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THE frequency of this title in the sayings of Jesus, in respect of both the Parousia and the Passion, is in itself a sufficient justification for giving careful consideration to its meaning and usage.

The Jewish doctrine of the Son of Man begins with the book of Daniel (c. 165 B.C.), for while the term is used earlier, by Ezekiel (ii. 1, &c.) and in Psa. viii. 4, in these passages it is no more than a synonym for 'man'.

In Dan. vii., after the description of the four great beasts, the seer describes the coming of 'one like unto a son of man' with the clouds of heaven who is brought before 'the Ancient of Days', and continues: 'And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed' (vii. 14). The seer makes it plain that this is not the description of an individual, for he remarks that the four beasts are four kings, and then says: 'But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever' (vii. 18). Again, after a fuller description of the fourth beast, which represents the Greek Empire of Antiochus Epiphanes, he writes: 'And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High' (vii. 27). It is clear that the 'one like unto a son of man' is a human figure which represents the purified Jewish race.


But, however definite the seer's meaning may be, it is equally apparent that, once his description is read apart from the framework in which it stands, and without the interpretation he gives, the portrait is capable of being presented as that of an individual of supernatural dignity and power. The rough print is discernible in vii. 13: 'I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.' It is a widely accepted opinion that the enlargement is to be found in the Similitudes of Enoch written in the first half of the first century B.C. In Daniel, R. H. Charles observes, 'the phrase ("Son of Man") seems merely symbolical of Israel, but in Enoch it denotes a supernatural person.'11   The Book of Enoch, 307. For an exhaustive summary of critical opinion regarding the interpretation of Dan. vii. 13 see H. H. Rowley, Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel, 62ff.

This view is so important that it is necessary to consider the most relevant passages in some detail.

The description in xlvi. 1 undoubtedly rests on Dan. vii. 9 and 13.

'And there I saw One, who had a head of days,

And His head was white like wool,

And with Him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man,

And his face was full of graciousness, like one of the holy angels.'

Enoch asks 'concerning that Son of Man, who he was, and whence he was, (and) why he went with the Head of Days', and receives the answer:

'This is the Son of Man who hath righteousness,

With whom dwelleth righteousness,

And who revealeth all the treasures of that which is hidden,


Because the Lord of Spirits hath chosen him,

And whose lot hath the pre-eminence before the Lord of Spirits in uprightness for ever' (xlvi. 3).

In xlviii. 3 it is said that his name was before the Lord of Spirits 'before the stars of the heaven were made', and in verse 6 he is described as chosen and hidden before Him 'before the creation of the world and for evermore'. Of him it is said:

'He shall be a staff to the righteous whereon to stay themselves and not fall,

And he shall be a light of the Gentiles,

And the hope of those who are troubled of heart' (xlviii. 4).

Days are spoken of in which he will sit on God's throne, and 'his mouth shall pour forth all the secrets of wisdom and counsel' (li. 3). He is also described as 'the Elect One' (li. 3). The same name is used in lxii. 1, and it is said:

'And the Lord of Spirits seated him on the throne of His glory,

And the spirit of righteousness was poured out upon him,

And the word of his mouth slays all the sinners,

And all the unrighteous are destroyed from before his face' (lxii. 2).

The prophecy is made that the kings and the mighty and all who possess the earth shall bless and glorify and extol 'him who rules over all, who was hidden' (lxii. 6).

'For from the beginning the Son of Man was hidden,

And the Most High preserved him in the presence of His might,

And revealed him to the elect' (lxii. 7).

Finally, he is given the power of universal judgment:

'And he sat on the throne of his glory,

And the sum of judgement was given unto the Son of Man,

And he caused the sinners to pass away and be destroyed from off the face of the earth,

And those who have led the world astray


'With chains shall they be bound,

And in their assemblage-place of destruction shall they be imprisoned,

And all their works vanish from the face of the earth.

And from henceforth there shall be nothing corruptible,

'For that Son of Man has appeared,

And has seated himself on the throne of his glory,

And all evil shall pass away before his face,

And the word of that Son of Man shall go forth

And be strong before the Lord of Spirits' (lxix, 27-9).

It can scarcely awaken surprise that one who sits on God's throne, who is chosen before the creation, possesses universal dominion, and has authority to judge all men, should be looked upon by most students of the Similitudes as a Supernatural Being. In the seer's Messianic Hope the human Scion of David is replaced by the supramundane Son of Man.

This view has not passed without challenge. Its most recent critic is T. W. Manson in his valuable book, The Teaching of Jesus (1931). Manson reminds us that besides the terms 'the Elect one' and 'the Righteous one' there are frequent references in the Book of Enoch to 'the (my) Righteous ones' and 'the (my) Elect ones' in the plural; and he suggests that 'it is at least arguable that the singular term in these cases is the name for the body made up by the individuals included in the plural term'. 'The faithful Remnant', he says, 'may be personified as the Elect one and the Righteous one or regarded as the community of the Elect and the Righteous.'11   The Teaching of Jesus, 228. This suggestion is interesting, but it does not seem necessary to interpret in this way passages in which 'the Righteous' are mentioned (cf. xxxviii. 2f., xxxix. 6f., lviii. 1f., lxi. 13, lxii. 12f., 15). Indeed, in lxii. 13 f. they appear to be 37 expressly distinguished from the Son of Man in a way which emphasizes the personal character of the latter:

'And the righteous and the elect shall be saved on that day,

And they shall never thenceforward see the face of the sinners and unrighteous.

And the Lord of Spirits will abide over them,

And with that Son of Man shall they eat

And lie down and rise up for ever and ever.'

Manson further argues that even a title like 'the Anointed one' need not be construed of a personal Messiah; and that 'it is natural to take "Son of Man" in the same sense.'11   0p. cit., 228f. One must feel considerable hesitation about this suggestion. No doubt there are many places in Jewish writings where what appears to be the portraiture of an individual is really the description of a community; but there must be limits to this possibility; otherwise, the power to describe an individual is lost. And the description of the Son of Man in the Similitudes is so full, and the functions of judgment are such, that the personal interpretation is much the more probable view. Manson also contends that his explanation 'would allow the reconciliation of Chapters lxx. and lxxi. with the rest of this part of Enoch', since in lxxi. 14 Enoch himself is identified with 'that Son of Man'. R. H. Charles, however, has forcibly argued that the text is corrupt22   As it stands the text reads: 'Thou art the Son of Man who art born...thee...thee.' Charles (op. cit., 144-6) maintains that originally verse 13 spoke of the Son of Man as accompanying the Head of Days, and that the loss of this passage has led some scribe to change the text of 14 and 16 and make it apply to Enoch. This suggestion, he points out, is supported by 17 where the scribe has 'forgotten to make the necessary change': and that the true reading must have been:

'And he (i.e. the angel) came to me and greeted me with His voice, and said unto me:

'And so there shall be length of days with that Son of Man,

And the righteous shall have peace and an upright way,

In the name of the Lord of Spirits for ever and ever'.


"This is the Son of Man who is born unto righteousness;

And righteousness abides over him,

And the righteousness of the Head of Days forsakes him not".'

This is a point on which certainty is not attainable, but it is not safe to interpret the figure of the Son of Man in Enoch xxxvii.-lxix. by the present text of lxxi. 14. For these reasons it is best to conclude that the Son of Man of the Similitudes is not the 'faithful Remnant' but a person of superhuman dignity and power.

How far Jesus was influenced by this conception is a difficult question. It has often been maintained that the Book of Enoch is the source from which He derived His use of the title 'Son of Man'. It may be doubted, however, if a close study of that Book encourages this theory, and all the more since, in reply to the high priest's question: 'Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?' (Mk. xiv. 61), Jesus quotes a passage with reference to the Son of Man, not from Enoch, but from Dan. vii. 13: 'I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven' (Mk. xiv. 62). In all His references to the Son of Man there is no certain trace of dependence upon the ideas of Enoch.

A very attractive suggestion to the contrary has recently been put forward by Rudolf Otto in his Reich Gottes und Menschensohn (1934). Otto draws attention to the fact that Enoch is first shown the Son of Man who has been hidden from the beginning (xlvi. 1), and that then, after a long interval, he is told, in lxxi. 14, by the angel that he himself is the Son of Man. This representation, he argues, 39 presents a remarkable parallel to the sayings in the Gospels regarding the Son of Man.11   Op. cit., 165, 181-7. At first Jesus speaks objectively of the Son of Man; in due time the secret of His identity is revealed by God to Peter (cf. Mt. xvi. 17); and finally it is confessed by Jesus before the high priest (cf. Mk. xiv. 60-2).

The difficulty of this suggestion is that many scholars regard chapters lxx. and lxxi. as a later appendix to the Book of Enoch, while, as we have seen, Charles thinks that the text of lxxi. 14 is corrupt. Otto thinks otherwise, and, accepting the existing text, argues that it is only in these chapters that Enoch receives an answer to his question, asked in xlvi. 2, who and whence 'that Son of Man' was. This question is now answered in lxxi. 14: 'Thou art the Son of Man who is born unto righteousness'. 'This point', says Otto, 'is of quite decisive importance for the question whether Jesus' consciousness of a mission could have been, indeed must have been, itself determined Messianically.'22   Op. cit., 165.

It is too early to say whether Otto's fascinating suggestion will make any impression on the sobriety of critical opinion. In spite of all that he urges so persuasively, it may well be that Jesus independently took the term from Dan. vii. 13 and read into it His own meaning. In this case the Book of Enoch represents a different line of development. Other examples illustrate a similar process. As we have already seen, this is true of the Vision of the Man rising from the Sea (4 Ezra xiii.), whose glance strikes terror into all whom he beholds and whose fiery breath destroys his enemies. G. F. Moore has pointed out that at the beginning of the second century A.D. Akiba assigned one of the thrones mentioned in Dan. vii. 9 to the Messiah, and in the first half of the third century 40 R. Joshua ben Levi harmonized the lowly figure of the Messiah in Zech. ix. 9 with the description of Dan. vii. 13.11   Judaism, ii. 334ff. A further Messianic interpretation of Dan. vii. 13 appears in the Sibylline Oracles (v. 414): 'There came from the wide heavenly spaces a blessed man, holding in his hands a sceptre which God put in his grasp, and he brought all into subjection'.22   Op. cit., 335. Both before and after the times of Jesus the tendency to ascribe supernatural functions to the Messiah is evident, and there is no reason why Jesus Himself should not have developed a conception gained from the Book of Daniel.

More important than the problem whence Jesus derived the title, 'Son of Man', is the question whether He used it of Himself, and with what meaning. The philological objections can no longer be said to be insuperable,33   Cf. A. S. Peake, The Messiah and the Son of Man, 22-4; W. Bousset, Kyrios Christos, 10-3. and the question turns on the interpretation we give to His sayings. In some cases the title is probably an editorial addition, and in others it has replaced, in the course of transmission, the personal pronoun 'I', but it is quite impossible to explain the majority of instances in this way.44   Among doubtful passages of the kind are Mk. xiii. 26; Mt. x. 23, xiii. 37, 41, xxiv. 30, xxv. 31, xxvi 2; Lk. vi. 22, xi. 30, xii. 8, 10, and perhaps Mk. ii. 10, 28.

In the sayings which refer to the Parousia it often seems as if Jesus were speaking of some one other than Himself, as in Mk. viii. 38, where He says that the Son of Man, when he comes 'in the glory of his Father', will be ashamed of those who now are ashamed of Himself and His words. Even in this case, however, the inference in far from certain. The fact that Jesus is speaking of the Parousia 41 makes it equally possible that He is describing Himself as He will then be manifested.11   Cf. also Lk. xii. 40, xvii. 22, 24, 26, 30, xviii. 8b, xxi. 36, and Mt. xix. 28.

This view is strongly supported by His reply to the high priest's question: 'Art thou the Christ?'. Jesus gives an affirmative answer, and then says: 'And ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven' (Mk. xiv. 62). It is extremely difficult to think that He is distinguishing the Son of Man from Himself.

Similarly, in the Passion-sayings,22   Mk. viii. 31, ix. 12b, 31, x. 33f., 45, xiv. 21 (bis), 41, 62; Lk. xvii. 25, xxii. 48, 69. when Jesus declares that 'the Son of man must suffer many things', He is speaking of Himself. T. W. Manson's view, that in these sayings, as in the Book of Enoch, the title describes the faithful Remnant, 'the Kingdom of the saints of the Most High',33   Teaching of Jesus, 227ff. does not seem to me to be necessary or even probable. But it is the less necessary to discuss this interesting suggestion since Manson maintains that, in the course of His prophetic ministry, Jesus came to restrict the denotation of the title until it became a designation of Himself. 'Finally', he says, 'when it becomes apparent that not even the disciples are ready to rise to the demands of the ideal, he stands alone, embodying in his own person the perfect human response to the regal claims of God.'44   Op. cit., 228.

Besides the sayings which refer to the Parousia or to the Passion, there are others of a more general character. For example, Jesus speaks of the Son of Man who came 'eating and drinking' (Lk. vii. 34), who 'hath not where to lay his head' (Lk. ix. 58), and whose mission it is 'to seek 42 and to save that which was lost' (Lk. xix. 10). Here again it is best to conclude that Jesus is speaking of Himself. In these sayings the title is not a simple equivalent of the pronoun 'I', or an editorial modification. In each case the point of the assertion is that it is made of One who is 'the Son of Man'; and in view of the fact that Jesus used the term in a distinctive but unfamiliar way, the indirect form of the sayings is natural upon His lips. This conclusion, both in respect of these more general sayings and those relating to the Passion, strengthens the probability that in the Parousia-sayings Jesus speaks of His own future manifestation as the Son of Man.

To these arguments more general considerations may be added. Outside the Gospels the title appears only once in the whole of the New Testament (Acts vii. 56). In the Gospels, it appears in all the principal sources laid bare by Criticism, and is employed by Jesus alone predominantly in the later part of His mission and in a striking and original manner. A title so employed has every right to be regarded as an authentic element in the tradition. Jesus certainly described Himself as the Son of Man, and the Messianic consciousness it expresses is the foundation of His estimate of His Person and Work.11   Cf. Ed. Meyer, Ursprung und Anfange des Christentums, ii. 345; R. Reitzenstein, Das Iranische Erlosungsmysterium, 117ff. Even W. Bousset, who reduces the number of these sayings as far as possible, does not deny that Jesus ever used the title with reference to Himself. Cf. Kyrios Christos 10f.

In view of this conclusion it is important to ask which use of the title stands at the centre in the thought of Jesus.22   I do not think that we can answer this question by counting passages or by dwelling on the fact that Passion-sayings about the Son of Man are not found in Q or M. Not, I suggest, that of the Parousia-sayings; otherwise they would be more detailed. In these sayings the 43 ideas emphasized are those of suddenness and glory. The Son of Man comes 'in an hour that ye think not' (Lk. xii. 40), 'in the glory of his father' (Mk. viii. 38), 'at the right hand of power' and 'with the clouds of heaven' (Mk. xiv. 62). His Coming is as a flash of lightning (Lk. xvii. 24), unexpected as the deluge (Lk. xvii. 26), swift as the destruction of Sodom (Lk. xvii. 30). We have only to compare these sayings with the commonplaces of Apocalyptic to be conscious of an enormous difference. Jesus does not say of the Son of Man, as in the Book of Enoch, that 'the word of his mouth slays all the sinners' (lxii. 2), or that 'all evil shall pass away before his face' (lxix. 29), and still less, as in the Vision of the Man from the Sea in the Ezra-Apocalypse, does He speak of 'a flaming breath' out of his lips whereby his adversaries are reduced to 'dust of ashes and smell of smoke' (xiii. 10f.). Indeed, He is surprisingly silent about His functions at the Parousia; and even the sayings which are open to the suspicion of contamination add little beyond conventional references to 'a great sound of a trumpet' and the gathering 'of his elect from the four winds' (Mt. xxiv. 31; cf. xiii. 41). The bareness of the genuine sayings suggests that, while Jesus foretold His Coming in power and glory, He did not ascribe to this event the place it had in contemporary Apocalyptic. His thought is nearer Dan. vii. 14 where the Son of Man receives 'dominion, and glory, and a kingdom'. The Parousia of which He thinks is not a coming for Judgment, the setting up of the Kingdom, and the Final Restoration of all things; it is rather entrance upon a kingship which is the Father's gift (cf. Lk. xxii. 29). It includes all that is meant by the Resurrection,11   Cf. C. J. Cadoux, The Resurrection and Second Advent of Jesus, 13-7. but is a more ultimate and inclusive concept.

The more immediate centre of interest, when Jesus 44 speaks of Himself as the Son of Man, is the destiny of suffering and death He is to fulfil. The Parousia-sayings describe the culmination, when suffering is crowned with victory and death is lost in triumph. This is a complete transformation of the doctrine of the Son of Man, and is an entirely original conception of Jesus, based upon the Old Testament idea of the Suffering Servant.

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