Daniel 7:13. In that prophetic verse, Daniel declares that he sees one like a son of (mortal) man coming with clouds to the Ancient of Days to be presented before Him.

The expression ‘like a son of man’ here is Aramaic: k‘bar enash.

[Now Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Wertheimer (1866-1935) writes that the root of enosh (enash) is ish, with the additional NUN to serve as a diminutive].

Are the words ‘bar enash’ a designation of an authoritative representative of another? I’m asking this based on the following assumptions:

Analyzing all the instances of ish in the Tenach one may conclude that ish is primarily a designation of affiliation, not an individual (like “person”). Certain semantic fields will evoke this noun’s contextual semantic domain of representation: ‘one who acts on behalf of others.’ When the group in question is a corporate household (Israelite society’s basic unit of organization), its ish is its authoritative representative: the ‘householder’ or paterfamilias. Hence rendering ish in English as ‘man’ kind of distorts the text more than is usually recognized.

If ish is primarily a noun of group affiliation representation, then any expression that implies individual gender identity is misleading. Since Aramaic and Hebrew are closely related sister languages from the same cultural base, we can be reasonably certain that the same societal assumptions are also true of Aramaic. Therefore, “son of man” is not a designation of an individual “person” who fulfills a divine role. It is a designation of an authoritative representative of another, just as a “man” is the authoritative representative of the household. The term enash or ish is a term designating the summary of relationships that result in representation of the unit. When Daniel uses the words bar enash (within the semantic domain of Israel), he is not suggesting that he saw a divine “person”, as some claim. Instead he’s claiming that, as Messiah, that person is the authorized representative of the Ancient of Days. The concept of “person” distorts this meaning, forcing one to interpret the text as if it included a Western idea of individual identity. In fact, the text suggests that the son of man is presented to the Ancient of Days precisely as the authoritative representative, perfectly consistent with the semantic domain in Hebrew/Aramaic thought.

1 Answer 1


I don't think the assumptions in your quotation are true. "Ish" translates very well as "man". It's basic meaning is a human male, but it can sometimes be used to represent a person in charge, e.g. man of the house. A simple Sefaria search of the word Ish will show that generally it just means a regular man, just as "Ishah" means a regular woman.

"Bar Enash" is just the Aramaic version of the very common Hebrew expression "Ben Adam", which means "son of man". See for example this verse from Psalms with its Aramaic translation. And also these verses from Jeremiah.

  • You assume that Bar-Enash is the equivalent of Ben-Adam, but I think it’s actually Bar-Adam בר אדם/ܒܪ ܐܕܡ, while the term Bar-Enash בר אנש/ܒܪ ܐܢܫ is probably connected to Ben-Enosh.
    – Y.Talmid
    Sep 26, 2021 at 12:21
  • I don't assume; I demonstrated that in the authoritative Aramaic translations of the Bible, Bar Enash is a standard translation of Ben Adam. The word Adam never made it into Aramaic, so they used the word Enash instead.
    – N.T.
    Sep 26, 2021 at 18:37
  • The Targum of Ezekiel reads bar Adam. I’m not saying that Bar Enash isn’t used to translate Ben Adam outside of the Tenach, but it could be possible that in a verse like Daniel is was ment to emphasize the mortal man while the term ben Adam is often used to emphasize man's earthly origin or humanity.
    – Y.Talmid
    Sep 27, 2021 at 4:52
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/126413/…
    – Dov
    Oct 24, 2021 at 21:42

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