The Term “Son Of Man” As Used In The New Testament -- By: G. Frederick Wright

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 044:176 (Oct 1887)
Article: The Term “Son Of Man” As Used In The New Testament
Author: G. Frederick Wright

The Term “Son Of Man” As Used In The New Testament

G. Frederick Wright

Our Lord’s use of the appellation “Son of man” presents a very striking and complex phenomenon. The complexity, however, resolves itself into utmost simplicity when once the right position is reached from which to view it. It is one of those instances in which, in the words of Pascal, “Jesus Christ speaks of the most sublime subjects with such simplicity that he seems not to have thought on them, and yet with such accuracy, that what he thought is distinctly brought out,” in that there is in the Son of man “the presence of a God who hideth himself.”

Peculiarities In The Use Of The Appellation

I. The appellation “Son of man “is that by which the Saviour most frequently designated himself. He styles himself “Son of man “sixty different times. Counting repetitions in parallel passages and in quotations, the appellation is used about eighty times in the Gospels. Indeed, Christ scarcely ever applied any other term to himself. In John

there are three or four instances of his styling himself “Son of God.” There are also many instances in which he speaks of himself as simply the “Son,” leaving the adjunct to be supplied by the nature of the case.

2. In the conversation and writings of the apostles they studiously avoid the use of the appellation except in quoting his own words. This appears remarkably in Matt. 16:13–16:”He asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is? … Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The exceptions in Acts 7:56; Rev. 1:13; 14:14, will be explained in the proper place.

3. Another peculiarity in Christ’s application of this term to himself is, that the definite article is always present. It is always ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. The best critics now insert the article in John 5:27.

4. The conception contained in the appellation “Son of man” is deemed necessary by the Saviour to explain his most wonderful exhibitions of power. See John 5:27:” And he gave him [the “Son”] authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man.” So elsewhere the appellation is repeatedly used with predicates that are in the highest degree startling. The appearance of composure amid this seeming confusion, and...

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