Jesus the Son of God (2012) [Chapter 3]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

“Jesus the Son of God” in Christian and Muslims Contexts


A) About the author:

D.A. Carson (Ph.D, Cambridge University) is a research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He is president of the Gospel Coalition, and has written or edited nearly 60 books.

B) Chapter Summary:

i) What bearing does this study of Jesus as the Son of God have on the way Christians should think about Jesus?

“… in the New Testament “Son of God” is not a terminus technicus, as the Latins say–a technical term that always carries the same associations.”[1]

“Bible readers should exercise special pains not to succumb either to unjustified reductionism, in which one particular usage is read into every occurrence, or to “illegitimate totality transfer,” in which the entire semantic range of the expression is read into every occurrence. Context must decide.”[2]

“We have observed how 2 Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2:7, and Psalm 45:6-7 are applied to Jesus, even though the first certainly applies to Solomon, not Jesus, the second probably applies first of all to David and his immediate successors, and the third certainly applies, initially, to kings who had heirs who replaced their fathers, not to Jesus. Yet in all three cases the context drops hints of a fulfillment that outstrips local petty monarchs. Once these passages are nestled into the complex matrix of the Davidic typology, the many passages that anticipate an heir of David who is declared to be God and whose reign embraces the entire earth and even the heavens, the connection to Jesus is all but inevitable.”[3]

“Insofar as our conceptions of him diverge from what he has disclosed of himself, so far are we worshipping a false god, which is normally called idolatry. To study hard what holy Scripture says about the Son of God, who has most comprehensively revealed his heavenly Father, is to know more about God, and thus to begin to ground our worship in reality rather than slogans.”[4]

ii) What bearing does this study of Jesus as the Son of God have on current debate regarding the translation of the title, especially in Muslim contexts?

“At the street level, many Muslims think Christians believe that God somehow impregnated Mary, and that the Trinity is made up of God, Mary, and Jesus, who is thus the Son of God. They find the construct bizarre, not to say blasphemous, and of course, they are right. Informed Muslims have a better understanding of what Christians mean by the Trinity, but they find this Christian take on monotheism illogical at best, blasphemous at worst. In short, the objection to thinking of Jesus as the Son of God is not restricted to the repulsiveness of the idea that God had sexual union with a woman, but extends to the deeper criticism of the incarnation: the absolute distinction between God and his creation must not be breached.”[5]

“… some sectors of SIL/Wycliffe, Frontiers, and other organizations have for a number of years embarked on a variety of Bible translations that have replaced many references to God as the Father and to Jesus as the Son. For example, in one recent Arabic translation, Al Kalima, the baptismal formula of Matthew 28 becomes, “Cleanse them by water in the name of Allah, his Messiah and his Holy Spirit.” Sometimes “Guardian” has been used instead of “Father.””[6]


“(1) We should all recognize the extraordinary diversity of “son of” expressions in the Bible. Probably they should not all be handled the same way.”[7]

“On almost any reading of the evidence, the associations of the expression [the Son of God] are complicated, theologically laden, and inescapable. Why should it not be better, then, to render the original more directly, perhaps with explanatory notes?”[8]

“… words for “father” and “son” that convey mental pictures of social relationship but not biology may be misleading as words for “father” and “son” that convey mental pictures of a biological connection. For we have seen how “begetting” or “generation” or “engendering” language can be used of the way God becomes the “Father” of the Davidic king, and finally of Jesus himself: that is, the begetting is itself metaphorical. God establishes the Davidide as his son, he begets him, when the Davidide comes to the throne: at that point, so far as the activity of reigning is concerned, the Davidide is to act like his “Father,” and thus show himself to be a true son. This is more than a mere social relationship; it is a metaphorical engendering.”[9]

“… John’s Gospel happily associates Messiah and Son of God, but a passage like John 5:16-30, as we have seen, so deepens what it means to affirm that Jesus is the Son of God that our entire understanding of God and of sonship are enriched and transformed. This is not a mere translational matter. No language, no culture, means by “Son” what Jesus means in John 5–yet “Son” is the category Jesus uses, even though nothing in English, or Urdu, or Arabic, prepares us for a Son of God whose relationship with the Father is anything like what the text describes.”[10]

“… the richest theological loading of the expression “Son of God” as applied to Jesus springs from passages that deploy the expression to cross-polinate distinctive uses. This fact constitutes a driving reason to translate “Son of God” and “Father” expressions consistently, for otherwise, these crucial intracannonical links will be lost to view.”[11]

[1] p.74

[2] p.74

[3] p.75

[4] p.86

[5] p.89

[6] p.89

[7] p.91

[8] p.93

[9] p.101

[10] p.103

[11] p.107

C) Chapter Review:

  • Readability: 9/10
  • Theological depth: 7/10
  • Any other comments: This chapter is a lot more practical and is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the subject of biblical translation as well as the difficult decisions that accompany it.

Jesus the Son of God (2012) [Chapter 2]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

“Son of God” in Select Passages

(pp. 43-71)

A) About the author:

D.A. Carson (Ph.D, Cambridge University) is a research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He is president of the Gospel Coalition, and has written or edited nearly 60 books.

B) Chapter Summary:

i) Hebrews 1

Note: Dr Carson points out that Hebrews 1:5 cites Psalms 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14

“New Testament texts quote Psalm 2:7 to prove Jesus is superior to angels, to prove Jesus did not take on himself the glory of becoming high priest but was appointed by God, and to demonstrate that God has fulfilled his promises to the Israelite ancestors by raising Jesus from the dead – even though, on the face of it, Psalm 2 does not mention angels, has no interest in the high priest’s office, and makes no mention of the resurrection of the Messiah.”[1]

“… both 2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2:7 depict the Davidic monarch as God’s son, ideally imitating his heavenly father’s kingly rule. Both passages hint at Davidic reign that eclipses anything in the first millennium BC. Both are elements in a trajectory of anticipatory passages that run through the Old Testament.”[2]

See Isaiah 9, Ezekiel 34

“This trajectory–or, to use the more traditional terminology, this Davidic typology–is inherently forward-looking. It anticipates that toward which it points. When Hebrews 1:5 quotes Psalm 2:7 with reference to Jesus, it is the Davidic typology that warrants it; that is, the writer to the Hebrews is reading Psalm 2:7 not as an individual prooftext but as one passage within the matrix of the Davidic typology it helps to establish.”[3]

“… in the Old Testament, God reigns in a peculiar and redemptive way over the Israelites, and thus, via his appointed Davidide, over the Davidic kingdom. As anticipation mounted for the coming of the ultimate Davidic king, it was recognised that that kingdom, when it dawned, would be redemptive and transformative.”[4]

“… just as the kingdom of God sometimes refers to the entire sweep of God’s reign, and sometimes to that subset of his reign under which there is salvation for his own people, so also Jesus’s reign can embrace all of God’s sovereignty, all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18), and sometimes can refer to that subset of his reign under which there is life (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9-10).”[5]

“… as in 2 Samuel 7, so also in Psalm 45: the immediate referent is necessarily a Davidic king other than Jesus–and yet these texts are nestled within a Davidic trajectory that can be fulfilled only in Jesus.”[6]

“… in Psalm 45: the courtier does not think the king he is addressing is literally, ontologically, God, as verse 7 makes clear. The psalm is loaded with hyperbolic expressions of the king’s majesty, integrity, justice, humility, and power, precisely because these were the standards the king was supposed to maintain if he, as the son of God, was tasked with reigning as his Father reigns.”[7]

“… the sonship language applied to Christ in the prologue cannot be restricted to a strictly Davidic messianic horizon. The writer to the Hebrews, in other words, is prepared to link, within his first chapter, Jesus’s sonship in the Davidic, messianic sense, with his sonship in the sense of his thoroughly divine status, embracing his pre-existence and his oneness with God in creation.”[8]

“Judging by the evidence of Hebrews 1–and a treatise could be written to demonstrate similar support through much of the New Testament–Christians commonly plugged away at integrating confessional christologies. Just as we discovered in chapter 1, that Matthew can leap from an Israel-as-son-of-God christology to a Davidic-king-as-son-of-God christology, showing no embarrassment at affirming that Jesus is the Son of God in both senses, so Hebrews 1 leaps from preexistent-Godhead-as-Son-of-God christology to Davidic-king-Messiah-as-Son-of-God christology.”[9]

Continue reading “Jesus the Son of God (2012) [Chapter 2]”

Jesus the Son of God (2012) [Chapter 1]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

“Son of God” as a Christological Title 

(pp. 13-42)

A) About the author:

D.A. Carson (Ph.D, Cambridge University) is a research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He is president of the Gospel Coalition, and has written or edited nearly 60 books.

B) Chapter summary: 

i) Sons and sonship

“In the ancient world, however, the percentage [of sons doing what their fathers did and daughters doing what their mothers did] would have been much higher, frequently well over 90 percent. If your father was a farmer, you became a farmer … if your father was a carpenter, you became a carpenter – which of course is why Jesus could be known both as the carpenter’s son (Matt. 13:55), and, in one remarkable passage, as the carpenter (Mark 6:3 – presumably after Joseph had died).” (p.19)

“He [i.e. your father] established your vocation, your place in the culture, your identity, your place in the family. This is the dynamic of a culture that is preindustrial and fundamentally characterized by agriculture, handcrafts, and small-time trade.

This social dynamic does not necessarily shape the linguistic structures of all cultures characterized by it, but it certainly does the Hebrew culture.” (p.20)

“… there are many “son of X” idioms in the Bible, where the identity of “X” is highly diverse and the relationship between the son and X is certainly not biological.

Consider, for example, the expression “son(s) of Belial,” or “men [or occasionally ‘daughter’] of Belial,” where “Belial” is usually masked by contemporary translations.” (p.20)

See Deuteronomy 13:13, Judges 19:22, Judges 20:13, 1 Samuel 1:16, 1 Samuel 2:12, 1 Samuel 10:27, 1 Samuel 25:17, 1 Samuel 25:25, 1 Samuel 30:22, 2 Samuel 16:7, 2 Samuel 20:1, 2 Samuel 23:6, 1 Kings 21:10, 1 Kings 21:13, 2 Chronicles 13:7, and 2 Chronicles 6:15

“Calling someone “a son of Belial” is not necessarily suggesting that the biological father of the son is Belial/worthless/wicked/a scoundrel/Satan. Rather, it is a dramatic way of saying that the conduct of the son is so worthless/wicked that he is identified with the worthless/wicked family.” (p.22)

“[There are many cases where] the expression “son(s) of X,” the “X” is often abstract, or at least nonpersonal, nonhuman (e.g. son of one year, sons of affliction, son of morning, sons of oil, sons of the quiver). In all such cases, the relationship between the “son” and “X” cannot, of course, be biological.” (p.24) [emphasis mine]

“Who are the sons of Abraham? The true sons of Abraham, Paul insists, are not those who carry Abraham’s genes, but those who act like him, who imitate the faith of Abraham (Gal. 3:7; cf. John 8:33, 39-40), the “man of faith” (Gal. 3:9).” (p.26)

ii) The use of “Son(s) of God” to refer to beings other than Jesus

“In Luke 3, the genealogy of Jesus is traced all the way back to “Adam, the son of God” (3:38) … Certainly Adam is the son of God in the sense that God generated him, making him in the image and likeness of God, created to reflect God’s glory.” (p.29)

“As early as Exodus 4:22-23, the singular expression “son of God” can refer to Israel collectively.” (p.29)

See also Psalm 80:15, Hosea 11:1, Jeremiah 31:9

“The expression “son(s) of God” can refer to God’s covenant people, individually or plurally (rather than collectively) both under the terms of the old covenant and under the terms of the new.” (p.30)

See Deuteronomy 14:1, Isaiah 43:6, Isaiah 45:11, Isaiah 63:8, Jeremiah 3:19, Galatians 3:26, Romans 8:14, Philippians 2:15, 1 John 3:1

“… sonship language can be applied to Christ’s followers when in some way or other they are imitating God, their heavenly Father.” (p.30)

See Matthew 5:9, Like 6:35-36

“More specifically, the Davidic king is designated the “son of God.”” (p.31)

See 2 Samuel 7:14

“When a Davidic assumes the throne, he does so under God’s kingship. The reign of the Davidic king is meant to reflect God’s reign … the Davidic monarch is called the son of God because he enters into the identity of the supreme Monarch, God himself.” (p.32)

See Psalm 2:6-7, Psalms 89:19-29

“The major New Testament writers find ways to distinguish between Jesus’s sonship and the sonship of believers. In John’s Gospel, only Jesus is referred to as ὁ υἱός (“the son”) of God; believers are characteristically referred to as τὰ τέκνα or τὰ παιδία (“the children”) of God (e.g., John 1:12).

In Paul, although υἱός can be used to refer to both Jesus and the believer, only believers are sometimes described as being sons by adoption (Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:4-5).” (p.33)

Continue reading “Jesus the Son of God (2012) [Chapter 1]”

Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (2010) [Chapter 2 – Part 4]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Revelation: God Speaks 

(Part 4: pp.68-76)

A) About the author(s):

Mark Driscoll has a Master of Arts degree in exegetical theology from Western Seminary. He was the founding and preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church, and former president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network

Gerry Breshears is a Professor of Theology at Western Seminary and earned his PhD in Systematic Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary.

B) Chapter Summary:

xi) Why are there different translations of Scripture?

“For centuries the Eastern church had the Bible only in Greek. The Western church had the Bible only in Latin. Since most people were not fluent in these languages, they were unable to read the Bible themselves. One of the great developments of the Protestant Reformation was to return the Bible to the people of the church. The Reformers wanted the people to have the Bible in their own language. Martin Luther and John Wycliffe are just two of the men who risked their lives to translate the Bible into German and English. William Tyndale was charged with heresy and condemned to death because he translated the Bible into English. According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, he “was tied to the stake, strangled by the hangman, and afterwards consumed with fire,” simply because he wanted people to be able to read the Bible.”[1]

“During the past four centuries there have been hundreds of English Bible translations, and dozens are actively used today. They fall into three major categories.”[2]

“1) Word-for-word translations (also known as formal equivalence translations) emphasize the patterns of the words and seek “as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. . . . Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.””[3] (emphasis mine)

Examples include the King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), and New American Standard Bible (NASB).

“2) Thought-for-thought translations (also known as dynamic equivalence or functional equivalence) attempt to convey the full nuance of each passage by interpreting the Scripture’s entire meaning and not just the individual words. Such versions seek to find the best modern cultural equivalent that will have the same effect the original message had in its ancient cultures.”[4] (emphasis mine)

Examples include the New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), and Contemporary English Version (CEV).

“3) Paraphrased translations put the emphasis on readability in English. Therefore, they pay even less attention to specific word patterns in an attempt to capture the poetic or narrative essence of a passage.”[5] (emphasis mine)

Examples include The Message (Message), The Living Bible (TLB), and The Amplified Bible (AMP)

“All faithful translations try to achieve a balance of four elements:

1) Accuracy to the original text as much as possible.

2) Beauty of language.

3) Clarity of meaning.

4) Dignity of style.”[6]

[1] p.69

[2] p.70

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] p.71

[6] Ibid.

xii) How can we best interpret Scripture?

“The first question to ask is, what does the Scripture actually say? God wants to speak to you through the Bible. One error is to under-read the text, missing what is there through lack of attention. The opposite error is to over-read the text, putting preconceived opinions, ideas, or perspectives into the text, which is called eisegesis. Therefore, the goal is to humbly read the text to hear from God, which is called exegesis.”[1]

“To avoid error, it is vitally important to be aware of the type of literature you are reading and interpreting.”[2]

“The second question is, what does the Scripture mean? In this step, you should look for what Scripture is teaching, especially in the original context. Much of the Bible was written to specific people in specific historical situations. The task is to discover that meaning and to understand the meaning of each text in its own terms, categories, and thought forms, beginning with the questions and issues the writer deals with, not the questions we bring.”[3]

“The third question is, what timeless principle truths is this section of Scripture teaching that apply to all of God’s people in all times and places? There are many questions to ask to find the timeless universal principle. Is the text describing an event or belief, or is it prescribing (commanding) a practice, precept, promise, or value?”[4]

“Faithful brothers and sisters from church history can greatly help us see the Scriptures more clearly, as they do not have some of our cultural assumptions.”[5]

“The fourth question is, how should I respond to what God has said? Here we are seeking to understand how the Bible’s teaching applies to our life individually as Christians and corporately as a church today.”[6]

[1] pp.72-73

[2] p.73

[3] Ibid.

[4] p,74

[5] p.75

[6] Ibid.

xiii) How does our view of Scripture affect our life?

“God speaks to us through the Scriptures as a perfectly loving Father. Subsequently, we listen to what Scripture says, learn what it teaches, and make every effort by the Holy Spirit’s empowering grace to repent of our sin, renew our minds, and redeem our lives.”[1]

“As the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures illuminates our understanding, we deeply enjoy our new life guided by our new wisdom of Scripture and our new power from the Holy Spirit, delighting in our new gift of repentance as part of God’s kingdom people together on mission in the world for Jesus.”[2]

[1] p.75

[2] pp.75-76

C) Review of Part 4 of Chapter 2:

  • Readability: 10/10
  • Theological depth: 5/10
  • Any other comments: This part of Chapter 2 is very practical as it addresses issues like bible translation, and biblical interpretation. It’s worth going through it once more to better understand what was said.