the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
MAN* [Note: ἄνθρωτος and ἀνήρ are used by Jesus with the ordinary classic distinctions. Generally ἄνθρωτος = a human being, male or female (e.g. Matthew 4:4; Matthew 5:16); ἀνήρ, a man as distinguished from a woman (Matthew 7:24; Matthew 7:26, Luke 14:24). In keeping with this distinction, and by a Hebrew idiom (cf. the use of אִישׁ), He employs ἄνθρωπος in the sense of the Gr. τις, Lat. quidam, to denote ‘someone,’ ‘a certain one’ (Matthew 21:28; Matthew 22:11 etc.). As the converse of this, it may be noted that not infrequently (esp. in Jn.) where τις occurs in the teaching of Jesus, EV renders it ‘a man.’]
1. Christ’s relation to men.—(1) The first aspect of Jesus in His relation to men, is the relation of a Master to His disciples, and of a Brother, who is also Leader and Teacher, to His brethren. This relationship is unmistakable. ‘Ye did not choose me, but I chose you’ (John 15:16). The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord’ (Matthew 10:24). They were not to accept the title ‘Rabbi’; they were brethren; they had but one teacher, even Christ (Matthew 23:8-10). The relationship was no external one. The disciples were not simply the servants of Jesus; they were His friends (John 15:14-15), and knew His thoughts and purposes. To them He was about to show the very height and greatness of His love by laying down His life. The best way for them to show that they were His friends was by keeping His commandments (John 15:14). They were also under His Father’s care; they were the Father’s flock, and no one should snatch them out of His hand (Luke 12:28; Luke 12:32, John 10:29). They were called to a vocation in some respects similar to His own: they were to be ‘fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19); they, too, would know persecution and trial and death; but these, in their essence, were but temporal things, and could not really injure or destroy (Matthew 10:17-18; Matthew 10:28, Luke 10:19). As contrasted with others who were ‘wise and prudent,’ the disciples were but ‘babes’; but it was to them that God had made the revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:25-26). The disciples responded to this attachment. When they found the teaching of Jesus difficult and obscure, and were almost tempted, like many others, to go no more with Him, He asks them plainly, ‘Will ye also go away?’ and the answer rises within them with all the strength of passionate loyalty and conviction: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life’ (John 6:66-68). It is significant also that one of the strongest utterances of devotion is recorded of Thomas. Other references to this disciple show him as a practical man, who lives on the earth and not in the clouds, and who withholds his faith and support until plain proof be shown (John 20:24-25). But when Jesus expressed His determination to go up to Bethany and wake His friend Lazarus out of his sleep, it was Thomas who first saw his Master’s danger, and that death was near at hand, and who exclaimed with vehemence, ‘Let us go up also with him, that we may die with him’ (John 11:16). Peter is called blessed when, at Caesarea Philippi, he answers Christ’s question and confesses, ‘Thou art the Christ of God’ (Luke 9:20); and John is the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 19:26), the man who at the Last Supper sat next to His Master and leaned upon His breast (John 21:20), and the one to whom Mary the mother of Jesus was entrusted by Jesus as He hung on the cross (John 19:26-27). When His disciples are weary, Jesus bids them go with Him to a desert place and rest a while (Mark 6:31); and after their last meal together, He kneels down and washes their feet, thus teaching them the duty of service (John 13:3-5). The discourses recorded in John 14-16 are doubtless in some measure ideal; but they are true to the main lines of Christian tradition. The relationship between Jesus and His disciples was very intimate and sacred, and the disciples were filled with sorrow at the prospect of that relationship being snapped.
(2) But Jesus was also a Jew and a citizen. His mission was, first and foremost, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24); and it was only when they repeatedly rejected Him and His doctrine that He turned and went elsewhere. Jesus found that His own people were spiritually dead. They had now no prophets, and scarcely any teacher who might quicken their interest in things beyond the present hour and day. They had made the Temple (which was to Jesus His Father’s house) a den of robbers (Matthew 21:13), and they had forgotten that mercy was better than sacrifice (Matthew 9:13); and Jesus, in the strength of His moral indignation, upset the tables of the money-changers, and drove those who sat there out of the Temple. His people honoured the prophets, but in their lifetime they stoned them; and now the greatest of the prophets had come, and they knew it not (Matthew 23:29-39, Luke 11:29; Luke 11:32). He had come to His own, and they that were His own received Him not (John 1:11). There was woe to come upon Chorazin and Bethsaida. Had Tyre and Sidon seen the things which they had seen, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Matthew 11:21). Jesus looked upon Jerusalem and its people with a citizen’s and a patriot’s love, and was moved even to tears (Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:41). Let them weep for their city, themselves and their fate, and not for Him! (Luke 23:28-31). How often would He have gathered her children together as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings!
(3) It seems certain that the Jews, as a body, could never have accepted Jesus as their Messiah. It was the Pharisee who, with all his faults, had remained true in some measure to his national tradition; and it was in him that the teaching of Jesus found its strongest opponent. It was, above all, the universalism of Jesus that the Pharisee could not bear. He despised the Greek and Roman, and especially his kin and neighbour the Samaritan, as ‘Gentile’ folk—outsiders. If the God of the Jews should show Himself favourable unto such, it would have to be by some special act of grace. But Jesus followed out the prophetic ideal. He submitted to be baptized by John, and He expressed in no stinted way His feeling about the Baptist and his work. In His first public utterance Jesus reminded His hearers of the nature of Israel’s God. He was the God of men, no matter what their race and no matter what their moral character. It was this God who despatched Elijah to Zarephath on an errand of mercy, when there were many widows in Israel. Elisha also was sent to heal Naaman the Syrian, although there were many lepers nearer home (Luke 4:25-27). It was by utterances such as these that Jesus gained at the outset the opposition of the national party. Men felt—and felt rightly—that if Jesus triumphed Judaism was undone. The Pharisees were also deeply troubled by Jesus’ manner of life. He received ‘sinners,’ and ate with them; He dined with tax-gatherers, and spoke kindly and compassionately to a woman of ill fame (Luke 5:27-39; Luke 19:1-10, John 8:1-11). The official class—the Sadducees and priests—also felt that new wine like this would burst the old skins, and that a new society might arise, in which they themselves might be anywhere save at the top. And from the moment Jesus set foot in Jerusalem, the priests and Sadducees, as the ruling official party, set themselves to work, not to confute Him, but to compass His death (Matthew 21:23; Matthew 26:3-4, Luke 19:47-48; Luke 19:20; Luke 19:22).
It follows from this that Jesus was a lover of man, irrespective of his race or condition. He began His ministry with teaching and healing. He was often moved to compassion by the multitudes which followed Him; they were as sheep without a shepherd; they heard Him gladly, and even tarried with Him a whole day, and that in a desert place (Mark 1:41; Mark 6:30-36). On one occasion they would have made Him their king (John 6:1-15). And to Jesus, though He refuses their proffered sovereignty, they were as ‘fields white unto the harvest’ (John 4:35). Many of the most striking sayings of Jesus, however, occur in utterances addressed to individuals. It was while sitting and talking with a Samaritan—a Samaritan woman—that He said: ‘God is Spirit’ (John 4:24); it was in the house of Zacchaeus that men first heard that ‘the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Luke 19:10); while it was in answer to ‘a certain lawyer’ that Jesus related the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Men were amazed at and charmed by Jesus’ power of speech; they ‘wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of his mouth’ (Luke 4:22). Police officers on one occasion were disarmed by it. ‘He taught,’ says the Evangelist, ‘as one having authority, and not as the scribes’ (John 7:45-47, Matthew 7:28-29).
What was it that led Jesus to teach and to associate Himself, not simply with Jews, but with men as men? What was it that carried Him willingly and of set purpose into all classes of society, and especially among the outcast and unfavoured folk? What led Him to seek, not the righteous, but sinners, and not the whole, but the sick? To answer this question we must pass to—
2. Christ’s teaching on man.—With Jesus the doctrines of God and man are closely akin. They pass into each other, and are deeply interfused; so much so, that at times we seem but to have been looking at different sides of the same fundamental truth. Central, basal, a pole around which everything else centres and revolves, is His conception of God. To know Him is to share His life, and to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness is alike the highest duty and the highest joy of man (John 17:3, Matthew 6:33). He is Spirit (John 4:24). Without Him nature would cease to be; its beauty, its order, and the creatures which have within it their home, derive all their life and sustenance and joy from Him. The hairs of a man’s head are all numbered; not even a sparrow falls to the ground without His notice. The common flowers and grass owe their life to Him (Matthew 6:25-34; Matthew 10:29-30).
What, then, does Jesus, with this high doctrine of God, say about man? He tells us that man is distinct from the natural world and natural creatures; he is God’s child; God is his Father; he is God’s son (Matthew 5:43-48; Matthew 6:25-34). Such words may not define man’s present condition; they look at him in the light of the ideal; they describe his duty, his highest destiny and ambition. The loftiest hope and purpose that any man may cherish is to become a son of his Father who is in heaven, and to become perfect as his heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:45-48). It is noteworthy that Jesus never mentions the fall of man, nor is there any very conclusive passage in which He speaks of man as a sinner. But He implies that man is such in that He makes ‘Repent’ the keynote of His opening ministry (Matthew 4:17). There is but one who is good, even God (Luke 18:18-19); yet men, who are evil, can render good gifts to their children (Matthew 7:11). It is possible for a man’s eye to be evil, and for his whole body to be filled with darkness rather than with light (Matthew 6:23). Men cannot serve two masters, mammon and God (Matthew 6:24). A rich man can with difficulty enter into the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). Ultimately, too, men are sifted out and their destiny is determined by their attitude to Himself and His brethren; some will sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of God; others will be cast into the outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:31-46).
But, generally, it is the ideal which is present with Jesus; He prefers to look at the possibilities; He does not see capacity for evil; He tries rather to discover the latent powers and potencies of good. An incident such as that recorded in John 8:1-11 is striking proof of this. Jesus there sees not simply the sinner, but the possibility of good in the sinner. His final word to her, therefore, is not one of condemnation: ‘Neither do I condemn thee; go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.’ Man, therefore, is crowned with high dignity and solemn grandeur because he is akin to the Divine. If Jesus had not believed in the capacity for good even in the most unlikely and unexpected people, what we read recorded of Him and His work would never have happened. Of set purpose He turned from folk who were reputable, respectable, and, in the conventional sense, righteous and holy. He came not to the whole, but to the sick; not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32). He turned to those without repute, to the so-called ‘sinners,’ in the faith that goodness lived within their hearts; and history tells us that He was not disappointed. He sought for the common man, unsophisticated, unconventional; and we read that He was often surprised and astonished at what the common man revealed to Him (Matthew 8:5-13); Jesus may thus be said to have been the first to discover the true significance of common men and common things. They were significant because they led up to and implied more than themselves; at the base and heart of each there was God.
But to Jesus man was not one object or thing among other objects or things in the natural world. He was not simply a part of Nature. ‘How much then is a man of more value than a sheep!’ (Matthew 12:12). If the recovery of one sheep brought joy to the shepherd in charge of the flock, a man, by his choice and pursuit of the good, could bring joy to the heart of God (Luke 15:3-7). He was of value, as a lost coin is of value, for which a woman sweeps the house and searches diligently until she finds it (Luke 15:8-10); or as a son is of value, who, even if he has left home for a far country and there wasted his substance in riotous living, is still dear to his father’s heart (Luke 15:11-32).
To Jesus, man, as a spiritual being, made in the image of God, who is Spirit, took precedence of all material things. The death of the body was merely a temporal event; but to think and believe and act as if the material world was all, was the death of the soul (Luke 12:13-21). It was to deny God by forgetting Him, and at bottom meant the surrender of one’s life as a person and the endeavour to become a thing. Such was the act of a fool. To Jesus the spiritual side was all; or, in relation to other things it was the central, controlling principle, the fons et origo of all besides. The life is ‘more than the meat, and the body than the raiment’ (Matthew 6:25). ‘A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth’ (Luke 12:15). ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?’ (Matthew 16:26).
From a strictly moral standpoint the same truth held good of man; he alone of all natural creatures was capable of good and ill; things could not defile; they were unmoral, and knew neither good nor bad; defilement could come only from spirit, from man, and it proceeded from the thoughts and purposes of his heart (Matthew 15:10-11; Matthew 15:18-20). If the inner life was watched, and its waters and streams kept pure, all was well; from without there was no danger, because things had no power. It was similar in regard to the nature of the true good. It was an inward possession; moth and rust consumed material things, but they could not touch spiritual treasure, which made up the wealth of the soul; this was treasure in heaven, and as such would abide (Matthew 6:20). It was the good incorporated, as it were, into the very life and spirit of man. Such also was the Kingdom of heaven. Men could not see it; it did not come by observation; it was within (Luke 17:20-21).
There is a revelation of God in Nature; there is a revelation of God in man; above all, in the moral consciousness of man. People often asked Jesus for a sign or miracle to show them that His teaching was true. But Jesus gave no sign. The teaching itself was its own sign and witness (Luke 11:29-32); its presence was also an argument; it ‘doth both shine and give us sight to see.’ The rich man in the torments of hell-fire might ask that a messenger be sent to his brethren—that some one should rise from the dead to warn them from his fate;—surely at a miracle they would repent? But the appeal of Jesus ever addressed itself to the moral consciousness of man. ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.… If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead’ (Luke 16:19-31). In this aspect John also, in the Prologue to his Gospel, defines for us the nature of man. There was a light which lighted every man as he came into the world. The source of this light was God. Its supreme manifestation was in Jesus; in Him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:1-9).
Man, then, as spiritual, takes precedence of everything else that is. He is not a means or a thing; he is an end in himself. In the time of Jesus, however, as has also happened in other periods of history, the customs and institutions which man had made had become his master, were obscuring his vision and keeping him from his true good. One of these institutions was that of the Sabbath. A man might not heal another man on the Sabbath; yet if a sheep had fallen into a well he might get it out, or if his ox or his ass were thirsty he might lead them to the pool. Jesus enforces the true order; the Sabbath was made for man; it was a means for his good; it was a custom, an institution, a thing, and, as compared with spirit, occupied a strictly subordinate place. It was similar with every custom and institution man had made (Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 2:23-28).
In saying this, Jesus stood emphatically for progress; He practically said also that there was something in the life of man which neither institutions nor the social order nor civic legislation could ever fully express; man bore the infinite within him; deep and ineradicable, within his life, there was the life of God. Man was therefore immortal. If we admit the premises, no other conclusion is possible. The fact, said Jesus in effect, that we can stand in relation to God, that we can speak with Him and commune with Him, is itself the promise and pledge of immortality. Because He lives, we live also (John 14:19). God ‘is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live unto him’ (Luke 20:38). And thus the chief end of man was to know God and Jesus Christ whom He had sent (John 17:3); his true vocation was to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Because he was made in God’s image, and was able, in some measure, to represent Him and reveal Him, man was endowed with a peculiar dignity. But here again Jesus spoke in the language of the ideal. Immortality was a possibility for man; it was in some sense an achievement; it was also something that could be lost. But it was something of which every man was capable.
In conclusion, the strongest argument for the dignity and worth of man is to be found in Jesus Himself. He called Himself the Son of Man; whatever touched man and his well-being was His concern. His teaching and His life were such that men find it impossible to regard Him from the ordinary human standpoint. They have conceived of Him as Divine; they say that His entry into human life to share the common pain and toil and death was a purely voluntary act. Such is not only a view held by theologians, but one which is entertained to-day by men of science. Sir Oliver Lodge speaks of Jesus as being willing to share the life of a peasant, and as being the best race-asset that men possess (Hibbert Journal, Oct. 1904). From whatever standpoint, however, He is viewed, the presence of Jesus in humanity can only add incalculably to its worth and dignity. In set doctrine Jesus taught very little as to the nature of man. To really see what He thought about man and the value He set on him, we must look at Jesus’ life. He came to do the will of His Father and to accomplish His work (John 6:38; John 9:4); He came to give life, and to give it abundantly (John 10:10); He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). That He loved men is a commonplace. He, beyond all other teachers and leaders whom we know, ‘stood stoutly for the human,’ and made the cause of man—the true well-being of man—take precedence of every other thing and cause. It was not that men were better in His than in any other age; it was that He ever saw men in the light of the ideal, and ever found at the root of man’s life the life of God. To say this is to say also that among all the benefactors of humanity, Jesus of Nazareth is, par excellence, the Friend of Man. He thought that the common weal—man and man’s true cause and good—was worth living for with absolute devotion; should things so require, it was also worth dying for. And, as Jesus Himself has said, greater love hath no man than this (John 15:13).
Psychologically, man, in the thought of Jesus, is made up of two parts, soul and body, or spirit and flesh. But He speaks, as a moral teacher, of man in his broad general aspect, and is not concerned with minute psychological distinctions (cf. Matthew 10:28-29; Matthew 16:26; Matthew 26:41, Mark 8:36, Luke 16:22).
Literature.—Grimm-Thayer, Lex. s.vv. ἀνήρ, ἂνθρωπος; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , art. ‘Man’; A. B. Bruce, The Kingdom of God, and other works; John Caird, Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion; A. M. Fairbairn, Studies in the Life of Christ; Laidlaw, Bibl. Doct. of Man; Wendt, Teaching of Jesus; N. T. Theol. of Weiss, Beyschlag, etc.; H. E. Manning, Sermons (1844), p. 47; H. Bushnell, The New Life (1860), p. 16; J. Martineau, Hours of Thought (1879), ii. p. 286; F. Paget, Faculties and Difficulties2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] (1889), p. 132; W. Gladden, Burning Questions (1890), p. 67; J. B. Lightfoot, Cambridge Sermons (1800), p. 229; R. W. Dale, Christian Doctrine (1894), p. 170; H. van Dyke, Manhood, Faith and Courage (1906), p. 1.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Man (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​m/man-2.html. 1906-1918.