Son of man,

from T.S. Eliot – The Waste Land on Rap Genius

Meaning

Son of man,

Eliot, in his own notes, referred to Ezekiel 2:1:

He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.”

Christ also uses the moniker “Son of man” to refer to Himself.
i.e.Matthew 9:6

Yet, in this line of the poem,“Son” is a proper noun and refers not implicitly to the second person of Christianity’s triune-God, but rather to the reader, the audience, or whomever shall hear the warnings of Ezekiel.

While in line 20 of The Waste Land, the “Son” may seem ambiguous due to the syntactical coincidence that “Son” begins the sentence.

However, the distinction between Eliot’s usage of “Son of man” in line 20 as opposed to Christ’s referring to Himself as the “Son of man” in the gospels, must be drawn.

Here, It signals the reader to prepare Eliot’s allusion to Ezekiel’s prophecies in lines 21-2 and remains relevant through the end of the section.

It connects Modernity’s decrepitude not with Christ’s ministry and teleological triumph by the end of the Gospel, but rather with

Ezekiel,

Isaiah,

and their call to the sons of men: repentance or annihilation…

The basic meaning of “son of man” in Hebrew is “human being” (ben-adam, or son-of-Adam, who was the Biblical first man). This can be one sense it has in Ezekiel: God addresses Ezekiel as a representative and spokesperson for the human race. However, this phrase is not common in the Bible — in the Old Testament it can be found predominantly in the book of Ezekiel; while in the New Testament, it is almost exclusively used by Jesus.

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