The Son Of Man -- By: John McNaugher

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 088:349 (Jan 1931)
Article: The Son Of Man
Author: John McNaugher

The Son Of Man

John McNaugher

From the beginning of His ministry, habitually, with almost astounding persistence, Jesus called Himself the Son of Man. It seems to have been His favorite self-designation. The expression occurs 81 times in the Gospels, viz. 30 times in Matthew, 14 in Mark, 25 in Luke, and 12 in John. Excluding duplicates, it occurs 35 times in the Synoptic Gospels and 11 times in the Fourth Gospel. It is the most engaging of all the titles of Jesus because it is the one He took for Himself of His own free choice.

Strangely enough, for conjectural reasons to be noted later, it is never found upon the lips of any but Jesus Himself. According to the record, no one ever addressed Jesus as the Son of Man while He was on earth or referred to Him in that way. Only once, outside of the Gospels, do we find it applied to Him. That was where the first martyr, Stephen, affirmed that he saw “the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). This, however, was but a verbal repetition, an echo, of a saying of Jesus before the very same court at whose bar Stephen was then standing, not an independent, personal use of the term. The language of Jesus to Caiaphas had been: “Henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). Stephen’s words are merely responsive to Christ’s. Prompted by the vision which had broken in upon him, he is simply citing Jesus’ own solemn testimony as being wonderfully verified in his own experience. “I see,” said he, “that glorious One Who in the days of His flesh, and before this very tribunal, called Himself the Son of Man. I see the Son of Man on the right hand of God.” Twice in the Apocalypse of John (1:13; 14:14) the phrase “a son of man” is employed, but it is obviously modeled on Daniel, in a passage awaiting study, and does not at all suggest Jesus’ use of the term. Brush-

ing aside these three seeming textual exceptions, it holds that Jesus alone styled Himself the Son of Man. Let it be marked, further, that the title is entirely absent from the New Testament Epistles and from post-apostolic literature, such as the Didache, the Epistles of Clement and Polycarp, and the Shepherd of Hermas.

“We proceed to state next that no expression in the New Testament has been more discussed. Learned volumes have been writen upon it, dealing with its origin, history, and significance. For example, Edwin A. Abbott has a volume of 873 pages devoted to it...

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