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On “Son of Man”

A few interesting observations on the use of the title “Son of Man”:


1. It must strike every one who attentively examines our Lord's use of this title, that we never find it used after His resurrection. The reason seems to be, that it was not descriptive of His resurrection state; that it belonged only to the days of His flesh; and that when He had left behind Him the servant form in which He appeared among men there was no longer any occasion for using it. This is further confirmed by a striking expression which He addressed to the disciples in the hearing of the Pharisees: “The days will come when ye will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and ye shall not see it” (Luke xvii. 22); which can only mean one of those days they then enjoyed, or the days of His flesh. They would wish them back again. This decides on the meaning of our phrase.

2. Nor does He ever use the expression, Son of Man, in His prayers to God,—as if it were not in keeping with the peculiarly close relation subsisting between Him and God the Father. It is descriptive of what is official rather than personal, or of what He became rather than of what He was.

3. Neither does He use it in His capacity of teacher. When announcing any truth, or expounding any principle of duty, He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” It is no exception to this observation, that we find Him saying in the parable of the tares, “The Sower of the good seed is the Son of Man.” For that allusion is not to the function or office of a teacher dealing with all men indiscriminately, but to the efficacious illumination which the Lord dispenses as the head of His Church, on the ground or basis of the priestly work which He had already finished.

4. Another observation forces itself on the attention of every one who examines the several passages where this phrase occurs. It is a title used almost exclusively by Christ Himself. He is seldom or ever so called by His disciples. He appropriates to Himself the title, Son of Man, as the special definition of His condescending grace; and as displaying to those who heard Him not the divine relation, which was natural and proper to Him, but the new condition which He had taken to Himself, and into which He had stepped down, for the attainment of an object worthy of such abasement. And when Stephen on one occasion uses the phrase, “Son of Man,” he nearly quotes our Lord's own words, before the same council, at His trial (Acts vii. 56). And when John, in Revelation, says, “I saw one like unto the Son of Man,” it may be only a quotation of Daniel.

—George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 112–113.

Posted 2018·05·08 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Atonement · Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement · George Smeaton

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