Vol. 4, No. 8
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This title for the Christ is used about 82 times in the New Testament. Mostly it is used by Jesus himself and deliberately chosen by him to designate himself more often than any other. Some liberal scholars have indicated that "Son of man" is not a correct rendering and that Jesus merely used an Aramaic term that means "anyone" or "every man" and thus there is no title intended. However, one only has to look at passages like Matthew 1:19; Luke 6:22; 7:3-4; 12:8; 19:10; John 1:51 and 6:27 to see that to change the expression would make these passages virtually meaningless.
At first glance, it would appear that the title is used simply to show the humanity of Jesus in contrast to the title "Son of God," which would show his deity, but when one looks closely at its usage, the title "Son of man" not only shows the identity of Jesus with man but also clearly identifies his deity. When one looks at its usage, it is also clear that Jesus chose to refer to himself as the "Son of man" not because it was a new title but because it was a term which was well known among the Jews and saturated with deep meaning before the time of Jesus. That the title was not new and was understood by the Jews to be a Messianic title is clearly seen in John 12:34, "We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up?"
"No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man" (John 3:13, RSV). Here Jesus, in speaking of himself, makes very clear reference to his deity, pointing out that he came from heaven. Jesus also refers to this in John 6:62 where he speaks of the Son of man ascending up where he was before. This corresponds very clearly with the prologue of John's Gospel (1:1-14) that is indicating the deity of the Christ by showing that he is from heaven.
The fact that the Son of man had the power on earth to forgive sins is another evidence of the deity of Jesus. In Luke 5:18-26, Jesus proves that he has the power to forgive sins by healing the man sick of the palsy (v.24). The scribes and Pharisees state a great truth in v. 21, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Thus the Son of man gives an emphatic demonstration that shows his deity by healing the man.
The majority of occasions where Christ used the title "Son of man" are connected with his death, burial and resurrection. Paul says in Romans 1:3-4, "Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead." Here Paul boldly declares that the proof of the deity of Jesus is found in his resurrection from the dead. Thus, when Jesus speaks, as he does in Mark 9:31, "For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men and they shall kill him, And after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day," he is indicating the fact that as Son of man, he is deity.
Other instances of its use by Jesus in connection with his deity are seen in the account of Peter's confession of Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-20); with reference to his coming in judgment on Jerusalem (Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Luke 22:69ff) and also, with respect to his final appearing (Matthew 24:37, 39, 44; 25:31; Mark 8:38). Thus, even though the title "Son of man" indicates very clearly the humanity of Jesus, it is also used by the Lord to declare the divine aspect of his nature, that he is deity.