Understanding the Logic Behind Christ’s “Son of Man” Self-Designation
This text answers the following questions:
Why would the Son of God, use the self-designation Son of Man, even as he calls himself the Son of God?
As Christ is the Son of God, and not literally the Son of Joseph, why is his genealogy given in the New Testament stemming from Joseph, and why don’t the Genealogies in the Gospels match?
Before the long answer, I will give a short one. The overarching theme of the New Testament is Christ fulfilling the purpose of the Old Testament, by inheriting every blessing and curse in the Old Testament as the Son of Man, and providing the final and fulfilling sacrifice of himself as the Lamb of God, to create the new Temple of God that exists in all who believe in Christ and follow his way.
We already have a great text that explains Christ’s role as the Lamb of God mentioned in John 1:29, John 1:36, 1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19, and this is fundamental to understanding both why the death of Christ was required to release us from sin, and give light to his actions on earth. I suggest you start with that text first, but of course that’s not needed.
Christ’s mission on earth was, but was not limited to, fulfilling the scriptures:
How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” – Matthew 26:54
But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.” Then all the disciples left Him and fled. – Matthew 26:56
Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” – Mark 14:49
Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. – Luke 18:31
“Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. – Acts 1:16
For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” – Luke 22:37
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” – Luke 24:44
Christ, to fulfill these scriptures, took on many roles. Christ took on the role of the Lamb, to provide the ultimate sacrifice that was for the benefit of the entire world, a sacrifice so great that no further sacrifices would ever be required to be provided on an altar. Yet, as you might have noticed, there were many prophecies in the Old Testament that were unrelated to this sacrifice, and indeed many promises by God that appeared to have not been fulfilled. Christ understood this, and so, becoming the Son of Man, all men, he became the inheritor of every prophecy, curse and blessing in the Old Testament, fulfilling them all simultaneously, and making obsolete forever the time of God’s favor being given based upon lineage, race, or any other inheritable aspect, to usher in the new era of equality and eternal love based upon faith and love.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:28
A lot of first-time readers of the New Testament get confused, as was I when I read it in full for the first time. If this was the central theme of the New Testament, the love through Christ dissolving all bonds, and if Paul went on page after page celebrating that the curse of the Old Law was removed, why do countless preachers and priests still quote Old Testament law as if it was still valid?
A hard part of developing your faith as a Christian, is realizing most Christians have not read the Bible, and as the popularity of a preacher, pastor or priest is directly tied to how many understand them, you end up with a lot of low quality leaders, many of whom I honestly believe to have not read the Bible in full, cover to cover. Keep this in mind at all times – Christ has removed the curse of the Old Law, as it says in the scriptures, and what’s more as the Son of Man he became the inheritor of all the outcomes of prophecies against men and nations in the Old Testament, completing them. He did it, so it is done.
These genealogies are also a source of confusion for new readers, not the least because there appears to be no quality explanation online for them, I am hoping to change that, if I do or not is up to you but here’s hoping. The New Testament is very clear that Christ was conceived immaculately by the Holy Spirit, Joseph is not his biological father, all Christians are already familiar with the fact these genealogies do not show Christ’s biological ancestry, but these genealogies showcase all the prophecies, blessings and curses that Christ inherited on humanities behalf. The ancestors given in Luke, then Matthew after that.
Enoch Mathusala Lamech
Thara Abraham Isaac
Amos Mattathias Joseph
Judah and Tamar
Salmon and Rachab
Boaz and Ruth
David and Bathsheba
There has been a lot of technical analysis of this genealogy, all of it missing the point, which is that Christ is the inheritor of all of these individual’s lineages, and more, as the Son of Man. Still, despite the genealogies being given with next to no explanation, there is a bit to notice.
Matt gives his genealogies with four women included, mentioning the wives in an otherwise paternal genealogy. We don’t have a full understanding of what Jewish expectation at that time was in terms of prophecies – some Jewish texts referenced in the New Testament are not even considered canonical in the Old Testament, for instance – but the “random” four stick out as related to prophecies, and perhaps more importantly, they help drive home the purpose of the genealogies, by showing Christ as the descendant of women from Moab and Jericho. You’ll notice, by looking at the genealogies above, that Christ is shown to be the descendant of every group prophesied against in the Old Testament!
Tamar was the twice daughter-in-law of Judah, the patriarch of Judea, and also the mother of Judah’s son Perez. To sum up Genesis 38, Tamar covers her face, and so Judea mistakes her for a hooker. Since he thinks she is a prostitute, he asks to fuck her. She agrees, as was her intention, and she conceives from that sex. Since he does not have a goat on hand to pay her, she asks for “Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff” and he gives it to her a pledge. He sent his friend with a goat to meet her to pay his debt, and asks around to everyone but cannot find her. Three months later, he finds out it was Tamar that was the prostitute, and he’s ashamed but forgives her. That has nothing to do with the prophecy, I just like that chapter. So to start, in Ruth 4, there is a blessing given that involves Tamar.
and let thy house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman.’
More telling, Tamar is considered to be prophetic herself in many old Jewish legends, as recounted in among other sources, the Legends of the Jews, a chronological compilation of aggadah from hundreds of biblical legends in Mishnah, Talmud and Midrash. She is not only considered prophetic in these old stories but the signet, bracelets and staff are considered metaphors for the power of Judah. Of course they are, the staff from between his legs referenced in Genesis 49:10 is a reference to his descendants, a play on the actual staff between his legs as mentioned in the footnotes of NET and other well researched Bibles. The bracelet, as show in that Chapter itself and many others, represents a sort of primacy, as a bracelet was put around the firstborn when twins were born to determine who the firstborn was. The signet, a seal, has countless meanings in the Bible, all tied to authority. So it makes sense to mention Tamar, when talking about fulfilled prophecies.
Rachab, also called Rahab, was another prostitute-turned-matriarch, who was a resident of Jericho and helped the Israeli spies check out the city, and so was incorporated into Israel. As a descendant of a woman of Jericho, Christ inherited the blessings and curses of Jericho, you get the idea. Note as the Son of Man he inherited all, from everyone, but the New Testament genealogies are superb and illustrative by virtue of including every group that is prophesied against in the Old Testament. Rachab hung a red cord out of her window to signify that her house was to be left alone in the ensuing siege – reminiscent of the blood on the door of Passover – and the fall of Jericho was extremely important, it marked the end of the manna era, and start of the conquering of the land of Canaan with the Ark of the Covenant in full effect. All were killed except Rachab, as in Joshua 6:25 “Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.”
Then right after Joshua 6:25, in Joshua 6:26, comes this prophecy:
At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:
“At the cost of his firstborn son
he will lay its foundations;
at the cost of his youngest
he will set up its gates.”
This prophecy would have been at the forefront of Jewish thought at the time, since it was built upon, and being built upon, in the time of Christ. We know that as Christ passed through Jericho and healed blind beggars it had it’s own chief tax collector Zacchaeus, and that the road between Jericho and Jerusalem was well known enough to be the setting of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, so we can infer it was a major destination. As Rachab is essential to and woven through the plot associated with this very extreme prophecy, it makes sense she is mentioned. Remember, that all the individuals associated with these oaths and prophecies are only mentioned to showcase Christ’s role as the inheritor and ender of these. The only people nowadays who still think that there is a curse on those who will try to rebuild Jericho are Orthodox Jews, who, of course, are doing their best to colonize and rebuild Jericho through settlers. I don’t know what’s going on there.
Ruth was the subject of The Book of Ruth, and a Moabite woman. So Christ, as a descendant of a Moabite woman, inherited the Moabite prophecies, sorry if this gets repetitive. Ruth listens to her mother-in-law Naomi and attempts to get re-married to Boaz. Boaz, after consultation and a sandal-oath in Ruth 4, and you’ll notice we’re going full circle here, the same blessing I am about to mention mentioned Tamar! Ruth 4:11:
Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”
Ruth might also be specified since the Book of Ruth ends with a geneology itself, tracing the Davidic genealogy so important to the ancient Jewish understanding of the Messiah.
This brings us to Bathsheba, mother of Solomon and wife of David. Without diverging too much from the topic at hand, Bathsheba does not mean “Daughter of Oath” as erroneously speculated in Wikipedia, Strongs and everywhere else. BathSheba means daughter of Sheba, specifically Sheba, David’s enemy. As recounted in 2 Samuel 20:1:
Now a troublemaker named Sheba son of Bikri, a Benjamite, happened to be there. He sounded the trumpet and shouted, “We have no share in David, no part in Jesse’s son! Every man to his tent, Israel!”
Bath means daughter in Hebrew, and both Bath, and Sheba are exact matches* in the underlying Hebrew. The English transliteration Sheba is used for a few names, such as the Queen of Sheba, none are a perfect match except for Sheba, as used in Sheba son of Bikri. This also makes perfect sense within the context of the story – David gets BathSheba’s husband, a man who went to war for him, murdered at war, a very heinous act. This evil action is not excused by the fact that BethSheba was the daughter of his enemy, but it is explained. *še·ḇa‘ שֶׁ֥בַע
I’m not sure why a basic fact so obvious had to be discovered by me like it was some sort of secret, but regardless, there it is. Perhaps someone wanted to change BathShebas, and thus Solomon’s, race? Still, BathSheba was the daughter of Sheba, Davids enemy, and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
BathSheba is important to mention, as the Lord spoke through Nathan the Prophet, saying thus:
“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.” Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.
Yet another prophecy inherited and fulfilled by Christ, the Son of God, fulfilling the role of the Son of Man. The prophecy “the sword shall never depart from thine house,” means essentially “strife will never cease among your descendants,” as house was used to show descendants, as for example “House of David” is used throughout the Bible. The wives of all the men mentioned would be known by all well educated Jews, but there is not any part of the New Testament that is by accident, so it’s important we contemplate just why these four wives were mentioned out of all the wives.
The meaning of “The Son of Man” self-designation is not given in the Wikipedia “Son of Man” text, nor anywhere else on the internet that I can discern. This is sad, since it’s self-evident.
There are so many basic, central concepts in the New Testament that are self-evident in the text itself, that are not discussed nor shared anywhere else. That is why you need to read the New Testament for yourself, and I promise you will not regret it. You do not need to read the Old Testament to read the New Testament – in fact, we have a great explanation elsewhere on this website as to why it’s better to read the New Testament first before proceeding to the Old Testament. This will cut your initial reading time into 1/6th, and I promise it’s a superb and enlightening book that is essential to you as a Christian. Regardless, I hope you now understand that as Christ died, all the ancient prophecies, blessings and curses died with him.
Now that we have talked about all the prophecies, blessings and curses fulfilled by Christ, here is a selection of quotes by and about Christ himself, as the Son of Man designation is used in the New Testament. These are provided in no particular order, so that you can read through and judge for yourself the meaning and context of the designation. Every instance of the Son of Man designation in the New Testament:
If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” – Matthew 12
When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. – Matthew 10
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” – Matthew 11
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” – Matthew 8
But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” – Matthew 9
Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. – Matthew 12
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. – Matthew 12
He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. – Matthew 13
The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. – Matthew 13
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” – Matthew 16
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. – Matthew 16
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” – Matthew 16
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” – Matthew 17
But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” – Matthew 17
When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. – Matthew 17
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. – Matthew 19
“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death – Matthew 20
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20
For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. – Matthew 24
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. – Matthew 24
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. – Matthew 24
and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. – Matthew 24
So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. – Matthew 24
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. – Matthew 25