Jesus Christ - the Son of Man
By Dudley Ross Spears
Jesus often identified himself as the “Son of man.” (Mat 8:20; 9:6; 10:23 and numerous other instances.). Since Jesus Christ, the man, was made in the “likeness of sinful flesh and for sin” (Rom. 8:3) it is appropriate that he used this designation. He was full deity incarnate in a human body.
Modernist William Barclay emphasized the humanity of Jesus so radically he considered Jesus a mere man. He argued Jesus was tempted to doubt even his own identify as the Son of God. He quoted a spurious statement attributed to Jesus and wrote, “Two things are clear, and these two things must be set side by side. First, Jesus so identified himself with men that he entered absolutely and completely into the human situation. Second, a part of the human situation, which no one who has set his hand to some great task fully escapes, is self-doubt.” The Mind of Jesus, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1976 pages 27-28.
The Unitarians have a similar disposition toward Jesus. The well known lexicographer, Joseph Henry Thayer, a unitarian, sporadically allowed his bias to show in some of his comments. In the Baker Book House paperback edition of his lexicon, the publisher’s warned,
“A word of caution is necessary. Thayer was a Unitarian, and the errors of this sect occasionally come through in the explanatory notes. The reader should be alert for both subtle and blatant denials of such doctrines as the Trinity (Thayer regarded Christ as a mere man and the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force emanating from God), the inherent and total depravity of fallen human nature, the eternal punishment of the wicked and Biblical inerrancy.” (Publisher’s Preface).This, according to the publishers, is of particular importance in his definitions and explanatory notes on [theotes] and [theoites]. If you have this edition, read the entire Publisher’s Preface.
Jehovah’s Witnesses view Jesus similarly. Here is a sample of their view. “We are told that our Lord, before he left his glory to become a man, was ‘in a form of God’ -- a spiritual form, a spirit being; but since to be a ransom for mankind he had to be a man, of the same nature as the sinner whose substitute in death he was to become, it was necessary that his nature be changed. And Paul tells us that he took not the nature of angels, one step lower than his own, but that he came down two steps and took the nature of men -- he became a man; he was ‘made flesh.’ -- Heb. 2:16; Phil. 2:7,8; John 1:14.” (Studies in the Scriptures, Series 1,The Plan of the Ages, International Bible Students Association, Brooklyn, London, Melbourne, Harmen, Elberfeld, Orerro,Christiana, 1912, page 178).
Their application of Heb. 2:16 to prove Jesus took the nature of man is based on a misinterpretation. The NASB clears this up by changing “took not the nature of” to “does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.”
The above quotations represent a radical misapplication of Jesus’ designation of himself as “the Son of Man.”
Son of man is a general designation that emphasizes the human factor in a being (Job 25:6). One of the Messianic Psalms applies “Son of Man” to Jesus Christ (Psa 8:4; Heb. 2:6). A son of “Man” is the product of that which man produces -- a human being (Psa 146:3). That Jesus was made of woman is evidence of his humanity (Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4). That his origin was from above is evidence he was not just like a mere man (John 8:23).
Paul tells us Jesus, himself man, is our mediator in the presence of God. “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). The definite article is italicized in the verse because it is interpolated. The significance of this is that man is used generically or accommodatively and not specifically of Jesus as a particular man.
Patrick Fairbarn comments, “The want of the article before [anthropos] is noticeable; not the man as contradistinguished from some others, but man, one possessing the nature, and in His work manifesting the attributes, of humanity. Not, however, as if this were all; for the very fact of Christ’s mediating between God and men implies that He was Himself something that other men were not: they men, indeed, but in a state that men should not occupy toward God (hence requiring a Mediator); He, man in the ideal or proper sense, true image and representative of God, and as such capable of restoring the relations which had been disturbed by sin, between Creator and creature, and rendering earth, as it was designed to be, the reflex of heaven.” Commentary on Pastoral Epistles, Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, Inc., Minneapolis, MN, 19 80 reprint, pages 116-117.
Man in 1 Tim 2:5 shows the humanity of Jesus. Jesus’ humanity qualified him to be the only possible propitiation for the sins of man. Such a mediator had to be (1) equally related to both parties, (2) completely knowledgeable of both God and man, and (3) not involved in that which made mediation necessary. Jesus was perfectly equal with God and man (John 5:18). His knowledge of men and God is absolute (John 2:25; 3:31-32; Matt. 11:27). He was sinless (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15), thus needed no mediation for himself.
Fairbairn’s final thought is also valuable. He wrote, “He who should be this is the true Head as well as pattern of humanity — the New Man, and at the same time “the Lord from heaven,” because only as related to that higher sphere, and having at command powers essentially divine, could He either be or do what such an exalted position indispensably requires. So that the use made of this passage by Unitarians is without any just foundation.”
Jesus was a man, but not just a man.