Mahlon H Smith,
Supreme Irony reigns in the conduct of God
as he creates men and the life of men.
In earthly art Irony has this meaning---
conduct similar to God's.
--- Karl Solger/1/
When irony has first been mastered
it undertakes a movement
directly opposite to that
wherein it proclaimed
its life as unmastered.
--- Sřren Kierkegaard/2/
For the foxes there are holes,
for the birds of heaven nests.
But for the son of Man there is
No place he may lay his head.
comparison of a homeless human figure to sheltered wildlife (Matt 8:20=Luke
9:58=Thom 86) is so deceptively simple that on first hearing it hardly seems
to deserve separate study. Unlike other "son of man" sayings, it has
not been itself the focus of extensive debate. In fact, until
recently, when a scholar was required to say something about it, the
inclination was to tie that interpretation to other sayings provided either
by canonical context or by customary classification. Most commentators
on Matthew or Luke are content to explain it as a warning about the cost of
discipleship. And participants in the Son of Man debate, even in
finding it problematic, often appear eager to deny its relevance to their
discussion. Only lately, with the recognition that, as a condition for
determining authenticity, one needs to disentangle the logia ascribed to
Jesus from the theological perspectives implicit in canonical and
pre-canonical collections, has there been anything approaching a thorough
examination of this aphorism in its own right. Still, from even the
latest studies one gets the impression that it is being made to serve other
scholarly agendas. Underlying all this evasion and digression is the
embarrassment of scholars to admit that what one has here is a very
difficult saying, which does not fit neatly into any niche within the Jesus
tradition. Thus, before one decides where to put it, one should take
time to notice the dislocations in settings where it has been placed, both
in the gospels and in scholarly exegesis.
2.1 Verbal isolation
As one of only two
sayings in Q that clearly envision "the son of man" in a pre-eschatological
context, the analogy to foxes and birds requires some explanation regarding
its place and function within that work./4/
But any theory regarding origin and meaning must also be able to account for the
fact that it is the only "son of man" found in the Gospel of Thomas./5/
This saying is unique, therefore, in that among the host of statements
scattered throughout the gospels which use this idiom, it alone is found in
two independent logia collections that lack the polish of a connected
narrative. The fact that the general character of these two sources
differs radically---Q with its eschatological missionary focus, Thomas
with its gnostic universal mysticism---is also significant. Moreover, while
the three surviving versions are virtually identical, the separate contexts
in Q and Thomas contain no clue as to common source or prior interpretation. The reason
that this aphorism appears in both collections clearly has something to do
with its reference to the place of "the son of man." But either
wording could be prior, apart from Thomas' obviously hermeneutical addition
of "and rest."
2.2 Compilation: Thomas
Unlike Q, Thomas
does not preserve any connection between this logion and the idea of "following" Jesus. Instead he sandwiches
it between sayings about Adam's mortality and the wretchedness of the body.
Certainly, the reference to death in Thom 85 and Matt
8:21f=Luke 9:50f is
too slight a similarity to suppose it is related to the original sense of
"lay his head" in our saying. The internal analogies to "nests" and "dens"
(resting places of the living rather than burial plots for the dead) must
take priority in determining the condition of the "son of man" envisioned
here. Only a mind seeking traces of a theologia crucis in Thomas or Q
would be disposed to read this logion as akin to the Markan predictions of
the passion./6/ The allusion to homelessness within
the physical world may have been what first attracted the compiler of the
Gospel of Thomas to this saying; and
the identification of the subject as "son of man," what led him to append it
to an aphorism about Adam. But his setting only serves to emphasize the
contrast between his usually cryptic remarks about the human condition and
this logion's everyday language.
2.3 Coordination: Q
Thomas' haphazard logic, one should not expect an inherent connection
between the elements of this aphorism and his adjacent material. With Q,
however, where one can trace thematic ties between strings of sayings that
verge on a developed plot, we are led to anticipate at least a semblance of
appropriateness in the arrangement of aphorisms. Yet, one need only
compare Matt 8:18ff and Luke 9:57ff to notice an uncertain link between the
analogy of the homeless man and its context even in their common source.
Granted that the different descriptions of setting and audience in the
synoptics were determined more by the editorial concerns of the evangelists
than by prior tradition, one is still left with a pair of mini-dialogues
that make it difficult to decide whether Q portrayed Jesus here as
collecting or discouraging would-be disciples.
The context. Assuming that recent attempts to reconstruct the
outline of Q are reasonably accurate, these dialogues introduced a series of
missionary instructions to itinerant preachers (Matt 9:37ff=Luke 10:2ff).
Here one would expect to find a clear call to leave home and family, which
is what one has, in fact, in the injunction to leave the dead to bury the
dead (Matt 8:22=Luke 9:59f), particularly in its Lukan version. It is
somewhat perplexing, therefore, to note that this whole section was prefaced
by a dialogue in which Jesus' words serve as an apparent rebuff to one who,
without need of invitation, has volunteered to follow him anywhere (Matt
8:19=Luke 9:57). While the allusion to homelessness may seem vaguely
relevant to subsequent sayings (Matt 10:9ff-Luke 10:4ff), the aphorism itself
lacks any reference to discipleship or mission and---whether it was
formulated before or after the crucifixion----is poorly designed to summon
laborers for a harvest (Matt 9:37f=Luke 10:2).
Following Jesus. Even if one supposes that here Q has co-opted an
independent pericope that originally concerned only the conditions of
discipleship without envisioning an apostolic mission, the saying is only
slightly less disconcerting. For it is presented as a response to
someone who has declared himself ready to accompany Jesus without condition.
Although the gospels contain several instances in which Jesus is shown
squelching over-zealous supporters with disarming but somewhat enigmatic
repartee (e.g., Matt 16:22f;
14:29ff; John 3:2ff), this
pericope is not one of them. Indeed, taken as a rejoinder to someone
who has said "I will follow you anywhere," the saying about "the son
of man" having no place to lay his head is a rather dense remark that would
make a volunteer think twice, not about the hardship of homelessness---which
he already inferred he was willing to endure---but about the alertness of
his prospective teacher./7/ If this
were Jesus' regular way of screening recruits, he had only himself to blame
for having so few who followed (Matt 9:37=Luke 10:2)! This difficulty
disappears, however, if one recognizes the "following" motif as a scribal
invention artificially linking a statement about homelessness to Jesus'
subsequent summons to leave home.
Independent aphorism. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine
that the compiler of Q either fabricated this "son of man" saying or
knowingly imported it from outside the Jesus tradition. For it does
not fit his general christological and eschatological views any better than
his immediate setting. Rather, it seems to be a saying that he tried
to accommodate without fully comprehending. Thus, one is led to the
conclusion that this logion was originally formed quite independently of the
contexts in which it has been preserved and that it circulated as a saying
of Jesus prior to the composition of either Thomas or Q. So, to determine
what it originally meant and whether it authentically recalls the words of
Jesus one must decipher the logic inherent in the saying itself.
In style and tone this saying is
a textbook sample of Semitic wisdom, an impression that is strengthened by
its easy retranslation into idiomatic and even lyrical Aramaic./8/
With balanced rhythmic stiches arranged in a pair of rhymed couplets it is a
poetic gem: in form, a perfect proverb that a Palestinian rabbi might well
be proud to have composed. But it is precisely this formal perfection
that poses a problem for it being considered an authentic word of Jesus.
It is not that Jesus might not have uttered it, but so might some other
Semite. The mind that contrasted the conditions of man and beast is
akin to the mind that compared human laziness to the industriousness of the
ant (Prov 6:6f). Or so it has seemed to scholars who have dismissed
this aphorism as a common saying that circulated anonymously until it was
posthumously attributed to Jesus./9/
Two simple observations, however,
should deter one from assigning this to the nameless mass mind of folk
First, there is no
good pre-Christian parallel preserved anywhere, either in Semitic tradition or Hellenistic literature.
Similar sentiment. The closest comparable statement is found in
Plutarch's biography of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (c. 165-133
BCE). The Boeotian biographer
(c. 46-120 CE), describing
Tiberius' speech championing agrarian reform against senatorial opposition,
claims the Roman tribune contrasted the lot of landless peasants to that of
the local wildlife in these terms:
The beasts that
inhabit Italy, for each of them there is a hole and a lair and hiding place.
But for those who fight and die for Italy, there is the air and light and
nothing else. Rather, unhoused and unsettled, they wander with
children and wives...and though they are called masters of the world, they
do not have one clod of their own./10/
This is a poignant piece of political rhetoric on behalf of
abandoned veterans that would be as effective in modern America as it was in
ancient Rome, but it can hardly be considered a common proverb. Behind the
topical references one might recognize the same general paradox of sheltered
wildlife and human homelessness that one finds in the saying preserved by Q and
Thomas. But to claim that a remark credited to a Latin statesman---who
lived more than a century before Jesus---by a Greek moralist---writing almost a
century after Jesus---as proof that an aphorism attributed to a Galilean rabbi
was a widespread adage in first-century Palestine is to lose all historical
himself seems oblivious to any relation of the words he puts on the lips of
Tiberius to any commonplace, insofar as he introduces them as examples of "an
eloquence that would have adorned a lesser cause." Besides, Plutarch's
account, with its avowed purpose of illustrating its hero as "honorable and
just," is even less likely to be an accurate echo of Tiberius' speech than
the sources of our three gospels---composed much closer to their subject---which,
while not knowing quite what to do with this saying, show remarkable agreement
in wording. Given the relative dating of these works, one could even argue
that the rhetorical similarity of the two statements is due to Plutarch's
unwitting echo of a saying of Jesus that certainly enjoyed widespread
circulation in Greece, long before the former wrote his life of the Gracchi.
Still, it is not
enough to detect a similar sentiment in two passages to claim that the
authors knew a common proverb. Only if one finds substantial fragments of the same verbal formula can one
show that parallel statements depend upon a single aphorism. But, in
fact, the only word that the remarks attributed to Tiberius Gracchus and
Jesus have in common is φωλεός
("hole"). And this hardly provides sufficient evidence to conclude
that the minds that framed both logia---whosoever they may be---had access
to the same tradition. Rather, what one has here in two statements
that are unrelated historically is an instance of accidental similarity in
general observation about quite distinct situations involving vagrancy, due
to a universally natural inclination to compare the human condition to that
(b) Traditional terminology.
Hebrew scripture provides better examples of sayings specifically about the
type of wildlife mentioned in the logion attributed to Jesus.
heaven" is a stock Semitic category that carried traditional connotations---not
so much of migrants, however, as of scavengers. The nearest thing to proverbial
use of the phrase is found in a common prophetic prediction of unburied bodies
being devoured by vultures./12/ Thus,
it was easily taken as a metaphor for the nations who conquered and plundered
the chosen people (Ps 79:1f). In this context, however, there is no
consideration given to the "birds" abode. The image of nesting birds, on
the other hand, offered a frequent metaphor for those who thought they dwelt
secure in even the most precarious places./13/
In fact, the Hebrew scriptures give no evidence that birds were viewed as
creatures on the move, finding temporary shelters for themselves wherever they
went. Rather, they were traditional examples of those who stayed near one
place (Prov 27:8). But as nesters they are neither called "birds of
heaven" nor are they paralleled to any ground-dwelling beast.
The predators with
whom the "birds of heaven" are paralleled in Hebrew texts are usually
"beasts of the field," sometimes "dogs," but never "foxes."
Other passages show that foxes (שועלים),
whom the Semitic mind seems sometimes to have confused with jackals, also were
known for destructiveness./14/ And their status as social pests led Ezekiel
(13:4) to adopt them as a simile for false prophets. Yet, while the "lair" and
"haunt" of jackals (תנים)
were customary Semitic characterizations of ruins and desert respectively, there
was no similar significance of foxes' "holes."/15/
Also, despite similar appearance and some traits
common to all wild canines, foxes and jackals have easily distinguishable
behavioral characteristics: the jackal being a wandering pack scavenger in the
wilderness, while the fox is primarily a solitary hunter who settles on the
fringe of agrarian society. For one thing, the fact that foxes regularly dwell in
burrows while jackals seek such shelter only to bear young, makes it probable
that the author of our gospel saying had the fox proper (vulpes
vulpes), not the jackal (canis aureus), in mind./16/
only passages in Hebrew scripture that speak of avian shelter in conjunction
with that provided other animals are in scenes envisioning the great trees in
the mountains of Lebanon./17/
Such panoramic details are not, however, in focus
in our gospel logion. Nor, with foxholes clearly in the foreground, is there any
reason to suppose that the author of this saying had such passages in the back
of his or her mind at all.
while Hebrew authors regularly employed zoological images to comment on human
affairs, nowhere in biblical tradition is any of the terms found in this gospel
aphorism attributed to Jesus expressly contrasted to the human condition.
Rather, Hebrew sages sometimes saw fit to equate the lot of humanity and
animals. Particularly pertinent to this discussion is Qoheleth's reflection
(Eccl 3:18ff) on the common fate of all animate life: as both "beasts" and the
"sons of men" (plural!) are composed of the same dust and spirit "all
go to one place." This statement is expressly formulated to
contradict a presumed assumption on the part of humans that we have an advantage
over other animals (3:19c). Yet, despite Qoheleth's emphasis on the
emptiness of all human endeavor---a position that made his work unacceptable to
many Jews---he does not think to propose that, while living, beasts are better
off than people. Even Job, for all his self-pity, does not claim that
wildlife have a more comfortable lot; it is trees that are envied (14:7), not
any animate being. Bildad may equate "the son of man" with the lowest of
animals, worm and maggot (Job 25:6b), but the response from Job (?) is that even
those who are not earthbound, "the birds of heaven," are like humans
unaware of "the place" where Wisdom resides (Job 28:12f,20f). So, while
Hebrew scripture provides a conceptual backdrop for delineating the connotations
inherent in various bits and pieces of imagery invoked in our saying about the
resting places of fowl and foxes, it provides no grounds for assuming that this
particular combination of elements was familiar in first century Palestine
outside the Jesus tradition./18/
Rabbinic texts provide several examples of speakers comparing themselves to
animals including foxes and birds, but never both together. Rabbis
regularly paired lions and foxes as a metaphor to contrast prominent persons and
their social inferiors./19/ And other passages present tannaitic parallels to the Q logia comparing the relative value of avian
and human life for divine Providence./20/
Judah ha Nasi's rival, Simeon ben Eleazar (late second
century) is reported by the Mishnah (m.Qidd. 4:14) to have interpreted the
fact that he must work for a living, while beasts and birds do not, as the
penalty for human sin. The Talmudic elaboration of this saying
(b. Qidd. 82b) specifies the beasts as deer, lion, and fox; but here
the reference to birds has dropped out. Besides, the question at issue
in this discussion is proper employment, not housing. R. Simeon's
statement is intended to clarify the rabbinic dictum that one's wealth
depends not on one's craft but on one's merit. The reason that foxes
do not have to keep shop is that they have not sinned, a sentiment totally
absent in our gospel logion. So, while it is possible to use rabbinic
texts to argue that the Q aphorisms comparing God's care for birds and men (Luke
12:6,24) rested on common Jewish
sentiment, they offer no evidence of a Semitic axiom paralleling our gospels'
contrast of the dwelling places of wildlife and human.
A second reason for
not taking this aphorism as a commonly known wisdom adage is that it is a
paradox and as such depends on a particular tradition for its preservation. Since
it is not generally applicable to the circumstances in which most people find
themselves, it is not apt to have come into circulation as an observation by an
(a) Radically paradoxical formulation.
Taken as an adage, this saying is neither "silly"
nor "plain nonsense" as some have charged./21/
An observation need not be universally true to become a proverb. But to be
accepted as a commonplace it must articulate an insight that anyone might
identify with in recurrent situations. Any person might temporarily be without
shelter and thus envy animals even their makeshift homes. War or economic crisis
can leave large segments of a population suddenly destitute. In more
stable and prosperous conditions, local disasters such as fire can force
individuals or small groups into the streets. Even the voluntary traveler
or lifelong nomad may occasionally tire of his lifestyle and long to settle
down. But these are extreme situations and sufficiently uncommon that, if
some unknown displaced person articulated this momentary weariness in these
terms, it is not likely to have been picked up by someone else and perpetuated
without recollection of authorship. It is precisely the radically
paradoxical formulation of the contrast between wildlife dwellings and the human
lack thereof that limits its usefulness and hence its ability to survive as a
piece of common folk wisdom.
(b) The author(ity) of the saying. The only authority that this
saying can offer to command its acceptance is the name of its avowed author.
A truism may be attributed to anybody, but a paradox arises from a
particular perspective. The fact that our aphorism placing birds and
foxes in more comfortable conditions than "the son of man" has been
preserved only within the Jesus tradition and has no near parallel
elsewhere means that it must have originated here. The only question
can be: at which level? Certainly it antedates the composition of both
Thomas and Q and most probably was articulated first in Aramaic. But
whether one can accept it as an authentic comment of Jesus or must regard it
as a formulation of the most primitive post-Easter community depends on what
sense one can make of the idiom "son of man" in this context.
stands, the saying about foxes' holes makes no claims about Jesus that
are overtly confessional.
And the fact that it (a) reflects a Palestinian origin, (b) is quite
dissimilar to sayings elsewhere in Jewish tradition, (c) articulates a
paradoxical reversal of popular wisdom typical of genuine Jesus sayings,
and (d) and has been preserved in rather awkward contexts in two
independent collections of logia, commends it as an authentic utterance
of Jesus. In fact, there would be little scholarly resistance to
accepting it as a red-letter saying if it did not mention "the son of
man." Or, rather, it is not so much the occurrence of these words
here so much as it is the coordination of this saying with theories
interpreting the meaning and authenticity of "son of man" sayings
elsewhere in the gospels. This is not the place to recount all the
shots that have been fired in the Son of Man debate. I am well
aware that some who are reading this have already scored some points for one side
or another on this issue. But for some who may have missed key
shots or are left confused by the seemingly incessant turnovers in this
academic version of biblical basketball, a general game plan is necessary
so that our saying does not get lost in the shuffle.
(a) Philology. There is widespread agreement, if not
complete unanimity, that the Greek words ὁ υἱος τοῦ ἀνθρώπου
(lit.: "the son of the man") used in thirty-six synoptic sayings
attributed to Jesus (not counting parallels) translate a Semitic idiom.
Most likely that idiom was Aramaic
[bar (e)naš(a)], although some favor Hebrew
[ben Adam] or more exotic constructions. The problem is that the
multivalent use of this term in Jewish tradition creates an ambiguity of
meaning that is only complicated by the range of predication in various
that "son of man" was taken generically
to encompass all humans without distinction; others argue that it
functioned primarily to isolate one individual from the masses; while
still others see it as charged with residual connotations of a
particular figure with whom it was associated in particular texts. That
is to say, there is still an unresolved debate among scholars who argue
that in first-century Galilee
(bar naš) was generally understood to mean either "any man
anywhere" or "this man here" or "that man described there." Those
who favor the first tend to prefer the absolute form (bar
enaš), and argue that the double definite article in the Greek
version of the logia attributed to Jesus is the result of mistranslation
by Hellenists who interpreted the Aramaic idiom over-literally.
For them "son of man" is an inclusive term used, in line with its
dictionary definition, in statements intended to be applicable to any
offspring of Adam. Those, on the other hand, who think that the
term primarily indicated the figure described in Dan 7:13f and related
passages in later apocalypses (e.g.,
1 Enoch 46:1ff,
4 Ezra 13:3f, Rev
2:13ff,14:1) usually claim that the second definite article in the Greek
phrase correctly renders the Aramaic emphatic form
(bar enaša), used as a demonstrative and, therefore,
could function as a title: i.e., "the 'Son of Man' (of that seer's
vision)." For them "son of man" is a technical term intelligible
only to who were familiar with the subject discussed in standard
texts. Finally, those for who the idiom was a common Semitic
circumlocution for a person understood as the subject of the present
dialogue ("a man" = "one" meaning "I" or "you") often argue that it does
not matter which Aramaic term underlies Greek, since by the first
century the Aramaic emphatic had lost most of its definitive force.
For them "son of man" is a mere colloquialism that had been emptied of
virtually all traditional conceptual denotation by its frequent function
in everyday discourse as a pointer to whatever subject happened to be
admittedly caricatures, oversimplifying the subtle nuances of a much
wider spectrum of opinions of scholars who have written on the "son of
man" question. I would hardly expect anyone to identify with one
or another of these options exactly as described; much less would I
dare, in a game with constantly rotating positions, to provide roster of
opposing squads. But the reason there is a Son of Man debate at all is
that, in the attempt to provide a rational solution to this question,
scholars who incline toward one of the poles mentioned feel obliged, in
the name of consistency, to deny the possibility that other meanings may
have been present in the mind of Jesus and/or his original audience. The
options are taken to be mutually exclusive. Thus, if a saying
cannot be made to support one's favored philology, it tends to be passed
off as inauthentic. If, on the other hand, it is obviously
intelligible from one's preferred perspective, this is assumed to be its
whole meaning with other interpretations not intended by the speaker.
(b) Exegesis. All agree that Jewish scripture,
broadly defined, played an important part in the development of the New
Testament "son of man" logia. Older scholarship debated whether Jesus
took over a ready-made concept or himself created a new synthesis by an
imaginative exegesis of previously independent passages. Today it is
widely taken for granted that echoes of Old Testament texts
automatically point to a logion's origin in the apologetic midrash of
the post-crucifixion church, with some concluding that Jesus himself
never used the term "son of man."
that has received the most attention is
which obviously fuses Dan 7:13 and Ps 110:1, texts which figured
prominently in the preaching of the primitive Christian community about
the resurrected Jesus. Attempts to reconstruct the interpretive
brought these passages together have assumed that Ps 110:1 is primary,
with Dan 7:13f being invoked only later, due to a word-link created by
Ps 8:4ff./22/ Yet, while echoes of Ps 8 may be detected throughout the
New Testament, its importance for the development of the "son of man" logia has not
been generally recognized. For apart from the quotation of Ps
8:4ff in Heb 2:6ff---which does not make anything of the idiom in
question---these verses were not clearly invoked by New Testament
authors. If one can conclude anything about oral tradition from
literary silence, Ps 8:4ff was not, as far as we can tell, a proof-text
for early Christian preachers.
however, F. J. Moloney has called attention to the targum to Ps 8 in
order to resolve the problem of why New Testament authors associated
various other snippets of this psalm with one person, Jesus, as a
glorified ruler when it obviously envisions the traditional Hebrew view
of generic humanity's status in the cosmos (cf. Gen 1:26ff)./23/
points out that, among the various individualizing factors brought into the
earliest version of the Aramaic exposition is the translation of both
Hebrew absolute terms,
אנוש (enoš) and
(ben adam) by the emphatic form
(bar enaša), to give this reading of Ps 8:5f (=RSV Ps 8:4f):
What is "the
Son of Man" that thou are mindful of his works,
and "the Son of Man" that thou dost care for him....
Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands,
thou hast put all things under his feet./24/
son of man" is clearly envisioned as an individual whom God has elevated
to authority over the cosmos. In the mind of the targumist, the
Creator's works have become his works, expressly to "destroy the Author
of enmity and the violent One" (8:3), who is identified (by
interpolation in 8:9) as Leviathan. While the Son of Man is not expressly called a king,
such a conclusion could easily be drawn
from the crowning and dominion described as in the Hebrew (8:6f).
And his messianic status could be assumed from both the cosmic context
and interpolated eschatological imagery. Here, then, one finds a
Jewish exposition of scripture interpreting a description of
everyman's place in the universe as applicable to a particular
individual whose role is described in mythological terms. Given
the uncertain date of the targum, one cannot claim the exact terms of
this exposition as a direct influence upon the New Testament "son of
man" speculation./25/ But it offers clear evidence (a) that the
differing interpretations of בר אנשא (bar enaša) were not necessarily mutually
exclusive, (b) that the quasi-titular interpretation of the Aramaic emphatic
was not peculiar to Hellenistic Christian texts, and (c) that the
mythological role of this Son of Man was not limited to apocalypses
dependent upon Dan 7:13.
There is no
indication that the targumist had Daniel, 1 Enoch or 4 Ezra in mind as
he explained Ps 8. Yet, if one is allowed to make logical priority
a criterion of historical primacy, one might argue that something like
this interpretation of the psalm is the source of otherwise inexplicable
details in the differing apocalyptic descriptions of the one like a "son
of man." In Ps 8 the place of the "son of man's" coronation is not
clearly identified. But in the targum, the question "who is the son of
man" is the direct consequence of the speaker's contemplation of the
heavens; and the replacement of the contrasting conjunction "yet" with
the copulative "and" in 8:6 makes it seem that the figure's exaltation
to godlike status is itself a celestial event. Daniel and later
texts (1 Enoch and 4 Ezra) seem to presuppose not only this scene but
other details of the targum in their varying interpretations of the one
"like a son of man."/26/
If so, then one need not look further
afield than a Jewish midrashic revision and application of a familiar
passage in scripture for the origin of the Son of Man myth.
4.2 Objective focus.
interpretations of the aphorism about the displaced "son of man" that
presuppose a primary reference other than the immediate experience of
Jesus are inadequate to explain its formulation. For either they import
assumptions from theological contexts that have little or no relevance
to the language of this logion itself, or they overlook important
differences between its logic and that of the proposed parallels.
(a) Not a creation of the church.
The explanations that allow our saying to
be seen as a creation of the post-crucifixion Christian community fail
to convince, simply because the saying asserts that the present
status of the "son of man" is unsettled without explicitly declaring his
ultimate exaltation in power. Everything in the gospels indicates
that the community of the resurrection understood "the son of man" of
its logia tradition to be none other than Jesus himself. And
certainly, the cataclysmic experience of Jesus' execution left a
permanent scar upon the disciples' understanding of their teacher's
destiny. Thus, some have offered John 1:11 or the Markan passion
predictions as passages proving an abiding preoccupation in with the
Jewish rejection of Jesus in the primitive Christian community that
could have created this aphorism. But the former are immediately
offset by an explicit claim of Jesus' own resurrection or his ability to
exalt others. While one might argue that a statement about the
"son of man" belonging nowhere was formed in those dark moments
following the crucifixion before the disciples themselves were fully
convinced of the Easter event (cf. Luke 24:18ff), it is hard to imagine
why it would have been preserved as is, without some later correction
suggesting his ultimate vindication. Besides, this aphorism infers
nothing about human or divine rejection of "the son of man"
anymore than it does about God or people taking foxes or birds into
their dwellings. It simply states that, as of this moment, while
wildlife have a place to rest, "the son of man" is without a bed.
(b) Not the voice of Wisdom.
Likewise, the theory that "the son of
man" is here envisioned as the embodiment of or spokesman for Wisdom who
found no place to dwell among men, though attractive at first,
ultimately fails to do justice to the particulars of either this saying
or the works in which the Wisdom myth has been preserved./27/
While it is true that the sages portray the power by which God created
the world as seeking a resting place, they assert in the next breath
that she in fact found one, either in Israel (Sir 24:7f) or among the
angels in heaven (1 Enoch 42:1f). In the gospel logion, on the
other hand, there is no claim that "the son of man" has been looking for
a permanent abode, much less any hint that he will ever find one.
Moreover, while Thomas' wording of the last stich, with its "place" and
"rest," is a possible indication that he interpreted this aphorism in
the light of the Wisdom myth, both of the key words are missing in Q and
their presence in the original Aramaic is doubtful for stylistic
reasons. The only express echo of the Wisdom myth in Q's "son of
man" sayings is found not here but in
Matt 11:19=Luke 7:34ff, where the
subject so named is portrayed as making himself at home everywhere!
Besides, if the Lukan version of that logion is closer to the original,
as is most likely the case, Q clearly distinguished "the son of man"
from Wisdom as only one of her several children: the sages./28/
Finally, reference to the Wisdom myth does not adequately explain why
the displaced person is identified as "the son of man" or why he should
be contrasted to foxes and birds, of all creatures. Reference to
the parables of Enoch is of no avail, not just because of questions
regarding the dating and unity of that work, but because there the sole
reference to a personified Wisdom (1 Enoch 42) is neither linked or
paralleled to the "son of man" (1 Enoch 46, 48,
(c) Not based on apocalyptic. Attempts to explain the use of "son of
man" here in the light of the use of that idiom in Dan 7:13f or 1 Enoch
are even less satisfactory, since the figure so described in those works
is clearly envisioned as seated "forever" on a heavenly throne.
Theories that claim that our saying is dependent on the notion of
earthly concealment of the Messiah elect or reflects the use of a figure
of a heavenly man as the personification of the community of the saints
who are homeless in this world are vitiated by the fact that it
forecasts no triumph for its hero./29/
Unlike visions of a
man-like figure, this gospel logion leaves "the son of man" in limbo,
without an ultimate power base. Besides, if an apocalyptic
reference was intended, one would expect that the speaker could have
thought up beasts that provide a more dramatic contrast to the human
image than the innocuous sounding "foxes" and "birds."
4.3 Subjective reference.
The failure to locate an external
conceptual background that might have given rise to this saying has led
to a widespread willingness among scholars to admit it as a genuine
autobiographical statement by Jesus. But one senses that this is a
concession rather than an expression of firm conviction that our
aphorism is characteristic of the type of remark Jesus can be shown to
have made. For even those who are noted for critical
circumspection in their analysis of the "son of man" materials do not
account for the place of this logion in the historical evolution of the
gospels' "son of man" trajectory. Or else they take their cues
exclusively from the Q context, despite its dubious claim to
Those that claim the authenticity of only those "son of man" logia
that speak of this person as an eschatological ideal quite distinct from
Jesus are compelled to treat it as originally an "I" saying into
which "the son of man" was later interpolated. But there is
absolutely no textual basis for this assumption. One must admit
that the author of Q, whose christology is completely centered on "the
son of man," might conceivably have introduced this term here. But
one wonders why he would bother, or why he would have preserved this
logion at all if it were not originally a "son of man" saying, as it
certainly has no affinity with anything else he presents about this
subject. Moreover, if "son of man" were an interpolation, one
would not expect it to have been picked up by Thomas, who otherwise
avoids this phrase like a plague./30/
The only scholars who display real enthusiasm in their exegesis of
our saying are those who maintain that the
(bar naš) idiom functioned primarily as a reference to a
present subject./31/ Read either as an indirect self-description
or as a generalization delimited by the speaker's own immediate
experience, the saying seems to make good sense. One need not look
for hidden meanings if one simply takes it at face value as a
description of historical dislocation in the natural order of things.
Jesus was an itinerant for at least a portion of his public career.
And, as anyone who has ever tried hitch-hiking across the country knows,
the risk of such a life-style is that some nights one will not have
anywhere to sleep. Even if one has prearranged accommodations,
something can always happen that prevents on from reaching the planned
destination. It is at such a moment that a comment like this comes
automatically to mind. There is no difficulty in imagining
Jesus expressing personal disorientation in these terms on such an
occasion. The only problem is in explaining why he or his
disciples would have repeated it, much less why it was included in the
collections of logia intended to provide others with a permanent
existential orientation. To absolutize a particular experience of
alienation as descriptive of one's whole life is the characteristic of a
paranoid. To encapsulate it for the digestion of others is the work of a
cynic. But, while Jesus has been called both, it is unlikely that
he was either. At least those who preserved his sayings did not
see him as such. The question of authenticity, then, comes down to
the problem of reconciling the obvious meaning of this aphorism with the
mindset of the implicit author of other gospel logia. And only an
answer that accounts for its preservation even those "son of man"
sayings whose authenticity is doubtful can be regarded as accurate.
5.1 The scandal
The foregoing was written not to discredit the work of other scholars.
Without their work as a base my own head would still be unsettled.
Rather, I have intended only to illustrate how difficult it is to
provide a satisfactory explanation of the place this saying occupies in
the Jesus tradition, if one begins with the assumption that one or
another interpretation of the idiom "son of man" has to be the only
correct one. The debate about our aphorism boils down to the issue
of whether Jesus meant something other than what he superficially seems
to have said. For what the logion about the displaced "son of man"
says or, rather, fails to say, clashes with things said elsewhere,
insofar as it does not envision the reversal of a present situation that
is, as a single instance, absurd and, as a permanent condition, even
as phrased, as an absolute description of the way things are, the
contrast of foxes and birds having a place in the world and "the son of
man"---however that idiom is understood---having none, points to a
dislocation and an inherent injustice in the present fabric of things.
For our very human minds tell us it should be the other way around.
What makes the statement so startling is not just that the human is
portrayed at a disadvantage to wildlife in general but to these wildlife
in particular. If the contrast were to lions and eagles the shock
would not be as great. But to modern man as to ancient, foxes are
vermin, pests to be exterminated. And aerial scavengers of
whatever size---kites, crows, ravens, vultures or condors---are, even if
now recognized to be beneficial, still symbols of disgust and dread.
That such creatures should have a home and any human not is cause for
protest. This saying would seem quite appropriate on the lips of a
Tiberius Gracchus. But, since there is no
record of Jesus trying to rectify this injustice by providing shelter
for vagrants (rather, quite the reverse!) this saying cannot be taken as
a prologue to social reform.
The saying becomes even more incongruous if the Aramaic idiom behind
"the son of man" is
understood simply as a conventional circumlocution for the speaker. For
then it takes on the color of a complaint full of self-pity. One
might argue that
Mark 15:34=Matt 27:46 shows the evangelists had no
problem in portraying Jesus as capable of articulating an Angst
similar to Job's. But there the context of the cross makes such a cry of
abandonment appropriate; and the words are assumed to have been composed
by David with whose trials Jesus' are quite literally being compared for
apologetic reasons. For Jesus to use the mere lack of a bed to call his
own, even if it were a fact of his chosen life-style, to declare that
vermin and scavengers were better off than he, makes him seem not only
bitter but petty.
5.2 The allusion
The scandal on the face of this aphorism is
transformed, however, if one recognizes that, as the targum of Ps 8
shows, the term "son of man" could function with several points of
reference at once./32/ As a man,
any Jewish speaker could interpret his own existence in terms of this
classic scriptural text depicting the cosmic status of humankind in
terms of an individual "son of man" glorified and enthroned just "a
little less" than the LORD of heaven (8:6). Therefore, even without
thinking of apocalyptic texts, he might take this term to carry
simultaneously existential, universal and regal---if not
messianic---connotations. And the fact that this ideal human was
portrayed as ruling over all the earthly order, especially the "birds of
heaven" and "beasts of the field," would inevitably program any Jew's
mind to compare his lot to theirs. Indeed, this is precisely the
background presupposed by the comments of R. Simeon b. Eleazar (m.
Qidd. 4.14) and R. Simeon b. Yochai (Gen. Rab.
79.6), in which each speaker sees himself, as "man" or even "son of
man," as intrinsically closer to God than birds, etc./33/
rabbis did not need to quote a particular passage of scripture for their
audience to grasp their meaning. For this image was so fundamental to
the Jewish view of humanity's place in the cosmos that they could take
it for granted that their hearers would interpret their remarks against
such a background. To deny that such scriptural echoes were
present also in the minds of Jesus and his disciples without an example
of explicit quotation would be, in effect, to deny that they were Jews.
In fact, however, rabbis seldom cited a complete scriptural text
verbatim. Rather, academic discussions of passages presumed by a
syllabus are regularly prefaced only by the particular concepts in
focus; and homiletical expositions frequently conclude with with a
casual quote of a phrase that was even less central to the thought.
One should not expect to find such tannaitic techniques in the authentic
logia of Jesus. But they illustrate the fact that an ancient
Jewish teacher could assume what no modern pedagogue can: that one's
students are familiar with basic texts and, therefore, will catch his
casual references. For those whose education consists only of oral
exposure to a few works reviewed repeatedly, even an isolated fragment
of a familiar passage will call to mind the whole.
logion contains two phrases that are combined in Ps 8 and nowhere else
in ancient Jewish literature: "the son of man" and "the birds of
heaven." The fact that Q's Greek translation of both terms employs
two definite articles---ὁ υἱος τοῦ ἀνθρώπου
and τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ---may
be explained by the occurrence of each idiom as an emphatic in the
underlying Aramaic, as in the targum's version of this psalm. Moreover,
as the targum employs
(bar naša) twice in 8:5, the term "son of man" is more central to
the Aramaic interpretation than it is to the Hebrew original.
While the later begins by asking "What is man?" the former asks "What is
the son of man?," a question that is immediately answered by the
assertion that he is the one who has been given dominion over all the
works of the LORD, including "the beasts of the field" and "the birds of
heaven." This definition is probably presupposed by the
author of our gospel logion.
Admittedly, the parallel is not perfect.
And it is almost non-existent if the original referred simply to "birds"
as in Thom 86. But the opening of the Coptic version is defective;
and the gnostic editor of that collection would have had every reason to
suppress "birds of heaven" since the latter are the subject of a
derisive comment ascribed to Jesus in Thom 3. If Ps 8
referred to "foxes" or the aphorism in the Jesus tradition to "beasts of
the field," then a conscious connection in the mind of Jesus might be
mind of Jesus might be regarded as centain. But to require such
extensive quotation of the same words is to misunderstand my argument.
The point is not that the author of our aphorism was a targumist,
primarily interested in interpreting this psalm, but that he seems have
had an Aramaic version of Ps 8 in the back of his mind as he chose some
of his words in expressing a totally original observation. For,
while one would not be led to envision a fox by hearing Ps 8, if a
first-century Galilean saw a vixen and ravens returning home at sundown
while he was still on the road, with miles to go before he could get to
a place to sleep, he might very well recall the question posed by the
targumist, "What is the son of man..?," and be led to reflect on
the biblical answer.
5.3 The ironist
Such a juxtaposition of immediate personal
experience and traditional ideal is both immediate and ironic.
For without premeditated connection an existential situation evokes the
images related to an inherited definition of the world's essential
structure and reveals them to be inverted. The psychological
impact of this insight demands that it be expressed.
How one takes such an experience depends
primarily on one's previous expectations. If a man always views
reality as defective he is a cynic. Diogenes set out to find one
honest man without really expecting ever to find him. If, on the
other hand, the inversion comes as a surprise, one is struck by the
irony of the situation. To the cynic the world has already been shown to
be other than it ought to be; to the ironist, it is suddenly revealed to
be the reverse of what it at first seemed. The cynic espouses the
ideal he believes all others have abandoned. The ironist expresses an
insight he believes no one else has yet noticed. What makes our
aphorism ironic rather than cynical is that the one who is seen to have
no place to lay his head is identified as "the son of man," a name
associated in Jewish tradition with the one whom God establishes as head
The ironic remark is intentionally
startling. At the same time it is cryptic. For the
disclosure remained clothed in a disguise that does not destroy the
immediate setting, but rather projects it onto a mirror in which the
place of all the images appears reversed. For the speaker to set
"the son of man" in his present situation is to suggest that he himself
somehow has the position of the one so-named in the psalm.
The basis of this identification is neither
rationalized nor made explicit but, rather, simply implied. Here
there is no claim to be that pre-existent Son of Man whom scripture
identifies as the mirror image of the Power that created the heavens,
living now on earth in humble concealment. Nor is there a prediction
that this particular rejected mortal will be vindicated by his
eschatological appearance as the cosmic king and judge of apocalyptic
visions. Rather, a paradox is left unresolved for the mind to
ponder. Without explanation two images are juxtaposed: the evident
expressed, the ideal inferred. And one is challenged to grasp the
connection. The saying can be taken as a statement of tragic irony
as the one who was supposed to have been assigned universal dominion
finds himself abandoned without a place in the world to call his own.
But it is just as readily read from the reverse perspective, as a
comment of comic irony in which he who appears to be without support is
revealed to be none other than the king who even now controls his
In Bruce Friedman's 1970 play, Steambath, the
Puerto Rican attendant who pauses, between mopping up and passing out
towels to the patrons, to play with a video-game console turns out to be
none other than God in the very process of determining the fate of
mankind. But this is never stated and may be inferred only from
words and circumstances that evoke a cosmic context. Throughout
the rest of the play the servant remains in the role appropriate to the
current conditions. But the hints he drops project not only him
but all whom he touches into a world in which all relationships are the
opposite of what they seem here and now. So too in the aphorism
about foxholes and birdnests, by being called emphatically "the
son of man" he who is declared to have "no place to lay his head" is
suddenly seen as one who is usually believed to have "all things put
under his feet" (Ps 8:6b).
Is the prince a pauper or the pauper a
prince? To claim that one interpretation is meant to the exclusion
of the other is to mistake the function of irony. For the ironic
is not reducible to mono-dimensional logic. Rather, it rests on
implicit paradoxes, which are intentionally ambiguous. The ironist
does not explain, he merely articulates a view that stands the world on
its head. His mind thrives in the reversal of popular expectations
and the inversion of everyday values. And this precisely the type
of mind that a number of gospel logia reveal to be characteristic of
5.4 The trajectory
Read thus, this saying was inspired by a
dialogue interior to the mind of Jesus and may have been uttered without
any particular external audience in view. It was not formulated
primarily to teach others, either to comment on the cosmic status of
humans in general or to inform particular associates of the conditions
of their co-itinerancy. Rather, like an image in a mirror, this
reflection was meant to help the subject size up himself. Yet, in
whatever depths of self-reflection these words were formed, they were
obviously not uttered in a void. Even if one sees Q's context as a
questionable description of the occasion on which this saying was first
expressed, there were clearly disciples present to hear and recall it.
The fact that it is an open-ended pronouncement that leaves both its
subject and its objective undefined made it puzzling and, therefore, all
the more memorable. Then as today the words would echo in the
hearer's mind in search of the proper shelf for filing. As this
remark must have struck the disciples as somewhat out of character for
their mentor, the quest for meaning had some urgency. The
(bar naša) demanded special attention, particularly if this was
the first time it was heard to pass Jesus' lips. Whether
the disciples dared ask Jesus for clarification or merely remained
sensitive to later uses of this idiom or were left to their own
ingenuity to decide what that epithet might imply about their revered
rabbi may not be certain. But the problems with taking this saying
as a piece of intentional teaching---whether by Jesus or by the
church---make it a more likely candidate than any other to have interest
in resolving the question: who is this "son of man"? At the same time,
the fact that the idiom
(bar naša) itself was open to both generalized and personalized
applications invited the disciples to identify
their own experience with the subject of this saying. Thus, Q's
context, while probably not primary, is not altogether a
fabrication. For as the saying was transmitted in the
apostolic mission, would-be followers were obviously reminded that one
to whom they turned for direction did not himself settle here.
If such insights strike the interpreter as
cogent, then there is yet another level of irony in this aphorism.
For it appears that the odd ball saying that scholars have had
difficulty fitting into various theories about the evolution of complex
of logia that use the "son of man" idiom is precisely the one that was
able to generate the whole. The aphorism that practically all are
prepared to admit contains a generic self-reference by Jesus turns out
to be the "source" of the titular use of the emphatic form
in reference to a cosmic figure. It does not identify
Jesus as "the Son of Man," but it clothes him in that guise by
predicating a circumstance within his own experience of the figure
so-named in Jewish exegetical tradition. It says nothing about his
pre-existence, present authority, rejection or ultimate vindication; yet
the paradox it creates can be interpreted in all of these directions.
So, in other circumstances, either he or more mundane minds could bring
such thoughts to expression. Read as a didactic devise, the
declaration that there is no place for the "son of man" is a remark that
neither those who preserved nor those who tried to explain the Jesus
tradition have known quite what to do with. Yet the real irony is
that the saying which both the constructors and the deconstructors of
the "son of man" myth almost rejected might yet be recognized as the the
head of the corner, the place where all else is ultimately revealed to
Recommended votes: Matt 8:20=Luke 9:56---red
Quoted by Muecke, Irony, 38.
The Concept of Irony, 338.
Adapted from Burney, Poetry, 132.
Matt 11:18f//Luke 7:33f parallels "the son of man" with John the Baptizer to
contrast their social behavior. Matthew uses the timeless aorist ἦλθεν
("came") for each, while in both cases Luke uses the perfect ἐλήλυθεν ("has
come"). Though the original tense of the verb in Q may be uncertain, the
fact that the saying cites critics' complaining that "the son of man" eats and
drinks with toll-collectors and sinners makes it certain that his presence is
viewed as an observed fact, not some future expectation.
The earthly status of the "son of man" in other Q sayings is less certain due to
differences in wording and/or context in Matthew and Luke.
Thom 44 presupposes
Matt 12:32=Luke 12:10; but in place of "the son of man"
Thomas has the Trinitarian titles "Father...Son...Holy Spirit." The
original formula is problematic since the Markan version read "sons of men"
(double plural) and sees this designation as the object, not of blasphemy but of
E.g., Fuller, Mission and Achievement, 104f; Jeremias, New Testament
Theology, 282f; Borsch, Son of Man in Myth and History, 325.
Cf. Crossan, In Fragments, 239f.
Burney (Poetry, 132) reconstructed the original Aramaic as:
le ta'alayya it le hon borin
Casey's version is equally rhythmic, even more idiomatic, and preferable in
its choice of paired words in the first couplet:
le 'opha dišemayya kinnin
ule bar enaša let leh
han deyarken rešeh.
le ta'alayya iti le hon borin
ẓippari šamayya miškanin
ule bar enaš loiti leh
an deyiṣmok rešeh
Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, 28; Beare, Earliest
Records of Jesus, 76.
Vita Grac. 9.828c (translation mine).
Cf. Casey, "Jackals," 22, n. 29.
Cf. Deut 28:26; 1 Sam 17:44,46; 1 Kings 14:11, 16:4, 21:24; Jer 7:33, 15:3, 16:4, 19:7, 34:20;
Ezek 29:5, 32:4, 39:4. The curse that the author of 1 Kings alternately
claims Ahijah, Jehu b. Hanani and Elijah invoked against the reigning households
of Israel may be a set oral formula, but it is more likely a scribal convention.
Cf. Num 24:21; Job 39:27f; Isa 23:15; Jer 48:28.
Cf. Judg 15:4f and Cant 2:15. In Ps 63:10, Lam 5:18 and Ezek 13:4 the scene might
lead one to translate the term as "jackals." but "foxes" is not impossible.
Cf. Isa 13:19ff, 34:12ff, 35:7f, 43:20; Jer 9:11, 10:22, 49:33, 51:37.
Casey blurs behavioral distinctions to make both appear a single species to the Semitic mind
("Jackals," 8 and 20, n. 19).
Cf. Ps 104:17f; Ezek 17:3,22ff, 31:3ff; Dan 4:10ff.
Higgins suggests (without evidence) "foxes and birds" was akin to "cats
and dogs" in popular Palestinian speech (Jesus and the Son of Man, 124).
Cf. m 'Abot 4.15; b. B. Meṣ.
84b; y Šeb. 9.19a. That vulpes vulpes was meant and not
canus aureus is clear from the fact that the term
(šu'al; Aram.: ta'al) is frequently used by the speaker as a
characterization of himself. Given the vulpes' reputation for
cunning, one might well admit to being a fox; but as a jackal was considered
unclean, and a coward as well, one can hardly imagine a tanna equating
himself with a tan!
Most notably the comment by Simeon b. Yohai, "A bird is not caught without the will
of Heaven; how much less the soul of a man (בר
נש)" (Gen. R. 79.6); but also the
statement by Simeon b. Eleazar below. Cf. Matt 6:26=Luke 12:24; Matt 10:29ff=Luke 12.6f.
Cf. Otto, The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man, 234; and Manson The Teaching of
Cf. Walker, "Origin of the Son of Man
Concept," 486ff; Perrin, Pilgrimage, 21 and "Son of Man," 835. Walker
claims that the link works only in Greek.
"Reinterpretation," 661 (quotation marks mine).
Moloney, "Reinterpretation," 660.
Daniel's political allegorization involves not only a human figure who appears
in heaven but also beasts, seen as winged creatures rising from the sea (cf. Tg.
Ps 8:9). While I Enoch 46f and 4 Ezra 13 clearly presuppose Daniel's description
of the "son of man" as a celestial figure, they do not take over either his
collective interpretation or any mention of beasts. Instead, they echo
other motifs, including the question of the "son of man's" identity, that are
found in the psalm but not in Daniel.
Hamerton-Kelly (Pre-existence, Wisdom and the Son of Man,
29f) and Crossan (In Fragments, 239ff) are correct in recognizing Q's
association of this aphorism with wisdom material. But Q's context is
artificial and even there does not find motifs of either search or rejection
related to this logion.
In Matt 23:37f=Luke 13:34f Jesus acts as mouthpiece for Wisdom. But this is not
a "son of man" saying; and if it were, he probably would be object not subject.
Dibelius (Jesus, 98) doubted that Jesus referred to
himself as "son of man" in any saying but this, yet resorted to the concealment
of the one so named in 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra to explain it. Manson, on the
other hand, (Teaching, 73f) in denying that any circumlocution is
intended here, had to fall back on Abbott's allegorization of foxes and birds (Message
of the Son of Man, 39f) to find any possibility of Daniel's collective interpretation.
See above n. 5.
Lindars has it as first of six synoptic sayings he regards as authentic (Jesus
Son of Man, 29ff); Casey makes it the focus of a twenty page article
("Jackals"). Lindars treats it as irony but, like Casey, sees Q's setting as essential to its meaning.
Cf. sect. 4.1b above.
Cf. sect. 2.2c above.
E.g., Luke 6:20;
Abbott, Edwin A., The Message of the Son of Man.
London: Adam and Charles Black, 1909.
Albright, William F. and C. S. Mann, Matthew.
Anchor Bible 26. Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1983.
Bauckham, Richard, "The Son of Man: 'A Man in My
Position' or 'Someone'?" Journal for the Study of the New Testament 23 (1985): 23-33.
Beare, F. W., The Earliest Records of Jesus. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962.
Borsch, Frederick H., The Son of Man in Myth and History.
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1967.
Bultmann, Rudolf, The History of the Synoptic Tradition.
Trans. J. Marsh. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1963.
Burney, C. F., The Poetry of Our Lord.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1925.
Casey, P. Maurice, "General, Generic and Indefinite: The Use of the Term
'Son of Man' in Aramaic Sources and in the Teaching of Jesus," Journal
for the Study of the New Testament 29 (1987): 21-56.
_____, "The Jackals and the Son of Man (Matt 8:20//Luke 9:58),"
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 239 (1985): 3-22.
Colpe, Carsten, " ὁ υἱος τοῦ ἀνθρώπου."
Trans. Geoffrey Bromiley. Pp. 400-477 in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
Ed. Gerhard Friedrich and Gerhard Kittel. vol. 8. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans,1972.
Creed, John M., The Gospel according to Luke.
London: Macmillan, 1930.
Crossan, J. Dominic, In Fragments.
San Francisco: Harper & Row,1983.
_____, Sayings Parallels: A Workbook for the Jesus Tradition.
Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986.
Danby, Herbert, The Mishnah,
Translated from the Hebrew with Introduction and Brief Explanatory Notes.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933.
Dibelius, Martin, Jesus. Trans. C. B. Hedrick and F. C. Grant.
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1949.
Donahue, John R., "Recent Studies on the
Origin of 'Son of Man' in the Gospels," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 48 (1986): 484-95.
Edwards, R. A., A Theology of Q.
Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976.
Ellis, E. Earl, Gospel of Luke.
Rev. ed. The New Century Bible. London: Oliphants, 1974.
Epstein, I. ed., The Babylonian Talmud.
35 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1935-1952.
Fitzmyer, Joseph A., The Gospel according to Luke (I-IX).
Anchor Bible 28. Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1981.
Fuller, Reginald H., The Mission and Achievement of Jesus.
SBT 12. London: SCM Press, 1954.
Gundry, Robert H., Matthew: A Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art.
Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1982.
Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G., Pre-existence, Wisdom and the Son of Man.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973.
Higgins, A. J. B., Jesus and the Son of Man.
London: Lutterworth Press, 1964.
Hill, David, The Gospel of Matthew.
New Century Bible. London: Oliphants, 1972.
Horbury, William, "The Messianic Association of 'the Son of Man',"
Journal of Theological Studies new series 36 (1985): 34-55.
Jeremias, Joachim, New Testament Theology. The Proclamation of Jesus.
Trans. J. Bowden. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971.
Kierkegaard, Sřren, The Concept of Irony.
Trans. Lee M. Capel. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.
Lindars. Barnabas, Jesus Son of Man.
Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983.
_____, "Response to Richard Bauckham: the Idiomatic Use of Bar Enasha,"
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 23 (1985): 35-41.
Manson, T. W., The Teaching of Jesus. 2nd ed.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1935.
Marshall, Ian Howard, The Gospel of Luke.
New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1978.
Moloney, Francis J., "The Reinterpretation of
Psalm VIII and the Son of Man Debate," New Testament Studies 27 (1980-81): 656-72.
Montefiore, Hugh and H. E. W. Turner,
Thomas and the Evangelists. SBT 35. London: SCM Press, 1962.
Muecke, D. C., Irony.
The Critical Idiom 13. London: Methuen & Co., 1970.
Muller, Mogens, "The Expression 'the Son of
Man' as used by Jesus." Studia Theologica 38 (1984): 47-64.
Otto, Rudolf, The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man.
Trans. F. V. Filson and B. L. Woolf. 2nd ed. London: Lutterworth Press, 1943.
Perrin, Norman, A Modern Pilgrimage in Christology.
Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974.
_____, "Son of Man." Pp. 833-836 in
The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible Supplement. New York and Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1976.
Trans. B. Perrin. 11 vols. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; London: Wm. Heinemann Ltd., 1948.
Schweizer, Edward, The Good News according to Luke.
Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975.
Teeple, Howard M., "The Origin of the Son of Man Christology,"
Journal of Biblical Literature 84 (1965): 213-50.
Tödt, Heinz Eduard, The Son of Man in the Synoptic Tradition.
Trans. D. M. Barton. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1965.
Tuckett, Christopher, "The Present Son of Man,"
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 14 (1982): 58-81.
Vermes, Geza, Jesus the Jew. New York: Macmillan, 1973.
_____, "The Use of in Jewish Aramaic."
Appendix E in Matthew Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts. 3rd ed.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Walker, William O., "The Origin of the Son of Man Concept as Applied to Jesus,"
Journal of Biblical Literature 91 (1972): 482-90.
_____, "The Son of Man: Some Recent Developments,"
Catholic Biblical Quarterly 48 (1983): 584-607.
Wilson, Robert McL., Studies in the Gospel of Thomas.
London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., 1960.
by author 2000-2020
all rights reserved
This paper was first
presented in March 1987 to the session of the Jesus Seminar in
The version presented above is a revision of that published in FORUM
4,4 (1988) 83-107.
Hypertext links to this web page are
welcome. But the contents of this paper may not be reproduced or posted
elsewhere without the express written consent of the author.
- last revised
18 December 2019