HO HUIOS TOU ANTHRÔPOU
Jean Claude Loba Mkole
A Translator's Handbook prepared under the auspices of the United Bible Societies has strongly warned the translators about the meaning and translation of ho huios tou anthrôpou (Bratcher & Nida 1961: 81):
In order that the meaning of the phrase, as used by Jesus in the Gospels, be properly carried over into modern languages, it is necessary either literally to translate the words as a Christian technical term, a title, “The Son of man, ” or else use some phrase or title that will convey if possible a (messianic) sense of dignity, authority, and responsibility.
The authors argue that any translation which would equate the title merely with man or a human being is strictly to be avoided (Bratcher & Nida 1961: 81). In this they disagree with Geza Vermes (1967: 310–328) who has demonstrated that “son of man” was used neither in Judaism nor by Jesus as a messianic title, and agree with an article published by the Summer Institute of Linguistics which appealed to translators to consider “son of man” as “the heavenly Messiah” (Hill 1983: 37–38). For Hill, the component of humanity in the “son of man, ” while present, is nonetheless not central: “It is in the Son of Man as the heavenly Messiah that we find the central emphasis of the title” (Hill 1983: 38).
In Kiswahili ho huios tou anthrôpou has been rendered by mwana wa mtu (son/daughter of human being). The translators, guided by translators' helps, or by some exegetes, did not hesitate to attribute the messianic meaning to the “son of man” expression. In a note on Matthew 8:20, the Catholic Biblia Takatifu (Holy Bible) published in 1986 by Verbum Bible in Bukavu (Zaire/Congo) explains the meaning of “son of man” as a messianic title. In the Inter-confessional Biblia (Bible) conjointly published in 1995 in Dodoma (Tanzania) and Nairobi (Kenya), “son of man” is explained as a name or title used by Jesus in the line of his messianic secret. So, whereas the Catholic Biblia Takatifu of Zaire understands “son of man” as a messianic title, the Interconfessional Biblia of Tanzania and Kenya seems to consider “son of man” as a secret or hidden messianic title