Skip to content

Son of Man–Hurtado

Son of Man--Hurtado

  1. A son of man permalink

    Commenter: What do you think Jesus meant by the title “The Son of Man”?

    Dr. Hurtado: “The Son of Man” is never used as a title in the NT and there is no evidence it was known/used as a title in 2nd Temple Judaism. Jesus simply used it as a self-designation.

    Commenter: I hear what you’re saying. So, do you Jesus was referring to a separate heavenly figure by his use of “the Son of Man” title?

    Dr. Hurtado: “The Son of Man” is never used as a title in the NT and there is no evidence it was known/used as a title in 2nd Temple Judaism. Jesus simply used it as a self-designation.

    Commenter: I understand. So, do you think the source of “The Son of Man” title was the Parables of Enoch?

    Dr. Hurtado: “The Son of Man” is never used as a title in the NT and there is NO evidence it was known/used as a title in 2nd Temple Judaism. Jesus simply used it as a self-designation.

    Commenter: I appreciate what you’re saying and have really learned a lot from reading your scholarly works. So, do you think the reason that Paul does not use “the Son of Man” title…?

    Dr. Hurtado: “The Son of Man” is never used as a title in the NT and there is NO evidence—zip, zero, nada—that it was known/used as a title in 2nd Temple Judaism. Jesus simply used it as a self-designation.

    Ahhhhhhh!!! Make it stop!!! You have the patience of a saint, Dr. Hurtado (by the contemporary, colloquial understanding of that idiomatic expression, of course). Jesus used “the son of man” as a self-designation. It is not a title in 2nd Temple Judaism nor a christological title….I don’t know how many times and different ways you need to say it, but apparently the point is unlearnable for some people (either that or it betrays a deep-seated attachment to “the-son-of-man”-as-a-title view that some people simply can’t let go of and desperately want to be true).

  2. John Mitrosky permalink

    Larry there is evidence that folks were speculating about “the Son of man” as a title. Whoever wrote Matthew is proof. Matthew testifies that he himself is speculating. Matthew changes Mark 8:27 to having Jesus ask, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” (Matt 16:13). Matthew accepts that both Mark and Q also speak of the Son of man as a title, but he wants to make it absolutely clear to his readers and listeners that Jesus is “the Son of man.” Thus he changes Luke 6:22 into “my account” and Luke 12:8 into “I also will acknowledge”. The claim that Matthew simply has an alternative version of Q 6:22 and Q 12:8 remains suspect. At least most scholars, and I agree, think Luke’s version is older and perhaps even represents two historical Jesus sayings. I hesitate to go that far, but Luke’s Q version certainly looks more original. 1950 plus years later we might speculate as you do that the Son of man simply means “moi”, but the above evidence suggests to me that Matthew was the first to make that speculation, because he was concerned, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?”

    • John: I tire of this,but I’ll remind you of the data one more time. Neither Matthew nor any other NT author ever used “the son of man” as a title. No one applies it to Jesus. It’s not in the confessional repertoire of the NT authors. Only the Gospels have the expression, and only on the lips of Jesus. It functions there solely as a way that Jesus refers to himself, and no one in the narrative recognizes the expression as a title. That the Evangelists use “the son of man” as the equivalent of “I/me” on Jesus’ lips proves that it’s simply Jesus’ self-designation. Let it go, John.

  3. john permalink

    Hi Larry. I was just reading Boccaccini’s personal contribution again, to the “Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man” collection of essays and I couldn’t help wishing to emphasize one of his points. I’ll spare you my agreement with his profound introductory analogy between ancient buildings and ancient documents, while trying to locate the same bricks used to construct different looking buildings. Instead, I wish to cut to a quote from his, admittedly controversial conclusion:

    “Christians developed the Enochic idea that divine Wisdom had her dwelling place in the heavens and the Messiah Son of Man stood side by side with her on the divine throne, first identifying their revealer Jesus with the heavenly Son of Man and then replacing the divine Wisdom with the preexistent and divine Christ” (p. 287).

    The issue, or point becomes for me, was it Christians who did this? Or was it the historical Jesus who did this, or at least started the ball rolling in that direction? I think here of Peter Simmonds question to you and your response, at the most recent top of the discussion. Paul’s early high Christology fits well, of course, with Simmonds question and your answer.

    My point is you seem to want it both ways? Even if we look at only the son of man sayings from a supposedly even earlier than Mark Q perspective, all of these sayings cohere well with both an expression meaning only “this man”, and the titular expression that Boccaccini points at. The context of each of these Q sayings and even, perhaps just as early sayings by Mark can not be brushed under the rug, or ignored. All these sayings are cogent theologically with the son of man in the PE. The PE is not quoted explicitly, but the themes are so similar that they indicate Jesus’ identification with this same man. You can borrow to make a point, or you can out and out fuse yourself with a new revelatory sense of this son of man. The question remains open on just how the historical Jesus identified with this earlier non-revelatory apocalyptic figure. At least it makes sense to me that the non-revelatory, maybe not so titular son of man precedes the revelatory, “The Son of Man.”

    • John: You are still not taking on board the lack of any evidence that “the son of man” was a known/used expression as a title for a heavenly being in 2nd temple Judaism. Parables of Enoch included. English translations give a misleading impression, whereas the Ethiopic has several expressions, not one fixed title. We’ve been over this many times. I’m tired of making the same point, when you obviously don’t want to hear it.

  4. Hi Larry, I just read your essay and have a few questions. You write the following on page 16:

    “I propose, instead, that the expression simply reflected Jesus’ sense that he had a particular, even unique, vocation in God’s redemptive purposes. That is, I suggest that Jesus saw himself as having a special role and mission, and that he used the expression for ‘the son of man’ self-referentially to express this conviction.”

    Do you think Jesus might have viewed the “son of man” phrase as roughly equivalent to “Messiah” with regard to the unique role and mission he felt Yahweh had given him?

    And since “son of man” in common usage probably just meant “this human” or “this man,” could Jesus have been using it primarily as a way of showing humility? For example, he might have used the phrase to emphasize he was just human and should not be mistaken for a god in spite of the many miracles he performed.

    • Peter: An important part of my argument is the distinction in meaning and nuance between the indefinite forms (in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek), which = “a son of man,” and the definite forms (e.g., Greek ο υιος του ανθρωπου), which = “the son of man”. I.e., the definite forms have a particularizing force. None of them = “Messiah,” however.

      • I realize Jesus’ audience would not have equated the terms “son of man” and “Messiah”; I was just wondering whether or not Jesus might have chosen to refer to himself as “son of man” because, like the term “Messiah,” he felt the term singled him out as one chosen by Yahweh for a unique mission. I felt like that’s what you were saying on p.16 in the sentences I quoted.

        What about my second question? Do you think Jesus may have referred to himself as “this human/this man” as a form of humility? (I know this wouldn’t hold true in the 4th Gospel but I was thinking of the Synoptic Gospels.)

      • Again, Peter, you’re still not quite getting it. Jesus didn’t refer to himself as “son of man”, but as “em>the son of man”. If your read my discussion in my essay, you’ll see that this form of the expression appears to be distinctive to the Gospels and distinctive to Jesus’ own idiolect. “son of man” simply = a human being. “THE son of man” connotes a particularity. It doesn’t, thus, so much convey humility as a special role or significance.

  5. John Mitrosky permalink

    I do appreciate your essay and your point Larry, that it is Jesus’ self-referencing “idiolect”. I just find it fascinating to apply context theories to individual sayings, so I am curious which “the son of man” sayings you might put on Jesus’ lips. For example, “the son of man has nowhere (or no place) to lay his head” is popular among many HJ scholarly theories So then the question becomes what does it mean? “I (a mere man) have nowhere to lay my head? I (standing before you as Sophia incarnate) have no where to rest? I (another unfortunate homeless person) have nowhere to rest?

    Can you please share other possible meanings for this saying, or other contextual expressions where “the son of man” appears?

    • John: I’ll humor you on this one (but, please, let’s not get into the interminable discussion that might follow!). “The son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58) is set in the context of Jesus encountering a person who expresses the wish to be his follower. Jesus’ response (v. 58) simply functions as a warning that Jesus (and by implication those who do follow him) will have no settled place but will operate itinerantly, dependent on hospitality. As in the other sayings “the son of man” simply = Jesus (“moi”). But, enough, please!

  6. John Mitrosky permalink

    Hi Larry,

    I was wondering if you have any comments to share on Dale Allison’s, or David Catchpole’s comments on page 14 here, or on this article by Andrei Orlov in general. I think here of the problem of composition theories about the how, when, why, where and who of Mark’s Gospel and the Q sayings, as compared with historical Jesus theories:

    • John: My only comment is that there is no evidence of a heavenly figure named “the son of man” in the entirety of 2nd temple Jewish evidence. The idea of heavenly counterparts is plausible. But it isn’t required for any of the Gospel sayings that use “the son of man”. They’re all simply statements about Jesus.

      • John Mitrosky permalink

        Are there any “son of man” sayings in the gospels that you think may be sayings “by the historical Jesus”, as compared to just being statements “about Jesus”? If so, which sayings would you include as perhaps being on the lips of the HJ?

      • John: If you read what I’ve published on the subject, you’d know the answer. I hold that “the son of man” was an “idiolect” expression formed by Jesus as a distinctive self-reference. So, many of the Synoptic sayings likely derive from actual sayings of Jesus. But they are all about him, not some heavenly other figure.

  7. Dr. Hurtado,

    While my opinion isn’t of importance, I agree with your views on the meaning of the term, “Son of Man.” I at one time agreed with the view that it was a messianic term by reading such people as Boyarin and others; thinking that, hey if it is Jewish or held by some non-Jesus believing Jews, it must be right, right? No.

    I do find it interesting that the late Professor David Flusser held the the term was a term for redeemer and that it was the highest concept for the messiah as redeemer. One of his students, Dr. Ron Moseley in his book entitled, Yeshua, page 2 states, “As David Flusser has pointed out, Jesus was actually claiming to be the redemptive factor of God when he identified Himself as the Son of Man”.

    My first encounter with your work was roughly 20 years ago as a student at Cincinnati Christian University. Within the last few months I have reacquainted myself with your work and use it as a resource often as my own view of Christology has been transformed with different understanding(s).

  8. John Mitrosky permalink

    Another point I’d enjoy your comments on about the son of man Larry is…if we assume Jesus used the term self-referentially only in an Aramaic equivalent, then the question becomes what did Jesus mean by it? [edited–LWH]

    • John: I’ve given what I’m able to offer about “the son of man” in the mouth of Jesus in my essay that concludes the multi-author volume: “Who is This Son of Man”: The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus, eds. Larry W. Hurtado & Paul L. Owen (T&T Clark, 2011), 159-77.

      • John Mitrosky permalink

        Larry please let me try to share my main point about your point. If I wish to convey that I have
        an honorary bachelor of arts degree in western religious thought and the humanities and psychoanalytical thought program from U of T, I might refer to myself as “this B.A. man”, instead of simply, “this man”. At minimum, Jesus must be conveying something of this sort of meaning: “this Saint of the Most High man”, or “this prophet man”, or this “messenger on God’s behalf man “,or this “judge for God man” etc, or else why use the term to refer to yourself at all? Perhaps he liked that the term had such multiple connotations that made you think about possible ways of interpreting him? And this is similar to how he may have liked to teach in parables for the same reason?

        If I am missing something here Larry, for example, you might go deeper and refer to yourself comparable to me as “this P.H.D. man” thinks….”

      • Yes, John (and can we PLEASE let this topic go now?), I think that the definite singular “the son of man” connoted a certain specificity–“this mortal”–and suggests a sense of election and special mission/identity. It’s the statements in which the expression is used that tell us what that special mission and significance was that Jesus claimed.

  9. John Mitrosky permalink

    Larry I was wondering if you can recommend any good books on a “Proto-Q” theory. By this I mean the idea that, even if Luke knows Matthew, Luke also knows a Greek written source different from Matthew. To my way of thinking, when Matthew writes “on my account” (Matt 5:11) and Luke writes “on account of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:23), it is because Matthew has altered the saying, while Luke has retained the saying closer to what hypothetical Q said originally. If Luke knows Matthew, it is difficult to see why Luke would change such Matthew “I/My” sayings back into “Son of Man” sayings, since both authors and redactors want their readers to think Jesus is the Son of Man. For my money, this is the strongest objection to folks like Goodacre who try to argue for the Farrer hypothesis.By “Proto-Q” theory then, what I mean is are their any good books that entertain the idea that both Q theory and the Farrer hypothesis are partly correct. It might not be one or the other. So then the challenge becomes, for which sayings is Luke dependent on Q, and for which sayings is Luke dependent on Matthew?Perhaps this is more of a Q-Farrer hypothesis post, but for me at least, it is the Son of Man sayings that are most important to the issue.

    • I don’t know any books on a “proto-Q”. But I do wonder if “Q” was a fixed text or if there were various renditions of sayings-collections circulating, overlapping but not verbally identical.

  10. John Mitrosky permalink

    Thanks for this 2012 update on some of Nickelsburg’s and Vanderkam’s insights Larry. Much appreciated kindness! When I think of Nickelsburg’s work on the Parables, the following quote from 2007 always comes to mind (Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting the Book of Parables, 2007, page 47). I’d like to share the full quote here for the benefit of all interested folks and in case you have an opinion to share with all your followers on this topic and those like myself, who admire your son of man essay posted here above.

    Redaction and the Dating of the Parables

    “I have argued elsewhere that the Book of Parables is to be dated no later than the early decades of the first century C.E. on the grounds that Mark, the Q source and the apostle Paul knew a form of the son of man tradition that we find in the Parables but not in Daniel 7. Because I believe this tradition is paralleled by a traditional interpretation of Isa 52-53 also found in the Wisdom of Solomon (early first century C.E.?), I have been cautious to allow that the Gospels and their sources could have known the son of man tradition in other than their Enochic form. I am skeptical, however, for two reasons. First, the Wisdom of Solomon seems to know parts of the Enochic tradition and allows a special place for the figure of Enoch. Second, one of the son of man sayings in the Q source draws a parallel between the days of the son of man and the days of Noah, which brings us to the Enochic typology mentioned before. While it is possible that the author of that saying was aware of the Noachic elements in the earlier strata of 1 Enoch, it is simpler to suppose that the author knew the Parables in a Noachic redactional form of the book. This might push back the composition of the book back a bit in the first century. There is perhaps further corroboration for this in the commonly held belief that 1 Enoch 67:4-13 alludes to Herod the Great’s retreat to the baths of Callirrhoe. This might place the Noachic redaction of the Parables at a time during the late first century B.C.E. or the early first century C.E. when Herod’s last days were still alive in the memory.”

    This Nickelsburg quote also, at least a little bit, takes us back full circle to my original thought you take issue with, that some Gospel sayings and events look like they could have been influenced by the Parables.Mark 8:38, for example has an ashamed and shame dynamic very similar to the references to shame in 1 Enoch 62:11 and 63:11. Chapters 61-63 also bring to mind, at least for me, the Gospel scene where Jesus confronts the money-changers at the Temple. Sometimes throwing out all the commentaries and just reading the Book of Parables anew can bring to mind many Gospel sayings and stories. The parallels are sometimes uncanny.

    • ACtually, John, the purported “parallels” aren’t uncanny at all, in most cases only distant. There is an “itch” among NT scholars to try to supply a “source” for things, believing thereby to have done sound historical work. This itch produces leaps in logic and a blurring of particulars to arrive at purported “parallels”. E.g., why are the several different Ethiopic expressions that I’ve cited all rendered uniformly as “son of man” in most translations of 1 Enoch? Why is “son of man” often treated as a title in 1 Enoch, when it manifestly isn’t? Reason: Because doing so supplies a purported “source” for the remarkable and distinctively frequent use of the fixed expression “the son of man” in the Gospels. But we’ve gone over this several times now. So, again, let it go, John.

  11. John Mitrosky permalink

    Larry I have read many places and times now, thanks to your prompting, that there are indeed three Ethiopic expressions used in the Parables of Enoch that are all misleadingly translated “son of man”, but I cannot find anywhere, specifically, what those three different Ethiopic expressions are. I was hoping you could help find the three expressions for those of us so fascinated by this Enochic figure!

    • There .is a good discussion of the various expressions used to refer to the messianic figure in the Parables of Enoch in G.W.E. Nickelsburg & J. C. VanderKam, 1 Enoch 2: A Commentary on the book of 1 Enoch Chapters 37-82 (Fortress Press,2012),113-18. The various Ethiopic expressions commonly translated “son of man” are: zekku walda sab’ (“son of humankind”), walda sab’ (“human”), zentu walda sab’ (“a human”), walda sab’ zekku (“human descendent”), zekku walda be’esi (“son of a woman”), walda ‘egwala ’emaheyaw (“son of the offspring of the mother of the living”).
      So, it appears that the Ethiopic translators didn’t see the expression(s) that they translated into Ethiopic (from Greek??) as comprising a fixed title. And it is a bit misleading to translate them all as if they were a fixed title.

  12. John Mitrosky permalink

    Having read your comments on Boyarin Larry, perhaps it is useful to note that Boyarin further elaborates his case in his book “The Jewish Gospels: the Story of the Jewish Christ”, 2013. Besides the Son of Man as a title, a premise you disagree with Larry, and understandably so, the essential point Boyarin makes is that in the “Jewish unconsciousness and consciousness” of Second Temple Judaisms, Daniel’s “one like a son of man” represents an enigma. The enigma stems from the heritage of two gods. The god EL and the god YAHWEH. The “one like a son of man” in Daniel represents the approaching triumph of YAHWEH. EL has become a remote, ancient father-sky God that long ruled the promised land before YAHWEH’s arrival.. EL is the LORD OF HOSTS (Hebrew) and perhaps also the LORD OF SPIRITS (Aramaic?), or the SOVERIGN OF SPIRITS (2 Macc 3:24). YAHWEH is his son now entered into the promised land. Some Jews felt a tension between the two gods that represented their ONE GOD. In Boyarin’s world, the Jesus movement wins the day by the early-mid second century, because Jesus himself dissolved the tension!!! EL remains Father, but he is no longer remote. EL is accessible in intimate prayer. Jesus is the Son of EL. Jesus is Yahweh! The Son of God, the Son of EL.

    • John: Boyarin’s claims are all falsified by the evidence (or lack of it). There is no evidence that God was seen as remote or distant or requiring a lesser deity to relate to humans. See my review of matters in One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism. All evidence of Jewish prayer and worship indicates instead a direct and intimate sense of relationship with the biblical God. Furthermore, the man-figure of Dan 7 is explicitly identified as “the saints of the most high”, not as a second deity. To claim otherwise is simply to ignore Daniel 7.
      In short, all the premises for Boyarin’s case are non-existent. So, the related claims that he makes likewise dissolve.
      The same can be said for Waddell’s claims that Paul as influenced by the Similitudes of Enoch. In historical work we must proceed on evidence, not on supposition and speculation. For further comments, see my essay, “Paul’s Messianic Christology” in Paul the Jew: Rereading the Apostle as a Figure of Second Temple Judaism, ed. G. Boccaccini & C. A. Segovia (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2016), 107-31, esp 121-22 (the pre-publication version on this site under “Selected Published Essays). Let’s bring this thread to a close here.

  13. John Mitrosky permalink

    Just a thought to share Larry. If we claim Jesus was not thinking of “the Son of Man” (himself, or someone else), as a “man from heaven” title, as Paul puts it, then we are left with the Aramaic expression “a (mere) human being”. Some sayings fit this interpretation. For example, “a son of man has no place to lay his head.” We all feel like that rhetorically sometimes. The problem is if we press the Aramaic expression into all the Son of Man sayings in the gospels, the sayings start to make little or no sense at all. Most of the Son of Man sayings imply a title that goes with a revelatory experience — the title for a heavenly being. Why does Paul not use the term? Probably because he thought it embarrassing in the Aramaic sense. Plus Paul wants to promote the second man from heaven and deny the possibility of salvation through Adam, or any son of Adam, as other apocalypses of the time do. Paul has made the leap already, from Son of Man, or man from heaven, to the Lord Jesus Christ.

    • John: Several errors in your comments: (1) there is no evidence of the expression “the son of man” as a title in Jewish sources . . . period, so you can’t assume otherwise; (2) The Aramaic expression isn’t “a (mere) human being”, but likely the definite/particular form reflected in the articular form of the Greek “theson of man”; (3) The sayings in which the expression appear all make sense when read as simply a self-designation (which is clearly the way the four Gospel writers understood the expression). (4) Why does Paul not use the term? Because it was never a Christological title, for anyone; (5) there was no Pauline “leap” from “the son of man” to the Lord, because the former was never a Christological title.
      Please, please, catch up on scholarship. You’re proceeding from outdated and erroneous suppositions.

  14. John Mitrosky permalink

    Thanks again Larry. The more I read your great work, the more fascinating the questions of Christian origins become, my friend. As for fantasy castles in the sand, yes, I confess that is true. When I read the Parables of Enoch over and over again, I fantasize. Who is the Lord of Spirits, or the Lord of the Spirits? Is it El? And who is that Son of Man? Is he Yahweh? And what did Jesus think, if he knew this writing? Your essay, “Wright Critique — Return of YHWH” is great in this regard. I guess you do not like where Boyarin goes with the EL-YHWH, but I can’t help but think Boyarin is on to something important. And that it was important to Jesus too, the two god-heads EL (Father) and YHWH (Son of Man). Fantastic world’s of possibilities when it comes to Historical Jesus theories indeed. Love your work and your comments!

    • John: As for Boyarin’s proposal, see my posting some time back here:
      The 80 some usages of “the son of man” in the Gospels include a few that may make allusion to Daniel 7:14-15, but no allusions discernible to 1 Enoch.
      I repeat (and you don’t seem to catch this): (1) There is no evidence of the expression “the son of man” as a title for a recognized figure in 2nd temple Judaism (and that’s now standard judgement, not simply mine); and (2) the Greek ο υιος του ανθρωπου likely translates the Aramaic expression (definite form) בר נשא which is simply not found in Aramaic texts of the time. The indefinite/generic form (without the final aleph) is found, as is the equivalent in Hebrew. So, Jesus’ usage of this expression seems to be as a distinctive self-designation formula, “the/this man”. I’ve written all this in my concluding essay in the volume Who is This Son of Man?, the pre-publication version available on this site under “Selected Esssay” tab.

  15. John Mitrosky permalink

    Thanks Larry. I think the evidence for Jesus thinking about the Son of Man as a “future” heavenly figure separate from himself is in the gospels, is it not? One example of this is: “Every one who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God…(Luke 12:8). Matthew has changed the saying, as he often does, to replace the Son of Man with “me/I” terminology(Matt 10:32). Or so it seems to me. But I guess the opposite argument can be made, that for some unknown reason it is Luke who has changed such Son of Man sayings into “me/I” sayings, as in the beatitudes (Luke 6:22 roughly equals Matt 5:12a).

    I guess it boils down to opinion? Sabino Chiala writes, in “Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting the Book of Parables”, edited by Gabriele Boccaccini, page 168: “By the time the Evangelists were writing the Gospels, and probably already by the time of Jesus’ ministry, the Son of Man was a familiar figure, but what was truly familiar about him was his role as eschatological judge. The rest belonged to developments that are attested exclusively in Christian texts.”

    That said, I believe it is possible that when Jesus redefines the Messiah as the Son of Man who must suffer and be rejected and rise again in Mark 8:31 (and “he said this plainly”, Mark 8:32a), Mark could be conveying authentic words of Jesus! In other words, Jesus could have easily conflated Isaiah’s servant with the Son of Man, as the Parables of Enoch sort of foreshadows. Or perhaps it was some other now lost text, like the newly found “Gabriel stone,” that seems to mention rise and three days? If Paul and Mark are both referring to an actual now lost written prophecy that has been fulfilled, that prophecy was even more “fringe”, than the Enochic world view was among Jews of Jesus’ time. Ask me what kind of Jew Jesus was! I will answer, he was probably an “Enochic” Jew, in the sense that he at least believed in the world view as sketched in the Book of Watchers. Sins are forgiven because they are caused by the disembodied spirits of the punished Watchers fallen down to earth, etc…..

    Any comment would be great Larry! Thank you again in advance!

    • John: You’re free-wheeling! I depend upon historical evidence, and you’ve none to offer. As I’ve said, the figure of the Enoch Similitudes isn’t referred to as “the son of man”, but by several different Ethiopic expressions misleadingly translated uniformly as “the son of man”. There is NO evidence of “the Son of Man” as a title in 2nd temple Judaism. The Gospels don’t use “the son of man” as a recognized title, but as an idiosyncratic self-referential device of Jesus. So, there is no third figure to whom Jesus is referring by “the son of man”. And there’s no evidence of “Enochic” Judaism, with groups, worship patterns etc. You’re building castles in the air, my friend.

  16. John Mitrosky permalink

    Thank you Larry. I agree with all you say in your reply, except I must leave open the possibility that Jesus may have originally used the term “Son of Man” not as a self designation, but as an expression of his worship in a “man from heaven” possessing authority as earthly and eschatological judge — a Son of Man who was a separate heavenly being from himself, but on whose behalf, Jesus spoke with authority. As I’m sure you are aware, several Mark and Q-Luke sayings can be made to fit this interpretation also. Granted, the majority of sayings fit the interpretation that he used the term as a self designation. The question in my opinion though is: “Is this a later development by Jesus and the evangelists as he and they experienced the meaning of his life in Son of Man self designation terms, especially as suffering judge?”

    Without a time machine to go back and talk to Jesus during his ministry, maybe we can never know how he intended use of the term? If I could go back in time, I would want to ask Jesus whether or not he knew the Parables of Enoch materials in a way similar to the Ethiopian way we know them today. If he said “Yes”, I would want to ask Jesus how these ideas resonated with him and how he may have combined these ideas with other stories of his time. Like tears in the rain, these connections to Jesus’ thought are now so difficult to make. The possibility remains though, that a very small group of Parables of Enoch worshipers beginning with John the Baptist and Jesus, or something similar to this now lost to the sands of time, gave birth to the Jesus movement.

    Any thoughts to share, or any criticisms of disagreement are always welcome here Larry. Thank you so much for your time and teaching!

    • John: But in order for your proposal to work (that Jesus used “the son of man” with reference to another figure) we would need evidence that “the son of man” was a known and used title for some well-known future figure, and the problem for you is that there is no such evidence . . . for any of this. So, do you really want to disregard this, and base your proposal on a supposition that has no basis? How is this good historical method?
      And why posit something “now lost in the sands of time” when we have data on which to construct a much more elegant, simpler, and evidence-based approach to the origins of the Jesus movement? But, please, this is not the place to lay out elaborate speculations.

  17. Thank you for this succinct and helpful summary of a thorny question.

    I’m curious–what is your view of apologists who appeal to Jesus’ self-designation as SoM in support of CS Lewis’ trilemma?

    • Hmm. I don’t know what apologists make of the matter.

      • John Mitrosky permalink

        Thanks for all your great work on the Son of Man issue. I am wondering what you currently speculate about Mark 8:38? The prediction of being “ashamed”, seems to me, to be in perfect sync with the “shame” (1 Enoch 62:11; 63:11) the “kings”, governors”, “high officials”, “all those who rule the earth” and “the landlords” are to experience at the eschaton. In other words, do you think it is possible that Mark is referring here to the Parables of Enoch? Or even, that Jesus himself is here doing his own midrash on the Parables of Enoch? Of course this would also have to assume that the folks now more or less agreeing on the date for the Parables of Enoch (the time of Herod the Great) are correct. Also, briefly, why is the Parables of Enoch not evidence of Son of Man worship in Jesus’ day, if I understand you correctly. It seems to me it is evidence of Son of Man worship.

        Thank you,

        John Mitrosky

      • First, the notion of eschatological joy or shame doesn’t require a direct connection of Mark 8:38 and the Parables of Enoch. They both draw (independently most cogent to me) on Jewish apocalyptic themes.
        Second, “the son of man” expression in the Gospels is a fixed semantic form used only by Jesus and only as a self-designation. It is never contested or asserted or raised for discussion by others. It isn’t a “title” in the sense of applying to Jesus some established designation, as was widely assumed till ca. the 1970s.
        Third, the figure of the Parables of Enoch is designated variously as “anointed one” (Messiah), and other terms, including at least four different Ethiopic expressions typically rendered into English with a somewhat misleading fixity as “son of man”. So, I see no direct connection of the figure of the Parables and Jesus’ use of this peculiar expression.
        Finally, I see no cultic worship of the messianic figure of the Parables of Enoch. The rebellious kings are brought before him and bow in submission. That’s not cultus. There’s no evidence of a worship-community directing worship to this figure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: