Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Title "Son Of Man" (Part 7)

Part 1 is available here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here, and Part 6 here.

AP: So in this post we want to pick up on the last two steps of our hypothetical reconstruction of how the Christian community formed these christological notions around Jesus as the Son of Man.

8. The confusion we now perceive in the Gospels concerning the meanings of the "Son of Man" originates when the authors of the Gospels, many years after Jesus' death, applied to him all the sayings about the "Son of Man" which had circulated in Christian groups––many of them uttered by Christian prophets in his name––as if they had been pronounced by Jesus about himself. The reasoning was quite simple: If Jesus, after his resurrection, is the "Son of Man" that is next to God, he also must have been during his life and ministry on earth.

The principle is exactly the same that operates in the minds of the authors of the apocryphal Gospels: If Jesus was a miracle worker during his adult life, he also had to be a miracle worker during his childhood, which we see in the apocryphal Gospel of "Thomas the Jewish Philosopher" (or Pseudo-Thomas).

9. This was how the first Gospel, Mark, assembled and mixed in his work these ideas without any distinction––as if they had been uttered by Jesus himself--as did the other Gospel authors who copied his Gospel, e.g., Luke and Matthew. Thus the expression "Son of Man" went from being a mere modest self-designation of Jesus to becoming a Messianic title "The Son of Man" with the special characteristics ascribed to him by Daniel, both in his life and after his death.

It was then, too, when the sayings of the historical Jesus were reinterpreted as containing this neutral and modest expression with which Jesus sometimes referred to himself and adding to it––naturally also by Christian prophets––other new sayings that proclaimed––as if they were historical as well––what was already known: death and resurrection. The Synoptic Gospels make no distinction between the three kinds of sayings about the Son of Man which we distinguish above (the symbols of modesty, those dealing with passion and resurrection, those who speak of the final judge), and the simple reader also, ascribing all of them to the historical Jesus.

So who is the "Son of Man"?

This complex hypothesis which we have just discussed, consisting of several steps with more or less variants, is quite normal among independent investigators of the life of Jesus. The distinctions between the sayings about the "Son of Man" and the historical judgments about them, so contrary to what is inferred from a mere reading of the Gospels, are therefore a product of criticism. Now if, according to these analyses, the subject of the "second coming" is not Jesus, nor did he think so, but was probably a character different from him . . . then to whom did it refer?

We do not really know this precisely because here the tradition of thinking about the Jesus of history is indissolubly interwoven in the Gospels with the interpretation of his mission carried out by his disciples after the events of Easter, beginning with firm belief in his resurrection by the work of God. The answers would have to be sought a priori in Jewish texts of the time, which are supposed to show relatively similar conceptions.

But here the opinions differ, because the Jewish books––more or less contemporaries of the Gospels––harboring similar beliefs, the Apocalypse of Baruch, Book IV of Ezra, the Book of the Parables of Enoch, and a couple of centuries before, The Book of Daniel, do not have a unanimous position.

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