the Son-of-Man problem is both historically solvable and has been solved
|November 7, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter eighteen, chapter seventeen||
This attempt of Dalman’s has the same significance in regard to the question of the Messiahship as Bousset’s had for the ethical question. Just as ln Bousset’s view the Kingdom of God was, in a paradoxical way, after all proclaimed as present, so here the self-designation “Son of Man” is retained by a paradox as conveying the sense of a present Messiahship. But the documents do not give any support to this assumption; on the contrary they contradict it at every point. According to Dalman it was not the predictions of the passion of the Son of Man which sounded paradoxical to the disciples, but the predictions of His exaltation. But we are distinctly told that when He spoke of His passion they did not understand the saying. The predictions of His exaltation, however, they understood so well that without troubling themselves further about the predictions of the sufferings, they began to dispute who should be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, and who should have his throne closest to the Son of Man. And if it is once admitted that Jesus took the designation from Daniel, what ground is there for asserting that the purely eschatological transcendental significance which the term had taken on in the Similitudes of Enoch and retains in Fourth Ezra had no existence for Jesus? Thus, by a long round-about, criticism has come back to Johannes Weiss. His eschatological solution of the Son-of-Man question—the elements of which are to be found in Strauss’s first Life of Jesus—is the only possible one. Dalman expresses the same idea in the form of a question. “How could one who was actually walking the earth come down from heaven? He would have needed first to be translated thither. One who had died or been rapt away from earth might possibly be brought back to earth in this way.” Having reached this point we have only to observe further that Jesus, from the “confession of Peter” onwards, always speaks of the Son of Man in connexion with death and resurrection. That is to say, that once the disciples know in what relation He stands to the Son of Man, He uses this title to suggest the manner of His return: as the sequel to His death and resurrection He will return to the world again as a superhuman Personality. Thus the purely transcendental use of the term suggested by Dalman as a possibility turns out to be the historical reality.
Broadly speaking, therefore, the Son-of-Man problem is both historically solvable and has been solved. The authentic passages are those in which the expression is used in that apocalyptic sense which goes back to Daniel. But we have to distinguish two different uses of the term according to the degree of knowledge assumed in the hearers. If the secret of Jesus is unknown to them, then in that case they understand simply that Jesus is speaking of the “Son of Man” and His coming without having any suspicion that He and the Son of Man have any connexion. It would be thus, for instance, when in sending out the disciples in Matt. x. 23 He announced the imminence of the appearing of the Son of Man; or when He pictured the judgment which the Son of Man would hold (Matt. xxv. 31-46), if we may imagine it to have been spoken to the people at Jerusalem. Or, on the other hand, the secret is known to the hearers. In that case they understand that the term Son of Man points to the position to which He Himself is to be exalted when the present era passes into the age to come. It was thus, no doubt, in the case of the disciples at Caesarea Philippi, and of the High Priest to whom Jesus, after answering his demand with the simple “Yea” (Mark xiv. 62), goes on immediately to speak of the exaltation of the Son of Man to the right hand of God, and of His coming upon the clouds of heaven.
 See the classical discussion in J. Weiss, Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes, 1892, 1st ed., p. 52 ff.
In the second edition, of 1900, p. 160 ff., he allows himself to be led astray by the “chiefest apostles” of modern theology to indulge in the subtleties of fine spun psychology, and explain Jesus’ way of speaking of Himself in the third person as the Son of Man as due to the “extreme modesty of Jesus,” a modesty which did not forsake Him in the presence of His judges. This recent access of psychologist exegesis has not conduced to clearness of presentation, and the preference for Lucan narrative does not so much contribute to throw light on the facts as to discover in the thoughts of Jesus subtleties of which the historical Jesus never dreamt. If the Lord always used the term Son of Man when speaking of His Messiahship, the reason was that this was the only way in which He could speak at all, since the Messiahship was not yet realised, but was only to be so at the appearing of the Son of Man. For a consistent, purely historical, non-psychological exposition of the Son-of-Man passages see Albert Schweitzer, Das Messianitäts- und Leidensgeheimnis. (The Secret of the Messiahship and the Passion.) A sketch of the Life of Jesus. Tübingen, 1901.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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