Examining these two terms to discover if they are equivalent.
The term, Son of man, is used by Jesus 80 times as a way to refer to himself (32 times in Matthew; 14 times in Mark; 26 times in Luke; and 10 times in a qualitatively different way from the Synoptic Gospels in John). In all these texts Jesus is the speaker; no one ever addresses him as Son of man.
So why does Jesus refer to himself as the Son of Man if he was God, and had a virgin birth?
The reason why the gospels have Jesus referring to himself to as the Son of Man is to connect him with Daniel 7:13-14:
13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.Daniel 7:13-14 (KJV)
To a Christian this really sounds like Jesus, so it makes sense to have Jesus saying this. But this is actually a huge mistake which impeaches the credibility of Jesus and the New Testament authors as a whole.
The term “Son of Man” is a term used in Tanach is not good or bad, but depends on the context. It is used to denote someone who is mortal. For example, Ezekiel lived during the Babylonian exile. After he is shown the Divine Chariot and the Heavenly Abode, he was referred to as the Son of Man. The point is that just because Ezekiel could see something so divine does not mean he was divine – it's just stating that he was mortal and that these visions came from God. So the key here is that Son of Man means human being, and not something divine.
What might have happened is that in the earliest gospel (Mark), Jesus intended to call himself the son of Man in order to connect himself with Daniel 7:13-14. Then later, when the virgin birth accounts were added in Matthew and Luke, the authors of those gospels failed to go back and remove references to the Son of Man.
Again, someone who is the Son of Man cannot be divine. The prophet David haMelech foresaw this, he anticipated this and he wrote in Psalm 146:3 which states, “Do not put your trust in Princes, nor in the Son of Man, in whom there is no Salvation.” But the triple whammy is that yes, this passage is in fact talking about the Messiah.
In other words, these are explicit passages which state that the Messiah will not be God, and that if you worship him or expect him to “save” you from your sins, you're making a big mistake!
In conclusion, we are unsure as to precisely where the error lies in the Gospels. Was Jesus confused? Did he simply forget King David's simple message when he quoted him? Or did he never call himself “Son of Man” and the Gospel writers put that into his mouth? Or did he know what it meant all along, and the gospels of Matthew and Luke added a spurious Virgin Birth to the story of Mark – thus undermining Jesus' true message all along? We may never know the why, but we know enough to seriously question the meaning and intent of these passages. In any case if we assume the passages in the Old Testament are true, all else considered, Jesus is stating outright that he is not God.
In what we refer to as “basic Christianity” i.e. “standard Christianity”, the doctrine of the Trinity is formally codified at the Council of Nicea, for public dissemination, in the form of the Nicene Creed.
At the first council of Nicea, the following statement became codified as Christian Doctrine:
1. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.
2. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the SonF of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
3. By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth];]] 4. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;
5. He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;
6. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
7. And in the Holy Ghost.
Nicene Creed (325)
(note: line numbers have been added for easy comparison with the second creed [below])
After 325, various amendments were made to respond to certain Arian heresies:
By 381, the creed had slowly changed and the following was accepted at a second Nicene Council:
1. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
2. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
3. by whom all things were made;
4. who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
5. he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
6. from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead. ;
6b. whose kingdom shall have no end.
7. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.
8. In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Nicene Creed (381)
(note: line numbers have been added for easy comparison with the first creed [above])
It must be noted prior to any discussion that the doctrine of the Trinity, and that Jesus is God, stems directly from this creed.
The big problem though is that at face value it does not say that Jesus is God.
The conclusion we reach from the Creed is that the Trinity is framed as a partnership between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and that all three together are God.
In 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 Paul differentiates between one God (the Father) and one Lord (Jesus);
5 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.1 Corinthians 8:5-6
Paul makes it clear that he considers Jesus to be like a Lord, in the sense that there are many Gods in a pagan religion, and that their purpose is to act as Lords and not as the one true God.
This opinion is echoed many times even by Paul and in the New Testament. ex. 1 Timothy 2:5 — “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
So there it is from the horse's mouth, according to the early church Jesus is not God the Father.
From the mouth of Jesus, we know that Jesus and God are separate beings, yet Jesus also equates himself with God. Perhaps the most well-known example of this conflicted approach to Jesus and God is shown from John 14:
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know[d] my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”John 14:6-7
Taken completely at face value, what is the idea that one can only get to the father not directly, but through Jesus, and yet seeing Jesus is the same as seeing God directly?
Directly after this, the reader is given verses such as the following:
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate,[i] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.John 14:25-26
In John above, Jesus states that the Father(1) would send the Holy Spirit(2) in his name(3), and remind them(4) of all that he has said to them(5). This is five separate times where the personage and function between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are differentiated.
There is also the hermeneutic principle that verses in darkness are interpreted through verses in the light. There is more than sufficient doubt in the idea that Jesus is in complete unity with God without having to go through any of the following (or similar) passages directly from the Gospels:
19 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father[e] does, the Son does likewise. 20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.John 5:19-20
In John 5:19-20 Jesus makes it very clear that he cannot do anything on his own authority precisely because he is not the Father.
30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.John 5:30
In John 5:30 Jesus explicitly states that his will is differentiated from the will of his father. This is echoed in other places but most visibly during the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives:
39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Matthew 26:39
42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.Luke 22:42
There are no two ways about it, Jesus explicitly differentiates himself from God, therefore we must understand his earlier statements as a statement of unity in purpose, or of holding the sole authority of God during his ministry.
Jesus explicitly cast himself as a separate being from God in John 8:
17 In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. 18 I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.”John 8:17-18
In John 17, we note that because Jesus hangs the validity of his testimony on the fact that he and God are two separate beings for the purpose of interpreting the Law of Moses, that if he was in fact God he would then be guilty of lying, making a false oath, and of breaking the Torah.
Jesus himself is very clear about the fact that even from a theological standpoint, he cannot be God:
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ John 8:53-54
Therefore [above] Jesus notes that if he was in fact God his ministry would be meaningless. But that it is precisely because he is not God that his keeping of the torah (for example) has meaning.
This is in fact explained by Jesus during a confrontation with the Pharisees in John 10 where he explains to them that he is not God. This will be explained in Point three below regarding the I am in John 8 and the story in John 10.
There is a very clear and frank rebuttal of this found at Jews for Judaism. I have never seen it's equal.
Question: Is the author of the Gospel of John claiming that Jesus is part of a tri-unity god when he has Jesus say, “before Abraham came into being, I am” (John 8:58)?
Answer: John 8:56-58 states: “'Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.' The Jews therefore said to him: 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?' Jesus said to them: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham came into being, I am.'”
Trinitarians argue that the Greek words ego eimi (“I am”), allegedly spoken by Jesus (John 8:58), indicate that Jesus is God (see also John 8:24, 28). They arrive at their contention by connecting the phrase “I am” with the words spoken by God in Exodus 3:14 and often translated: “I AM THAT I AM . . . . Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” However, the literal and proper translation of this verse is: I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE. . . . Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: I WILL BE has sent me to you.“
Since the author of the Gospel of John utilized the Greek Septuagint translation of the Bible in his writings, it cannot be assumed that John's Jesus is referring to the words in Exodus 3:14. Although Jesus actually spoke in Hebrew or Aramaic, not Greek, John recorded Jesus' alleged words in Greek. Ego eimi (“I am”), used by John's Jesus, is not the same as ho on (“The Being, The One Who Is”), which is used in the Septuagint's rendering of Exodus 3:14: “And God spoke to Moses, saying, I am THE BEING; and He said, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: THE BEING has sent me to you.” Even though ho on appears in the Gospel of John, it is never used as a title or name or exclusively as a reference to Jesus. In the Book of Revelation, also credited to John by Christian commentators, ho on appears five times (Revelation 1:4, 8; 4:8; 11:17; 16:5). Significantly, in each instance, it is used as a title or designation applied to God, not Jesus. Thus: “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is [ho on] and who was and who is to come; and from the seven spirits who are before His throne” (Revelation 1:4). That this verse refers to God and not Jesus is seen from the following verse, which continues the greeting by now including Jesus as one of those sending greetings. Hence, John says, in verses 4 and 5, that greetings are sent by God, the seven spirits, and Jesus.
In verse 8, John writes: ”'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is [ho on] and who was and who is to come, the Almighty'“ (Revelation 1:8). This verse also speaks of God, not Jesus. In Revelation 4:8, ho on is applied to “the Lord God, the Almighty,” not Jesus, who, as the “Lamb” referred to in Revelation 5:6-7, comes to God, who is sitting on His throne. That they are two separate entities is seen from Revelation 5:13: “To the one sitting on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” In addition, ho on is applied to the “Lord God, the Almighty,” not Jesus, in Revelation 11:17 and Revelation 16:5. That ho on in Revelation 16:5 refers to God and not Jesus can be seen from verse 7, which, referring to the subject of verses 5 and 6, states: “And I heard the altar saying: 'Yes, Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.'” These are further indications that ho on and ego eimi are not used as synonymous terms by John. In John 8:56-58, John is expounding his belief that Jesus had a prehuman existence as an angelic being in heaven. John's Jesus is proclaiming here that this prehuman existence began before Abraham was born: “Before Abraham came into being, I am.” The fact of the matter is that the text does not at all indicate how long Jesus supposedly lived before Abraham. In no honest way can John's statement be taken to identify Jesus as God.http://www.jewsforjudaism.com/web/faq/faq128.html
In the above, it is exceedingly clear that Jesus is not claiming to be God from the general context of the passage.
31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?”
33 The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’?[c] 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?John 10:31-36
It should be obvious that Jesus' response to the charge he is making himself God, is that he is not God, but merely the son of God in the same sense as those who have been given authority under God, by God, to execute his will on earth.
Until this point we have examined the issue solely from the standpoint of new testament theology, for the express purpose of showing that Jesus considered himself a separate being from God. God did not directly intervene in the New Testament by making a strong statement that he was Jesus or that Jesus was God; however he did make many applicable statements in the Old Testament. Some of these are included below;
35 To you it was shown so that you would acknowledge that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. … 39 So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.Deuteronomy 4:35,39
39 See now that I, even I, am he; there is no god besides me. I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and no one can deliver from my hand.Deuteronomy 32:39
In fact there are so many such passages that it becomes difficult to find and list them all, simply because it is said in so many places. Here is a partial list I found on the internet;
If, indeed equating Jesus with God is Idolatry, what particular kind of Idolatry is it? After all, it's clearly not Baal or Moloch worship – Christians all know they worship God the Father. And it's not the type of idolatry such as making of a graven image, or a statue. So how then is this idolatry?
The Second Commandment of God, considered by some as the first true “commandment”, is understood to be universally binding across all humanity by Catholics, Christians, Jews, Muslims and so forth. It reads as follows in Exodus 20:
It is often translated along the lines of “Thou shall not have other gods before me”, and Christians often take this to mean that God is the primary God. But the idea that one can worship a secondary or lesser god “after” God is not explicitly mentioned. Obviously, to worship two Gods is not possible. This is the error the Israelites committed in 1 Kings 18 when they worshipped God and Baal together as a partnership:
21 Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people did not answer him a word.1 Kings 18:21
Based on this, worshiping another god besides the Father, or worshiping another god secondary to the father, are sins under the second commandment. This is expressed in various translations such as the ISV (“You are to have no other gods besides me.”) and the GOD'S WORD® Translation (“Never have any other god.”) – but this passage is best understood by examining the verse in Hebrew. The OJB states, “3 Thou shalt have no elohim acherim in My presence.”
In that sense, perhaps, the exact translation would be closer to “Thou shall not have an intermediary” or “Thou shall not place another god between us”. This would necessarily reject any such partnership as in the first reading, but is also much clearer as to the reasoning why; any partnership of Gods as God would necessarily allow the will and word of one God to triumph over another. God remains unique and supreme in and of himself, and thus explicitly demands no partnership.
Besides the sin expressed in 1 Kings 18, the sin of the Golden Calf is probably the clearest example of violating the second commandment. Other examples would include at least the Brass Snake of Moses.
Once the conclusion is reached that Jesus is a separate being from God in any way, shape or form it is no longer possible to state that Jesus is God in any way, shape or form.
There are other ways to examine this issue, such as from an examination of the particulars of Idolatry and case studies from the Old testament. But pointing out the clarity with which Jesus and God have been set apart by the Old Testament and even by the New Testament itself settles the issue immediately.
There is no easy way around the conclusion that Christian doctrine is wrong on this issue. If one attempts to show that Jesus is God by any legitimate means, he runs counter to the authority of Jesus himself, as shown above, the authority of the church itself in the words of Paul and the Nicene Creed, and the direct statement and authority of God that there is no such separate personage as a son, or god-messiah.
It may be that the Christian can approach this issue with a strong Faith. Despite all this evidence, there are still many Christians who will simply say that the above scripture is twisted, that (I) am spiritually blind, that Satan is in me and is tempting them away from Christ, etc. Then the question I pose is, okay then! Share your faith, share your personal testimony. Why then do you believe that Jesus is de facto God, and not just the Son of God – a separate being?
After all, it is frankly very rude to accuse someone else of being Satan, or spirituall blind, for asking a question. So then let us be honest with ourselves and others, and ask it as a question. Please, share your faith. This is an open offer!
R. writes, “i believe Father, Jehovah/Jesus, and Holy Ghost are 3 Divine Beings, separate as you and i but united as One God”.
While we commend R.'s faith we also note that worshipping God as a partnership is a well-known form of idolatry expressly stated in the ten commandments.
R. writes, “prophecy speaks of God as being our Savior”.
It is fair to say this, such as in Isaiah 59:1, it says, “See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” Isaiah is echoing Numbers 11:23 which says “The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited?” which in some translations (ex. KJV) states as such, “23 And the Lord said unto Moses, Is the Lord'S hand waxed short?”
R. writes in continuation, “only God can save us”.
This is likely an error on the part of R. as we note that Israel is given by God as a Light to the Nations. It is true that Jesus also claims to be this light; ex. John 8:12 "I am the light of the world," however this is not true at all in comparison with Old Testament Theology.