But what does "son of man" mean?
Does this translation make any sense? A son of a man? Every male is a son of a man. So why would that phrase be a distinction?
The reality is that "son of man" is a mistranslation of the Greek phrase, υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.
Let's break it down:
The Greek word, υios can indicate a relationship of offspring within the context of a physical family, but Jesus is not referring to a physical family here. The alternate meaning of υios according to the Greek lexicon is "one who depends on another or is his follower." This is the appropriate translation of Jesus' words, and this can be boiled down to the words "follower" "disciple" "servant" or "loving servant" because a servant or loving servant follows the one who is being served.
The Greek word τοῦ indicates possessive, and is most appropriately translated to "of" but it can also mean "to."
The Greek word, ἀνθρώπου, can be translated to "man" as well as "mankind" or "humanity." The latter two are most appropriate within the context of Jesus' statement.
Thus, within the context of this self-reference by Jesus, the more appropriate translation* would be "servant of humanity."
Servant of Humanity
This is most appropriate, as Jesus is indicating that he has come as a service to all of humanity. This self-deprecating identification of oneself is consistent with Jesus' activities, as he repeatedly talked about the Supreme Being sending him and being of service to others, and told his disciples that they too would have to serve others in order to be pleasing to Jesus and God:
"Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant." (Mark 10:43)Jesus also illustrated this sense of service as he washed his disciples' feet. Thus he wad illustrating by example the activity of being of service to others.
This self-reference of being a servant of humanity was not exclusive to Jesus. David also made this self-reference, as he said to God in one of his Psalms:
"O Lord, what is man that you care for him, the son of man [servant of humanity] that you think of him?" (Psalm 144:3)Many have attempted to interpret this to mean David is referring to Jesus, but he is obviously speaking humbly of himself, wondering why God would even consider David - a humble servant of humanity.
Job also humbly referred to himself as a servant of humanity when he prayed:
"how much less man, who is but a maggot - a son of man [servant of humanity], who is only a worm!" (Job 25:6)Could Job possibly be referring to Jesus with this statement - portraying Jesus as a maggot or worm? Certainly not. This is Job's humble reference to himself.
God also repeatedly used this phrase to address Ezekial when He appeared before Him to give Him instructions:
"He said to me, "Son of man [servant of humanity], stand up on your feet and I will speak to you."" (Ezekial 2:1)and
"He said: "Son of man [servant of humanity}, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against Me to this very day." (Ezekial 2:3)among others.
Belief or trust?
According to the translation, Jesus is also asking the formerly blind man if he "believes in" him. This phrase makes it seem that simply believing "in" Jesus is sufficient. However, this is a reach by translators who do not see that Jesus is not representing himself, but is representing God and teaching about the Supreme Being.
The fact is, Jesus was standing in front of the man, so certainly Jesus doesn't have to ask the man if the man believed that Jesus exists (as "believes in" references existence). The real question was whether the man would trust Jesus and believe what Jesus was teaching. We can see this when we translate the Greek phrase appropriately:
The word "believe" here is being translated* from the Greek word πιστεύω which means, according to the Greek lexicon, "to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in."
The word "in" is being derived from the Greek word εἰς, which can be translated to "into, unto, to, towards, for, or among" in the Greek lexicon. It is further understood to refer to a leading or carrying forward of something.
So the correct understanding of Jesus' question to the formerly blind man is not whether he "believes in" Jesus, but whether he is now trusting Jesus. And why would Jesus want the man to trust him? Because Jesus is teaching about God, and wanting those around him to come to love and serve God.
How Jesus saw himself
This proper translation of Jesus' statement gives us some context with which to understand how Jesus saw himself and referred to himself. He was not trying to promote himself as the Supreme Being or even the exclusive means to reach God. He simply saw himself as God's humble loving servant and a servant of humanity, and wanted us to trust him as he reached out to introduce us to the Supreme Being and ask us to love Him:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)
*Here is the translation of Jesus' question according to the Gospels of Jesus:
“Do you trust in the Servant of Humanity?” (John 9:35)