Mark 2:10 is the first place in Mark where the phrase "son of man" appears. Jesus is at the synagogue in Capernaum, where he sees a paralyzed man and tells him his sins are forgiven. The scribes think this is blasphemous. Jesus tell them:

'But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I tell you, arise, take up your mat, and go to your house.”'

Jesus spoke Aramaic, in which, if I'm understanding correctly, there is no audible difference between "son of man" (the idiom for any male human being) and the possible use of the phrase as a title, "the Son of Man." Therefore it seems likely that the scribes would have understood Jesus to mean it in the generic sense, as in Psalms 8:4, "What is the son of man, that you care for him? For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You make him ruler over the works of your hands."

Now the fact that the evangelist renders Jesus's snappy comeback in Greek as ο υιος του ανθρώπου, with "ο," means that he considers it there to be a title and a reference to Daniel 7:13. But from the point of view of the people Jesus is addressing, is it reasonable to construe the saying like this?

But that you may know that any man has authority on earth to forgive sins...

In other words, Jesus is simply saying that people can forgive people, and no special authority is required.

  • The same point is made in Matt 9:8 and no special title is given there. That Jesus was a man who had authority is noted - because God gave it to him.
    – Steve
    Feb 3, 2021 at 2:42

2 Answers 2


It is pointless speculating about some hypothetical Aramaic original because we do not have access to such a text. The first Aramaic text of the Gospels came at least 50 to 100 years after the existence of the Greek text.

So, all we have is the Greek text so i will confine my comments to that text and the use "[The] Son of Man".

1. Inarticular Υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου

This phrase, without the article occurs only four times in the NT, namely John 5:27, Heb 2:6, Rev 1:13, 14:14. The equivalent phrase in the Hebrew in Ps 8:4 (quoted by Heb 2:6) is also inarticular. Both Rev 1:13 and 14:14 allude to Dan 7:13 which also lacks the article. In all these cases, they refer directly to Messiah, Jesus Christ.

2. Articular ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου [Literally, The Son of the Man]

This phrase with the articles occurs 82 times in the NT, eg, Matt 8:20, 9:6, 10:23, 11:19, 12:8, 32, 40, ... John 13:31, Acts 7:56, etc. Again, these all refer directly to Jesus Christ.

The phrase "son of man" occurs many times in the OT, mainly in the book of Ezekiel, viz, Eze 11:15, 20:3, 21:19, 24:25, 28:2, 33:2, 12, 36:1, 37:19, 38:2, 39:17, 43:7, 44:5, etc. All of these refer directly to the prophet Ezekiel taking direct instructions from God. They lack the article.

From this survey, the NT usage of the title "Son of Man" whether articular or not, we may infer the following:

  • "Son of man" refers exclusively to Jesus Christ, in the NT
  • This title of Jesus emphasizes His humanity which the NT is at pains to stress, see, Phil 2:5-8, Heb 4:15, 1 John 4:2, 2 John 7,
  • This is confirmed by the fact that Jesus died, Matt 27:50, Mark 15:37, 44, Luke 23:46, John 19:30, 33, 34, 35, Luke 24:46, 1 Cor 15:3, 4, Acts 10:40, 13:30, etc.
  • The use of articular and inarticular forms of the title, "Son of Man" appear indistinguishable in their use in the NT - both refer to Jesus with equal distinction.

Now to Mark 2:1-10. The story hinges on the fact that the listening Jewish leaders were aghast at Jesus forgiving sins (V6, 7) - because only God can forgive sins.

Now, it is true that the NT teaches us to be forgiving and to "forgive one another" (Eph 4:32, Col 3:13); however, the only sin that a person can forgive is the sin or offense committed by someone against that person. Humans cannot forgive sins generally. This was the subtle point picked up by the Jews - Christ forgave sins that had not been committed against Him.

For this they accused Jesus of blasphemy; but such a charge is only valid IF Jesus is not God which the NT goes to some lengths to establish, Matt 1:23, John 1:18, John 5:17, 18, 23, 20:28, Phil 2:5, 6, 1 Tim 3:16, Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1, etc.

That is, during Jesus' incarnation, He put many of His divine prerogatives aside (Phil 2:5-8), but, according to Mark 2:10 (and Matt 9:6), the forgiveness of sins was NOT one of these - Jesus retained to privilege of forgiving any and all sin while on earth.

  • 1
    This is all fine as an explanation of Christian theology and the meaning of the Greek text, but that isn't what the question was about. I don't think it's at all speculative to say that when Jesus said "son of man," he said a certain phrase in Aramaic, which is basically the same as the Hebrew phrase that occurs in the Hebrew bible (just translated into a very closely related semitic language).
    – user39728
    Feb 3, 2021 at 18:41
  • @BenCrowell - I cannot see what difference your assertion really makes - we do not have the Aramaic words of Jesus and so cannot possibly analyse them. I have analysed what we do have. End of story. Beyond that is pure speculation.
    – Dottard
    Feb 3, 2021 at 19:37

After some searching, I found a nice review paper on this topic:

Burkett, ``The Nontitular Son of Man: A History and Critique,'' 1994, New Testament Studies, 40(04), 504–521. doi:10.1017/s0028688500026448

Many people have noticed this before. Burkett agrees that this is a possible reading of Mark 2:10, as well as 2:28 (``therefore man is lord even of the sabbath'').

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