Son of God

 What does it mean to say that Jesus is the “Son of God”?

by Ibn Anwar

  As John F. O’Grady in The Four Gospels and the Jesus Tradition observes Christians would think that when the title Son of God is applied to Jesus it connotes divinity. [1] That is to say Jesus is God because he is called the Son of God. The Catholic Encyclopedia claims under Son of God that when the title is used in the New Testament for Jesus it is applied “for expressing His Divinity”. These fundamentalist Christian claims cannot be farther from the truth. In this article we shall see that ‘Son of God’ is actually a title given to those who have a special, meritorious or superior connection/relationship with God as opposed to any other Tom, Dick or Harry. Many(though not all) Christians might think that Son of God is a special and exclusive title designated to Jesus. They would be horribly wrong. Indeed, if it was used only for Jesus then the claim that it imparts the idea of divinity would hold some strength. Unfortunately, anyone who is familiar with the Bible(s) will know that it is one of the most common titles used for individuals apart from Jesus. If ‘Son of God’ truly connotes divinity then dozens of people in the Bible(s) would be Gods since they are called son/s of God.

Let us consider some of the many verses throughout the Bible(s) where people besides Jesus are designated as son/s of God:

“Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.” (Exodus 4:22)

“I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Jeremiah 31:9)

“….the Lord said to me (David), thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (Psalm 2:7)

*Several Christian apologists whom I have had the pleasure of discussing this verse with tried to claim that Psalm 2:7 is actually in reference to Jesus and not David. Firstly, for the sake of argument let us agree for a moment that their assertion is correct. Even so, that dos not make Jesus God. In fact, if Christians wish to propose the assertion that Psalm 2:7 is speaking about Jesus as God’s son that will totally refute his alleged divinity. Some of you may be puzzled as to how that is. Do not be puzzled. It is actually quite simple. Do you see “the Lord” mentioned in the verse? The Lord or Adonai in Hebrew according to both Jews and Christians is a substitute for YHWH which is suppose to be God’s one and true name. Now, Jesus is suppose to be YHWH himself according to Chrisian Trinitarians. This is false if they were to argue for the first proposition that “son” in Psalm 2:7 refers to Jesus since the verse clearly shows that we are dealing with two distinct and separate entities namely, the Lord or YHWH and the “son”. YHWH in Hebrew is singular and so is the son which then gives us 2 beings. The first being YHWH makes the separate entity into His “son”. YHWH is promoting someone other than Himself to occupy this “sonship”. This means that Jesus has to be either YHWH or the one made YHWH’s son. The Christian cannot opt for both together. If they do then they will have to explain the huge logical fallacy that comes with it. The simple way out is to agree with the Jews and Muslims on this that the verse actually refers to David.(Refer to Rabbi Rashi’s commentary) This is qualified by Psalm 89:27 where we find the following verse about David:

“He shall call Me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ “

Let’s continue with a few more verses:

“I said, ‘You are gods ; you are all sons of the Most High.’ ” (Psalm 82:6 )

 “I will be to him(Samuel) a father, and he shall be to Me a son.”(2 Samuel 7:14)

“…Adam, which was the Son of God.” (Luke 3:38 )

We have so far seen that numerous individuals were called son and sons of God. If one were to accept the Christian Trinitarian premise that Son of God means God then there ought to be a pantheon of Gods and the Christians might as well become like Hindus or pagan Greeks.

The fact of the matter is the title Son of God does not mean anything more or less than a person who occupies a special position in the sight of God i.e. one who has a special relationship with God. It does not in any way connote divinity. Adam, David, Solomon, Jesus and numerous others had a special relationship to God. None of them are God in the sense of being the Creator of the world, the One in Genesis 1:1.

Thus, we find the following statement from scholars Howard Clark Kee, Eric M. Meyers, John Rogerson and Anthony J Saldarini :

The term “Son of God” implies a unique relationship and a central role that is to be fulfilled in the working out of God’s purpose for his people rather than expressing some form of supernatural origin or the divininization of a human being. The link between “Son of God” and servant underscores the obedient role that this person is to fulfill in accomplishing God’s work.” [2] (emphasis added)

In other words, Son of God in the Biblical paradigm is an alternate for servanthood. It does not connote divinity! We find yet another admission from a reputable scholar who writes under the subject ‘Son of God’:

“When Luke used the title “Son of God” he seems to have predicated to Jesus a unique relationship to God. Gabriel declares to Mary that he son will be “the Son of God”(Lk 1:35), and when we couple this with the same declaration that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her (Lk 1:35), the uniqueness cannot be missed. No one can say much more than this. Whatever the title meant to Luke and his readers, it surely did not mean anything on a philosophical or metaphysical plane. Jesus was Son of God because of his special relationship to God, and he manifested this sonship by his willingness to live according to the will of God, even to the point of the acceptance of death.” [3] (emphasis added)

Was Jesus “Son of God” even before he was born? Was he eternally the son of God? Christians claim yes. They say that Jesus has always been the “Son of God” since before time, hence their calling Jesus “God, the Son”. Christian readers may be surprise by what I’m going to say next. Here goes. There is not a single shred of scriptual evidence that say that Jesus was the “Son of God” prior to Mary’s conception. In fact, we are told in Luke 1:35 the reason behind Jesus being called “Son of God”.

“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”(Luke 1:35)

Pay very close attention to the word “therefore” after the mentioning of Jesus’ manner of conception. The Greek word there is διο or dio which is pronounced as deeah. The word literally means “because of”. The New American Standard Bible renders it closer to the Greek.

“The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”(Luke 1:35 NASB)

The verse is clearly telling us that because of the way Jesus is conceived, that is, supernaturally he will be called the “Son of God”. This is the first point in time in which according to the Luke he is called huios theos or “Son of God”. This means he was never eternally the “Son of God”.

Ergo what does it mean to say that Jesus is “the Son of God” ? Perhaps, if there is truly one thing that the King James Version got right was when it revised 3:26 and changed the Greek word paias from son to servant:

“To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning every one of you away from his iniquities.”

Son of God = Servant of God    😉

To sum up our discussion we cite eminent theologian from Fuller Theological Seminary Prof. Collin Brown who succinctly remarks, “To be ‘Son of God’ one has to be a being who is not God! It is a designation for a creature indicating a special relationship with God.” [4]

References:

[1] O’Grady. J. F. (1989). The Four Gospels and the Jesus Tradition. Maumah, New Jersey: Paulist Press. p. 242

[2]  Kee, H. C., Meyers, E. M., Rogerson, J. & Saldarini, A. J. (1997). The Cambridge Companion to the Bible. Cambridge, U.K. : Cambridge University Press. p. 460

[3] O’GRady, J. F. Op. Cit. p. 243

[4] Cited in Buzzard, A. (2007). Jesus was Not a Trinitarian: A Call to return to the Creed of Jesus. Morrow, Georgia: Restoration Fellowship. p. 215

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4 Responses to “Son of God”

  1. al-Habeshi says:

    Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem,

    I have found that Muslims, may Allah reward them with good, tend to follow two ways, sometimes they explain the difference of meaning of the phrase, such as the above, and other times they show how the image of Jesus evolved through the ages.

    I am actually trying to write an article on the Elavation of Jesus, which deals with the latter, but also touches a little on the former. I liked your article, would have been nice to have it abit longer but it suffices for its purpose!

    Br.al-Habeshi

  2. cowofdoom says:

    When a Christian says Son of God, a couple of things come to mind. First a Christian will think of Christ, because of the hierarchy of the Trinity. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The “Son” is a clearly defined person in the Trinity, just as the Father and Holy Spirit are. I know about your Trinity posts, I am not ignoring them, but understand there is a perception also.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but you believe that Jesus did not believe he was God at all. Simply a prophet along the lines of Noah, Moses, Abraham and David, correct? If Jesus is just a prophet, then why did he claim to be God? Let me throw these verses at you and see what you think and then I will explain my line of argument contrary to this article.

    Mark 2:1-12, specifically concentrating on verses 8-12. Only God can forgive sins, not man, and Jesus claims to do just that.
    Mark 14:60-62, while Jesus is on trial before the Sanhedrin.
    John 18:33-37, before Pontius Pilate. Jesus claims to be a king, but not one of this world.
    John 4:25-26, Jesus very plainly proclaims he is the Messiah.
    Combination of verses here, first Exodus 3, specifically verses 13-14. In light of those verses, read John 8:56-58. In that time, Jesus is unmistakably claiming divinity. Follow that with John 18:4-7, where the invocation of the word “I AM” causes those seeking to arrest Jesus to retreat and fall over.

    I do not think I need to give you a breakdown of “I AM” in Hebrew or Greek of its significance to the Jews in Jesus’ day. It is pretty straight forward.

    Now if you believe Jesus is claiming something other than divinity in these verses please show me how. If Jesus knew he was not God and as Islam asserts and never claimed to be God and Christians just misinterpreted his claims, then what do these verses mean?

  3. Ibn Anwar says:

    Greetings,
    You said,
    “When a Christian says Son of God, a couple of things come to mind. First a Christian will think of Christ, because of the hierarchy of the Trinity. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The “Son” is a clearly defined person in the Trinity, just as the Father and Holy Spirit are. I know about your Trinity posts, I am not ignoring them, but understand there is a perception also.”

    Yes, I know what the average Christian thinks when he says ‘Son of God’. However, as we have seen in the article any perception that Jesus is the exclusive Son of God is untrue. In fact, a few days ago I had a discussion with an avid Catholic who’s premise was that anyone who is called Son of God is God like the son of a horse is a horse. That argument was totally debunked when my mates and I showed him numerous other personalities throughout the Bible(s) as being referred to as ‘Son(s) of God’. He failed to propose any cogent rebuttals and instead repeated again and again the same thing.

    You said,
    “Correct me if I am wrong, but you believe that Jesus did not believe he was God at all. Simply a prophet along the lines of Noah, Moses, Abraham and David, correct? If Jesus is just a prophet, then why did he claim to be God? Let me throw these verses at you and see what you think and then I will explain my line of argument contrary to this article.”

    I think it is quite obvious that I deny any sort of deification of Jesus. No mystery behind that. Yes, he was indeed a prophet as is clearly seen throughout the Gospels tme and again:
    “But Jesus said to them, “A PROPHET is not without honour except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”(Mark 6:4)

    “But Jesus said to them, “A PROPHET is not without honour except in his own country and his own house.”(Matthew 13:57)

    “Then he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no PROPHET is accepted in his own country.”(Luke 4:24)

    “And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:”(Luke 24:19)

    “And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us”(Luke 7:16)

    “Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.”(John 7:40)

    “Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet’” (John 4:19)

    Do you recall the man who was healed by Jesus in John? We read what he says concerning Jesus,
    “And he said, ‘He is a prophet.”(John 9:17)

    According to Trinitarian theology, the man should have said He is GOD! I’m sorry to disappoint,but, he didn’t.

    Amazing isnt it? Again and again we see that he is called a prophet by those who accepted him i.e. the believers. None of them ever called him god? I wonder why? I suppose you may bring up the statement of doubting Thomas..that is of no consequence. It is but a solitary testimony that should be understood in light of Mark 12:29-34 and John 17:3 as well as all the other verses that clearly show Jesus’ subservience to Almighty God. In fact, the word theos occurs in the NT over 1350 times and only about two times is Jesus ever called god. Where is the equality that is claimed between the Father and Jesus? the Father is called God over a thousand times and Jesus only twice? It is utterly dwarved by comparison. If Jesus is truly and literally God as you would have it, he must be an insect of a god compared to the Father! No, you see..when Jesus is called theos it should be understood as how Moses was called theos in the Old Testament and the judges were called theos in 82nd Psalm etc. Study some Greek and you will know that theos in the Greek language is not strictly for god(as in the creator), but can be used for anyone who occupies great position or status among other things.

    You brought forth Mark 2:1-12 that tells of Jesus claiming in verse ten that “the Son of Man(notice that it does not say Son of God) has authority to forgive sins on earth”. Who gave him that authority? What’s the source of that authority? Did he not say, “I can of my own self do nothing” and did he not say “all power is GIVEN to me”. Explain to me how God can be GIVEN something when he is supposed to be the ultimate sovereign of the entire universe? You will argue that in verse 7 of the same chapter it says that only God can forgive sins. Who exactly said that? Did Jesus say that? Or did those who disbelieved in him, nay his enemies? Can you also show me some kind of scripture that they base their saying that Jesus is blaspheming and only God can forgive? Does God not have the ability to delegate authority and allow his servant to act on His behalf? Even if one who to accept the passage as authentic for the sake of argument, it does not amount to the deification of Jesus. Further more, we read in the Gospels that the disciples are also given authority to forgive sins and bind and loose whatever on earth and in heaven. Are they Gods too? How many Gods do you have exactly?

    What about Mark 14:60-62? Can you show me exactly where does it say there that Jesus is God Almighty as how the Father is God? I don’t see it. What I see is Jesus claiming to be the son OF MAN and he will come sitting at the right hand of God. He will be sitting at the right hand of God literally and you will be able to see that? If it is to be taken literally then you are being pretty inconsistent in your theology. Because last I checked the Father cannot be seen at all! Yet, the verse says, “You will see the son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One…” If he will be literally sitting at the Mighty One’s(the Father) right hand then it only follows that the mighty One will be percieved beside the son of Man. That does not go well with standard Christian theology as anyone who is familiar with it knows that it says the Father can not be seen by mortals. Cowofdoom, if you work for me and you’re my one and most trusted employee, may I call you my right hand man? Is it metaphorical or are you actually supposed to be literally and geographically on my right hand?

    With regards to the famous “I AM”. Yes, I am very familiar with the Hebrew and the Greek. In the Mesoretic the text reads, “eheye ashey eheye” which is often translated as ‘I am what I am’. However, in the Septuagint we read something totally different! Instead of I am what I am we read, “Ego Eimi Ho On” which simply means “I am THE BEING” and after that it reads, ““Ho on apestalken me pros umas” which means “THE BEING has sent me to you”. What happened to “I am”??? Beats me…lol
    As a matter of fact, if you insist that Ego Eimi equates godhood and divinity then you need to start worshipping the guy in John 9:9 who says exactly the same thing, “EGO EIMI”. Likewise, the disciples in Matthew 26:22 use the exact same wordings. Are they gods too? According to your argument, they must be!
    You argument for John 18:4 to 7 is immaterial because you are interpreting it in such a way that it requires a great feat of reading into the lines, instead of seeing it as it is. If indeed when Jesus said I am and it happened precisely as what we are informed in John 18 that the people who intended to arrest Jesus faltered surely the Jews would rethink their decision in condemning Jesus since according to you “I am” equals godhood. Don’t the Jewish teachers know their own book or are they really that stupid? If they had thought for once that Jesus was truly their God, do you think they would actually try to kill him? You see, it’s all very inconsistent. That’s what Christianity unfortunately.

    Yes, jesus did not believe he was God. Mark 12:29-34 proves that without a shadow of a doubt. Despite your disagreements on my discussion of Mark 12:29-34 the argument that I presented there still stands. You provided little direct rebuttals to my points in the article. Maybe you’ll do better next time.

  4. Mansoor_ali says:

    If we read those verses in which the phrase “Son of God” is used then i request our christian brothers and sisters why you donot read those verses in the context?

    If you read those verses in the context the phrase “Son of God” does not point out any divinity of Christ.

    It is important to read those verses in its proper context.

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