The Title “The Son Of Man” -- By: Milton G. Evans

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 057:228 (Oct 1900)
Article: The Title “The Son Of Man”
Author: Milton G. Evans


The Title “The Son Of Man”

Prof. Milton G. Evans

According to the Gospels, Jesus selected the title “the Son of man” as appropriate to himself. Only twice is it used by another than Jesus, and both are probably quotations. Outside of the Gospels it is found only in Stephen’s prayer, for the phrase “son of man” in John’s Apocalypse does not refer to Jesus, but to the “one like unto a son of man” of Daniel’s vision.

The frequency of the Messianic name “the Son of man” in the Gospels and its absence from the Epistles have often been noticed, and the inference drawn, that Paul’s silence is due to ignorance of such a title for Jesus. Assuming Paul’s ignorance, the conclusion is reached, that no such Messianic title was current in the apostle’s lifetime, and that therefore the representation of the evangelists is unhistorical. Arguments drawn from the processes of historical and literary criticism have of late been freely used to show that this old conjecture is the true solution of the problem. For example, it is urged that Paul could not have known the term “the Son of man” as a Messianic name; else he would have used it, rather than the terms “the last Adam,” “the second man,” and “the man from heaven” (1 Cor, 15:45), in order to describe the ideal humanity of Jesus; and the passages in the Gospels where the title occurs are so manipulated as to exclude almost all of them from the sayings of Jesus. Some of the passages are rejected because of their “evident secondary

character”; others are eliminated as “apostolic interpretations”; others are bluntly called “unhistorical”; and the rest are declared to be equivalent to the supposed Aramaic original bar-nash, which means simply “man” or “a man.” The last proposition is maintained by insisting that Jesus spoke Aramaic, and that to know what Jesus said, the present Greek version must be translated into Aramaic.

But even if it be admitted that Jesus spoke Aramaic,— and there is no sufficient reason for denying it,—the necessary inference is not, that he must have used the original of the Greek phrase “the Son of man” in the sense of “man” or “a man.” Competent Aramaic scholars hold that the indefinite bar-nash could not have been translated into the definite Greek ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, but that this Greek name must have been equally definite in the Aramaic.

Lietzmann has given the most thorough recent discussion of the title, and has reached the conclusion, that its first traces appear in Marcion, among the Ophites and in the I...

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