Son of Man

Jesus called himself (in Aramaic) the Son of Man. Surely he was taking that title from the books of Daniel and Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible.

  1. What does the title Son of Man mean?
  2. What does it mean to different readers of English translations of the Bible?
  3. If it has little, if any, meaning to many readers, should they be taught the biblical meaning, or should we translate with English words that communicate meaning to more people (but may lack some of the original Hebraic meaning), as the new CEB translation does using “the Human One” for “Son of Man”)?

50 thoughts on “Son of Man

  1. John Hobbins says:

    Hi Wayne,

    I commented on this before, and argued that it’s best to retain “Son of Man.”

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/11/the-common-english-bible-a-roundup-of-posts-and-some-critical-notes.html

    Phrases like “the abomination of desolation” and “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” count as technical terms or language in code, one cannot easily dispense with them any more than one can dispense with “Christ” and “John the Baptist,” both of which CEB mercifully keeps.

  2. Helgi says:

    Having read both Maurice Casey’s treatment of the problem and some of Geza Vermes’ stuff, can we be that sure?

    bar'(a)nosh was obviously a much used phrase, was it really peculiar enough to be seen as a technical term? It is to us, to whom it is a novel, since we don’t use it in our daily language.

    I think the best argument for retaining the phrase would be by saying that the gospel writers are using it as a technical term, in at least a few instances. The problem is deciding when, and if, Jesus used it like that.
    If Jesus didn’t always use the phrase like that, should we always translate it like that?

  3. jkgayle says:

    Jesus called himself (in Aramaic) the Son of Man.

    It’s difficult to presume to know what Jesus himself might have said that referred back, presumably, to some Hebrew. Was it בן–אדם (ben-adam)? Was it בן–אנוש (ben-enosh)? Did he himself say some variant of בר–אנוש (something like bar-anosh)? as Helgi asks.

    John Hobbins’s proposal that we keep English biblish has to ignore the good question that Helgi asks. We don’t know that Jesus said anything like “Son of Man” that is so ossified in our Anglo-religious traditions. I’m going to have to add that it’s a masculinist tradition too, one that has allowed, preserved, and perpetuates sexism.

    What we do have from Jesus is his followers’ Greek translation of what he said.

    In Luke 24:7, for example, the writer/translator is having an angel speaking to a woman, translating what Jesus said about himself, in Greek:

    τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου

    Luke, because he’s writing for a Greek reader or two, is very careful with the gendered implications of their language.

    Note how Willis Barnstone renders Luke’s Greek at 24:7 as follows:

    The earthly son

    Barnstone is a Greek scholar, who is a Jew, intent on letting the writers of the New Testament say (in Barnstone’s English) what they’ve intended to say in their Jewish Greek.

    In addition, note how Ann Nyland render’s Luke’s Greek at 24:7 as follows:

    The Human Being

    Nyland is also a Greek scholar, who is intent on looking at Greek meanings of antiquity that have flavored the writing, translating, and reading of the New Testament in the first century. She’s also a woman, who knows that ἄνθρωπος and especially ἀνθρωποι refers to humans in contrast with God or the gods. Human beings and gods, as we all know, were both male and female. Luke certainly makes this clear with his Greek:

    http://speakeristic.blogspot.com/2009/09/mother-mary-anthropos.html

  4. Mike Sangrey says:

    In my opinion, The Ideal Human works quite well.

    I think John Hobbin’s statement of the original being a technical term is probably correct. Though I also think this understanding does not necessarily argue for a word-for-word rendering. So far the suggestions above capitalize the words. Capitalization might be all that is needed to generate the “technical term” sense within the mind of the reader.

    As support for my suggested rendering, I’ll point out that frequently the term “ο υιος του ανθρωπου” is used within a context where human beings are being judged. The Ideal Human would be qualified, as it were, to perform such a task (not that God does not have that right). Matthew 25:31ff is one of many such examples.

    If the translation is positioned for an audience expected to gain an understanding of the “son of” idioms, then a transparent translation would be appropriate. The helps that go with the translation need to make clear, however, that this idiom processing skill, and many others, are required in order to gain an accurate understanding of the translated text.

    On the other hand, if the translation is geared for the normal reader, then nothing is gained by translating in such a way that additional instruction is needed to communicate what the text actually means.

  5. Doug Chaplin says:

    I agree with retention, although I question whether it is a technical term rather than a studied ambiguity.

    I note, however, that even in asking the question you reveal something of the problem by saying “Jesus called himself (in Aramaic) the Son of Man”. By choosing to include the definite article you have already made a significant interpretative choice for your translation. That would be fair in most cases as a translation of the Greek, but as a statement about the Aramaic is much more questionable.

  6. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>What does the title Son of Man mean?

    First of all, I don’t consider it a given that Jesus spoke Aramaic, though if he did, then we should all be more concerned with the Aramaic NT. The fine points of Greek are moot.

    Secondly, if the Greek NT is one’s central concern in their study, then the Hebrew OT is just going to be confusing and misleading. The text of concern would be the LXX. And that is my current focus.

    So “son of man”… in Greek, is an idiom that maps very well to our “human being,” though it would be my strong preference to translate as “son of man” or “son of mankind” and put a footnote that says “this means “human being.” The point is that the promised one was a human – not a god or an angel.

    >>>What does it mean to different readers of English translations of the Bible?

    Prolly everything but what it actually connotes.

    >>>If it has little, if any, meaning to many readers, should they be taught the biblical meaning, or should we translate with English words that communicate meaning to more people (but may lack some of the original Hebraic meaning), as the new CEB translation does using “the Human One” for “Son of Man”)?

    In practical terms, either way is acceptable. Either translate literally and provide a footnote, or translate it idiomatically and provide a footnote. Translation requires a great deal of compromise and accommodation, which is fine, as long as you provide full disclosure of the compromises made, and why. This is why I love the Net Bible and the Anchor Bible.

  7. John Hobbins says:

    Hi Mike,

    You say:

    “if the translation is geared for the normal reader, then nothing is gained by translating in such a way that additional instruction is needed to communicate what the text actually means.”

    I respectfully disagree. In that case, Jesus was wrong, not only to use technical language like the “abomination of desolation,” a set phrase in more than one way – “Son of Man” is a possible example – but he was wrong to tell parables, too.

    Parables virtually cry out for interpretation. A lot of communication is meant to start a conversation, not end it. Translations that explain everything and fill in the holes typical of ordinary discourse don’t seem to get this.

  8. Gary Simmons says:

    1. It is either a generic self-reference* or a specific reference to the Son of Man in Daniel — the Descendant of Adam who is apparently very important for some reason.
    2. I wouldn’t know. I am just one reader.
    3. I think your word choice with “biblical meaning” makes it a leading question, Wayne. I believe we should retain the phrase Son of Man, or perhaps use “Descendant of Adam” or something. The phrase is inherently cryptic and it is an apocalyptic phrase. Apocalyptic writing is inherently cryptic. If we render this in a way that communicates more meaning but loses part of the Hebraic meaning, then we’re not being true to the fact that the terminology is inherently unclear.

    As part of my translation philosophy: “The Bible isn’t always clear, so I don’t have to always be clear.” I would say that a general translation today should be made to retain the Hebraic meaning.

    *Or so says one of my old professors, Curt Niccum. Since I’m not familiar with Aramaic, I’m just parroting this. However, if this is true and his words could be interpreted as just a self-reference (= “I”), then how could we capture this ambiguity? I don’t think we can.

  9. codepoke says:

    After reading Nyland, it seems Jesus is trying to identify Himself as a member of humanity. It’s been very illuminating to have that opened up to me, and I welcome any translation that can bring me into such insights.

  10. Dru Brooke-Taylor says:

    I’d be uncomfortable with ‘the Ideal Human’ because I have problems with the word ‘ideal’. Apart from republishing the scriptures in Platonic terms, ‘ideal’ links in peoples’ minds to ‘idealism’ and that not a useful concept.

  11. Diego Santos says:

    1 – Problably “Human descendant” is a more accurate translation to English than “Son of Man”.

    2 – I’ve already asked to friends about the meaning of this term and they say that is the same as “Son of God” of just another title of Christ. It seems that the most of them don’t realize the connection where “Son of Man” is used in the Old and the New Testaments.

    3 – I don’t have a conclusive opinion about that.

  12. David A Booth says:

    1. I believe that Jesus has a two-Adam Christology and the expression calls us to reflect on both His relationship to the first Adam and to the glorious figure in Daniel.
    2. One of the most common views that I have heard, from people with no formal training in the Bible, is that “Son of Man” is a term of humility. It is helpful to remember how many Western Christians start with a Johanine Christology.
    3. We are all stuck with the fact that translation involves interpretaion. In translations that are narrowly focused the translator should give relatively free reign to his or her interpretive decisions (I prefer “Son of Adam”). Nevertheless, given the lack of consensus regarding the meaning of this expression – it is better to retain “Son of Man” in any attempt to translate an entire Bible which is intended to be widely used.

  13. Mike Sangrey says:

    John,

    I’m not suggesting we “fill in holes of ordinary discourse.” I understand you to mean that I’m suggesting we explicate everything. I’m not. Perhaps I’m understanding you to say, “fill in ordinary holes in discourse.” And maybe that’s misunderstanding you. There are holes in any discourse, even ones intended to start dialogs. Legal discourse seeks to explicate everything and yet there are still court cases needed to make the final determination. I think these “holely” dialogs are especially important when seeking to understand and put into practice what the Bible says.

    However, I think there needs to be a line drawn–a difficult line to draw, I’ll admit that–but a line nonetheless which should not be a wide swath of a “line”. This line is between meaning intentionally triggered by the original text delivered within the original context and meaning made explicit by a modern text which wasn’t ever there in the first place.

    The Son of Man is a good example.

    The vast majority of people who thread those words through their eyes simply think of it as a title that highlights Jesus as human. If that’s it’s meaning, then I’m perfectly comfortable with, and I would even argue for, that rendering.

    But, I think the meaning is more than that. I think the Hebraic concept expressed by “son of…” comes into play. The mind of a modern audience member is not tuned to process that Hebraic meaning when it reads the phrase “son of…”.

  14. Mike Sangrey says:

    Dru, I’m not following you. By Idealism are you referring to ideas are the only reality from philosophy?

  15. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…1. I believe that Jesus has a two-Adam Christology and the expression calls us to reflect on both His relationship to the first Adam and to the glorious figure in Daniel…

    The son of man (human) is contrasted in Daniel with the beasts that precede him.

  16. trierr says:

    A couple thoughts. First, if “son of man” comes from Daniel, it would not be obvious that it means “ideal human”. That’s an interpretive choice, but by no means an obvious one. However, there is another interesting translation question here; one which seems to be absent from the discussion.

    If we presume that Jesus did not regularly speak Greek as he taught in his travels around Judea, then we can suggest, as Professor Gayle has, that he spoke either Aramaic or Hebrew. The question is, however, when the evangelists wrote the Gospels, why did they not translate this phrase, “son of man” from the Aramaic or Hebrew into something idiomatic for their hearers? There are plenty of places where they did just that (e.g. Matt 5:18 where it is highly unlikely that Jesus referred to the Greek letter iota).

    It would appear that the Gospel writers found the expression meaningful in itself, otherwise they would have translated it into something more meaningful to their audiences. However, since they did not, and since we have to make some pretty big interpretive leaps to do so ourselves, we should follow the lead of the evangelists and translate it quite literally ourselves.

    This would not really be a case of a special Christian language, such as justification and propitiation. This is a case of a title that was apparently self-consciously used by Jesus and is recorded consistently in all four Gospels. It would make far more sense to translate the Greek for “Christ” since most people (both inside and outside the church) tend to use it as almost a last name for Jesus and we miss the connotations of what it means to be anointed.

  17. Dru Brooke-Taylor says:

    Mike, oh dear, where do I start and how do I restrain myself from leaping on a high horse and galloping off in a direction that is not what Wayne’s post is about?

    The term ‘Ideal Human’ could under some circumstances represent a useful Christian idea, but a quite different one from what I assume Son of Man to mean. If we say, Jesus was the perfect person and we should aspire to be like him, that is good and wholesome, though it isn’t the whole gospel. But I don’t think that’s what Son of Man is about.

    That would be translating one phrase by another which expresses an idea that could be found somewhere else in scripture but not there.

    If, though we say that Jesus was a platonic ideal for humanity, that implies that he did not physically exist, that he only had a perfect existence in some heavenly realm and what the disciples saw was merely a representation of him. That ticks the box for a large number of early heresies.

    As for idealism itself, that’s a word that is used vaguely in popular speech. It’s often difficult to ascertain what people mean by it. But its pernicious effect is where people have an ideal in their mind ‘the perfect church’, ‘true Calvinism’, ‘how our town should be planned’, ‘what VAT is supposed to deliver for the economy and why this is a good thing’, ‘the free market’, ‘true socialism’. They then bend reality to fit their ideal, because the ideal must be a good thing, irrespective of the consequences.

    IMHO that is a major contributor to the worst sort of dogmatism, something that is either stupid, dangerous or both.

    But this is getting quite a long way from Wayne’s questions.

  18. Mike Sangrey says:

    trierr,

    Thank you for your response. JKGayle has given the same response a number of times (which is to refer to you as a son of a JKGayle, and that is a compliment). I’ll put this too simplistically, but the argument is essentially this: If the original author translated literally, then we should, too. It got me thinking. And I always appreciate observations of the data, especially ones that make me pause. I don’t think JKGayle has been adequately answered. I doubt I’ll reach the summit here and now, but I’d like to offer the following.

    I think it is an excellent academic question to consider (and I’m not being facetious): why is it that in some cases the original author’s translations formally match what was very likely the actual original and in some cases why isn’t it? It’s academic in the sense that scholarship needs to continue to pursue an understanding of this data. And only academia can find the answer. The answer won’t be found out in the field or as a result of segmented marketing. Linguistic research is needed.

    But, I think it is way too soon to draw the conclusion JKGayle and you have suggested. That is, that the audience had to recognize the alleged formally equivalent nature of the text, and thereby cognitively jump into the other, presumably foreign, language while keeping the forms of their own language. It seems to me that it is just as likely that the original audience understood the meaning quite clearly through sufficient exposure in normal, communication exchanges outside of the text. That is, the text was not their sole source for the expression. I’ll agree it certainly wasn’t part of the local chit chat at Antioch’s SouthEnd Inn. But I doubt it was esoteric or even mysterious to the normal, somewhat thoughtful human being.

    It seems to me to argue against me one would need to produce not one but two ancient, mother tongue speakers: one who spoke koine Greek and another who spoke the actual original language (probably Aramaic in most cases). It seems to me we have now more than doubled our difficulty since we also have to get these two native speakers to talk to each other, hash out the meaning of the expression in the different languages, and then tell us the best choice is actually Greekamaic (or perhaps Aragreek).

    Pardon me please, but this gives Biblish a whole new meaning. And furthermore, it just complicates things with no real solution. At least, there’s no real solution until the academics have made a clear case for Greekamaic and that people didn’t know what they were talking about, they just penned words (or read words) transferred mechanically from another language.

    I think the more likely solution is people generally understood it. Even the Caesars used the similar expression Son of God to refer to themselves.

    That brings me back to Son of Man. We know that the Hebraic phrase Son of “object” roughly means something like, “He is prototypically identical to “object”. That is not the way the average English speaker thinks of Son of “object”. In order to achieve something close to that meaning in English one needs to add the indefinite article. However, Son of a Man doesn’t convey the right meaning in English. By way of example, Son of Perdition would be more accurately rendered as Son of an eternally damned man,using the indefinite to nuance the prototypical nature of the expression.

    Does the Hebraic expression (literally rendered as) the son of the “object” give insight into the meaning of Son of Man? Answering this question, in my opinion, helps us move forward to answering Wayne’s first question.

    I think I’ve presented my case for answering Wayne’s second question.

  19. Mike Sangrey says:

    Dru, I understand, and in fact chuckled when I read your “O dear“. I agree, let’s not go down that path. 🙂 I certainly hadn’t made any connection between my use of the word ‘Ideal’ and Platonic Idealism.

    I also think there are two main ways of dealing with reader’s misunderstanding the text:
    1. Assure coherence into the translated text.
    2. Train readers in comprehension skills (which is basically the ability to “see” the coherence.)

    I don’t think a strong argument can be made to default to literalism by positing a hypothetical reader might read X and through mental association, think Y.

    We can’t push my statement too far, though. With real data, one can make a sound case against or for a specific translation choice. If (say) 75% of the people think Y, then there is a strong association between X and Y and therefore using X will lower the quality of the translation. We must do better.

    I personally think Pragmatics needs to be more often considered when translating. A favorite example you’re probably aware of is the one from Africa where robbers knock on doors to determine whether someone is home. I stand at the door and knock… is therefore a poor translation in that African context.

    In fact, it’s really Pragmatics that is driving my responses here. What did the original Son of Man mean in the original context? What does the English mean in our modern context? Are the two the same? If they are, we’re done, let’s move on. If they’re not, then how can we do better?

  20. J. K. Gayle says:

    Mike,
    Thanks for grappling with things here (in your last two comments). I’m laughing (with your first comment) also wondering where I ever said: “then we should, too.” What I’m really asking is “Why shouldn’t we translate the various ways the original translators translated?” I amused too (too your second comment) that you have so much faith in Pragmatics, which narrows the focus of language to clear, unambiguous communication.

    So, going back to the scriptures, Why not look at how Matthew and Luke translate, for example? Why is it in Matthew 4 and in Luke 4, both translators of the story of the devil tempting Jesus have the former calling the latter something like “The Son of God”? The Greek they then put in Jesus’s mouth has him being ever so unclear, evasive in a way. It’s riddling without giving away the clear punchline. What does Jesus mean by answering with ambiguity? Is he the son of “God” or is he a “human” who doesn’t live just on bread? What if Matthew and Luke made very clear to their Greek readers everything that’s going on in the text? What if they’d forced their readers not to misunderstand? Why shouldn’t translators today sometimes and often also do some of this? Doesn’t that more fundamentally and (ironically) more clearly get at the text, at its play, at its being more than just some message of information that must be conveyed as unequivocally as possible?

    Now, I’m thinking of Aristotle’s pragmatic approach in contrast to Matthew’s and Luke’s. In the Eudemian Ethics, he makes very clear the distinctions and the distinct hierarchies between husbands and wives, between gods and humans, and so forth and so on. This is the nature of things, his Greek seems to say. And Greek readers, he also insists in the Rhetoric, should avoid ambiguities. If you’ll allow me to judge, it’s very presumptive stuff; and I think more than a few historians have acknowledged how Aristotle and Plato were in a great battle over the pragmatics of Greek language when they resisted and mocked the poets, the sophists, the rhetoricians, the playwrights, and especially women who would write and speak. “Theirs is slippery stuff,” Aristotle and Plato would accuse.

    Bringing this all up to date, I think John Hobbins says it very well:

    Parables virtually cry out for interpretation.

    Parables aren’t very Pragmatic in the Aristotelian sense. Especially translated parables aren’t. (And Aristotle railed against parables too, a sort of double rant against Aesop’s use of them and against African use of them. “I stand at the door and knock” could indeed be an African parable. In my north American context, I associate this statement in English with door-to-door salespeople and with cult missionaries, but I’ll let John’s Jesus say in Greek something like ἰδοῦ ἕστηκα ἐπὶ τὴν θύραν καὶ κρούω knowing that this has many layers of meaning and not just the one the translator has decided is the one and only Pragmatic one).

  21. Mike Sangrey says:

    Gayle wrote: What I’m really asking is “Why shouldn’t we translate the various ways the original translators translated?”

    But, what if the goal this blog has been promoting is actually precisely that? What if what we’re promoting and what they did are the same?

    From my perspective you come at the text with the assumption it is unknowable. I’m quite the opposite. In fact, I not only believe it is knowable, but believe it is intended to be known. Perhaps I can be accused of placing that assumption into the minds of the original authors. But, then, so can you with your assumption. The difference will be seen in the fruit that grows from the respective translations.

    For example, take the Temptation of Jesus. Jesus’ answer appears enigmatic until one grasps the coherency structures built by Matthew, Luke, and Jesus between this wilderness experience and Israel’s. So, Jesus’ answer to the first question is a pointer (as are the others). Jesus, in effect, answers the much larger question–one both he and Israel faced. That is, “What is in your heart?” That’s what the pointer points to. See Deut. 8 (particularly verse 2). If son of… is meant to turn on a prototypical association, then one who perfectly obeys God’s revelation of himself would be prototypically like God–that is, the Son of God. Note that the concept of obedience permeates the Deut. 8 passage.

    You, and others, continue to misunderstand when we say the translator has to make the meaning clear. In that regard, these Temptation passages are a good example. The original audience would have got the connection to Deut 8 (or would have been pointed there by any self-respecting Jew). The signals would have worked.

    Would that have meant that all the detail would have come fully and immediately to mind? Of course not. The problem is the modern reader doesn’t normally get the necessity of that connection, if they are even aware of the connection. The signals don’t work. So, somehow, the modern translation needs to clearly signal that connection for them just like it was in the original. Then, as they dig into the text, building a coherent understanding of Deut 8, Luke 4, and the conceptual connections between the two, they will know the text.

    There have been Bible translators who have gone too far. Some have sought to do what I call propositionalize the text and then translate that set of propositions. I disagree with that approach. I think it removes the Pragmatic functions from the text and therefore makes the text “dry.” I think these people, as well intended as they are, have confused the destination with the signs pointing to the destination. Translators are to translate the signs. They are not to deliver the destination.

    But the signs need to be clear, or the reader won’t arrive at anywhere near the destination. Imagine what it would be like traveling if every sign said, “This might be the way to where you are going.” Or if traffic signals slowly morphed from green to red going through all the colors in between. At what point would people know to stop?[1] Or musical instruments that didn’t signal a distinct tone (to effectively quote Paul)? Would people know the song? Could they dance to the music? Imagine dancing to ambiguous static.

    Allow me to add for the benefit of other readers, that translating the signs is much more than translating the words. The signs available in each language are different between the languages. Direct replacements won’t work.


    [1] Perhaps this is a bad example. In New York the answer would be “when running over the pedestrian is unavoidable.” LOL

  22. iverlarsen says:

    The unit “the Son of Man” has been discussed many times by bible translators, and I prefer to follow the lead of Dr. Randall Buth, who is more of an expert in Hebrew and Aramaic than I am.
    His position is that Jesus used an Aramaic title in the middle of a Hebrew discourse in order to specifically point the listener to a fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14. The phrase in the NT is always definite “THE Son of Man”. He argues that it is therefore a reference to a specific context known to the original audience, allowing them to draw inferences that an English reader cannot draw when hearing “Son of Man” or “ideal human” or “the earthly son” or “the human being”. If Buth is correct, such translations lose a significant part of the intended meaning.
    However, from the context of the NT, it is clear that it is a Messianic title and therefore has the same reference but different connotation as Christ/The Anointed One.
    Buth suggested that the translation should clarify the probably intended reference to Dan 7:13-14. In the vision in Daniel, a person in Heaven is described as being like a human being without being one. If Jesus intended to have the readers think about this vision, he is also communicating indirectly that he himself is that person who was with the Ancient of Days, i.e. the Son of God who has now appeared as a human being.
    Buth’s suggestion for translation was either “that Man” (maybe with a footnote referring the reader to that person depicted in Daniel 7:13-14) or “the Man from Heaven” (to indicate that this man standing here on earth and obviously referring to himself, has come from Heaven where he used to be with the Ancient of Days).
    We tried “Person from Above” in our Sabaot translation, and many people liked it, but we finally had to bow to tradition and keep the fairly meaningless and potentially misleading “Son of a Person”. The pressure from the tradition of literal and uncommunicative translations was simply too great. The only option left was to explain in the glossary the background for this Messianic title.
    Similarly in the Danish version we decided to keep the traditional title “The Son of human being”, because it is too entrenched in Biblical tradition. We then explained the background in footnotes.
    The phrase “son of man” in Psalm 8:5 and Ezekiel 2:1 etc is very different. The Hebrew ben adam is simply a reference to a human being with some emphasis on the aspect of humanness. Greek υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου. That is quite different from “The Son of Man” as a Messianic title, a difference that is often not understood.

  23. J. K. Gayle says:

    Buth suggested that the translation should clarify the probably intended reference to Dan 7:13-14… from the context of the NT, it is clear that it is a Messianic title and therefore has the same reference but different connotation as Christ/The Anointed One.

    What may be more clear to translators like Robert Alter, Willis Barnstone, David Rosenberg, and George Steiner, all Jews, none Christians, is that this sort of logic, this clarity of Buth’s suggestion is “part of the common assertion of the superiority of the New Testament over the Old Testament, and of the New Testament God over the Old Testament God, of new covenant over old covenant, and therefore of Christian over Jew” (Barnstone, Poetics of Translation). As we all know, Barnstone has written much on “Yeshua ben Yosef passing as Jesus Christ” (We Jews and Blacks). In commentary on his translation of the New Testament, Barnstone offers the following notes related to Jesus Christ and to Son of Man. These notes are from pages 24-26 of Barnstone’s New Covenant:
    ———

    In the same way that anti-Semitism cannot be glossed over by euphemism or alteration of the text [of the NT], so, too, the intentional male language, reflecting habits of bigotry toward women, cannot also be eliminated without falsifying these unfriendly intentions in the text. I have diminished [in English translation] the preponderance of male-gender speech where the [NT] Greek does not demand a male interpretation. An example of misleading male biased translation is to confuse anthropos (ἄνθρωπος), “human being” or “person,” with aner, andros (ἀνήρ, ἀνδρός), the normal word for “man.” Anthropos means human being in Greek without reference to gender (though in Greek, too, some people assume that all human beings are men)….

    The word anthropos also brings us to a [set of] key theological and literary word problems of the New Covenant. What do we do with the phrase Son of Man? In Greek, the phrase ho huios tou anthropou (ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) (Matt. 12.8) was not a negation of women, since it actually means “son of a human being,” probably as opposed to a divine being. Ho huios tou anthropou definitely does not and cannot mean “Son of Man,” its prevalent translation, for that mistranslates the word anthropou, which, as said, means a human being, a person, humanity, and not restrictively a man. If one insists on one gender, “son of woman” would be a more logical translation in order to indicate, as apparently intended, that Yeshua is a human being born of a mother as opposed to a god or God. What “man,” or more reverently “Man,” means is a favorite theological discourse. The capitalization in English (not in Greek) adds another mystery to the English translation. I have few solutions, none satisfactory, since as in all translation of multivalent words, one choice of meaning excludes another.

    Given that the primary meaning of ho huios tou anthropou is “the son of a person who is human,” a human being, as opposed to a divine essence, it is probable that the Greek phrase came, as Geza Verms suggests in Jesus the Jew (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), 163-168, either from Jewish Aramaic bar nasha, “son of a person,” or hahu gabra, “that man,” as a simple circumlocution or expression for “an Israelite from Palestine.” Or huios tou anthropou could carry its full messianic title, as in the famous source passage in Daniel 7.13. In the King James Version we have:

    I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven.

    and in the New Revised Standard Version:

    I saw one like a human being
    coming with the clouds of heaven.

    As for where the meaning belongs in every appearance–between simple synecdoche for “son of man and woman,” where the one represents the whole, or whether it has its more mysterious meaning of the forecast messiah in Daniel, Enoch, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and elsewhere–that is the provenance of secondary writing. The problem is to find a solution for the text that is not stylistically crude and that rejects the unacceptable “son of man.” “Son of a human” is awkward, and “son of the people” may evoke a political coloring of Red Square. While translation of connotative material is and should be as imperfect as it is rich, here the imperfection of the translation is especially troubling, since the phrase in question is key. I have settled on changing the adjectival genitive tou anthropou (τοῦ ἀνθρώπου), “son of people,” to a simple preceding adjective. “Earthly son” seems a good way of indicating that Yeshua is a human being (which is the literal meaning of anthropou) as opposed to “heavenly son” or “divine son.”

  24. Iver Larsen says:

    Randall Buth assumed that the Gospel rendering “Son of person” reflected Aramaic bar nasha, and if this was said within a Hebrew speech, it should lead the hearer to remember the same phrase in the Aramaic text of Daniel 7:13 rather than the Hebrew ben adam.
    Obviously, a Christian and a non-Messianic Jew will have a different perspective on the NT, the new covenant and Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. Saul of Tarsus had a very different perspective before and after his experience on the road to Damascus. I cannot see how that results in any superiority of a Christian over a Jew or vice versa.

    That the English word “man” has changed from meaning a human being in general to a male does pose a problem for the traditional “Son of Man”, but that is peculiar to the English language. I don’t think there is a satisfactory solution in English. the background can be explained in (foot)notes.

  25. J. K. Gayle says:

    Obviously, a Christian and a non-Messianic Jew will have a different perspective on the NT, the new covenant and Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. Saul of Tarsus had a very different perspective before and after his experience on the road to Damascus. I cannot see how that results in any superiority of a Christian over a Jew or vice versa.

    Iver,
    Thank you very much for saying this! The assumptions that the NT writings are non-Jewish, that Paul is writing to 21st century anglo centric Catholic and/ or post-Reformation Protestant Christians, that Jesus himself is somehow a Christ-ian “obviously” and a Messianic Jew called “the Christ” prevent even well-meaning Bible translating Christian linguists from seeing “how” those very assumptions project an attitude of “superiority of a Christian over a Jew.” The Pragmatics that Mike is so insistent on completely ignores Jewish perspectives for the very reason that they are, well, Jewish. If Hebraists and Hellene and language scholars such as Alter, Barnstone, Rosenberg, and Steiner fail to be “Messianic Jews” at least if not Christians in the goyish traditions, then, well, they must be brothers with the Christian-murdering Saul of Taursus, who finally got straightened out. To presume to know that the NT writers and translators, the LXX translators, and the MT text editors had mainly Christian intentions is very presumptuous indeed. Mike has said of me, in comments above: “you come at the text with the assumption it is unknowable.” The he uses oppositional language to set up his position of Pragmatics, as if it’s somehow more objective: “I’m quite the opposite. In fact, I not only believe it is knowable, but believe it is intended to be known.” I would only agree with Mike’s statement of my agnosticism here to the degree that I think the texts of the Bible are unknowable entirely if only known through Catholic and post-Reformation Protestant interpretations. There is a both a traditional Roman Catholic and also an evangelical Christian missionary zeal that wants to reduce the texts of the Bible (including phrases like “Christ” and “Son of Man”) to a certain and undeniable essential message that must be got by the unchurched or, otherwise, the lost and damned. This “Good News” inherently stands apart and above the Jews. Its such pragmatics that presume “the destination with the signs pointing to the destination” and that circumscribe the role of translation to something, to one thing, that the first Jewish translators of their scriptures were never ever limited to.

    If we all, talking here at the blog, were women, and were Jews, and were non-Messianic Jews, then I think we would easily see why Barnstone talks of “anti-Semitism” and “habits of bigotry toward women” in the same sentence. Appeals to “Natural English” as the L2 for bible translation and to “Relevance Theory” (i.e., Pragmatics) do not eliminate our biases, our Christian and anglo centricisms, our historical racisms, or our present-day sexisms. I think we don’t like listening to Barnstone, who is saying things like this:

    “A deeper infidelity in Bible translation goes undetected, however. For although it is assumed that the felony of contemporary Bible translators is literary insensitivity, mediocrity, or overliteralism, few people realize that from earliest Bible translation to the present there has only been the appearance of literalism [for accuracy’s sake, of course] . . . The translations of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Scriptures, consciously or not, are similar to the controlled news information in authoritarian states. In other words, license (register c) and extreme freedom has been applied to Bible translations, yet passed off as literalism (register a). There is nothing uncommon about a misalliance of theory and practice, of intention and realization. The gap between proclaimed intention and realization in regard to Bible translation is extreme, however.”

  26. Mike Sangrey says:

    The Pragmatics that Mike is so insistent on completely ignores Jewish perspectives for the very reason that they are, well, Jewish

    I’m scratching my head here. I can’t see how one can arrive at that connection.

    Perhaps it’s just because I think the message itself is what the message is no matter who reads it, myself included. The form(s) which form how that message is conveyed will differ from language to language, from time to time, even audience to audience, but the message is the same. If I read that message in a translation, and it’s an accurate rendering of that message, and I have a problem with that message, then I believe the problem is with me, not the message. If that implies an arrogance in the message, then there’s nothing that can be done. The message is what the message is. If it implies an arrogance in me, well, then there is a route out from that place.

    Or, to put it simply, I’m not a postmodernist. The meaning is central.

    So, I would have said that one must consider Pragmatics in order to communicate the message to a Jewish perspective for the very reason that they are, well, Jewish. Pragmatics, contrary to what you suggest, shows a respect for the reader. Like some of the Jews of the first century (obviously not all), they might not like what the message says, but a translator respectfully considering the linguistic and cognitive context which the Jew brings to the discussion table, both then and now, is certainly part of what I’m saying when I refer to Pragmatics.

    You make an important point, though, about arrogance in the message bearer, of which the translator forms a part. There can be an arrogance in the modern reader (say, me, for example) or analyst or translator. I think it would be quite healthy for Bible translating Christian linguists (and many others) to thoughtfully consider how Christian history has changed our understanding of the original message. In fact, I think it is an imperative. We understand that message through many lenses, one on top of another, and thus there are distortions. Pragmatics provides one such tool to remove those lenses. Our not testing our current understanding against the source is a form of arrogance (a superiority attitude), albeit generally a passive one (which makes it all the more dangerous by its being unnoticed).[1]

    This is one of the reasons I bring up Pragmatics. We need to understand the “connections” between the original message and the socio-linguistic context of that time. Having applied Pragmatics to the then, we can now apply it to the now. Applying it to the then should enable a clearer understanding of the message. Applying it to the now should enable a better understanding of how to convey that same message today.

    Obviously, this is not postmodern thinking: Again, the meaning of the original is central.

    Lastly, allow me to add that I believe a person’s biases–which they bring to the text–are only inviolable when the biases are protected with a shield of pride. The original message in its original socio-linguistic context is authoritative. Years ago a dear friend said to me (this was in the context of the virgin birth, no less), “I hold on to these truths tenaciously…with an open hand. Frankly, I’m willing to rethink everything but the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the empty tomb (simply considered). I wouldn’t know who I was if those three disappeared from human history. One’s biases are part of our Pragmatic landscape (they are part of our context, are they not?). I’ve said elsewhere that it is the development of unity of the body which will minimize the self-centered nature of our biases. Arrogance and unity are diametrical opposites. So, biases can be dealt with. But, they form a difficult, individualistic and systemic problem. A post-modern viewpoint, by decentralizing the meaning, leaves no way out of one’s biases. Pragmatics, however, offers a way to connect back to the original the many places meaning needs to land.

    That’s a bit far afield from Son of Man. I felt I needed to “set the record straight”. And I pray I’ve done so in a respectful way to anyone potentially affected by this blog.


    [1] A good example of this attitude, in my opinion, would be for a Christian to tell a serious minded, committed Jew that they are trying to “earn their salvation.” That understandably makes no sense to the Jew. IMO, that “Christian” viewpoint comes from the Reformation and bifurcates faith and faithfulness, something PISTIS does not do.

  27. jkgayle says:

    A post-modern viewpoint, by decentralizing the meaning, leaves no way out of one’s biases. Pragmatics, however, offers a way to connect back to the original the many places meaning needs to land. That’s a bit far afield from Son of Man. I felt I needed to “set the record straight”. And I pray I’ve done so in a respectful way to anyone potentially affected by this blog…. IMO, that “Christian” viewpoint comes from the Reformation and bifurcates faith and faithfulness, something PISTIS does not do.

    Mike, Thank you for saying these things! The most important bit you identify in my excerpt of your comment above is “bifurcates.” The metaconversation (methodology and approach discussion) around and above “Son of Man” is key. I’m very surprised that you keep dissing pomo in opposition to pragmatics, which is a bifurcation itself. You also use bifurcational, oppositional language when talking about me, and about you as a proponent of Pragmatics. One refreshing thing about pomo is that it deals bravely with such bifurcations. Antimodernists, before the likes of Baudrillard, Cixous, Derrida, Deleuse, Foucault, Leyotard, and other postmodernists, were just as brave. I’m thinking of C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Joy Davidman, and others — all Christians I want to add — who would resist the bifurcations of pragmatics. But this whole discussion is much older. There are very Pragmatic aspects to Plato’s and Aristotle’s epistemologies, their reductions of language to mere communication. They were, as we seem to have to keep noticing, very resistant to more subjective and to richer uses of language. They saw the entire Greek notion of Logos as akin to sophistry, to the dissoi logoi, which seemed like cultural relativism that is a “decentralizing [of] the meaning.” Aristotle’s developments, his bifurcations of logic from rhetoric, from sophistry, from parable, from hyperbole, from hyperphysics (i.e., the supernatural), from (pre-post-modern) dialectic, from anything akin to feminisms, from any womanly discourse, from non-Greek, from African discourse, from non-AkaDemik logic, etc. — these are the bifurcational predecessors to Gutt’s bible-translational, relevance theory. When you read Mark, the gospel translator and writer, a Jew I must add, then you hear Greek that is resistant to Aristotelean pragmatics. Mark sounds much more like the Jews in Alexandria Egypt, whom Naomi Seidman say have resisted the call to translate the Hebrew scriptures pragmatically. In her Faithful renderings: Jewish-Christian difference and the politics of translation, Seidman points readers to a Talmudic history of the LXX translators. It’s an “early Jewish counterhistory of Christianity [a stark contrast to the Church Patristic history],” which views God and the LXX translators as being rather political. Not at all translating by means of pragmatics, if they cleverly appear, under Greek and Egyptian orders, to do so. Mark is a Jew in this vein of Greek writing too; his Jesus sounds very much like Gorgias, the Greek sophist. You remember how Gorgias wrote a four-part defense of Helen of Troy; and of course you understand how Jesus tells a four-part parable in Mark. Mark’s Jewish Jesus is telling (in Mark 4) a key to understanding the wordplay, the riddle. It’s a parable of parables. Mark has the Jewish apprentices of this Joshua puzzling over the fable, insisting on its pragmatic interpretation. Funny, as Hobbins points out, the story begs for them to interpret. And yet they want to be told what the real meaning must be. Jesus concedes, but it’s hardly a direct or pragmatic answer, to say the least. C. S. Lewis gets this, and so does George Steiner. They say that Jesus, in such translated contexts, has layers of meanings that speak to the marginalized in no-so-straightforward ways. Perhaps Jesus doesn’t even understand all that they get, in proper interpretation. What does Matthew’s Jesus mean when he says (never in Hebrew Aramaic that we’ll ever hear) to other Jews that Humanity’s Child doesn’t have a place to lay His head? And then Matthew has him laying his head on a cushion in a boat and falling asleep? This silent and sleeping Jesus is, as Hobbins said it, begs for interpretation. He does not, will not, maybe cannot, tell you exactly what is originally meant in some Aristotelian pragmatic way. The role of the translators, of the readers also as translator, is key. The problem of bifurcation is that it presumes objectivity, that my own perspective is the real ideal one, that all others must be corrected because they are still outside and below.

  28. Wayne Leman says:

    Kurk wrote:

    The Pragmatics that Mike is so insistent on completely ignores Jewish perspectives for the very reason that they are, well, Jewish.

    Kurk, my impression is that Mike was talking about pragmatics which is an important branch of linguistics, one which Ken Pike strongly believed in because pragmatics includes context, unlike semantics. Pike strongly believed that language was a subset of human behavior (sorry, I’ve still got the book for you on my desk pile!). He believed, correctly IMO, that Chomsky and others were wrong, who disconnected language from its human context.

    You are absolutely correct that we must take into account the Jewish context, the Jewish mindset of the New Testament authors if we stand any chance of understanding what they tried to communicate to their audiences. And I have known Mike for enough years to know that he believes the same thing.

    Are we defining pragmatics the same way? What is your understanding of what pragmatics is?

  29. J. K. Gayle says:

    Thank you, Wayne. I should say that Pike is one of my teachers, a profoundly influential one. Elsewhere, I’ve noted some of the issues he was working through later in his life, even with some of us in a seminar he taught, on Tagmemics: http://speakeristic.blogspot.com/2008/02/pikes-pickles.html

    By and large, the bible translation that Pike was so a part of has now sadly and to their detriment abandoned his teachings. To squeeze out of them somehow that he taught Pragmatics is to focus narrowly on a small set of issues he had when working through his Tagmemics. By Pragmatics, I mean Paul Grice’s conception of it; and Dan Sperber’s & Deirdre Wilson’s workings of that into “Relevance Theory”; and Ernst-August Gutt’s application of their theory to missionary Bible translation, where the goal is to get the inferences and the propositions of the Bible into every language spoken as quickly as possible. What gets short-cut by this sort of “pragmatics” is what Pike called the N-Dimensionality of language. Where N = Infinity. This borders, as some Pragmaticists fear, on absolute relativism and sounds an awful lot like postmodernism with its deconstructivism. But, as much as Pike had his own struggles with deconstructivists, he wasn’t worried and never reduced Tagmemics (i.e., language in relation to a unified theory of human behavior) to pragmatics, as Grice did, or as Sperber and Wilson have, or as Gutt does.

    (In another post “The Seriousness of Wordplay” at another blog, I mentioned this, which I’ll just repeat now for the many who don’t know Kenneth Pike. Could I link also to that post, where I also quote you Wayne? Let’s just remind ourselves how Pike approached language:

    Pike approached language the way Einstein approached physics: particle and/or wave and/or field. More than that, he approached translation the way Heisenburg approached physics: “person above logic” and “the observer not only changes the observed data but is also change by the observing.” I remember Pike telling the story of when he was a student; he heard his teacher saying, “Language ideally has one and only one meaning per word.” The young pupil replied, “But, sir, how would we learn language.” Pike understood that the multiple perspectives on language (or “talked about reality”) led to learning and to change. His most famous rhetoric and composition textbook was entitled, Rhetoric: Discovery and Change. Pike would love to quote Nelson Goodman, saying “What we need is ‘Radical relativism within rigid restraints.” To be sure, [some of] Pike’s most serious followers would focus all too often on those rigid restraints. They would chart everything into tagmemic boxes….)

  30. jkgayle says:

    Meant to say:

    “By and large, the bible translation organization that Pike was so a part of has now sadly and to their detriment abandoned his teachings.”

  31. Mike Sangrey says:

    Rhetoric: Discovery and Change: I’ve ordered the book. Thank you.

    For the sake of many of the readers of this blog, they should know that perhaps Pike’s greatest work is Language in relation to a unified theory of the structure of human behavior. (I’m sad that I have not read it.)

    I’ll simply note here that
    1. a unified theory of the structure of human behavior is a pretty good label for all the stuff necessary to define context;
    2. Language is, well, language;
    3. relation points to the relationship between language and context–this is Pragmatics.

    Also, obvious to some, not obvious to others, everyone should understand that Pragmatics is currently a science in change.

    JKGayle, the objective and subjective natures of any communication are a given. However, I doubt Pike would say that the original message is somehow objectively modified by any recipient of the discourse, subjectively modified, yes, without a doubt, but not objectively modified. What Heisenberg noticed was different (though the Heisenberg principle certainly applies when doing “live-language” linguistic research.) This was my point when I said, “[o]ur not testing our current understanding against the source is a form of arrogance” We have to always go back to the source to chip away the differences between what we subjectively hold to and what has been objectively stated.

  32. John Hobbins says:

    Kurk,

    Do you have a cite for Pike’s recognition of the N-dimensionality of language? I would like to read it in context.

    For the rest, I would note that translation, like interpretation, is all about making choices. Will the otherness of the text be respected? Those familiar with my approach know that I push the envelope further. The answer I challenge readers to answer in the affirmative is: will the otherness of the text be embraced?

    If one is a believer, the context of any single passage is the entire canon, which already amounts to a resignification relative to original contexts. As a believer I rejoice in the recontextualization the canon provides for its parts.

    But, as a biblical scholar with a historicizing methodology, I am committed to defending the sense the text presumably had for its original authors and readers. Over against if necessary the sense the text now has in its canonical context. To be sure, the non-canonical sense of a text is without authority for me. That is, the de-canonized text is not in a position to “authorize” life and practice for me.

    Nonetheless, the historical method seeks to rescue the text from the jaws of wannabe co-authors who read the text historically considered against the grain.

    Depending on which metanarrative I locate myself in, I will approach the text differently.

    For example, since, as a believer, I read individual texts in light of the larger canon, I may prefer “virgin” as a translation of almah in Isa 7:14. That translation reflects the continuity of interpretation that stretches from the LXX to the gospel of Matthew and beyond.

    But, viewed without regard to the larger canon, “virgin” as a translation is overdetermined. “Young woman” is the correct translation of almah in Isa 7:14 apart from its fulfillment as Christians understand it in the mother of Jesus.

    I trust the example is clear.

  33. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>..Depending on which metanarrative I locate myself in, I will approach the text differently…

    I haven’t been following this discussion but the above caught my attention, as it is something I have observed.

    In order to understand what Isaiah meant, you need to read the Hebrew text.

    In order to understand what it meant to Matthew, you have to read the LXX.

    And never the twain shall meet.

  34. Wayne Leman says:

    Kurk wrote:

    By and large, the bible translation that Pike was so a part of has now sadly and to their detriment abandoned his teachings. To squeeze out of them somehow that he taught Pragmatics is to focus narrowly on a small set of issues he had when working through his Tagmemics. By Pragmatics, I mean Paul Grice’s conception of it; and Dan Sperber’s & Deirdre Wilson’s workings of that into “Relevance Theory”; and Ernst-August Gutt’s application of their theory to missionary Bible translation, where the goal is to get the inferences and the propositions of the Bible into every language spoken as quickly as possible. What gets short-cut by this sort of “pragmatics” is what Pike called the N-Dimensionality of language. Where N = Infinity. This borders, as some Pragmaticists fear, on absolute relativism and sounds an awful lot like postmodernism with its deconstructivism. But, as much as Pike had his own struggles with deconstructivists, he wasn’t worried and never reduced Tagmemics (i.e., language in relation to a unified theory of human behavior) to pragmatics, as Grice did, or as Sperber and Wilson have, or as Gutt does.

    Kurk, as I understand pragmatics, it is far richer than that. I includes all context which contributes to a speaker’s/author’s meaning intended to be communicated to their audience. Such context would include the cultural and historical context. Pike had a much richer view of language than Chomskyan type linguists. Functional linguists have been returning to this rich view of language which I think is what you are also trying to promote, properly so.

    I am comfortable with this definition of pragmatics:

    Science of language use emphasizing socio-cultural variables in human interaction and transaction via language
    http://www.culi.chula.ac.th/etest/definition.html

    Speaker and hearer background and assumptions are very much a part of pragmatics. In any case, I think that Mike Sangrey was not advocating the kind of pragmatics which you said he was. And I hope we can flesh this out so that there is clarity about what each person means.

  35. Mike Sangrey says:

    Thanks, Wayne! I pretty much think of ‘Pragmatics’ as “the relation of text to socio-linguistic context”. But, then again, one has to define ‘social’, too. And on and on it goes. 🙂

    In other words, the definition you cite and my understanding are quite close, if not the same.

    Like John Hobbins, I’d like to read more about Pike’s view of N-dimensionality of language. I understand that language, and even speech acts in that they are instances of language use, to be N-dimensional. But, what I understand by ‘N-dimensionality’ and what Pike taught might possibly be quite different. For example, I’ve often wondered whether language (or at least how the mind processes language) to be fractal and possibly even holographic.

    Ummmm….but, we’re pretty far afield from Wayne’s questions. However, I appreciate his giving us some leeway here in this discussion to generate some clarity regarding Pragmatics. Generating some clarity will help (I think) in answering his third question.

  36. jkgayle says:

    Wayne, Thanks for asking, for clarifying, for specifying the definitions of Pragmatics and how I seem to be misunderstanding Mike.

    Mike, Thanks for reminding that “structure” was in the title of Pike’s big book. (And, Wayne, thanks again for mailing it!) We all noticed how quickly Pike stopped using the word so much when talking about Tagmemics, once the backlash to his critiques of Chomsky began: the retorts that the SIL linguistics of Pike, Pike, Pike, and Longacre was “mere structuralism.” Thanks also for getting Pike’s co-written Rhetoric: Discovery and Change; the reception of this book into the academic fields of rhetoric and composition studies was very interesting. Pike, Becker, and Young were quick to start with Aristotle but moved forward with tagmemics (and I like to think that they actually moved deeper, backwards perhaps, toward all of the rhetorics before Aristotle, which the Greek philosopher logician was trying to do away with). Writing professors, alas, found tagmemics pretty clunky. Pike made a little splash in Composition Studies with 1964 essays like “A Linguistic Contribution to Composition: A Hypothesis” and “Beyond the Sentence” in the big journal College Composition and Communication. I just wish more had been done with applications of the monolingual demonstration, which demonstrates much for second language learning and, let me add, for bible translation as well, now that all of the original languages of the Bible are dead if not also lost. (The most fascinating, and an ongoing, application of Pikean tagmemics is its use in the constant, human development of the computer language PERL. Those people, Larry Wall, and Allison Randall, really get it, and use it. Very cool stuff, especially if you’re a techie.) Thanks for the curiosity about Pike’s views on N-dimensionality.

    John, Probably the place to start for some good Pike in good context is his Linguistic Concepts: An Introduction to Tagmemics. An initial one-sentence paragraph starts much: “In this volume person (and relation between persons) is given theoretical priority above formalism, above pure mathematics, above idealized abstractions” (page xi). One reason language is viewed as N-dimensional is because of the personal. Pike, just a few lines later, gives one of his nods to Heisenberg saying, “A particular language, of a particular culture, in relation to a particular person with [her or] his particular history constitutes an implicit theory for that person . . . . [T]he observer [whether a cultural insider or an outsider] universally affects the data and becomes part of the data.” Pike goes on to discuss the various (traditional) linguistic vectors of language that humans do and can choose to observe from any number of perspectives. One of Pike’s first published uses of “n-dimensional” in reference to language is Stir, Change, Create, a 1967 book for missionary linguists, for himself perhaps, with rather wordplayful writings and musings. Pike there baldly confesses what he much later was very quiet about (in research, publication, and teaching anyways): “The greatest proportion of my time is devoted to scholarship. I am a Christian. I am devoted to Christ, risen from the dead, my Lord. Is it strange to hybridize these two roles of mine?” If you know the historical context, then you know he was the first in his organization to achieve the Ph.D. and was an avid promoter of academics as a means to enrich theoretical-practical linguistics. Pike states in this book the following: “Since life itself is n-dimensional, some poetry — for some people — seems astonishingly closer to life than prose can be. Just as the child is not the scholar, but surpasses him in learning to speak the multiple dimensions of a new language.” And “poetic writing can be called anti-redundant because of its n-dimensionality.” Although his audience for such statements was the not-yet-academic, linguist Deborah Tannen quotes from this book of his in her wonderfully edited volume, Linguistics in Context : Connecting Observation and Understanding : Lectures from the 1985 LSA/TESOL and NEH Institutes. One of Pike’s later works to include discussions of the n-dimensionality of language is his 1993 Talk, Thought, and Thing: the Emic Road Toward Conscious Knowledge; but he published an essay that year which explicitly references the notion: “Matrix formatives in N-dimensional linguistics” which built on earlier co-researched, co-written 1980 article, “Constraints on complexity seen via fused vectors of an n-dimensional semantic space (Sarangani Manobo, Philippines)”.

  37. jkgayle says:

    I would note that translation, like interpretation, is all about making choices. Will the otherness of the text be respected? Those familiar with my approach know that I push the envelope further. The answer I challenge readers to answer in the affirmative is: will the otherness of the text be embraced?

    John, You and Kenneth Pike would’ve worked well together. How he attended to “otherness” (i.e., through etic and emic approaches) is very much how you’re encouraging us to respect and embrace the text. His monolingual demonstrations, in which the “one” language was the language of the other (and not his own), work out the respect and the embrace in very practical, demonstrable ways. He only insisted that the “informant” he was to talk to be “friendly.” He also always warned that there must be mistakes; and he usually recited a poem he’d written after the post-MLD lecture and Q&A. Poetry is, it seems, dimensional to Pike — as rich as a child’s language when speaking the “other” language; prose, and other attempts at abstract formalism, couldn’t always get at as many dimensions, at as much respect and embrace of that other language, that other’s one which he etically stood outside of.

  38. David Ker says:

    I’ve missed you guys! My life has slowed down and my Internet has sped up so maybe I can follow you more closely. Only on BBB can you read comments in several languages complete with footnotes! 🙂

    My son’s name is Son-Of-My-Right-Hand. But we just call him Benjamin. Is it echoic of the original meaning and context? Just barely. Of our three children he is the last and he is the only one who is right-handed.

    I’ve mentioned before that Nyungwe uses Mwana-Wa-Mulungu, “Son of God” for harmless animals and crazy people. But that didn’t stop the translators from using it for Son of God. Same goes for Mwana-Wa-Munthu, “Son of a person” which means something like “human child.”

    I can’t think of a context where I’d favor a rendering in English besides “Son of Man.” What bothers me more, makes me crazy in fact, is renderings that try to smooth out the “talking about yourself in the third person,” thus, “I, the Son of Man…” Ugh!

    Pardon me for rambling. It’s just nice to hang out with the old crowd for a few minutes.

  39. Mike Sangrey says:

    O!, Wayne,

    After being away for so long, David isn’t allowed to post something showing he is happy, right? Doesn’t he have to be contrite and apologetic?

    Perhaps a deep and thoughtful post as penance. I think that might work.

    🙂

  40. Formiko says:

    I always took that expression to be a humble way of saying “I”, almost like speaking in third person.

  41. Iver Larsen says:

    I was not impressed by the explanation on the CEB website and want to return to Wayne’s original question: What does the title “Son of Man” mean?

    It is not normal Greek, but a literal rendering of a Hebrew or more likely an Aramaic phrase: bar nasha. Most hearers would not immediately have understood the meaning. It was clear that Jesus referred to himself, but what did he intend people to get, when he used such a cryptic title? How is this related to the fact that he was reluctant to indentify himself as the Messiah in early and public meeetings?

    I would say we have a good answer in Mat 16:13-16: (NLT) When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
    15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
    16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

    Matthew in this way indicated that the people in general did not understand the meaning well, but Jesus accepted the explanation given by Peter. It was a different title for the Messiah, the Son of God.

    The focus is not on his humanness, but on the fact that he as the Son of God in Heaven came to earth as a human being in human form. I would maintain that the best way of making the association to the vision of the man in Heaven in Daniel is to use a title like “The Man from Heaven” (plus footnote).

    I wonder what kind of response such a title would create from the intended audience?

    We did not dare to use it in Danish because we were afraid that it would not be acceptable in a situation where “Son of Man” (Menneskesønnen) is entrenched.

  42. WoundedEgo says:

    Psalm 8 speaks of God putting all things under the feet of the son of man. It is natural for us to read that as referring to Adam and the Adamic race, and that is how we see it Ezekiel. But in Daniel and the NT, the son of man is an individual, and Jesus claims to be that one.

  43. James Snapp, Jr. says:

    Paul Franklyn wrote that in the CEB, “ho huios tou anthropou” is translated as “human being” (rather than “son of man”) except in cases of vocative address, and as “the Human One.”

    Franklyn noted, “We aim to avoid “biblish” where possible and translate such Hebrew or Greek constructions into a natural English idiom.” So “Human One” is natural English idiom?? The CEB is replacing old biblish with new biblish.

    Also, Franklyn appealed to a statement by Darrell L. Bock, the same Darrell L. Bock who helped Brian McLaren with Luke and Acts with the “The Voice”. (Even “The Voice” used “Son of Man,” despite McLaren’s preference for “New Generation of Humanity.”) Bock’s comment, istm, is about an interpretation, not a translation. On page 601 of the same book by Bock that Franklyn cited (and one page before the comment that Franklyn used), Bock wrote, “The titles “Son of God” and “Son of Man” are important in understanding Jesus.” That does not seem like much support for abandoning the use of the title “Son of Man.”

    Franklyn continued: “Indeed, at a cognitive level many of us have a view of Jesus that is so transcendent that the incarnation is temporary, perhaps only while Jesus was a baby.”

    Here’s what I took away from Franklyn’s statements: many Bible-readers don’t sufficiently appreciate Jesus’ human nature, so the CEB will compensate for that by translating hO hUIOS TOU ANQRWPOU so as to present only one facet of the term to the English readers.

    Franklyn: “Human One will become less of a surprise over time.” Yes, because over time, people will recognize it as a mistranslation and will reject it. If the CEB contains a lot of such neologisms, I suspect that that period of time will be rather short.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  44. WoundedEgo says:

    I should think that how one translates the NT references would depend on how one translates the Psalm 8 reference. There, “son of man” or “son of Adam” or even “son of the dirt” seems contextually advised.

  45. Gary Simmons says:

    Let’s look outside Daniel for a moment. The phrase in question elsewhere in the OT seems to refer generically to a human being, and as far as I can tell it usually occurs in contexts involving God, who is not a son of man. The phrase son of man tends to set the social context having to do with a human being (servant) and God (master), and occurs either as a self-reference made by the man in question (Psalm 8) or as a vocative address made by God to the man in question (Ezekiel).

    Perhaps Jesus was using this to his advantage. Some of the things he said in which he was referring to the Son of Man in Daniel could have been interpreted instead as referring to himself (perhaps only implicitly) as a servant of God. Certainly with the “you’ll see the Son of Man coming on the clouds” outburst (Matthew 26:64), there is no ambiguity. But in some places, is it possible he is leaving his statements open to interpreting the phrase generically?

    If so, that just makes this even more stickier. There’s no way in English to render something as ambiguously being either lower-case or upper-case. You gotta pick.

  46. WoundedEgo says:

    It is interesting that when the writer of “To the Hebrews” writes, he builds his arguments specifically on the LXX. That is, he goes on and on about how God puts “all things” under the feet of the son of man, and very specifically, he argues, this refers as well to “angels.”

    But the Hebrew does not say anything about “angels.” It says “you have made him a little lower than Elohim” rather than:

    Hebrews
    2:5 For he did not put the world to come,5 about which we are speaking,6 under the control of angels. 2:6 Instead someone testified somewhere:
    “What is man that you think of him7 or the son of man that you care for him?
    2:7 You made him lower than the angels for a little while.
    You crowned him with glory and honor.8
    2:8 You put all things under his control.”9
    For when he put all things under his control, he left nothing outside of his control. At present we do not yet see all things under his control,10 2:9 but we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while,11 now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death,12 so that by God’s grace he would experience13 death on behalf of everyone.

    He goes on to argue that the one promised had to be a human, in order to be qualified as a high priest (which is a central theme for this text).

    2:10 For it was fitting for him, for whom and through whom all things exist,14 in bringing many sons to glory, to make the pioneer15 of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 2:11 For indeed he who makes holy and those being made holy all have the same origin,16 and so17 he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,18 2:12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers;19 in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.”20 2:13 Again he says,21 “I will be confident in him,” and again, “Here I am,22 with23 the children God has given me.”24 2:14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in25 their humanity,26 so that through death he could destroy27 the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), 2:15 and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death. 2:16 For surely his concern is not for angels, but he is concerned for Abraham’s descendants. 2:17 Therefore he had28 to be made like his brothers and sisters29 in every respect, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement30 for the sins of the people. 2:18 For since he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

    My points are that:

    * To the Hebrews argues from the LXX in a way that is only meaningful when referring to the greek text. His arguments fall flat if you bring in the Hebrew;

    * If we bring in the Hebrew, then both Adam/mankind and the “son of man” are made “a little less than ELOHIM.”

    * To the Hebrews argues that Jesus was human, tempted and even sinned, but that this all was necessary in order to qualify as a high priest. (See Hebrews 4-5).

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