Son of God

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search

"Son of God" is a biblical phrase from the Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament. According to Christian tradition, it refers to Jesus, whom they believe to be the only begotten son of God. The term was widespread during the life of Jesus, as emperor Caesar Augustus was known as the Son of a God - the deified Julius Caesar - on Roman coins minted in his reign.


"Son of God" in Judeo-Christian terms

In the Hebrew Bible

In the Hebrew Bible, the phrase "sons of god" has multiple meanings:

  • The Hebrew phrase Benei Elohim, often translated as "The Sons of God", describes angels, demigods or immensely powerful human beings. See Genesis 6:2-4. Many Bible scholars believe that this is a reference to pre-Biblical near-eastern mythology.
  • It is used to denote a human judge or ruler (Ps. lxxxii. 6, "children of the Most High"; in many passages "gods" and "judges" seem to be equations); and to the real or ideal king over Israel (II Sam. vii. 14, with reference to David and his dynasty; comp. Ps. lxxxix. 27, 28).
  • The phrases "sons of God" and "children of God" are applied to Israel as a people (comp. Ex. iv. 22 and Hos. xi. 1), the Jewish people, and also to all members of the human race.

In the Hebrew Bible the term does not connote any form of physical descent from, or essential unity with, God. The Hebrew idiom conveys an expression of godlikeness (see Godliness).

In Judaism the term "son of God" is rarely used in the sense of "messiah."

In the Deuterocanon and Pseudepigrapha

This literature contain a few passages in which the title "son of God" is given to the Messiah (see Enoch, 55:2; IV Esdras 7:28-29; 13:32, 37, 52; 14:9); but the title belongs also to any one whose piety has placed him in a filial relation to God (see Wisdom 2:13, 16, 18; 5:5, where "the sons of God" are identical with "the saints"; comp. Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] iv. 10).

In Judaism, it is through such personal relations that the individual becomes conscious of God's fatherhood, and gradually in Hellenistic and rabbinical literature "sonship to God" was ascribed first to every Israelite and then to every member of the human race (Abot 3:15, 5:20; Ber. 5:1; see Abba). In one midrash, the Torah is said to be God's "daughter" (Leviticus Rabbah 20).

In the New Testament

The phrase "the only begotten son" (John 3:16) is another rendering for "the beloved son." The Septuagint translates ("thine only son") of Gen. 22:2 by "thy beloved son." But in this translation there is apparently a special use of the root, of frequent occurrence in rabbinical literature, as a synonym of ("choose," "elect"); the "only begotten" thus reverts to the attribute of the "servant" who is the "chosen" one.

The Gospel of John and the First Epistle of John have given the term a meta-physical and tempting to dogmatic significance. Many hold that the Alexandrian Logos concept has had a formative and dominant influence on the presentation of the doctrine of Jesus' sonship in the Christian writings. The Logos in Philo is designated as the "son of God"; the Logos is the first-born; God is the father of the Logos ("De Agricultura Noe," § 12; "De Profugis," § 20). In all probability these terms, while implying the distinct personality of the Logos, carry only a figurative meaning.

A close analysis of St. John's Gospel reveals a fine line of separation between Jesus as the "Son of Man," "Annointed Messiah," and "the Lamb of God;" and a separate identity interlaced in the very same text, but defining a different identity, called "The Light of Man," "Light of the World," "Son of God," and "Only Begotten Son of God," which are clearly not equivalents, and the second group is never directly attributed to Jesus except by secondary personages who have no direct knowledge, and by lack of denial on the part of Jesus. In fact a careful reading shows what is apparently the author (St. John) and Jesus playing with the creation of myth, where for example Andrew is amazed that Jesus saw him sitting under the fig tree and proclaims him "Certainly the son of God and the King of Israel." Jesus responds with mock incredulity: "Because I said unto thee I saw thee under the fig tree believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these," but he doesn't deny either claim. Throughout there is the general idea that he, and now the author, are treading the line of truth, but growing myth by implication and silence.

Many biblical scholars hold that in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus never styled himself the son of God in a sense other than that in which any righteous person might call themselves "sons" or "children" of God. However Christians believe the Resurrection of Jesus vindicates Jesus's claim to a unique relationship to the Father, as do his many other miracles.

In modern English usage

In modern English usage, the Son of God is almost always a reference to Jesus Christ, whom Christianity holds to be the son of the Christian God, eternally begotten of God the Father and coeternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

"Son of God" in other belief systems

Human or part-human offspring of deities are very common in other religions and mythologies.

In the Rastafari movement it is Haile Selassie who is considered to be God the Son, as a part of the Holy Trinity by insistent followers, (he himself has never accepted the idea officially or otherwise).

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest recorded legends of humanity, Gilgamesh claimed to be of both human and divine descent.

Another well-known son of a god and a human is Hercules.

In VIrgil's Aeneid, Aeneas is sometimes referred to as "goddess-born"; his mother was Venus.

A great many pantheons also included genealogies in which various gods were descended from other gods, and so the term "son of a god" may be applied to many actual deities as well.

See also

External Links

Personal tools