"That man's father..."

The solution is very easy, if you are the sort that likes to work out mathematical expressions. The secret of the riddle lies in verbal obfuscation.

Basically, solve the expression, “my father’s son.” If you have no siblings, then “my father’s son” must be “me,” thus giving:

“Brothers and sisters have I none, but that man’s father is me.”

Simplifying, you can get rid of the part mentioning siblings, since they’ve been accounted for.

Also, restate the riddle in equivalent, but simplified terms, yielding:

“I am that man’s father.”

Therefore, “that man” = “my son.”


I know, I know, big schmeal. I merely enjoyed it because it’s SO mathematical in nature.

Oh, and, uh, here’s Cecil’s original reply:


There seems to be another answer to this. If you take the word ‘father’ to mean God Almighty, then the answer can be Jesus Christ. Now I am not really religious, but I do believe the best riddles can not be solved through mathematics alone…that is way too easy. Both the speaker and Jesus Christ would have the same father without actually being brothers. This also seems to fit with the riddles court room atmosphere.

We can hope not.

No good. The very same logic can be applied for the answer to be “anybody”.

Not exactly. It is said that God has many children, but only one son. Therefore ‘anybody’ does not work.

WAIT!! I accidentally went back to the ‘himself’ logic…woops. I guess ‘anybody’ would work. I would argue that that doesn’t mean it is no good. ‘anybody’ is a valid answer.

It is a valid answer to a question. A riddle is obliged to be more elegant.

Then “my Father’s son” would be Jesus, and the person in the painting would be JJesus’ son.

… aha, then it’s Lou Reed!

Maybe I am feeling slow this morning, or maybe there is more to the joke.

Is there any reason that a picture of his son hanging on the wall would affect the sentencing? Why is it set in a court room?

Actually, I don’t know. I’ve never before heard it given any specific setting, let alone an interlocutor (albeit one who doesn’t speak).

It could be anyone if you allowed “that man’s father”=God=Jesus. Even Jesus.

“That man’s father” can’t be God, since “that man’s father” is “my father’s son”, and God is nobody’s son. Yes, the exception is through the mystery of the Trinity and such, but that also involves changing termiology and there are very distinct father-son roles played in the trinity.

The ocurrence of “father” in “That man’s father” can thus only be interpreted in the pedestrian way. However, “father” in “my father’s son” can be read as “Father” (i.e.: God the Father), making “my Father’s son” Jesus, who is then “That man’s father”.

I think it’s there to get rid of one possible answer - that the person standing in front of the judge is that person in the picture.

As for why a courtroom, why not?

actually my girlfriend pointed out to me that it could be told so it could be the mother as well… :smack:

“That man’s mother is my mother’s daughter!” ?

But that’s not one possible answer. For the person speaking to be the person in the picture, he would have to be his own father.

It’s not impossible.

Just very, very improbable.

Okay, maybe it is impossible. But it makes for some swinging science fiction stories.


Nitpick: You’re referring to “All You Zombies”, not “By His Own Bootstraps”. But they’re the same author and similar themes, so close enough.