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. (8)
It is significant that with perhaps the exception of “humility” (the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head) all these attributes are found in Daniel 7: the son of man is given authority to rule, either he or the Ancient of Days is an eschatological judge, and he appears as a heavenly being. The one reference to Jesus as Son of Man outside the Gospels reinforces this association: “And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
Even if we accept the argument that “the son of man” has no inherent christological meaning, Hurtado still acknowledges that Jesus does at least in Mark 14:62 / Matthew 26:64 (and in the apocalyptic discourse, it appears) identify himself with the figure of Daniel 7:13; and the son of man figure in Daniel 7 is given an authority that he did not have before.
But as it is, if you look at all the “son of man” passages in Mark, a coherent story emerges about suffering and vindication:
- the Son of Man has authority (2:10, 28)
- the Son of Man must suffer at the hands of the Jewish authorities and of the Gentiles, giving his life as a ransom for many (8:31; 9:12, 31; 10:33; 10:45; 14:21, 41)
- the Son of Man will be raised from the dead (9:9, 31)
- the Son of Man will come in clouds, with great power and glory, having been given kingdom (8:38; 13:26; 14:62)
That is exactly what Daniel 7 is about—suffering and vindication. The connection between the son of man expression and Daniel 7 is much stronger that Hurtado admits, at least in Mark. It is nothing like as random as he suggests.
Hurtado thinks that the early church would have made much more of the expression “the son of man” if Jesus had used it in order to make important claims about his own ministry in light of Daniel 7:13:
If the expression was a ‘veiled’ way of making this claim in the time of Jesus’ own ministry, in the post-Easter situation of overt proclamation of Jesus we should expect a clear and forthright proclamation that Jesus is specifically ‘the son of man’ of that passage. (13)
But while it is true that the early church did not make use of the expression “the son of man”, the early church certainly did make use of the narrative of Daniel 7 to speak about the suffering and vindication of Jesus and his followers. Hurtado’s argument is principally directed against the use of “the son of man” as a title. My argument is that what Jesus applies to himself (and to his followers) is not the title but the story.