The Son of Man

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During a recent sermon, Pastor Dennis mentioned and referenced in his screen notes, Daniel 7:13-14 more than once.

The Son of Man Presented
“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
“And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and  a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.

If you were to do a search for “Son of Man”, you would find it more than 80 times in the New Testament. It was one of Jesus’ favorite ways to describe himself. Here is what I find interesting: all but two of the 80+ references are found in the Gospels. The two single references outside the Gospels are in Acts 7:56 and in Hebrews 2:6. What is significant about this? Let me explain.

When historians study ancient texts and try to determine the authenticity of the script, they use something scholars developed to help them appraise the text – benchmark called ‘criteria of authenticity’. A text is found to be credible if it fits most or all in the list. In his book, On Guard, Christian Apologist William Lane Craig shares some of following which Christian researchers use:
1. Historical fit: The incident fits in with known historical facts of the time and place.
2. Independent, early sources: The incident is related in multiple sources, which are near to the time when the incident is said to have occurred.
3. Embarrassment: The incident is awkward or counter productive for the early Christian church.
4. Dissimilarity: The incident is unlike earlier Jewish ideas and/or unlike later Christian ideas.
5. Semitisms: Traces of Hebrew or Aramaic language appear in the story.
6. Coherence: The incident fits in with facts already established about Jesus. 1

When the authors, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote about their experiences, or researched what was said about Jesus, (Luke 1:1-4), they wrote down what they heard first hand, not something reported years later. Craig wrote, “[This shows] the designation of Jesus as ‘the Son of Man’ was not a title that arose in later Christianity and was then written back into the traditions about Jesus. On the basis of the criteria of independent sources and of dissimilarity, we can say with confidence that Jesus called Himself ‘the Son of Man.’”2

What did Jesus mean when He called himself the Son of Man? Many liberal scholars assume the title refers to his humanity. Of course, many of the same scholars deny the deity of Christ altogether, and consider him more of a great man whose teachings have been handed down over the centuries.

It is clear that Jesus not only used the title multiple times in reference to himself, it is also clear He understood its implications. Think of the trial in Mark 14 prior to the Crucifixion. The high priest is asking Him if He is the Messiah. Jesus replied in Mark 14:62 “And Jesus said, ‘I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’” The high priest tore his clothes and asked why do we need other witnesses! Christian apologist Mark Mittelberg wrote, “These words were astounding to his astute listeners, because by coupling the title ‘the Son of Man’ with the description of his ‘coming on the clouds of heaven,’ he was undeniably claiming that he was the divine person described in Daniel 7:13 where it says, ‘I saw someone like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven.’”3

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were witnesses to the life of Christ. These accounts were not written centuries later with the purpose of consolidating power within the church. The Gospels were first hand eye witness narratives, or in the case of Luke, a well documented and researched historical account of Jesus.

In the 1800’s, William Ramsay was a scholar and archaeologist. Concerning the Gospel of Luke he wrote, “I began with a mind unfavorable to it [Acts]…It did not lie then in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself often brought into contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”4

Another example we find in the 1990’s, historian Colin Hemer itemized 84 facts in the Gospel of Luke that have been confirmed by historical and archaeological research.5 All this to say that Luke may not have been one of the twelve, but he painstakingly recorded the details and events so that Theophilus would know the exact truth about what he had been taught. Luke 1:4

I had been rereading William Lane Craig’s book, ‘On Guard’ and had just read about the Son of Man title. When Pastor Dennis referred to them in his notes, I returned to that chapter and read more carefully. I understood the title ‘the Son of Man’ was a reference to Daniel 7, but it was interesting to learn just how often it was used in the New Testament and then specifically within the Gospels and not in the rest of the New Testament. The implication that the title had not been added in centuries later due to the number of references made in the Gospels (eye witness accounts) compared to the rest of the New Testament was not transparent to me till I had reread the notes.

Had someone just shared with me how often it was used in the New Testament and not parsed out the apologetic piece, I would have missed another opportunity to give a reason for my faith.

 

 

Sources:
1. Craig, William C. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2010. Print.
2. Ibid.
3. Mittelberg, Mark. The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. Colorado Springs: Tyndale, 2010. Print
4. Ramsay, William. St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen. New York: Putnam, 1896. Print.
5. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print

 

 

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The Son of Man by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog/category/blog/.

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