"He has gone to be the guest of a sinner." (Luke 19:7)
Who was Zacchaeus?
Zacchaeus was a tax collector - and tax collectors were considered sinners by the institutional sectarian Jews then. Why? Basically because they dealt with money and worked with the Romans. Due to this they were considered sinners. But Jesus didn't see it this way. Jesus saw beneath the shell of his occupation. Jesus was extending mercy and forgiveness to this man, and knew his heart.
But how could this man - who lived during Jesus' times - be the "son of Abraham" - who lived some 1,500 years prior?
The issue here is the translation of this phrase, υἱὸς Ἀβραάμ - translated to "son of Abraham." This also relates to the mistranslation of the phrase, υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου in the second verse - translated to the "Son of Man."
Meaning of 'son of man'
Regarding the latter phrase - "Son of Man" - what the heck does this mean? How could such a description be distinctive? Every male is a son of a man and hence a "son of man." So why would Jesus describe himself in this manner? And why did he speak of himself in this way in the third person?
Sectarian institutions and their teachers that push this translation of υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου cannot adequately answer these questions. Why? Because they don't know who Jesus really is or what Jesus really taught. So they don't understand him characterizing himself in this manner.
But was Jesus the only person being characterized in this way in the Bible?
Actually, no. At least four prophets were also described in this manner. David referred to himself as the "son of man:"
A Psalm of David.We also find that Job referred to himself in this manner:
Blessed be the LORD my Rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
And my fingers for battle—
My loving kindness and my fortress,
My high tower and my deliverer,
My shield and the One in whom I take refuge,
Who subdues my people under me.
LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him?" (Psalm 144:3)
"How much less man, who is a maggot,Then we find that God addressed Ezekiel as "son of man" at least 60 times. Here are three:
And a son of man, who is a worm?”" (Job 25:5-6)
"He said to me, "son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you." " [Ezekiel referring to God calling upon him] (Ezekiel 2:1-3)
"He said: "son of man, 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."(Ezekiel 2:2-4)
"He then said to me: "Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak My words to them."(Ezekiel 3:3-5)Then we find that God also addressed Daniel as "son of man:"
"As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. "Son of man," He said to me, "understand that the vision concerns the time of the end." (Daniel 8:16-18)These verses and others illustrate first that "son of man" (assuming "son of man" is the right translation) is not a distinctive title that belongs only to Jesus.
What these verses indicate is that this phrase refers to a particular role. This is also why Jesus mentions this repeatedly in the third person. Rather than saying "I" or "me."
The expression, υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου in Greek, and בֵּן אֱנוֹשׁ (ben 'enowsh) in Hebrew - is not some kind if meaningless title - one that every male could claim. It is a title that only the most devoted of God's messengers could be called.
The fact is, the words υἱὸς (hious) in Greek and בֵּן (ben) in Hebrew can both refer to "son" yes. But both have multiple meanings. Let's review each individually:
According to Thayer's lexicon, the word υἱός (huios) can also mean:
"used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower - of teachers - i.q. pupils."
"one who is connected with or belongs to a thing by any kind of close relationship."
"instructed in evangelical truth and devotedly obedient to it"
"one to whom anything belongs" [e.g., a subject]
"those to whom the prophetic and covenant promises belong"
"The Jews called the Messiah υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ pre-eminently, as the supreme representative of God"Now with regard to the Hebrew word בֵּן (ben) we find in Thayers lexicon that the word can mean:
"is applied to a subject - rendering obedience to a king or lord"
"a disciple - in a much as teachers were treated with reverence and obedience, like parents, and received the title of father"
"Hence, "sons of the prophets" for disciples f the prophets and the schools of the prophets themselves. "Sons of the magi" used for the disciples of the magi"
"The appellation of "sons of God" is given in the Ol Testament - to angels - either as the hosts and attendants of God or on account of a greater likeness to the divine nature , although a body is attributed to them... to men who piously worship God."Thus we find that when used in a devotional (not familial) sense, both υἱὸς (hious) in Greek and בֵּן (ben) in Hebrew would appropriately describe a relationship of devotion. Relating to service.
So what is the object being discussed with υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου in Greek, and בֵּן אֱנוֹשׁ (ben 'enowsh) in Hebrew? The words ἀνθρώπου and אֱנוֹשׁ can refer to "man" or "mankind" or "humanity."
This means that the more appropriate translation of the phrases υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου in Greek, and בֵּן אֱנוֹשׁ (ben 'enowsh) in Hebrew would be:
"Servant of Humanity"So what is a servant of humanity? Sometimes a person who is elected by people will call themselves a "civil servant." They are thinking of themselves providing a service to people.
This is a similar idea, except that a Servant of Humanity is providing service to all of humanity - not just a particular race or people. This is a person who is caring for all of humanity, as they are delivering to us the Teachings of God. Jesus communicated this clearly about himself:
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)
“Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the One who sent me." (John 12:44)So how does the Servant of Humanity provide service to everone? By delivering God's message. By delivering to us God's mercy. Why?
Love. Lord Jesus and the prophets were dispatched by God due to their love for us.
This is the common thread between Jesus, Ezekiel, Job, Daniel and David. They were all messengers of God and they loved us. They were all providing a service to all of humanity by delivering God's message to us. And what is their central message they are delivering to us from God?
"'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)This was also the central teaching of Moses, and Jacob and Abraham - and all the prophets. They each loved the Supreme Being and wanted to save each of us by giving us this instruction - because this and only this will make us happy. This and only this will bring us satisfaction. This and only this will deliver us from the emptiness of this world of self-centeredness.
This also relates to the real meaning of the phrase being mistranslated to "son of Abraham."
Again, within the Greek phrase υἱὸς Ἀβραάμ is the word υἱὸς (hious). Again, this is referring not to a familial son - but a devotee - a follower.
Jesus is speaking of Zacchaeus being a follower of Abraham. A devotee of Abraham - being devoted to the teachings of Abraham.
This is because Jesus' teachings were also synchronized with the teachings of Abraham. Those teachings relate to dedicating oneself to the Supreme Being. Praising God. Making offerings to God.
These were the things that Jesus found in the heart of Zacchaeus. He found within his heart a devoted man, who had committed himself to the teachings of Abraham - thus deserving the title give to him by Jesus:
"Servant of Abraham"With these points in mind, let's convey a more appropriate translation of Jesus' statement to Zacchaeus and those around him - from the Gospels of Jesus:
“Today this house is purified because you too are a servant of Abraham. For the Servant of Humanity has appeared to find and save those who have become lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)