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son of man

A term with a variety of meanings in the Bible. In the OT, “son of man” can be an idiomatic way of speaking of a human being or of humanity collectively (Ps 8:4; Ps 80:17). In (Dan 7:13), the Aramaic equivalent of the phrase “son of man” (NRSV: “one like a human being”) is used either to designate an angelic figure or as a symbol for the faithful people of God contrasted with other kingdoms symbolized by animals. In the NT, the term “Son of Man” is found almost exclusively on the lips of Jesus in reference to himself (the only exceptions are (Acts 7:56; Heb 2:6 NRSV: “mortals”; Rev 1:13). These “Son of Man” self-references to Jesus are sometimes classified under three headings: sayings in which Jesus refers to his present activity during his earthly ministry (Matt 8:20; Matt 11:19; Mark 2:10; Mark 10:45 ); sayings in which Jesus refers to his impending passion and/or resurrection (Mark 8:31; Mark 9:9, Mark 9:31; Mark 10:33, Mark 10:45); and sayings in which he refers to his future activity as Judge and Savior (Mark 8:38; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62; Luke 17:22, Luke 17:24, Luke 17:26, Luke 17:30). The meaning of the term is not always clear. It may sometimes be simply intended as a self-effacing way for Jesus to refer to himself as a human being, or the meaning could be generic (Jesus speaks not only of himself, but of any human being), but in other cases the title definitely seems to refer to a transcendental, apocalyptic figure.

  • Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.