01 October. 2004                 
A Prayer
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise
and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will


By Edgar Jones

The Son of Man was Jesus' favorite designation of himself -- eighty times in the gospels, 30 in Matthew, 14 in Mark, 25 in Luke, and 11 in the Fourth Gospel.  Herein lies a great mystery because none of the epistles know him by that title, nor do the evangelists, except as quotations from his lips.  Indeed, the phrase appears only four more times in the New Testament : Acts 7:56 where Stephen says (at his martyrdom):

Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.

Hebrews 2:6, quoting from Psalm 8:4 and 144:3:

It has been testified somewhere, "What is man that thou art mindful of him,
or the son of man, that thou carest for him?

And twice in Revelations, 1:13 and 14:14:

. . . and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast;

Then I looked, and lo, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.

All of these references, except Acts 7:66 (quoting Stephen at his martyrdom) are either quotations from the Psalms that have no reference to Jesus (Hebrews 2:6, Psalms 8:4 and 144:3), or are oblique references to the Daniel prophecy (7:13,14).  Do they intend to refer to Jesus as the Son of man, or as "one like a son of man" as it appears in Daniel?  This raises a very significant question that we will investigate later:

Why do no references to Jesus as "son of man" (with only one exception) appear in the New Testament outside the utterances of the Lord?

The term is unique to Jesus, since none of his disciples, including the evangelists, used it except as quoted by Jesus.  Others surely did not understand it, which seems the best reason for their not having utilized it.  Only once in the gospels is it questioned, and this by persons hostile to the Lord:

[34] The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the law that the Christ remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?

Jesus chose not to answer the question directly, but digressed into a statement about "the Light."  As we shall see, this was not really a digression, but the answer to their question! The verse does suggest it to be a messianic title in the minds of those of "the crowd." This seems the closest explanation we can get from Jesus as to it's significance, which, standing alone, seems inadequate. However, we will see that it is very enLightening.

I. The Old Testament Background

We want to know why he used this title for himself, and why he did not explain it to us, his disciples, in greater detail. The first and obvious place to look for our answer is in the Old Testament.  There we find at least three separate uses of the term, and it is my position that all of them apply. 

1. It is used as an emphatic synonym for "man."

2. It is a messianic title.

3.  It is a designation of the prophet in Daniel and also in Ezekiel, of that prophet.  It appears in the latter more than ninety times as a designation for the prophet, attributed to the Lord or to the angel. (It also appears many times in the extra - canonical Books of Enoch, which we will not review here.)

As an Emphatic Synonym for "Man"

This is the most frequent use, beginning with the first times the term appears in the Old Testament:

[19] God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent.
[6] how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!"
[4] what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?

These are not prophesying Jesus, the Son of man; each simply emphasizes the status of being a man, or a human being.   They are emphatic synonyms for "man."

As an Identification With the Son of Man in Psalm 80

This Psalm is rich in the metaphors that Jesus applied to himself, and is certainly one of the inspirations for his use of the term as a self designation.  Look at it and see, highlighted in purple, these metaphors:


[1] Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
thou who leadest Joseph like a flock!
Thou who art enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
[2] before E'phraim and Benjamin and Manas'seh!
Stir up thy might, and come to save us!
[3] Restore us, O God;
let thy face shine, that we may be saved!
[4] O LORD God of hosts,
how long wilt thou be angry with thy people's prayers?
[5] Thou hast fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
[6] Thou dost make us the scorn of our neighbors;
and our enemies laugh among themselves.
[7] Restore us, O God of hosts;
let thy face shine, that we may be saved!
[8] Thou didst bring a vine out of Egypt;
thou didst drive out the nations and plant it.
[9] Thou didst clear the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
[10] The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches;
[11] it sent out its branches to the sea,
and its shoots to the River.
[12] Why then hast thou broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
[13] The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.
[14] Turn again, O God of hosts!
Look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
[15] the stock which thy right hand planted.
[16] They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance!
[17] But let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand,
the son of man whom thou hast made strong for thyself!
[18] Then we will never turn back from thee;
give us life, and we will call on thy name!
[19] Restore us, O LORD God of hosts!
let thy face shine, that we may be saved!

Jesus identified himself as the Shepherd of Israel.  In the beginning of his testimony, he looked over the fields of Judah and saw them as sheep without a shepherd; He identified himself as the Good Shepherd, whose sheep hear his voice and are saved. 

He pointed to himself as the vine when describing himself and his true disciples, saying,

John 15:5  

I  am the vine, you are the branches;

He is the "man of thy right hand," and "the son of man whom thou hast made strong for thyself."  Surely his face shines for our salvation, as the Light of the World, from whose lips came the Light of our salvation!  He is also man, "the man of thy right hand," for which "son of man" in vs. 17 is another case of an emphatic synonym for "a man."

As a Messianic Title and Designation of the Prophet in Daniel

Here we have this reference strongly suggestive of messianic prophecy:

[13] I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
[14] And to him was given dominion
and glory and kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Very important: Daniel does not refer to this messianic figure as the Son of man, but only one "like a son of man." We will return to this below.  Later, the Prophet has the angel, Gabriel, address him:

[17] So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I was frightened and fell upon my face. But he said to me, "Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end."

The angel seeks to cut Daniel down to size, by reminding him, emphatically, that he is only a man, the son of man.  It is also an emphatic synonym for "man."

A Self designation of the Prophet Ezekiel and an Emphatic Synonym for Man

The following is typical of Ezekiel:


[1] And he said to me, "Son of man, stand upon your feet, and I will speak with you."
[2] And when he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me upon my feet; and I heard him speaking to me.
[3] And he said to me, "Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels, who have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day.
[4] The people also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them; and you shall say to them, `Thus says the Lord GOD.'
[5] And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that there has been a prophet among them.
[6] And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit upon scorpions; be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.
[7] And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear; for they are a rebellious house.

It is easy to see Jesus comparing himself with Ezekiel --  and taking the same title so as to direct our attention to the comparison.  Let us list some of the comparisons:

1. Recall that Jesus was sent to the people of Israel (a rebellious house) precisely as Ezekiel (v. 3) was sent. 

2. Also, as with Ezekiel, whether they hear or refuse to hear, they will know that there has been a prophet among them (v. 5). 

3. They did not hear Ezekiel, nor did they hear Jesus, and the judgment that Ezekiel was given to pronounce against Israel is very similar to that stated by Jesus 500 years later:

Ezek. 11:
5] And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and he said to me, "Say, Thus says the LORD: So you think, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind.
[6] You have multiplied your slain in this city, and have filled its streets with the slain.
[7] Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Your slain whom you have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron; but you shall be brought forth out of the midst of it.
[8] You have feared the sword; and I will bring the sword upon you, says the Lord GOD.
[9] And I will bring you forth out of the midst of it, and give you into the hands of foreigners, and execute judgments upon you.
[10] You shall fall by the sword; I will judge you at the border of Israel; and you shall know that I am the LORD.
[11] This city shall not be your caldron, nor shall you be the flesh in the midst of it; I will judge you at the border of Israel;
[12] and you shall know that I am the LORD; for you have not walked in my statutes, nor executed my ordinances, but have acted according to the ordinances of the nations that are round about you."

Compare this with Jesus:

[37] O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!
[38] Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.

4. Like Jesus, Ezekiel was greatly disturbed by this judgment:

Ezek. 11:
] And it came to pass, while I was prophesying, that Pelati'ah the son of Benai'ah died. Then I fell down upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said, "Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?"

[41] And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it,
[42] saying, Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.
[43] For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side,
[44] and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.

5. Like Jesus, Ezekiel goes on to prophesy the salvation of a remnant of Israel:

[14] And the word of the LORD came to me:
[15] "Son of man, your brethren, even your brethren, your fellow exiles, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, `They have gone far from the LORD; to us this land is given for a possession.'
[16] Therefore say, `Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.'
[17] Therefore say, `Thus says the Lord GOD: I will gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.'
[18] And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations.
[19] And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,
[20] that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

The strongest evidence we have of this comparison of himself with Ezekiel is in his use of the pastoral metaphor of Good Shepherd and sheep.  We have this from Ezekiel:

[2] "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?
[5] So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the wild beasts.
[7] "Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
[8] As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep;
[9] therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
[10] Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.
[12] As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.
[15] I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD.


[23] And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.
[24] My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes.

And from Jesus:

[36] When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
[1] Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber;
[2] but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
[3] To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
[4] When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
[5] A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.
[6] This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
[7] So Jesus again said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
[8] All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them.
[9] I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
[10] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
[11] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
[12] He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
[13] He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.
[14] I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me,
[15] as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
[16] And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.

There is a change here, for Jesus is not just simply comparing himself with Ezekiel; he is setting himself as the fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy.  Further, the remnant of Jesus is not only composed of the sons of Israel, but of other sheep, that are not of this fold.

6.  There are numerous other points of comparison between Jesus and Ezekiel, and I list only this and one more. First, Ezekiel was like Jesus in that he received words directly from
"the Lord God."  He was not the only prophet to do so, but his emphasis on the point puts him far out ahead of the others.  Having counted them, I find the following counts in the prophets, where they use the expression, "says the Lord God," indicating that they were receiving their words directly from God.

1. Isaiah           10
2. Jeremiah     7
3. Amos           7
4. Ezekiel        202
5. Others         0

Ezekiel's count is so excessive as to cover the others in his dust.  He is the "says the Lord God" prophet.  He is the one who repeats in the world what he heard from the Lord God, and this is his testimony far more than that of any other prophet.

By way of comparison we have this from Jesus, in which he attributes all his teachings to God.

[26] I declare to the world what I have heard from him.
[27] They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father.
28] So Jesus said, When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me.
38] I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.
[40] but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God;

[49] For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak.
[50] And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me.

[24] He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.

[8] for I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me.

Jesus did not use the expression, "says the Lord God" as did Ezekiel, yet he made the same point in other ways, by asserting that he heard from God what he was saying, and that his Word was the Father's Word.  Like Ezekiel, he repeated in the world what he heard from the Lord God, and this similarity is far greater than with any other prophet.

7. Finally, we list one other comparison, which also contains a difference.  How was it that the Lord God spoke to Ezekiel?  Did the Lord God come down to earth, or lift Ezekiel up?
The prophet does not leave us without an answer, and it begins with Ezekiel 1:1:

[1] In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.

Elsewhere he is more specific as to how he was "lifted" up so as to see these visions of God:

[12] Then the Spirit lifted me up, and as the glory of the LORD arose from its place, I heard behind me the sound of a great earthquake;
[14] The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me;
[3] He put forth the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy.
[1] The Spirit lifted me up, and brought me to the east gate of the house of the LORD, which faces east. And behold, at the door of the gateway there were twenty-five men; and I saw among them Ja-azani'ah the son of Azzur, and Pelati'ah the son of Benai'ah, princes of the people.
[24] And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me in the vision by the Spirit of God into Chalde'a, to the exiles. Then the vision that I had seen went up from me.

Considering all the many points of comparison, we can see clearly another one here, for Jesus was also lifted up to receive his revelations from God:

[13] No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.

Now, the difference, the very big difference, is this: In the case of Ezekiel,
the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God (8:3). Jesus, as Son of man, ascended all the way to heaven whereas Ezekiel was lifted up only between heaven and earth.  And on top of this, Ezekiel did not see God, but he only saw "visions of God."  Jesus saw God!  Jesus explained:

[46] Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Therefore, the evangelist was making an exception for Jesus when he wrote:

[18] No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

II. Why Jesus Called Himself "The Son of Man"

The angel, Gabriel, addressed Ezekiel by the emphatic synonym for man, that is, "son of man."  Therefore, when Jesus identifies himself by means of the same emphatic synonym, "son of man," and also conforms to the general pattern we see in the prophet Ezekiel, I conclude that this must have been one of the reasons.

Jesus did not identify himself with Ezekiel.  In all the above, we find that he was only comparing himself to metaphors from  Ezekiel -- that is, he was not Ezekiel, but he fit the same pattern as Ezekiel in his person and his ministry.  Throughout Ezekiel and the Old Testament, "son of man" is an emphatic synonym for "man."  There is no reason to make a distinction when we go to the New Testament and to the many times Jesus applied it to himself.  He would not have done it had he not intended to emphasize his status as a man -- as a human being in every point of his being!  Therefore we have in the gospels those 80 times when Jesus emphasized that he was a man.  Here is one case where he stated it simply:

[40] but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God; this is not what Abraham did.

His many designations of himself as "son of man" amounts to am emphasis of an emphasis!  It follows, therefore, that every time he uses it he is saying that he was not virgin born.  He was, and is, most emphatically the Son of man, and most emphatically a son of man. 

If Jesus had been virgin born according to Christian doctrine, he would not have used this emphatic synonym for himself because, in that case, it would not have been true and he would have been misrepresenting himself.  Thus, we find him by implication denying some 80 times in the gospels that he is virgin born!  More than that, he was affirming, by means of this emphatic synonym, that he was a man in all respects!

III. The Expression, "Like a son of man."

Twice in Revelation (a Christian document), 1:13 and 14:14:

. . . and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast;

Then I looked, and lo, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.

This corresponds to the designation in Daniel 7:13, which is surely its source and inspiration for these appearances of the term in Revelation.  This is not equivalent to "son of man" and Jesus never applied it to himself.  If he had, we would find him saying something like this:  I am not the Son of man, but I am only like a son of man. 

"Like a son of man" is exactly what the Christians need, so we find them honoring it in Revelations.  That is because it says, by implication, that Jesus, the Messiah, is not a son of man, but is only like, or similar to in some ways, a son of man.  The designation is therefore not only acceptable -- it is desirable to them, as indicating that Jesus of Nazareth, being (in their view) virgin born, was not a son of man among men, but was "like a son of man."  It is perfectly consistent with their Christology, but Jesus avoided it like the plague.

IV. Why do no references to Jesus as "son of man" (with only one exception, Acts 7:56) appear in the New Testament outside the utterances of the Lord?

This question requires some speculation because we have no specific answer from the lips of the Lord.  But then, we do not need such.  If we accept that the title, "Son of man" is an emphatic synonym for man, it becomes in translation, "son of Adam."  Indeed, the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament in use among Greek speaking disciples of Jesus in the First Century, translates Adam as anthropos.  It follows that every descendent of Adam is a "son of anthropos."  In the Gospels, the expression "son of man" therefore becomes "son of anthropos."  You can easily confirm this by checking a concordance or your Greek New Testament.

Jesus was, by means of this emphatic synonym, affirming himself as a "son of Adam."

At a very early time in the evolution of the church, Paul set forth his gospel that depends heavily on Jesus not being a son of man, or of Adam.  He wrote:

[22] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

But that would not work if Jesus (Christ) were a son of Adam, for then he would also have suffered the same death as Adam; this statement would be self contradictory!  So it was that, at a very early date, Jesus' favorite designation for himself became anathema to the Paulinist scribes in the early church.  Nevertheless they were compelled to provide some explanation for his origins and to define his Christology.  It follows that they either omitted the term in their writing, or that they expunged it from epistles already written so as to make them acceptable to the Church and compatible with the popular doctrine of Paul.  That is a sufficient explanation for our not finding him so designated in the epistles, both Catholic and Pauline.  Yes, I have said this is speculation, but it is very strong speculation.

But if, as Paul and his disciples asserted,  Jesus was not a son of man (emphatic for man), what was he? 

A ready solution to this question was close at hand -- the many pagan deities who were virgin born.  Eo Ipso! Jesus became the virgin born son of God and the first two chapters of both Matthew and Luke were added to the gospels. They were unable to expunge the term from the gospels because it was and is guarded by the Holy Spirit, yet they sought to neutralize it by the doctrine of the virgin birth.

This explanation suggests and may even confirm two things:

(1) "Son of man" as a title does indeed mean a son of Adam for otherwise we would surely find the early disciples referring to Jesus by that, his favorite designation of himself, many times instead of once (Stephen, Acts 7:56) and 

(2) the utterances of Jesus are thus confirmed as the fully inspired Words of God in the New Testament, because these are the only words protected by the Holy Spirit as indicated by his frequent use of the term and its retention in the gospels. 

V. The Son of Man Forever

On of the most significant things we can learn from our Lord's use of the term is that he never ceases to apply it to himself, calling himself yet "the son of man" at the Second Coming and at the Last Judgment, where it is as Son of Man that he sits upon his glorious throne.

Matthew 25
31 But when the son of man comes in his glory and all his angels with him, then will he sit on the throne of his glory.

We have, in addition, this amazing utterance in response to the question of the chief priest:

Mark 14
61 Again the chief priest asked him and says to him: Are you the Christ the son of the blessed one? 62 So Jesus said: I am, and you will see the son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven.

He has just affirmed that he is the Son of God (the Blessed one) and he might much more appropriately responded, "I am, and your will see the Son of God sitting at the right hand of power."

But no!  Instead, he clung to this identification as the Son of man even here when affirming himself as Son of God, which can only mean that the two terms are compatible.  This raises profound implications that are beyond the scope of this paper, and can only leave us marveling!  It seems a reflection of the Psalm:

Psalm 8
[3] When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which thou hast established;
[4] what is man that thou art mindful of him,
and the son of man that thou dost care for him?
[5] Yet thou hast made him little less than God,
and dost crown him with glory and honor.
[6] Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet,

This closely resembles messianic prophecy and perhaps it is but, in the mind of the Psalmist, it refers only to the human being, which he says is made "little less than God."

When we compare this with Jesus' statement,

John 14
28 If you had agape-loved me, you would have rejoiced that I go to the father, because the father is greater than I.

It becomes very compatible with the teaching of Jesus as to his status relative to the Father, and as to his intimate identification with man, an identification that has not ceased now that he has ascended to the Father.

VI. The Light

I quoted this near the beginning:

[34] The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the law that the Christ remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?

Then I remarked that Jesus seemed to digress when he responded, seemingly changing the subject from "Son of man" to "Light."

35 Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little time the light is among you. Be walking as you have the light, in order that the darkness not overtake you. And the one walking in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 As you have the light, be believing in the light, in order that you may become sons of light.

Jesus did not digress here.  The Son of man was in the world as the Light of the world, and so he was and remains the original Son of Light.  Now, the promise of this utterance is that we, who are also sons (children) of men, may become sons of Light by believing the Light, as he is the first Son of Light who is also a son of man.


Christian doctrine magnifies the differences between man and God.  Jesus, with the Psalmist, minimizes the differences, making him "little less than God."  Even in eternity, he remains the Son of man.  It was not necessary for him to be virgin born to be Son of God, no more so than than it is necessary for you or I or any other human being to have been virgin born to become a child of God, because man is "little less than God."  When we become children of God, being born from above of the Spirit and the Word, we remain, like Jesus of Nazareth, "little less than God." Do not allow the material/spiritual distinctions to distort thinking here.  It is difficult for us to see ourselves as we are -- as spiritual beings created in the likeness of the Father, needing only the infusion of the Eternal Word to become his children in all respects even while we continue to abide in the flesh.  Remember what Jesus said?

The flesh profits nothing!

Here, then, is what I believe: Jesus of Nazareth, the child of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, was born a spiritual and intellectual prodigy.  This was not a supernatural event, no more so than the birth of an intellectual prodigy, such as Albert Einstein.  Jesus soon came to sense this and to understand his unique status.  From the beginning he was filled with an insatiable desire to know God and all things spiritual.  God in heaven, who had Himself been waiting (from a human point of view) for just such an one to appear among men, then sent his angels who, as with Ezekiel, lifted him up; but, unlike Ezekiel who was lifted between heaven and earth, they lifted this one all the way to heaven.  There God revealed Himself fully to this Son of man.  This accounts for Jesus' assertion that he was the only one who had ascended to heaven, hence the only man to have seen God.

John 6
45Everyone having heard by the father and having learned comes toward me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the father, except the one being beside God, this one has seen the father.

Again, let us not be hung up on the material/spiritual distinctions.  I do not mean that the young Nazarene was physically lifted up to a place high in the skies.  I mean something much more significant than that.  Without physically leaving the earth, he ascended into the exalted "spiritual space" not of this creation, where the Father dwells and where he saw and knew God as his Father.  It was during this wonderful ascension that he received the Eternal Word from the mouth of the Father, and by which reception he became the Eternal Son of God, the first begotten.  Having received the spiritual and Eternal Word -- more than spiritual, but that is Spirit -- he loved the Father and desired only to remain in the Father's House.  But he knew, through the indwelling Word, that he must return as the Word, there to sow the Word in the hearts of humans who were to become the children of the Father in heaven through the willing reception of the Word.  This may be the significance of the event described at his baptism;

Matthew 3
16 And Jesus having been baptized, immediately he came out from the water, and behold the heavens were opened, and he saw the spirit of God coming down like a dove, coming upon him. 17 And behold a voice out of the heavens said: This is my agape-beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.

That was the point when the Word, as the Spirit of God, descended from heaven, and the experience of which Jesus spoke when he said,

John 6
48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and died. 50 This is the bread coming down from heaven, in order that anyone who eat of it also not die. 51 I am the living bread having come down out of heaven.

There was this one difference between the First Begotten and the later begotten ones on the earth -- Jesus ascended to heaven to be begotten, then descended to earth that we might be begotten in the same way, through the Eternal Word that he published in the World.  He is the first begotten; he is not the only begotten.  He is the Son of man, he is the Son of God, and he is the Eternal Word by whom and through whom all things were made.


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