Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The CEB's "The Human One" Explained

About a year ago I posted on the CEB shift from using the phrase "Son of Man" to "Human One." Part of this shift was to try and reflect the idiom more accurately. "Son of Man" does mean simply, human, as found in places like Ezekiel 2:1 and Daniel 7:13. Another reason for the shift is that sometimes readers of the gospels will confuse "son of man" as a title for Jesus' divinity.

Below is a video posted on the CEB website in which Joel Green explains why the choice to go with "Human One" rather than "Son of Man."

As I have said before, I am of two minds on this. On the one hand I understand what the editors are trying to do here. But on the other hand, I wonder if we are too quickly eliminating a phrase that has theological import in the New Testament.

Certainly there are times when the phrase means nothing more than "human" as in Mark 2:28 "the son of man is lord of the Sabbath." And there are times when it is on Jesus' lips and is nothing more than a way to refer to himself as in Matthew 16:13 "who do people say the son of man is?" In the latter case I am not sure why they did not simply gloss over the idiom and translate the verse as "who do people say I am" since this would eliminate any potential confusion.

But I also wonder about those times when the phrase has messianic implications. Several times when it is used in Mark "Son of Man" is equivalent to saying "Messiah" as in 8:29-31 and 14:61-62. Granted, prior to Jesus there is little, if any evidence, that the phrase was a Jewish messianic title. But in Mark, and in other places in the gospels, the phrase does contain those allusions.

Besides thinking that it is somewhat inelegant, I wonder if perhaps this is moving in a direction that guts some of the significance from the phrase. I wonder if we would do better leaving the phrase and doing a better job of explaining it since simply translating it "human one" seems, in my opinion, to just flatten it.


  1. Dr. John,
    I agree with you about keeping the language as close to what the author's as possible. However, having been involved with a number of "teachers" who tend to over-inflate the author's intent and in some ways mystify the term, I can also see the CEB folks' desire to 'flatten' it a bit. Translation is risky business. I don't know that we'll ever get it exactly right.

  2. This is the only reason why I am having a lot of pushback on using the CEB as the preferred translation in my Sunday School Class.

  3. The phrase “ Son of Man “ implies Messiah but also servant hood. In the parable of the vineyard, after the workers are driven off, the Lord sends his son, who is killed. .Jesus was sent on a mission for all mankind. No CEB none of the time. David Schultz, Virginia