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Son of God


Son

 

“Tons of sons!”- the angry Muslim shouts out in his flimsy attempt to “refute” Christians who proclaim the deity of Christ. In other words, unitarians groups (such as Muslims, JWs, Oneness Pentecostals, etc.) deny that Jesus’ unique claim to be the “Son of God” was in fact a claim of deity. Muslims, for example, are taught that Jesus was only speaking metaphorically when He referred to Himself as the Son of God (cf. Mark 14:62; John 10:36). They argue that Jesus was the Son of God by doing good works, glorifying God, being humble, etc., thus, He was not the “one and only” (monogenēs) Son in a unique sense. Unitarians further point out that both in the OT and NT there were many who were referred to as a “son of God” or God’s son—such as Adam (Luke 3:38); Israel (Exod. 4:22); judges (Ps. 82:6); David (Ps. 89:27); Ephraim (Jer. 31:9); Christians (Gal. 3:26); and even angels (Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6; 38:7). So, as it is argued, if the title “Son of God” indicates deity, then Adam, David, angels, etc. are also God. 

 

First, in response the meaning of biblical words and phrases are determined by the context (as with the term Elohim). Second, in a Semitic (Jewish) context, to be the “son of” something meant that one possesses or shares the nature of that something. Ephesians 2:2-3, for example, the unsaved are said to be the “sons of disobedience . . . by nature children of wrath,” in that they possess the nature of disobedience and wrath. Unbelievers are said to be “sons of the Devil” (cf. John 8:44), whereas believers are “sons of God” by adoption (cf. Eph. 1:5), through faith (cf. Gal. 3:26).

 

Son of God” in Nature

 

 Even though the phrase “son(s) of God” was applied to angels and men, when it was applied to Jesus, it was in a context of essence or nature. Christians are sons of God by adoption, Jesus is the Son of God by nature—which was clearly a claim of deity. Consider these examples below:   

 

John 5:17-18: Son of God = God the Son. One of the best examples of where Jesus’ claim to be the “Son of God” denoted ontological (viz. in very nature) equality with God is found in the Gospel of John chapter 5. In verse 17, Jesus said: “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” This was Jesus’ response to the charges brought against Him: The Father’s creative activity stopped after six days, but not His governing and upholding the universe. However, the Son’s activity of mediating, rewarding, punishing, etc. is ongoing. Then we read in verse 18: “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He was not only breaking the Sabbath, but He was also calling God His Father, making Himself equal with God.”

 

The Jews (and the Apostle John) clearly understood that by Jesus claiming God was His Father (i.e., the Son of God), Jesus was claiming to be “equal with God.” This is confirmed by the specific response of the Jews: “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He was . . . calling God His Father, making Himself equal with God.” Note the response of the Jews in John 19:7: “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”

 

Again, this sharply opposes the position of those who assert that Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was not a claim to be equal with God. There is one more notable feature in this text. The verbs translated, “breaking” (eluen, lit., “relaxing”) and “calling” (elegen) as in “calling God His Father” are both in the imperfect tense. The force of an imperfect tense indicates a continuous or repeated action normally occurring in the past. Thus, apparently, this was not the first time He made this claim—He had been repeating this claim. In addition, the reflexive pronoun (heauton, “Himself”) shows that Jesus was making this claim of Himself.[1]        

 

John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.” Both historically and currently, Christians have pointed to this passage to show that Jesus indeed claimed equality with God the Father. As with Jesus’ other undeniable claims to be equal with God (cf. Matt. 12:6; John 5:17-18; 8:58-59 et al; Rev. 1:8, 17; 2:8; 22:13; etc.), the response of the Jews in verse 33 is an irrefutable confirmation of Jesus’ claim: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (emphasis added). This passage also provides a clear refutation to the Oneness view, which erroneously asserts that Jesus is the Father (i.e., the same person).

 

 Ironically, Oneness advocates actually use it as a so-called proof text. However, there are two main points in the passage that eliminates the Oneness notion: 

 

1) The neuter adjective hen (“one”) is used—indicating a unity of essence, not absolute identity. If Jesus wanted to communicate that He was Himself the Father (same person), He certainly would have used the masculine heis (as in Mark 12:29; 1 Tim. 2:5). Renowned Greek grammarian A. T. Robertson comments on the application of the neuter hen in John 10:30: “One (hen). Neuter, not masculine (heis). Not one person (cf. heis in Gal. 3:28), but one essence or nature.”[2] In John 17:21, for example, Jesus prays that His disciples may “be one [hen] even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us.” The same neuter adjective is used.

2) The plural verb esmen (“are”). In contrast to the Oneness interpretation (Jesus is the Father), the Greek contains the plural verb esmen (“I and the Father are one”), not a singular verb such as estin (“is”) or eimi (“am”) in which case the passage would read: “I and the Father is/am one.”

 

Furthermore, Jesus’ claim to deity is not merely found in verse 30. Rather, the passages leading up to verse 30 undeniably prove His claim. In verses 27-29, Jesus claims that He is the Shepherd and that gives His sheep eternal life and no one can snatch them from His or His Father’s hand. Now, the Jews were well acquainted with Psalm 95:7: “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” Thus, the Jews knew that only Yahweh could make this claim of having sheep in His hand as well as giving them eternal life (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 43:11). So when Jesus made these exclusively divine claims and then added, “I and the Father are one,” it’s easy to understand the response of the Jews: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (v. 33).

 

If Jesus was only claiming to be “one” with the Father in the sense of mere representation as with judges or Moses, Jesus’ claim would not have warranted blasphemy (cf. Lev. 24:16). In point of fact, Jesus claimed the exclusive attributes of Yahweh in verses 27-29, when He claimed He was one in essence with the Father, which naturally prompted the Jews to stone Him for blasphemy— for making Himself out to be God. The unique way in which Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in the Gospels was tantamount to His claiming to be God the Son—clearly understood by the Jews (cf. Mark 14:61-62; John 5:17-18; 19:7), the apostles (cf. Matt. 16:18; Rom. 1:3-4; the prologue of Hebrews; 1 John 5:12; etc.); the devil (cf. Matt. 4:3); and God the Father (Matt. 3:17; Heb. 1:5-12).  

 

Divine Sonship

 

The context of the prologue (viz. chap. 1) of Hebrews is a sharp contrast between all things created (heavens, earth, and angels) and the eternal Son. In verse 2, the Son is presented as the agent of creation, the Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17). In verse 3, the Son “is [ōn—“always being”][3] the radiance of His [the Father’s] glory and the exact representation [charaktēr] of His nature [hupostaseōs].” No mere creature can make this claim. In verse 6, we read that “all [pantes] the angels of God” worship the Son. In verse 8, the Father addresses the Son as ho theos (“the God”) whose throne “is forever and ever.”

 

Verses 10-12 are from the Septuagint (LXX) of Psalm 102:25-27. Here God the Father attributes the creation of the heavens and the earth to the Son (as the author does in v. 2). On the face, these passages are devastating to groups that deny the deity and creative role of the Son (such as Muslims, Oneness Pentecostals, JWs, etc.). In these passages, God the Father directly applies Psalm 102:25-27, which speaks of Yahweh as the Creator, to the Son! As with Hebrews 1:8 and starting in verse 5, the author presents God the Father as the speaker and the Son as the recipient. Clearly, verse 10 does not warrant any such break in context or switch in speakers—it is God the Father speaking to God the Son: “And, You, Lord, in the beginning.” The conjunction “And” naturally looks back to the addressee in verse 8: “But of the Son He says.” Hence, it is the Son to whom the Father addresses as the “Lord” who, from the beginning, “laid the foundation of the earth.” Note below two exceptional points of consideration:

 

“Lord” appears in the actual vocative case (i.e., case of direct address)—kurie. In verse 8, theos (“God”), although technically in the nominative (subject) case, clearly carries the vocative force of direct address. In fact, in every occurrence in the NT where God is being directly addressed, theos appears in the nominative case, except in one passage, Matthew 27:46, where theos actually appears in the vocative case: “My God [thee], My God [thee], why have You forsaken Me?” However, in Hebrews 1:10, “Lord” (kurios) actually appears in the vocative form (kurie) in the Greek: “You, Lord [kurie], in the beginning.” Thus, here God is not merely speaking about the Son; rather, He is directly addressing the Son—“You, Lord.” That God the Father is directly speaking to the Son also supports the vocative force rendering of verse 8: “But of the Son He says, ‘YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER. . . .’”                   

 

So of course, Hebrews 1:10 is utterly shattering to the arguments of those who deny the Trinity and deity of the Son. Thus, God the Father is addressing the Son as “the God” whose throne is forever and the Yahweh (“Lord”) of Psalm 102:25-27—the unchangeable Creator of all things.[4]

 

Conclusion

 

In all these cases, we find Jesus’ affirmation of being the “Son of God” was in a unique way—“the one and only [monogenēs] Son.” His claims of deity were ascribed to neither men nor angels. Jesus’ affirmation of being the Son of God was in turn a declaration that denoted ontological equality with Godthe monogenēs theos (“unique God,” John 1:18). And the Jews clearly understood the implications of His claim:

“For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him. . . but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God" (John 5:17-18).

"For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God" (John 10:33).

"We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God” (John 19:7). 



[1] The reflexive pronoun in Greek denotes the subject doing the action to/for himself. 

[2] Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:186.

[3] As in John 1:18 and Romans 9:5, the Son’s eternal, timeless existence is signified by the present participle ōn (“always being”). 

[4] Along with passages such as Daniel 7:9-14; John 1:1, 18; Rom. 9:5; and Heb. 1:3 and the passages that present the Son as the Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12), the preexistence and thus eternality of the Son is also found in passages such as John 3:13; 6:38-62; 8:58; 16:28; 17:5; Phil. 2:6-11; Rev. 1:8; 22:13; etc.