[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
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)