Q. Ezekiel is constantly referred to as “Son of Man.” Since this is a reference often used for Jesus, why is it that Ezekiel seems to singled out for same designation?
Basically, the phrase “Son of Man” means something different in the book of Ezekiel than it does in the gospels.
In Ezekiel, “son of man” means “human being.” It’s a poetic Hebrew expression that’s used with that same meaning in several other places in the Old Testament, for example, in Psalm 8, where the ESV translates the Hebrew terms literally: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” The NLT expresses the meaning of these terms: “What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?”
Since “son of man” means “human being” in Ezekiel, in the Common English Bible, that prophet is addressed as “human one”; in the Good News Bible as “mortal man”; in the New Century Version as “human”; and in the New Revised Standard Version as “mortal.”
Why does God address Ezekiel in this particular way? Some have suggested that this is done to distinguish the prophet from the various supernatural beings in his visions–Ezekiel needs to know that God is speaking to him, rather than to one of them! But I think it’s more likely, as others have suggested, that by calling Ezekiel “son of man” (“mortal”), God is stressing the difference between His own powerful words and deeds, described in the visions Ezekiel receives (for example, breathing life into dead bodies, symbolic of restoring the exiled nation), and the few things, paltry by comparison, that the Judeans might accomplish without God.
In the gospels, “Son of Man” means something different. It’s an allusion to the Old Testament, though not to the book of Ezekiel, but rather to the book of Daniel. As I explain in my study guide to the gospel of Mark:
This expression comes from a vision the prophet Daniel had of “one like a son of man” who was given “authority, glory and sovereign power” by God. Jesus chooses this expression to describe himself because it communicates his divine mission without having the nationalistic and militaristic overtones of some of the other titles that were used for the Messiah at this time (such as “Son of David,” which he’ll be called later in the book). The title Son of Man particularly highlights the humanity and humility of Jesus. He will invoke this title repeatedly in the second part of the gospel as he speaks of his coming sufferings and death. But here it captures the authority he has, as a divinely-appointed representative of humanity, to forgive sins and determine how to make appropriate use of the Sabbath.
As I explain further in my study guide to Daniel and Revelation, commenting on Daniel’s vision of the “Ancient of Days,” books like these:
. . . use humans to represent divine figures. The person who’s presented to the Ancient of Days here is described as “like a son of man.” This Aramaic phrase means that he “looked like a human being,” but the implications within the vision are that he was divine. The Jewish people took the phrase “son of man” from this vision and used it as a title (“Son of Man”) to describe the divine savior figure they were expecting. Jesus often applied this title to himself, both to show that he was the Savior sent from God, and also, paradoxically, to show that he had given up his divine prerogatives and come to earth humbly, in human form, to identify completely with those he came to save.
So Ezekiel is not really being given a title that properly belongs to Jesus alone. Rather, the poetic phrase that meant simply “human being” in Ezekiel’s time had become a Messianic title by the time of Jesus.