Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Title "Son Of Man" (Part 3)

Part 1 is available here, and Part 2 here.

AP: In this post we want to consider the following question: "Did the historical Jesus consider himself the "Son of Man" living at the end of time?"

Despite the clarity of what we find in the passages transcribed in the previous post, critical research of the New Testament has wondered, and rightly so, whether the historical Jesus actually regarded himself as the "Son of Man" living at the end of time. When we consider the question with a critical eye, in my opinion, a considerable amount of doubt arises that Jesus considered himself in this way.

Historians of early Christianity do not doubt for even a moment that the Jesus of history thought he was living in the end times. We can see that in the passages that were quoted in the previous post. The backdrop was already painted so to speak in Judaism at least for one kind of tradition in Judaism. They were living in the birth-pang era of the Messiah. Basically, what we've said thus far about things can be ascribed one-hundred percent to the Jesus of history.

However, all this is not the same as saying that Jesus thought that he was exactly that "Son of man" who would come as judge to judge all the nations and inhabitants of the world. On the contrary, they think that although the Jesus of history believed himself the herald or herald of the coming of the Kingdom of God, and even at the end of his life the Messiah of Israel,  he was alluding to someone else when he alluded to that figure who was to intervene in the final judgment––namely the "Son of Man"––which referred to a special assistant of God for those last moments of the universe. Again, that person, according to Jesus, was not himself.

Why? Basically there is only one reason. It is not safe to ascribe to the Jesus of history any of the judgments of the Gospels that point to him as the Son of Man, who is presented as speaking of his resurrection and of his coming as the final judge.

These scholars maintain that it is not certain that the historical Jesus would say of himself that he was the character drawn by the author of the book of Daniel (7:13), or later by Book IV of Ezra (13:1ff.), namely the "eschatological judge." In other words, once the scalpel of criticism has been used, it is not clear in what sense Jesus could use the expression "Son of Man", specifically if he did so as a messianic title to predict the passion and resurrection of the same Messiah(!) or in another, simpler sense.

And if this is so, a question would arise: How does early Christianity come to interpret Jesus as the Son of the future Man, a universal judge, who implies a divine status in some way?

It is not easy to give an absolutely satisfactory answer. In order to do this, a number of critical observations must be made about the Gospels and some hypothesis should be formulated: I will re-think the steps, abbreviate them or amplify them as necessary, given in the section on Jesus' possible self-understanding as the "Son of Man" in the New Testament.

Hypothesis about how the theology about the "Son of Man" was formed within Christianity:
1. That Jesus used this enigmatic phrase to modestly allude to himself is something that is certain, since it appears attested multiple times in the Gospels and was an expression of the Aramaic language of his time, although not all that frequent.
2. An even brief analysis of the sentences in which this expression appears leads to the conclusion that three categories or classes of use of it must be distinguished: 
Category 1: Those that refer to the performance of Jesus on the earth in its present moment, which are interchangeable by an "I" or by "this man who is here." Thus Mark 2:28; 3:28; 10:45a; 14:21b.
Category 2: Those that speak of the passion of the "Son of Man" followed by his resurrection. Thus, Mark 9:31ff.; 10:33ff.
Category 3: Those that refer to the parousia or coming of the Son of Man as judge of the living and the dead. Thus, Mark 8:38.
3. The sayings of the first group do not affirm anything special about Jesus as a divine person (not even the fact that he is "Lord of the Sabbath," 2:28, a phrase to be interpreted in the light of the one on the side: "The Sabbath is for man and not man for the Sabbath"). In these texts the expression "son of man" is only a circumlocution to designate himself with some modesty, without expressly saying "I". These sayings are considered by the critic as authentic.
Those in category 2 are technically considered "prophecies ex eventu", that is, "prophecies" once the events happened, namely the death of Jesus. Therefore, they are necessarily later than this and could not be pronounced by him. Many Catholic critics accept this argument, although a rationalistic criticism beats within it: It is not permissible for Jesus, as a man, to be able to predict the future.
Those in category 3 are certainly interpreted as a reference of Jesus to a character in some heavenly way who acts as an intermediary or helper of God in the transcendental moments of the Great Judgment. Now, as in the whole Synoptic tradition, there is no word of the same Jesus in which he affirms that he would return in the near future except the very sayings which are being investigated .The critic thinks that this leads to prudence until these items should be carefully considered. It is possible that the authors of the Gospels have applied these words to Jesus as if he had used them in reference to himself, although it is quite possible that this was not so.

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