Who is “The Son of Man”?
By: William J. Jackson
Going through Ezekiel, in my daily reading, I noticed G-d referring to Ezekiel as the “Son of Man”… “Son of Man?” isn’t that what Jesus called himself? After I did a little research, I found Jesus refereed to himself as “Son of Man” 88 times in the New Testament. I harkened back to my theology training. I was taught that this confirmed Jesus’s authenticity as the Messiah to his Jewish audience. They implied it was prophetic from the Tanakh (Old Testament). But why then did G-d refer to the priest prophet named Ezekiel as “Son of Man” 93 times 6 centuries earlier,… hmm? Well we do know one thing about Ezekiel, he wasn’t a or the Messiah. So who is or what is “The Son of Man”?
Looking deeper into G-d’s word, I found the “Son of Man” 107 times in the Bible/Tanakh. It was referenced to in Numbers (x1), Job (x2), Psalms (x3), Isaiah (x2), Jeremiah (x4), Ezekiel (x93) and Daniel (x2). In these Books the “Son of Man” is referring to mankind. Actually “Son of Man” in Hebrew is “ben-‘adam” which also can be interpreted as “human being”. Three times in the Psalms it used to underline man’s mortality in contrast to G-d’s supernatural nature. In general “Son of Man” is usually used as a way of highlighting our weakness and frailty in contrast to G-d’s deity.
So where does the confusion come in? Well… there is one place in scripture that the term “Son of Man” has inspired diverse theologies. It is in Daniel 7:13-14. Here Daniel is identifying a man (ben adam) who will be given “…dominion, Glory and a kingdom…”(Daniel 7:14). We need to understand Daniel 7 is very rich in symbolism and outside of scripture there is a lot of commentary as to who this “man” could be. Many have tried to connect Jesus’s self proclaimed title as “Son of Man” to Daniel’s. An important point to note is that this is the only place where we have a connection between the title “Son of Man” and Messiah. But, as we read on, in Daniel 7:18 and 27, somebody interprets the vision for Daniel. We see that the “Son of Man” is “the holy people of the Most High”. As we also see in this text, these events are the start to the end of times where “…the greatness of the kingdoms under all the heavens will be given to the people of the high holy ones; its kingdom is a perpetual kingdom, and all dominions will serve and obey” (Verse 7:28). Correct me if I am wrong, but this has not happened yet.
Another concept that secular religion embraces is the idea that the “Son of Man” appears on earth twice (the second coming). There are no biblical markers to validate this understanding. In fact, we are still waiting on Daniel’s man to just appear. So if we do concede to Daniel 7:13’s “Son of Man” being the Messiah we need to apply these other qualifiers to ensure that it is actually him;
Eternal peace between all nations, all peoples, and all people (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-4; Ezekiel 39:9).
World-wide conversion of all peoples to Ethical Monotheism (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Zechariah 8:23; Isaiah 11:9; Zechariah 14:9,16).
End to all forms of idolatry (Zechariah 13:2).
He will gather to Israel all of the twelve tribes (Ezekiel 36:24).
He will rebuilds the Temple (Isaiah 2:2; Ezekiel 37:26-28).
Nations of the earth will help the Jews materially (Isaiah 60:5-6; 60:10-12).
Jews will be sought out for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23).
All weapons will be destroyed (Ezekiel 39:9,12).
The Nile will run dry (Isaiah 11:15).
Lineage only through King Solomon (II Samuel 7:12-17; I Chronicles 22:9-10).
Jesus doesn’t fit any of these.
In summary “Son of Man” is just another way of saying human being. The only reason some people give this simple title greater value is to reenforce the notion that the Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 1:10-11). Just remember, meanings can be stretched to fit agendas, it happened all the time. But when you stretch them too much they begin to break. These breaks are called contradictions and forcing the “Son of Man” to become a deity causes many contradictions.