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Son of man, a

Son of man, a (Heb., ben Adam). Phrase used in Jewish scripture (especially Psalms and once in Job) in parallel to other words for ‘man’. Since it is literally ‘son of Adam’ (i.e. descendant of the one who, with his descendants, is subject to the penalty of death, Genesis 3. 1–19), the phrase is used most often in contexts where it means ‘humans subject to death’ (a point already noticed and understood by the Targums, early translations of scripture). It carries with it the association of ‘humans subject to frailty and death’. In Daniel 7 (in an Aramaic passage), the phrase ‘a son of man’ is used of a figure seen in a vision as vindicated before a heavenly tribunal and awarded an everlasting kingdom. This probably epitomizes Jewish martyrs, vindicated by their obedience (which they have taken to the point of death), as the true kingdom of Israel. The phrase does not occur in scripture as a title.

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