The Son of Man in the New Testament

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The title son of man is often used in the new testament to refer to the Christ, the messiah unlike how the old testament used it as a recognition to the prophets such as Ezekiel and Daniel. The life of Ezekiel had several instances parallel to that of Christ, and this could have resulted in Jesus adopting the title. For example, Ezekiel was more of a God’s prophet to individuals in captivity, while Jesus was also a servant to people held in confinement by the law of sin and death. Again, Daniel had an apocalyptic vision where he sees the son of man coming in the clouds, and in Daniel 8: 17, he recognized himself as the son of man. However, the meaning of the expression "son of man"remains challenging to different theological scholars, and this could be one of the prime limits of the interpretation offered by the new testament. Nonetheless, its use in the two differing accounts indicates that it has developed over the biblical times and the paper shall discuss the development of the title “son of man” from the old to the new testament and provide both differences and similarities. 



The earliest interpretation depended on the Greek expression which interpreted the word “son” with a parental sense, and the concept continued to the middle age. But when the Protestant Reformation began to emerge, three new methods were used which included one that expressed the humanity of Christ, another derived from the book of Daniel 7:13, which had a messianic view, but the third one indicated a general idiom for self-reference.

Old Testament

In several instances, the title, “son of man” appears in the old biblical testament to highlight weaknesses. For example, in Job 16:21; and 35:8, Isaiah 51:12 and Numbers 23:19 where the Bible contrasts God with human beings on the matter of lying. Other terms such as in Isaiah (56:2) and several in the book of psalms indicate euphemism. Moreover, in some instances, such as Psalm 80:16-18 shows strength rather than weakness. The three expressions suggest that the title son of man is more generic as it highlights the humankind frailty in contrast to God (Eugene). However, one can also use it to conjure the recollection of the high status of humanity as God’s image. Nonetheless, the title is used to refer to both the Messiah as well as people in the ministry such as Daniel and Ezekiel.

New Testament

In the new testament, the “son of man” is entirely describing to Christ alone.  However, the title did not pass the normal usage of Christian worships and almost disappears in the process as it dominates the gospel but appears three times after that. The title occurs 29-times in Mathew, 14-times in Mark, 26-times in Luke and thirteen in John and this indicates that Christ continually called himself with that title as compared to what other new testament writings record (Yancey). Therefore, scholars interpret this as a self-reference owing to two considerations which include the similarity between him and Ezekiel and also the fulfillment of the Daniels vision of the son of man ruling over the God's kingdom.


As seen, the title son of man refers to prophets in the old testament and Christ in the new testament, and this means that it applies to those sent by God for his people. For instance, Ezekiel was sent to Israelites by God "Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me"(Ezekiel 2:3). Again, Christ had also come to the lost sheep of Israel. Moreover, the title son of man does not apply after the death of prophets and Christ as it is no longer significant to express adequate belief in the post-resurrection era.


The difference between the two biblical accounts is that one is the fulfillment of the other. For instance, in the vision of Daniel, he had prophesied about the son of man sitting on the God’s kingdom, and this came to happen in the new testament when Christ, the real "son of man"resurrected and ascended to be with the father in his right-hand side. Nonetheless, the primary change between the two interpretations is the described person, in the new testament, it referred to both Christ and some prophets, but in the new testament, it assigned the title to Christ alone.


God had named Ezekiel as the “son of man” probably to direct the attention of Christ to the special responsibilities assigned to other prophets. Jesus was also called to fully obey those responsibilities as his repeated self-reference of "son of man"indicated that he was the real one sent to purchase humankind. The fulfillment of Daniels prophesy to messiah required him to be the flesh, and his most role was for the forgiveness of sins.

Work cited

Balentine, Samuel Eugene, ed. The Oxford encyclopedia of the Bible and theology. Oxford University Press, 2015.

Yancey, Philip, and Tim Stafford. NIV, Student Bible, eBook. Zondervan, 2011.

November 24, 2023


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