The Son of Man

“The Son of Man becomes the principle of consciousness within the individual, or that aspect of the self which has about it the moral quality of being able to function through the ego in concrete everyday decisions.”  

(Elizabeth Howes)

To settle in to the study, I suggest the music, “Come on the Trail of Song”by Kevin Memley

and  Navaho “Night Chant” (included on the recording sent with the Voyager space probe), a powerful healing chant, believed so powerful it can only be sung 5 – 8 times a year –

“Son of Man” by Rene Magritte (1964)


‘Son of man’ is mentioned on the lips of Jesus 39 times in the synoptic gospels and 8 times in John, and there is 1 other time in NT (Acts). The phrase appears 93 times in Ezekiel and once in Daniel, but the meaning in both old and new testaments is a source of scholarly debate. Many people jump to the conclusion that, on the lips of Jesus, it is self-designated title, but there are other, more likely, explanations. There is agreement that the phrase was in general use as a noun for man at the time of Jesus, and also could be used as the pronoun, “one,” as in, “as one would know, it is easier to smile when one is happy than when one is sad.”

There is less agreement upon its use as a title, as when it is seems to be used for an eschatological (end time) figure.  It is more likely to have been interpreted as a title after its translation into Greek. In this study we will try to dispel some of the fog that surrounds this term.

Note the lack of response when Jesus uses it, i.e. there is no mystery, no question.

LORD OF THE SABBATH  (Bible Hub, pg. 53 – Mk. 2:23-28 and parallels)

Mt. & Lk follow what source document?

Except where? (Mt.12:5-8 & Lk. 6:2)

What would account for its omission by Mt.12:8 & Lk ? 

What would account for Mt.12:5-7?  

Who is criticised in Mk.2:25 and parallels?

What kind of answer does Jesus give in response? 

What is the Sabbath?  Wo originated it?  Why?

What do you hear Jesus saying in Mk.2:27? 

Do you think it is authentic?Why? Note: New Testament scholar Rudolph Bultmann says this verse is an example of something too radical for Mt & Lk to include.

Is Jesus appealing to his own authority of an inherent principle?

Note: Jesus of the Gospels is a ‘genetic’ thinker rather than an original thinker; i.e. he goes back to the beginnings: back to tradition, to law.

Does Jesus make human beings the measure of all things?  Himself?

This is an issue of the riskiness of individual responsibility vs. the security of laws.

If it is authentic, then what does ‘Son of Man’ represent?

Codex in Lk says, “Blessed are you if you know what you are doing; cursed if you do not.” I.e., it is a demand for consciousness.

What does Mt.12:5-7 do to the implied meaning of Son of Man in verse 8 compared to Mk. & Lk.? 

If Jesus is saying this about the Sabbath as an institution, he implies this about institutions generally. What are they for us?  Write for yourself where you are rubbing up against an institution which thinks you are made for it, rather than to serve God for it.

What would be inner institutions in us?

Write about an inner institution that acts upon you.

Mime each of the above with and then without connecting with the Son of Man. Recall the instructions for miming are included in the “Setting the Stage” section.

OPINION OF THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS (Bible Hub, pg.66  – Mk.3:22-30 and parallels. Also see pg. 108)

In Mt.12:24, what are the scribes saying about Jesus?

What is Jesus’ response?

What are the implications of Mt.12:32 for the phrase, ‘Son of Man’? 

What do you hear Jesus saying in this verse? 

In what aspects of life would one speak against the S of M?


57 As they were going along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”

What does the man want?

What is his perception of Jesus? 

What is Jesus’ reply?

What does ‘Son of Man’ represent here? 

Where does the man want to lay his head?

STANDARDS OF GREATNESS (Bible Hub, pg.93,94 – Mk.10:33-45 and parallels)


In Mk.10:35-37 and parallels, what do the disciples want?

Where do they want this? 

So what do they see Jesus representing? 

What does Jesus respond in Mk.10:38?  What does he mean?

Note the phrase in Mk.10:45 is not in Luke. From where might it have come?

What is the role of ‘Son of Man’ as used in Mt. & Mk.? 

Why does the Son of Man serve in the world?

We can understand Son of Man as a man aligned with God and moving himself and others toward wholeness and the Kingdom.

ZACCHAEUS MEETS THE SON OF MAN (Bible Hub,pg.138  – Lk.19:1-10)

The Son of Man statement at the end was not originally part of the story, but tied on by the writer from a store of statements by Jesus.

What is the function of Son of Man here?

THE SON OF MAN MUST SUFFER (Bible Hub, pg.86 – Mk.8:31-33 and parallels)

What quality do we learn here about the Son of Man?

Why do you think this is true?

                  Qualities of the Son of Man                                              Reasons for Suffering

         Has authority over institutions                                                  Reaction by institutions

        Authority to forgive sins                                                             Have to give up old dependencies

        Comes eating & drinking in everyday life                                  Risk of excess

        Servant                                                                                         Ego-needs forfeited & Others still in pain

        Seek & save the lost                                                                    Some don’t want to be found

SON OF MAN and the KINGDOM OF GOD (Mt.33:37-43)

37 He answered, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41 The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

What are the qualities of Son of Man?

What happens to the weeds? The wheat? The end-time separation of good and evil is one of the common agenda items of Matthew, but it is unlikely to have come from Jesus.


31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;….41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;

What is the role of the Son of Man here? 

How do you feel about the apocalyptic Son of Man?

Note that, in the gospels, this Son of Man is only found in Matthew, and relates to his particular theological agenda.

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