As we’ve seen, it only makes good translation sense to use a word like “human” to render the phrase commonly translated across the centuries in the English Bible as “son of man.” While our ears might be unaccustomed to, or even offended by, this rendering, it’s more natural and clear in conveying the sense of the original wording regarding Jesus.
“But if that’s the case, why capitalize the word ‘human,’ as does the Common English Bible, in regard to Jesus?,” you ask. Ah, that’s a very good question. And here’s the answer: this go-to self-designation of our Lord, “the Human One,” comes to us loaded with a bit of special meaning, thanks to the prophet Daniel.
In Daniel 7, Daniel tell us of “a vision in his head” (vs. 1) he had one night. It was a dream of God’s throne room and God, “the ancient one” (vs. 9), seated on his throne. While Biblical scholars differ greatly as to what all in terms of human events is being conveyed in the figures and symbols Daniel goes on to relate, this much is abundantly clear: the ancient one is passing judgment on humanity!
Toward the end of this opening scene in Daniel’s dream, Daniel suddenly sees “one like a human being coming with the heavenly clouds” who is presented to God. His arrival and the result is described in these words:
“As I continued to watch this night vision of mine, I suddenly saw one like a human being coming with the heavenly clouds. He came to the ancient one and was presented before him. Rule, glory, and kingship were given to him; all peoples, nations, and languages will serve him. His rule is an everlasting one—it will never pass away!—his kingship is indestructible.” (Dan. 7:13-14 CEB)
In the latter half of Daniel’s dream, Daniel asks one of those standing there with him witnessing these things what all is going on (vs. 15-27). This interpretation scene of Daniel’s dream regarding God’s judgment closes with these words:
“The kingship, authority, and power of all kingdoms under heaven will be given to the people, the holy ones of the Most High. Their kingship is an everlasting one; every authority will serve them and obey.” (Dan. 7:28 CEB)
Right here, let’s stop for a moment to collect and compress what we’ve learned from Daniel. Daniel says God revealed to him that a time was coming when “one like a human being” will be given indestructible, pervasive “rule, power, and kingship” over human affairs. This “human one” will exercise his might and rule in such a way that ultimately “the holy ones of the Most High” will find “every authority” coming to “serve them and obey.”
Now I ask you, who does this “human one” sound like to you? Jesus, right? It’s difficult for me to imagine anyone reading the four gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the name “Jesus” not bursting to the top of their thoughts. And so what does this mean? It means that Jesus, by his repeated, deliberate use of the phrase “the human one” as a reference to himself, is subtly (?) claiming to be the figure of “the human on” presented to God in Daniel’s vision. Or to put it in Jesus’ own words at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel:
“Jesus came near and spoke to them, ‘I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.’” (Matthew 28:18-19a,20 CEB)
With Daniel’s vision in mind, it’s far easier for us to better understand more of the sensation and scandal that characterized the earthly ministry of Jesus, isn’t it? And all the easier for us to understand why the phrase “the Human One,” when used in reference to Jesus, by Jesus, is rightly capitalized.
Ancient One, this day I recognize you as the ultimate judge over myself and all of creation. I agree with you that your Human One is the one through you exercise your will and rule. May my life agree with my mind on these matters, today, and all of my days. Amen.