Why is Jesus Christ Called the Son of Man?
Why is Jesus Christ called the Son of Man? While others in the Scriptures (particularly the Old Testament) who are called “son[s] of man” (Jeremiah 49:18, Ezekiel 4:16, Psalms 8:4), the word “son” is uncapitalized. Elder James E. Talmage, a Biblical scholar, sheds light on the answer in his renown work, Jesus the Christ. He says,
“In applying the designation to Himself, the Lord invariably uses the definite article. ‘The Son of Man’ was and is, specifically and exclusively, Jesus Christ. While as a matter of solemn certainty He was the only male human being from Adam down who was not the son of a mortal man, He used the title in a way to conclusively demonstrate that it was peculiarly and solely His own. It is plainly evident that the expression is fraught with a meaning beyond that conveyed by the words in common usage. The distinguishing appellation has been construed by many to indicate our Lord’s humble station as a mortal, and to connote that He stood as the type of humanity, holding a particular and unique relationship to the entire human family.”
Others are called by the title “son of man,” but only the Lord Jesus Christ is called The Son of Man. Said the Spirit of the Lord to the prophet Nephi, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 11:16; emphasis added). But, as Talmage says,
There is, however, a more profound significance attaching to the Lord’s use of the title ‘The Son of Man’; and this lies in the fact that Jesus Christ knew His Father to be the one and only supremely exalted Man, whose Son Jesus Christ was both in spirit and in body—the Firstborn among all the spirit-children of the Father, the Only Begotten in the flesh—and therefore in sense applicable to Himself alone, He was and is the Son of the ‘Man of Holiness,’ Elohim, the Eternal Father.
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” (Moses 6:57).
In other words, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22).
Joseph Smith, a prophet God raised up to re-establish Jesus Christ’s Church on earth in our day, said,
The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 121). Since ‘all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to [Jesus Christ],’ and since the Old Testament is something ‘which pertains to our religion,’then the Old Testament must somehow testify of Jesus Christ.1
Yet, the somewhat gruesome nature of blood sacrifice [in the Old Testament] has led some to ask, “How could such an activity have anything to do with the gospel of love?” We can better understand the answer to that question when we understand the two major purposes for the law of sacrifice. These purposes applied to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and the New Testament Apostles, and they apply to us today as we accept and live the law of sacrifice in a different way: through exemplifying a broken heart and contrite spirit. Its two major purposes are to test and prove us and to assist us in coming unto Christ” (M. Russell Ballard, “The Law of Sacrifice,” Ensign, Oct 1998, 7).
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