Seasoned Bible readers scarcely bat an eye every time Jesus speaks of himself as the Son of Man, but newer readers may well ask why he speaks of himself in the third person so often. While this is by far the most common example of “illeism” (the use of third-person forms by a speaker or writer for self-reference) in the Gospels, one also encounters “the Son” (in context often referring to the Son of God), “(the) Christ,” “the Lord,” “the king,” and, especially in John, entire phrases such as “the One whom the Father has sent,” “He who comes down from heaven,” and “He who comes from God.” Why does Jesus talk this way from time to time? More often than not, he uses typical first-person singular forms. Or if the language is attributed to the Evangelists, why do they occasionally portray Jesus as lapsing into illeism?

In this published...

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