The Son of God
Return to Index
Within the biblical (and Jewish) context, what is meant in the New Testament when Jesus of Nazareth is given the title 'Son of God'? The following is drawn from my doctoral studies in the early 1960s. It is drawn primarily from secondary sources, but the conclusions were new.
I. The meaning of the father-son relationship in the OT and Judaism
a. The father-son relationship in the human family
b. 'Son of God':
i. used of angels
ii. used of the king
iii. used of Israel
iv. used of Israelites
v. used of the Messiah
II. 'Son of God' in the Hellenistic world
III. A summary of the two concepts.
Notes (which are bookmarked)
I. The Meaning of the Father-Son Relationship in the OT and Judaism
In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus is presented as calling men to be 'sons' of their heavenly Father, and Christians are called by the same designation throughout much of the early Christian literature. Let us begin by considering the meaning of sonship in the human family in the OT and in Judaism. We shall see that to be a 'son' is to have the role of participating in the character of one's father by obedience and dependence. The son is to reflect the character of his father: this is the role given to him by the one who acknowledges him as son.
I. a. The Father-Son Relationship in the Human Family.
Among the Jews to possess a child of
one's own was always considered to be the greatest blessing that God could
bestow, and to be without children was regarded as the greatest curse. We
see this reflected at Gen 15.2-5 (Yahwist source) in Abraham's concern to have
a son to be his heir. In later Judaism, as noted by A. M. Friedenberg,
'the Rabbis regarded the childless man as dead.' Barrenness in a wife was
regarded not as a misfortune but as a divine judgement (Gen 30.1; cf. 1 Sam
The husband who had no son dreaded the extinction of his house. Thus when Reuben says to his father, Jacob, 'Slay my two sons if I do not bring him [i.e., Benjamin] back to you' (Gen 42.37), he is placing at his father's disposal the extension of himself and his house through time, something greater than even his own life. When David's child dies in his stead for David's sin (2 Sam 12.14), we have something of the same situation. J. Strahan believed that this fear was probably rooted in ancestor worship, for if the man died childless, 'he would have no one to pay the needful dues to his manes. It was on this basis that Strahan explained as a sacred duty the taking of a second wife or concubine when the first wife was barren and the marrying of his widow by the dead man's brother if the husband died childless (Deut 25.5-10). But, at the most, primitive ancestor worship can only begin to bring us to the heart of the meaning of sonship among the Jews.
Among the Israelites a child became a son or daughter not primarily by the fact of physical generation but rather through acknowledgement or election by the father. All a man's acknowledged children were legitimate no matter what the status of their mother, be she wife, concubine, or harlot. Also, a man might adopt a slave as his son and make him his heir. It is worth noting that the Hebrew מַמְזֵ, 'bastard', apparently referred to a child born of incest (as in Deut 23.2 and Zech 9.6) not to one born out of wedlock, for, as noted above, there was no difference of legitimacy, in the Graeco-Roman sense, between sons of wives and those of concubines. Thus even in reference to human affairs, Israel's concept of the father-son relationship was not one that emphasized physical procreation.
There can be no doubt that parental power, and in particular the power of the father,10 over the children was almost unlimited. The Deuteronomic legislation which forbids parents themselves to put their children to death (Deut 21.18-2l) is probably, as Kennett says,11 by way of reform. For there are numerous incidents of parental killing of children in punishment,12 child sacrifice,13 and the offering of daughters for unlimited raping in exchange for the safety of guests,14 all of which are recorded either without disapproval or even with approbation in the earlier strata. Thus the father had absolute authority over his children, including, if they lived with him, his married sons and their wives.15
Unmarried daughters were regarded as the property of their father,16 and he could voluntarily sell them into bondage.17 What was undoubtedly the rigour of ancient custom was somewhat relieved in later law.18 Creditors might seize a man's sons or even the man himself (2 Kings 4.1; Deut 15.12), but there is no evidence that the father could voluntarily sell his sons, and Jer 2.14 implies the contrary, according to Kennett.19
In Deut 13.6-10, with regard to those who say, 'Let us go after other gods', the one addressed is commanded to stone the enticer, be he his own brother, son, daughter or wife. It is surely no accident that he is not told to stone his own parents or other antecedents, for this would seriously threaten the whole patriarchal structure.
Elsewhere in the Deuteronomic law, we find that it safeguards the rights of children in directing that they shall not be punished for their father's offences,20 and also by insisting that a firstborn son by a hated wife is not to be displaced in his birthright by a younger son of a beloved wife (Deut 21.15-17). Once more, this probably means that these practices had occurred earlier with sufficient frequency to warrant the legislation.21
From all this we can see that the power of the father over the son was so great as to be potentially despotic and a matter of life and death.
Respect for parents was insisted upon, and a son who was 'stubborn and rebellious' (Deut 21.18-21) or who cursed or struck his parents (Exod 21.15, 17) was to be put to death. In Kennett's words, 'It had not occurred to Hebrew legislators that parents might wantonly and unjustly provoke their children to wrath.'22 Looking at it slightly differently, we might say that it had not occurred to them that sons (and children generally) had any meaning and value apart from their relationship with their parents.
The23 father was responsible for instructing his son both in the national religious traditions and in the matter of his own trade or craft, which was usually hereditary. It is this educational role of the father which explains why the appellation 'father' is given to the priests (who teach) (Judges 17.10; 18.19), to Joseph as Pharaoh's counsellor (Gen 45.8) and to Haman as vizier ) to Ahasuerus ('our second father', Est 13.6 (AV/NRSV in the Greek version; 3.13 f. LXX [Rahlfs]). The same reason lies behind the use of the words 'father' and 'son' to express the teacher-pupil relationship in Elisha's cry to Elijah of 'My father, my father!' at 2 Kings 2.3, as well as the frequent use of 'my son', 'my sons' and 'Hear, my son' in the book of Proverbs. In all these cases the 'father' is viewed as one to be heeded in the sense of conforming one's actions to what he has said or taught.
Thus, in the words of Kenneth Grayston, the father 'is the centre from which strength and will emanate to the whole group which belongs to him'.24 The term 'father' means both kinship and authority.25 To the father is directed honour, obedience, and love,26 for 'the glory of sons is their fathers' (Prov 17.6b), and the father extends to his own his strength, authority, and concern.27 Job uses the term to express then unbounded breadth of his loving concern when he speaks of being 'a father to the needy' (Job 29.16).28
The strength of the father is continued in his son, and the function of the son is to bear the character of him who has acknowledged him as son.29 In the words of Th. C. Vriezen, 'the child is the image of the father'.30 This notion continues straight into the NT, where the metaphorical use of υἱός
Hence it is not surprising that, as Alan Richardson says, 'Throughout the OT the characteristic excellence of a son consists in obedience to his father's will.'33 As a son he can expect to partake of the inheritance, but his obedience is to be equivalent to that of a servant, only more whole-hearted and prompted by the bonds of familial love. Thus we find son and servant placed in apposition, as two sides of one coin, in Malachi 1.6: 'A son honours his father, and a servant his master.34 Similarly in Prov 17.2 where a slave is spoken of as acting wisely and a son as acting shamefully, it is their respective obedience and disobedience which is contrasted.
In summary we may say that 'son' in the human family is not so much a title of honour as it is a designation of a function given by the father, the function of reflecting the father's character through obedience to him and, somewhat less obviously, dependence upon him.35 It is only as a designation of the fulfilment of his given role that the term 'son' becomes one of approbation and honour. This is the meaning of 'so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven' (Matt 5.34.36
I. b. 'Son of God'
As is generally recognized. 'son of God' in the OT and LXX is used, albeit, infrequently, with reference to four categories: angels, the king, righteous men, and Israel. In all these cases the emphasis is upon (1) God's election, (2) the subject's obedience, and (3) the representative function of the sons. I venture to suggest that Israel was willing to use the phrase at all because of what 'son' meant in Hebrew family life.
I. b. i. Angels as Sons of God
Even though the application of 'son of God' to Israel itself is judged to antedate the Israelite use of the title for angels,37 let us consider the latter usage first. In the words of Sigmund Mowinckel, the Israelites
|could use the word 'god' ('elõhim) of many kinds of subordinate supernatural beings .... It is used to indicate the lower, heavenly beings (literally, 'the sons of God'38) surrounding the throne of Yahweh, who are sent out by Him as His messengers, corresponding to the angels of later times (Judges 13.22).39|
This use of 'sons of God', always in the plural, is found in Gen 6.2, 4; Deut 32.840; Job 1.6; 2.1; 38.7; Pss 29.1; 82.6; cf. Dan 3.25.41 If we are dealing here with what is called by Alan Richardson 'an old mythological conception',42 and by James Muilenburg ' a poetic reminiscence of Canaanite provenance',43 the emphasis in these passages (except for Gen 6.2, 4, which are clearly part of an ancient myth about the Nephilim) is nevertheless upon these angels as subordinate to Yahweh an existing to serve him. In Judges 13.22 the words of Manoah after the visit of the angel of the Lord, 'We shall surely died, for we have seen God', indicate that angels were thought of as extensions of the character and power of God, a function not unlike that of a son.44
I. b. ii. The King as Son of God
A more important use of 'son of God' is in reference to the king of Israel in the following passages;
I will be his father, and he shall be my son (2 Sam 7.13)45
I will tell of the decrees of the Lord:
He said to me, 'You are my son,
today I have begotten you.' (Ps 2.7)
'He shall cry to me, "Thou art my father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation."
And I will make him the first-born,
the highest of the kings of the earth.' (Ps 89.26 f.)
the king is spoken of as Yahweh's son (as in Ps 2.7, a favourite text with NT
writers), it is in terms of adoption by God for obedient service rather than in
terms of divinization.46
This is in kinship, as Mowinckel sees it,47
with Mesopotamian usage rather than Egyptian or Egyptian-influences Canaanite
usage, although it has its own distinctive emphasis on the obedient
subordination of the king as son.48
In Mowinckel's words,
|In spite of all the mythological metaphors about the birth of a king, we never find in Israel any expression of a 'metaphysical' conception of the king's divinity and his relation to Yahweh. It is clear that the king is regarded as Yahweh's son by adoption, When, in Ps. 2.7, Yahweh says to the king on the day of his anointing and installation, 'You are My son; I hasve begotten you today', He is using the ordinary formula of adoption,49 indicating that the sonship rests on Yahweh's adoption of the king.... The king is chosen as the adopted son of Yahweh (Pss. 45.8 [MT; EV 45.7]; 89.21 [MT; EV 89.20]). Yahweh Himself has taken care of him like a mother and father, has educated him, teaching him among other things, the art of war (Ps. 18.35 [MT; EV 18.34]).50|
has 'called' and 'chosen' the king, made him His son, anointed and endowed him
with His spirit,51
as Mowinckel goes on so say.52
The king performs the will of Yahweh, and through him Yahweh's blessing to land
and people is transmitted; he represents Yahweh before the people. In all
this he is primarily seen as 'son'.
But as Bousset pointed out,53 'Kiss the son' in Ps 2.12 is the only time in the OT that 'son' is used as an objective title for the king, and even here the text is suspect. This is consistent with the notion of 'son' as basically designating a role or function rather than being an ascription of honour.
But gradually the main emphasis came to be placed upon him as the representative of Israel before God, as a representative man from the chosen peoiple.54 In this he was seen as the chief priest of the people55 rather than as the son of God.
Once more the emphasis shifted when the king as priest was challenged by the growing claims of the professional clergy,56 so that the king's major functions became limited to those of ruler, judge, and lawgiver under Yahweh. As a result of what Aage Bentzen calls 'a sort of "secularisation" of kingship in later pre-exilic periods',57 not only did the priests deny certain cultic rights to the king, but, according to Bentzen,58 even the function of lawgiving became less intimately associated with the Davidic kingship; the priests (that is, the Levites in the Deuteronomic sense) increasingly rivalled the king in this association.
Thus we can see that, at the least, the rich meaning of the idea of the king as the son of God tended to fade in practice as time passed, no matter what dating may be agreed upon for the various passages which refer to his sonship, and that the priests in many respects picked up the pieces.
For example, by the time that we reach the Testament of Levi59 in the late second century BCE, we find that Levi is installed as Yahweh's son, servant, and priest. Thus Levi is considered to have had a fair portion of the position once given to the king, and the idea of the son as not only servant but also priest to God was probably present as well.
I. b. iii. Israel as Son of God
The election and adoption of Israel at the Exodus as the 'son of God' appears in the Yahwist source at Exod 4.22-23:
|'And you shall say to Pharaoh, "Thus says Yahweh, Israel is my first-born son, and I say to you, 'Let my son go that he may serve me', if you refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay your first-born son."'|
As Rylaarsdam says,60
Israel is not only God's first-born (cf. also Jer 31.9), but his only
son, as is implied by Hos 11.1 ('When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out
of Egypt I called my son.')61
and by the image of Israel as the bride in Jer 2.1-3; Ezek 16.1-15; Hos
2.2-13. Israel's response to this election is to promise obedience (Exod
Thus God is frequently named as the Father of all Israel in references to him (e.g. Deut 32.6; Tobit 13.4; Jub 19.29; 3 Macc 5.7) or addresses to him (e.g. 1 Chron 29.10; Isa 63.26; 64.8 and in synagogue prayers62 ) or in words addressed by God to Israel (e.g. Jer 3.4, 19; Mal 1.6; Jun 1.24 f., 28, all of which are concerned with the obedience and honour which are due to God). In all of the above references to and addresses to God 'Father' is used in conjunction with another designation, such as 'God' or 'Lord', but in Test. Jud. 24.2 he is spoken of simply as 'the Holy Father', a rare use in pre-Christian Judaism, so S. E. Johnson says.63
I. b. iv. Israelites as Sons of God
All Israel is referred to as 'sons of God' in Deut 14.164
and Isa 1.2,65 and as
sons and daughters created for his glory (Isa 43.6 f.). Even though the
'sons of God' in Deut 32.8 is recognized as a reference to angelic beings,66
it seems reasonable to conclude that it was once assumed to be a
reference to the Israelites since the Masoretic Text reads 'sons of
Israel'. As 'faithless sons' God calls them to return to him in Jer 3.22.67
This shift from Israel as the 'son of God' to the somewhat more individualized 'sons of God' is carried a step further in the LXX. Here we find it used, apparently as a title of honour and approbation by God (or possibly of recognition as a fulfiller of the function of sonship), to describe the righteous, the true Israel, in Sirach 4.10:
|Be like a father
and instead of a husband to their mother;
You will then be like a son of the Most High,
and he will love you more than does your mother.
The title is similarly used in the
singular with ὡς
|For he shall
know them, that they are all sons of their God,
And he shall divide them according to their tribes upon the land.
In a prayer addressed to God the righteous are called 'thy sons' in Wisdom
12.19, 21, and in Jubilees 1.24, 25, God speaks to Moses of the people as 'my
children' and they are known as such as they fulfil his commands.
Similarly, the pious Israelites are called 'His Sons' in Enoch 62.11.
Wisdom 2.12-20 sets forth the affliction of the individual righteous man. Here the man claims to be the 'child' of God (v. 16) and to have God as his 'Father (v. 16), and the expectation is that God will deliver him from shameful torture and death if he is 'Gods' son' (v. 18). In Abraham's blessing of Jacob in Jub. 19.29 we find God as the father of the one and the many, for he says, 'May the Lord God be a father to thee and thou the first-born son, and to the people alway.'69 Only occasionally does an individual Jew address God as 'my Father' (Sir. 51.10; cp. 'O Lord, Father, and God of my life' at 23.2, 4, and cf. Wisd. 2.16), and the rabbis regarded this familiar form as appropriate only when used by a saint,70 that is, by an outstandingly obedient Israelite.
Hence, the emphasis of the designation 'son of God' remains as of old upon the election by God within the Covenant, the response of obedience, and the representative function of the son, with no thought of his being divinized or accounted a Hellenistic wonder-worker.
I. b. v. The Messiah as Son of God
The one remaining use of 'son of God' in literature of Jewish origin is its
apparent application to the Messiah. Although this usage is to be found in
three works whose origins might antedate those of the NT writings, namely I Enoch
(105.2), 4 Ezra (7.28 f.; 13.32, 37, 52; 14.9) and, from Qumran, 4Q Florilegium
10-14, only the last one is really relevant as evidence for a pre-Christian use
of the term messianically. In the case of I Enoch, 105.2 is part of a
later addition, and furthermore 4 Ezra is generally dated well into the first
4Q Florilegium says:71
|[And] the lord [tells]s you that he will build a house for you, and I will set up your seed after you, and I will establish his royal throne [for eve]r. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. this is the sprout of David.|
this passage from Qumran, characterized by Lövestam72
as being a succinct summary of the prophecy of Nathan in 2 Sam 7.10-14, is our
sole pre-Christian evidence for this usage, we may conclude with R. H. Fuller
that the term was just coming into currency in Jesus' day in Palestinian Judaism
as a messianic designation.73
This probably means that it was not common coin and was not of necessity
automatically equated in the popular mind with the terms 'Son of David' or 'the
Christ', and particularly would this be true in that more Hellenized Judaism
which forms the background to the writings of the New Testament. Fuller
furnishes some support for this view when he concludes that the term 'son of
God' in Hellenistic Judaism could assume a wider role in the interpreting of
Jesus' work than could the more narrowly messianic title of 'the Christ'.74
For purposes of analysis Fuller has treated the background and content of the Christological titles, including 'son of God', under thre headings: Palestinian Judaism, Hellenistic Judaism and Hellenistic Gentile. While not questioning his methodology, I have niot seen fir to follow it in setting forth the Jewish use of 'son of God'. What Fuller detects as the more fervent eschatological messianism of Palestinian Judaism may explain why our only extant pre-Christian messianic application of 2 Sam 7.14 has been found at Qumran rather than among the Jews of the Diaspora. However, the Qumran finds have also yielded such wisdom literature as portions of the Hebrew of Sirach and parts of the Pentateuch in Greek (and Hebrew, for that matter) in line with or related to the Septuagintal textual tradition.75 This indicates that even the Qumran community was not immune to all Hellenistic influence, and it tends to corroborate F. c. Grant's judgement76 that in the first century CE to some extent all Judaism was Hellenized and all Hellenism (at least in the eastern Mediterranean area) was Judaized. Because of this demonstrable pervasiveness of the wisdom literature throughout the whole of Judaism in the first century CE, it has seemed unnecessary, if not actually false, to try to draw any closer a distinction between Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism concerning the use of 'son of God' than we have done above.
Although, as we have seen, the Israelite use of the term 'son of God' shifted over the centuries from a designation for Israel as a totality (Exod 4.23) to a designation for the single righteous Israelite (Wisd. 2.18), it remains true that even in the [process of his individualizing the idea of the son of God in Judaism did not totally lose its corporate aspect of the one as representative of the many, of the one Israelite as the righteous remnant embodying the whole of Israel's calling in the Covenant, as can be seen for example in the Q temptation narrative in both its Matthaean and Lukan forms. Even in the Book of Wisdom this corporate aspect is not lost sight of, for the simple designation, 'the Son of God'. is still used for the people of Israel in 15.26.77
II. 'Son of God' in the Hellenistic World
The Hellenistic use of υἱὸς
θεοῦ, 'son of God', and related terms such as θεῖος
ἄνθρωπος, 'divine man',
A. E. J. Rawlinson's characterization of Wetters' findings:
A. E. J. Rawlinson's characterization of Wetters' findings:
What appears to emerge from the enquiry as probable is that the phrase υἱὸς
, which in Greek should mean properly 'son of a god', came to mean, in accordance with Semitic idiom, in the Greek spoken by hellenized Semitic populations, 'a divine being', 'a god', 'a supernatural person', the virtual equivalent of θεις ἄνθρωπος
, or even of θεὸς
ἐπιφανής . On a background of pantheism and polytheism deification was
easy. The fundamental idea is that of τὸ
θεῖον , supernatural quality or power, which was the common characteristic
both of gods and of other supernatural persons, such as deified
men. The supernatural power might be manifested in a variety of
ways - to use a modern classification, either physically, in miracles
and wonders, or spiritually, in wisdom and gnosis, or
psychically, in ecstasies and visions. In any of all of these ways
a man might establish a claim to be a
. On a background of pantheism and polytheism deification was
easy. The fundamental idea is that of τὸ
θεῖον , supernatural quality or power, which was the common characteristic
both of gods and of other supernatural persons, such as deified
men. The supernatural power might be manifested in a variety of
ways - to use a modern classification, either physically, in miracles
and wonders, or spiritually, in wisdom and gnosis, or
psychically, in ecstasies and visions. In any of all of these ways
a man might establish a claim to be a
, supernatural quality or power, which was the common characteristic both of gods and of other supernatural persons, such as deified men. The supernatural power might be manifested in a variety of ways - to use a modern classification, either physically, in miracles and wonders, or spiritually, in wisdom and gnosis, or psychically, in ecstasies and visions. In any of all of these ways a man might establish a claim to be a
, an inspired, wonder-working prophet, or 'son of God'.82
A. D. Nock indicates, in the Graeco-Roman world, "while a miracle did not
necessarily attract all who saw it to new worship, the principle was fully
accepted that miracle proved deity."83
In the Adelphi84
of Terence (? 195-159 BCE) a character says, "I make you a god in his eyes:
I tell of your virtutes" (which can mean virtues or miracles).85
Furthermore, in a papyrus catechism of the second century CE we find, "What
is a god? That which is strong. What is a king? He who is
equal to the Divine."86
The ancient Greek belief than man was physically descended from the gods is clearly seen in Homer,87 and thus, in Richardson's words, "kings, philosophers,88 priests and righteous men were what they were in virtue of their divine ancestry."89 Hence the ground was already laid for the later Greek ruler-cult. Alexander the Great was hailed as the son of Zeus by the priest of Zeus Ammon at Siwa (in Lybia) in 331 BCE, and, according to C. F. Edson, Jr.,90 the essential point was the giving of honour - τιμή
The hero-cult was not indigenous to Italy, and it is only in or after the fouyrth century BCE under Greek influence that the myth as invented of Romulus as a deified founder of Rome.94 By 200 BCE Roman officials were receiving divine honours from Greek cities, but it is not until the beginning of the first century BCE that we find such honouyrs at Rome, and then only occasionally until, aided by Stoic influence,95 Caesar received divine honours when dictator (45-44 BCE) and after his assassination was deified by the Senate at the instigation of the triumvers supported by popular acclaim (42 BCE). With Octavian the cult blossomed forth, and from then on the reigning emperor carried such titles as θεοῦ υἱός
When we remember how potent a philosophical force Stoicism was in the Hellenistic world, including Marcus Aurelius among its adherents, and that it taught that the human soul is a 'fragment' of the divine,98 it would be surprising if Stoicism had not helped to further blur the line between the human and the divine in the Hellenistic world.99 In effect the pantheistic monism of Stoicism elevated all that is 'real' to the level of the divine. As Wilhelm Windelband observed, "whwn we consider the personality of the Stoic School, we are struck by the frequency of the descent of its members from the Hellenistic mixed races of the Orient",100 as is the case with such major figures as the founder, Zeno (v BCE), Cleanthes (iv-iii BCE) Diogenes (iii-ii BCE), and Apollodorus,101 all of whom were born in Asia Minor. W. T. Jones evaluates Stoicism as more nearly a (rather secular) religion than a philosophical theory, which tended to use its terminology with an emotive rather than a precisely verifiable meaning.102 This is especially true of such later Stoics as Seneca (5/4 BCE - 65 CE) and Epictetus (c. 55 - c. 135 CE).103
Taking Windelband's observation and Jones' evaluation along with the facts that the Mysteries moved into the Graeco-Roman world from the East, and that the apotheosis of the Roman emperors first made popular headway in the eastern areas of the Empire,104 we can see that, although the idea of man as kin of the gods was native to Greek soil (but not to Roman), much of the apotheosizing impetus came from the religious ferment of the Fertile Crescent as it spread throughout the Roman Empire.
As Stoicism passed to Rome, so the apotheosizing tendency passed with it.105 In Greece the kings were apotheosized first, then other eminent men as well. At Rome, as Cumont says, "the ex-consul was apotheosized."106 Thus θεοῦ υἱός
If the OT-Jewish concept of 'son of God' was that of a moral inter-personal relationship with the emphasis upon the Father, the concept of the Hellenistic world was that of a manifestation by the 'son' of virtues, miraculous powers, benefactions, and the like. As A. D. Nock has shown, the concern was for what he could do and for what he gave, not with him personally for who he was.108 Since, in Alan Richardson's words, "the world was full of 'divine men' (θεῖοι ἄνδρες
|Now in order that no one may in opposition to us ask, What prevents him whom we call Christ, a man born of man, from having by magic skill done the miracles which we describe and from having therefore seemed to men to the Son of God, we will give the proof, not trusting to those who recorded the events, but believing as we must those who before they took place prophesied them.... In our opinion this will appear to you the greatest and truest proof.110|
Even if we admit that Justin's
grounds of proof are still those likely to meet with the approval of a
Hellenistic man, he is obviously trying to show that Christ is someone and
something both other and greater than what the Grace-Roman world generally would
be prepared to acknowledge and adhere to as a 'son of God' or to ascribe to one
Thus, for example, with regard to at least the tradition of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness in the Synoptic Gospels,111 we can clearly see with R. H. Fuller that
|the meaning of
'Son of God' in the Temptation narrative is wholly incompatible with its
supposed derivation from Hellenistic sources.112
For the θεῖος
ἀνήρ was pre-eminently one who called attention to
his supernatural character by his wonderful deeds, whereas by quoting
from Deuteronomy Jesus rejects precisely this as a diabolical
temptation. Clearly then we have every right to look for a
different origin and background to the application by the Synoptic
Gospels of the title 'Son of God' to Jesus during his earthly life.113
Before we close this section, we should note one further point rightly stressed by Bieneck and, he says, not sufficiently appreciated by Wetter, namely, that in Hellenistic practice the title 'Son of God' was 'not something exclusively or essentially emphasized.'114 'That most of them [i.e. those of the "divine men" category] hold themselves to be gods or sons of gods, or else are depicted and worshipped as such, indicates no meaning beyond what is expressed by the concept θεῖος ἀνήρ, but rather is included in it.115
III. A Summary of the Two Concepts.
Let us now try to summarize what the appellation 'Son of God' would mean to a Gentile or a Jew in the first century CE.
1. The Hellenistic θεῖος
A well-known phenomenon of the Graeco-Roman world was the θεῖος
2. Old Testament and Jewish Sonship
On the other hand, the concept of sonship in Hebrew family life, which underlies all OT and Jewish thought on the subject, is that a son is one designated or acknowledged as such by a father, without the Hellenistic emphasis upon relationship by procreation. Thus the father-son relationship is not primarily physical but rather an interpersonal one created by a sovereign act of the father. The son is to be obedient to, submissive to an dependent upon his father. The perfect son then is the incarnation and extension of his father's will and character, and he points to his father, not to himself. If he is the Son of God in the unique sense that the NT claims for Jesus, then he will incarnate the demands of God's righteousness, and he will present the demand for discipleship, the demand for obedience, obedience however not to the Son as such but to God the Father, that is, to the Father's will as made manifest by the Son. Thus the concept of Son of God on OT-Jewish lines is basically moral, interpersonal and theocentric.
Apart from the angels as sons of God, it is clear that all the OT and intertestamental Jewish use of the term, whether applied to Israel, the King, righteous men, or the Messiah, presupposes that this sonship is within the Covenant - it is not something apart from the Covenant.
1 Albert M. Friedenberg, 'The Child;, The Jewish Encyclopaedia, ed. by Isidore Singer (London: Funk & Wagnalls Co, 1903), Vol. IV, p. 27. '"A childless [person is accounted as dead" (Gen R. lxxi.6), since he failed to carry out the principal duty which devolved upon him, and his name will perish with him.' (A. Cohen, Everyman's Talmud, 2nd ed. [London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1949), p. 170). In the Babylonian Talmud (ET in 34 volumes plus Index volume, ed. I Epstein; London: Soncino Press, 1936-52), commenting on Jer 22.10: "Weep sore for him that goeth away," Rab Judah (in the name of Rab) and R. Joshua b. Levi both take this weeping to be for one who dies childless (Mo'ed Katan 27b, Soncino edition p. 180). In 'Abodah Zarah 5a (Soncino edition, p. 21) R. Jose says, "A Master has said: Four [kinds of persons] may be regarded as dead, they are: the poor, the blind, the leprous, and the childless; ... the childless, as it is said, Give me children, or else I die [Gen 30.1]." The plight of the childless is considered to be so serious that in Ta'anith 11a (Soncino edition p. 47) we find that "a Tanna taught: Childless people may have marital relations in years of famine" (but others should refrain so as not to make more mouths to feed). (Back to text)
2 For the reverse side of the coin we have Isa 56.5, which itself is based on the high value placed on having children:
I will give ... a monument and a name / better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name / which shall not be cut off. (Back to text)
3 James Strahan, 'Family (Biblical and Christian)', Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. by James Hastings, Vol. V (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912) p. 725 (cited as E.R.E. below). Substantial portions of Strahan's article appear to be closely indebted to W. H. Bennett's essay (see below n. 5).
The custom of giving a son a patronymic name, i.e. that of his grandfather, great-grandfather, or uncle (less often that of his father), usually after that person had died, arose too late to have any likely connection with ancestor worship in Hebrew thought, for the earliest evidence for it is at Elephantine no earlier than the fourth century BCE, and then in Judaea in the third century BCE.
Luke 1.59 would seem to indicate that it was common in Jesus' time (see Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions translated by John McHugh [London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1961], p. 45, and G. B. Gray, 'Name', E.R.E., Vol. 3 (1900), p. 480. (Back to text)
4 With regard to the genealogy of Matt 1.2-16, K. Stendahl notes that '"begat" does not necessarily refer to physical paternity. If a man acknowledged his son's paternity, there were no further questions (Baba Bathra 8.6)' ('Matthew', Peake's Commentary of the Bible ed. by M. Black and H. H. Rowley [London: Thos. Nelson and Sons, 1962], p. 771, §674d). (Back to text)
5 J. Strahan, op. cit., p. 725; W. H. Bennett, 'Family', A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. by James Hastings (Edinburgh: T. &. T. Clark, 1898) Vol. 1, p. 849. (Back to text
6 Even Jephthah, the son of a prostitute, was brought up in the house of his father, and in the judgement of W. H. Bennett and J. Strahan rightly complains of his expulsion by the sons of his father's wife as an act of violence (Judges 11.2, 7). Cf. W. H. Bennett, op. cit, p. 849, and J. Strahan, op. cit., p. 725; Bennett cites as his authority I Benzinger, Hebrew Arch. (Freiburg i. B., 1904), pp. 148, 135.
DeVaux, on the other hand, thinks that Jepthtah was illegitimate as such since he was born of a prostitute, not a concubine (op. cit., p. 54). In any case, as de Vaux points out, Gen 25.5-6 shows Abraham leaving his goods to Isaac while only giving presents to the sons of his concubines. The right to a share in the inheritance on the part of Hagar's son, Ishmael (cf./ Gen 21.11) and on the part of the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, the slave-women (cf. Gen 49.1-28) rested, in de Vaux's view, on the adoption by Sarah of Ishmael as hwer own son (Gen 16.2) and on the adoption of the others by Rachel or by Leah (Gen 49.1-28). But among the Hebrews, according to J. A. McCulloch, the handmaid of a wife could only become the husband's concubine with the wife's consent, so that the subsequent children were reckoned to the wife (who retained her authority over the slave) by warrant of the act of giving her handmaid to be a concubine in the first place and not because of any subsequent action by the wife at the time of, or after, the birth of the children ('Concubinage', E. R. E., Vol. 3 , p. 812).
In any event, the fact that Jephthah was ejected shows that he would otherwise have shared in his father's inheritance (or else there was no point in thrusting him out). Thus on balance Strahan and Bennett appear to have a better case than de Vaux: Jephthah had a right to complain, but, in view of Gen 25.5-6 (see above), possibly only because his father intended to settle a portion of the inheritance on him, and not merely because he was his acknowledged son. (Back to text)
7 W. H. Bennett, op. cit., p. 849. The Greek technical term for adoption, υἱοθεσία
8 J. Strahan, op. cit., p. 725; R. H. Bennett, op. cit., p. 849. Kennett goes on to say that 'possibly, however, mamzér may include children of prostitutes, whose fathers were unknown or who did not acknowledge them.' But this merely emphasizes the point that it was basically the father's acknowledgement which 'legitimized' his children.
The same sense of 'bastard' as referring to the offspring of a union between the forbidden degrees of Lev 18.6 ff. is given in the Mishnah by R. Simeon b. Menasya (ca. 180 CE) in Hag. 1.7. (Back to text)
9 The following materials (up to note 23) are drawn largely from R. H. Kennett, Ancient Hebrew Social Life and Custom as Indicated in Law Narrative and Metaphor (The Schweich Lectures, 1931; London: The British Academy, 1933), pp. 13-15. (Back to text)
10 Who in the normal type of Israelite marriage was the 'master', the ba'al, of his wife; see R. de Vaux, op. cit., p. 20. (Back to text)
11 Kennett, op. cit., p. 13. (Back to text)
12 E g., Judah orders that his daughter-in-law Tamar be burned (Gen 38.24). (Back to text)
13 E.g., Abraham's intention to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22), and Jephthah's clearly recognizable determination to sacrifice a human victim (Judges 11.39, cf. v. 31). In Kennett's words, 'Fatted calves do not ordinarily go out a door of a house to meet a returning conqueror' (op. cit., p. 15). (Return to text)
14 E.g., Lot offers his unmarried daughters for unlimited raping in order to protect his angelic guests (Gen 19.8), and Gibeah makes the same offer (Judges 19.24). (Back to text)
15 De Vaux, op. cit., p. 20. (Back to text)
16 Cf. Deut 22.13-21, 28 f.; see C. A. Simpson, Genesis (The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 1; New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1952), p. 628. (Back to text)
17 See e.g. Lev 25. (Back to text)
18 2 Kings 4.1; Deut 15.12. (Back to text)
19 Kennett, op. cit., p. 15. (Back to text)
20 Punishment of the children involved the idea of the solidarity of the family, and, I would think, the view that the children were the extension of the father. (Back to text)
21 Instances where a son other than the eldest received the largest inheritance, or, in later times, the throne, include Ishmael and Isaac (Gen 21.10); Esau and Jacob ( Gen 27.37); Manasseh and Ephraim (Gen 48.8-20); Reuben and Joseph (1 Chron 5.1 f.); Adonijah and Solomon (1 Kings 1.11 ff.); and Eliab and David (1 Sam 16.6 f.; 2 Sam 2.4). Reuben was bypassed by his father for the instability and infidelity (Gen 49.3 f.) which led him to have intercourse with his father's concubine (Gen 35.22). This amounted to a taking of his father's property, hence he was an unfit son. With one exception the other above cases are related with theological ends in view. Therefore the case of Adonijah and Solomon is the only one we have at hand in the OT where a father freely replaces the eldest son with a younger one. Ishmael is the only eldest son actually driven away, and even he is promised greatness.
Thus from the records alone we have evidence that at least in earlier times a father could disinherit an acknowledged son, but there is no real evidence that he could disown him. (References drawn from article on 'Inheritance' in Harper's Bible Dictionary by Madeleine S. Miller and J. Lane Miller [New York: Harper & Bros., 1954], p. 281.)
From scrutinizing the text for evidence concerning inheritance in the human family we may turn to the theological observation of de Vaux. He points out (op. cit., p. 100) that even in the case of Solomon's supplanting of Adonijah as heir to the throne, the view is taken that it was 'because it came to him from, Yahweh' (1 Kings 2.15; cf. 1 Chron 28.5), which brings this incident into line with the others mentioned above in which the eldest son is passed over. As de Vaux remarks (ibid., p. 42), 'The Bible states explicitly that these stories stress the fact that God's choice is absolutely unmerited and quite gratuitous: he accepted Abel's offering and rejected that of his elder brother Cain (Gen. 4.4 f.); he "loved Jacob and hated Esau" (Mal. 1.2 f.; Rom. 9.13; cf. Gen. 25.23); he pointed out David (1 Sam. 16.12) and gave the kingdom to Solomon (1 K. 2.14).' (Back to text)
22 Kennett, op. cit., p. 13. (Back to text)
23 This paragraph is drawn in large part from de Vaux, op. cit., p. 49. (Back to text)
24 Kenneth Grayston, 'The Family', A Theological Word Book of the Bible, ed. by Alan Richardson (New York: Macmillan Company, 1953), p. 77. (Back to text)
25 'Thus Naaman is the father of his servants (2 Kings 5.13), the priest is father of the cultic community (Jugd. 18.19), and Elijah is called father by his disciple (2 Kings 2.12). In late writings father can mean ruler (1 Chron. 2.24, 42); and it can be used quite naturally for originator and patron (Gen. 4.20 f., "the father of such as dwell in tents ... the father of all such as handle the harp and pipe")', ibid. (Back to text)
26 Exod 20.12; 21.15, 17; Deut 21.18-21; Mal 1.6. (Back to text)
27 The children's contempt for their parents (Micah 7.6) is the last and worst of the evidences of society's sinfulness in Micah's catalogue (Micah 7.1-6). (Back to text)
28 This same breadth is found in the title 'Everlasting Father' given to the messianic King at Isa 9.6. (Back to text)
29 Grayston, op. cit., p. 77. I disagree with Grayston's emphasis upon the children as those 'who call on the man as father' (p. 76) and a son as one 'who ... acknowledges the father's authority' (p. 77). The key factor, as we have seen, was the father's acknowledgement of a child as his son. The son could then choose whether or not to fulfil his sonship, but, as noted earlier, he could not say that he would not be his father's son without his life being forfeit. Grayston's view appears to be more that of a social contract than that of the OT. (Back to text)
30 Th. C. Vriezen, An Outline of Old Testament Theology (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), p. 208. (Back to text)
31 Although recognizing some Greek parallels, this is the general judgement of, e.g., J. H. Moulton and W. F. Howard, A Grammar of New Testament Grek, Vol. II (Ediburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1929), p. 441; J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930), υἱός
See Moulton and Howard, op. cit., p. 441, for NT instances of the use of υἱός
32 LXX examples from Liddle & Scott9: υἱὸς ἀδικίας, 'son of iniquity', 2 Βας. 7.10; υἱοὶ θανατώσεως
33 Alan Richardson, An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament (London: SCM Press, 1958), p. 148. (Back to text)
34 Because of this type of thought it seems to me that, even if צֶבֶדmeans only 'Servant' or 'Slave'. it still does not require a strong Hellenistic influence to explain what Jeremias detects as a shift in the second century CE in emphasis from the meaning 'Servant@ to that of 'Child' in the use of παῖς θεοῦ
35 The same conclusions are set forth by, among others, E. J. Tinsley, The Imitation of God in Christ (London: SCM Press, 1960), pp. 38-39, and Reginald H. Fuller, The Mission and Achievement of Jesus (SBT 12; London: SCM Press, 1954), p. 85. 'With the Hebrews ... the two terms [father and son] and especially "son", are used when a physical relationship is out of the question, and where the son is so called because he is the representative, the manifestation, the embodiment of of him, or of that, of which he is said to be the son. We can talk of a son of peace, of worthlessness (Belial) or of consolation. And we should probably understand in this sense the phtrase "sons of God" (Bene Elohim) if it does not carery us back to the realms of mythology.' W. F. Lofthouse, 'Fatherhood and Sonship in the Fourth Gospel', Expository Times 43 (1931/32), p. 443, quoted by Tinsley, op. cit, p. 38, n. 4. (Back to text)
36 No matter how ὅπως γένησθε
37 James Muilenburg, "The History of the Religion of Israel," Interpreter's Bible, Vol. I, p. 301b. (Back to text)
38 Also simply called 'gods', 'elóhim, in Ps 8.5 (8.6 in MT and LXX, where ἀγγέλοι
39 Sigmund Mowinckel, He That Cometh, translated by G. W. Anderson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1956), pp. 76-77. (Back to text)
40 Following with Mowinckel and the RSV the Greek () and Vulgate versions, not the MT which has 'sons of Israel'. 'Sons of God' occurs in this passage in a Hebrew fragment from Qumran; see Millar Burrows, More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls (London: Secker and Warburg, 1958), p. 138. (Back to text)
41 Possibly 'my sons' of Jer 3.19 belongs here as well. (Back to text)
42 A. Richardson, Theology of the NT, p. 148. (Back to text)
43 Muilenburg, op. cit., p. 301b. (Back to text)
44 This would be true whether this story in Judges is in its original form or if the angel is a later substitution for what had been a direct appearance of God in the original tradition. (Back to text)
45 Nathan's prophecy is picked up again in 1 Chron 17.13; 22.10; 28.6. (Back to text)
46 Mowinckel, He That Cometh, pp. 56-95; Richardson, op. cit., p.148; Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament (London: SXCM Press, 1959), p. 273. Edmond Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1958), pp. 234-239; Th. C. Vriezen, An Outline of Old Testament Theology (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), pp. 146, 200. (Back to text)
47 Mowinckel, loc. cit., pp. 36.37. Vriezen, op. cit., p. 144, apparently denies this fundamental a difference between Mesopotamian and Egyptian kings; Richardson, op. cit., p. 148, takes a similar view. Even so, at least once (Ps 45.6; MT 45.7) the king is addressed as Elohim; cf. Mowinckel, op. cit., p. 62; Jacob, op. cit., pp. 236-237; Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, Vol. 1 (ET by J. Baker. The ld Testament Library; London: SCM Press, 1961), p. 125. On the other hand, Vriezen, op. cit., p. 220, n. 1, believes it refers to the throne, not to the king.
R. de Vaux, op. cit., p. 112, points out with regard to Psalm 45 that 'even iof the text calls the king an Elohim, we must remember that the term "Elohim" is applied not only to God but to beings of superhuman power or nature,' such as members of the heavenly court (Job 1.6; Pss 29.1; 89.7), Samuel's shade ( 1 Sam 28.13), and even princes or Judges ( (Pss 58.2; 82.1, 6), for although the king is not an ordinary man, he is not a god (Cf. 2 Kings 5.7 and Ezek 28.2, 90. De Vaux makes the same distinction as does Mowinckel between the Egyptian idea of the king as divine and the Babylonian and Assyrian view of the king as a still-human adopted son (op. cit., pp. 111 f.).
Perhaps a comparison of Exod 7.1 with Exod 4.16 may give some indication of whjere Israelite thought drew the line (if it did) in the use of 'Elohim'. At Exod 7.1 Yahweh makes Moses a god to Pharaoh, the outsider (לְפַרְעֹה אֱלֹהִים, θεὸν Φαραω
48 Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the OT, Vol. 1, p. 125, rejects the idea that Israel took over the whole heathen cultic and mythological basis of the monarchy as found in the ancient East. He acknowledges that there are elements of the king-mythology in the Royal Psalms (2; 45; 72; 110), more specifically at Ps 2.7 (adoption formula); 2.9 (image of breaking potter's vessel, apparently derived from Egyptian usage) 45.6 (king called Elohim); 72.8 (proclamation of the boundaries of his world-wide domain); 110.1 (king at right hand of deity on throne of God). However, he thinks that Mowinckel has almost gone too far in this direction and is sure that his followers have. Eichrodt's contention seems o be basically that those who follow in Mowinckel's footsteps are flirting with the idea of a divinized king, a concept Eichrodt emphatically rejects.
In de Vaux's judgement the kings of Israel were not divinized even in popular religion, for then the prophets would have included this in their charges against them, which they did not. (op. cit., p. 113). In contrast to this we have Eichrodt's view that part of Israel's apostacy lay in the divinizing of its monarch, and this is why 'Hosea frequently mentions the images in parallelism with the kings (cf . 3.4; 8.4 ff.; 10.1 ff.)' (Eichrodt, op. cit., p. 450; cf. pp. 448-51).
In either case, to the extent that there was what we might call a 'Yahwistically legitimate' concept of the king as Yahweh's son, it obviously consisted of him not as a divinized being but as an adopted son, called to be God's obedient vice-regent. (Back to text)
49 This is the Babylonian adoption formula according to Mowinckel, op. cit., p. 37. He refers to the references in H. Gunkel, Die Psalmen übersetzt und erklärt (Handkommentar zum Alten Testament) , Göttingen, 1926, p. 7 (on Ps 2.7). (Back to text)
50 Mowinckel, op. cit., p. 78. (Back to text)
51 This parallels the human father. In Tinsley's words (op. cit., p. 39), 'The father "blesses" the son, and this includes both a "charge" and an endowment (of strength) to fulfil it, e..g. Gen 28.1, 6; I Kings 2.1.' (Back to text)
52 Mowinckel, He That Cometh, p. 69. (Back to text)
53 Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos2 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1921), pp. 53 f., quoted in Carl Clemen, Religionsgeschichtliche Erklärung des Neuen Testaments (Giessen: Alfred Töpelmann, 1924), p. 76. (Back to text)
54 Mowinckel, loc. cit. (Back to text)
55 As Mowinckel observes (op. cit., p. 71): 'Several traditions make it plain that the king (or his sons) acted as priests and were theoretically the legitimate priests and responsible for carrying out the cultus (1 Sam 13.9 f.; 2 Sam 6.17 f.; 7.18; 1 Kings 8.54 f.).' (Back to text)
56 The rivalry is echoed in 2 Chron 26.16 ff. and Ps 110 according to Mowinckel, He That Cometh, pp. 6 ansd 71. De Vaux apparently believes that this attack on the priestly powers of the king was wholly post-Exilic (op. cit., p. 114). I think that de Vaux protests too much when he says that the king 'was not a priest in the strict sense' because his personal sacerdotal actions all took place only on very special or exceptional occasions, namely, the transference of the Ark, the dedication of an altar or sanctuary, and the great annual festivals (ibid.). the relation as he sets it forth (pp. 113 f.) would seem to be closely analogous to that of a bishop to the parish priest who is his vicar: the presbyter is there in the bishop's absence. (Back to text)
57 Aage Bentzen, Introduction to the Old Testament (Copenhagen: G. E. C. Gad, 1952; 2 vols. in one), p. 215. (Back to text)
58 Ibid., pp. 215-16. (Back to text)
59 Test. Levi 4.2 f.; 5.1-3; 8. The first anointed priest of the Jubilee is to speak to God 'as to a father' (17.2). R. H. Pfeiffer, History of New Testament Times With an Introduction to the Apocrypha (New York: Harper & Bros., 1949), p. 64, give the Testaments of the Patriarchs a probable dating of 140-110 BCE. All but the last of these references are drawn from Mowinckel, He That Cometh, p. 288.
In de Vaux's judgement, during the monarchy the king was the only one customarily anointed, and the practice of anointing the priests came in much later (op. cit, pp. 104 f.). Perhaps the anointing initially carried regal overtones rather than narrowly priestly ones. (Back to text)
60 J. Coert Rylaarsdam, Exodus (Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 1), p. 882. (Back to text)
61 See also Jer 31.20: 'Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child?' (Back to text)
62 See S. Singer, The Authorized Daily Prayer Book (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1961), p. 9, for an occurrence of 'Our father who art in heaven', referred to by S. E. Johnson, St. Matthew, Interpreter's Bible Vol. 7, p. 310. (Back to text)
Although Rylaarsdam (loc. cit.) is correct when he says, 'This elective relationshiop of father and son in redemption the Bible distinguishes sharply from the fatherhood of God and the sonship (and brotherhood) of man in creation', it should be remembered that even the setting forth of man as created in the imago Dei in the Priestly creation account (Gen 1.1-2.3) is done in the context and hindsight of the Covenant, as is obvious since the account moves to the Sabbath as its crowning climax.
In any case Israel's writers thought in terms of a family of nations with no special natural endowments fro Israel (Gen 10, J & P sources), a direct relationship with responsibilities between the heathen peoples and God spoken of in terms of 'covenant' (Gen 9.1-17, P), and a view of the future in which mankind as the united community of nations, by virtue of God's cosmic renewal, returns to the perfect beauty and harmonyb of its origin (Isa 2.2-4; Zech 9.9 f.; Zeph 3.9; Isa 45.22-24, etc.). See Walther Eichrodt, Man in the Old Testament (SBT 4; London: SCM Press, 1951), pp. 36, 77-78.
This all tends to reinforce the validity of our viewing Israel's election to sonship primarily in terms of function ('the proper witness to God's glory', ibid., p. 78), rather than honour or privilege. (Back to text)
64 Vriezen, op. cit., p. 145, says of Deut 14.1 that the sentence-construction, 'sons are ye to the Lord your God', is a very careful one denoting (Back to text)
65 See also Isa 30.1, 9; 45.1; 63.8; Jer 3.22; 10.20 (?). (Back to text)
66 See I. b. i. Angels as Sons of God and note 40. (Back to text)
67 See also Deut 32.18-20 for God as the begetter (v. 18) whose sons and daughters provoke him (v. 19) and are 'children in whom is no faithfulness' (v. 20). (Back to text)
68 Pfeiffer, History of NT Times, p. 63, dates the Psalms of Solomon at about mid-first century BCE, thinkingthat the death of Pompey (48 BCE) is tyhe latest identifiable reference (Ps. Sol. 2). Aage Bentzen, Inroduction to the OT, ii, p. 239, and Otto Eissfeldt, Einleitung in das Alte Testament2 (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1956), p. 756, think that the 'foreigner' of Ps. sol. 17.7 is a reference to Herod the Great (40/37 - 4 BCE), and hence at least Ps. Sol. 17 must be later than 37 BCE. With some reserve, they would date the collection between 63 and ca. 30 BCE, recognizing the possibility that there may be more than one author. (Back to text)
69 Translation of R. H. Charles in The Apocrypha and Pesudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, Vol. 2, ed. by R. H. Charles (Oxford, 1913). (Back to text)
70 S. E. Johnson, St. Matthew, I.B. 7, p. 310. (Back to text)
71 The translation is that given in R. H. Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology (London: Lutterworth Press, 1965), p. 32. A photographic reproduction and a transcription of 4Q Fl are given by J. M. Allegro, 'Further Messianic References in Qumran Literature', JBL 75 (1956), pp. 174-187, under Document II. (Back to text)
72 E. Lövestam, Son and Saviour (Coniectanea Neotestamentica XVIII; Lund: C. W. K. Gleeerup, 1961), p. 12, to which reference is made in Fuller, loc. cit. (Back to text)
73 Fuller, loc. cit. (Back to text)
74 Ibid., p. 71. That Matthew clearly differentiates between 'Son of David', 'Son of God' and 'the Christ' (plus 'Son of Abraham') see 'Matthew' in Wisdom, Power and Well-being. Mark has done so before him, but not as 'openly'. (Back to text)
75 M. Burrows, More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls (London: Secker & Warburg , 1958), pp. 135-145. 177-8. (Back to text)
76 F. C. Grant, 'Biblical Theology and the Synoptic Problem', Current Issues in New Testament Studies edited by W. Klassen and G. F. Snyder (London: SCM Press, 1962), p. 85. (Back to text)
77 Fuller, Foundations, p. 83, n. 34. (Back to text)
78 Gillis P: son Wetter, "Der Sohn Gottes": Eine Untersuchung über den Charakter und die Tendenz des Johannes-Evangeliums. Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Heilandgestalten der Antike (FRLANT; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1916), pp. 4-20, 181-188. Wetter, I am convinced, overrates the Hellenistic element in the NT evaluation of Jesus. Thus I agree with Bieneck when he says, "The value of this work liesd witrhout doubt in the direction indicatyed by the second sub-title, whereas the author, in our opinion, has misunderstood 'character', 'tendence', and above all the witness to Christ [Christuszeugnis] of the Fourth Evangelist." (Sohn Gottes, p. 28, n. 2 - see below, n. 80. (Back to text)
79 Ludwig Bieler, ΘΕΙΟΣ ΑΝΗΡ
80 Joachim Bieneck, Sohn Gottes als Christusbezeichnung der Synoptiker (Abhandlung zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments, Nr. 21) (Zurich: Zwingli-Verlag, 1951), pp. 27-34. (Back to text)
81 Cf. also Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos: Geschichte des Christusglaubens von den Anfängen des Chjriostentums bis Ireaeus, 1st ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1913), pp. 65-70 (also a 2nd ed. , an ET , and 4th ed. ); Carl Clemen, Religionsgeschichtliche Erklärung des Neuen Tesdtaments: Die Abhängigkeit des ältesten Christentums von nightjüdischen Religionen und philosophischen Systemen (Giessen: Alfred Töpelmann, 1924), pp. 76-81; Gustaf Dalman, The Words of Jesus Considered in the Light of Post-Biblical Jewish Writings and the Aramaic Language (ET by D. M. Kay of Die Worte Jesu, 1st ed. Leipzig, 1898; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1902), pp. 272-273 [2nd German ed., 1930]); A. Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 166 f.; R. Reitzenstein, Die Hellenistischen Mysterienreligionen, 3rd ed. (Leizig & Berlin, 1927); for further bibliography, see Arndt-Gingrich, υἱός
Clemen, op. cit., generally follows Bousset, op. cit., 2nd ed., which he quotes at length. Clem concludes (p. 81) that 'son of God' was used commonly in Syria, and "in a broader sense is Syria" that that found in the Caesar-cult, and that it was there that the Christians picked it up and applied it to Jesus. This is much like Bultmann's conclusion. We are convinced that they are wrong, and that it is the OT-Jewish background that gave rise from the start to its application to Jesus. (Back to text)
82 A. E. J. Rawlinson, The New Testament Doctrine of the Christ (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1926), pp. 72 f. (Back to text)
83 A. D. Nock, Conversion: The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo (Oxford, 1933), p. 91. (Back to text)
84 Based upon Greek works by Menader and Diphilus, and produced by Terence at Rome at the funeral games of Aemilius Paullus in 160 BCE (Cf. William Beare, "Terence", OCD, pp. 884-885. (Back to Text)
85 Quoted in Nock, loc. cit., p. 91. It is taken from Adelphi IV.1, 19020 (or lines 535 f.), where Syrus Servos says to Ctesipho Adulescens: facio te apud illum Deum;/ virtutes narro. (P. Terenti Afri Comoediae ed. by Robert Kauer and Wallace M. Lindsay, suppl. apparatus by Otto Skutsch. Oxford Classical Texts, Oxford, 1926 [and 1958 with additions]). (Back to text)
86 Quoted in Nock, Conversion, p. 91 For the papyrus catechism see Fr. Bilabel, Philologus, 80 (1925), p. 339. (Back to text)
87 See Bieler, op. cit., I, p. 10. Bieler says (ibid.), "Drei Stande sind für Homer θεῖοι
88 Includung Plato and Pythagoras, so Arndt-Gingrich, υἱός
89 Richardson, An Introduction to the Theology of the NT, p. 146. Rightly Richardson here refers to Acts 17.28, but there we are deakling with Stoic pantheism, not simply ancient Greek thought; cf. J. Weiss, Primitive Christianity, I., pp. 241 f.; K. Lake & F. Jackson, Beginnings of Christianity, V. pp. 246 ff.; G. H. C. Macgregor, Acts, IB (1954), p. 236. (Back to text)
90 Op. cit., p. 783 (Back to text)
91 Ibid., p. 782. (Back to text)
92 Ibid., p. 783. This judgement includes the dynastic cult of the Ptolemies at Alexandra (founded 285-284 BCE) and that of the Seleucids (founded 280 BCE). This should be borne in mind when noting that the divine titles given to Ptolemy Epophanies (201-185 BCE) in the Rosetta inscription of 196 BCE include θεὸς ἐκ θεοῦ
93 Op. cit., p. 783. (Back to text)
94 Mason Hammond, "Ruler-Cult. II. Roman", OCD, p. 783. (Back to text)
95 Ibid. (Back to text)
96 I.e., a clear manifestation of a hidden deity; cf. Arndt-Gingrich, ἐπιφανεία
97 For instances of θεοῦ υἱός
98 E. Vernon Arnold, Roman Stoicism (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1911, reprinted 1958), p. 254. "For we are indeed his offspring" (i.e., God's) is found in the Phaenomena of the Stoic poet Aratus (c. 315-140/139 BCE) and is quoted in Acts 17.28. Seneca, Ep. 95, 51-52, speaks of the fatherhood of God and the kinship of all men as his sons as the fundamental principle which binds all men to do nothing unworthy of such an ancestry; cf. Samuel Dill, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius (1904; reprinted: New York: Meridian Books, 1958), p. 393. (Back to text)
99 "Under Stoic influence the idea that worthy individuals might become divine after death appeared in Cicero's Somnium Scipionis (c. 51) and in the shrine which he planned for his daughter Tullia (d. 45)." Mason Hammond, op. cit., p. 783. (Back to text)
100 Wilhelm Windelband, A History of Philosophy (ET by James H. Tufts), 2nd ed. (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1901, 10th printing, 1953), p. 162. (Back to text)
101 Quoted in the iii CE compendium of Diogenes Laertius. (Back to text)
102 W. T. Jones, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1952), p. 272 and n. 21, p. 272; cf. also E. V. Arnold, Roman Stoicism (London,1911), p. 17. (Back to text)
103 Cf. S. Dill, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius (Reprint: New York, 1956) (Back to text)
104 Rawlinson, NT Doctrine of the Christ, p. 71. θεοῦ υἱός
105 Franz Cumont, After Life in Roman Paganism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1922; repr. New York: Dover Publications, 1959), p. 113. (Back to text)
106 Ibid., p. 114. See above, n. 99. (Back to text)
107 Franz Cumont, The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism (ET published in 1911; New York: Dover Publications, 1956), p. 27. This is not to be unaware of the official recognition (as distinguished from mere tolerance) given ton some of the Mystery cults by Caligula and others, or to be unaware of such actiions as the offering of the taurobolium "with intention" for Antoninus Pius at Lyons in 160 CE. See Dill, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, p. 549, and A. d. Nock, "Studies in the Graeco-Roman Beliefs of the Empire", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 45 (1925), pp. 92 f. for further examples. Mithraism, popular wither the Roman Legions and inculcating loyalty and steadfastness, would tend to be in a class by itself because of its social consciousness, but even so, its rites were private and limited to men; cf. Nock, Conversion, p. 116. For further evidence of the asocil appeal and concern of the Mysteries generally see Nock, ibid., pp. 114-121; Philo, Spec. Leg. i. 320-321, rails against the μύσται for their secrecy and lack of concern for the commonweal. (Back to text)
108 A. D. Nock, "Studies in the Graeco-Roman Beliefs of the Empire" JHS 45, pp. 84-101, says as follows:
Without seeking to
impose a general formula on a mass of varied phenomena, we may assert
that one of the notes of much belief in its evolution under the Empire
is that it is directed to divine power rather than to divine
personalities. Aristides says of Serapis in a striking passage,
"Who is he and what nature he has, Egyptian priests and prophets
may be left to say. We shall praise him sufficiently for the
moment if we tell of the many and great benefits to man of which he is
revealed to be the author. At the same time, his nature can be
seen through these very facts. If we have said what he can do and
what he gives, we have found who he is and what nmature he has."' [Aelius
Aristides (117/1299-189 CE0, Orat. VIII. i. p. 88, W. Dindorf
(1829) - ii. p. 356, 15, Keil] (Nock, "Studies", pp. 85
Men's attitude towards divine power was commonly not passive. They desired to be strengthened by receiving it. Such reception was the object of the taurobolium as practised in this period, and again of Gnostis post-baptuismal regeneration and of the devotion of adherents of Hermes Trismegistus. Its attainment was the aim of many magical practises. By divine power man could, it was thought, b raised and ennobled. Knowledge might be thought to involve reception. (ibid., p. 87)
This concentration of interest on divine power rather than on divine personality gives a satisfactory explanation of the general absence of exclusiveness from Imperial paganism. (ibid., p. 88)
Bieneck, Sohn Gottes, p. 34, concludes by
quoting from Ernst Lohmeyer's Das Evangelium des Markus10, p.
347: " Lohmeyer hits upon the matter when he formulates: 'Son of God
signifies to the pagan any exceptional human being from the philosopher to the
emperor.'" (Back to text)
109 Alan Richardson, Intro. to NT Theology, p. 147. Cf. Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, 2 vols. (ET by Kendrick Grobel; London: SCM Press, i. 1952, ii: 1955), i, p. 130; Cullmann, Christology of the NT, p. 272.
Dill, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, p. 482: "In the field of miracle in the second century the heathen could easily match the Christian.... The Epicurean, the Cynic, or the Aristotelian, might pour scorn on tales of wonder.... But the drift of the time was against all such protests. The Divine power was everywhere, and miracle was in the air." (Back to text)
110 A. D. Nock's translation (Conversion, p. 238) of Justin, Apol. 1. 30 (cf. also i. 53.2) (Back to text)
111 Matt 4.1-11; Luke 4.1-13; cf. Mark 1.12 f. see also Jesus' agony at Gethsemane (Mark 14.32-42; Matt 26.36-46; Luke 22.40-46), especially Mark 15.36 (Matt 26.39; Luke 22.42), where doing the Father's will is placed above all else, including any saving miracle. Mark 14.36 is the only place in the Gospels where Jesus is recorded as addressing God as ἀββά
112 As is done by Bultmann, who says that "the earliest [Aramaic-speaking] Chuirch called Jesus Son of God (messianic) because that was what the resurrection made him. However, unlike the later Hellenistic Church, it did not regard the earthly Jesus as a Son of God (mythological)." (Theol. of NT, i. p. 50) The NT, says Bultmann, contains only this Hellenized notion (ibid., pp. 128-133). (Back to text)
113 Reginald H. Fuller, The Mission and Achievement of Jesus (SBT 12; London: SCM Press, 1954), p. 82 (Back to text)
114 Op. cit., p. 29. (Back to text)
115 Ibid., p. 30. (Back to text)