What did Jesus mean when he called himself the “Son of Man”?


According to our best evidence Jesus’ favourite self-designation was that of the “Son of Man” (bar enasha). In fact, such could well leave one to assume that Jesus was just a man or at least that is what Jesus was saying, but that isn’t the case. Jesus applies the Son of Man title in affirmation of a being prophesied in Daniel 7 of the Old Testament. Scholar Ben Witherington explains that “This son of man figure is given power and authority over all peoples and he is said to be worshipped by all peoples, In addition it is said that his dominion or kingdom will be forever” (1). Scholar Dan Wallace provides a fair examination of the title:

“The title “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite way to describe himself; it refers to a human being, much the same as the phrase “son of Mike” would refer to a child of Mike. However, we aren’t dealing with a matter of either human or transcendent as the title implies. For in Daniel 7, the Son of Man rides the clouds. In the Hebrew Scriptures riding the clouds is something only God does—or something foreign gods are described as doing (Ex. 14:20; 34:5; Num. 10:34; Ps. 104:3; Isa. 19:1). In other words, this human figure is unique in his possession of characteristics that reflect the transcendent divine. Jesus as the Anointed One, the Christ, represents both God and man” (2).

This is what Jesus referred to himself as, as Witherington outlines: “This phrase is found in all the source layers of the Gospels whether we think of distinctively Markan, Lukan, Matthean, or Johannine material, or even in the sayings source that Luke and Matthew seem to have both drawn upon. By the criteria of multiple attestations this phrase has the highest claims to have been spoken by Jesus of Himself and used frequently” (3). According to New Testament historian Mike Licona: “Jesus mentions the words Son Of Man 14 times in Mark. It is crystal clear on how he refers to himself. Some ambiguity exists 3 times when he mentions Son Of Man.”

Thus Jesus’ use of the title “Son of Man” would suggest that he thought of himself as more than just a human. Jesus thought that he would judge the world on the last day, receive worship, and who will rule for eternity in Heaven.


1. Witherington, B. Did Jesus Believe He Was the Son of Man? Available.

2. Wallace, D. 2010. Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ.

3. Witherington, B. Ibid.

One response to “What did Jesus mean when he called himself the “Son of Man”?

  1. Pingback: 8 quick differences between the Buddha and Jesus. | Historical Jesus studies.·

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