Is “Son of Man” in the Gospels a mere idiom for “I”, the speaker?

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Have recent posts here about two “son of man” sayings of Jesus missed their mark (claiming to be references to Daniel 7) if the term “son of man” was simply a common way for a speaker to refer to himself?
Vermes argued that, in addition to being a normal term for “man”, the Aramaic bar nasha, “son of man”, was also a conventional substitute for the first person pronoun, “I”. — Casey, 1991:48

Casey a few years later drew a similar conclusion:

[A]s we try to recover the original force of sayings of Jesus which used this idiom . . . [w]e must go back to the term ‘son of man’ being bar (e)nāsh(ā), an ordinary Aramaic term for ‘man’, used in an idiomatic way in a general statement which refers particularly to the speaker with or without other people. — Casey, 2010:361

With the author’s permission I am posting a few pages (355-358/9) of The Sovereignty of the Son of Man: Reading Mark 2, an article freely available online on Daniel Boyarin’s academia.edu page.

I have bolded key thought changes and background coloured examples to (hopefully) assist with easier reading. I have also kept the original page breaks with in-place footnotes.

A Read Herring: “The Son of Man” as Periphrasis for “I”

In order, however, to proceed into my own inquiry into the evidence of Mark for the “Son of Man” in early Judaism, I must first show why I do not accept the conclusion of Geza Vermes, who argued that it is just a circumlocution for “I.” In a series of articles, culminating in an important essay published as “Appendix E” to the third edition of Matthew Black’s Aramaic Approach,7 Vermes attempted to revive a theory that had been advanced and abandoned a century ago to the effect that “The Son of Man” is merely an ordinary Aramaic locution by which someone refers to themselves in the third person, hence “I.” I think it can be taken as granted that given Vermes’s exhaustive investigation, his study should be considered definitive,8 and if it fails, we can consider that suggestion as rejectable.9 Although an entire array of scholars have already disputed Vermes’s conclusion, none have, I think, shown that the interpretations of rabbinic literature adduced by him, do not stand, and that there is, therefore, no evidence whatsoever for the argument that in Aramaic, “son of man” can mean “I” (that it means a human being is, of course, not in doubt at all).10 I thus accordingly


7 G. Vermes, “Appendix E: The Use of Bar Nash/Bar Nasha in Jewish Aramaic: An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts (ed. Μ. Black; 3rd ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, Clarendon, 1967), 310-28; P. Haupt, “The Son of Man = Hic Homo = Ego,” JBL 40 (1921).

8 P. Owen and D. Shepherd, “Speaking up for Qumran, Dalman and the Son ofMan: Was Bar Enasha a Common Term for ‘Man in the Time of Jesus?” JSNT 81 (2001): 84.

9 And it has been rejected by a host of scholars, from Fitzmyer through Jeremiah to Colpe, for all of which references see A. Yarbro Collins, “The Influence of Daniel on the New Testament in Daniel: A Commentary on the Book Daniel (ed. J.J. Collins; Hermeneia; Min-neapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 94, n. 30.

10 It should be noted that Norman Perrin, A Modern Pilgrimage in New Testament Christology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), 70, makes major use of this untenable argument to make his case that all Christological use of “The Son of Man” must be post-Easter, an argument that is, in this respect, repeated by Lindars, Jesus, Son Man.

essentially agree with Hans Lietzmann as cited by Vermes to the effect that “His main findings are that the term is a common one, and that it is used as a kind of indefinite pronoun (ברעש = jemand; לית בר נש- niemand; בני נש= Leute). It is, he writes, ‘die farbloseste und unbestimmteste Bezeichnung des menschlichen In-dividuums’ (p. 38). He then goes on to postulate what seems to him to be the only logical corollary: as a designation בר נש is by nature inapplicable to any particular man, let alone to Jesus, the greatest of all men (p. 40).”11 Lietzmann put the question brilliantly; his answer, on the other hand, that the Son of Man must be a Hellenistic terminus technicus is a non-sequitur, for even if semantically and syntactically “Son of Man” in Aramaic means indeed just a person and nothing else, pragmatically (by which I mean in the case of a particular set of syntagms), the “Son of Man” as a citation of Daniel could certainly have come to mean the Christ already in Hebrew/Aramaic. An example, just to make this clear, would be the following: “Rav” simply means “Rabbi,” but for the majority of Orthodox Jews in the U.S., “the Rav” means one and only one Rabbi, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik OBM. Let us, then, have a look at Vermes’s evidence.

In order to make his case, Vermes must demonstrate the alleged use of בר נש as a circumlocution meaning “I.” Although he gives several examples, in every one of these, rather than seeing a circumlocution for “I,” we can see quite a (different idiom. I shall first discuss an example that Vermes seems to consider particularly strong.12 In the first:

Jacob of Kefar Nibburayya gave a ruling in Tyre that fish should be ritually slaughtered. Hearing this, R. Haggai sent him this order: Come and be scourged! He replied, should בר נש be scourged who proclaims the word of Scripture? (Gen. Rabba vii 2)13

Vermes wishes to claim that, “theoretically, of course, bar nash may be rendered here as ‘one’, but the context hardly suggests that at this particular juncture Jacob intends to voice a general principle. Hurt by his opponent’s harsh words, he clearly seems to be referring to himself and the indirect idiom is no doubt due to the implied humiliation.”14 Vermes here simply confuses the semantics and the pragmatics of the sentence. Of course, pragmatically the speaker is referring to himself, but semantically he is using a general expression. An example from English will make this clear. In the famous and brilliant lyric from Guys and Dolls, Adelaide sings plaintively: “In other words, just by waiting around for that


11 Vermes, “The Use,” 311.

12 Vermes, “The Use,” 321-2.

13 Genesis Rabbah (eds. J. Theodor and H. Albeck; Jerusalem: Wahrmann, 1965), 51. Ver-mes’s translation.

14 Vermes, “The Use.”

little band of gold […] a person could develop a cold!” Of course, pragmatically she is referring to herself; it is her own situation of which she complains, but semantically “a person” in English is an indefinite pronomial form and not a circumlocution for “I.”15 The same is true for this example and, mutatis mutandis, all the other ones that Vermes cites. But another should be cited, because, at least, of the mutatis mutandis:

When R. Hiyya bar Adda died, son of the sister of Bar Kappara, R. Levi received his valuables. This was because his teacher used to say, The disciple of בר נשא is as dear to him as his son. (Yer Ber. 5b)

There is not the slightest justification to see a circumlocution for “I” here either. Rabbi Hiyya has expressed a general principle that the disciple of a person is as dear to him as his son and the conclusion was drawn on the pragmatic level (in several senses) that he intended his disciple to be his heir.

Another example cited by Vermes turns out to be a counter-example:

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yoh said: “If I had been standing on Mt. Sinai at the hour that the Torah was given to Israel I would have demanded of the Merciful One that that human being would have been created with two mouths, one to be busy with Torah and one to do with it all of his daily needs.” Then he changed his mind and said: “If even with only one, the world cannot subsist because of all of the delations, if there were two all the more so!” [Palestinian Talmud Shabbat chapter 1, halakhah, page 3b]

Now it is obvious here, pace Vermes, that the Rabbi is not referring to himself as “that man” here, for then he would be, as well, accusing himself of being an informer, which he hardly was and hardly would do.16 There can be no doubt that here, as well, we must understand “הדין בר נש” here as “One,” German “Mann”, and nothing else. There remains not even one example in which the term Son of Man is a periphrastic usage for “I.”

In all of Vermes’s examples, then, “general principles are stated which are applied in the context of the narrative to an individual, usually the speaker.17 Vermes’s argument fails totally because he does not even once observe the


15 Vermes’s citation of the answer “You […]” as confirmation of his thesis hardly needs refuting. Nathan Detroit, of course, would comfort Adelaide by saying: “Ah baby, you’ll be married soon.” That still doesn’t make “a person” = “I” semantically.

16 This consideration also thoroughly discredits Lindars’s reading according to which bar nesha here means “anyone (…) who was as deeply conscious of the divine generosity as Simeom himself,” Lindars, Jesus, Son of Man, 22. Even more sharply than with respect to the interpretation of Vermes, one would ask: Is this the class of people one would suspect of being informers to the Romans and even more so had they two mouths? I think the conclusion is inescapable that here (with or without haden=this), the meaning is the human being in general.

17 See examples cited Vermes, “The Use,” 323-7. For similar conclusions reached by slightly different methods, see Μ. Casey, “Method in Our Madness, and Madness in Their Methods: Some Approaches to the Son of Man Problem in Recent Scholarship,” JSNT 42 (1991): 18.

difference between semantic (lexical) meaning and pragmatic meaning or between sense and reference. There is, therefore, no evidence, whatsoever for “son of man” being used in Aramaic texts as a circumlocution for “I,” as Lietzmann realized.18

I conclude, therefore, that Vermes has adduced no convincing evidence that “Son of Man” was ever used as a circumlocution for “I” even in the Palestinian Aramaic of Late Antiquity; still less has he witnesses for the Aramaic of the first century. Vermes’s argument thus fails to convince on lexical philological grounds, in spite of its superficial attractiveness for the interpretation of some verses within the Gospels. Given that Vermes’s alleged idiomatic usage of “son of man” as periphrasis for “I” proves to be a ghost, another explanation of this genuinely weird usage must be sought. Lietzmann (and a host of others) have sought the explanation in the positing of a “Heavenly Man” or Anthropos myth underlying Christology. Rejecting (as have, I think, most interpreters by now) such far-fetched and far-flung explanations, to my mind, the only plausible one that remains is that of the great Jewish theologian and scholar of the last century, Leo Baeck, who wrote: “Whenever in later works ‘that Son Man,’ ‘this Son of Man’, or ‘the Son of Man’ is mentioned, it is the quotation from Daniel that is speaking.19 In other words, I fully accept (as I think wë must) Vermes’s hypothesis of an Aramaic origin (in the oral traditions that lie behind the Gospels) for the phrase, “The Son of Man,” but deny his interpretation of that Aramaic


18 For another review of Vermes’s evidence, arriving, however, at different conclusions, see Lindars, Jesus, Son of Man, 19-24. Lindars accepts only one example as fully relevant and builds his entire case on that, the example being y Shevi’it 38d: [Rabbi Shimon] sat at the mouth of the cave [where he was hiding from the Romans] and he saw a hunter catching birds. He spread his net. He heard a voice from heaven [ברה קול], say dimus [Dimissio], and it was freed. He said [to himself], “a bird does not perish without Heaven, so much more so a human being!” Lindars chooses to translate this as “How much less a man in my position,” without any warrant other than the alleged article on bar nesha. Given, however, the philological state of the Palestinian Talmud, as well as the centuries later date in any case, to build an entire interpretation of the Son of Man on this one highly doubtful example, seems almost to constitute scholarly legerdemain. There is no reason to imagine that Rabbi Shimon means a man in his position as opposed to any human whatsoever. Once again, a simple generic is being used and applied by the speaker pragmatically to himself. A bird doesn’t perish except by the will of Heaven, still less a human being, [so why am I hiding here]? What is most important to recognize is that if this idiom is operative, for instance, at Matthew 8:20: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but bar enasha has nowhere to lay his head,” it could only mean that foxes have holes and birds have nests but humans have nowhere to lay their heads, which is palpably false (Lindars, Jesus, Son of Man, 30), so despite the apparent similarity of this one single exemplum from late-ancient Palestinian Aramaic, we must resist the temptation to treat them as the same linguistic form, pace Lindars, Jesus, Son of Man, 29-31. Lindars’s own solution to this problem involves pure philological fantasy, nothing more or less. In another, longer version of this argument, I will provide further argument against Lindars’s position. Insofar as it depends on Vermes’s flawed conclusions, it is, in any case, untenable.

191 L. Baeck, Judaism and Christianity: Essays (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1958), 28-9.

phrase. In what follows in this necessarily brief paper, I shall try to show how the hypothesis of literary allusion to Daniel in this phrase enables stronger readings of a pair of Markan loci.


And that takes us back to yesterday’s post, How the Gospel of Mark Retrofitted Jesus into a Pre-Existing Christ Idea.


Boyarin, Daniel. 2010. “The Sovereignty of the Son of Man: Reading Mark 2.” In The Interface of Orality and Writing: Speaking, Seeing, Writing in the Shaping of New Genres, edited by Annette Weissenrieder and Robert B. Coote, 353–62. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

Casey, Maurice. 1991. From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God: The Origins and Development of New Testament Christology. Cambridge, England: JClarke ; Louisville, Ky: Westminster/John Knox Press.

———. 2010. Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching. London ; New York: T&T Clark.




The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)

If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!

30 thoughts on “Is “Son of Man” in the Gospels a mere idiom for “I”, the speaker?”

  1. the Son or Man‘ as apposed to a son of man is a distinctly Christian thing. As Simon Gathercole outlines in the following 2004 article and concludes,

    “.. in the course of the narrative in Mark’s Gospel the Son of Man gathers additional scriptural material which clarifies his identity and role. In the beginning the Danielic background is there but it becomes much clearer as the narrative progresses, as well as accumulating additional biblical language from Isaiah 53 and Psalm 110.

    “.. Mark 2 strongly emphasizes the Son of Man’s self-revelation as authoritative .. he came to serve, and to accomplish atonement. Only later, at the very end, will that authority be vindicated and established. The narrative pattern which holds the Son of Man sayings together is: the authoritative Son of Man revealed – the authority of the Son of Man rejected – the authority of the Son of Man vindicated.”


    1. Mr. Horse

      How would you collocate the “son of man” reference in Mark 2 with the clear works he is doing as a “priest”? What is the relation? And what do you make of the third person references to the son of man..Neil has made it clear the texts are not necessarily some sort of circumlocution for “I”..

      Again, we can clearly see that the son of man texts are headaches for the even the best of scholars…

  2. Neil – I completely agree with you.

    It appears to me that Jesus placed himself on par with others – his followers. The epithet ‘Son of Man’ means something other than what Christians have wanted it to mean.

    Actually there are some languages that also use this term so it might be enriching to get cues from them. For example from my sub-culture ‘son of man’ means simply a ‘sane person’ or ‘a sensible person’, and by extension ‘one who is enobled with humanity’ – or ‘one who is subject to the law on account of his sanity’ or other than ‘son of an animal’ or ‘son of a demon’ …

    It is easy to place ‘one’ in its place, but it means something more than that to me. It means the one who is saying ‘son of man’ is equalising himself and subjecting himself to subservience of the law and all his audience all in one fell swoop.

  3. If Mary was not conceived by Joseph or any other male human, but by a divine father, then Jesus, if he existed, could not have been the son of any man.
    Also, why is there no more reference to Daniel in the Gospels? Matthew 24:15 is about the only one that refers to the “prophet Daniel”, but in the Hebrew collection (TANAKH), Daniel is not included among the prophets.

        1. Not sure I follow the question, sorry. Daniel was clearly a most significant text for the author of Mark, as can be seen in the heavy use he makes of it in chapters 13 to 16 alone.

          (“No other mention” by whom?)

        2. This may be of interest. My copy of The Greek New Testament (3rd ed) lists the following direct quotations of Daniel in the NT:

          Daniel 7:13 — quoted by Matthew in both 24:30 and 26:64; also by Mark in 13:26 and 14:62; and Luke in 21:27.

          In addition to those direct quotations the index further lists the following allusions to Daniel in the NT. (And as you can see by comparing with the two posts I linked above the numbers of references are far fewer than other scholars recognize.) So in the NT generally we can say Daniel has significance:

  4. While I agree that “son of man” in Mark does not mean “I”, Boyarin’s assumptions about oral traditions and Aramaic are frustrating. The most frustrating aspect of so much NT scholarship is the constant assumption that the Gospel narratives reflect the earliest records of Jesus – essentially placing the Gospel content prior to the early epistles, even though everyone knows that the epistles were written first. This is maddening every time I see it.

    Instead of viewing “son of man” as being associated with Jesus early on, it should be seen as a late association with Jesus, like introduced by the author of Mark himself, not part of any prior tradition. The fact that it isn’t present in James, Jude, Paul or Hebrews (only via a quote) tells us that the early Jesus worshipers likely weren’t identifying Jesus with Daniel or the “son of man”

    1. R.G..I am on board with these carefully stated point.

      btw R.G.. do you think that Paul’s “adam” or “human” influenced Mark’s apparent “human” Jesus or “son of man? (Romans 5 and I cor. 15,)?

      As for Hebrews..what about the “what is man” text…Psalm 8… etc.?

      I must say that since Paul is clearly aware of Genesis “myths” throughout his essay letters he would be likely aware that the “first Adam” failed “to rule” as he was told… and a “second” human or man ended up “reversing” this and rule as a “christos” over nature, etc. even in Mark… Adam was expected to “rule over nature and the cosmos ” and that is the old “human” but the “new” human rules over everything he was supposed to do… on behalf of God..

      Do you think Mark’s narrative theology takes up Paul’s theological speculations and his own spirit related biography … in a claim though not to have met a human being but a “spirit—a ruling spirit which goes back to the Enochian material where we find the phrase “the Lord of spirits”..

      Just interested in hearing your thoughts…


      1. Yeah, the reference to Ps 8 is what I meant by “only via a quote”. But that usage doesn’t really relate to Daniel anyway.

        As for the rest, it’s hard to say. But if you haven’t read David Oliver Smith’s “Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul” then I highly recommend that. Despite being a requited lawyer, he produced one of the best assessments of Mark and Paul I’ve seen, far better than the vast majority of work from credentialed scholars on the subject.

  5. For context, the notion that bar nash = ‘I’, revived by Vermes, derives from an era when scholars thought they could recover Jesus’ self-consciousness, (‘messianic’ or otherwise). Boyarin provides a cogent philological rebuttal.

    The prominence of the debate over the meaning of Son of Man is due to the problematic light it casts on the ‘history of the tradition’. Let us not forget that the Marcan verses are in Greek, and as such can only make sense as a reference to the Daniel passage. Boyarin argues the same for an (hypothecated) Aramaic original. This does not fit with the gospel milieu if seen as historically accurate narrative. We are not in a world where all decent working men have a copy of the bible on their bookshelves which they peruse at leisure. We have no idea what the ‘circulation’ of the Book of Daniel was in C1 Palestine, but we are pretty confident that very few copies of any book were produced. Further, we are pretty sure that no more than 10% of men achieved even basic literacy. Thus those able to even know of such a text, let alone allude to it and interpret it, were a very small, educated minority. The Ordinary Joe would not know of it, and any reference to it, whether in Aramaic or Greek, would not register at all. Rather, despite Mark’s ‘cockney’ Greek, we are in the closed world of a (pre-existing) scholarly ‘workshop’. So probabilities indicate; as is usual with ancient studies, we become more aware of what we don’t actually ‘know’.

    1. I sometimes find myself wondering and wanting to understand more about the client-patron culture of the day. Reading Justin Martyr’s work leads one to imagine the Christianity of gospel narrative concepts was something of a debate or dialogue held at a higher education level; client hangers-on would “convert to” or follow the teachings of their patron, presumably. As you point out, it was a very different world from the one we know.

      1. I agree that ‘reading Justin Martyr’s work leads one to imagine the Christianity of gospel narrative concepts was something of a debate or dialogue held at a higher education level’, but I also get the impression Justin is writing before the canonical Christian texts had appeared. As I said in my previous post, Martyr comes across as Philo mark II / 2.0: doing exegesis or eisegesis, or a combination, on the OT scriptures. He seems to be espousing things as or even before the NT was developed.

    2. One of the things I struggle with is assessment of the “Greek quality” of the Gospels because I can’t read it. However I do wonder if the supposed poorer quality of the prose in Mark is really just a product of the sub-textual complexity of Mark.

      In other words, it’s clear that whoever wrote Mark was structuring the text in a very ridged chiastic way and also building on many literary references. Much of the meaning of Mark is contained in subtext and structure. This emphasis on the subtext would inherently restrict your ability to develop fluid prose.

      The later Gospel writers were only partly aware of the sub-textual meaning of Mark and put much more emphasis on the superficial narrative, giving them the freedom to use much more elegant prose in thiri writing.

      1. • Carrier holds that the author of Gospel According to Mark was skilled in Greek, but adopted a low style.

        Comment by Richard Carrier—24 March 2012—per “Ehrman Trashtalks Mythicism • Richard Carrier”. Richard Carrier Blogs. 21 March 2012. [now bolded]

        [B]ilingual Jews evolved into speaking and writing a dialect of Greek that was very Aramaicized, the way way you might say English was “Americanized” after the Revolution (and thus looks different than British English, even as regards spelling and sometimes sentence structure), only stronger (the differences are somewhat greater; although not quite as extreme Yiddish, which is a Semitized dialect of German; Semitic Greek is somewhere in between, but Yiddish is still a good example of the kind of thing the Jews did with Greek).

        Part of it was from influence by the Septuagint itself. The Septuagint is a translation into Greek of the Hebrew bible, which then came to be read, privately and aloud, especially but not only in diaspora communities (e.g. fragments were found even in the possession of the hyper-conservative Jews at Qumran), to the extent that, like the influence King James English had, Jews started talking that way and writing that way. But even without the influence of the Septuagint, any Hebrew who spoke Greek would tend to speak a Semitized Greek, because that is how his or her mind translated it, and the way usually their Jewish teachers spoke, and the way Hebrew texts were translated into Greek (a common way to learn a language is by reading, or hearing read, translations of your familiar native books and stories into the target language). The extent to which you Semitized your Greek would reflect the extent to which you cultivated formal learning (Paul, for example, adopts a high style that is not as Semitized as Mark, who, like Mark Twain, adopted a low style, which would sound less pretentious and more familiar to commoners).

      2. Some idea of the quality of Mark’s prose can be glimpsed through a literal translation such as the one in archive.org. The “poor quality” is not related to reliance upon subtexts, etc, but to the rough and ready immediacy and urgency of the narrative, especially the frequent present tenses. Luke also weaved OT narratives and passages into his gospel without sacrificing literary quality.

        Do you think later evangelists were only partly aware of what Mark was doing or that they disagreed with what he was doing and constructed alternative narratives that “corrected” or redirected the original narrative?

        1. I think it’s clear they were only partly aware. Many of the literary references in Mark are treated by the other gospel writers as if they were unaware of their existence, the temple cleaning scene being a classic example.

          The other gospel writes do use references to the OT, but not like Mark does. Nor do the other writers adhere to the ABB’A’ chaistic formula of Mark, except where they inadvertently copy it.

          Nevertheless, you may be right, it may have nothing to do with that. As I said, I don’t know enough about Greek to really know and I haven’t read any specific analysis of the “Greek quality” across the writers to really have an informed view on this.

          1. You’ve mentioned David Oliver Smith previously, his later “Unlocking the Puzzle: The Keys to the Christology and Structure of the Original Gospel of Mark” might help you here. His hypothesis is a later redactor (“Luke”?) has hacked the text about for their own ends. Smith endeavoured to remove interpolations and tried to put the text back in it’s original order. I can’t comment on whether he has gotten back to something like an ur-Mark, but he would seem to have produced a more cogent and readable text. I agree with Neil’s Mark Twain analogy – it makes sense to write the text so an illiterate but not stupid audience could understand it; but not being stupid, they would still hear where the hackabout didn’t cohere wth itself. This would be another reason so many were to come to think of G.Mk as an epitome of G.Lk and G.Mtt. and make its dropping out of use that much more likely and explainable.

  6. I agree with our friends Godfrey, Price and Buckley above. A retrofitting of the Gospels into Daniel’s theme is consistent with the the Jesus myth view. Vermes was a brilliant, lovely, dedicated scholar but like many of my early role models, I now respectfully differ. The Jesus myth view explains so many historic questions. But I don’t claim yet to have a balanced view of Vermes’ agenda and assumptions, and am listening to these comments with interest.

  7. Clarification of earlier post – whilst I agree “Son of Man” does not mean “I”, … however it appears to me and I am also saying that I disagree that “Son of Man” means something divine. I’ll look at the other posts to see the arguments for that when it comes to the gospel of Mark.

  8. Perhaps Hebrew and Aramaic should be deprecated in favor of the Septuagint Greek, per interpreting “Son of Man” in the Gospels.

    • Hebrew: בן אדם‎, translit. ben adám, lit. ‘son of Adam’
    • Old Aramaic: בר אנש, translit. bar ‘enash, lit. ‘son of man’
    • Old Aramaic: כבר אנש, translit. kibar ‘anash, lit. ‘like a man’

    • Koine Greek: ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου, translit. hos huiós anthrópou, lit. ‘like a son of man’ —per the Septuagint in Dan. 7:13 [LXX].
    • Koine Greek: ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ ἀνθρώπου, translit. ho huios tou anthropou, lit. ‘the son of man’ —per the New Testament.

    1. The closest answer I can find cites Jeansonne’s The Old Greek Translation. That may give you the detail you are looking for. But it seems the answer is in the realm of deduction:

      The Greek scroll of the Minor Prophets discovered at Nahal Hever is dated to the second half of the first century bce. Since this scroll reflects the activity of recensionists one may assume that the Old Greek transla­ tion of the other biblical books existed prior to this date. On account of these assumptions one may conclude that the book of Daniel was trans­ lated somewhere between 163 BCE and 63 bce’.

      That’s from Knibb, Michael A., ed. 2006. The Septuagint and Messianism / Edited by M.A. Knibb. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium ; 195. Leuven ; Dudley, MA: Leuven University Press. — p. 433, citing Jeansonne.

  9. Ok I’ve re-read everything here and some other material. I must apologise … I didn’t follow the argument earlier.

    So am I correct in saying that the use of the term “son of man” in Daniel is general, but the use in the synoptics is as a title for Jesus when it suited them the translator to do that and in the gospel of John the term even has a divine flavour to it?

    If that is right then I’m glad I’ve finally got my head around it all. Also, I can’t disagree with that analysis either.

    In fact … would you please shed some light on the verses in Matthew 26:64-65
    Do these verses not suggest that the term Son of Man was 1) meant to be Jesus using it about himself and 2) by saying what he said the Jews of his time i.e. the priest took it to be blasphemy?

    If so, what type of blasphemy did they take it to be?… Were they saying he was calling himself divine? And if so was the author reinforcing that notion or was he suggesting they were falsely accusing him of claiming divinity? Having said that – is it not the case that the ambiguity around this exchange demonstrates an semantic argument – a type of ambiguity of phrase usage – that was extant in that time? (I ask this because it averts from criticism of anachronistic interpretation – since the dichotomy was played out in the scene).

    1. The “one like the Son of Man” in Daniel comes on clouds. Coming on clouds is a standard image representing a deity, a god, The God to be specific, in the OT books. He comes to another god figure, the Ancient of Days. The image originated as the two main gods of Canaan, the youthful warrior Baal who rode in clouds; and the “Ancient of Days” god El. Both Son of Man and Ancient of Days are divine heavenly figures. Later one of the authors of Enoch explicitly depicted that same Son of Man figure in Daniel to be the heavenly messiah.

      Jesus in Mark 13 speaks of that same Son of Man figure in Daniel coming in clouds to earth as the messiah.

      When on trial Jesus declared that he himself was that Son of Man, that divine messiah we first met in Daniel 7. Jesus was claiming to be the divine heavenly messiah figure, the one who was given divine authority by the Ancient of Days, the one how had all the authority of God himself (to forgive sins, to abolish/break the sabbath) and to sit alongside God in heaven. That was the blasphemy in the eyes of the high priest.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Vridar

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading