Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah,
v.1, Act 2, scene 1 - #18. Sanhedrin Proceedings, Part One: Jesus' Response(s) and Statement about the Son of Man, pp 484-515

(detailed summary)


Sanhedrin Proceedings, Part One: Jesus' Response(s) and Statement about the Son of Man
(Mk 14: 62; Mt 26: 64; Lk 22: 67-70b)


Summary

Luke's text clearly separates the question of the messiah from the question of divine filiation. It is probably not a creation of Luke because a similar text can be found in John. The emphasis is on Jesus' refusal to collaborate and ends with a form of attack on his part.

To the question asked about his messiahship and divine filiation, Mark answers clearly: yes, with his readers in mind who now know that this will involve suffering and death. Matthew answers: "You have said it," and so Jesus invites the high priest to take responsibility for what he has just said and for the meaning he gives to it. Luke replies, "You say that I am", so that we are witnessing a true confession of faith that takes up what the angel Gabriel had announced at the beginning of his Gospel.

Jesus' response is followed by a development on the Son of Man which combines a reference to Psalm 110 on the royal enthronement and to Daniel 7 on the coming of the Son of Man to judge his adversaries. Here we probably have a reference to the resurrection on the one hand, and the parousia on the other. The Sanhedrin will be able to see all this with the tearing of the veil of the temple, symbol of its destruction, and the confession of the centurion, the beginning of the judgment of the parousia. Matthew accentuated the visual elements with the earthquake, the dead coming out of the tomb and the guards seeing the angel coming from heaven. Luke eliminated the very idea of seeing something, for only the believer can grasp the exaltation of Jesus at the right hand of God, which then allows him to send His Spirit.

In the analysis of the notion of the Son of Man, there is no unanimity among biblical scholars. For some, Jewish apocalyptic circles, as witnessed by 1 Enoch and the Apocalypse of Ezra, would have given birth to a messianic and human figure, pre-existing to creation, whom God glorifies by establishing him as judge; the language of Jesus would have been influenced by this figure. For most scholars, it is Jesus himself who is at the source of this notion, coming from his reflection on Daniel 7 and Psalm 110, in the context where his fate resembles that of the prophets who were rejected and put to death; the Christian community would only have continued this reflection by applying it to the different moments of his life.


  1. Translation
  2. Comment
    1. Response to the Separate Messiah Question in Luke 22: 67-68
    2. Forms of Jesus' Affirmative Response to the Son-of-God Question
      1. Mark
      2. Matthew
      3. Luke
    3. Jesus' Statement About the Son of Man
      1. Mark
      2. Matthew
      3. Luke
  3. Analysis
    1. If There Was a Jewish Concept of the Son of Man
    2. If There Was No Jewish Concept of the Son of Man

  1. Translation

    Words of Mark shared by the other evangelists are underlined. In red are words of John shared by other evangelists. Square brackets [] indicate parallels found in another sequence in the New Testament.

    Mark 14Matthew 26Luke 22[John 10]
    67 [saying, "If you are the Messiah, say to us".] But he said to them, "If I shall say to you, you will never believe. 68 But if I shall ask a question, you will never answer. [24 So the Jews ...were saying to him, " ...If you are the Messiah, say to us openly,") 25 Jesus answered them, "I have said to you and you do not believe."]
    62 But Jesus said, "I am, and you [pl.] will see the Son of Man sitting at the right of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven".64 Jesus says to him, "You have said it. Yet I say to you [pl.], ’From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven’".69 But from the present there will be the Son of Man sitting at the right of the power of God". 70 [But they all said, "Are you then the Son of God?"] 70b But he said to them, "You (yourselves) say that I am".36 [...I said, ’I am God’s Son’".][1, 51 And he says to him [Nathanael], "Amen, amen, I say to you [pl.], ’You will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’"]

  2. Comment

    1. Response to the Separate Messiah Question in Luke 22: 67-68

      • Luke separates the question about the Messiah from that about the Son of God. We may then ask ourselves: Is it simply a question of a reorganization of the material he borrows from Mark, or does he also draw from a special tradition about Jesus' response to his opponents? A close analysis of the language of v. 67 shows that it is not Luke's, and the comparison with Jn 10:24-25 testifies to the existence of a tradition they share.

      • Vs. 67-68 present two conditional sentences: "If I shall say to you... but if I shall ask a question...". These two sentences call for a negative answer, because the authorities will never believe and will never answer. This is exactly the type of situation we have in Jeremiah 38:14-15: "If I proclaim it to you, you will kill me, won't you? And if I advise you, you will not listen to me!" This tradition shared by Luke and John probably expresses the Christian experience of their understanding of the Messiah and the opposition they encountered, which colours the way they tell the story of Jesus' trial. One thing is certain, it does not have the legal features of a trial. In any case, the measures against Jesus in Luke do not clearly appear as a trial, and in John this tradition is found in another context.

      • Luke built the second condition on the model of the first. The addition of this second condition (if I shall ask a question) has the effect of changing the tone that was defensive with the first one, which now becomes that of a judge who asks questions. This is typical of the Jesus of Luke who refuses to cooperate and associates him with Christian trials: see for example the trial of Stephen (Acts 7:51-53) which ends with an attack by the latter.

      • Let us finally note the typical Luke sequence: since Jesus does not answer the question directly, clarification will be given in v. 69, which will lead to another question from his audience, to which Jesus will answer in the affirmative.

    2. Forms of Jesus' Affirmative Response to the Son-of-God Question

      Mark 14:62Matthew 26:64Luke 22:70b
      Jesus said,Jesus says to him,He said to them,
      "I am" (egō eimi)"You have said it. Yet..." (sy eipas. Plēn)"You say that I am" (hymeis legete hoti egō eimi)

      1. Mark

        • Jesus' answer in Mark's is clearly yes. But it will have been noted that Mark's Jesus is not addressed to the high priest (it is not "says to him" as in Matthew) but to the reader of the Gospel. It is a solemn declaration that confirms the voice from heaven (1:11) and the confession of Peter (8:29). But why do we have such a clear statement here, when Jesus has constantly asked to remain silent about his identity in Mark? The request for silence was required to avoid a misunderstanding of the Messiah, whereas now, in a context where suffering and death are evident, confusion is no longer possible.

      2. Matthew

        • How do I interpret "You said it"? There are several possibilities:
          • A strong statement: You said it yourself
          • A sarcastic challenge: You said it, and yet you don't believe it.
          • A form of nuance: It was you, not me, who said it.
          Biblical scholars have debated this subject extensively without reaching a consensus. The discussions sometimes confused the period of Jesus' trial (the year 30/33) with that of the evangelist. Some have pointed to parallels with Jewish texts after the second century AD, which is an anachronism.

        • It is better to begin with texts of Matthew himself, and first 26: 25 when Jesus replies to Judas asking if he was the one who was going to hand him over: "You have said so". The sentence is clearly affirmative, but at the same time it contains a nuance: Jesus is freeing himself from all responsibility for the action that Judas is about to take. And here, in verse 64, the word of Jesus contains the adverb "Yet" (plēn), which introduces a nuance. Which brings us to this conclusion.
          1. "You have said it" can't have a negative meaning, in the sense of: "You said it, not me." And it is a positive interpretation that will later lead the Sanhedrin to ask him to prophesy.
          2. But it is not an absolute, unqualified statement, without which he would have simply taken up Mark's simple statement.
          3. The nuance, introduced by "yet", presupposes that Jesus invites the high priest to take responsibility for what he has just said and the meaning he gives to it. Moreover, the context makes it clear that this is a trap, that the high priest would like Jesus to incriminate himself. Finally, the reader will grasp the irony of the whole expressed by "yet", for the one who is questioned will later become the Son of Man, the one who will return to pass judgment.

      3. Luke

        • "You (yourselves) say that I am" Here, in order to answer the Sanhedrin who asks him if he is Son of God, Luke combines two texts from Mark, that of the answer to the high priest (I am) and that of the answer to Pilate (you say so). We should not be surprised by such a proclamation, when the angel Gabriel has already said: "He will be called Son of God". (1: 35). Moreover, we tend to forget that Luke distinguishes the two titles, that of Messiah and that of Son of God. There is no ambiguity concerning the latter which comes here as a conclusion. It is a true confession of faith, which takes place in Jerusalem, where the Gospel began with the words of the angel Gabriel, and which takes place now rather than at the death of Jesus in the mouth of the centurion as in Mark and Matthew (in Luke the centurion will claim Jesus' innocence).

    3. Jesus' Statement About the Son of Man

      1. Mark

        • The statement on the Son of Man confirms the "I am". But in what sense? The expression "Son of Man" appears several times, especially to emphasize the sufferings that Jesus must endure (for example, in Peter's confession in 8:31). Here the emphasis is different, it is on his exaltation, as in other passages (transfiguration: 9:7; eschatological discourse: 13:21-22).

        • "You will see". What does this "you" mean? In an obvious way, it refers to the Sanhedrin. What will they see? In fact, two situations are presented.

          1. "the Son of Man sitting at the right of the Power". Mark presents here an adaptation of Psalm 110:1: "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand, while I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet'". He had already used this psalm to clarify the interpretation of the messiah as the son of God (see 12:35-37), and now he uses it to express the messiah's heavenly and glorious character. But why does he speak of the "right of the Power" instead of the "right of the Lord"? It is unique, and there is no contemporary parallel. Perhaps he has in mind Psalm 80:18 ("Thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, the son of Adam whom thou hast confirmed!"), and therefore wants to emphasize the role of God who supports his protégé and assures him of authority over his enemies.

          2. "and coming with the clouds of heavens". This is a different situation from the previous one, because one cannot sit down and be coming at the same time; there is a sequence in both situations, one preceding the other. Of course, this symbolism of the son of man in the clouds comes from chap. 7 of the book of Daniel where the kingdoms under the rule of the beasts will be destroyed and the dominion given to a son of man coming in the clouds. But as the Son of Man points to the saints of the Most High, he comes to point to Jesus at the time when the Gospel tradition is being formed.

        • You might wonder when these two situations happened in Mark. It is logical to assume the post-resurrection for the first situation, and parousia for the second. On the one hand, the three announcements of the passion with the expression son of man end with the mention of the resurrection, and thus his exaltation before God. On the other hand, the coming in the clouds refers to the events of the end times, when Jesus will return to pass judgment (8:38), a language we find in Revelation (1:7). But can we be more precise about what the Sanhedrin will see? Let us make three points.

          1. i. The early Christians had difficulty untangling all the words of Jesus on the subject. Some seem to imply a return of Jesus soon (Mk 9:1; 14:25; Mt 10:23; Lk 23:43; Jn 14:3; 21-22-23). Others assume an indefinite interim period (Mk 13:35; Mt 13:31-33; 24:50; 25:13; Acts 1:7). Finally, there is that word where Jesus says that the Son does not know (Mk 13:32). All this is not incompatible with the idea that Jesus is already reigning and will reign more visibly in the future.

            Note that Jesus does not say: "you will see me", which would imply the idea that he exalts himself. Rather the reference to Psalm 110 says that it is God who will glorify the Son of Man and give him justice before the Sanhedrin.

            In Mark, when Jesus dies, not only does the veil of the temple tear in two, but the centurion "sees" him expire and exclaims, "Truly, this man was the son of God". Thus is fulfilled the prophecy of the destruction of the temple, but also the prophecy that the Son of God will be seen, and thus the exaltation and judgment of the parousia, almost at the same time that Jesus speaks these words.

      2. Matthew

        • Matthew clarifies the future element of the proclamation of Mark's Jesus with his ap' arti (from now on), like Luke by the way (apo tou nyn: from now on). But how could these two evangelists independently do the same thing at the same time? Note that this is not the first time that the two evangelists clarify their Marcan source when making statements about the future. This happened at his last supper when Jesus says he will no longer drink the produce of the vine (Mk 14:25): in Matthew (26:29) Jesus says he will no longer drink from now on (ap' arti), in Luke (22:18) he says he will no longer drink from now on (apo tou nyn). Thus, everyone, according to their own style, insists that Jesus' triumph has already begun.

        • Let us note other differences in the Matthew-Mark comparison: the Son of Man comes on (epi) the clouds, rather than: with (meta) the clouds. Matthew here follows the Septuagint version on Daniel 7:13, and Mark follows the Septuagint version on Theodotion. Above all, there is "I say to you" (legō hymin), a solemn formula in Matthew that accompanies a revealing action, as seen in 11:22.24 : Jesus announces to the cities of Bethsaida and Chorazin that their fate will be worse than that of Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment; as here, it is a solemn judgment. Thus, Matthew intends to accentuate the beginning of a new era, that of the enthronement of the Messiah, that of the handing over of power to the son of man, salvation for some, judgment for others.

        • In Matthew, things are more vivid and clear-cut as regards what we will "see" with the death of Jesus. For not only is the veil of the temple torn, but the earth trembles, the rocks split, the tombs open, the dead rise and are "seen" by many (27:51-54). The centurion "sees" the earth trembling and these events happen. And even the tomb guards "see" the angel coming down from heaven and rolling away the stone. In short, for the reader of Matthew, Jesus' prediction to the Sanhedrin that they will see the Son of Man exalted has really come true.

      3. Luke

        • Luke has eliminated the most difficult elements of Mark: he does not speak of seeing anything, there is no longer any reference to parousia, he no longer points to God as power. Of course, throughout his Gospel he spoke of the imminent coming of God's reign, and even referred to the role of the son of man in the parousia (9:2; 12:8) and his promise to come in the clouds (21:27), but he insists instead on the ignorance of the timing of these events (see Acts 1:6-11). Thus, in this scene in the Sanhedrin, the emphasis is on exaltation, not judgment.

        • After refusing to answer (22:67-78), Jesus finally gives a positive answer (22:69); his "but" is not an opposition, but a continuation in the same direction. For Luke the Messiah and the Son of Man are the same (see for example Acts 2, 32-35). And the expression "from now on" means that his exaltation begins with the session of the Sanhedrin, progresses with his crucifixion, and will be completed at the moment of his ascension and departure.

        • For Luke, Jesus' sitting at the right hand of God is not simply an enthronement, but an exaltation, i.e. Jesus' sharing of divine powers. This is what will enable him in return to send this power from above (24:49; Acts 1:8). Also, the Sanhedrin cannot see these things, because only the believer can do this, like Stephen (Acts 7:55-56). But the Sanhedrin understands very well the implication of associating the exalted Messiah with the Son of Man, for he responds by saying, "Are you then the Son of God?

  3. Analysis

    There is no way to determine if Jesus really said these words that Mark tells him in 14:62. On the other hand, the question can be asked whether it is plausible that Jesus was able to call himself the Son of Man.

    Let us make a few considerations. This title appears 80 times in the Gospels, and always in Jesus' mouth to designate himself, with two exceptions (Mk 2:10; Jn 12:34). In the New Testament, apart from the Gospels, it appears only 4 times (Heb 2:6; Rev 1:13; 14:14; Acts 7:56).

    It is a curious title, and no one would dare to approach Jesus with such a title. It is absent from the everyday Greek world. It is in a Semitic context that it appears with the book of Ezekiel where the divine voice addresses the prophet 90 times, calling him: son of man, in the sense that he is simply human, in contrast to the divine message. In an Aramaic passage from the book of Daniel (7:13), the word "one like a son of man" is used to say: one like a human being. All this has led to much research among biblical scholars to trace this figure, either in the religions of the Near East or in Jewish apocryphal writings. There is nothing conclusive, so many biblical scholars deny the existence of any expectation of such a figure in the Jewish world. The following analysis takes this into account.

    1. If There Was a Jewish Concept of the Son of Man

      • Jewish apocalyptic circles, echoed in noncanonical literature from the second century BC to the first century AD, were able to draw inspiration from Daniel 7 to develop a strong image of the Son of Man. And Jesus, as well as the early Christians who were bathed in an apocalyptic atmosphere, may have been marked by this image.

      • The main contributor is this section of 1 Enoch (37-71), whose composition is about the year 50 CE. Ch. 46, no doubt inspired by Dan 7:9-10, speaks of someone who has the appearance of a human being and claims to be the Son of the Man of Righteousness; he would possess a rank higher than angels, having received his name in the presence of the Lord of Spirits long before the creation of the world. He is the Chosen One, the Messiah of the Lord, sitting on a throne of glory. Thus, in apocalyptic circles, we would have already associated Daniel 7 with Psalm 110 about the enthronement of the king. Likewise, just as in Daniel 7 and Isaiah 11 (1-4), this person exercises judgment to eliminate the wicked and save the righteous. The author of 1 Enoch may have followed the trend begun by Ezekiel the Tragidian (about 150 BC) who tells how God enthroned Moses to rule the heavens.

      • The Apocalypse of Ezra (also called the 4th book of Ezra), which dates from the end of the first century AD, speaks in ch. 13 of someone in the form of a man who comes from the sea and flies on the clouds of the sky to destroy the forces of evil with the flame coming out of his mouth, and to gather a multitude of people together in peace and joy. This would be the figure of the Messiah who came to liberate creation and guide it, a figure inspired by Daniel 7.

      • So, the Jewish apocalyptic currents would have given birth to a messianic and human figure, pre-existent to creation, whom God glorifies by establishing him as judge. Jesus may have been aware of this figure. It would then be understandable why Mark (14:62) introduces this reference to the Son of Man in his reply to the high priest who questions him about his messiahship.

    2. If There Was No Jewish Concept of the Son of Man

      • The majority of biblical scholars believe that it was Jesus and his disciples who clarified the notion of the Son of God, because there was no precise image of the Son of God in Judaism. The expression was said in Aramaic: bar (ʼě)nāš(āʼ) (son of man). Even if, in itself, the expression could simply mean: a man like me, it is quite different when we consider Mark 8:31.38: it is really a title.

      • There is a tendency to attribute to the first Christians this whole Christological reflection starting from the Old Testament, forgetting that Jesus himself was able to reflect a lot on his role based on certain biblical passages. Thus, Jesus could have acquired the firm conviction that, if he were rejected and put to death like the prophets of the Old Testament, God would introduce his kingdom by clearing him before all his adversaries. He could also have put together Daniel 7 and Psalm 110 and expanded the notion of someone as the Son of Man through whom God manifests his victory. Later the Christian community would have developed this idea further from these few notions from Jesus' own words and applied it to different aspects of his life and to Jesus' understanding of his identity. And if it appears more frequently than the expression "messiah", it is because it comes from Jesus himself.

      • In short, "Son of Man" would express Jesus' understanding of his role in the divine plan as he faced increasing hostility from religious authorities. The Christian community would only have further elaborated what would come from Jesus himself.

Next chapter: Sanhedrin Proceedings, Part Four: Reaction of the Jewish Authorities to Jesus' Response

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