I've heard this said, and wonder if a study of the application of that title in the Synoptic Gospels supports such a theory?

Is there any literature (books or articles) devoted to this, and (if so) can a synopsis of such be given by way of an answer?

I'm scoping this for only consideration of the Synoptic Gospel accounts regarding this, by those who accept that Jesus was uniquely designated "Son of Man" during his ministry on earth. Please note that this question is not wanting explanations of the history of that title - it seeks to investigate the time period during which it applied to Jesus, and whether it applied only to his ministry to the Jewish nation during his ministry on earth. I hope to ask a separate question on his other title (Son of God) later, and trust the two titles will not be conflated in answers here.

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    Hope these tags work out, if not you can dismiss them.
    – Ken Graham
    Nov 20, 2022 at 22:59
  • I have heard some hyper-dispensationalists (who make a hard distinction between Israel and Church) say that most of the gospels are for the Jews and that the gentile church should look mostly to Paul. Even going so far as to claim that the new covenant is not for gentiles. I would suppose that this theological position might view "son of man" as for Jews only. Nov 21, 2022 at 1:30
  • @Mike Borden No, I did not hear this from any group saying most of the gospels are for the Jews, and that Gentile converts should mainly consider Paul. Did you mean to have them claim, "the new covenant is not for Jews"? Never heard of that either, for all Christians know that none but Jews made up the early church, Gentiles then coming in, with no distinctions between them. You may be thinking of 'closed' Brethren? I do not go by their theology.
    – Anne
    Nov 21, 2022 at 11:04
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    'The son if man' is an ambiguous title, once the Son of God is come in humanity. 'She brought forth the son of her, the prototokos ...', Luke 2:7, (TR/KJV/EGNT literal) can be written as 'She brought forth the Son, of her, the prototokos. Thus it can be read, of Jesus of Nazareth, in every place in which it occurs . . . . The Son, of man. So this alters the interpretation that may be put upon the wording, in every single text in which it occurs.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 21, 2022 at 11:05
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    "Did you mean to have them claim, "the new covenant is not for Jews"? " No. I have heard it clearly stated that the new covenant is only for the Jews and it is stated out of heavy dispensationalism. I do not hold to this theology. Nov 21, 2022 at 13:10

4 Answers 4


I have found a book in my library that explains how the title ‘Son of man’ in Matthew, Mark and Luke applies only to Jesus' earthly ministry to the Jews. Allow me to partially quote, after first setting the scene when initially, in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus did not first ask his disciples “Whom do men say that I am?” No, his first question was:

Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? (Matthew 16:13 KJV)

His disciples said that some Jewish men thought he was John the Baptist, Elias, Jeremias or one of the prophets. Then Jesus asks his disciples:

Whom say ye that I am? (Matthew 16:15 KJV)

That is when Simon Peter, inspired by divine illumination, cried out in response, not to an earthly manifestation, but to a heavenly revelation:

Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:17 KJV).

Matthew refers to the title Son of man 32 times, applying it to Jesus before his death and then at his return, coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, to reward every man according to his works. All the passages in Matthew, rendered in sequence, all apply either to the earthly ministry of the Son of man, or to his coming again. [1]

Mark makes 14 references to the Son of man, who had power on earth to forgive sins, who is Lord of the Sabbath, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and who give his life as a ransom for many.

Just as in the case of Matthew, Mark passes from these texts which speak of the ministry, culminating in the betrayal, rejection, and slaying of the Son of man by the Jewish nation, and of his resurrection, to his coming again in power and great glory at the last day. [2]

Luke refers to the Son of man 26 times.

After the passages relating to the ministry of the Son of man to the Jews, Luke also passes without intermission to the coming again of the Son of man at the last day. This confirms that there is no bearing of the title and ministry of ‘Son of man’ on the ecclesia, the dispensation pertaining to this present age. [3]

Hence the Son of man cautioned them, whilst yet amidst the Jews on earth, with the following words: Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come upon the earth, and to stand before the Son of man. For as a snare shall that day come on all of them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. [4]

In the three synoptic gospels, the title ‘Son of man’ is always used during, and applying to, Jesus' ministry on earth to the Jews. The only time the title ‘Son of man’ is used again is when Jesus suddenly descends from heaven to judge the world as the ‘Son of man’. This judgment includes the Gentiles, but only at that future moment in time.

‘Son of man’ was the title of the office in which God’s Son was sent to the Jews – God’s ancient people Israel – to turn that people to the kingdom, to bring them to the service of God, and to declare in their ears the long-promised grace sent to them from on high. All this was embodied in the Person and ministry of the Son of man.

Had the Jews received it, the blessing would have gone out from them throughout all nations upon the earth. But they rejected the kingdom, despising the Messiah. They refused the service, spurning the Servant of God. And they trampled underfoot the grace of God, denying that Just One. In a word, they crucified the Son of man, hanging him upon a tree. [5]

The last express reference to the Son of man is in Acts 7:56 when Stephen, after denouncing the Jews for slaying Jesus, “the Just One,” saw the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

No more shall he appear to the Jews in this present life. Never again shall they hear his voice in the world that now exists. But as the ages run to a close, as the last day draws near, as the sands of time run out to the final grain, all the prophecies and all the signs of the coming of the Son of man shall come to pass. Then shall every last word that he spoke of himself in the gospels concerning the day of judgment most assuredly be fulfilled. [6]

Jesus, the light and life of the world, the Son of man, was despised and rejected by His own people. Yet Peter, through divine revelation within, saw Jesus in an entirely new light, not just as the Son of man, but as the Son of God. From all of this, I can only conclude that the title 'Son of Man' in the New Testament applies only to Jesus' earthly ministry to the Jews.

Source: ‘The Church – what is it?’ by John Metcalfe (The Publishing Trust) [1] p 48 [2] p 49 [3] p 53 [4] p 54 [5] p 59 [6] p 62


Jesus Christ Himself referred to Himself 78 times as "The Son of Man." (Luke 5:24, John 3:13-14.) He also referred to Himself as "The Son of God" at various places. (John 10:36, John 11:4.)

It is a fact that the Son of the father has no biological Father, God does not have "biology," that is to say flesh and DNA. The body of Jesus was biologically a product of Mary and Mary alone. Jesus Christ was a 100% contingent human being.

Now, the Jews have idioms and one such idiom is "son of." The expression "son of man" clearly exhibits the use of the word "son" to show the possession of a certain nature. Numbers 23:19 reads: "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent..."This part of the verse might be paraphrased as follows: "God is not like a man, who frequently lies; nor does he possess the nature of man, who by reason of his own limitations must often change his mind."

In Psalm 8:4 (Hebrews,5) man and son of man are put in parallel to each other and obviously are used as synonyms. This same "idiom" applies in the New Testament as well. So, the "son of" idiom DOES intend the meaning of a shared nature between ANY father and his son and thus between THE Father and THE Son.

Christ really IS the "son" of God and therefore, BY DEFINITION shares the distinctive nature of his father just as ALL sons bear the distinctive nature of their fathers. That Jesus is ALSO the "son of Man" based on the fact that His mother Mary is human. Hence, Jesus Christ is the only one that has two natures. One of His Father's side, "deity" and one on His mothers side, "human."

The Jews understood that when Jesus said God was his Father he was making himself equal with God and sought to kill him for it (John 5:18). Also when Jesus spoke concerning the Father and Son relationship they accused him of blasphemy and would have stoned him, because with such terminology Jesus made himself God (John 10:28-36.

Now, the enemies of Jesus did not respond this way because they misunderstood his terminology, but because they understood him perfectly well. They knew that when Jesus said he was the Son of God he was claiming to be of the nature of God and equal with God.

This is clearly brought out at the trial of Jesus at Matthew 26:57-68. At vs62 the high priest Caiaphas ask Jesus to swear an oath by asking Jesus, "I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether (1) are you the Messiah/Christ and (2) the Son of God? At Luke 22:70 Jesus responds, "Yes, I am."

At vs 65, "Then the high priest tore his robes saying, "He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy." The Apostle John at John 20:30-31 gives the purpose of his writings. "Man other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; vs31, but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." Some of this material is from the following article. https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/grace-journal/06-2_16.pdf

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    "I hope to ask a separate question on his other title (Son of God) later, and trust the two titles will not be conflated in answers here." Nov 21, 2022 at 1:24
  • John 10:36 refers back to John 10:29-30 in which it is implied ,but not stated, that Jesus is the Son of God. (And the Jews did so imply it, picking up stones, John 10:31. Thus prompting Jesus' response to their action. ) John 11:4 mentions 'the Son of God' but does not state whom he is. To say referred to himself ... in 'various places' is very misleading and seems to be an attempt to undermine @Anne 's question, I have to say.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 21, 2022 at 13:26
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    @Anne I corrected my statement because that is not what I meant. Jesus Christ is "literally" a 100% human being who right now has a human body in heaven.
    – Mr. Bond
    Nov 21, 2022 at 15:05
  • Your edits are appreciated. Just to suggest that your last 5 paragraphs could sit well in the next question I'm thinking of posting (once this one is closed). But these last 5 paras. have no bearing whatever on this current question. If you could save them for later and, in place of them, add a bit more about the time when 'Son of Man' applied to Jesus, for how long, and any future application - that would be appreciated even more-so!
    – Anne
    Nov 23, 2022 at 9:40

The concept of being the son of man has a deep Jewish meaning. It refers specifically to the prophecy of the messiah by the prophet Daniel in the old testament. This was as direct a claim to messiahship that a 1st century Jew could make. It is unlikely that any gentle of the time would know the specific meaning of this term.

Much of the early Christians were deeply involved in Judaism. It took close to two centuries for Christianity mission of converting the masses to really build a full head of steam. For a number of decades in the immediate aftermath of Jesus death the teachings of Jesus was a minority sect of Judaism. It certainly was not the world religious power house it is today in the beginning.


I don't follow all the details of the constraints you're placing on the question, but the core of the question seems to be whether "Son of Man" applied only to Christ's ministry to the Jewish nation during his ministry on earth.

Daniel 7:13 says:

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

This verse refers to Christ as the Son of man. And it's referring to events outside Christ's mortal ministry. So I think this indicates that the title applies beyond Christ's mortal ministry. Note that "Son of man" in this context is very unlike the hundreds of other uses of "son of man" in the Old Testament, which simply refer to a man.

You can also consider the Book of Moses, chapter 6, v. 57. In this verse the Lord says to Adam:

Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge, who shall come in the meridian of time.

This verse refers to Christ's coming in the meridian of time but does indicate that the title was used for Him long before His mortal ministry.

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