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Jesus and the Son of Man

Over the past few weeks, as I have been talking about the rise of Jewish apocalypticism, in relation to the historical Jesus, a number of readers have asked me to explain what I think about the “Son of Man” in the sayings of Jesus Jesus.  Did Jesus call himself the son of man?  If so, what did he mean?  And if not, what did he mean?

As it turns out, these are some of the most complex, convoluted, and confounding questions confronting scholars of the historical Jesus.  Many books, some of them big and dense, have been written on the issue.  There are lots of opinions about it.  Here I’ll try to explain my view, and try to justify it.  The following is taken from my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium


The Coming Son of Man

Among the most heated, and least enlightening, debates among New Testament scholars has been the question of the origins of the phrase “the Son of Man” in the teachings of Jesus.  Everyone agrees — since it’s plain for all to see — that in the Gospels Jesus uses the phrase in a variety of ways, sometimes to talk about his present ministry (“the son of man has nowhere to lay his head”; Luke 9:58; Matt. 8:20), sometimes to predict his future suffering (“the son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again”; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22), and sometimes to refer to a cosmic judge from heaven, whom we’ve now met on several occasions (for example, Mark 8:38:  “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he arrives from heaven in the presence of the holy angels”).  Hence the questions: Did Jesus — that is, the historical Jesus, the actual man himself (not Jesus as portrayed in the later Gospels) use the phrase in all of these ways?  Did he always use it in reference to himself?  Did he ever use it in reference to himself?  Was it a common phrase in first-century Aramaic?  Would his hearers have understood what he meant by it?  These and related questions have occupied scholars and led to mixed results.  And as I’ve suggested, some of the debates have been less than scintillating.

For example, one of the most hotly contested questions is…

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Weekly Readers’ Mailbag: January 24, 2016
Am I Converting to Islam?



  1. Avatar
    godspell  January 21, 2016

    It’s an odd concept, because he’s referred to as a ‘man’ not as a divine being–an angel. A transfigured human being, taken up into heaven, then sent down to earth to do God’s bidding, would be one possible interpretation. Angels are not men–they are a separate creation. And because the view of angels back then was pretty fearful–awesomely powerful beings that are basically rivals for God’s love, who might not in all cases really care about the fate of men (or might be actively hostile to humankind)–it might have been felt that a man given the powers of an angel would be more appropriate for this beneficent transformation of the world into God’s kingdom.

    Is it impossible that Jesus could have believed he would be that transfigured human being? Therefore he’s not talking about himself as he is now–he’s talking about the being he will become after his death. Again, just one possible interpretation.

    Jesus says the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the earth. This can’t be the gospel writer conflating Jesus’ own death with the prophecy, because he wasn’t three days and three nights in the earth in the gospel account (or in reality, where he probably wasn’t even in a tomb above the earth). So this would seem to be a saying of his that was preserved, even though it directly contradicted the story being told. The Doctrine of Embarrassment would tell us that he must have actually said this. Jesus could not have known the exact circumstances of his death in advance. But having heard of John the Baptist’s death, he could have easily anticipated a similar fate for himself. He could have actively sought death, as a means of bringing on the great change he was seeking.

    I don’t think it can be stated with any certainty that Jesus did not think he would someday become the Son of Man, but obviously there is likewise no certainty that he did think that. Visionaries are not so easily understood.

    • Avatar
      godspell  January 21, 2016

      To clarify what I’m suggesting here–Jesus says the Son of Man will be in the earth for three days and three nights. That suggest a burial. You’re buried after you die. If The Son of Man is up in heaven, waiting his chosen time, he can’t die, and he can’t be buried. Therefore, he must be a man, born of the union of man and woman (as Jesus knew himself to be) living at the time Jesus is speaking, who is going to die in the near future, and after three days and three nights, rise again to perform his appointed task.

      It begs the question–how can Jesus possibly know this, if he is not himself the man he speaks of? That’s what the disciples would have been thinking, after he did in fact die (his statements to that effect were horrifying to them, and rejected in anguish,, but faithfully preserved for posterity). He is going to die, and rise again as the transfigured Son of Man, a figure from Jewish apocalyptic tradition. He does not include himself when he tells the disciples they will be rulers in the Kingdom that is coming, because he doesn’t expect to be there. Like Moses, he will only see the Promised Land from a distance–he will never get to live in it. That’s the sacrifice he is making. He himself is the sacrifice.

      It just works better, from my POV.

      • Avatar
        Shah  June 4, 2020

        godspel, your considerations are interesting, you are almost there. From my point of view, The “Son of Man” in the Canonical Gospels refers to both Jesus and to his return after his resurrection, but this resurrection would happen via reincarnation. That’s why it is Jesus and it is not Jesus.
        In my MA thesis I have argued that Muhammad is in fact the reincarnation of Jesus, and therefore, Muhammad is the Son of Man that Jesus was talking about.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      The early Christians *did* think of Jesus as dead three days and nights, even though we don’t do time that way ourselves. But no, I certainly don’t think Jesus imagined he would be resurrected. You may want to see my discussions in How Jesus Became God.

      • Avatar
        godspell  January 22, 2016

        I have read that book, and admire it greatly. This is the one part of it that doesn’t convince me.

        I don’t rule out the possibility that you’re right, but I doubt very much this will ever be the accepted scholarly consensus. There’s just too much conflicting data. You have to work too hard to get there.

        To be clear: I don’t think Jesus imagined anything like what his followers came to believe had happened. But clearly he did believe resurrection was possible, whether in physical form, or as a transfigured divine being. There were multiple stories in the Old Testament, and you’ve gone to some pains to illustrate that resurrection of the dead was something many (not all) Jews believed in.

        I don’t believe he thought he’d be ruling over a transformed Israel. I think the evidence strongly suggests he thought he’d be somewhere else. That he would have to make a sacrifice to bring the change about.

  2. Avatar
    Wilusa  January 21, 2016

    Something that’s just occurred to me: If Jesus really said those things, would *the people he was supposedly talking to* have been well enough educated to understand him? (Was *he himself*, for that matter, well enough educated?)

    If the answer to either of those questions is “no,” might the better-educated Gospel writers have put the words into his mouth because they *assumed* an apocalyptic prophet (which they knew he was) would have held that view of the Son of Man?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      Yes, I’d say it’s impossible to know who understood him or what it was they understood.

  3. Garrett20
    Garrett20  January 21, 2016

    Interesting read. What is your take on 1 Enoch using the phrase “Son of Man”? Some early church fathers considered this text canonical (I would love to hear you expound on 1 Enoch); I believe the Ethiopic Orthodox Church considers it canonical today and believes it was originally written in their language. Would you consider it historical that the Jewish High Priest asked Jesus if he considered himself the Messiah (Mark 14:61-62, Luke 22:67-71)? After Jesus claims that He is and tells them about the Son of Man, the High Priest becomes infuriated and claims that Jesus is blasphemous. If taken historically, then we would have to assume these Jewish leaders knew exactly what Jesus meant in claiming to be the Son of Man.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      Yes, I think 1 Enoch portrays Enoch himself as the Son of Man. And I don’t think we have any idea what the Jewish authorities asked Jesus when he was arrested. Mark’s Gospel, our first source, was written 40 years later by someone who didn’t know anyone involved, living in a different country, and speaking a different language!

  4. Avatar
    longstop  January 21, 2016

    Sorry but I am still somewhat confused. Is it to be assumed that God created the Son of Man as an entirely separate entity; to carry out a specific task; and that Jesus would take no part in it? Furthermore the references to Matthew Mark and Luke in this article tend to confirm that Jesus saw himself in that role.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      I’m arguing that many of these sayings are not things that Jesus himself really said. And yes, the Son of Man was a separate entity from God — a kind of angelic being.

  5. Avatar
    Don  January 21, 2016

    One of the Bibles I have (from the ancient eastern text-translated by George Lamsa) has God refer to Ezekiel as “Son of man” which my NRSV translates as “O mortal”. As I don’t know Hebrew, I was wondering if the words used in Ezekiel were the same words used in Daniel.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      Yes, “son of man” is what hte Hebrew says, and yes, it is the Hebrew equivalent of Daniel’s Aramaic phrase “son of man”

  6. Avatar
    Kazibwe Edris  January 21, 2016

    for arguments sake, lets assume jesus said that he was the son of man in the following verses

    mark 14 :61 Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 Jesus said, “I am; and
    ‘you will see the Son of Man
    seated at the right hand of the Power,’
    and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’”

    is it not written in jewish literature that moses and cyrus came with “right hand of power” ?
    could it be argued that the charge of blasphemy was made, because on whose authority is jesus claiming to sit on the power? jesus was no cyrus or moses. so who is this? do you see what i am saying doctor ehrman?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      Yes, that’s how Mark himself understands it, I think.

  7. talmoore
    talmoore  January 21, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, since I’ve actually read all of your book ‘Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium’, alas, this posting was already familiar to me. But I’m wondering what you make of the suggestion of scholars expert in Aramaic, such as Geza Vermas, that ‘Son of Man’ was an Aramaic circumlocution similar to how we might say in English “This guy…” in reference to ourselves (e.g. “As for this guy…” meaning “As for me…”). I can’t say I completely buy the argument, because it’s quite clear within the context of some passages that when Jesus says “Son of Man” he’s referring to another person who is called (either as a nickname or as a formal title) the Son of Man. So it wouldn’t make complete sense for Jesus to have mixed up both meanings, one a reference to himself and the other a reference to someone else, if he was trying to be at least somewhat clear about his message. (Not impossible, just not likely)

    So I have my own idea about what Son of Man is supposed to mean, and I’m wondering, Dr. Ehrman, if this is something that you may find reasonable. If you notice, Jesus never talks explicitly about the Messiah (or Christ) coming. He almost exclusively talks about the Son of Man, as if that was his way of mentioning the Messiah. Is it possible that this fact alone is enough proof to show that when Jesus refers to the Son of Man he’s simply talking about the Messiah? And, of course, that would prompt the question of why Jesus wouldn’t just say Messiah when he meant Messiah, instead saying Son of Man? Well, that’s actually not that puzzling. I think the fact that we’re still arguing over what Son of Man means two thousand years later should tell us exactly why Jesus would say Son of Man instead of Messiah. Everyone, even the most biblically illiterate people, then and now, know what the Messiah is and what it means. But only those whom Jesus knows are biblically literate, and those within his inner circle, especially, would know what Jesus meant by Son of Man, which means that by saying Son of Man instead of Messiah, Jesus would be accomplishing two convenient tasks: A) Jesus would be able to talk openly about a hot-button topic (the coming Messiah) without immediately raising the suspicion of the authorities (which, as we can see, he was able to get away with until someone within his own group sold him out); and B) Jesus could work under the pretense that we was divulging secret knowledge by using a word only familiar to people “in the know”, so to speak. This also reinforces the first point, because one of those people in-the-know, Judas, was able to betray Jesus because Judas was one of those people who knew that when Jesus said Son of Man that he was talking about the Messiah. So is it possible that Jesus was just being coy and evasive by using Son of Man to mean Messiah, and that all of this hullabaloo is over something that humdrum?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      I’m not an Aramaic linguist, so I can’t comment with any authority. I do know that other Aramaicists argue that there is not much evidence the barnasha was used as a first person circumlocution. On the teachings of Jesus: my understanding is that he referrred to the son of man as the future judge of the earth (someone other than himself) but as *himself* as the future (human) messiah, to be installed by the son of man.

  8. Avatar
    Jim  January 21, 2016

    A link between Jesus and the Son of Man doesn’t seem to stand out in any of Paul’s writings. Mark seems to be the first NT writer to suggest a link between Daniel’s Son of man figure and Jesus (at least he seems to come close in Mark 2:10, 28; 10:45 and 14: 21, 41). Could such implications in Mark (of Jesus as Daniel’s Son of man) be a novel innovation by this gospel author? Or is such an interpretation already evident in Q?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      Yes, you have similar teachings in Q, M, and L, so it doesn’t appear to be a markan invention.

  9. Avatar
    shakespeare66  January 22, 2016

    Fascinating. Since Jesus never wrote anything, it is hard to say what level of literacy he did have, and since he came from such a poor town, how did he gain his literacy, his understanding of Daniel, and additional Jewish texts? ( Kind of like the Shakespeare literacy question that hangs on all doubters lips).

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      My guess is that he listened to the scriptures read in synagogue and had a good retentive memory.

    • Avatar
      bbcamerican  January 23, 2016

      This comment about literacy just made me consider something that has been nagging me about those who would claim that Jesus was not an apocalyptic thinker. If Jesus’s view was NOT apocalyptic and either he or at least one of his followers could write, why would he/they not write anything down for posterity? This was God become flesh, after all. Worthy, I think of a disciple biographer, so to speak. I know that this isn’t conclusive proof of his apocalyptic message, but if any person around Jesus actually thought he was who many Christians today think he is/was, why didn’t they write anything down? It’s not even that we just don’t have any surviving copies of such texts; we have no mention in our New Testament of any writings of Jesus, his disciples or immediate follower, do we? This would suggest 1. That none of them could write and/or 2. There would be no reason to write anything down because THE END really was coming soon. Again, not conclusive proof, but these questions do fall into the overall body of evidence that suggests that Jesus’s message was originally apocalyptic, but that it was later modified when THE END didn’t happen within the current generation.

  10. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  January 22, 2016

    Hey Bart !!!! I’m back !!! May your new year be a happy and joyful year !! You deserve it !!

  11. Avatar
    dragonfly  January 22, 2016

    When are those quotes dated (1 enoch and 4 ezra)? I’m interested in whether these writings could have been inspired by jesus (or the gospels or Q) or jesus was inspired by them, or neither (maybe all were just inspired by daniel).

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      1 Enoch is somewhere between the 2nd c. BCE and the 1st c. CE; 4 Ezra is 1st c. CE. I don’t think anyone imagines that either of them was inspired by the teachings of Jesus; probably they have beoth been influenced by similar traditions.

  12. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  January 22, 2016

    First what is Luke 9:54 saying ?

    Bart Luke 9:58 no where to lay his head ? How about next chapter Luke 10:10-11 and he was telling his disciples same thing in Matthew 10:14? Saying walk with no fear when being tested that is faith and everything will fall into place? Beyond belief and absolute certainty is the first step in this walk ( journey )

    But how could use this teaching modern day ? Fear GOD first and or GOD is your armor and protection in this walk. These teachings starting in Luke Ch 10 sits naturally in our minds and hearts and has to be taught in a teaching ?

    And Bart… What does ” WOE ” mean ?

    Is safe to say one could use ” WOE ” in this way ?
    I shake the dust off my feet as testimony against them. It is done.
    ” WOE ” to the world
    ” WOE ” to those and seek and find and reveal the truth god is real whether you believe or not
    ” WOE ” to the spirit that depends on the body
    ” WOE ” to the body that depends on the spirit
    ” WOE ” to he that does not depend on both
    our GOD and our father watch us we pray
    we pray as you watch our father and GOD

    Like I said I am sorry been gone for awhile! But I’m back now to support your blog! Proud of you Bart !

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      Luke 9:54 is the disciples asking Jesus if he wants to invoke divine punishment on those who do not accept him. He says No.

      • Josephsluna
        Josephsluna  January 22, 2016

        Right. That’s what I said ! Thanks Bart!

        Luke 10:10-11 and similar verses such as
        Matthew 10:14 would be more appropriate.

      • Josephsluna
        Josephsluna  January 22, 2016

        Music is such a beautiful way to enhance my meditation, faith, love and my heart.

        Perfect song for such journey!

        Joshua Radin – No never no Fear.

      • Josephsluna
        Josephsluna  January 27, 2016

        I knew it ! ” WOE” is used ! I knew I remembered that some where !

        Book of Thomas the Contender

        The savior answered and said, “Truly I tell you that he who will listen to your word and turn away his face or sneer at it or smirk at these things, truly I tell you that he will be handed over to the ruler above who rules over all the powers as their king, and he will turn that one around and cast him from heaven down to the abyss, and he will be imprisoned in a narrow dark place. Moreover, he can neither turn nor move on account of the great depth of Tartaros and the heavy bitterness of Hades that is steadfast […] them to it […] they will not forgive […] pursue you. They will hand […] over to […] angel Tartarouchos […] fire pursuing them […] fiery scourges that cast a shower of sparks into the face of the one who is pursued. If he flees westward, he finds the fire. If he turns southward, he finds it there as well. If he turns northward, the threat of seething fire meets him again. Nor does he find the way to the east so as to flee there and be saved, for he did not find it in the day he was in the body, so that he might find it in the day of judgment.”

        Then the savior continued, saying, “Woe to you, godless ones, who have no hope, who rely on things that will not happen!

        “Woe to you who hope in the flesh and in the prison that will perish! How long will you be oblivious? And how long will you suppose that the imperishables will perish too? Your hope is set upon the world, and your god is this life! You are corrupting your souls!

        “Woe to you within the fire that burns in you, for it is insatiable!

        “Woe to you because of the wheel that turns in your minds!

        “Woe to you within the grip of the burning that is in you, for it will devour your flesh openly and rend your souls secretly, and prepare you for your companions!

  13. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  January 22, 2016

    Could it be that the different authors who ascribed the “son of man” phrase to Jesus used the term in different ways and meant different things by the phrase? Hence, could it be that one author thought that Jesus was referring to Himself with the term and another author thought that Jesus was referring to some future figure, other than Himself, with the “son of man” term?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 22, 2016

      My sense is that all of the surviving authors we have, who were all Christians, thought that the phrase in every case referred to Jesus himself.

  14. Avatar
    Judi  April 11, 2016

    Could it be that the phrase “Son of Man” had a meaning other than angelic? And didn’t it sound as if Michael was at war in Daniel 10 : 11 “The commander of the Persian kingdom opposed me for 21 days. ” How could he be detained if he was other worldly? I thought Angel meant messenger, not always in flesh , but usually. That seems to be more Indian or a Master from India or Tibet type of explanation.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 11, 2016

      Yes, there are definitely other meanings (“human one,” “mortal” etc.)

  15. Avatar
    biomystic  May 20, 2016

    Hello. I have looked through many websites now searching for meanings for Jesus’ usage of the term “Son of Man” and have failed to find what God directed me to discover which is the spiritual connection between the “Man” Sign in the Jewish mystical icon of the Chariot of God, the Merkabah, that is an astrological creature composed of the Four Fixed Signs of the Zodiac. I am a Jewish Christian religious visionary who with God’s guidance found the lost Celestial Tauret, the original astrological configurations and meanings that came about from Israelite experience in ancient Egypt transferred to Judah priesthood reinterpretation that forbade astrological association with Scriptures and thus lost the original Celestial Tauret meanings.

    I teach Celestial Tauret Christianity which is based on God’s celestial Sign Language written in the movements of the “wandering stars” and planets against the backdrop of the ancient night sky. “White fire on black fire” instead of Judah’s “black fire on white fire”, i.e. Judah’s overthrow of God’s Sign Language for earthly Word of God scriptures Judah priests wrote themselves and thus controlled them while they had no control over the stars above and feared the professional astrologers like the Magi. This prohibition against astrological interpretation still holds sway even with bible scholars who do not want their reputations associated with “New Age” thinking about Jesus Christ. So scholars have all missed the “Man” Sign of the Merkabah and do not know about the spiritual relationship between God Most High, EL Elyon, where “EL” was the Canaanite name for the planet Saturn and the Sign of Aquarius, the “Man” Sign in the Merkabah that represents the Messiah. Aquarius symbolism runs all through the major players of the Bible where “Musa” was derived from the Egyptian word for water “mu” which was written in hieroglyphic with the same symbol we still use for the Sign of Aquarius. Musa had all these powers over Water. So did Elijah, and of course Jesus with his Aquarian identity firmly established as the Cup Bearer in the Garden, as the one dispensing Living Waters, as the one who told Christians to look for a man with a water jar, an urn, and follow him to the “upper rooms”, i.e the heavens when the time comes. Jesus consistently draws our attention to “Son of Man” as His title and now it makes sense as the title for the role of the earthly Messiah who follows the celestial Archetype, the “Man” Sign as Messiah under the “rulership” of Saturn. The Messiah reappearing in the “clouds of heaven” where that was the ancient name for the Milky Way again reinforces the astrological connection. Aquarius is thee paramount Sign of the Baptist and Jesus demands his followers be baptized in order to “put on the Sign of Aquarius that he represents. Why Aquarius? Because of all the Signs of the Zodiac, Aquarius is the one where the Humanitarian Archetype is evolving and Jesus Christ is the arch-typical Humanitarian Archetype.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 21, 2016

      I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to help you with any of this! I’m mainly a historian and an interpreter of ancient texts.

      • Avatar
        biomystic  May 21, 2016

        But ancient texts is where this astro-theological information is found. I’m not surprised by your answer as it is representative of the prejudice instilled by Judah priests against astrological interpretation of Scriptures that even Bible scholars follow. The mythicists like the late Acharya Sanning found a little of the astro-theology but being atheists at heart they couldn’t find the spiritual/astrological connections between the major players and majory events in the Bible that were embedded with astrological meaning. The whole Saturn/Aquarius, God Most High/Messiah as the “Man” Sign of the Merkabah escaped them. As it does professional Bible scholars whose careers depend on interpretation and reinterpretation of existing ancient Scripts despite God moving on past man-made myths of origin to return to non-man-made celestial Sign Language that no church, no synagogue, no nation, no organization on earth owns or controls. I bring a unique New Jewish Christian perspective with the recovery of the lost Celestial Tauret astro-theological knowledge. I wish to share what I’ve found with God’s guidance.

        • Bart
          Bart  May 22, 2016

          This may not be the best forum for you to reveal what it is you think God has told you. This really is about the historical study of the NT and early Christianity and is a forum for me to explain what historical scholars have discovered.

          • Avatar
            biomystic  May 22, 2016

            Ok, Bart. I know that scholars do not want to hear from the kind of people who’s spiritual visions they study when they’re good and dead but here’s the thing; You scholars do not have a monopoly on study of ancient roots of Christianity and by trying to keep new spiritual information out of the Christian discussion you do a disservice to religious history and spiritual truth. You are unaware as are most scholars that Judah’s Torah was a counterfeit of the original Egyptian celestial Taurowet Constellation theology of the Order, Way, and Harmony of Creation. If you don’t know about this you don’t know very important roots of Christianity and that’s why I came here to start to share esoteric root Christian theology that, yes, changes most everything we know about Jewish Christianity. But it is your thread and this is far from the first time I’ve been unwelcomed on Christian discussions because of not holding tradition (Roman or Pauline) Christian beliefs. Scholars act no different from ministers when it comes to territorial defense and blocking any competition in authority.

        • Avatar
          tjjohnson61@yahoo.com  April 6, 2019

          Dear biomystic, Your views on astrological connections in Christianity sound interesting. I would encourage you to consider writing your own books and blog about your discoveries, theories, etc. Certainly your voice should be added to the overall discussion. My own views are very basic and unsophisticated, compared to your’s. I always thought that technically, we entered the “Age of Aquarius” sometime in 1953? And that one other reason why early Christians may have used the sign of the fish was a nod to the advent of Jesus/Christ occurring also at the time of the Age of Pisces. Further, the “bull” was popular in idol worship around the time of Moses partly because this was the Age of Taurus. I am no expert on things astrological, as I said, but I would encourage you to write your own book or books on these subjects, if you have not already done so.

  16. Avatar
    Simulacrum  February 24, 2017

    Hi Bart

    You answered in a post above that :”On the teachings of Jesus: my understanding is that he referrred to the son of man as the future judge of the earth (someone other than himself) but as *himself* as the future (human) messiah, to be installed by the son of man.”

    I share your view that Jesus saw himself as the Messianic King and told his disciples that they would rule the 12 tribes. However, I can’t immediately reconcile this view with a Jesus who believed in the Son of Man of Enoch (…sat on the throne of his glory), and Daniel (the perpetual rule over the earth). There can only be one king, right? And if the Son of Man is supposed to rule from his throne, where does that leave Jesus? David ruled with only God above him in the Jewish traditions, as far as I know…
    Thank you for a great blog!

    • Bart
      Bart  February 26, 2017

      My sense is that you’re having trouble reconciling what different *texts* say about the son of man rather than about the *view* that Jesus was the messiah to be appointed the son of man. The latter view is consistent enough. It’s just at odds with what *other* texts have to say about the son of man.

      • Avatar
        Simulacrum  February 26, 2017

        Right. Thank you for your reply.

  17. Avatar
    Zboilen  April 6, 2017

    Hi Bart. What do you think of the passage in Mark which says, “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (referring to the coming of the Son of Man). This doesn’t look like something the church who believed Jesus was the Son of Man would have made up since it makes Jesus look ignorant. I also noticed that Luke omits this passage (maybe because it’s difficult?). Do you think it has any claim to authenticity?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 7, 2017


      • Avatar
        Smithfio  June 26, 2020

        Hello Bart,
        I am new here and find it very interesting. Could you please further elaborate on your agreeing with Zboilen”s comment on the claim to authenticity? Thank you

        • Bart
          Bart  June 28, 2020

          I’d be happy to — but you’ll need to summarize it and then re-ask your question so I (and other blog readers) will know what you’re referring to. Thanks,

  18. Avatar
    mikiecal  October 13, 2017

    Good morning,
    Just wanted you to see this as FYI, which came into my inbox just this morning, from Larry Hurtado:
    Son of Man: An Obsolete Phantom
    In recent comments, some have pointed to scholars who have posited that when Jesus used the expression “the son of man” he was referring to some other, future figure, not himself. This is a view that once was quite widely shared, and so will be found frequently in older commentaries and studies, and may still be found from scholars who haven’t kept abreast of analysis of the evidence over the last several decades.

    The reason that it no longer has the same appeal is that this view rested on the accompanying and likewise once widely-held assumption that “the Son of Man” was a well-known title for an eschatological redeemer figure, a heavenly being who supposedly was expected widely in second-temple Jewish tradition. So, on this assumption, when Jesus spoke of “the son of man,” he obviously couldn’t have been referring to himself as an earthly/mortal man. Indeed, so the assumption went, when he used the expression everyone then would have recognized that he was referring to this supposed other/future figure, for (to reiterate the crucial assumption) “the Son of Man” was supposedly a well-known appelative for this heavenly redeemer being.

    But at least from the 1970s onward, it has become increasingly widely granted that, in fact, there is no evidence for the supposed use of “the son of man” as a fixed title for any figure in second-temple Jewish tradition.[1] There are texts that describe a heavenly being who will come and lead God’s people in triumph, such as the Melchizedek figure in the Qumran text, 11QMelchizedek. But he’s called “Melchizedek,” not “the son of man”! And it appears that some expected the archangel Michael to serve in this role, but he too isn’t ever referred to by the title “the Son of Man.” As for the messianic figure of the Parables of 1 Enoch, I’ve repeatedly reminded readers that there too we don’t actually have “the son of man” as a fixed title for this figure (e.g., here). (The English translations all too typically mislead readers by rendering several Ethiopic expressions used in the Parables by this one fixed translation.)

    So, “the Son of Man” wasn’t actually a familiar title for a well-known eschatological redeemer being/figure in second-temple Judaism.[2] And so when Jesus used the expression he can’t have been referring to a figure using a title that people would have readily recognized as designating some other, future eschatological redeemer. You see? The crucial basis for taking Jesus’ use of the expression as referring to some other figure was washed away. So the consequent structure built on that basis cannot continue to stand.

    We are left, thus, with what is rather clearly how the Evangelists read and intended the expression: a peculiar self-designation idiom used in the Gospels only by Jesus (some 80x). A “son of man” is, of course, an idiomatic way of designating a human being in ancient Semitic languages (Hebrew & Aramaic), and “sons of man” the plural equivalent. But the particularizing forms in Greek (ο υιος του ανθρωπου), or Aramaic (בר אנשא), or Hebrew (בנ האדם) are hard to find. So “the son of man” seems to have been something of a linguistic innovation, and would have had the sense of “the/this son of man” (in particular). All of the Gospel sayings where Jesus is portrayed using the expression are easily read as sentences where he simply refers to himself, making this or that statement about himself under this peculiar phrase. There is neither need nor (more importantly) any evidential basis for taking the expression as referring to some other/future figure. The expression “the son of man” itself simply has this particularizing force, isn’t a title, and didn’t carry any automatic referential force. It is the sentences in which it is used that make any statement about “the son of man,” and in each case the statement says something about Jesus.

    [1] Among early and crucial studies were Geza Vermes, “The Use of Bar Nasha/Bar Nash in Jewish Aramaic,” in An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, by Matthew Black (3rd ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), 310-30; Ragnar Leivestad, “Exit the Apocalyptic Son of Man,” New Testament Studies 18 (1971): 243-67. On the various linguistic issues and texts, see now the multi-author volume, Larry W. Hurtado and Paul L. Owen (eds.), ‘Who Is This Son of Man?’ The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus (London: T&T Clark, 2011).

    [2] Cf. John J. Collins, “The Son of man in First-Century Judaism,” New Testament Studies 38(1992): 448-66, who argues that there, though “the Son of Man” was not a fixed title there was a “concept” associated with the figure of Daniel 7:13-14. Quite possibly so. But the crucial point is that Jesus’ use of “the son of man” didn’t reflect some supposedly recognized title. A crucial early study of how the Daniel 7 figure was treated in ancient Jewish tradition is Maurice Casey, Son of Man: The Interpretation and Influence of Daniel 7 (London: SPCK, 1979).


    • Bart
      Bart  October 13, 2017

      Yes, Larry often uses that rhetorical strategy of “Yes, that’s what people *used* to think, but anyone who is current no longer thinks so.” 🙂 I wonder whom he is thinking of though. Off hand I don’t know any serious scholar who argues that “the Son of Man” was a widely used title in the first century.

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    Pedro  April 7, 2018

    I agree with you Dr. Erhman that in all the Son of Man sayings in the gospels, only those Jesus having predicted the future advent of a Son of Man (other than himself) are genuine sayings of Jesus. Others were just mere inventions by later Christians. It is clear that Jesus had announced as his Gospel the imminent advent of the cosmic Son of Man as previously prophesied by Daniel.

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    Joel Smith  January 19, 2019

    Ezekiel 2
    God “said to me (Ezekiel), “Son of man, a stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” 2As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

    3He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ 5And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

    According to Ezekiel 2 the Son of Man is a Prophet. This is what Jesus called himself. Jesus never called himself the Son of God. Why would people call Jesus something that he never called himself? In Greek culture the sons of god were demigod sons of Zeus. In Jewish culture sons of God were kings like David & Solomon. Jesus said that God was greater than he was… so Jesus was not God. Instead he called himself a Son of Man.

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