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“The Son of Man”: Encore

October 11, 2017

In comments responding to my recent postings on Andrew Loke’s book, some have pointed to the remarkable messianic figure in the “Parables” of the composite writing known as 1 Enoch (chaps 37-71).   It has become now somewhat fashionable to date the Parables earlier than previously, now often to early first century CE (instead of late first century CE or later).  And there are often references to the remarkable messianic figure of this material as “the son of man,” with the purpose of positing this figure and expression as an explanation of Jesus’ use of the Greek equivalent.

The date of the Parables, their original language (the material survives only in Ethiopic and in manuscripts of the late medieval period) and provenance, all remain, however, matters of scholarly guesswork.  And it bears noting that the only fixed title of the messianic figure in the Parables is “the Elect/Chosen One”.  There are four distinguishable Ethiopic expressions that are often (and, to my mind, misleadingly so) rendered “the son of man,” giving the impression that it too is a fixed expression in the Parables.  It isn’t.  And the Parables don’t likely provide us any magic key for accounting for Jesus’ use of the expression “the son of man” as his characteristic self-designation.

I’ve posted on these matters earlier here , here, here,  here, and here, but readers new to this site may not know to search back posts.

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15 Comments
  1. cliske permalink

    Since the one as Son of Man in Daniel 7:13 who comes with the clouds of heaven is in verse 14 given universal dominion, this sounds much like Phil 2:-11 where every knee will bow at the name of Jesus. According to Bauckham, such rule is evidence of participation in God. So by his self-reference to the Son of Man, was Jesus not perhaps referring to Daniel and thereby ascribing divinity to himself? Colin Liske

    • Both Daniel 7:13-14 and Philippians 2:9-11 picture a figure who is *given* dominion by God. In Philippians 2:9-11, Jesus is given to share in the divine name and universal rule . . . “to the glory of God the Father”.
      In Mark 14:61-65, Jesus is portrayed as claiming a future exaltation for himself . . . by and with God. This isn’t quite “divinity”, but it is remarkable.

  2. James Francis permalink

    Dear Prof. Hurtado, I wonder if you would be so kind as to re-send me your recent blog on “The Son of Man: An Obsolete Phantom”. Unfortunately the message disappeared as I was reading it via my iPhone. With kind appreciation, James Francis.

    >

  3. Hon Wai Lai permalink

    Prof. Hurtado, Is it the current consensus in scholarship that the phrase “son of man” as used by the historical Jesus, on its own, is largely a self-reference without any preexisting theological connotations or allusions? If so, scholarship has moved on since 1999 when Delbert Burkett concluded “The Son of Man debate thus serves as a prime illustration of the limits of New Testament scholarship. Those limits lie both in our own inevitable subjectivity as scholars and in the intractable nature of the sources at our disposal. Because of these limits, some questions may never be fully resolved, at least to everyone’s satisfaction. At the end of the twentieth century, it appears that the Son of Man problem may be one of those questions.”
    (“The son of man debate”, SNTS monograph, Cambridge, 1999)

    • Wai Lai: Scholarly opinion moves sloooooowly. But we’ve known since the 1970s that “the son of man” wasn’t a fixed Jewish title for some eschatological figure. So, the only alternatives are (1) the expression was coined by early Christians, or (2) by Jesus. And the sentences in which it’s used make it evident that it’s a self-referential expression.

      • Dr. Hurtado: Who, in your view, is the figure of Daniel 7:13-14:

        “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

        In your opinion, who would that be?

      • Grayson: You’ll have to make your question more precise. Who did the author of Daniel think the figure was? (I follow John Collins’ suggestion that it was probably the “heavenly representative” of the human elect.) Who did some early Christians think the figure was? In at least some cases, they saw him as the enthroned Jesus.

  4. Richard C. Brown permalink

    Dr. Hurtado do you consider John 12;32-34 to be a Post-Easter insertion?

    • Well, Richard, it’s rather clearly written/composed in the time of the Evangelist, as indicated by his comment in v.33. But what’s your real question?

      • Richard Brown permalink

        It was real, at least to the questioner 🙂 . I find it a fascinating passage that, to me, is harmonic with Stephen’s vision, and with Jesus’s trial assertion. But taking your invitation: is there any other passage like this where the “people” display understanding that the “Son of Man” is the Christ who is to sit on the Davidic throne, vanquish enemies, remain perpetually? In the passage I cited, they seem to say “we DO get it, but what kind of a Christ is this who will be crucified [lifted up]?”

      • Richard: You misread John 12:34. The question “who is this ‘son of man'” rather clearly shows that the crowd can’t figure out what the expression refers to. Notice: Nobody, nobody in the entire NT ever acclaims Jesus as “the son of man,” nobody ever contests the expression or denies it to Jesus. Contrast this with the clear acclamations, “you are the Christ” and questions about this, or “son of God” (in John, hotly opposed by Jesus’ opponents). The crowd in John 12:34 recognize the term “Christ/Messiah,” but not “the son of man” expression. This actually confirms my point: It wasn’t a known expression or title.

  5. Larry, I’ll preface my question by stating that I am a neophyte in these matters, do I understand correct: the Parables have survived in Ethiopic, not Greek?

    • Thomas: 1 Enoch survives (as a complete work) only in Ethiopic (and manuscripts dated variously from ca. 15th century AD a later). We have fragments of some portions in Aramaic (among Qumran material), and in Greek (from Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, ca. 3rd century CE). But for the “Parables” we have only medieval/Renaissance era manuscripts in Ethiopic.

  6. John Mitrosky permalink

    Please, everyone, there is good reason to agree with Larry. Interested folks please read the FF Bruce essay and take note of the summary on pages 18 and 19, that FF Bruce agrees with Larry that “son of man” was not a current title in Jesus’ day. All F.F. Bruce is saying in this essay is that Jesus could have felt “free to take up the expression son of man and give it the meaning he chose,” based on passages like Daniel 7:13 and the Isaianic Servant them pointing to a vindication for a righteous sufferer, whom is a Christological-like figure. The Gospel of Mark may know, or may not know, The Parables of Enoch. The same can be said for the Historical Jesus. For the full article by FF Bruce see again:

    https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/christ-the-lord/sonofman_bruce.pdf

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