The possibility of different roots for the son of man usage of the Jesus tradition and the interweaving of the various issues have inevitably given rise to a variety of interpretations of the confusing
(1) One line of interpretation goes like this. The philological root is the primary source of Jesus' own usage: Jesus did speak of himself as the 'son of man'. equivalent to 'a man like me'. 'one'. The influence of Dan. 7.13 is secondary: it entered the Jesus tradition after Easter. The clearest evidence of this is Mark 14.62. where Dan. 7.13 has been amalgamated with Ps. 110.1. since the latter was one of the primary proof-texts in early Christian As the first Christians scoured the Scriptures to make sense (in terms of their own sacred writings) of what had happened to Jesus. they lighted on Ps. and subsequently Dan. 7.13 was drawn in. In so doing they gave bar 'enasa a titular sense ('the Son of Man'); and in due course this resulted in the non-titular usage ('the son of man') being transformed likewise into a title.
This view was overwhelmed during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century by the influence of Weiss and Schweitzer. Only with the restatement of Vermes has it regained winning substantial support among
English-speaking It is also the view strongly promoted within the Je sus Seminar. including Borg and Crossan.120
(2) A second line of interpretation goes like this. The eschatological root is primary. Jesus was dependent on already current apocalyptic reflections on Dan.
in which the 'one like a son of man' was already understood as a heavenly figure. Jesus referred to this figure in expressing his confidence that God would vindicate his mission and his words — 'the Son of Man' as a heavenly A. N.
116. For a similar analysis and much fuller documentation see Burkett. Son ofMan Debate 43-56.
117. Influential has been N. Perrin. 'Mark 14.62: The End Product of a Christian Pesher Tradition?'. NTS 12 (1965-66) 150-55. reprinted with a postscript in A Modern Pilgrimage in New Testament Christology (Philadelphia: Fortress. 1974) 1-22; also Rediscovering 175-81.
Apart from Casey and Lindars. already documented. note particularly R. Leivestad. 'Exit the Apocalyptic Son ofMan', NTS 18 (1971-72) 243-67; D. Juel, Messianic Exegesis: Christological Interpretation of the Old Testament in Early Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress. 1988) 151-70; Hare. Son ofMan (though see above. n. 89). In German scholarship note particularly H. Bietenhard. ' "Der Menschensohn" — ho huios ton anthropou. Sprachliche und religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zu einem Begriff der synoptischen Evangelien'. ANRW 11.25.1 (1982) 265-350 (here 266-313).
120. Borg. Conflict 221-27; also Jesus 51-53, 84-86; Crossan. Historical Jesus 238-59; Funk. Five Gospels 4; but Funk is confusing: 'an oblique reference to himself; 'undoubtedly referred to any human being' (Funk. Honest 91. 210).
Other. The key text here is Luke 12.8, where a distinction between Jesus and the Son of Man seems to be clearly implied. Such a distinction would not have been introduced after Easter. On the contrary, it was Easter which convinced the first Christians that the Son of Man to whom Jesus looked was none other than Jesus himself.121 So this eschatological reference must be primary, with the other Son of Man sayings a reflection of this basic faith assertion as the first Christians meditated on Jesus' mission and death.
This was the dominant view in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, when German scholarship still set the agenda for NT scholarship at large,122 and it retains strong support in German-speaking scholarship.123
(3) A third option of looking for some accommodation between the first two options has naturally attracted attention. In particular, coming more from the side of the first option, it has been observed that 'son of man' has the connotation of frailty and weakness. So Jesus could have been referring to himself in conscious awareness of his weakness — 'son of man' denoting 'I as a man', with implications of suffering and ignominy to follow. Add to this the tradition of the suffering righteous, as in Wisdom, who nevertheless held out the hope of being vindicated — a tradition which in fact includes Dan. And suddenly we find that all components of the Son of Man Jesus tradition are present: Jesus used the phrase precisely to indicate both his expectation of suffering and his confidence in vindication. Here the Passion predictions come immediately to the fore. The line of interpretation proved very attractive to English-speaking scholarship as the main alternative to the dominant German view.126
121. The exegesis ofTödt, Son ofMan 42, 55-60, and Hahn, Hoheitstitel 24-26, 32-42, 457-58 (Titles 22-23, 28-34) was particularly influential, but Bultmann had already made the point (History 112).
122. See also Bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth 176-77, 229-31; Fuller, Foundations 34-43, 122-25; Riches, Jesus 176-78; in modified form by A. Yarbro Collins, 'The Influence of Daniel on the New Testament', in Collins, Daniel
123. Merklein, Jesu Botschaft 155-65; Gnilka, Jesus 249-50, 258-62; Becker, Jesus 200201, 210-11; Vögtle, Gretchenfrage, regards Luke 12.8-9 as the key to clarifying the Son of Man problem; Strecker, Theology 257-58; also Schillebeeckx, Jesus 459-72. But note Bietenhard's robust response ('Der Menschensohn' 313-46); O. Hofius also vigorously disputes that 'the Son of Man' was already a messianic title ('1st Jesus der Messias? Thesen', JBTh 8, Der Messias  103-29 [here 110-11, 113, 118-19); cf. also Hengel's criticism at this point ('Jesus as Messianic Teacher' 105). 'The point of Luke 12.8-9 . . . lies not in the distinction between Jesus and the coming Son of Man, but precisely in their belonging-togetherness (Zusammengehörigkeit) ' (Stuhlmacher, Biblische Theologie 1.122).
124. This line of interpretation is particularly associated with E. Schweizer, 'Der Menschensohn (Zur eschatologischen Erwartung Jesu)', ZNW50 (1959) 185-209, reprinted in Neotestamentica (Zürich: Zwingli, 1963) 56-84; also Erniedrigung33-52 (= Lordship44-45).
125. Mark 8.31 pars.; 9.31 pars.; 10.33-34 pars.; I delay discussion of them till §17.4c.
126.1. H. Marshall, 'The Synoptic Son of Man Sayings in Recent Discussion', NTS 12
more from the side of the second option, a mediating middle interpretation has suggested that 'the Son of Man' was not someone other than Jesus but Jesus' way of indicating what he expected his future role to be. To put the point in oversimplified terms, 'the Son of Man' was what Jesus expected to be-come!127
(4) Not entirely unexpectedly, a fourth option has been strongly canvassed. If the third option argues in effect that both usages (philological and apocalyptic) go back to Jesus, the fourth argues that neither goes back to Jesus; none of the son of man/Son of Man sayings are authentic. Here the observation initially made by Philipp Vielhauer has been especially influential.128 Vielhauer noted that in the earliest strata of the Jesus tradition 'kingdom of God' and 'Son of Man' belong to separate strands. Since, then, the kingdom motif is indisputably authentic Jesus' usage, the Son of Man motif must have been drawn in later. The basic development in the tradition postulated by the second line of interpretation is accepted (the whole motif began with the influence of Dan. 7.13), with the difference that the development is thought to have begun only after Easter. This was an earlier flight from apocalyptic,129 equivalent to that which now characterizes the neo-Liberal questers.130 The argument is much the same: the Jesus who proclaimed the presentness of God's reign could not also have proclaimed a future coming; all future-imminent eschatology is the work of the earliest Christians' eschatological enthusiasm, and that includes the influence of Dan.
(1965-66) 327-51, reprinted in Jesus the Saviour 73-99; M. D. Hooker, The Son ofMan in Mark (London: SPCK, 1967) 182-95; Moule, Origin 11-22; J. Bowker, 'The Son of Man', JTS 28 (1977) 19-48; Witherington, Christology233-6\ (particularly 243). Also Cullmann, Chris-tologyparticularly 158-64; de Jonge, Jesus 51-54; Stuhlmacher, Biblische Theologie 1.122-23. Caragounis reviews the whole Synoptic tradition under the heading 'The Influence of Daniel's "SM" upon the SM in the Teaching of Jesus' (Son ofMan 168-243).
127. So already Weiss, Proclamation 115 n. 83, 119-21; Schweitzer, Quest2 230-32. Subsequently R, H. Fuller, The Mission andAchievement of Jesus (London: SCM, 1954) 102KB, 107-108 (but Fuller revised his views — see above, n. 122); A. J. B. Higgins, Jesus and the Son ofMan (London: Lutterworth, 1964) 185-95; also The Son ofMan in the Teaching ofJesus (SNTSMS 39; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1980) particularly 80-84; Jeremias, Proclamation 272-76; Rowland, Christian Origins 185-86; a further variation in Hampel, Menschensohn (barvnasaas 'cipher for his function as Messias designatus', 164); Flusser, Jesus 131; Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus 551-52; C. M. Tuckett, 'The Son of Man and Daniel 7: Q and Jesus', in Lindemann, ed., Sayings Source Q 371-94 (here 389-94).
128. P. Vielhauer, 'Gottesreich und Menschensohn in der Verkündigung Jesu' (1957), Aufsätze zum Neuen Testament (München: Kaiser, 1965) 51-79.
129. Pointed out by K. Koch, Ratlos vor der Apokalyptik, the note of bewilderment (ratlos) being lost in the ET The Rediscovery of Apocalyptic (London: SCM, 1972).
131. Influential here also was the argument of E. Käsemann, 'The Beginnings of Christian Theology' (1960), NewTestament Questions of Today (London: SCM, 1969) 82-107 (here
With issues so complex and so tangled can there be much hope for a consensus of any breadth?
Was this article helpful?