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“The Son of Man”: The Video

December 17, 2017

Another of the several short videos filmed by and for our Centre for the Study of Christian Origins has appears, this one me responding briefly on scholarly study of “the Son of Man” expression:  here.

P.S.  For more of my analysis of the “son of man” issue, see my essay in ‘Who is This Son of Man’?  Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus, eds. Larry W. Hurtado & Paul L. Owen (London:  T&T Clark, 2011), 159-77.  The pre-publication form of that essay is on this blog site here.

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  1. John Mitrosky permalink

    Larry I was wondering if you see a similarity and continuity, even if you think this is unconnected, between wisdom and wisdom personified, as a feminine concept in both the Parables of Enoch and the Synoptic Gospels. This strikes me as a kind of shared irony with regard to Jesus’ use of “the son of man”, as compared to say, ” the son of woman”, “offspring of the mother of the living”, etc. And then of course, the Gospel of John seems to want to replace Sophia with Logos and transform her into a masculine term.. Any comments to share?

    • John; The personification of Wisdom as a female figure goes back to Proverbs 8, on which the subsequent references depend. And the literary trope in question seems to reflect the grammatical gender of the Hebrew word for “wisdom,” “hokmah”. But there’s no evidence of any early Christian appropriation of the “lady wisdom” category, and so no need to “replace Sophia with Logos”. Again, John, could you perhaps give the Parables of Enoch a rest here? It becomes a bit tiresome. I know you find all answers of the universe contained in them, but the rest of us aren’t as taken:-)

  2. John Mitrosky permalink

    An example of what I further mean to say layer is given in a quote from Gregg’s paper I cited above. On page 230 he writes:

    Luke 12:8 “suggests a distinction between Jesus and The Son of Man. It is hard to imagine such a distinction emerging in the early church, where Jesus’ resurrection would have encouraged continuity between the two figures.”

    • John: Please, please. The only basis for seeing two figures in Luke 12:8 (which the author of Luke obviously didn’t) is if you first assume (against all evidence) that “the son of man” was a designation for some other, supposedly known figure of Jewish expectation. That is, the view that you cite commits the fallacy of presuming the conclusion.

  3. John Mitrosky permalink

    Dear Larry,

    Could you please share a comment/opinion about your understanding of this excerpt from a SM letter John Kloppenborg wrote me:

    “I don’t really make much of the SM stuff apart, I think from leaving on Heinz Shurmann’s observation that all the SM sayings in Q are Kommentareworte, added to something else (6:23 + 6:22; 7:34-35 + 7:31-32; 12:40 + 12:39, etc.)…I am not sure if Thomas has removed the apocalyptic SM, or that Mark has created it (and Thomas just doesn’t know).”

    Merry Christmas!

    • John: As to Kloppenborg’s final sentence, I think that there was no “apocalyptic son of man” to remove! As I’ve argued repeatedly, there was no apocalyptic figure designated “the son of man” in 2nd temple Judaism. And Mark didn’t “create” one either. The expression “the son of man” doesn’t signify anything other than a particularizing reference to a human being. It is USED in sentences, and some of these sentences make apocalyptic statements about “the son of man” (who in every case is rather clearly Jesus).

      • John Mitrosky permalink

        I think all Kloppenborg is wondering about here is might we discern an earliest layer in the tradition wherein apocalyptic statements about this man, Jesus, are absent. Do you think Q1 theory of clustering sayings pointing to an non-apocalyptic non-eschatological Jesus is valid? And apocalyptic, eschatological statements (Q2) are a secondary creation that may have come about as the tradition moved from “dancing to the pipes” toward “singing a dirge”, as Mack once put it? Or do you think it is impossible to divide up Q this way and apply an historical Jesus theory to Q this way?

      • With a good many others, I don’t find my friend Kloppenborg’s layering of Q persuasive. See my discussion of Q in my book, Lord Jesus Christ.

  4. focusonfocusblog permalink

    Grant Willson: on the Hinge Podcast I think I hear you to be saying that some of the sayings in John don’t go back to the real Jesus. Does the inclusion of ‘the son of man’ in a saying in John act as a marker of genuineness?

    • Grant: “the son of man” is, in my view, a reflection of Jesus’ distinctive idiolect. The sayings in which the term is used each have to be weighed as to whether they come from Jesus or are an adaptation of a saying of his, or whatever.

  5. John Mitrosky permalink

    Another new book that folks might be interested in, in regard to the subject of your video Larry is here:

    There is certainly an interesting explosion going on in the scholarly world of studying Enoch and potential Gospel relations!

    • John: I wouldn’t call it an “explosion”, but there is certainly a dedicated circle of scholars at the moment promoting all things Enochian. I fear that some may overreach themselves.

      • Duncan permalink

        Thanks for the info, I will look at the second one you posted. I have also spent a little more time researching the spoken language of Jesus. BDAG upholds the Aramaic view but I have also come across this which I do need to read.:-

      • Yes, Duncan, but do take account of the specifics. There is ample evidence that Hebrew was read and used, at least in some parts of Roman Judaea and by at least some Jews, e.g., the Qumran manuscripts. But that is not the same thing as the question of what language was used in most daily conversation by most Jews living in Roman Judaea.

      • Duncan permalink

        I have found an excerpt from the book here:- obviously, I do not have the expertise to critique it. His arguments are mostly in favour of a Hebrew background to the synoptics but does his premise hold up? Do you know of any peer reviews of it?

      • Buth argues that there are Hebrew sources behind the Greek of the Synoptics. That’s not the same thing as saying that Jesus operated in Hebrew. Also, “retro-translation” is difficult to establish. It’s more important in my view that the actual semitic words and expressions that we have in the NT are almost entirely Aramaic: e.g., “maranatha” (1 Cor 16:22).

      • Duncan permalink

        There seems to be another possible option as to why an Aramaic phrase remains untranslated as opposed to Hebrew.

        One thing that comes to mind (as per modern examples) is how languages of empire coin phrases that become embedded in the surrounding cultures over time. Watching Indian TV in a language like gujarati is a good example where new concepts and catch phrases in English can easily be picked out and are commonly used.

      • Duncan: You’re completely missing the point. The Aramaic phrase, “maranatha” in 1 Cor 16 is used because it ties the cultic practice of Paul’s Greek-speaking churches to their Aramaic-speaking Jewish co-religionists. Similarly, Paul’s use of “Abba”. The guy you cite isn’t a trained biblical scholar. And I don’t get what you’re trying to say in the final sentences of your comment. But we’ve run this line to the end. So, no more please.

  6. Duncan permalink

    Your paper upon which this video is based refers to Aramaic idiom – does this include the possibility that Jesus spoke Hebrew?

    • The indications are that the commonly used language among Jews in Roman Palestine was Aramaic.

      • Duncan permalink

        Does evidence from the bar kochba letters have no bearing?

      • Duncan: Ah, no.

      • Duncan permalink

        Would Mat 5 or other places where Jesus says – you heard it said or you heard it read have been referring to Aramaic? Didn’t many illiterate people go to synagog? Also there is his being referred to as “son of David” accept for GJohn. Could this be the son of man? GJohn 19:5.

      • Duncan: The Matthean “antithesis” statements reflect other interpretations of Torah at the time (the “you have heard it said” bits), contrasted with the interpretation given by Jesus. Nothing to do with Aramaic. It’s interpretation of Torah.
        “Son of David” = royal messiah. “The son of man” isn’t any such title designating any fixed expectation. They’re not the same at all.

      • Duncan permalink

        Vermes, Efird, Maurice Casey, Paul Rainbow, Caragounis and others on the subject comprise indeterminate discourse. I do not assume that son of David = Messiah. Messiahs do not have to come from a family line. They are recognised by achievments in what is perceived as god’s will.

      • Duncan: Don’t “assume” anything. Just learn things, ok? Drop your arrogant tone, and learn some things. Otherwise, take your arrogance elsewhere.

      • Duncan permalink

        Apologies, do not mean to come across that way. I am just looking at what “Christ” in relation to “son of David” mean outside the NT. I have been reading:-

        Is there any other works you can recommend on the subject?

      • Duncan: Maybe start here: Kenneth Pomykala, “Messianism,” The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism, eds. John J. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow, pp. 938-42.
        For more in-depth analysis, Matthew Novenson, The Grammar of Messianism: An Ancient Jewish Political Idiom and Its Users (Oxford University Press, 2017).

      • Nemo permalink


        You might want to check out this fascinating 1-hour interview with Dr. Novenson, in which he explains his approach, i.e., using Wittgenstein’s “language game” framework to make sense of religious texts and historical events. It might give you an idea as to the helpfulness of the book in relation to your own inquiry.

  7. focusonfocusblog permalink

    Grant Willson: If modern scholars find discussion of the “Son of Man” so pivotal to our understanding of Jesus, how is it that Paul doesn’t even mention it?

    • Because “the son of man” wasn’t a confessional title, among ancient Jewish or earliest Christian texts. It was what you would call an “idiolect” expression, retained in the Gospels only on Jesus’ lips, and likely because that was the way “the master” spoke of himself.

  8. Short video, but crystal clear! Still strange to me, why such expression didn’t find its way in the tradition material other than the Gospels. We can’t find it in Paul (i.e. before the gospels) nor after Gospels were written (apparently not used in devotion/liturgical expressions, etc.).

    • ~See my essay on “son of man” under the “Selected PUblished Essays” tab on this site.

  9. Ottó Pecsuk permalink

    Thank you, Larry once again for a good concise summary of the scholarly opinions on the Son of Man. Still, I do have to go back to your article mentioned on P.S. for some clarification. Jesus himself seems to connect his self designation with the figure of Daniel 7 in Mark 14:62…

    • More specifically, Otto, Mark 14:62 alludes to Dan 7, no question. If Mark 14:62 actually preserves Jesus’ own saying/view, then it is possible that he made the connection too. But in Mark 14:62, “the son of man” is obviously only another instance of the self-referential use, not usage of some supposedly established title.

  10. John Mitrosky permalink

    Many of us think that Michael Heiser is a bit crazy for angels and demons and the divine council, but he is still a great scholar who can make an interesting case, as with his latest book, here:

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