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The Son-of-man and the Messianic Secret


I^VNE OF THE MOST PUZZLING expressions in the gospels is V ^ / Son-of-man. It occurs eighty-one times; sixty-nine in the synoptic gospels, and twleve in John,1 with thirty-eight to forty distinct uses in the first three gospels. To modern readers of the New Testament, the expression, so contrary to our idiom, presents a difficulty. We are not accustomed to think in such terms. Especially is this so when traditional Christian theology lays emphasis upon the term Son-of-God. A normal question that comes to the average reader is, "What does this Son-ofman mean? Why did Jesus use it so often and what significance does it have for our Christian faith?" His friends do not refer to him as Son-of-man nor do his enemies; practically always the title is used by our Lord himself.2 On occasion, Jesus uses this term with a note of authority. At other times he recognizes that as the Son-of-man he has been rejected. Then there are places when he says that the Son-of-man is to suffer and die. In still other situations, he identifies the Son-of-man with a future appearance in glory. Eduard Schweizer, who has done careful work in this field, has written as recently as the April, 1963, issue of New Testament Studies:
Words about the earthly Son-of-man seem to me to be the most certain, Matt. 8:20, 'The Son-of-man has nowhere to lay his h e a d ' . . . cannot have been invented by the church. . . . The term 'this generation' which is typical of Jesus' preaching is constantly connected with the term Son-of-man. Hence both expressions belong to the genuine sayings of Jesus.3 "A. S. Peake, The Messiah and the Son of Man (1924), p. 21. Cf. E. A. Abbott, The Message of the Son of Man (London, 1913). 8 Eduard Schweizer, "The Son of Man Again," New Testament Studies, X (April, 1963), 256-61. Oscar Cullmann sees Jesus as using the term Son-of-man in his humility at work among sinful men and finally in his glory doing the work of the heavenly man at the end of time. (The Christology of the New Testament [Philadelphia, 1959], p. 164.)




As one progresses in a study of the whole question, it is evident that it is intimately bound up with the problem of the Messianic con sciousness of Jesus. If we could understand completely what our Lord had in mind when he used the phrase "Son-of-man" our knowledge of the full meaning of his Messiahship would be greatly enhanced. As Sherman Johnson says, "Whether Jesus described himself as Son of man and what he meant by it, is of great importance. . . . If the apocalyptic Son-of-man passages are genuine, Jesus described his role in terms reminiscent of Enoch and made of himself the most exalted claim possible."4 Today some scholars have reacted from the thorough going eschatalogy of Albert Schweitzer, who in his famous Quest of the Historical Jesus fifty years ago categorically wrote, "Jesus of Nazareth knew himself to be the Son of Man who was to be revealed, (this) is for us the great fact of His self-consciousness."5 As an example the major thesis of John Knox's book, The Death of Christ, is that the church must be looked to as the source for the creativity that saw Jesus as the messiah and the apocalyptic Son-of-man, brought about by its faith in his resurrection. James M. Robinson in his New Quest of the Historical Jesus gives an evidence of a swing back to a more vital self-consciousness that is tied up with the eschatological under standing. "In Jesus' case, his selfhood is eschatological. . . . [He] as sumed the eschatological selfhood which ultimately found expression in the title 'Son of Man.'. . . His selfhood was interpreted as pro nobis not first by the Church, but already by Jesus himself."6 The gospels do make a total impression with which we have to reckon. The kergymathe preachingof the early church did influence the gospels but that the events of the gospels also influenced the kergyma should not be overlooked. As a pastor who has dealt with church and preaching situations for nearly forty years and who has worked on committees on every level from the local parish to the World
* The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. IV (Nashville, 1962), p. 418. 6 Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus (New York, 1961), p. 367. The New Quest of the Historical Jesus (London, 1959), pp. 108, 107. See also Heinz Eduard Todt, The Son of Man in the Synoptic Tradition (Philadelphia, 1965). Todt takes the radical position that all Son-of-man sayings are a develop ment of post-Easter thought by the early church: "Jesus' sayings about the Sonof-man and what he meant to his followers are of a soteriological (doctrine of salvation) and not of a Christological nature" (p. 294). According to Todt the pre-Easter Christology was one of authority on earth which the church trans ferred to heavenly authority after the Easter event using the queer term Son-ofman to bolster this new exalted view.



Council of Churches it would be incredible to me to find a group that could ever be creative to even a tenth portion of what is claimed by some for the early church. This would be a miracle more marvelous than any described in the gospels. For all of its wonderful accomplishments the New Testament church did not possess the type of creativity that could account for many of the gospel sayings attributed to Jesus of Nazareth. This is seen by the actual fact that with the memory and model of over twenty matchless parables right before them, the early church did not create a single parable. At best all they could do was interpret one or two of them in a way most scholars consider quite lame! Before group creativity of a major character is accepted as a valid hypothesis we should be given examples of it operating under other circumstances. The thesis which we will develop involves: 1. The messianic secret showed that Jesus faced the messianic question. 2. Jesus used the term "Son-of-man." (Its non-use by the early church seems conclusive evidence of this.) 3. He used it apocalyptically. 4. The apocalyptic Sonof-man must suffer. (But God would finally be vindicated.) 5. Psychologically, Jesus could have fused three and four. 6. The messianic secret was best kept by use of the term Son-of-man. The question of messianic consciousness will be treated more fully later in this paper. Given the political and religious atmosphere of the first century with the recorded works of Jesus and his teaching about the kingdom of God it would seem remarkable if he did not face the messianic question, however he answered it. John the Baptist had been asked, "Are you the messiah?" and had replied, "No."7 Even if Jesus had not asked the question at Caesarea-Philippi there is the puzzling statement which has to be faced: "He charged them to tell no one about him" (Mark 8:30). We call it the messianic secret. The passages in which he forbids the demented to witness to him (Mark 3:12) involve the messianic question, as does his own query about Psalm 110 quoted in Mark 21:36-37, where Jesus asks "Why does David call him Lord?" To say that the church would first discover and use this psalm in this fashion, and Isaiah 53 for that matter, is a reversal of what we know about creativity. This is as unlikely as that first century Jews, who happened to belong to the church, could be responsible for the answer Jesus gave the Sadducees as to whose wife in the resurrection a certain

Robinson sees the relation of Jesus to the Baptist as a part of Jesus' eschatological understanding. (Ibid., p. 108).



woman who had married seven brothers would be, yet the stock hypothetical situation had evidently been a puzzler for decades. It was the genius of Jesus; it was the creativeness of Jesus, that gave the answer. The problem has been complicated by the investigations of Dr. Reitzenstein, who has made an exhaustive study of an Iranian myth of a Primal or Heavenly Man. Dr. Reitzenstein feels that this myth is at the basis of the biblical references to "Man" and Son-of-man. The Poimandres in Corpus Hermeticum is a principal source, for it gives a clear presentation of the Heavenly Man. Dr. Carl Kraeling has made a careful criticism of Reitzenstein's view and comes to the conclusion that there is no reason to believe that the synoptic gospels, Paul or John, were personally influenced by the Anthropos speculation.8 The Gnostics made much of this concept. As an example of the lengths to which a myth will go, Hippolytus (Refut. v. 6) tells of a sect called the Naassenes who pay honor to a "Man" and Son-of-man. This Man is called Adamas and is bi-sexual. He goes on to identify Adamas with Attis and the Attis cult. However, the evidence given by Hippolytus is for periods much later than the origin of Christianity. It is possible that the Persian idea of the Primal Man had some indirect, and possibly direct, influence on Jewish thinking. Creed points out that, if this is true, it is a further example of the complete transformation of an idea.9 Should there be any connection between the biblical Son-of-man and the Iranian and Gnostic views, it is quite evident to what a remarkable extent the biblical writers have purified the whole concept. The gospel records were certainly not consciously influenced directly, or even indirectly to any significant extent, by this ancient Iranian concept. "The synoptic evidence is entirely against the probability that the idea of a Heavenly Man who descends to earth to suffer and die before attaining to his glory was known to the first Disciples of Jesus."10 When the concept of suffering and death enter, it is Jesus himself who places it there. In scholarly circles, there has been considerable debate over the Aramaic term bar-nasha. Some hold that the Greek translation, the "Son-of-man," is a slavish rendition of the Aramaic which simply means "the man." Yet Gustas Dalman says there is no question but that the former meaning was used in Aramaic and that Jesus could certainly have called himself the Son-of-man.11 Whatever the solution of this
Anthropos and the Son-of-Man (New York, 1927), p. 178. John M. Creed, "The Heavenly Man," Journal of Theological Studies XXVI, 135. 10 William Manson, Jesus the Messiah (Philadelphia, 1946), p. 247. 11 The Words of Jesus (Edinburgh, 1902), pp. 234 ff.
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highly technical problem, it is unquestionably true that in apocalyptic literature "Man" is used in a symbolic sense referring to a Heavenly Person.12 The first place to look for source material in connection with any New Testament subject is in the Old Testament. In Genesis 1:26 we find: Let us make man in our image after our likeness; and let them have dominion . . . over everything that creepeth upon the earth. Psalm 8 likewise has a reference to "man" and "son of man" which lays emphasis upon the high view which the Bible always has for man. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet. . . . There is no doubt that this is a reference simply to man. The phrase Son-of-man here is typical of Hebrew parallelism. The reference in this psalm should be considered as a part of the whole problem, but the title here does not have the apocalyptic sense that it assumes in Daniel. Ezekiel uses the phrase Son-of-man over one hundred times. In the writings of this prophet the reference is clearly to a man and not to a heavenly figure. At the same time it is to a man who is completely obedient to God, one whom God can use in contrast to the rest of his countrymen. In a word, he is the true man.13 When the use in Psalm 8 and Ezekiel is considered, we have ample biblical background for the employment of the term by Jesus in reference to himself as a man willing and ready to do the will of God. Daniel furnishes the scriptural basis for the apocalyptic use of the term on the lips of Jesus. 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a Son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.... 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
John Knox, Christ the Lord (Chicago, 1945), p. 33. Charles Gore, The Son of Man (1913), p. 6.



In Daniel, the Son-of-man apparently is symbolic of Israel as a whole. The figure of speech is a personification of the holy community rather than a personalized messiah, and yet a good case can be made that the Son-of-man has an individuality all his own. 14 On numerous occasions, Jesus associated the term with phrases directly quoted from Daniel's vision (Mark 8:38, 13:26, 14:62, Matthew 24:30, 26:64). We have in the above instances a biblical basis for Jesus's use of the term Son-of-man, first, as a representative "Man," and then as the apocalyptic Heavenly Man. If our Lord was familiar at all with Enoch, 15 and our thesis is that this was the case, there is further basis for employment of the term. The author of Enoch evidently is influenced by Daniel's description of the Son-of-man. Enoch follows a natural development and completely personalizes his heavenly figure. 46:1 And there I saw One whose head was white as w o o l . . . and I saw One like a Son of Man full of graciousness. 48.2 And at that hour that Son of Man was named in the presence of the Lord of Spirits, and his name before the Head of Days. . . . 4 He will be a staff to the righteous on which they will support themselves and not fall and he will be the light of the Gentiles and the hope of those who are troubled of heart. 5 All who dwell on earth will fall down and bow the knee before him and will bless and laud and celebrate with song the Lord of Spirits. 6 And for this reason has he been chosen and hidden before Him before the creation of the world and for evermore. 7 And the wisdom of the Lord of Spirits hath revealed him to the holy and righteous for he preserved the lot of the righteous . . . for they are saved in his name . . . 9 and I will give them (kings of the earth and the strong) over into the hands of Mine elect . . . 10 for they have denied the Lord of Spirits and His Anointed. 62:2 And the Lord of Spirits seated him (Messiah) on the throne of His glory. 62:5 When they see that Son of Man Sitting on the throne of his glory. 62.7 For from the beginning the Son of Man was hidden, And the most High preserved him in the presence of His might, And revealed him to the elect.
14 See 15

E. F. Scott, The Kingdom and the Messiah (Edinburgh, 1911), p. 37. Rudolph Otto, in his The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man (London, 1938), makes a very convincing case for this use.



62:9 And all the kings and the mighty and the exalted and those who rule the earth Shall fall down before him on their faces, And worship and set their hope upon that Son of Man, And petition him and supplicate for mercy at his hands. The above quotations give evidence of this development. They likewise indicate the exalted position of the Son-of-man, the fact that he was hidden by God and finally revealed to the elect, and that he would be worshipped. Enoch 48:1-10 speaks of the pre-existence and identifies the Son-of-man with the Messiah: "They have denied the Lord of spirits and his Anointed." Though Abbott holds that Jesus was not influenced by Enoch but principally by the canonical scriptures,16 Rawlinson believes strongly that Enoch, along with the Old Testament may have furnished some basis for the concepts of our Lord. He sees no basis for the Hellenistic myth theory of Reitzenstein and Bousset.17 By the time of the Apocalypse of Baruch 70 to 100 A.D., and 4th Ezra (2nd Esdras), 100 A.D., the Messiah is definitely a supernatural person. As the Messiah, he is also the Son of God. It is the Son of God who has been hidden by the Most High and who is to come, strangely enough, both out of the sea and on the clouds of heaven. "He my son should reprove the nations for their ungodliness" (4 Ezra 13:1 f.). In certain sections of these works there is a definite identity between the Messiah, the Son-of-man, and "my Son." A further development in Anthropos literature is seen in the Psalms of Solomon, where the Messiah conquers without earthly weapons (17:38-40). This is a most interesting development, especially, if the Psalms of Solomon antedate the New Testament documents. The emphasis here placed upon the Messianic concept is that of the moral ascendency of the Anointed. Yet in the Psalms of Solomon the ethical views are subordinate to the national interest, in contradistinction to the gospels.18 The constant use of the phrase, the Son-of-man in the gospels and its employment nowhere else except in Acts 7:56, on the lips of the martyr Stephen, is presumptive evidence that it was used by Jesus. The early church evidently did not use the phrase, yet "There was a

E. A. Abbot, op. cit.9 p. xvii. A. E. J. Rawlinson, The New Testament Doctrine of Christ (London, 1926), pp. 125 ff. 18 E. F. Scott, op. cit., pp. 47-48.



clear memory that Jesus has used it."19 When a study is made of the whole matter, there is strong evidence for its employment by Jesus.20 Another pertinent question must be answered, "Is the term Messianic?" Jesus used it when referring to himself as a man. Mark 8:27 reads, "Who do men say that I am?" The parallel passage in Matthew 16:13 and Luke 9:18 gives reason to believe that the authors have inserted the words Son-of-man and that Jesus did not originally use the full phrase on this occasion, or if he did, he meant "man." The use of the phrase meaning "man" is almost certainly true in Mark 2:27, 28 where it now reads, "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, so the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath." In all likelihood, the original bar-nasha was misunderstood and the proper rendering would be "man" not Son-of-man for the two passages.21 The apocalyptic phrase Son-of-man was in some circles a recognized Messianic title.22 Though it might be used for "man" it was employed before the time of Jesus as definitely Messianic in meaning.23 Messianic in character though Son-of-man was considered, its puzzling and even enigmatic character is evidenced by the question in John 12:34 "We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" (R.S.V.) Though in John's gospel, the very retention of the question with its puzzle is strong evidence of a primitive and authentic source. We will return to this question later. Jesus in employing the term uses it indirectly of himself in the third person, which is significant because the prophets almost never spoke of themselves in this fashion.24 The use of the phrase in the fourth gospel, where it seems superfluous because it merges with the title Son-of-God, is an indication that the phrase was a sort of hallmark of the ipsissima verba of Jesus.25 Jesus not only used the title to refer to himself
John Knox, op. cit., p. 32. Gustas Dalman says the Synoptists "never by any chance allow the term to glide into their own language . . . confirming this usage as an historical fact" (op. cit., p. 252). Otto supports this view (op. cit., pp. 226 ff.). Kraeling says, It is unwise to reject those New Testament passages in which the name lacks Messianic connotations" (op. cit., p. 11). 21 T. W. Manson, Teaching of Jesus (Cambridge, 1931), p. 214. 22 Knox, op. cit., p. 36. 28 H. M. Goguel, Life of Jesus (London, 1933), p. 574. George Foot Moore, Judaism (Cambridge, 1927), vol. II, p. 336, so holds, as do Otto, Dalman, T. W. Manson and many others. 24 Abbott, op. cit., p. xiv. 25 Scott, op. cit., p. 190.
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but he did so in an eschatological sense.26 It is my contention that we find the Messianic consciousness coming to a focus in its employment on the Ups of Jesus. He used it of himself to point men to his future destiny. It is a favorite expression with him and is a part of his concerted effort to raise the whole messianic concept to a new level. It was a level that involved the heavenly, hence the use of Daniel's term, but it was also that of a man completely obedient to God as in Psalm 8 and Ezekiel. It is not modernizing Jesus and making him a child of the Enlightenment to call attention to his championship of the little ones, the outcast, and women. As a man among men, he seemed to take special satisfaction in this. To fuse Daniel's view of the Son-of-man possessing heavenly power with an earthly man obedient to God that we find in Psalm 8 and Ezekial is creativity that gives new and spiritual perspective.27 There is wisdom in Creed's judgment: "The Son-of-man enters upon a new history through its association with Jesus Christ." First used to denote the divine function of the judge, it is later "used predominantly to express the human attributes of Him who humbled Himself to become the 'Son-of-man.' With what meaning Jesus Himself used the term it is hard to say. It is an attractive theory that He used it with studied ambiguity."28 There was purpose in the ambiguity as there was with the Messianic Secret. Eduard Schweizer has written very recently, "It is my hypothesis that Jesus took up the term Son-of-man because it was not yet a definite title."29 Careful analysis of the term Son-of-man in the gospels shows an overlapping, but as we saw in the beginning of this paper, there are between thirty-eight and forty distinct places where Jesus employed the phrase. One of the factors that make for difficulty in interpreting some of the passages is that the Aramaic bar-nasha could mean either "man" or the apocalyptic Son-of-man. Its translation in any particular passage would depend upon the context. This, of course, made for difficulty of understanding both by the disciples and by the gospel authors. In a number of the passages, it is not always clear whether the reference is simply to Jesus as a man or to the apocalyptic idea, the Son-of-man.

Knox, op cit., p. 35; The Death of Christ (Nashville, 1958), p. 95. Scott's position (The Kingdom and the Messiah, p. 202) that the Son-of-man was just as entangled with nationalism as other Messianic appelations is not substantiated. The Son-of-man is to be finally glorified and will be a judge, but the fact that he was hidden by God, plus the reference in 4 Ezra 12:41 which speaks of the Son-of-man as dying, does not have the true military ring to it. 28 Creed, op. cit., pp. 135-36. 29 Schweizer, op. cit., p. 259.



T. W. Manson has discussed at length each one of the instances with his reasons for or against the term in any particular passage.30 Although one need not agree with all of his conclusions, his principles are sound. When all possible adjustments are made for overlapping or misunderstanding the residual use of the term on the lips of Jesus is demonstrated almost beyond question. On the basis of Manson's analysis, John Wick Bowman has prepared a very careful table showing how Jesus was regarded in his day.31 He bases his study on that of Manson and also on F. C. Grant's, The Growth of the Gospels. No claim is made for infallibility in the tables or for complete accuracy, which of course is very difficult with this type of historical investigation. However, the general impression of Bowman's table is conclusive. His Table 5 is reproduced below: Title Prophet Healer Teacher Son of God Messiah Son of Man HOW JESUS REGARDED HIMSELF Mark Q M 2 3 2 3 1 1 1 3 1 1 2 7 1 2 3 1 1 3 1 1 L 1 John 1 1 1 8 7

Not all instances of the use of the phrase Son-of-man are included in this table for the reasons outlined by Dr. Manson and sketched here. The line in the above table separates the lower from the higher Christology. The table shows the large emphasis which Jesus himself placed upon the higher views. Each source puts Son of God, Messiah or Son-of-man upon the lips of our Lord. The tables indicate that the inner consciousness of Jesus was pervaded by the fact of a unique closeness to God, a peculiar relation both as Son of God and as Son-of-man. The table shows that each gospel bears definite and repeated testimony that Jesus spoke of himself as the Son-of-man. Jesus used the term Son-of-man in three distinct ways: 1. As a man among men; 2. As one who must suffer and die; 3. As the Apocalyptic Sonof-man.32 However the title is used, it is always one of dignity. When
* Teaching of Jesus, p. 211 ff. The Intention of Jesus (Philadelphia, 1943), p. 131. 8 Kraeling, op. cit., p. 180.



Jesus employed it of himself and his present activity, there is almost the same concept of the high dignity of the individual that we find in the Declaration of Independence. Good illustrations of this are: Matthew 12:32, "Whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven." Largeness of heart has always gone with man at his noblest. Matthew 13:37, "He who sows the good seed is the Son of man." It would be impossible for this One to sow other than good seed to provide bountifully for men. Matthew 8:20 (Luke 9:58), "The Son of man has nowhere to lay his head" (but he ought to have). And Matthew 11:19, (Luke 7:34) "The Son of man came eating and drinking." The physical processes of life are from God and they are good. It is just these passages which seem most certain to Schweizer and clinch the fact that Jesus did use the term. John's gospel should not be ignored in the whole discussion. In it the division between the terms Son-of-man and Son of God are almost equal, yet the human qualities of the Son-of-man are just as evident as in the synoptics. John 3:14: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up." John 8:28: "When you have lifted up the Son of man then you will know that I am he." The emphasis in John is much more upon "the glory" of the Son-of-man than upon suffering. John 12:23: "And Jesus answered them, The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified." Suffering is almost an incident of being lifted upno stress is placed upon it. In fact so little is said about suffering that John in this connection might be charged with views approaching those of the docetics. The only place in John where the apocalyptic heavenly Son-of-man is hinted at is in 6:27 "Labor for the food which endures . . . which the Son of man will give to you, for on him has God the Father set his seal." This is apparently a reference back to Enoch's view of the Messiah being sealed for a season. In the light of the historical Christological development, it is interesting to see Jesus placing emphasis upon the dignity of his own person as a man. This view was one that was most acceptable to a school of forward thinkers of forty odd years ago. They saw in the phrase the principle emphasis upon the human dignity of our Lord. Such a position is certainly there, and it does need emphasis, but when Jesus said Sonof-man he was not speaking first of all of his noble office as a man. We are right in seeing his employment of the term accompanied by a sense of oneness with the poor and the outcast, the am haaretz (people of the land). God's poor were despised by the rulers who "exercised lordship . . . but it shan not be so among you." The prophets of Israel had



always been the champions of the common man. That is why they were stoned and exiled. The great champion of the little ones of the earth was in this same tradition. He too was a friend of the lowly and the common people heard him gladly. Jesus wanted forever to merge his identity with the needs of men as their friend, helper, and benefactor with complete obedience to God. Any exaltation he could trust to God. The second principal contribution which Jesus made to the Son-ofman concept is in connection with his own suffering and death. Most scholars have held that until the time of Jesus, Isaiah 53 was a nonmessianic passage.33 It is to his genius that we must look as the One who saw "that the Son of man must suffer many things." He fused the idea of the sufferer with the idea of the Son-of-man. This is what is completely new and we owe it to Jesus.34 Here are a few examples taken at random: (Luke 9:22) And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected . . . and be killed. Mark 9:12 (Mt. 17:12, 22-23) How is it written of the Son of man, that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? Mark 10:45 (Mt. 20:28) for the Son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus endeavored to impress on his disciples the truth that discipleship was synonymous with suffering and with the cross. Discipleship is by deliberate choice. There is a connection with the remnant idea in Jewish thought which began with Elijah and the "seven thousand which have not bowed the knee to Baal." It was held successively by many of the leading prophetsIsaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Amos, Zephaniah, Deutero-Isaiah, Zechariah, Joel and Ezraso it was quite a widespread view. Membership in the nation was a matter of birth, but the Remnant was composed of those who by deliberate choice elected to be loyal to Yahweh. It would be the modern equivalent of the emphasis upon a regenerate church membership as contrasted with the state-church idea of being born into the church. The old Hebrew concept of the remnant is brought out and personified in the person of Jesus, the Son-of-man who was completely and utterly loyal to Yahweh.
Joachim Jeremas has recently argued strongly to the contrary. (See Knox, The Death of Christ, p. 103.) Knox's effort to play down the sayings about the suffering of the Son-of-man because they are only found in Mark, seem far-fetched. (See The Death of Christ, pp. 100 ff.

Mark 8:31



It was loyalty to the point of suffering in order that the will of God might finally be carried out. At this point we tie in with the whole biblical problem of suffering. Job reached no conclusion about it except to trust in God. Habakkuk raises the poignant question of how God could allow the desperately wicked to punish the righteous. Jesus himself on the cross asked the question "Why?" He had given a part of the answer in the parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12, Matthew 21:33-46, Luke 20: 9-19) where the son will make an effort to redeem the wasted garden of Isaiah 5:1-7, thinking with the father (God) in the parable, "They will respect my son."35 Here again the total impression of the gospels comes to our aid. Suffering was tied up with the life and ministry of Jesus almost from the beginning. The third category is that he speaks of the Son-of-man as coming in glory with the clouds of heaven and sitting in judgment upon the world. Here we have the definitely apocalyptic Son-of-man presented. These passages show the same type of exaltation which we find in Daniel and which were a part of the intellectual furniture of that day. The Son-of-man is coming in glory. He is seated on the throne and will judge the world. In his glory he will be vindicated by God. Typical of these passages are: Mark 8:38 Of him will the Son of man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven." "Jesus said to them, "When the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne you who had followed me will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." If you art the Christ tell us. . . . But from now on the Son of man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.

Mark 13:26 Mark 14:62

Matthew 19:38

Luke 22:67 69

C. W. F. Smith, Jesus of the Parables (Philadelphia, 1948), p. 188. "The reference to the son reads as definite claim that Jesus is not only the last messenger (as implied in the Barren Fig Tree) but also the Messiah or Son of God." See also my own treatment in A Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids, 1959), pp. 165 if.

44 Luke 12:8 Luke 12:40 Luke 17:30


Everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God. You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour when you do not expect. So will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of man comes.

Matthew 10:23

Matthew 16:28 Truly I say to you, there are some standing here, who will not taste death, before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. These passages give difficulty for they seem to indicate that Jesus is expecting the coming of the heavenly Son-of-mana being not himself who will usher in the kingdom. John Knox, after a careful division of the Son-of-man sayings into three groupsApocalyptic Son-of-man, Suffering Son-of-man, and Remaining Son-of-man sayingscomes to the conclusion "That Jesus expected and spoke of the coming of the Son of man (as) a heavenly being who would be God's agent in the imminent eschatological event; second, that he did not identify himself with this personage; but third, that the first Christians did make this identification immediately after the Resurrection." 36 Now in Enoch 71:14-17 the patriarch has disclosed to him that he (Enoch) is the Son-of-man. The pertinent passage is: 14 And he came to me and greeted me with his voice and said unto me This is the Son of Man who is born unto righteousness, and righteousness abides over him and the righteousness of the Head of Days forsakes him not. 15 and he said unto me he proclaims unto thee peace in the name of the world to come. For from thence has proceeded peace since the creation of the world. And so shall it be unto thee forever and forever and ever. 16 And all shall walk in his ways since righteousness never forsaketh him. With him will be their dwelling places. And with him their heritage. And they shall not be separated from him forever and ever and ever. 17 And so there shall be length of days with that Son of man. And the righteous shall have peace and an upright way in the name of the Lord of Spirits forever and ever. As Enoch had the disclosure at the end of his life so it would be with Jesus. Not until the final outcome is he revealed as God's heavenly Son-of-man. We can only surmise that Jesus was familiar with the Enoch literaturethe Danielle figure is sufficient to account for the
The Death of Christ, p. 95.



conceptbut these quotations show that Jesus would have been at home in similar thought patterns. Although Sherman Johnson is among those who believe that the humility of Jesus would have kept him from making so exalted a claim, still he maintains: "It has been objected that Jesus, being a Jewish prophet and a man of great humility, could not have ascribed to himself the glory of the heavenly Son of man. One answer must be that we cannot rule this out as psychologically improbable. If Enoch could be thought of as elevated to such a dignity; if Philo, being a Jew, could think of Moses as transformed into a new and almost divine being; and if it was not presumptionas it surely could not befor a man to be a prophet or Messiah; then Jesus might have believed that his calling would lead to this heavenly office."37 Jesus on more than one occasion spoke of the Kingdom of God as both a present fact and a coming reality.38 There is no reason to believe that the same interpretation is not valid with these passages in connection with the Son-of-man's immediate coming. Jesus believed that the Kingdom of God was to be manifested on earth and that he as the Messiah and the Son-of-man was the agent for the Kingdom's arrival. Because Jesus was to be the Apocalyptic Son-of-man he was already such in fact. The latent Messiahship in him became actual. This seems to be the best interpretation of Mark 8:38 (Luke 9:20) "For whosoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." Matthew 10:23 and 16:28 is in the same general category and is best interpreted in such a fashion. This position is valid unless one holds that Jesus is here deliberately contrasting himself with the coming Son-of-man which would be contrary to the whole weight of evidence in connection with the Son-of-man utterances. Rudolph Otto has summed up the matter happily. "The idea was that a powerful preacher alike of righteousness, the coming judgment, and the blessed new age, a prophet of the eschatological Son of man, would be transported at the end of his earthly career to God; that he would be exalted to become the one whom he had
The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. IV, p. 420. Note also Matthew Black, who in supporting Schweizer, has shown, "The idea of the righteous in Israel . . . playing a part with God Himself in the last Judgment is well attested in pre-Christian sources." (Bulletin John Rylands Library [March, 1963]). This is the position held by E. F. Scott, op. cit., p. 205.



proclaimed, in the literal sense that he himself would become the very one whom he had proclaimed. But that also meant that his activity even during his earthly life was nothing else than the proleptic activity of this very redeemer."39 In concluding this study, consideration should be given to the use of the term Son-of-man by Jesus as a part of the Messianic secret. The term Son-of-man was not used to any extent until after Caesarea Philippi. The question that John records, John 12:34, "Who is this Son of man?" is evidence that there was enough of a puzzle about the term to make it an effective designation on the part of Jesus when he was desirous of getting certain views across to his disciples and at the same time keeping the general hearers from understanding fully his reference and cairn to Messiahship before he was ready to announce it. It is not our place here to discuss the whole problem of the Messianic secret, but the term Son-of-man fitted into Jesus' desire not to announce his Messiahship until his teaching ministry had been completed. This is evidenced by his constant use of the term, by its Messianic connotation (if the views presented here are correct), and most of all by the fact that the church no longer used the term Son-of-man after the Messiah had been revealed and fully accepted as such by the early church. As God's man he announced, "If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Luke 11:20). As God's servant he was ready to suffer; "If it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39). We do not have to hold that Jesus had all of the eschatological nuances of the Son-of-man worked out in his own mind. He was doing God's will and he knew God had the power to bring in His kingdom. The term Son-of-man would hold a meaning for him and for the inner circle who were party to the messianic secret without provoking the overt rebellion which Jesus wanted to avoid. Scholars differ as to the messianic consciousness of Jesus. Their doubts are due to the popular materialistic concept of the messiah of many first century Jews. After the great feeding of the five thousand Jesus refused to become a political and military leader. Certainly Jesus was not the messiah of the dreams of even James and John who wanted seats one on his right and one on his left. He knew he had to transform the concept; the early church believed that he had. But his acceptance
Otto, op. cit., p. 213.



of the office with his own interpretation solves more problems than any other view. Truth is never arrived at by weighing the judgments of scholars, but their opinions and the reasons for them do carry weight. MacLean Gilmour in his article "Jesus Christ" for the new Hastings Dictionary of the Bible writes: More conservative critics, including the writer of this article, are hesitant to conclude that the belief of the early church that Jesus was the Messiah arose wholly without warrant in his own words. The incident at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27-30) and the story of the inscription over the cross (15:26) appear to belong to the bedrock of early Christian tradition, and it is difficult to understand why Jesus was put to death by the Roman procurator if he had not been charged with revolutionary intent as a messianic claimant. Rawlinson points out, he "was the Anointed of the spirit, (Isaiah 61:1) the Lord's ideal 'servant' or 'slave,' the King designate who was the servant of all (Mark 10:45) and he was at the same time the *Sonof-man.' " 41 This recognition of Messiahship on his part whether it came at his baptism as Peake holds,42 or was arrived at slowly and tentatively, but none the less firmly, as Scott contends,43 was at the very heart and core of the ministry of our Lord. C. J. Cadoux says, "The great number of modern scholars are therefore unquestionably right in believing his Messianic claim to be a historic reality."44 A quotation from Goguel is in order: External circumstances alone do not explain how it was that Jesus came to place his own person in the very center of the gospel. . . . The link thus established between the Son of Man and Jesus implies, even if it does not directly state it, the feeling that Jesus knows that he is the Messiah for whom men are waiting.46 Klausner's strong statement must be taken into account: "Ex nihilo nihil fit: When we see that Jesus' Messianic claims became a fundamental principle of Christianity soon after his crucifixion, this is a standing proof that even in his lifetime Jesus regarded himself as Messiah.

S. MacLean Gilmour, "Jesus Christ," in Dictionary of the Bible, James Hastings, ed. (Revised Edition, New York, 1963), p. 495. Italics mine. 41 The New Testament Doctrine of Christ, p. 248. 42 A. S. Peake, The Messiah and the Son of Man (reprint, Bulletin John Ryland's Library, VIII :1 (Jan. 1924). This, though brief, is an exceptionally fine study of the whole problem. 43 The Kingdom and the Messiah, p. 201. 44 The Historic Mission of Jesus (New York, 1943), p. 52. 45 The Life of Jesus, pp. 387, 388.



He was the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, the King to be (Matthew 25:34), the Son-of-man."46 At the trial of Jesus the secret could no longer be kept, nor did he desire to keep it. When asked point blank if he was the Messiah he replied, "I am" (Mark 14:62), "You have said so" (Matthew 26:64), and "You say that I am" (Luke 22:70). The genuineness of these latter two statements of Jesus is guaranteed by their peculiar form. "This guarded and ambiguous statement is so a part of the original situation in which Jesus found himself that it is difficult to think that it was put into his mouth by a later writer."47 "In Mark the affirmation of His Messiahship by Jesus is positive and explicit."48 His enemies took the statements as an acknowledgment of Messiahship. They would have liked to believe otherwise for it would have gotten them out of a serious predicament. If Jesus had failed to acknowledge his Messiahship they could then have said that Jesus himself had denied that he was the Messiah and the matter would have been closed. Contrary to the usual opinion, the reaction of the Sanhdrin when they were accused point blank by Peter of legal murder (Acts 4:8 f) shows they were not particularly blood-thirsty. They did not object to recognizing a Messiah but they did object to recognizing Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. They, too, along with the populace, wanted someone who would lead them against Pilate and Rome and they knew that Jesus would never do it. So when he acknowledged that he was the Messiah there was nothing left for them to do but to prove by putting him to death that he was not. "Let the Christ the King of Israel come down from the cross" (Mark 15:2). To their minds the claim to be the Son of the Blessed (Mark 14:61) was blasphemous, if he had denied it they would have had no case. Jesus had not denied his Messiahship before the religious authority nor did he deny it before the political ruler. Pilate was forced to crucify Jesus against his better judgment. He made every effort to get out of the bothersome and unpleasant task. The political ground was the only one on which the enemies of Jesus could ask for his death at the hands of the Romans. Pilate knew that it would be a serious matter indeed for him if he should have been proved to have released a man who was charged with claiming to be the Messiah, especially one who had himself elected to go to the cross instead of pleading innocent.
46 47

J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (New York, 1943), p. 255. Peake, op. cit., p. 14. 48 H. D. A. Major, The Mission and Message of Jesus (New York, 1938), p. 180.



"We may infer with practical certainty from the standpoint of the crucifixion that Jesus regarded himself as Messiah."49 The Messianic secret had served its purpose. The Son-of-man must suffer. Even though he believed that God could send him twelve legions of angels, his only question on the cross was an anguished "My God, why . . .?" If there was to be an apocalyptic vindication he could trust God for that; "Father into thy hands I commend my spirit." God honored his faith and as Paul said, "has highly exalted him" (Phil. 2:9). The church from the beginning believed it. Our thesis is that the faith of the New Testament church goes back to Jesus' sense of mission and of obedience. The church of today lives by the assurance of it.
Peake, op. cit., p. 14.

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