They indicated that this Child may be that of Augustus, not realising that here was a prophecy of the greatest depth and importance.

THE TERM “SON OF GOD” IN THE LIGHT OF
OLD TESTAMENT IDIOM
S. HERBERT BESS
Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament
Grace Theological Seminary
The Second Person of the Trinity is frequently referred to in the New Testament
as the Son of God (Luke 1:35; John 1:34; 3:18; Acts 9:20; Romans 1:4; et passim). In
developing a statement of the doctrine of the Trinity, the early church encountered a
problem arising from the use of the word “son.” Early church fathers stressed the word
logos, but when attention, shifted more to the term “son,” the problem became more
acute. The difficulty stems from a too-literal interpretation of the word “son,” and from
assuming that the expression refers to origin or to generation, rather than to relationship;
from understanding the word too much on the analogy of human experience and therefore
supposing the existence of a Father who existed, prior to the Son.
Church leaders of the third and fourth centuries composed a doctrine of the
Trinity and a statement on the nature of Christ which took account of the problem and
sought to deal with the word “son” in such a way as to do justice to the deity of Christ as
well as to his human nature. This was not done without many conferences and councils,
nor without many restatements of doctrine so as to correct heretical views or distortions
occasioned by too great a stress on one factor to the neglect of some other. A satisfactory
formulation was arrived at finally at the Council of Nicea in 325 A. D., after a long
history of discussion and controversy.
The Alexandrian scholar, Origen, had in the preceding century contributed to the
formulation of the doctrine when he discussed what he termed the eternal generation of
the Son. He did not mean by the term, however, exactly what the Nicene theologians later
meant by it. For while Origen used the term eternal generation, he nonetheless taught
that Christ was less than God the Father in respect to essence. He maintained that the Son
did not participate in the self-subsistent substance of the deity, and he should not be
thought of as consubstantial (huomoousios) with the Father.1 Origen’s inadequate and
unfortunate definition of the Sonship of Christ laid the groundwork for the heretical
views of Arius and his followers on the nature of Christ. Their heresy is being
perpetuated today by the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Nicene Council in clarifying the doctrine of eternal generation adopted the
statement that “the Son is begotten out of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of
Light, very God of very God, begotten not created, consubstantial with the Father
(homoousion toi patri).”2 Exposition of this position and controversy over it proceeded
for years following, but the statement stood as the orthodox view on the nature of Christ.
16
THE TERM “SON OF GOD” IN THE LIGHT OF OLD TESTAMENT IDIOM 17
It is not my intention to try to improve on the statement. Rather, I intend to show
that the idiomatic usage of the word “son” in the Old Testament supports the above
statement and sheds light on it. I believe that such a study will show how Jesus is
properly called the Son of God, the term not implying anything about his origin, or that
he had an origin. For we must admit that such an expression as “the eternal generation of
the Son” is a highly sophisticated concept quite difficult for some professed theologians,
to say nothing of the laity. I suggest that an inductive study of the idiomatic use of “son”
will make it easier to explain how Jesus is the Son of God, while avoiding the heretical
idea that he ever had a beginning.
The word “son” is used in the Old Testament so frequently as to discourage the
effort to count the occurrences. In the overwhelming majority of cases it is used in
the literal sense of offspring or descendant. In a significant number of cases, however, the
word “son” is used in the non-literal sense, indicating a person’s profession, his status or
circumstance, or his character. Following are some examples of this usage, the number of
them being more than sufficient to demonstrate the point, but employed to show how
common was this usage among the Israelites.
I. Showing membership in a profession or a guild
1. Sons of the prophets (bene-hannebi’im, 1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 2:3 ff.) refer to
men belonging to a prophetic band. Likewise, Amos’ assertion (Amos 7:14)
that he had not been a prophet or the son of a prophet meant that he had not
been a member of such a professional group, but God called him to the
prophetic office while he was pursuing another line of work.
2. Sons of oil (bene hayyishar, Zech. 4:14) are ones anointed with oil, in this case
members holding the priestly office.
3. Son of the perfumers (ben-haraqqahim, Neh. 3:8), a member of the perfumers’
trade.
4. Son of the goldsmiths (ben-haraqqahi, Neh. 3:31), a goldsmith.
5. Sons of the gate-keepers (Ezra 2:42) are simply gate-keepers.
6. Sons of the troop (2 Chron. 25: 13) are men of the army.
Non-biblical texts from ancient times make use of the word in the same idiomatic way.
The Code of Hammur’abi, para. 188, uses the expression “son of an artisan” to refer to a
member of the artisan class.3
II. Showing participation in a state or condition
1. Sons of the exile (bene haggolah, Ezra 4:1; 6:19; etc.) were Jews who had
lived in exile but were now returned to the homeland. The expression is
equivalent to exiles.
2. Son of a foreign country (ben-nekar, Gen. 17:12, 27; Exod. 12:43) is a
foreigner. The term is translated “stranger” in the KJV.
3. Sons of pledges (2 Kings 14:14) are hostages, and the term is so translated in
KJV.
4. Sons of affliction (Prov. 31:5) are afflicted ones.
5. Sons of passing away (bene halop, Prov. 31:8), are orphans. The KJV failed to
catch the sense of this construction.
6. Son, or sons, of death (1 Sam. 20:31, Psa. 79:11) refer to those who are
condemned to die.
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Again, the Code of Hammurabi gives us an example of the non-biblical usage of this
idiom. Paragraph 196 refers to the son of a free man and the son of a slave. The
expressions may be translated properly as a member of the aristocracy and a member of
the slave class.4
III. Showing a certain character
1. Son of valor (ben-hayil, 1 Sam. 14:52) is simply a brave man.
expression “valiant man.”
2. Son of wise ones (Isa. 19:11) refers to one of the wise men.
3. Sons of rebellion (Num. 17:25; 17:10 in English Bible) is properly translated in
KJV “rebels.”
4. Son, or sons, of wickedness (Psa. 89:23; 2 Sam. 3:34; 7:10) are wicked people.
5. Son of murder (2 Kings 6:32) denotes a murderer.
6. Sons of foolishness (Job 30:8) refer to senseless people.
7. Sons of no name (Job 30:8), translated in KJV as “children of base men, ”
means a dis-reputable brood.
8. Son of smiting (Deut. 25:2) signifies a person who deserves to be beaten.
9. Son, or sons, of worthlessness (1 Sam. 25:17; Deut. 13:14, English Bible, v. 13)
be translated “worthless fellow,” or “base fellow.” The KJV has virtually left
the term untranslated when rendering it “son of Belial. ”
10. Sons of tumult (Jer. 48:45) are tumultuous people.
IV. Possessing a certain nature
The expression “son of man” clearly exhibits the use of the word “son” to show
the possession of a certain nature. Numbers 23:19 reads: “God is not a man, that he
should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. . . .” This part of the verse might
be paraphrased as follows: “God is not like a man, who frequently lies; nor does he
possess the nature of man, who by reason of his own limitations must often change his
mind.” In Psa. 8:4 (Hebrew, 5) man and son of man are put in parallel to each other and
obviously are used as synonyms. The same is true in Psa. 80:17 (18), and in Job 25:6 and
35:8. In Job 16:21 the phrase “son of man” is translated simply as “man” in the KJV. The
term “son of man” is used frequently in Ezekiel as addressed to the prophet (Ezek. 2:1, 3;
3:1, 3, 4, 10; 4:16; etc.) and means something like “O man,” or “mortal man.” The term
puts the emphasis on the nature of man.
All the examples in the above categories show that we are being consistent with a
well established usage of an Old Testament idiom when we maintain that the expression
“Son of God,” when applied to Jesus Christ, means possessing the nature of, displaying
the qualities of, God. By comparison with Old Testament usage, the term need not refer
to his origin.
Some may object that the New Testament was not written in the language of the
Old Testament, and that therefore the above examples do not really apply. The obvious
answer is Old Testament thought patterns and Old Testament idioms abound in the New
Testament, in
THE TERM “SON OF GOD” IN THE LIGHT OF OLD TESTAMENT IDIOM 19
spite of the difference in language. This is certainly true of the idiom in question. Below
is a table of some of the New Testament examples of the non-literal use of the word
“son.”
Barnabas (Acts 4:36) was so named because the word literally means “son
of consolation.” He was called that because he was a consoling person.
Sons of thunder was the appellative applied by Jesus to James and John
(Mark 3:17) because it signified something outstanding about their character.
Son of peace (Luke 10:6) refers to a peaceful person.
Sons of Abraham (Gal. 3:7) are those like him in the exercise of faith.
Sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2) are those characterized by disobedience.
Son of perdition (John 17:12; 2 Thess. 2:3) is the lost one.
It is clear from the above that the New Testament uses the idiom in the same way
as the Old Testament, especially when indicating nature or character. We are not
misguided then, in applying this connotation to “son” in the term “Son of God.”
Since we are dealing then with a Semitic idiom, we can test ourselves for
accuracy in the understanding of it as applied to Christ, by observing how the Jews
responded or reacted when Jesus taught concerning his relation as Son to the Father.
They understood that when Jesus said God was his Father he was making himself equal
with God and sought to kill him for it (John 5:18). At another time when Jesus spoke
concerning the Father and Son relationship they accused him of blasphemy and would
have stoned him, because with such terminology Jesus made himself God (John 10:28-
36). Now the enemies of Jesus did not respond this way because they misunderstood his
terminology, but because they understood him perfectly well. They knew that when Jesus
said he was the Son of God he was claiming to be of the nature of God and equal with
God. It was on this basis that they demanded his death in the trial before his crucifixion
(John 19:7; Luke 22:70; Mark 14:61-64). We are to understand the expression “Son of
God” when applied to Jesus just as his enemies did.
If the term “Son of God” when applied to Jesus is to be taken in the sense not
strictly literal, that is to say, if the term when applied to him does not allow for any
thought of his having been brought into existence, of his beginning, then certain terms
will have to be dealt with which might imply the contrary. I refer to “firstborn,” “only
begotten,” and “begotten.”
The Term “Firstborn”
The word “firstborn” is employed in reference to Christ in five places in the New
Testament (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15,18; Rev. 1:5; Heb. 1:6). Most theologians
rightly understand that the word refers to rank rather than origin. He is first rank
in the whole creation, first rank in the inhabited world, first rank among the
resurrected, and first rank among the glorified.
20 GRACE JOURNAL
None is comparable to him.
This meaning can be illustrated from the Old Testament. In the economy of
Ancient Israel the eldest son was given preferential treatment. He assumed more
responsibility than the others, and was rewarded with honor and given two shares
in the family inheritance instead of the single share that each of his younger brothers
received. Occasionally, however, the eldest son fell out of favor with his father and was
replaced in the favored position by a younger brother. Some examples of this are:
Joseph, who replaced Reuben (Gen. 4:3, cf. 1 Chron. 5:1,2)
Ephraim, who replaced Manasseh (Gen. 48:13-20)
Jacob, who replaced Esau (Gen. 27)
Solomon, who replaced Adonijah (1 Kings 1:5-53)
Examples can also be adduced from the cuneiform documents from Mesopotamia,
particularly from Nuzi.5
In such cases as the above the younger became the firstborn, i. e., he attained to
first rank. The term will not confuse us if we remember that in the Old Testament it was
not always the one born first who became the firstborn. The word is used in this sense of
the nation of Israel. Although among the nations of the ancient Near East Israel arrived
upon the scene much later than others, God elevated the new nation to the place of the
most favored. Therefore He said: “Israel is my son, even my firstborn” (Exod. 4:22).
Therefore, in the light of Old Testament usage, when the term “firstborn” is applied to
Christ it means that he rightly deserves the preferential share in honor and inheritance; it
does not refer to his origin.
The Term “Only Begotten”
The word translated “only begotten” (monogenes) is used nine times in the New
Testament. It is used in reference to a certain widow’s son (Luke 7:2), to Jairus’
only daughter (Luke 8:42), and to another only child (Luke 9:38). It is used five
times in reference to Christ (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9), and once in
referring back to an Old Testament character (Heb. 11:17).
The Greek translations of the Old Testament (Septuagint, Aquila, Symmachus)
also employ the word nine times, each time translating a form of the Hebrew word yahid.
Each one these occurrences refers to an only child, seven of them to an only child in the
ordinary sense. But twice the term is used of Isaac the son of Abraham (Gen. 22:2,
Aquila; 22:12, Symmachus and these occurrences are particularly instructive.
Isaac was called Abraham’s only son (yahid, monogenes), although Abraham had
father another male child who was still living. However, the other male offspring,
Ishmael, never at any time enjoyed the status of son, as Isaac did. The Code of
Hammurabi illuminates this
THE TERM “SON OF GOD” IN THE LIGHT OF OLD TESTAMENT IDIOM 21
point. Paragraphs 170, 171 show that a man’s offspring by a slave Woman were not
ordinarily given the rights which belonged to the sons borne of his wife. Only if the
father in the course of his lifetime had said to the male offspring of his slave woman (in a
public and official manner), “Thou art my son,” was the slave woman’s offspring treated
as a real son of the father. If the father had made such a declaration, then the slave
woman’s offspring was counted among the sons and given an equal share in the
inheritance of the father’s estate. If no such declaration was made, the offspring of the
slave woman were given gifts and separated from the household before the inheritance
was divided.
Abraham was evidently at one time eager to legitimize the child of his slave
woman and count him as a son and heir. At the incredible announcement that his
own wife Sarah would bare a son, he said: “O that Ishmael might live before thee”
(Gen. 17:18). But God did not look with favor upon this, and in due course of time, after
Sarah gave birth to Isaac, Ishmael was expelled from the household. “Cast out this
bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son,
even with Isaac” (Gen. 21:10; Gal. 4:30). Isaac remained Abraham’s only son in the legal
sense. Though Abraham had several other offspring (Gen. 25:1-4), he had only one son in
the unique sense, and to him he gave his entire inheritance (Gen. 25:5, 6). Isaac was his
unique son, and when the New Testament refers to Isaac (Heb. 11:17), it calls him his
only begotten (monogenes).
It is clear from the above that the expression “only begotten” refers to status. It is
certainly used this way of Christ. He has status as the unique Son of the Father.
The term does not signify that He had a beginning, and the consistent testimony
of Scripture is to the contrary; He was and is eternally God’s unique Son.
The Term “Begotten”
Psalm 2:7, in a passage that traditionally has been treated as Messianic, reads:
“. . . Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” The verse is quoted and applied to
Christ three times in the New Testament (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5, 5:5), thus introducing the
word “begotten” into the doctrine of Christ.
The verb translated “begotten” is used a great number of times in the Old
Testament both in the simple (qal) and in the causative (hiphil) conjugations in the
ordinary sense of to generate, or to beget, just as anyone familiar with the content of the
Old Testament would expect. It appears twenty-eight times in the fifth chapter of Genesis
alone in this ordinary sense. As the verb appears in Psa. 2:7, it is pointed by the
Massoretes as from the simple (qal) conjugation, and is so understood by Gesenius-
Kautzsch-Cowley,6 by Brown, Driver and Briggs, by Franz Delitzsch, and others.
There is no compelling reason, however, why one may not take this verb to be in
the causative (hiphil) conjugation. No consonantal changes would be required to so
understand it. The causative conjugation is more natural in this context moreover, since
its function is not only causative, but declarative. I will show below the necessity of
seeing the force of this verb
22 GRACE JOURNAL
to be declarative. That the causative (hiphil) conjugation sometimes functions as
is demonstrated from the following examples:
hisdiq, which means to declare righteous or justify, as in Exod. 23:7;
Deut. 25:1; and elsewhere.
hirsira’, which means to declare guilty, or condemn, as in Deut. 25:1;
Exod. 22:8 (English, v. 9); Job 9:20; and elsewhere.
he’eqis, which in Job 9:20 means to declare perverse.
Taking the verb in Psa. 2:7 to be declarative, i.e., hiphil, that verse may be
translated as follows: “. . . Thou art my Son; this day have I declared thy sonship.” To
understand the verb as declarative removes from it, of course, any necessary reference to
beginnings.
Whether one takes the verb translated “begotten” in Psa. 2:7 as hiphi1 or as some
other grammatical form, its meaning in that verse must have to do with the declaration of
sonship. This assertion is supported by four arguments from Scripture:
(1) The argument from parallelism. It is of the nature of Hebrew poetry to phrase
itself in parallels. The parallel exhibited in Psa. 2:7 is of the type called synonymous
parallelism. In such the idea expressed in the first clause is repeated in the second clause
with different vocabulary. In Psa. 2:7 the clause “Thou art my Son” is matched by the
clause “this day have I declared thy sonship,” which repeats the same idea.
(2) The presence of the phrase “this day” (hayyom). The day referred to is the day
of the declaration the decree,–the decree which announces the coronation of the king (cf.
v. 6). The coronation day could certainly not be the day of the king’s generation, but it
certainly would be a day in which the proclamation of his sonship would be in order!
(3) The fact that the New Testament quotes this verse as a prediction of the
resurrection. Acts 13:33, 34 refers the words in question, “this day have I begotten thee,”
not to the incarnation, but to the resurrection of Christ. That being so, the action of that
clause must be declarative, for it is the resurrection which declares to all the world that
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. As it is stated in Rom. 1:3, 4: “Concerning his Son Jesus
Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and
declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the
resurrection from the dead.”
(4) The content of the following verse (Psa. 2:8) requires such an interpretation.
Verse 8 has to do with the inheritance rights of the Son, who is to have the nations for his
inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. Now it has been shown
above that formal recognition of sonship was a prerequisite of heirship. The Son of God,
whose sonship has been publicly declared by means of the resurrection, is constituted the
proper heir to the nations of this world.
The fifth chapter of the Revelation depicts in a vision the Son’s acceptance of his
heirship, offered to him in Psa. 2:8. There one beholds the Lamb that was slain (and
thereafter resurrected) step forward and receive that seven-sealed book, the inheritance
document of the
THE TERM “SON OF GOD” IN THE LIGHT OF OLD TESTAMENT IDIOM 23
nations, and thus assume heirship of the world. When this vision shall have become a
reality, then shall it be said, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our
Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).
The above arguments show that the verb translated “begotten” in Psa. 2:7 does not
refer to generation. The terms “firstborn,” “only begotten, ” and “begotten, ” as used in
the Old and New Testaments concerning Jesus Christ, do not contradict, but are in
harmony with, what it has been written concerning the meaning of the word “son” as
applied to him. The terms “son,” “firstborn,” “only begotten,” and “begotten,” as defined
by the Bible’s own use of them, all declare that Jesus is the uncreated, ungenerated, coeternal,
co-equal Son of God the Father.
DOCUMENTATION
1. William G. T. Shedd, A History of Christian Doctrine (New York: Charles Scribner
and Co., 1871), I, 294.
2. Ibid. ct. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (New York: Harper and Brothers,
6th 1931), I, 29.
3. Conveniently consulted in English translation in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating
to the Old Testament, ed. by James B. Pritchard, 2nd ed. (Princeton University
Press, Princeton, N. J., 1955), p. 174.
4. Ibid., p. 175.
5. Collected in the author’s unpublished (except by microfilm) doctoral dissertation,
Systems of Land Tenure in Ancient Israel (University of Michigan, 1963), pp. 26-
35.
6. Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, ed. by E. Kautzsch (28th German ed.), trans. by A. E.
Cowley, 2nd English ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1910), p. 120.
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
Grace Theological Seminary
200 Seminary Dr.
Winona Lake, IN 46590
www.grace.edu
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: thildebrandt@gordon.edu

In the Old Testament “son of man” is always translated in the Septuagint without the
article as .

It is employed (1) as a poetical synonym for man, or for the ideal man, e. g. “God is not
as a man, that he should lie nor as a son of man, that he should be changed” (Num.,
xxiii, 19). “Blessed is the man that doth this and the son of man that shall lay hold on
this” (Is., ivi, 2). “Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand: and upon the son of
man whom thou hast confirmed for thyself” (Ps. ixxix, 18).

(2) The Prophet Ezechiel is addressed by God as “son of man more than ninety times, e.
g. “Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak to thee” (Ezech., ii, 1). This usage
is confined to Ezechiel except one passage in Daniel, where Gabriel said: “Understand,
O son of man, for in the time of the end the vision shall be fulfilled” (Dan., viii, 17).
(3) In the great vision of Daniel after the appearance of the four beasts, we read: “I
beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like a son of man came with the
clouds of heaven, and he came even to the Ancient of days: and they presented him
before him. And he gave him power, and glory, and a kingdom: and all peoples,
tribes, and tongues shall serve him: his power is an everlasting power that shall not be
taken away: and his kingdom shall not be destroyed” (vii, 13 sq.). The person who
appears here as son of man is interpreted by many non-Catholics as representing the
Messianic kingdom, but there is no thing to prevent the passage from being taken to
represent not only the Messianic kingdom, but the Messianic king. In
the explanation, verse 17, the four beasts are “four kings” R.V., not “four kingdoms” as
translated by D. V., though they appear to signify four kingdoms as well for the
characteristics of oriental kingdoms were identified with the characters of their kings.
So when it is said in verse 18: “But the saints of the most high God shall take the
kingdom: and they shall possess the kingdom for ever and ever”, the king is no more
excluded here than in the case of the four beasts. The “son of man” here was early
interpreted of the Messias, in the Book of Henoch, where the expression is used almost
as a Messianic title, though there is a good deal in Drummond’s argument that even
here it was not used as a Messianic title notwithstanding the fact that it was understood
of the Messias. It has to be added that in the time of Christ it was not very widely, if at
all, known as a Messianic title.

The employment of the expression in the Gospels is very remarkable. It is used to
designate Jesus Christ no fewer than eighty-one times — thirty times in St. Matthew,
fourteen times in St. Mark, twenty-five times in St. Luke, and twelve times in St. John.
Contrary to what obtains in the Septuagint, it appears everywhere with the article, as
. Greek scholars are agreed that the correct translation of this
is “the son of man”, not “the son of the man”. The possible ambiguity may be one of the
reasons why it is seldom or never found in the early Greek Fathers as a title for Christ.
But the most remarkable thing connected with “the Son of Man” is that it is found only
in the mouth of Christ. It is never employed by the disciples or Evangelists, nor by the
early Christian writers. It is found once only in Acts, where St. Stephen exclaims:
“Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of
God” (vii, 55). The whole incident proves that it was a well-known expression of
Christ’s. Though the saying was so frequently employed by Christ, the disciples
preferred some more honorific title and we do not find it at all in St. Paul nor in the
other Epistles. St. Paul perhaps uses something like an equivalent when he calls Christ
the second or last Adam. The writers of the Epistles, moreover, probably wished to
avoid the Greek ambiguity just alluded to.

The expression is Christ’s, in spite of the futile attempts of some German Rationalist
and others to show that He could not have used it. It was not invented by the writers
of the Gospels to whom it did not appear to be a favourite title, as they never use it of
Christ themselves. lt was not derived by them from what is asserted was a false
interpretation of Daniel, because it appears in the early portions of the public ministry
where there is no reference to Daniel. The objection that Christ could not have used it
in Aramaic because the only similar expression was , which then meant
only “man” bar having by that time lost its meaning of “son”, is not of much weight.
Only little is known of the Aramaic spoken in Palestine in the time of Christ and as
Drummond points out special meaning could be given to the word by the emphasis
with which it was pronounced, even if bar-nasha had lost its primary meaning in
Palestine, which is not at all proved. As the same writer shows, there were other
expressions in Aramaic which Christ could have employed for the purpose, and
Sanday suggests that He may have occasionally spoken in Greek. The early Fathers
were of the opinion that the expression was used out of humility and to show Christ’s
human nature, and this is very probable considering the early rise of Docetism. This is
also the opinion of Cornelius a Lapide. Others, such as Knabenbauer, think that He
adopted a title which would not give umbrage to His enemies, and which, as time went
on, was capable of being applied so as to cover His Mesianic claims–to include
everything that had been foretold of the representative man, the second Adam, the
suffering servant of Jehovah, the Messianic king.

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