MAN, SON OF (Hebrew, "ben adam" or "ben enosh"; plural, "bene adam"; Aramaic, "bar enash," "bar nasha," or "bar nash"):

Individual of the species man; synonym of "man." While "ben enosh" occurs only in Ps. cxliv. 3, the term "ben adam" is found exclusively in poetic (Num. xxiii. 19; Ps. viii. 5 [A. V. 4]) and prophetic passages (Isa. li. 12; Jer. xlix. 18). The expression is used with particular force about ninety times in Ezekiel, from ch. ii. 1 on, as the title by which the prophet is addressed by Yhwh, obviously to accentuate the great distance between him, the earth-born mortal, and the sublime God who speaks to him. Most of the Jewish commentators, whom modern exegetes follow, take the title in that sense. "God addressed him thus in order to make him feel that, though God speaks to him, he is still a frail human being" (comp. "bene adam" with "bene ish" [the former denoting the humbler, and the latter the higher, classes of men] in Ps. xlix. 3 [A. V. 2]).

In Daniel.

The expression "son of man" ("bar enash") has a peculiar use in Dan. vii. 13. Daniel in a vision sees "one like the son of man coming on [A. V. "with"] the clouds of heaven and appearing before the Ancient of Days," to receive from Him "the dominion, the glory, and the kingdom for all time" (Hebr.). There is no dispute among commentators that Israel is thereby meant; but they differ as to the question whether the "son of man" depicted is merely a personification of the people, or whether the writer had in mind a concrete personality representing Israel, such as the Messiah or Israel's guardian angel, the archangel Michael. The latter interpretation, proposed by Cheyne and adopted by others, has little in its favor compared with the older opinion that the person of the Messiah is alluded to—a view shared by the Rabbis (Sanh. 98a; Midr. Teh. to Ps. ii.; comp. the name "'Anani" in Targ. to I Chron. iii., and "bar nefele" [= "son of the clouds"] in Sanh. 96b) and the Apocalyptic as well as Christian writers (Enoch xxxvii.-lxxi.; IV Esdras xiii. 3; Justin Martyr, "Dialogus cum Tryphone," p. 31, and Ephraem Syrus in his commentary to Daniel, l.c.; see also the commentaries of Nowack and others to the passage).

It is this double use of the term "son of man" in the New Testament time and in New Testament documents which has caused great confusion to the recorders and translators as well as to the exegetes of the New Testament. As is seen in Enoch and IV Esdras (l.c.), "son of man" was among the Apocalyptic writers a favorite term for the Messiah, and accordingly it occurs frequently in Messianic apocalypses embodied in the New Testament (Matt. xxiv.-xxv.; Mark xiii. 26; Luke xxi. 27, 36) and in Messianic prophecies which are ascribed to Jesus regarded, in accordance with this conception, as the "son of man" in the clouds (of glory) (Matt. xii. 40; xiii. 27, 41; xvi. 27; xix. 28; xxvi. 64; Mark viii. 38, xiv. 62; Luke xii. 40; xvii. 22-30; xviii. 8, 31; xxii. 69; John i. 51, iii. 13, v. 27, vi. 62).

Generalized Use of Term.

The term "son of man" has a quite different meaning in such sayings as "the son of man is lord even of the Sabbath day" (Matt. xii. 8 and parallels). It denotes simply man as master over the Sabbath in the same sense given it in the saying of the Rabbis, "The Sabbath is given over unto you, but not you unto the Sabbath" (Mek., Ki Tissa, 1). In many passages the expression "son of man" is used in the sense of "that person," or "myself," a use of it known to have been common in Talmudic times. Thus when Jesus says "the son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matt. viii. 20), he means simply "myself"; and likewise when he speaks of his future suffering and betrayal, the term "son of man" has nothing to do with the Messianic title (Matt. xvii. 22 and parallels). Afterward the records confounded the two usages, and consequently Matthew uses the term promiscuously in a manner which has to this day puzzled most of the commentators (see Wellhausen, "Des Menschen Sohn," in "Skizzen und Vorarbeiten," 1899, pp. 187-215; and comp. Dalman, "Die Worte Jesu," 1898, pp. 191-218).

The following passage in Yer. Ta'an. ii. 65b is remarkable. Commenting on Num. xxiii. 19 ("God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent"), R. Abbahu, who had frequent disputations with Christians in Cæsarea and was therefore acquainted with their terminology, said: "If a man says, 'I am God,' he lies; if he says, 'I am the son of man,' he will repent; if he says, 'I will ascend to heaven,' he will not succeed."

  • Cheyne, Encyc. Bibl.;
  • Wellhausen, Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, 1899, pp. 187-215.
Images of pages