Recorded in the New Testament gospels are stories of Jesus telling of the “Son of Man” to be treated badly and crucified, rising on the third day. The term “son of man” was originally an Old Testament term, Jews making distinction between the sons of ordinary men and the sons of Adam, the father of a new kind of man, cognizant of and giving obedience to a one God, manifested in the phrase: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. . .” – King James Bible, Numbers 23:19; a “son of man” thus being a man having a developed conscience. Modern biblical translations of the Old Testament sometimes substitute terms like “human being” for “son of man”, a more recent translation of the same passage reading: “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.” –New International Version. The original “son of Adam” distinction may perhaps be lost, a problem of language translations from the original Hebrew, and Aramaic spoken by Jesus, offering no modern-usage term for defining a son of Adam, that is, son of man. But while nuances between men and “son of man” may be lost in modern translations, it is significant that all Old Testament versions do regard “son of man” as a man.
The New Testament, alternatively, invariably uses the term “Son of Man” (capitalized) in an entirely different way whenever Jesus himself speaks the term, and he does often. Christians call Jesus the “Son of God”, and yet they universally believe that Jesus is speaking of himself whenever he uses the term “Son of Man,” even while he at other times speaks of himself in the normal “I”, thus referencing himself directly as “I” and indirectly as the “Son of Man”, the latter illustrated as Jesus saying: "Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest." –International Standard Version, Matthew 8:20, interpreted by Christians as Jesus finding no rest in the world. Contemporary scholars cannot define the “Son of Man” New Testament term in a more modern way, because Christians have given the term a special meaning: the Son of God referring to himself indirectly in third person.
A rare 1945 discovery of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas used by early followers of Jesus but not bound into the New Testament Bible, brought to light new Jesus sayings, some that are alike to the New Testament gospels, including the Matthew 8:20 “Foxes have [dens]…” passage mentioned above. The “Scholars Version” translation of the Thomas Gospel by Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer, two leading experts in Christian manuscripts, deviates from the New Testament gospels, using “human being” in their translation of Thomas: “Foxes have their dens and birds have their nests, but human beings have nowhere to lay down and rest.” –Gospel of Thomas, Saying #86. With the new translation, the meaning of this phrase changes, now Jesus not referring to himself but to his followers; they, human beings, are the ones finding no rest on the earth, the implication being if they follow Jesus he will give them rest; various New Testament passages supporting the Patterson and Meyer translation, such as Jesus instructing: "Come to me, … and I will give you rest.” –New International Version, Matthew 11:28.
Patterson and Meyer’s Thomas definition of “Son of Man” causes no problems for the Church because Thomas is a rejected gospel, but a similar redefine in the New Testament gospels would be very problematic to the Church, as this Jesus saying shows: "You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion." –New American Standard Bible, Matthew 26:2. Such a replacing of “Son of Man” with “human being” changes the meaning to Jesus speaking of another man, not himself, to be crucified, and would destroy the central Church element of salvation through the Cross. This radical idea finds support in other Gnostic text interpretations, and in the Koran, and in plain words in the popular 1970’s era Jane Roberts/Seth material where it is said that another man was mistaken as Jesus and crucified. I am inclined to believe that the Crucifixion story was altered after the fact so as to be in agreement with the recorded Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate account of putting Jesus to death.
Fortunately, Stephen Patterson does not leave Christians without hope. His studies of the Gospel of Thomas when compared alongside New Testament gospels leads him to believe, contrary to majority academia, that Jesus did not preach an apocalyptical end of world message, but one of a spiritual present moment nature. Such a message would indeed be the “good news” for a coming age.
Arthur Telling has written numerous stories and articles on religion, philosophy and metaphysics. His article, "A Different Jesus Message" appeared in the Nov. 2011 AMORC Rosicrucian Digest. Telling is author of “Johann’s Awakening”, and three novels including “Kaitlin’s Message” exploring the authenticity of the Crucifixion and the secret sayings of the Gospel of Thomas. His web site is: www.arthurtelling.com