God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

Making Jesus the “Human One”

Though the text of the new Common English Bible (“CEB”) has been circulating for some time, its recent release made headlines (Bob Smietana in The Tennessean, picked up by Cathy Lynn Grossman on her USA Today blog), in part because of the translators’ decision to change the traditional “son of man” into “human one.”

Why did they make the change, and is it a good one?

Son of Man

The traditional “son of man” is a literal translation of the Hebrew ben adam, which is how God frequently calls Ezekiel. We also find it elsewhere in the OT. In these cases, the Greek Septuagint translates the Hebrew literally as uios anthropou.

The English phrase also occurs in the NT, where it is the nearly literal translation of the Greek uios tou anthropou (“son of the man”), common in all four Gospels, and appearing elsewhere.

While the Hebrew phrase seems to refer to any human (even though it’s only actually used of a few humans), the Greek phrase seems to refer specifically to Jesus. For this reason, many translations capitalize it, either “Son of man” or “Son of Man.”

Against “Son of Man”

Perhaps the biggest drawback of these literal translations is that the Hebrew ben and Greek uois indicate “member of” in addition to “son” or “child.” One famous phrase where we see this is b’nai yisrael (b’nai is the plural of ben), commonly “children of Israel” or “sons of Israel,” but really just “Israelites.” Similarly (just for instance), in Matthew 9:15, the phrase commonly translated as “wedding guests” is literally sons of the weddinghall.

Accordingly, ben adam could simply be someone who is an adam, just as uios tou anthropou could be someone who is an anthropos. That is, both phrases might just refer to a person. This is where the CEB gets “human one.” They are right that “son of man” is overly literal and misses part of the point of the original.

Another problem with “son of man” is that it is doubly gendered in a way that the Greek is not. In Greek, both uios and anthropos can refer to women as well as men. So the traditional translation introduces gender while the CEB’s translation does not.

In Favor of “Son of Man”

On the other hand, the term “son” in the NT is hardly a neutral one. It is part of the trinity. And it makes possible the progression from “son of man” to “son of God.”

In terms of the latter, for example, we find Luke 22:69-70:

“…but from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” (NRSV, my emphasis)

In the CEB, this becomes:

“…but from now on, the Human One will be seated on the right side of the power of God.” They all said, “Are you God’s Son, then?” (CEB)

The progression is destroyed.

And in terms of the trinity, we might consider Matthew 12:32: “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven…” (NRSV), which resonates with Matthew 28:19: “baptiz[e] them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

In the CEB, we find instead: “And whoever speaks a word against the Human One,” which doesn’t match “baptiz[e] them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in the same way.

The Tradeoff

I understand the motivation behind “human one” in the CEB. And I think that in isolation it’s a better translation than the traditional “son of man.” But in the broader context of the full NT, I think the association with “son” is too central to give up, and so the CEB misses more than it captures.

What do you think? Which part of uios tou anthropou (“son of man” / “human one”) is more important, the meaning of the phrase or the associations of “son”?

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July 19, 2011 - Posted by | translation practice, translation theory | , , , , , , ,

34 Comments »

  1. What about “son of Adam”?

    Comment by Bill Ross | July 19, 2011 | Reply

    • Do you mean as a translation for ben adam, or the phrase from Luke 3:38?

      In Luke 3:38 (“…the son of Adam, the son of God.”) we actually have a different Greek phrase, literally just “of [the] Adam,” which is typical in genealogical lists.

      As a more general translation for ben adam, I don’t think it works, because “Adam” in English is specifically the person, while the same is not true of the Hebrew adam. For example, we find in Leviticus 1:2 “an adam among you who offers a sacrifice…” The word adam cannot mean “Adam,” and almost certainly means simply “person.”

      Comment by Joel H. | July 22, 2011 | Reply

      • I realize that ANQRWPOS is not appropriately rendered “Adam” since that is a transliteration of the Hebrew for “clay” or “earth” etc, specifically to refer to the man we call Adam.

        However, “son of man” seems to carry the same kind of idea as “son of Adam” (ala in Narnia) to signify *race* – the “human race.” In other words, descent from Adam.

        I mean, if I say that Joe is “a son of man” then what I’m really saying is that he is a member of the human race – he descends from Adam.

        Alternatively, it can mean, “a man of flesh” because one is a “man of the earth/dirt”.

        “Human race” signifies race and species. it is a family term. It categorizes one by one’s kindred relation to Adam, does it not? To refer to a “human one” as someone or something not descended from Adam might be a novel concept, but by using the term “son of man” (hUIOS ANQRWPOS), seems to me to be not only categorizing him as human in shape or materials, but is semantically explicitly stating his ancestry.

        To say, “Joel is a son of Grandpa Hoffman” is a statement of one’s lineage. Likewise to say that one is a “son of man” is to say “one who descends [ultimately] from Adam”.

        Is is even possible to disagree that this is the info contained in that phrase?

        Yet, it seems inconsistent with a virgin birth and patrilineal descent, both of which are scriptural concepts, no?

        Comment by Bill Ross | July 22, 2011

  2. I have not thought too carefully about this re the NT, but in the psalms, I use earthling, children of dust or humanity or even humus. While I worship as a Christian, I think that identification with Jesus and following that example – participation in ‘Christ’ is more important than getting the theology right. Christian history is a wreak of murder, politics, and power struggle over right interpretation. It often makes a mockery of what is in the NT as far as obedience is concerned. It also follows the male inclination to dominate everything in sight. I work against this if possible by subterfuge. God’s love is known fully in TNK otherwise the human Jesus would not have been able to learn it. [gap] And we all must do more than learn eenglish from a boook as Manuel put it in Faulty Towers.

    The child of humus at the right hand of power is a reality known to the poet of the psalms in the midst of all the troubles of the elect. Psalm 8 is the obvious application. The corpus of psalms referenced in the NT are all good candidates for exploring this. I haven’t got there, and may not have time with what is left to me.

    I don’t find it difficult to worship the one whose love I have known and in whose love I have been known. Whatever else a philosopher or theologian can express as the conundra of our state of affairs, I find them only pointers. I think we have a canon in the same sense.

    Human One doesn’t do anything for me. I doubt it will define the future direction of English theology. It lacks rhythm.

    Now – did Jesus have to be male? or more generally, does the elect have to be male? Perhaps it was a cultural necessity, a consequence of the evolution of the strong and the dominance of self-interest. If ‘yes’ then what distinguishes Judaism or Christianity from any other human religion, if ‘no’ then what can we do to stop our male dominance from ruling with such violence.

    In the image of God – male and female… But everywhere I use lower case masculine pronouns for God and sometimes ‘it’ for the earthling. I cannot escape the limitations of my tongue. But I agree with the end of the Harry Potter story that language is our most creative gift.

    Comment by bobmacdonald | July 19, 2011 | Reply

  3. If the problems are:
    (a) English “son of man” seems (in the 21st C) doubly gendered
    (b) We need the echoes of “son” – though must the Trinity be gendered? The godhead cannot be!

    How about the Irish “mother’s son”? That would spread the misleading gendering and enable perhaps a destabilisation of the false gendering of God as male implicit in Father-Son-Spirit…

    Comment by Tim Bulkeley | July 19, 2011 | Reply

    • But God *is* male. And “sonship” – particularly “begotten” sonship – logically and semantically precludes any Trinity (though it hasn’t stopped many before, due to the irrationality of the dogmatic paradigm).

      Comment by WoundedEgo | July 19, 2011 | Reply

      • Sorry WoundedEgo your god is Baal and not YHWH, God is not cannot be male, for then he would be a member of a class of similar beings.

        Comment by Tim Bulkeley | July 19, 2011

      • Tim, I’m only trying to take the text for what it says, not for what I imagine them to say. It is the influence of *Plato* that engenders the “Great Cosmic Mind Who is everywhere and nowhere” (and all of the “Omni-this” and “Omni-that” elements of what has become called “Orthodox Christian Theology”. In the scriptures, God is “father” not “mother.” For example, when God crafted a statue of himself from mud, it was a male. The woman was made in the image of the man. Gender.

        Comment by Bill Ross | July 19, 2011

  4. There are also the issues that run around the colloquial use of Aramaic bar nasha meaning “I” or better the old fashioned English “one” (German “man”, French “On” etc) an indirect self-reference, or possibly (as in Barnabas Lindars’ view) “someone like me”. These further complicate the translation question.

    It is at least possible (and I put it no higher than that) that ambiguity is a significant part of its use on Jesus’ lips, and no English translation can adequately capture the mix of colloquialism and biblical echo (whether Ezekiel or Daniel).

    Comment by Doug Chaplin | July 19, 2011 | Reply

    • Ezekiel’s usage seems irrelevant. Daniel’s usage is, IMHO, an allusion to the more important usage in the Book of Enoch, which was a **huuuugely** significant influence on the NT (and Daniel may well date to the 1st Century CE). If you are not familiar with Enoch, I *urge* you to read it. It contains large prophecies concerning the son of man (who may or may not be Enoch himself, the seventh son of Adam), explains the origin of demons which, though absent from the Hebrew scriptures, are on every page of the gospels) and is the origin of quotes in Jude and provides background of Corinthians. It dates from 200 BCE and was considered scripture until 365 CE when the Catholics gave it the boot. To be ignorant of the Book of Enoch is to read the OT and the NT as unconnected, unbridged tomes.

      Comment by Bill Ross | July 19, 2011 | Reply

  5. Whether we prefer human one or son of man, can we keep away from the word trinity? It is in its worst form when we capitalize it and ascribe it to God as though it were one of his names. The Israelites would have been flabbergasted at our reference to their God as ‘Trinity’, and is probably the most blasphemous word in the theological dictionary today. Referring to the LORD as ‘Trinity’ is no more reverent than referring to Jesus Christ as ‘JC’ or ‘the man upstairs’. If Jesus wanted an explicit shortcut for Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he would have provided it.

    Comment by Robert Kan | July 19, 2011 | Reply

    • “Hear O Israel the Lord your God Is ONE” God is a Spirit, who was manifested in the Flesh, (or made a body to live in through Mary) As a man He walked the earth as Jesus the Messiah who paid the penalty for sin satisfying the requirements of the Law. He rose from the dead because death of course, could not hold Him, since as the 2nd adam He is the Life Giving Spirit and the LORD from Heaven. Now His holy Spirit is able to dwell in those who accept the sacrifice of the cross as payment for their sin, abolishing it forever.. Lord Jesus said it very clearly over and over again in John 14-17. Paul declares it throughout the NT. One Spirit. One Lord, One God who is above all through all and IN you all. Christ in us our hope of glory. Modern day Christian teachings have made HIm into three differnt Gods. Which is root in pagan mythology. This is why the Jew has such a hard time with Christianity today, because of these teachings. The first church was full of Jewish believers, that was before religion chopped the truth into a million pieces. Jesus was God in the flesh, even the disciples didn’t get that right away. Thats why they wondered in amazement when he did spoke and stilled the storm and calmeda raging sea. They didn’t get that He created them to begin with. So I like the term son of humanity in the sense that He is God conceived in Mary by His holy Spirit, born of a woman. Because son of man is too gender specifiic, making him only human! But I see how they came up with the view and the term trinity. Many do not realize the term is not found in the Bible. Religion imposes the fear of “blasphemeing the holy Spirit.” Which in context seems to be calling what is of God, evil, or speaking evil of the holy Spirit. I don’t think you can do that if you are sincerely and reverently seeking the Lord for truth. So anyway there is mypersonal revelation! We’ ll see won’t we?

      Comment by Karen Krishak | August 8, 2011 | Reply

  6. Several of our comments here raise (implicitly) questions of how we read these texts. In particular the context or canon within which we read them.

    So Robert wants to restrict the context to exclude post-biblical Christian tradition: “The Israelites would have been flabbergasted at our reference to their God as ‘Trinity’, and is probably the most blasphemous word in the theological dictionary today.”

    While Bill wants Enoch included… and is happy to read back a NT usage into the Hebrew Bible: ‘In the scriptures, God is “father” not “mother.” ‘ In the Hebrew Bible I find few (if any) references to God as a father and as many (in both cases it depends what exactly one “counts”) to God as mother.

    So, what are our rules, where do the boundaries of our reading community lie?

    Comment by Tim Bulkeley | July 19, 2011 | Reply

    • I’m not suggesting “a change to the canon” because canons are, IMHO, arbitrary and irrelevant to rational, scholarly pursuits. They are clubs you join, not a reflection of objective reality. Catholics have theirs, Protestants have theirs, Jews have theirs and so on.

      But to understand the term “son of man” and what it meant to *”Matthew”* and *Daniel* et al, ISTM you have to understand that they and their culture, for hundreds of years, held sacred “The Book of Enoch”, as did early Chrisianity up until the late 4th century, and it has the most significant “stuff” about “the son of man.” For example:

      1Enoch 46:1
      There I beheld the Ancient of days, whose head was like white
      wool, and with him another, whose countenance resembled that of
      man. His countenance was full of grace, like that of one of the
      holy angels. Then I inquired of one of the angels, who went with
      me, and who showed me every secret thing, concerning this Son of
      man; who He was; whence He was; and why He accompanied the
      Ancient of days (John. 17:3; Daniel. 7:9).

      1Enoch 46:2
      He answered and said to me: This is the Son of man, to whom
      righteousness belongs; with whom righteousness has dwelt; and
      who will reveal all the treasures of that which is concealed; for the
      Lord of spirits has chosen him; and his portion has surpassed all
      before the Lord of spirits in everlasting uprightness.

      1Enoch 46:3
      The Son of man, whom thou beholdest, shall raise up kings and
      the mighty from their couches, and kings from their thrones;
      shall loosen the bridles of the powerful, and break in pieces the
      teeth of sinners (Luke 18:31).

      1Enoch 46:4

      Comment by Bill Ross | July 22, 2011 | Reply

  7. [...] One.”  Joel Hoffman, from the blog, God Didn’t Say That, offers a nice summary of the pros and cons on the translation. The post is well worth reading. His conclusion is as follows: I understand the motivation behind [...]

    Pingback by The Common English Bible: “Son of Man” or the “Human One” « Baker Book House Church Connection | July 20, 2011 | Reply

  8. For the CEB, the test of a good translation is how it is understood by the target reader. What is interesting is that even readers who are fairly literate in the Bible could not explain accurately what “Son of Man” means, usually stating that it means “divine.” That is really is the opposite of the semantic meaning. “Son of Adam” would have similar problems–it just doesn’t communicate the semantic content to the average reader.

    As the discussion indicates, what is important is the intertextuality: that the associations with Daniel, the Psalms and Ezekiel are transparent, and that happens if the phrase in all the passages are rendered consistently, as they are in the CEB, not only in the way it is translated, but by the footnotes that give the reference of the quotations. Therefore, the links with Daniel are not destroyed at all, as Joel suggests. However, the links with the Book of Enoch will not be transparent, but most of us that read the the Book of Enoch know the association.

    One of the issues that the CEB helps with is leaving the range of meaning open until the narrative constrains it with Jesus’ explicit interpretation. This helps preserve the way the gospels portray the confusion of the opponents who heard Jesus refer to himself as the Human One/the Human Being/The Son of Man. It isn’t until Jesus explicitly links it with with the apocalyptic references that they “get it” and then the trial is over, according to Mark 14:63/Mt 26:64. Up until that point, as far as they knew, it could have the Ezekiel meaning.

    Comment by Cynthia Long Westfall | July 30, 2011 | Reply

    • >>>Up until that point, as far as they knew, it could have the Ezekiel meaning.

      It is my opinion that the evidence, within the text, is that the Enoch text is never out of view. Not for a moment. Interpretations of “son of man” that don’t include Enoch are simply the naive, narrow thinking of Fundamentalists, for whom a “Bible” is as divinely delineated as is “The Seven Sisters”… Just this morning I was struck by an Enoch reference in Matthew… “it would be better if he had never been born…” It turns out that that is a quote from Enoch!

      I see zero evidence of any allusion, or intertextuality (I love that term), between Matthew and Ezekiel’s usage of hUIOS ANTQWPOS. Zero. But TONS of allusions to Enoch — specifically

      Comment by Bill Ross | July 30, 2011 | Reply

      • How can any translation resonate as it would with Matt, with a modern English reader since they have zero exposure to Enoch?

        Comment by bibleshockers | July 30, 2011

    • Dr. Westfall,

      Thanks for weighing in.

      I agree that the consistency with which the phrase is translated throughout Daniel, the Psalms and Ezekiel in the CEB helps with the intertextuality, and I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise regarding the full phrase “son of man” (or “the human one”).

      My concern is with the intertextuality of the word “son” itself, which plays at least three important roles. It is part of “son of man.” It is part of “son of God.” And it is part of “father, son, and holy spirit.” My concern is that the CEB’s translation masks those important connections, though I also recognize that there are problems with “son of man,” as I describe.

      Comment by Joel H. | August 1, 2011 | Reply

  9. Regarding resonance with the Book of Enoch (if Bill Ross is right), I think that in this narrow case we have to admit defeat. I don’t see any way to create a modern English translation that resonates with a phrase in a book that most modern readers have never heard of, and which doesn’t have a modern equivalent.

    It seems to me that this is one of those cases where a footnote explaining the shortcomings of the translation might be in order.

    Comment by Joel H. | August 1, 2011 | Reply

  10. Nonsense like this is why I stick to the King James. Man is not to change the Word of God in a sense that it destroys its meaning.

    Comment by Topaz | August 2, 2011 | Reply

  11. Seems to me that translating both ben adam and uios tou anthropou as Son of Humanity (or son of humanity) resolves both the problem of losing the association with son elsewhere in the New Testament as well as that mentioned by Dr. Westfall of Son of Man having lost its ability to accurately communicate the semantic content of the phrase in the original languages. It also somewhat “gender neutralizes” the phrase by removing man as a generic reference to humanity. The remaining lack of gender neutrality should not be considered much of a problem in that no reputable scholar, as far as I know, considers Jesus to have not actually been male.

    I don’t care for the Human One translation and I consider the issue raised by Dr. Westfall to be a significant one. Everyday believers in churches commonly see son of man (as well as son of God for that matter) as assertion of divinity when those phrases almost certainly were not such at all. This results in missing some meaning. To Bill Ross’s point, why would anyone even bother looking at the phrase as an allusion to Enoch or any other text when you assume it means something about divinity? It seems like son of humanity would solve some problems even if it doesn’t sound very catchy.

    Comment by BradK | August 3, 2011 | Reply

  12. I personally like the term “son of humanity” because the term “son of man” didn’t sit right with me tp begon with. The word “man” infers gender. Jesus was not the son of a man he was born of a woman, a human “after the flesh” or in his human incarnation. However, Fathered by the Holy Spirit which is another unique terminology that isn’t spoken, but nevertheless true! Remember the Holy Spirit aka Spirit of God, entered Mary’s woman and “she conceived a child by the Holy Ghost.” It is the Diety of Jesus that makes Christianity different from the other religions. If Jesus weren’t God manifested in flesh, aka the second Adam who is the life giving Spirit and The LORD from Heaven there would be not resurrection from the dead, Christ could not dwell in the believer there could be no born again experience thus there would be no salvation. Our salvation is based on “Christ in us, the hope of glory” the mystery hidden for ages.
    I am glad to hear that it is a mistranslation and not surprising to me at all.

    Comment by Karen Krishak | August 4, 2011 | Reply

  13. [...] Hoffman, predictably, has a good post on the subject too – the comments are mind [...]

    Pingback by Bible and Mission Links 7 | August 5, 2011 | Reply

  14. I love the use of “human one”! For the first time Jesus’ emphasis on his human nature flows smoothly through my thoughts as I read this passage. Since “son of” is not a part of our every day language (except for a few choice phrases), the phrase always interrupted my processing of Jesus’ words. “Human one” doesn’t do that. I can read HIs words to me in the pure simplicity of what he meant. In another example, last night I was reading an article from a 1912 newspaper, and the writer repeatedly referred to hunting dogs as “giving tongue” to refer to their barking. Or maybe he was referring to howling? I don’t know because we don’t use that phrase anymore! Just give me the meaning in my language so I can think about the message and not be tripped up by words.

    Comment by Annie | August 6, 2011 | Reply

  15. After 36 years of being a die hard KJV and from there the NKJV promoter and reader. for the first time i found someting else I really appreciate and that is the New Living Translation, especially in reading the Old Testament, the New Testament is ok I use it along with the NKJV. The translation “human one” is much better a translation than “son of man”. I never liked that translation because it leaves you with the wrong impression of who Jesus is, possibly confusing the new reader. As i said in an earlier post the translation son of man, appears to be gender specific in our modern language. Jesus was not the son of a man, but conceived by the Holy Ghost. However He is the “son of humanity” born of a woman.

    Comment by Karen Krishak | August 8, 2011 | Reply

  16. It seems that your problem is with doctrinal issues rather than translation issues. Meaning should come before dogma.

    Comment by Alberto Medrano | September 29, 2011 | Reply

  17. <>

    Yes, and that cuts both ways.

    Primary commitment to meaning is the reason that the CEB editors chose “the human one”–after serious reflection among Hebrew and Greek scholars, there was general agreement that the basic meaning of the idiom across all usages was “the human one” or “human being.” The occurrences in Daniel or Book of Enoch mean that also–but the context of both sources give the phrase the “baggage” that people want to see carried into the NT translations.

    I like the comments about the syntactic connection with “the son of God,” and I think that should merit a footnote in the Study Bible. The problem with “son of humanity” is that it is obscure as to the basic meaning, and, at least in Hebrew/Aramaic idiom, I don’t think that it was obscure at all.

    Comment by Cynthia Long Westfall | September 30, 2011 | Reply

  18. I totally appreciate “the human one” because I think that, in the end, it captures not only the meaning but the inter-textual connections better than “Son of Man.” Of course, I’m an OT scholar, and I think the “Son of Man” tradition for referring to Jesus leaves me two false choices when it comes to Daniel: to pretend that the one coming on the clouds is a technical Messiah/ second person of the Trinity, when obviously it is simply “the human one” as opposed to “the beasts” (see the same phrase in Ezekiel); or to pretend that “the human one” coming on the clouds is not the background for Jesus’ claims–which are not (explicitly) Trinitarian, but are claims to represent humanity in a way predicted by prophets such as Daniel. Yes, of course, the shift from “son of man” to “son of God” is slightly easier to follow than the shift from “the human one” to “God’s son.” But I think this helps us see what must have been (in their culture) a real disjunction–nobody thought that God was calling Ezekiel the second person of the trinity, and therefore if anyone thought Jesus’ claims to be “the human one” were indeed equivalent to being “the son of God,” we have to interrogate why they thought so. I think this whole (necessary) project of tracing Jesus’ claims and how they interrelate is shortcutted by a facile focus on the word “son.”

    Comment by Jonathan | October 17, 2011 | Reply

  19. [...] The completion of the Common English Bible (CEB). The CEB proved hugely popular, even beyond what its publishers expected, though I like it less than many. It’s not a surprise that the translation made news. It was reprinted twice within weeks of its initial run, and has over half a million copies in print. It also made some bold decisions, like changing the traditional “Son of Man” into “human one.” [...]

    Pingback by Bible Translations Make News in 2011 « God Didn't Say That | December 15, 2011 | Reply

  20. [...] the best Bible translation to read and study from? The Ten Commandments Don’t Forbid Coveting Making Jesus the “Human One” The Value of a Word for Word Translation Gender in the Updated NIV Who are you calling a virgin? [...]

    Pingback by The Year in Review (2011) « God Didn't Say That | January 1, 2012 | Reply

  21. Something about “the Human One” leaves me feeling that I’ve been handed The Gospel According to Yoda (or Spock).

    Comment by Kate Gladstone | January 13, 2012 | Reply

    • At least we know Jesus wasn’t a Wooki!

      Comment by bibleshockers | January 13, 2012 | Reply

  22. “Like father like son” or “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” are sayings pointing out the similarity between parent and offspring. We also have sayings that indicate when an offspring has a whole new level of capabilities. “Next generation” and “two point oh” are two such terms, but we also sometimes say “son of …” One such example is ”Son Of Concorde” which is in development and will fly twice as fast as the original Concorde.
    In the Bible, both in the OT and the NT, the phrase “Son of Man” is used to indicate the spiritual nature which is born to that which previously was merely human. The moment our spiritual nature awakens is the moment we are born again. Traditionally this is symbolized by baptism (illumination); the light has come on. Much learning and development is still ahead, but our spiritual nature has awakened. An enlightened or fully developed spiritual nature is said to have found the kingdom of heaven or has become a Son of God.
    The Gospels tell the story of Jesus Christ such that it is allegorically the spiritual path that we should follow. It is by awakening our spiritual nature and fully developing it that we will be saved. Allegorically, Christ is the spiritual path (I am the way …) thus following Christ will save us.
    The ritual of baptism does not spiritually awaken us. In our times, it is not even a recognition that such an awakening has taken place. One could hope that a baptism might mark a commitment to seek the spiritual path with all ones heart, mind and soul, and thus might lead to an actual spiritual awakening, but of course, this is rarely the case.
    Morality is better than being immorality, but even a very moral person is not necessarily spiritually awakened. The gospels say, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11 or Luke 7:28)

    This means no one is seeking spiritual awakening more diligently than John the Baptist. But, anyone spiritually awakened, no matter how recently, or how small his spiritual understanding, is more spiritually advanced than anyone not yet awakened. Tithing, reciting the Bible from memory or following every tenet of Christian faith, is not spiritual awakening, but it could lead to awakening.
    Allegorically, John the Baptist represents someone being as moral as he possibly can and following every teaching that is known to lead to spiritual awakening, but not yet awakened. Inspiration or creativity strikes when it will (…the Son quickeneth whom he will). You can prepare the ground for it, you can make it more likely, but you can’t force it. Our spiritual awakening also cannot be forced, we can prepare and watch for it, but we cannot know the moment it will come.

    Matthew 24:44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

    For the lay Christian that saying teaches to be continually ready for God’s judgment. For those dedicated to pursuing spiritual understanding (today’s Nazarites), it is about the unexpected nature of spiritual awakening. On either level how would “human one” make sense in the above verse?!
    A translator of the Bible that would rob the phrase “Son of Man” of its spiritual meaning, by changing it to, “human one,” does not understand spiritual things. A church or religion that would use or endorse such a translation does not understand the Bible’s spiritual teachings.
    How in modern times, in what is often referred to as the information age, can organizations whose raison d’etre is to promulgate spiritual information, be unaware of such a basic element of spiritual teaching? How could a translator, publisher and everyone else involved in creating a new Bible translation, not know this? Is today’s society really so ignorant of spiritual consciousness that a Bible that distorts such a basic spiritual truth could be published with no objections?

    Even using “Child of Man” distorts the meaning. Gender matters in spiritual allegory. Anyone unaware of that shouldn’t be translating scripture, not the Bible, the Qur’an or even Greek mythology. Spiritual wisdom is female in the Bible; in the New Testament and many other traditions, a female virgin represents wisdom. Jesus, as spiritual consciousness, is born of a virgin. In the OT, wisdom is a woman, “fair to look at,” usually barren until finally a spiritual son is born to her. Our materialistic desiring nature is a woman that is not a virgin. When our materialistic desires rule our lives, in bible-speak we are “whoring.” Allegorically our intellect is male. When our spiritual nature is born, it is not a new type of desire that is born, it is a new type of understanding, thus it is allegorically male, so “Son of Man,” not “Child of Man,” is the appropriate metaphor.
    It doesn’t matter if Isaiah meant virgin or not. Isaiah and Matthew are teaching the same spiritual truths, but spiritual metaphor had evolved some between their times. A virgin as metaphor for spiritual wisdom existed before the gospels, Athena and Isis are among the prior examples. The gospel writers had sufficient spiritual understanding to write scripture, they were not blindly borrowing story elements that they did not understand. The idea that they distorted or misunderstood the OT is ludicrous. No one with spiritual understanding and knowledge of the Bible’s allegorical language would make such a claim. Without enough understanding to write scripture how is someone qualified to critique scripture? Science uses peer review, not whoever feels like commenting or whoever has the most readers. Critiques of scripture by those without understanding should be ignored.
    However, seeking scripture’s meaning and sharing insight among seekers is good, it is recommended in the gospels. In spiritual metaphor, feet represent understanding. When Jesus commands the disciples to wash one another’s feet, the meaning is, that those devoted to spiritual wisdom should “cleanup” each other’s understanding. But criticizing scripture without understanding it, is like criticizing evolution without understanding it.
    There is an allegorical reason that the female character in Song of Solomon is “black and comely.” There is a reason that black Madonna’s exist. Heeding biblical interpretation by those have no idea why wisdom is “black and comely,” the meaning of “Son of man,” and many other spiritual meanings, is to be blind and led by the blind.
    Most of the allegorical elements in the Athena and Medusa “myth” have the same meanings they do in the Bible. Knowing what they mean in the Bible, seekers should have little trouble seeing the meaning of the Athena and Medusa story.

    Comment by Caleb J. | July 6, 2012 | Reply


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