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Life of Jesus Christ in Its Historical Connexion and Historical Developement.
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§ 58. The Names Son of God and Son of Man.

OUR conception of the person of the Messiah, as Theocratic King, is closely connected with that which we may entertain of the kingdom of God itself, and of its process of developement. In reference to both, Jesus joined himself indeed to the existing Jewish conceptions, but, at the same time, infused into them a new spirit and a higher regenerating element.

Both of the names which he applied to himself—Son of God and Son of Man—are to be found among the designations of the Messiah in the Old Testament; but he used them in a far higher sense than was current among the Jews. He obviously employed them antithetically: they contain correlative ideas, and cannot be thoroughly understood apart from their reciprocal relation. It is clear from Matt., xvi., 16; xxvi., 63; John, i., 50, and from all that is known of the current theological language of the Jews at that time, that the name “Son of God” was the most common designation of Messiah, as the best adapted to denote his highest dignity, that of Theocratic King. The name “Son of Man” involves, indeed, an allusion to the description of the Messiah in Dan., vii. (further illustrated in Christ’s last words before the high-priests, Matt., xxvi., 64); but it is certain that this name was not among the more usual or best known titles of Messiah. This may explain why,144144   John, xii., 34. when Jesus on a certain occasion had stated a fact in regard to himself as Son of Man [viz., his approaching death] which did not accord with prevailing ideas, that his hearers began to doubt whether he did not mean to designate by that title some other person than the Messiah. It is used by none of the apostles for that purpose; and, indeed, nowhere in the New Testament, except in the discourses of Christ and in that of Stephen (Acts, vii., 56); and in this last case it is probable, as Olshausen justly remarks, that Stephen had an immediate and vivid intuition of Jesus, as he had seen him in his human form.


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