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What Does It Mean To Be "Son of God"?

Frequently, the issue of Jesus being a son of God causes disaffection, not only between Christians and Muslims, but between Christians and adherents of the first Abrahamic religion, Judaism. Why should this be? First, I accuse Muslim brothers and sisters of being over-sensitive to words, and ignoring the symbolic meanings of words. And, more important, I accuse the Christians of making a mountain out of a mole hill of language.

This thread is for the Christians; I invite you to enlighten us - as it pleases you - about the sonship of Jesus Christ. If there's anything I am missing, please do set me straight. I will be respectful, considering your religious sensibilities. I will respectfully refer to Jesus as the Christ; and will refer to the bible Old Testament Hebrew God as "God", or, God the Father. I hope these are acceptable. In exchange, could you address strongly-held opinion without distractions? Here is the argument, and it should be straightforward:

1) What's special about calling Jesus "son of God"? Afterall, the bible clearly calls Adam "son of God", and also, angels are called "sons of God". In this context, what does being "son of God" mean?

2) If you do have any other meaning of "son of God" other than that in the context of 1) above, please tell, enlighten me.

Many thanks.

Nimshi

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@Nimshi and all,

I'm sure that huxley didn't intentionally invade this thread; so could we excuse the last two posts as asides? In anycase, we shall take the interesting points he raised to the appropriate thread(s). Thank you for your understanding.

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Hello Pilgrim,

How are ya? Are you done with ya exams now?

I have got a question about your flavour of Christianity, shall I?

Are you a biblical literalist? In other words, do you consider the Genesis accounts (for example) as literal historic events or do you treat them allegorically (metaphorically).

What do you make of Christians who interpret these accounts in a different way from you?

You may not answer them here if you want, or shall I open a new thread for these questions?

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Hi Nimshi,

Hope you had a good evening yesterday.

I think that is where many people make the mistake. Certainly, all of humanity are created by God; but the qualifier there is how and in what context. This was why I carefully underscored the fact that Adam 'special' in the sense that he was distinct in the way he was created. If one is not careful to observe the specialty of these matter and dwell only on 'creation', then the whole point is missed - and will predictably lead to this inference:

No, the "sonship" of angels is not predicated merely on their having been created by God. As I remarked earlier, all of humanity are the creation of God - so also are angels as the creation of God. But you notice that each group of beings referred to as "son(s) of God" is based specifically on a special context. Which means that Adam being a special creation (in terms of the way he was created) could not be called "son of God" on the basis of :

~ the Mosaic covenant (upon which Israel became the 'son of God' - Deut. 14:1-2)

~ the New Covenant (upon which believers in Christ are called 'sons of God' - Galatians 3:26)

~ the nature of angels (for it is they who are called "ministering spirits" - Heb. 1:14)

~ the Deity of Christ (for He alone is referred to as "μονογενής" (monogenēs) - John 3:18)

All the above are referred to as "son(s) of God" based specifically on the nature and context of their connections to those terms. Adam is called 'son of God' not on the same basis as are the angels called 'sons of God', for Adam was not made a "flaming fire" - the same term used in describing angels in their nature (Psalm 104:4 and Heb. 1:14). However, Adam is 'son of God' by virtue of his having been specially created by God in the way described.

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And Luke is correct.

Adam is son of God because he was a special creation of God. The operative word is creation.

Does this not also apply to the angels? You've already written that they are spirit beings (if I recall correctly); but they aren't sons because they are spirit beings only, are they? They're "sons" because they were created by God, no?

.

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@Nimshi,

I see your point, and this is what theology helps us understand. Adam is indeed special, and that my be seen in various ways - his special place as man created from no existing human material; his special place as head of the human race; and his special place as a reference point in contrast to the Last Adam. All these are ways of viewing Adam's special place in these matters.

However, as regards his appellation as 'son of God', Adam is called such in particular reference to the Genealogy of Christ. The interesting thing is that Luke traces the genealogy back to Adam, while Matthew traces it forward from Abraham. Yet, one who reads carefully would notice here that the styles adopted by both writers is obvious (as mentioned); but Luke aimed to present the true humanity of Christ in as much as he does not deny His deity.

What's the point? Simply this: Luke aimed at showing us that Adam came from God as His special creation, from whom descended Christ.

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The clarifications are appreciated, and noted. You wrote:

In exactly what way was Adam created? Of course, I'd agree Adam was 'created' differently than all other humans; but the question is being more specific; I think this specificity is important in nailing the "special" way in which Adam is son of God. In direct relation to this, - and without prejudice to your other posts - I'd think it is helpful to recall the comparison of Adam (Eve's man) as the First Adam, and the title of Jesus the Christ as the Last Adam. In this instance, the objective is to nail the precise sense (at least, as precisely as is humanly possible) in which Adam is "son of God".

Let me offer an answer to my question (so that if it is wrong, you make take it up from there): Adam is different from all other humans because he was created directly by God and because he wasn't created from any existing human material. (Eve, I understand, was created directly by God, but with a "rib" from Adam). So, isn't this what makes Adam "special"?

.

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@Nimshi,

The genealogy traces right back to the first man created in God's image, hence the appellation. There is a different sense in which all men (in the generic sense) share in that relationship to God, in the sense that we are all created in God's image. Even after the Fall, men (generic) are still addressed as having been created in the image of God (Gen. 9:6; James 3:9). In that context, even non-Christians innately recognize this relationship - thus, we find such non-Christian poets who have referred to men as the offspring of God (Acts 17:28).

Consequently, the Bible recognizes that men are created in the image of God; and in that sense, they are thought of as the "offspring" of God, not in any connotation of siring/sexual involvement, but rather because all men stand as Adam's posterity. It is on account of this that Adam is regarded as the "first man" in contrast to "the last Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:45).

Hence, in answer to your concerns, all men (generic - male and female) are created by God in His image: as such, they are referred to as the "offspring of God" (without any sexual connotations). However, not all men were created in exactly the same way as Adam was created (Gen. 2:7), for which reason he carries that appellation as son of God (Luke 3:38). Further, Adam was not son of God on the same basis as others are referred to by that appellation - such as the angels, Israel, or believers in Christ.

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Oh good! Here's a summary, for the sake of a fellow like olabowale:

"Contexts demonstrates various meanings."

A clarification is needed here. You wrote: "Adam was "son of God" by virtue of his having being created by God"; that is true. But isn't everything created by God? If the only reason Adam is called 'son of God' is because he was created by God, how come all other male humans are not called "sons of God"?

I'll get to the other parts of your specific posts later.

.

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@Nimshi,

I was answering in reference to this line in yours:

The contexts demonstrate various meanings, and not just a singular meaning.

1. Believers in Christ are called "sons of God" - by virtue of their having believed the Gospel of Christ:

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power

to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name"

~~ [John 1:12]

"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

~~ [Galatians 3:26]

2. Adam was "son of God" by virtue of his having being created by God:

"Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth,

which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God"

~~ [Luke 3:38]

3. The angels are "sons of God" by virtue of the their very nature as spirit:

"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister

for them who shall be heirs of salvation? " ~~ [Hebrews 1:14]

"Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire"

~~ [Psalm 104:4]

By virtue of the fact that angels are spirits beings, they also derive their appellation in relation to God who is called "the Father of spirits" (Heb. 12:9). This is in consonance with what the prophets had declared when they referred to God as "the God of the spirits of all flesh" (Num. 16:22 & 27:16). There is also a fourth meaning:

4. The nation of Israel is called the son of God - by covenant relationship:

"Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves,

nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. For thou art

an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee

to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are

upon the earth. ~~ [Deut. 14:1-2]

There is more than just these four above; but those are just to demonstrate the various meanings in their contexts. However, the appellation "Son of God" is ascribed to Jesus in reference to His being Deity, which is not shared by any of the others in their various contexts.

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Thank you.

We'll get to the "only begotten" part.

This's no question about whether he's a deity or not.

The question was: what does it mean to be "son of God"?

.

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@Nimshi,

I don't know a lot of theology; but I do know that in so far as "son of God" is used, Jesus is the only one referred to in the Bible as "only begotten" (μονογενής, monogenēs). There are others who are called "only begotten", but not in reference to "son of God". Of all the appellations in that connection, Jesus is the the "only begotten" (μονογενής) Son of God (John 3:18).

What does this mean? First off, let me say categorically here that the term does not connote any sexual connection such as men would sire children. That was one of the ignorant accusations I used to peddle about (even when none of the prophets ever used such ideas in that connection) until I became the wiser after becoming a Christian. But this is what it means:

"μονογενής, monogenēs" -

the only one who is essential the very same in nature.

That is my own definition, and may not serve the meaning viewed by others. The reason why it seems so to me is that:

(a) none of the angels are described in scripture as "monogenēs" (μονογενής) for they are not deity;

(b) none of the others (Adam, believers, etc) described as son(s) of God are ever referred to as "monogenēs" (μονογενής) - again, because they are not deity;

(b) only Jesus is described as Deity in connection to the appellation "monogenēs" (μονογενής) - only begotten Son of God.

Now, I have said that the understanding conveyed in that term is "the only one who is essential the very same in nature" as Deity. I think one of the strongest statements that points this out in Scripture for us is John 1:1 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This is not an esoteric or exclusive declaration by Christian apostles or theologians. Actually, the OT prophets declared that the Messiah to come is Deity Himself: so said the following ~~

Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 9:6 -- "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:

and the government shall be upon his shoulder:

and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,

The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

Prophet Zechariah:

Zechariah 12:10 -- "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon

the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of

supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they

have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth

for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that

is in bitterness for his firstborn."

Prophet Malachi

Malachi 3:1 -- "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare

the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek,

shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant,

whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts."

What is interesting to note here are that --

1. Long before Christian apostles were born, the OT prophets declared that the Messiah Himself is Deity ( - Isaiah);

2. The Messiah is the One who pours out the Spirit, but then notes that He would be pierced ( - Zechariah)

3. The Lord is also called the Messenger of the Covenant, who was to come suddenly to His temple ( - Malachi)

The above are a few of the prophets I never read when I ignorantly argued against the deity of Jesus Christ.

However, as I studied and found that Jesus is the only one referred to in Scripture as the "only begotten" (μονογενής, monogenēs) in connection to the appellation 'Son of God', I soon realized the difference in the use of such terms as "son(s) of God" for Adam, the angels and others.

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