SON OF MAN (Heb. בֶּן אָדָם; pl. בְּנֵי אָדָם, Aram. בַּר אֱנָשׁ). -In the Bible In the Bible the phrase "son of man," or "sons of man" (adam), is used as a synonym for a member of the human race, i.e., descendants of Adam. It occurs frequently in Psalms in the plural, and the most cogent examples of its meaning are Psalms 90:3, "Thou turnest man to contrition, and sayest, return, ye sons of man"; 115:16, "the heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth hath He given to the sons of man"; and repeatedly in Psalm 107. In Psalm 49:3 a distinction is made between "the sons of Adam and the sons of Ish, rich and poor together," and it would appear that insofar as the two are distinct, the former refers to the common man, while Ish refers to the upper strata (cf. Isa. 2:9 and 11). The phrase "son of man" is merely the singular of benei adam, and in the Bible has no theological or mystical connotation. It is most frequently used by Ezekiel, mostly as the form of address to him by God, where it occurs 79 times, and it seems, as is clear from chapter 33, that he wishes thereby to emphasize that he is possessed of no special qualities or powers different from those of any other person, except that he has been selected as the "watchman" of his people. (Louis Isaac Rabinowitz) -Post-Biblical Concept The eschatological figure commonly identified with the Messiah occurs in chapter 7 of the Book of Daniel in a vision which is explained by the angel in a collective way as the holy ones of the most high, i.e., Israel or the pious among them. The author of Daniel based himself upon a more ancient tradition according to which the title son of man was a designation of a special eschatological figure. This idea existed possibly by the third century B.C.E.; the designation "man" for messiah already occurs in the Greek translation of the Pentateuch (see messiah ) of this period. The son of man is named "man" also in IV Ezra, and in Hebrew "son of man" and "man" is identical. In the whole literature in which it is mentioned, the son of man is always portrayed with the same economy of line. The son of man has a superhuman, heavenly sublimity. He is the cosmic judge at the end of time; seated upon the throne of God, he will judge the whole human race with the aid of the heavenly hosts, consigning the just to blessedness and sinners to the pit of hell; and he will execute the sentence he passes. Frequently he is identified with the Messiah, as in the Book of Enoch, chapters 37–71, and in IV Ezra. According to a later part of the Book of Enoch (ch. 71) the son of man is identified with Enoch himself as the heavenly scribe. According to the apocryphal Testament of Abraham the son of man is literally Adam's son Abel who was killed by the wicked Cain, for God desired that every man be judged by a man (the identification is based upon a verbal understanding that son of man in Hebrew is ben-Adam). Though in the Dead Sea Scrolls there were also other messianic concepts, the concept of son of man is also reflected in them. The eschatological figure occurring in the Thanksgiving Scroll (3, 5–18) resembles or is identical with the son of man of other Jewish literature. In one of the fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls Melchizedek figures as the judge at the end of time. In company with angels from on High he will judge man and the wicked spirits of Belia'al. Thus the son of man could be even identified with the biblical Melchizedek according to a mythical understanding. The idea of son of man originated possibly from a midrashic interpretation of Ezekiel 1:26, "… and the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it." In the Book of Enoch (46: 1, 2) the son of man is presented with similar words "with Him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man… And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden things, concerning that son of man, who he was…." Thus it seems that the concept preceded the final identification of the son of man with the Messiah, which became common at the end of the Second Temple period. It was so applied in the time of Jesus, who used to speak of the son of man as the heavenly judge, and it seems that finally he identified himself with this sublime figure. (David Flusser) -BIBLIOGRAPHY: POST-BIBLICAL CONCEPT: D. Flusser, in: Christian News from Israel (1966), 23–29; S. Mowinckel, He That Cometh (1956); E. Sjöberg, Der Menschensohn in dem aethiopischen Henochbuch (1946).

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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