Sunday, January 24, 2010

Part #3: Son of Man, Son of God

What do these long-ago N.T. terms mean for us in the 21st century? Let's use Aramaic again, the language Jesus spoke to help get us out of our verbal, cultural, and theological mindsets...maybe ruts.

In the Good Message of Mark, the opening line says "The beginning of the good message of Eashoa the M'sheekha, the BarElah (Son of God). And later Eashoa is called and calls himself the Barnasha (son of a human).

First, many scholars agree that Eashoa and the other N. T. writers meant two paradoxical meanings when using the term Barnasha (son of man). First Eoashoa was probably referring to the Jewish Bible's meaning of "human being." We see this often in Ezekiel's calling of himself "a human" and of the same meaning in the Psalms and other books of the Jewish Bible.

Eashoa is emphasizing he is one of us, a human born of woman like every other human being. The term often is used in a humbling sense, as a contrast from all that is exalted. (I remember studying this for my term paper on the Book of Daniel at the University of Nebraska, but now days, you can find much about the term without going to a university research library; just do a google search.)

That leads us to the second definition: "the Son of Man" is an exalted term, a reference to the heavenly being at the right hand of God in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14), a messianic and eschatological reference. Unless you are willing to take the view of a minority of secular scholars, it would appear that Eashoa and the N.T. writers are emphasizing that Eashoa is the messenger of God/from God, the one who is bringing in the everlasting reign of which Daniel 7 speaks.

One of the best results of my writing a term paper on the Book of Daniel for my philosophy of the Jewish Bible class at the University of Nebraska is that it helped me realize how almost no one agrees with almost anyone else when it comes down to the details of these passages. Millions of pages have been written in the last 2,000 years on this issue. Even today, liberal scholars, not only disagree with conservative scholars, but they disagree with each other, and fundamentalist scholars disagree with other fundamentalist scholars. Many brilliant humans have shipwrecked on these verses including a NASA engineer who wrote a book about this prophecy, and so many countless PhD's who had degrees in Semitic languages, etc.. None of that kept them from getting lost in the words.

Thank God, I was overwhelmed early on in my life by all of this and thus have mostly avoided the endless arguments about prophecy. But if this is so--if prophetic terms such as BarElah and Barnasha are so difficult to understand even after 10 years of Middle Eastern language study, of what possible meaning can the terms have for regular human beings?

#1 Point one is that we don't have to learn Aramaic and Hebrew and study theological tomes to see a basic truth: Eashoa represents to us the meeting point of the temporal and the transcendent, the joining of the human and the divine, the expression of eternal truth in mortal presence.

Surely all varieties of people--at least all individuals open to a little religion--from different backgrounds and contradicting theological biases can agree that Eashoa (Jesus) is at the very least, the image of the Eternal (even if they do strongly disagree about what exactly that means).

All the kinds of intricate theological descriptions and explanations from conservative evangelicals like William Lane Craig to the ultra-modernist exBishop John Shelby Spong agree that Eashoa is important, is a way to God. Some Jews who reject Christianity, still see Eashoa as a Jewish prophet who said truth. And Muslims hold Eashoa (Isha) to be from God, as do various versions of Asian religions and many theists.

#2 Eashoa's parables of truth and ethical insights can be fervently followed even if one is uncertain about the abstract theological doctrines and creedal statements of Christianity. Eashoa's life-giving is present to rescue every human even if one doesn't understand how. Change your mind and follow the Son.

My commitment to Eashoa, to his Way of Life has continued with me, in me, through many outward and abstract changes in my life. I've traveled a long spiritual journey from Fundamentalist to Deist to Quaker to Evangelical to Mennonite to Quaker again to Theist, etc.

But amazingly enough, my faith in Jesus (Eashoa) and his ethical way has been a continuum in the midst of all that intellectual and social change.
I see great truth here. Living for Eashoa, isn't a religious organization, nor set of doctrines, nor a complex philosophical system, or an intellectual outlook, or a political plan...

Being a follower and friend of Eashoa is the Way of peace, love, and hope.

To be continued

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox


Hystery said...

I'm glad you're writing these posts. It is something I want to consider more deeply. I hope you will tolerate my questions. I have a difficult time seeing Jesus of the Gospels as being more evidently a meeting point of the divine and the human than other historical figures or do you mean the message itself, not the man, is the meeting point?

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Hystery,
Thanks for the poignant question. I would say both and. My response to your questions grew long so I am posting it as another blog:-)

Hope this reflection on my blog answers your question.