"Son of Man" As Jesus From IDQ Deficiencies

While acknowledging that Jesus' usage of the term "son of man" has no consensus, this article shows how the term "son of man" was historically used to refer to mankind or Humans as a category, was never generally considered by the Jewish community to be a descriptive phrase for the Messiah, and therefore seems to be used incorrectly either by Jesus, by the authors and/or translators of the gospels as something like a personal pronoun for Jesus. In any case, presuming the Bible is the Word of God, the term still maps to two real world states fulfilling the criteria for Ambiguous Representation which is an Information and Data Quality (IDQ) design flaw.

This Article is part six of the series of articles applying Information and Data Quality (IDQ) Principles to the Bible. The purpose of the series is to show that the Bible is not a reliable or trustworthy source of information about God because it has problems identified in Information and Data Quality research as causing inaccuracy and unreliability. Links to the previous articles are listed below.

1. How Accurate is the Bible?
2. Applying Data and Information Quality Principles To The Bible
3. Applying IDQ Principles of Research To The Bible
4. Overview of IDQ Deficiencies Which Are Evident In Scripture
5. Jesus As God From IDQ Design Deficincies

A brief review of Ambiguous Representation and Mapping to a Meaningless State(1) follows.

Ambiguous representation
While it is permissible to use to a multiple datum to represent one real world state, it is not permissible to use one datum to represent two real world states. If multiple Real World states are represented by one datum there is not enough information with which to accurately represent either Real World state. This situation is called "Ambiguity". It is similar to incomplete representation because it can be considered an instance of missing information, even though one datum could incompletely represent two instances of a Real World state because it is not specific enough. It is analogous to using the term "she" in a conversation when discussing an event concerning multiple women. By not specifying which "she" is being referenced, the details of the event become unclear because the "she" being referred to is ambiguous.

Figure 1 illustrates this point by showing three instances of data represented by spheres in the column labeled RW (Real World) and two instances of Data in the D column. One instance of a Real World state is not represented by the Data in column D but instead, two instances of Real World states are represented by one instance of an information state.

Figure 1

Operation Deficiencies - Garbling: Map to a wrong state
In human terms, garbling occurs at the point of "consumption" or reading and interpretation. In Information Systems, it occurs at operation time or when the database is being accessed. Garbling occurs when a Real World state is incorrectly mapped to a wrong state in the Information System. Figure 2 illustrates this phenomena by showing two instances of data represented by spheres in the column labeled RW (Real World) and three instances of Data in the D column. One instance of an information state is not represented by or does not map back to a real world state and a Real World state in incorrectly interpreted as being represented by a valid however incorrect or unintended information state.

Figure 2

The son of man
In Hebrew, son of man can be used, generally speaking, as the word "Human". It originated in ancient Mesopotamia and was used to denote humanity or mankind in general especially when distinguishing between mankind and God (2, 3). In the Old Testament, "son of man" was used as the word "Human" would be used today. When the word "Human" is used to replace the phrase "son of man" in the Old Testament, the context retains its meaning. A list of instances where "son of man" appears in the Old Testament follows.

Old Testament instances
- 16:18-21
- 25
- 35:6-8
- 8
- 80
- 144
- 146
- 51:11-13
- 56:1-2
- 2:1 - 47:6, used 97 times
- 7:13-14
- 8:16-18

In Numbers, "son of man" is used to contrast God with Humanity showing how he is different using the example that he is above lying or repentance.

Numbers 23:19
God is not a man, that he should lie, Nor a son of man, that he should repent: Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good?

In Ezekiel, the author is addressed as "son of man" in the context of addressing him by his type of being, emphasizing the difference between the author and God.

Ezekiel 2:1-10
1 He said to me, son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.
2 The Spirit entered into me when he spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard him who spoke to me.
3 He said to me, son of man, I send you to the children of Israel, to nations that are rebellious, which have rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me even to this very day.

When the Book of Daniel was written the term turned up in chapter 7 verse 13. This instance of usage is believed by some to be a reference to the Messiah, and still it is consistent with the historical and cultural usage of the term. It is a reference to a being "like a son of man" which is believed, in Judaism and depending on the interpretation, to be either an Angel or a representation of the Messiah as a Human being. In either case though, it clearly is metaphorical and is not necessarily a reference to one single person that will get dominion forever because further on in verses 18 and 27, the text clearly states that "the Saints" and "the people of the Saints" (Plural) will have dominion. This is interpreted by some to mean the people of Israel will have everlasting dominion and that the human figure was representing a group.

Below are the relevant verses from Daniel discussing the "being like a son of man" and the plurality of who are going to get Dominion. I highly recommend that the reader look up the whole passage and read it in its entirety, in context. "Ancient of Days" is accepted as a reference to God in one of his constantly changing mystical anthropomorphic states.

Daniel 7:13-8:17
13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him.
14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.'
22 until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High; and the time came, and the saints possessed the kingdom.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.'

Daniel 8:17
17 So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, "son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end."

There is consistent usage of the term "son of man" within Daniel 7 and 8, and its usage denotes a type of Human being. In verse 8, the author is referred to as "son of man". While most Jews don't seem to generally consider 7:13 a Messianic prophesy, some do, however they do not consider "son of man" a specific title for the Messiah as Christians do or as the authors of the Gospels had Jesus use it. Most Jewish Scholars don't think it likely that Jesus would have used the Aramaic term in that way because in Aramaic it never had that meaning(3). In other words, it never mapped to the Messiah as a Real World state, it only ever mapped to the category of Human.

And though it is written that Jesus used the term to describe himself, it is not clear that he considered himself God or the Messiah. For example, in Mark 8:27-31, and John 7:26-31, Jesus has the opportunity to say clearly and unequivocally that he is the Messiah, the Christ and God on Earth, but he doesn't. Numbers 23:19 says that God is not a man that he should lie, nor like a son of man that he should repent. There is a distinction between humans and God, one characteristic of that distinction is that he would not lie. A lie is hard to define so its hard to defend a claim that Jesus was lying, however, a lie does fall into the category of deception so if nothing else, Jesus was deceptive, which is considered to be a characteristic of Satan and Humans but not of God.

Numbers 23:19
God is not a man, that he should lie, Nor a son of man, that he should repent: Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good?

Here the gospels have Jesus using the term "son of man" incorrectly and using a deceptive rhetorical persuasion technique just as Numbers said God wouldn't. Here he uses the bandwagon fallacy because who the people say he is is not relevant to who he really is, and he uses an improper appeal to authority because since the disciples have never seen a God on earth, and since they have not attempted to distinguish between Jesus and a Con Man, they are not qualified to assess. Jesus uses a rhetorical persuasion technique where he gets the "mark" to verbalize a commitment which increases the likelihood that they will defend the commitment even against disconfirming evidence and then he told them not to tell anyone which insulates them from having to defend their commitment because it decreases the amount of instances where a defense will be needed.

Mark 8:27 - 31
27 Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, "Who do people say that I am?"
28 They told Him, saying, "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets."
29 And He continued by questioning them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered and said to Him, "You are the Christ."
30 And He warned them to tell no one about Him.
31 And He began to teach them that the son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

According to the Authors of the Gospels, when Jesus starting using the phrase "son of man", he was using it as personal pronoun to describe himself. If anyone who heard Jesus use this term in this way challenged it or asked for clarification, it is not recorded. There is no explanation of why Jesus changed the meaning of this phrase, presuming he had the authority to do so. But presuming he had the authority to do it, a sound general principle is that "if something can be done, doesn't mean it should be done". To maintain coherence over time and to explain to knowledgeable Jews who would not be able to have contact with Jesus, an explanation of the new use of the word was warranted. As it stands now it looks like Jesus didn't understand what the term meant or he was intentionally using it in an ambiguous way or that the authors and or translators of the Gospels didn't understand how the term should be used which is one reason why there is no consensus on Jesus' usage of it to this day.

Since Jesus was supposed to be God, then the Old Testament was Jesus' Word, and he used the phrase "son of man" in the Old Testament in the traditional way and he validated the authority of the Old Testament as the Word of God by using it as a reference for his teaching (5), he is not likely to have used the phrase "son of man" in that way because it is a new mapping to a real world state creating ambiguity.

It looks like the the phrase "son of man" was misunderstood by Jesus or the original authors (or translators) of Gospel resulting in a mapping to a wrong state, or a meaningless state depending on the perspective of the critic. In any case, if Jesus was god, then referring to himself using a term which he re-defined but did not explain is deliberately ambiguous and confusing. Since it is irrational for a teacher to teach and communicate to her students using ambiguous terms and deception, it follows that it would be irrational for God to do so as well, therefore the ambiguous use of the term "son of man" was an IDQ design deficiency of Ambiguous Representation in the origin of the text.

References and Further Reading
1. Anchoring Data Quality Dimensions in Ontological Foundations
2. Wikipedia, son of man
3. JewishEncyclopedia, son of man
4. Mechon Mamre
5. How Accurate is the Bible?