Son of Man in the New Testament: Part 4 of 4
Son of Man Beyond the Gospels
The SM term was scarcely used outside of the gospels, especially to refer to Jesus, and it is interesting to note that Paul never used the term, though some have connected his Second Adam theology with the SM. Although there are arguably four occurrences of SM outside of the Gospels (Acts 7:56; Hebrews 2:6; Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14) , we will limit the focus of our study to Acts 7:56 and the Revelation passages, excluding the Hebrews instance, as it is a citation from the Old Testament (Psalm 8).
In this passage, Stephen had just finished his speech, at the prompting of the high priest, explaining how all people throughout history, especially God’s chosen people, have failed to please him. What was more offensive to the audience was that he used the meta-narrative of the Old Testament Scriptures, their story, as his basis for judgement against them. Angered, the people rushed Stephen with the intent to stone him, and later succeeded. Just before they took action, Stephen looked up to heaven and saw the SM standing at the right hand of God. Stephen’s vision passes a strong resemblance to Daniel’s vision, wherein the SM was presented to the Ancient of Days to receive his kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14). Moreover, it should be noted that this is the strongest verse outside of the gospels to prove that Jesus is the SM. Luke wrote in verse 55 that Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Then, in verse 56, Stephen saw the SM standing at the right hand of God. The repetition, replacing Jesus with SM, strongly asserts that Jesus is the SM. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the SM was standing at the right hand of God, rather than sitting, as he was often described (cf. Hebrews 1:3). This instance is of special importance, as standing denotes the legal character of the account. Therefore, Jesus’ standing should be interpreted to mean that he, the SM and God, justified Stephen’s speech and declared him righteous in word and deed. This verse has significant impact on our SM study in the New Testament. Moreover, however, it provided the hermeneutical key for interpreting all of Stephen’s speech. Indeed, Stephen was not speaking in error out of his own passion and zeal; rather, his words of condemnation against the people for their failures were the words of God, or at least echoed his opinion and thereby gained the approval of the SM.
Although renowned scholars like Wayne Grudem don’t focus heavily on the SM verses in Revelation, and understandably so, it is still beneficial for our study to briefly review them. Revelation 1:13, in particular, works to prove that Jesus is the SM of Daniel 7. The allusions to Daniel 7 are impossible to ignore, especially if we consider the overlap between the persons of God and Jesus, as the doctrine of the trinity allows us to do. Daniel saw the Ancient of Days in clothing as white as snow with hair like pure wool, and John saw the SM with white hair, “like white wool, like snow.” Daniel saw a thrown that was fiery like flames, and John saw the eyes of the SM aflame with fire. Although the images are not identical, the likeness they bear is striking. Moreover, it is impossible to assume that John was unfamiliar with Daniel 7, that he wasn’t fully aware of the magnitude of what he was writing. John must have believed the SM to be strongly linked to the entities of Daniel 7, either the SM or the Ancient of Days himself. Either John held this position, or the details within his revelation could more accurately be described as irresponsible, for his words in Revelation would confuse followers for millennia; and I don’t believe we can call John irresponsible. Many scholars refuse to believe that Revelation 14:14 points to Jesus as SM, and for good reason; it is quite difficult to connect the SM in 14:14 with Jesus himself. The SM in Revelation 14:14 obeyed a command from an angel; this would be especially odd if the SM was, in fact, God. To subject himself under the authority of an angel would be an upside-down hierarchy indeed. However, a plausible explanation is that in apocalyptic literature the angel was a mediator of God’s divine will. Despite the confusion, the SM mentioned probably is Jesus, as he reaped the earth for judgement, and judgement is a divine prerogative of the SM not lost on John, as John had already, in his gospel, declared the SM to be the arbiter of judgement. Finally, the allusion to Daniel 7 should be noted yet again. Daniel saw one like a SM come with clouds of heaven, and John also saw a white cloud, and seated on it was one like a SM. It is clear that John understood the SM he saw to be the same being as the SM Daniel saw. However, even without this imagery, we know from his gospel that John clearly believed Jesus to be the SM, and he believed that judgement was a divine prerogative of the SM. With this knowledge, we can believe with a strong degree of assurance that the SM of Revelation 14:14 is Jesus, the SM of Daniel 7.
This concludes our Son of Man in the New Testament study. I hope you've enjoyed the study and have found it edifying. Take & Seal is still just getting started, and much more will be contributed to the blog weekly. I encourage you to sign up for our newsletter; you'll be the first to know when new topics have been posted.