Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Son of Man: a fresh call for new categories

One of Jesus' most preferred titles according to the four canonical Christian gospels is "Son of Man". Correction: "THE Son of Man". It is important to savour the definite article, and digest slowly. While scholars have shown no consensus over the centuries of this conundrum, one thing is clear. There are no other pre-Christian usages of the definite article like this. Either Jesus himself or his immediate followers ascribed to Jesus the *title* of: the Son of Man.

Obviously if no-one had managed to solve the puzzle definitively, we're unlikely to make much headway here. However, there might be some important clues here to stock up my ammo on promoting the Triune Hub model. Jesus' exaltation is described by some as "super-exaltation", that is to say that by the time of the writing of Revelation, the Johannine letters and the gospel of John, cultic (religiousu) worship, obeissance, honour and glory were ascribed to Christ along with God. God had given **all** authority to Christ, his Son. Until quite recently, I had put to one side the "the Son of Man" evidence. Dr Hurtado does not want to read too much into it: "son of Man" can simply be a Jewish way of saying "a man". But what about one appearing like a man to whom divine worship and authority is given? How might you want to refer to **that** son of man? Let's read from Daniel 7:13-14:

 In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Dr. Michael Heiser describes this passage in his insightful The Unseen Realm (which I really recommend) as a "second Yahweh figure". Along with a minority of scholars, he believes that the ancient Israelite worldview was of a binitarian Yahweh. In the relevant chapter of Unseen Realm, he develops how Baal and other national deities of ancient middle east nations would be described as "riding on the waves", especially noting the more extensive evidence we have available on the Ugarit practices and beliefs. For someone other than Yahweh to be doing the cloud-riding for Heiser is impossible. It has to be the God of the people the prophet is describing in his vision. Where this view breaks down is the same issue that we find throughout the New Testament, which is totally in line with this striking Old Testament precedent: given authority.

Given authority is no less than inate authority. I was born with British nationality, but I have been given French nationality. So I now have dual citizenship. But the fact that their means of obtention is different has no bearing whatsoever on my power to vote in each of those countries. My British vote is just as important as before, and my French vote has no greater or lesser bearing than that of someone who was born French.

The point for the Triune Hub is that the combination of Daniel 7 and Jesus' designation (probably self-designation) as the Son of Man, seem to suggest that Christ's superexaltation *did* exist as a messianic conceptual category, at least in Jesus' mind. Glorious visions of the risen Christ could - I think we can reasonably speculate - have joined dots in a Jewish eschatological mind, whereby stories would circulate in which just like that Son of Man, that Son of Man of Daniel 7, Jesus also was given divine authority and glory.

Once again we witness how the biblical texts simply will not play ball with the theological categories so often imposed upon them. With that burden in mind, I believe we should feel pressed to finding newer (or older) theological categories that fit the biblical picture more accurately.


  1. For a fresh perspective on "this man" I would suggest reading the Parables of Enoch and Boccaccini edited work on the topic. Then consider the possibility that Mark 8:38 predates any Son of Man sayings in so-called Q, and that Mark 8:38 refers to the Parables of Enoch in its earliest form and that Jesus himself was probably into this Enochic literature....John M

  2. Hi John, I will definitely check those out, thank you. Regarding the possibility of Jesus the apocalyptic preacher heralding the coming of the Son of Man, i.e. someone else, yes I have considered this view. This still fails to resolve the conundrum as far as I can see. You are still left with the remarkable definite article and a lack of subsequent development by the early Christian writers.

    Also, I don't know your own views on Q, but I have strong doubts that it ever existed. I'll be interrupting the Hurtado series on Lord Jesus Christ when we reach his Q chapter to explain why and the relevance for my case.


Thanks very much for your feedback, really appreciate the interaction.