injustice, requiring that Jehovah himself now judge ‘in the middle of such gods.’ (Ps. 82:1-6, 8) Since Jehovah applied these terms to those men, Jesus was certainly guilty of no blasphemy in saying, “I am God’s Son.” Whereas the works of those judicial “gods” belied their claim to being “sons of the Most High,” Jesus’ works consistently proved him to be in union, in harmonious accord and relationship, with his Father.—John 10:34-38.
SON OF MAN
In Hebrew this is mainly a translation of the expression ben ʼa·dhamʹ. Rather than referring to the person, Adam, ʼa·dhamʹ is here used generically for “mankind” so that the expression ben ʼa·dhamʹ means, in essence, a son of mankind, a human or earthling son. (Ps. 80:17; 146:3; Jer. 49:18, 33) The phrase is often employed in parallel with other Hebrew terms for “man,” namely, ʼish, meaning a male person (compare Numbers 23:19; Job 35:8; Jeremiah 50:40) and ʼenoshʹ, a mortal man. (Compare Psalm 8:4; Isaiah 51:12; 56:2.) At Psalm 144:3 the “son of mortal man” is ben ʼenoshʹ, while the Aramaic equivalent (bar ʼenashʹ) appears at Daniel 7:13.
In Greek the expression is hui·osʹ tou an·throʹpou, the latter part of the phrase representing the Greek generic word for “man” (anʹthro·pos, from which the English “anthropology” is derived).
In the Hebrew Scriptures the most frequent occurrence of the expression is in the book of Ezekiel, where over ninety times God addresses the prophet as “son of man.” (Ezek. 2:1, 3, 6, 8; and so forth.) The designation as so used apparently serves to emphasize that the prophet is simply an earthling, thus heightening the contrast between the human spokesman and the Source of his message, the Most High God. The same designation is applied to the prophet Daniel at Daniel 8:17.
CHRIST JESUS, THE “SON OF MAN”
In the Gospel accounts the expression is found nearly eighty times, applying in every case to Jesus Christ, being used by him to refer to himself. (Matt. 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; and so forth.) The occurrences outside the Gospel accounts are at Acts 7:56; Hebrews 2:6; and Revelation 1:13; 14:14.
Jesus’ application of this expression to himself clearly showed that God’s Son was now indeed a human, having ‘become flesh’ (John 1:14), having ‘come to be out of a woman’ through his conception and birth to the Jewish virgin Mary. (Gal. 4:4; Luke 1:34-36) Hence he had not simply materialized a human body as angels had previously done (see ANGEL), or ‘incarnated,’ but was actually a ‘son of mankind’ through his human mother.—Compare 1 John 4:2, 3; 2 John 7.
For this reason the apostle Paul could apply the eighth psalm as prophetic of Jesus Christ. In his letter to the Hebrews (2:5-9), Paul quoted the verses reading: “What is mortal man [ʼenohshʹ] that you keep him in mind, and the son of earthling man [ben ʼa·dhamʹ] that you take care of him? You also proceeded to make him a little less than godlike ones [“a little lower than angels,” at Hebrews 2:7], and with glory and splendor you then crowned him. You make him dominate over the works of your hands; everything you have put under his feet.” (Ps. 8:4-6; compare Psalm 144:3.) Paul shows that, to fulfill this prophetic psalm, Jesus indeed was made “a little lower than angels,” becoming actually a mortal “son of earthling man,” that he might die as such and thereby “taste death for every man,” thereafter being crowned with glory and splendor by his Father, who resurrected him.—Heb. 2:8, 9; compare verse 14; Philippians 2:5-9.
The designation “Son of man,” therefore, also serves to identify Jesus Christ as the great Kinsman of mankind, having the ransoming power to redeem them from bondage to sin and death, as well as the great Avenger of blood.—Lev. 25:48, 49; Num. 35:1-29; see AVENGER OF BLOOD; RANSOM; REPURCHASE, REPURCHASER.
Thus, Jesus’ being called the “Son of David” (Matt. 1:1; 9:27) emphasizes his being the heir of the Kingdom covenant to be fulfilled in David’s line; his being called the “Son of man” calls attention to his being of the human race by virtue of his fleshly birth; his being called the “Son of God” stresses his being of divine origin, not descended from the sinner Adam nor inheriting imperfection from him, and as having a fully righteous standing with God.—Matt. 16:13-17.
The “sign of the Son of man”
However, there is evidently another major reason for Jesus’ frequent use of the expression “Son of man” as applying to himself. This is with regard to the fulfillment of the prophecy recorded at Daniel 7:13, 14. In vision, Daniel saw “someone like a son of man” coming with the clouds of the heavens, gaining access to the “Ancient of Days,” and being granted “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him,” his kingdom being an enduring one.
Because the angelic interpretation of the vision in verses 18, 22, and 27 speaks of “the holy ones of the Supreme One” as taking possession of this kingdom, many commentators have endeavored to show that the “son of man” is here a “corporate personality,” that is, “the saints of God in their corporate aspect . . . regarded collectively as a people,” “the glorified and ideal people of Israel.” This reasoning, however, proves superficial in the light of the Christian Greek Scriptures. It fails to consider that Christ Jesus, God’s anointed King, made a ‘covenant for a kingdom’ with his followers that they might share with him in his kingdom, and that, while they are to rule as kings and priests, it is under his headship and by his grant of authority. (Luke 22:28-30; Rev. 5:9, 10; 20:4-6) Thus, they received ruling authority over the nations only because he has first received such authority from the Sovereign God.—Rev. 2:26, 27; 3:21.
The correct understanding is made more evident by Jesus’ own statements. Regarding the “sign of the Son of man,” he stated that “they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matt. 24:30) This was clearly a reference to Daniel’s prophecy. So, likewise, was his answer to the high priest’s interrogation, saying: “I am [the Christ, the Son of God]; and you persons will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”—Mark 14:61, 62; Matt. 26:63, 64.
Therefore the prophecy of the coming of the Son of man into the presence of the Ancient of Days, Jehovah God, clearly applies to an individual, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The evidence is that it was so understood by the Jewish people. Rabbinical writings applied the prophecy to the Messiah. It was doubtless due to wanting some literal fulfillment of this prophecy that the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus to “display to them a sign from heaven.” (Matt. 16:1; Mark 8:11) After Jesus had died as a man and been resurrected to spirit life, Stephen had a vision in which the “heavens opened up” and he saw “the Son of man standing at God’s right hand.” (Acts 7:56) This shows that Jesus Christ, although sacrificing his human nature as a ransom for mankind, rightly retains the Messianic designation of “Son of man” in his heavenly position.
The first part of Jesus’ statement to the high priest about the coming of the Son of man spoke of him as “sitting at the right hand of power.” This is evidently an allusion to the prophetic Psalm 110, Jesus Christ having earlier shown that this psalm applied to him. (Matt. 22:42-45) This psalm, as well as the apostle’s application of it at Hebrews 10:12, 13,