There is a common thread uniting the views of those who think that Jesus signaled Daniel 7 by using the Aramaic bar enash in the middle of Hebrew speech. Anyone who holds this view must assume that Jesus spoke or taught in Hebrew much of the time. That Jesus used Hebrew a significant amount of the time is a sociolinguistic conclusion that has a growing number of supporters in New Testament scholarship, but one that is still a minority opinion.
Updated: 9 August 2022
מְתֻרְגְּמָן Meturgeman is Hebrew for translator. The articles in this series illustrate how a knowledge of the Gospels’ Semitic background can provide a deeper understanding of Jesus’ words and influence the translation process.
Not only is “son of man” one of the most important phrases in the Bible, it is one of the most misunderstood and disputed. Rooms could be filled with all the books and articles written on this subject.
Translators are not immune to fascination with this phrase, and the meaning of “son of man” is a perennial topic of debate. We are keen to understand it because it is the phrase that Jesus used for himself more than any other. A full understanding of “son of man” reveals what Jesus knew about himself and increases our appreciation of how he communicated his message.
There are many interpretations of the meaning of “son of man,” and people bring to the discussion different presuppositions. If I were to ask a “common man in the church” what the Gospels mean by “son of man,” he would probably respond that it refers to the humanity of Jesus. Since “Son of God” is used throughout the New Testament and refers to Jesus’ divinity, then wouldn’t “son of man” be the opposite and refer to Jesus’ humanity? There is nothing wrong with this line of reasoning as far as logic goes, but it is based on insufficient information.
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Dr. Buth has published another essay on the meaning of “son of man” in the Gospels since this article was first published: Randall Buth, “A More Complete Semitic Background for בר־אנשא, ‘Son of Man,’” in The Function of Scripture in Early Jewish and Christian Tradition (ed. Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders; Sheffield: Sheffield, 1998), 176-189.
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Randall Buth is director of the Biblical Language Center and a lecturer at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Home for Bible Translators. He is a member of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research. Buth received his doctorate in… [Read more about author]