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What is the "Son of Man" in Mark 2:23-28

Was Jesus referring to himself, and if so in what sense?

  • 16 October 2015
  • Author: Scott Cherry
  • Number of views: 3698
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Mark 2:23-28
"One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples 
began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him:how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

1) This passage is also a narrative (as many other passages in the gospels are). his one also contains a teaching from Jesus with a self-identification that is a central element to this teaching and many others in the gospels.

2) What is Jesus's self-identification here? After all, in this passage he does not say "I am" this or that in the first person; rather he refers to the "Son of Man" in the second person [which I took the liberty to interpret in the brackets]. Is this justified? Who really is this "Son of Man" in this text (and others)? Here we must look for clues in the text itself, but it is not as clear as one might like it to be. Then we remind ourselves that ancient literature has ancient forms of expression and we accept that. Still, there are two possibilities: 1) Jesus was referring to himself, or 2) Jesus was referring to humanity. At least one person I know believes "Son of Man" refers to the latter, and indeed the phrase is used that way in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament; so this is not unreasonable But then another principle of interpretation comes to mind: comparison. We can look through the gospels to see whether Jesus used this term in other places, and of so, if any of those are less ambiguous. I used Blue Letter Bible too accomplish this: (http://bit.ly/1VMui8I) When we do that we find a whole lot more times where Jesus used this term, 78 by my count to be exact (though some are duplicates). One of them, for example, is in the same chapter of Mark, v. 10, and it IS less ambiguous, clearly referring to Jesus himself (even my friend acknowledged that). When I looked at all the remaining 76 usages of this term by Jesus, he plainly used ALL of them to refer to himself (or at least the vast majority). Conclusion 1: "Son of Man" in Mark 2:28 must refer to Jesus himself by virtue of the weight of comparison. In other words, it would be entirely inconsistent for this one usage of "Son of Man" to refer to humanity when all the others obviously refer to Jesus. Following the gospels there are four other passages using this term--in Acts, Hebrews and two in Revelation, three of which plainly refer to Christ (and/or whomever was prophesied in Daniel 7--Jesus.) Conclusion: Jesus was Lord of the Sabbath, nothing short of a divine appellation.

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