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…in the light of up to date critical work on ‘son of man’.

What critical work did you have in mind? The most recent stuff that I’ve read seems very much in favour of the Daniel 7 interpretation.

Some extracts follow from ‘Who is This Son of Man’/Larry Hurtado, but the whole concluding chapter would be worth reading here.

(All quoted from the chapter mentioned)

Summing Up and Concluding Observations - ‘Who is This Son of Man?’ The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus, eds. Larry W. Hurtado and Paul L. Owen (LNTS 390; London: T&T Clark, 2011), 159-77.

The variations in the usage of ‘the son of man’ in the Synoptics, including particularly the apparent freedom of Synoptic authors to use ‘the son of man’ and the first-person pronoun somewhat interchangeably in sayings of Jesus, suggests that in these texts it functions simply (or at least primarily) as a unique self-referential expression.

The expression refers to Jesus (and almost entirely in sentences where it is used as a self-designation), but does not in itself primarily make a claim about him, or generate any controversy, or associate him with prior/contextual religious expectations or beliefs. ‘The son of man’ can be used in sayings that stake various claims about Jesus (e.g., Jesus’ authority, or humble situation, or heavenly provenance, or eschatological significance), but it is the sentence/saying that conveys the intended claim or statement, not ‘the son of man’ expression itself.

So, for example, to treat ‘the son of man’ as if in itself it ‘means’ a figure of authority (on the basis of sayings such as Mark 2.10), or of humility (on the basis of sayings such as Matt 8.20/Luke 9.58), or eschatological judge (on the basis of Matt 25.31), or a heavenly being (on the basis of John 3.13-14), or even the figure of Daniel 7.13 (on the basis of Mark 14.62/Matt 26.64) would all represent the fallacious move that I identify here. For emphasis, I repeat that in all the Gospels sayings, the function of ‘the son of man’ expression is essentially to refer to Jesus as the figure about whom the sentence says something. The particular ‘meaning’ of each statement/saying lies in the statement, not in the expression ‘the son of man’. In short, Jesus (as portrayed in the sayings/sentences in question) defines ‘the son of man’; ‘the son of man’ designates but does not define Jesus.

But the sheer diversity of sentences in which the Evangelists used ‘the son of man’, and the instances where they felt free to use the personal pronoun interchangeably with the expression, surely show that it did not have for them some precise and fixed meaning (or fixed set of meanings).

Several decades ago, Norman Perrin, argued that the expression ‘the son of man’ arose through a creative early Christian exegetical move in which the ‘one like a son of man’ in Daniel 7.13 was identified as the risen/exalted Jesus. Perrin found his evidence in the rather obvious allusion to Daniel 7.13 in Mark 14.62 and parallels, where Jesus is portrayed as affirming that ‘the son of man’ will be seen seated a God’s right hand and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven’.

But all such proposals that ‘the son of man’ originated in early Christian circles and expressed some christological conviction about Jesus seem to me to ignore, and so to founder on, a rather important datum. As we have noted already, there is no evidence that ‘the son of man’ functioned in the proclamation, confession or liturgical practices of any first-century Christian circle, at least to judge from the available texts. Instead, the sole place of the expression is in sayings of Jesus, where it seems to serve simply as a distinctive self-referential formula.

It is interesting that ‘the son of man’ does not feature in the representations of early Jewish-Christian proclamation and confession. The one instance of the expression on the lips of Stephen in Acts 7.56 is obviously one feature of the author’s larger presentation of Stephen’s martyrdom as echoing Jesus’ interrogation and death. So, in 7.56 we have an allusion back to Luke 22.69, where Jesus predicts that ‘the son of man’ will be seen at the right hand of God in heavenly glory. This sole instance of the expression scarcely suffices to show that it functioned as a christological title in ‘Palestinian’ Christian circles of the time.

Perrin, Burkett, and others who ascribe the expression to the early church tend to posit Daniel 7.13 as the crucial biblical text that provided the exegetical point of origin. Unquestionably, Daniel 7.13-14 was drawn on and alluded to in several NT texts (esp. Mark 14/62/Matt 26.64; Mark 13.26/Matt 24.30/ Luke 21.27; Rev 1.7). But it does not seem to me that Daniel 7.13 was quite as crucial in framing the christological convictions of the early church as would seem to be required/presumed in the sort of proposal supported by Burkett. Other OT texts seem to have been far more crucial (especially Psa 110).29 Moreover, if ‘the son of man’ originated via pondering OT texts, there are actually other texts as well that could have served to suggest the expression. These include Psalm 8.4; 80.18/LXX 79.18, the latter interestingly combining a reference to ‘the man at your [God’s] right hand’ and ‘the son of man’.