New Testament Survey: Gospels - Lesson 21

Explicit Christology

Explicit Christology deals with what he reveals concerning his understanding of himself by the use of various titles. Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word, Messiah. The titles, Son of God and Son of Man refer both to his human nature and divine nature. 

Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Gospels
Lesson 21
Watching Now
Explicit Christology

Lesson Twenty-one: The Teachings of Jesus

Part 10



I. Explicit Christology - Titles

A. Messiah/Christ

B. Son of God

C. Son of Man

  • The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record some of the same stories and even use the same wording in sections. They also each have material that is unique, and the chronology is different in some places. Both the purpose of each gospel and the role of oral and written tradition play a role in understanding the similarities and differences.

  • The Gospel of Mark is shorter than the other Gospels and some of the grammar and theology is unique. There are also significant portions of Mark that are contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

  • Discussion of the extensive similarities between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It's possible that Mark was already written and they used that as a source. It's aslo likely that they had in common other oral and written sources of what Jesus did and taught. 

  • Some time passed between the ascension of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels because there was no need for a written account while the eyewitnesses were still alive. In that culture, oral tradition was the primary method of preserving history. Form critics also note that it is likely that it is likely that many of the narratives and sayings of Jesus circulated independently.

  • Form criticism is the method of classifying literature by literary pattern to determine its original form and historical context in order to interpret its meaning accurately. The Gospels were not written to be objective biographies. They omit large portions of the life of Jesus, they include accounts of miraculous events and they have a purpose to demonstrate that Jesus is both God and human.

  • Redaction criticism focuses on evaluating how a writer has seemingly shaped and molded a narrative to express his theological goals. Examining how Matthew and Luke used passages from Mark can give you insight into their theology and their purpose for writing their Gospel.  

  • Studying the background and theological emphases of the Gospel of Mark helps us to understand the central message of his Gospel. The central point of the Gospel of Mark is the death of Jesus when he was crucified. This event happened because it was a divine necessity in God's plan to redeem humanity. It's likely that the Gospel of Mark is a written record of the apostle Peter's account. 

  • The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes how Jesus' life, death and resurrection fulfilled prophecies that were made in the Old Testament. Matthew also shows concern for the church and has a strong eschatological emphasis. 

  • Luke emphasizes the great loving concern of God for the oppressed, such as tax collectors, physically impaired, women and Samaritans. He warns of the dangers of riches and emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

  • John's Gospel focuses on Christology and emphasizes dualism and eschatology.  John has long pericopes, clear statements about the identity of Jesus and a number of stories not found in the synoptic Gospels. 

  • By studying the background and comparing the text of the synoptic gospels, we can be confident of their authenticity. Many of the accounts in the Gospels appear in multiple Gospels and are confirmed by separate witnesses. Details in the narratives and parables are consistent with the culture and common practices of the time in that region.  

  • In order to understand Jesus' teaching, it is important to understand how he uses exaggeration and determine when he is using exaggeration to make a point. An exaggeration is something that is literally impossible and sometimes conflicts with teachings of the Old Testament or other teachings of Jesus. They often use idiomatic language that had a specific meaning to the original hearers. 

  • The Gospels record how Jesus used different literary forms to communicate his teachings. He communicated effectively with everyone including children, common people, religious leaders and foreigners. He used a variety of literary devices to communicate in a way that was effective and memorable. (This class was taught by a teaching assistant of Dr. Stein's but his name was not provided.) 

  • It's important to know how to interpret parables to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. At different times in history, people have used different paradigms to interpret parables. Each parable has one main point. To interpret the parable, seek to understand what Jesus meant, what the evangelist meant and what God wants to teach you today.

  • Dr. Stein uses the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of how to apply the four rules of interpreting parables. He also applies the four rules to interpret the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl, the ten virgins, the unjust steward and the laborers in the vineyard. 

  • Jesus used different literary forms to communicate with people. It's important to know how to interpret these literary forms, including parables, to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. The rule of end stress is one factor in determining the main teaching of a parable. Dr. Stein describes two parts of a parable as the, "picture part" and the "reality part." 

  • The kingdom of God is God's kingdom invading the earthly kingdom. In the Gospels, there are both "realized" passages and "future" passages. There is a tension between the "now" and "not yet" and it is important to emphasize each aspect equally.

  • Jesus' teaching about the fatherhood of God reveals for us a tension between reverence and intimacy. Jesus shows his reverence for God by not using the name of God even when referring to God. When he refers to God as Father, it is an indication of a personal relationship. 

  • Jesus does not provide an organized ethical system, but his ethical teachings are scattered throughout the Gospels. Sometimes they seem to be contradictory, until you look at them more closely. He emphasized the need for a new heart and the importance of loving God and our "neighbor." Jesus upheld the validity of the Law but was opposed to the oral traditions. 

  • Implicit Christology is what Jesus reveals of himself and his understanding of himself by his actions words and deeds. Jesus demonstrates his authority over the three sacred aspects of Israel which are the temple, the Law and the Sabbath. 

  • Explicit Christology deals with what he reveals concerning his understanding of himself by the use of various titles. Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word, Messiah. The titles, Son of God and Son of Man refer both to his human nature and divine nature. 

  • The Chronology of Jesus' life in the Gospels begins with his birth and ends with his resurrection. How you explain the miracles of Jesus depends on your presuppositions. He performed miracles to heal sicknesses and also miracles showing his authority over nature. 

  • The birth of Christ is an historical event. The virgin birth of Jesus is a fundamental aspect of his nature and ministry. The details of the birth narrative in Luke are consistent with historical events. 

  • Except for the accounts of a couple of events in Jesus' childhood, the Gospels are mostly silent about the years before Jesus began his public ministry. Luke records the story of 12 year old Jesus in the temple to show that already, you can see something different about Jesus. Jesus' public ministry began when John the Baptist baptized Jesus publicly in the Jordan River.

  • The three temptations that Satan put to Jesus were significant to him and instructive to us. Jesus had a specific purpose in mind in the way he called his disciples and the fact that he chose 12.

  • After Simon Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, Jesus begins teaching about his death and focuses his efforts on teaching the twelve. The Transfiguration was a significant event because the pre-existent glory of Jesus broke through and it was also a preview of future glory.

  • The events surrounding Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem were the beginning of the week leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. When Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, he was rejecting the sacrificial system, reforming temple worship and performing an act of judgment.

  • At the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated with his disciples by eating the Passover meal. He reinterpreted it to show how it pointed to him as being the perfect Lamb of God, the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all people. When we celebrate the Lord's supper, there is a focus of looking back at the significance of what Jesus did and how the Passover pointed toward him and of looking forward to the future. 

  • The night before his crucifixion, Jesus went to Gethsemane with his disciples to pray. Judas betrays Jesus there and Jesus allows himself to be arrested.

  • The trial of Jesus involved a hearing in the Jewish court conducted by the high priest and the Sanhedrin, and a hearing in the Roman court conducted by Pilate. The Jewish leaders brought in false witnesses against Jesus and violated numerous rules from the Mishnah in the way they conducted the trial. 

  • Jesus died by crucifixion. The Romans used it as a deterrent because it was public and a horrible way to die. The account of the crucifixion is brief, likely because the readers knew what was involved and it was painful to retell. Jesus was buried by friends.

  • The historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus is compelling. Jesus appeared physically to people, many of whom were still alive when the books in the New Testament were written. Rising from the dead confirmed that Jesus has power over death and gives hope of eternal life to people who put their trust in him. 

  • The Gospels are eyewitness accounts that clearly show that Jesus claimed to be fully human and fully God, and what he did to back up this claim. Some people try to reinterpret the Gospels to make Jesus out to be a moral teacher with good intentions, but not God in the flesh.

This is the first part of an introductory course to the New Testament, covering the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The synopsis Dr. Stein refers to is the Synopsis of the Four Gospels, English Edition, published by the American Bible Society. You can click here to order it from American Bible Society or click here to order it from Amazon

The lecture notes you can download (to the right) are for both NT Survey I and II. In some of the lectures, Dr. Stein does not cover all the points in his outline, but we include the additional outline points for your benefit. 

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes for both sections of Stein's NT Survey class (to the right). Note that they do not cover every lecture.

Recommended Books

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

This participant’s guide is intended to be used with the BiblicalTraining.org class, New Testament Survey - The Gospels with Dr. Robert Stein. This is the first part of an...

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

I. Explicit Christology - Titles

With regard to titles, we can’t look at every one of them but we will look at a few of them. Uh, the first one is the title Christ. Now we have to understand that the title Christ is not an English word. It’s not a Hebrew word. It’s a Greek word, Christos, and it is a translation of a Hebrew term that it used, which is the term Messiah.

A. Messiah/Christ

So Messiah is a title for the anointed one, Christ is a title and if we wa-, want to make it into English, we say the Anointed One. So Messiah Hebrew, Christ Greek, anointed one English. They’re synonyms, just in different languages. Now we have to keep on, keep remembering that when we talk about Jesus Christ, this is not the last name of the son of Joseph and Mary Christ.

It is a title given to him and the result is that, there are a couple of places in the uh, the New Testament where that title understanding is still found. In Acts 5:42, it talks about that if people were to confess Jesus as the Christ, among Christians, the tie between the title to describe Jesus is so intimate and close, that as time goes on, even Jewish writers like Matthew and like James don’t refer to Jesus, the Christ but simply Jesus Christ.

There is always a title and that’s why Jewish people have, you have to be sensitive to the fact there’s not when they refer to Jesus, though, not want to say Jesus Christ, because that’s a confession. They’ll talk about Jesus of Nazareth or something like that, so it’s a neutral description, but Jesus Christ is not neutral. It’s our claim.

Jesus is the Anointed One of God, the Messiah, the Christ. Now within Judaism, the title Christ was not a simple single clear descriptive title of a person. There, there were a lot of strange miscellaneous views about the Messiah. Sometimes, the anointed one could be used with a small ‘a’ and a small ‘o.’

For instance, in the Old Testament, a king could be anointed, so David was the Lord’s anointed, small ‘a’ but he was anointed, Christened or so forth. Priests were oft times anointed, small ‘a,’ anointed ones, and also prophets. Interesting enough, even a [inaudible] by the name of Cyrus who is going to do God’s will against Babylon to be his servant, what, not necessarily knowing this at all but he’s going to do what God wants him to do.

He is called the Lord’s anointed, again with a small ‘a.’ In the Old Testament the idea of the Anointed One is not extremely clear. In it, intertestamental literature, though, the idea of the one that God was to send, the Anointed One, takes on a rather specific kind of connotation.

In the Psalms of Solomon, this becomes clear. Let me just read to you some of the popular conception of what the Messiah was like and going to do. “Behold O Lord and raise up unto them their king, the son of David, at the time in which Thou seest, O God, that he may reign over Israel, Thy servant, And Gird him with strength, that he may shatter unrighteous rulers, that he may purge Jerusalem from nations that trampled her down to destruction.”

“Wise, righteously, he will thrust out sinners from the inheritance, he shall destroy the pride of a, of the sinners of potter’s vessel. With a rod of iron, he shall break in pieces all their substance, he will destroy the Godless nations with the word of the, of his mouth, At his rebuke nations will flee before him, he shall refuse sinners for the thoughts of their heart,” and so forth.

What’s clear now that the most common understanding of the Messiah was of a mighty warrior, a king, who would deliver Israel from their bondage, especially, now that they were under Roman rule.

So take that in consideration and think of somebody in the middle of Israel screaming to 5,000 people or something like that, ‘I want you to know I am the Messiah.’ What kind of reaction would take place? Yeah, I mean, good grief if he can multiply food like this, the whole logistics problem is taken care of, right?

He’s a mighty warrior and so forth and he will finally bring us the freedom. He’ll deliver us. Now if you think in your mission, you’re going to deliver the people from their sins and they think they’re going to be delivered from their Roman occupiers, there’s a lot of miscommunication that can take place and so it would not be surprising that Jesus avoids this title openly.

There’s the idea of in 2 Ezra or 4 Ezra in the Roman Catholic Bible that the Messiah would reign for some 400 years and then he would die. In the Qumran materials, the Dead Sea Scrolls it refers to the Messiahs, plural, of Aaron and Israel, a priestly Messiah, the Messiah of Aaron, the anointed of Aaron and more militaristic one, the Messiah of Israel.

So that what we have is this general quality of political connotations. Now the result is that with Jesus, there has to be great care in how one uses this title and so we don’t find Jesus usually revealing that he’s the Messiah openly. Turn with me to 149.

Uh, we’re gonna find out in a couple of weeks that the events surrounding a place called Caesarea Philippi, the Philippi that, the see, the Caesarea that Philip built in contrast to Caesarea, which Herod built, event takes place. Mark 8:27.

“And Jesus went on with the disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi and on his way, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do men say that I am?’ and they told him John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others, one of the prophets and he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” Page 150, line 16. “Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ. You’re the Messiah.’”

Now look line 38, verse 30, “And he charged them to tell no one about him, Matthew, he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.” Now here you have a turning point in the ministry of Jesus. The disciples recognize him to be the Messiah and now Jesus is going to begin teaching about his future death but what he tells them is, ‘Don’t tell anyone. Don’t tell on me. If you tell people about this, it will be a disaster and this is not the purpose for which I came.’

Now at his trial, this title comes up again. Uh, page 304, he is asked by the high priest, after being silent, line 97, following Mark. “Again, the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’” Christ, [and he having a positives] who is the Son of the Blessed and “Jesus says, ‘I am.’”

So at his trial, he acknowledges at this time that he’s the Messiah. Before Herod, in 15:2, page 308, “Pilate asked him, ‘Are the king of the Jews? and he answered them, “You have said so,” so he acknowledges to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, that he is the Christ, the synonym for the king of Israel, the king of the Jews.

Then at his death, if you turn to page 317, line 20, and following, following Mark in the middle, “And the inscription of the charge against him read, ‘the King of the Jews,’” so over his cross you have this inscription that Jesus is, in reality, the King of the Jews.

The clearest historical evidence that we have, evidence that a historian would see as the most valuable is the fact of Jesus’ crucifixion itself. The only way you can explain Jesus’ crucifixion is that he is put to death on political grounds. What political grounds do we think of?

Well, the inscription on the cross, King of the Jews indicates that he acknowledged that he was, in fact, the promised Anointed One, the King of the Jews, the Christ or Messiah and that’s why he is put to death. Apart from a confession such as that, it makes no sense whatsoever.

There are a couple other instances in John, if you want to look at them. I’ll just point them out to you. John 4:25 to 26 where he confesses this to the Samaritan woman and then in John, well, let’s turn to 314, which is John 19:2 and 3, “And the soldiers plated a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe, they came up to him as saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and they struck him,” so John also has that tradition.

So the Messiah, the King of the Jews, not able to be used openly, because of the political connotations that surrounded it and the danger that involved. You say, ‘Well, why don’t he, don’t, simply explain to the people saying, ‘I am the Messiah but not the kind of Messiah that you believe in,’ because he would have never got the last part of it out.

When he said, ‘I am the Messiah,’ it’s all over, because there’s only one kind of Messiah, and the fact is when Jesus confesses that he’s the Messiah, acknowledges it, who, who does the confession? Peter. Peter says, “You are the Messiah.” All right, well, now Jesus explains to him of Messiah and he begins to teach about his death.

How open is Peter now to reconstruct his understanding of the Messiah to fit Jesus’ understanding of the Messiah? Not very, right? [Tell you he won’t be], can’t be. Now if that’s the reaction of the intimate circle of disciples, the 12, you really can’t expect the crowds to be more open to a different understanding of the Messiah.

So the very fact that the disciples can’t handle Jesus’ Messiahship in the sense of acknowledging he’s the Messiah and then Jesus beginning to teach about his death. If they can’t handle it, it’s evident you can’t do that with the crowds and so he, his Messiahship is secret, revealed at crucial points but not openly to the crowds.

There is one other, om, aspect that we need to talk about. Does the early church so quickly turn and use this title as maybe the most identifying title of who Jesus of Nazareth is? If it’s such a loaded misunderstood title, why can the church then be call him Jesus Christ?

It’s not a problem at all. The situation’s changed, right? Is there any chance after the death of Jesus, never having been a revolutionary, that this title, Messiah, could be under, misunderstood as a political title?  You say no.

You might say something like, ‘Well, he has some screwy ideas of what it means to be a Messiah but no, it’s not a political threat of any sort whatsoever,” so now the title can be openly used but you could not have done that before the death and resurrection of Jesus. Page 31, here we have the sermon of Jesus at the City of Nazareth, and this, much like Acts 2 where Peter gives a sermon, serves as a paradigm to understand the rest of the book.

It’s really the earliest place that Luke can present this speech, because the earlier chapters are taking up with other material that had to occur at that place. Now in Luke 4:16, right after Jesus’ baptism and temptation, we read, “And he came to Nazareth where he had been brought up and he went to the synagogue as his custom was on the Sabbath day and he stood up to read and there was given to him the book of the Prophet, Isaiah.

He opened the book and found the place where it was written.” So he’s given the book of Isaiah, which is going to be the lesson from the prophets for that Sabbath. He chooses the place. Notice Jesus has to be able to read Hebrew, so he chooses this place and here’s what he says, “’The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he is anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who were oppressed, to proclaim, the accept the year of the Lord,’ and he closed the book and gave it back to the attendant and sat down and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.”

Now notice how Luke is building up what’s gonna be said. “And everybody in the synagogue was looking at him.” What’s he going to say? And this is what he says, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Okay, now, verse 18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”

Now what does that refer to? It’s baptism. That is baptism, the Spirit comes upon him and he says the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me. Anointed, the Greek verb, chriso, is the verbal form of the word Christ, because he has Christened me, he christened me. If you were right,  if you had the Hebrew equivalent, it would be, he has Messiahed me.

So Jesus’ first words is a consciousness of his Messiahship as he begins his ministry. I have been anointed. I am the Christ. I am the Messiah. The spirit of God has come upon me and anointed me for that task, so very helpful passage that Luke gives us to understand Jesus’ own sensitivity to his having been anointed for the Messiahanic role.

B. Son of God

Now we want to look at two other titles today, the second title, the Son of God and the third, the Son of man. Now the title, Son of God is used by Jesus to describe Jesus in a number of instances. Uh, the demons refer to him as a Son of God in the exorcisms.

Satan refers to him as the Son of God in the temptation of the wilderness. The disciples understand him to be the Christ, the Son of God. The centurion on the cross, truly this was the Son of God. The voice from heaven, both at the baptism and at the transfiguration, this is My Beloved Son.

You are My Beloved Son in the baptism and Jesus himself refers to himself as the Son of God. So there’s a universal kind of a witness to Jesus being the Son of God in our gospel text. Now the Sonship of Jesus is not associated with his miracle working power. In the world of Jesus’ day, there were groups called Thamathurges. Uh, that’s a, that’s a term that theologians use, because no one will be able to understand it and that makes us smarter than everyone else.

Thaumazo is the Greek word, verb for ‘to marvel’ or ‘to amaze,’ T-h-a-m-a-t-h-u-r-g-e, okay, Thamathurge. Now, that means a marvel worker, a wonder, a wonder worker, one who works wonders and acts and in healings and so forth. In the ancient Greek world, such people were often called the son of God or sons of God, because of their ability to have, to work wonders.

There’s a stark contrast with the gospels, because many times, the Son of God is used of Jesus in the weakness of the moment, like at the cross and it is almost never used with regard to his miracle working power. He’s recognized as a Son of God but it’s not because like these Greek characters or, or myths, they, he worked miracles and, therefore, he must be the Son of God.

He’s not the Son of God because of any miracle working power. He is not a Thamathurge as the other Greek heroes. Now there are a number of passages in which Jesus himself refers to his being the Son of God, passages that have a strong, strong testimony to their authenticity. For instance, turn with me to page 262. In Mark 13:32, Jesus refers to himself as the Son of God but he does so in a way that makes it very difficult to assume that the church created this saying.

A lot of people say all these titles were created by the church and read back on the lips of Jesus. Keep in mind what we learned about the apocryphal gospels. Would any of the apocryphal gospel writers create this saying? After talking about the end of history, Jesus says, “But of that day and hour,” line 12, verse 32, “No one knows. No human knows. Not even the angels in heaven know, nor the Son but only the Father.”

Here’s a saying that I can’t imagine anybody in the church making up and attributing to Jesus’ ignorance. Everything we know about the apocryphal gospels who’d do just the opposite, wouldn’t they? Remember all the super miracles, even as a little kid, people run into him are knocked dead. You have this pigeon problem on, in the City of Nazareth and so forth.

They emphasize and they read what the Son of God must’ve been like as a child and so forth and they, they magnify that. Here, you have a saying that it’s, it’s incredible for me to think that anybody in the church would have made it up. Let me give an example of that from today from this day and age.

One time when I was teaching at, at Bethel a colleague of mine who was in systematic theology came, I say, “Bob, I, somebody in my class said that you teach in your New Testament gospels class that Jesus didn’t know everything, that he was ignorant,” and I said, “Well, yeah,” I, we looked at Mark 13:32 where Jesus says, “Of that day and hour, no one know that,” but as the Son of God, he really knew that and I said but he says as the Son, he doesn’t know that.

Well, that’s because everything that can be said of the Son can be said of the human Jesus and everything of Jesus can be said of, of the Son and I said to him, “This is one of the highest Christological passages we have and one of the surest ones, because he distinguishes himself from humanity. ‘No one knows. No human knows. No angel knows. The Son of God doesn’t even know. Only the Father does know.’”

“So he has to be referring to himself as the Son of God not knowing these things.” Well, we, we ended our debate and uh, later on, he sent me five pages of Hodge’s Systematic Theology and underlined various aspects of it and so I wrote a note back saying, “I always interpret the unclear by the clear.” Now what is unclear to me is how Jesus is both God and man. I believe that but I don’t know how it all works out.

I can’t conceptualize that but what I do know is it’s very clear he said he didn’t know and that I have to take for granted and, you know, I, I think my colleague would have said it, when Jesus said to the disciples, “No one knows this,” he said, “Oh, you, you really do know.” “No, I really don’t know.” “No, you have to know. You’re the son. You have to know it.” “But I don’t know it.”

I mean, how do you know what Jesus knows or doesn’t know? He says so and I think what you want to do is to say, I don’t know how my systematic theological understanding fits all of this but the one thing that seems to be clearest is the statement he does not know.

Now think, would my colleague, my former colleague, would he have ever made up a saying like this and put it on Jesus’ lips? Has to be authentic. The very difficulty of it makes it authentic. So here, Jesus clearly talks about himself being the Son of God. Another example on page 243 is the parable we looked at and that’s the parable of the wicked husbandmen and here you have a parable and there’s something about the parable that, again, I think no one would have created.

What happens to the son? Well, he’s killed. He’s distinguished from prophets. He’s the son and what is it what happens to him? How does how does the story end? It ends with his being killed and his body rotting out of the vineyard. Do you think that any Christian would have made up a parable about Jesus and ended it that way?

Wouldn’t they talk about the resurrection? The fact that there’s no mention of the resurrection here means that it’s not something the church made up. It must go back to Jesus himself, another very important reference there I think that you have to attribute to Jesus and must be what we call authentic going back to him.

And then one other last reference, page 100, Matthew 11:25 to 27. Here, Jesus says, “I thank thee Father, Lord of heaven and earth that thou has hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes. Yea Father, for such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father and no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son and any of them whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Now I have not used as the strongest witnesses to Jesus referring to himself as the Son of God. I haven’t used any references in the gospel of John. Now I believe them but the critics tend to write off John. John’s not very historical. The synoptic gospel’s historical.

So I picked out those texts in the synoptic gospels, which they think are more historical and chose ones that have to be authentic, because no one in the early church would have created these things, and, therefore, I think it’s strong evidence that Jesus really did consider himself the Son of God.

Having said that, we should note that there’s a distinction between himself and others in that his use of that title page 328, in the Johannine parallel where after Jesus appears to Mary in the garden, he says in line 11, page 328, “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him Hebrew, in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!,’ which means teacher. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold me or stop holding onto me, for I have not ascended to the Father but go to my brethren and say to them I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Now the ending of that is kind of awkward. I think you would if you want to save space, you’d say I’m ascending to our Father and to our God but there’s a distinction between his relationship with the Father and with God that he distinguishes here my relationship’s different so I’m going to my Father and he’s also your Father, to my God and your God but it’s not our God in that sense.

That also carries over in a couple synoptic gospel sayings that, turn with me to page 55 for a minute, it’s not as clear there but I think the distinction is still fairly forthright and evident. In line 2 of Matthew on love of one’s enemies, [inaudible] 59, “Jesus says, ‘But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, for he’s, he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good,’” and then he says, at verse 48, “‘You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Now he doesn’t say our heavenly Father is perfect, that we might be, that you might be sons of our heavenly Father. Uses your, and I think that reveals, not as clearly as in John, but his own understanding of his unique relationship with the Father.

One other example of that is on page 161, call it to your attention, Matthew 18:10, first line on [inaudible]169, the parable who lost sheep, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones for I tell you that in heaven, their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

Their angels and my Father, not our Father who is heaven there. So the distinction here of Jesus unique Sonship, I think, becomes rather clear. We are sons of God just as, we can use that term for ourselves as with as Jesus but there is a distinction.

I think when we say we are sons of God, we use a small ‘s.’ Jesus as the Son of God, a capital ‘S.’ And that he’s aware of his own distinction and relationship with God that way becomes fairly clear in those passages.

Now if you say, does that mean that the biblical writers believed in the Nicene Creed, God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the doctrine of the Trinity? I don’t know. I don’t think at this time they would’ve been able to formulate a creed that, 300 years later, would be formulated.

I think there, this is a logical procedure to arrive at the doctrine of the Son of God as being part of the, the, uh second person of the of the Trinity but I don’t think that these passages by themselves would cause you to think that.

I think they’re in harmony with it and I think you have to put all the other passages, John, Acts through Revelation together, and then that becomes more and more understandable but, again, the Nicene Creed was something that scholars worked out trying to work with the biblical evidence and say how can you have a distinction between the Son and the Father and yet he being very God, a very God and doctrine of the Trinity results from that.

But, at this time, I think you, you shouldn’t think of the biblical writers having the Nicene Creed in their minds as they write these things. All right, is that gonna get me in trouble? The [reasonable orthodox and all]. Hope not. I hope it is orthodox and I hope it won’t get me in trouble. All right.

C. Son of Man

Now we have the title Son of man. Actually, this is the most important of all the titles for several reasons. First of all, its frequent use. It’s found 82 times in the gospels, 69 in the synoptics, 13 in John, far more numerous than the titles Christ or Son of man or any other like Lord and so forth.

This is the most frequent title found in the gospels and, furthermore, they’re found always on Jesus’ lips except in one instance and only one of the 82 instances is the title found on someone else’s lips. John 12:34, that should be page 273. “Now the crowd,” line 69, “answered him. We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is the Son, this Son of man?”

Now here, they are using the title, Jesus isn’t referring to himself. However, the reason they’re using it is that Jesus has just referred to the Son of man in verses 23, previous page line 11 and following, and on this present page, 32, he’s referring to himself being lifted up and they use the Son of man with respect to him.

So even here is intimately connected with Jesus and not referring to someone else and there’s one other reference page 326, 326. Here, we have Luke 24:7. The angel speaks here to the women in line 31, Luke 24:6, “Remember how he told you while he was in Galilee that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified.”

Of all the other references, the 80 references, it’s always Jesus referring to the Son of man. So you have the most, it’s the most important title, because it’s the one most frequently used and because it is Jesus’ favorite self-designation. You say, “Well, I would prefer to call himself the Son, to refer to him as the Son of God or to, as the Christ.” That’s fine.

Jesus’ favorite self-designation and there was good reason, was the title Son of man, so this is very important in understanding. Also, it’s the title I think that is most difficult to argue against it being authentic. It seems to fit the criterion of authenticity quite well.

So this is an extremely important title and yet it’s probably the one that most Christians in our churches completely misunderstand. You might have somebody in our church will say, “Yeah, Jesus is both God and man. He’s both the Son of God and he’s the Son of man.”

Well let me just say that the title Son of man is a much more noble title than Son of God. The title Son of God can be used for people in the Old Testament. Uh, David is God’s son. The people of Israel is God’s son and the title Son of God can be used in in a, a different way but for other people, the title Son of man refers to only one and that’s the Son of God.

Now with regard to the Son of man title, there have been lots of attempts and more probably has been written on this title than any title in the last century with respect to Jesus. The title itself refers, well, in the Old Testament, Son of man can be used to describe Ezekiel himself. In the book of Ezekiel, the title Son of man occurs numerous times.

Uh, in the Psalms, the Psalmist can refer to him as the Son of man but the Son of man in the gospels can’t refer to them, because the Son of man has a particular imagery associated that if you look at Matthew 8:38, yeah, we’re dealing with page 152. It has a unique vocabulary associated with it.

Now for whoever, line 17, in Mark, “For whoever is ashamed of me in my words in this adulterous and sinful nation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Now turn to page 262, 262, you have another reference to that. Here, you have in 13:26, no, that should be the preceding page, excuse me, line 13, “And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great glory and power.” Both of these coming with clouds and glory is, is associated there.

Page 304, 14:62 in Mark. Now there you have Jesus being asked is the Son of the Blessed and Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power,” a synonym for God, “and coming with cloud-, with the clouds of heaven.”

Now when Jesus refers here and the other instances to the Son of man, he associates it, not with the Son of man in Daniel excuse me in Ezekiel or in the Psalms but the specific reference to Daniel 7:13. And there alone you find the son of man associated with him sitting at the right hand of power of God and coming with the clouds of heaven to judge the world.

So when Jesus refers to himself as the Son of man, it’s this Son of man, this one who’s preexistent, who comes from heaven to bring judgment upon the earth. For many people, that’s simply, a, an impossible concept to understand, om, the, so you have lots of attempts to deny the authenticity of Jesus being the Son of man.

Uh, some have said, “Well, if you translate the Greek [gweeos to unthrowpu], Son of man back into Greek barnash, Son of man, bar and Son. Barnash is a is a term that, essentially can simply refer to I, I, myself, the Son of man, I, the Son of man, I, and, therefore, what we need to do is to eliminate all of those references to where Jesus is referring to the Son of man and coming with the clouds of heaven and say they’re not authentic but the other ones where he talks about the Son of man it’s in lowliness and so forth, that’s what the term means.

So, linguistically, Son of man can’t be understood as a title Son capital ‘S’ of man capital ‘M.’ It can only refer to a kind of a son of man, a human being, a person, I, or something of that nature, the linguistic attempt here. Now, what they’re arguing is this, when the gospel traditions in which small ‘s’ son of small ‘m’ man was translated into Greek, it was misunderstood as a title with a capital ‘S’ and a capital ‘M’ and, therefore, later on, the church made this into a title and it could only become a title in the Greek language by people who did not know Hebrew very well.

Well, that sounds interesting but when were the gospel traditions translated into Greek? Where were they translated into Greek? Were they translated somewhere in Northern uh, remote village in Macedonia? Well no. You have, as we pointed out, in the church, early church in Jerusalem, hellenists, Greek speaking Jewish Christians.

They had to have the gospel traditions translated into Greek for them. So the translation of the gospel traditions is not somewhere far away. It’s close in time in Jerusalem and in a bilingual culture by people like the disciples who knew Greek and Hebrew. Matt, Matthew had to know Greek and Hebrew.

The four brothers that were in the fishing business almost certainly had to know both Greek and Hebrew. It’s probable that Greek, that Jesus knew Greek as well as Hebrew and the, the dy-, in the Aramaic dialect.

So we have very early this translation, probably within just a few months at most and it’s done in a bilingual culture in the presence of the eye witnesses who know that Jesus was using this as a title. To the exegetical attempt, or the linguistic attempt is a problem.

Uh, the psychological attempt is, I just mentioned it to show how sometimes a person’s presuppositions determine, uh, their attitudes towards scripture and towards the authenticity of text.

A man by the name of Whedon wrote an article in the Journal of Biblical Literature a very important journal and he argued this way. For any person like you and I to say that we were the son of man would, would mean that we’re absolutely crazy, that we preexisted in heaven and we’ve come to judge the whole world in the final day.

I mean, that, that person has to be simply a, a lunatic of some sort. Now one thing we do know is that Jesus was no lunatic. He was a wise man, spoke proverbs and the like, and, therefore, we have to conclude that Jesus never used this title for himself. Now it’s amazing you can use that argument uh, in respect to trying to disprove something that’s in biblical text.

It’s not a historical kind of argument. It’s just psychological. I think it might be more likely to say that Jesus used the title Son of man for himself and if anybody used that title, they must be crazy. Therefore, our conclusion is he was crazy.

That seemed to be more logical than the former but, needless to say, I don’t think those are the old, only, intern, alternatives. And finally, you have various exegetical attempts. Some have argued that the only Son of man sayings that go back to Jesus are the one in which he talks about the Son of man coming from heaven and he was not referring to himself, however, but to someone else, and so, and the reason we know that is because it’s in the third person.

He doesn’t say ‘and you will see me, the Son of man coming,’ he says, ‘you will see the Son of man coming,” so he’s referring to someone else, as Rudolf Bultmann argued that particular case.

Speaking of some of yourself in the third person is a very common approach to speaking about things in which you speaking of unusual occurrence or unusual position you have and you don’t want to glorify that, you want to speak humbly.

For instance, when Paul in the book of 2 Corinthians speaks of knowing a man who had all these visions and ascended to heaven, this all thing’s is too wonderful to be ex-, be explained, he’s talking about himself, but since he’s talking about a unique experience, he puts it in the third person, in humility, so that he doesn’t glorify himself in so doing.

Speaking to the Son of man in the third person could be Jesus’ attempt to do this. Uh, furthermore, did the early church, if Jesus was referring to someone else coming, ever talk about someone else coming at the end of history to bring judgment? I don’t know of any addition, any person supposed to come at the end, other than the Son of God.

So there was never any thought in the early church. Jesus talked about someone who was about to come, not himself, to bring judgment upon the world. There’s no evidence anywhere that the church ever anticipated someone else coming.

They always anticipate Jesus coming, that he’s the Son of man who comes, so that becomes a difficulty. Some have argued, om, that none of them go back to Jesus. All 80+ are inauthentic and yet the irony of it is that of all the, the titles, this is the one that best meets the criterion of dissimilarity.

It was not a title that was well known in in Jewish literature. It was not a title that the early church would have created and read back on the lips of Jesus. In the New Testament, the title Son of man, after you leave the gospels, occurs four times.

Favorite title of Jesus, four times in the New Testament, outside of the gospels, and of those four, only one of them, I think it’s Acts 7:56 or something like that, is it used in the sense that Jesus used it.

If the church created this particular title and read it back to Jesus because it was their favorite title, how come it doesn’t show up in the rest of the New Testament, essentially? You were thinking if it was their favorite title, and they read it back to the lips of Jesus, it would be their favorite title also in Acts to Revelation.

You don’t find it in Acts to Revelation, except that one time as I referred to it. On the other hand, you do find titles frequently used in the Acts to Revelation, Lord, Christ, Son of God. Those tend to be used less frequently in the gospels.

I think the way you have to look at that is to say Jesus did not use openly the title Christ. He did not frequently use the title Son of God for himself or Lord. He did, however, use the title Son of man.

The early church, on the other hand, had as their favorite titles Christ, Lord, Son of God, and that’s what you usually find. The early church, for some reason, did not favor the title Son of man. They used a different way of describing him and the reason that we have that is to show that Jesus had this as his favorite title but the early church didn’t.

So to say that the early church created the title and read it back on the lips of Jesus is a really very difficult thing to have argued. All right, there are arguments for authenticity. I pointed out that it meets the criterion of dissimilarity, which says if a saying of Jesus could not originate in the early church, and that’s evident because the early church doesn’t use the title, if it couldn’t have originated in the Messianic title in Judaism, where else could it have come from? It must come from Jesus and, therefore, it meets the criterion of dissimilarity.

It’s interesting how many critical scholars use the criterion of dissimilarity and yet when you have a text like this or title that fits it so well, that you reject it at that point. So it seems that it’s not the criterion in itself but it’s a criterion goes along with presuppositions as to what Jesus wasn’t like. Then, then it’s a useful tool but if it doesn’t fit, like this title, then the criterion is rejected at that point. It’s very, very strange.

And the other thing we pointed out was that there was not a favorite title in the early church, so, therefore, it must go back to Jesus. Uh, another aspect of that is that if you look at the criterion of multiple attestation, this meets the criterion of multiple attestation.

It’s found in Mark, Q, M, [L, it], fits everything you need in that regard and there are some difficult verses in which it’s hard to imagine that the gospel writers would have created them.

Turn with me to page 99. Here, you have line 41, “For John came neither drin-, eating nor drinking and you say he has a demon. The Son of man came eating and drinking and they behold the glutton and a drunk, and a friend of tax collectors and sinners, yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

I find it hard to think that the early church would have made up a saying in which they attributed it, even to his enemies, that the Son of man came eating and drinking, that he’s a glutton, drunk, a drunkard. I just don’t think the early church would have made up sayings like that about Jesus.

That must go back to the situation of Jesus. It must be an authentic saying. Then finally, one other reference 10:23, turn to page 93. Here is a saying, which I find it hard to think that the early church would have made it up, because it looks like it’s too difficult. It has problems.

“When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly I say to you, you will have not gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of man comes.” I don’t have any, I don’t have a good explanation for that verse, but I know one thing, I would have never made it up, because long after these people had died that Son of man still hadn’t come. So why make that up? 

Uh, and we have this being written down by Matthew in, om, 85:90 or something like that. The only reason he has it there was that it’s a very early tradition that he’s aware of. Sometimes the Son of man traditions are divided into three parts. The one part is the Son of man and his normal earthly ministry. The son of man came healing and so forth and so on.

The son of man in his suffering, the Son of man who’s going to die and be abused in Jerusalem, and the Son of man in his glorious return, and you have them discuss the various ways, a, b, c, each one of those designee Son of man in his normal ministry, the Son of man in his suffering, another one, and a third one, the Son of man and his future coming.

And as they say, you can divide these sayings up, which indicates that probably some of them don’t go back to Jesus and are later written, writ into it by the evangelists. Well, all that really says is that when Jesus looked at his life, he saw his immediate ministry, he saw his death and resurrection, and he saw his, saw his glorious return.

So being able to divide it up means nothing with regard to the issue of [inaudible]. It’s just the matter of his, the way he looked at his life, the nail, immediate ministry, his future, experience in Jerusalem with his death and resurrection and that day when he will come again.

Now why does he use this title and the question was raised, very good question, and I think he uses the title for three reasons. One, it is like a parable, it reveals and conceals. It is a title that he can use that will not stir up people and trouble them, because the Son of man is a kind of parable like title.

To those who know, the content is evident. To those outside, it’s all blurry and un-, uncertain. You can’t use the title Christ that way. It’s too obvious. It’s too uh, filled with misconceptions and, therefore, it serves well in his ministry. It’s like referring to himself in this parabolic like term and he’s able to use it that way.

Another thing is that it reveals his divine origin, because in Daniel 7:13, the Son of man comes from heaven, sits, sits at the right hand of God, so reveals where he came from. He came from the Father and he’s going back to the Father.

Then thirdly, it reveals his future role and that is that Jesus as the Son of man will come one day and bring judgment upon the earth, so it fits very nicely, maybe even better than any of the other titles in that that sense.

But it conceals, you can use it openly, which other titles you can’t, it reveals his divine origin and it also reveals his future ministry. I spent a lot of time on this title. It’s an important title and if you deal with anything in studies of the life of Jesus of Christology, the Son of man title comes up and you’ll say, yeah, we, we, I remember reading some of those things in hearing about those and you’ll be familiar and you won’t start from scratch.

By the end of the method and message text with a footnote, the last footnote in the book, I want to tread it to you. It comes from C. S. Lewis, the mayor or Christianity.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus. ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher but I don’t accept his claim to be God’. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who is merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on the level with a man who says he’s a poached egg.”

I don’t know. The British weird sense of humor. 

“Or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool. You can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open. He did not intend to.”

There’s a sense in which there only two legitimate attitudes you can take to him. Either you fall at his feet and worship him or you’re obligated, I think, like the Pharisees that tried to destroy him.

The nonsense we have in our society of “having great respect for Jesus as a teacher is not an option, not an honest option. You can shut him up for a fool or spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”