Son of God

Finally, there is the trinitarian formula in Matt.28.19—“...baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

See also Sons of God, Children of God.

Bibliography: O. Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, 1963; F. Hahn, The Titles of Jesus in Christology, 1969; M. Hengel, Jesus, the Son of God, 1976.——PT

SON OF GOD (υἱὸς Θεου̂). (See also Christology.) This was a favorite credal affirmation of the Early Church, which rapidly became part of an early baptismal confession of faith. The subject will be treated under the following headings:

OT origins of the term.

In the pl. form, בְּנֵי־הָֽאֱלֹהִים (sons of God) is used loosely to describe angelic beings who form a sort of “heavenly court” for Yahweh. (This is a possible explanation of the archaic passage in Genesis 6:2-4.) See also Job 1:6 and 2:1, where even Satan can be included in such a gathering. Job 38:7 seems to be an OT antecedent of the angels’ song of Luke 2:14. Psalm 82:6, which uses “sons of the Most High” as parallel to “gods,” may also mean “angels.” In Heb. the term is used of heavenly beings who, as sharers in the nature of God as spirit, may be called “sons of God,” by the common Semitism. Whatever the origins of the phrase, it certainly carries no polytheistic associations in the OT. Cullmann and some other modern scholars prefer to see the “father and son” relationship of such beings to God as that of mission and obedience respectively. A better sense would be “sender and sent one,” in view of the Heb. and Gr. words for “angel.” This has the advantage of explaining other OT instances also. E.g. Hosea 1:10 describes Israel as “Sons of the living God”; perhaps loving obedience, rather than likeness, is the thought.

For the background of NT Christology, the use of the sing. noun is more important. Hosea 11:1 records that Israel, considered collectively, is “my son” to God. Matthew 2:15 applies this v. directly to Christ. Perhaps “covenant-love” constitutes the filial bond on both sides. Alternation of the pl. and the sing. (in the sense of the collective) is typical of OT theology; although the term is sing., it does not necessarily mean that an individual relationship of sonship has been established. Not until NT times will, first Christ, then the Christian, dare to cry, “Abba, Father,” in this sense (Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15). Psalm 2:7 describes an individual relationship (see Begotten), which is applied to Christ in Acts 13:33 and Hebrews 1:5. This is a royal psalm, and connects sonship of God with Davidic kingship. The Scandinavian school of scholars sees this as a relic of non-Israelite ideas of “divine kingship”; but of this there is no trace in the OT. Cullmann perhaps correctly thinks the reason is that the king represents Israel, already described as God’s “Son.”

In any case, this is sonship by adoption and grace, as was that of Israel. It may be linked with the Messianic nature of the king, for every king in Israel is “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 24:6); doubly so, those of David’s line. Naturally, when the type is fulfilled in Christ, the meaning goes far beyond that of the psalm to the sonship by nature and generation. For a further example of “divine sonship,” see Psalm 89:26, 27. Another preparatory use of the sing. is the description of the mysterious figures of Daniel 3:25 as דָּמֵ֖ה לְבַר־אֱלָהִֽין (like a son of the gods). Daniel 3:28 explains this as God’s “angel”; later theology saw it as a Christophany, like other mentions of “Yahweh’s angel” in the OT.

Further than this the OT cannot go without endangering its own foundational doctrine of the unity of God; but, as in the case of “son of man,” the linguistic framework has been prepared to receive the NT content.

Usage in the synoptic gospels

Initial postulates.

Baptismal declaration.

The temptation.

Wherever the temptations of Christ are particularized (as in Matt 4:1-11) they are directly related to His consciousness of divine sonship; without that, they would not only lose their force as temptations, but would be meaningless. The temptation was apparently twofold, either to doubt His own sonship, or to misuse it by a spectacular and selfish display of divine power, which would be to fail to walk the path of obedience. To be a mere wonder-worker would qualify one to be a “son of God” in the pagan sense. Perhaps this partially explains Christ’s reluctance to display His miraculous powers openly. On the eve of the Cross, the temptation to avoid the Son’s path of obedience was still present (Luke 22:42).

Since the Lord Himself told His disciples of the temptation, the concept of sonship must have lain at the heart of His own understanding of His person and ministry. The baptism is the witness of the Father to the Son, but the temptation is the witness of the Son’s own self-knowledge.

Demonic confession.

Such testimony was not accepted by Christ (although He never denied its truth) prob. because it was involuntary, and did not spring from revelation and faith, in the Christian sense. But it was at least supernatural testimony and, as such, had importance. Mark 3:11, 12, taken with Mark 1:23-25 (where “Holy One of God,” prob. has much the same meaning as “Son of God”), makes plain that this kind of “rejected testimony” was commonplace during Christ’s ministry (cf. Acts 19:15 and James 2:19 for later days). That Christ had power to expel demons was never questioned, even by His enemies; the sole question of the scribes concerned the source of His undoubted powers (Mark 3:22). There is therefore no valid reason for doubting the reality of such demonic testimony. Although rejected by Christ, it is recorded by the evangelists as yet another line of evidence for a truth which they already independently believed on other grounds.

Confession by the disciples.

The root of the combination certainly lies in the OT, where “Son” and “Messiah” are joined in the case of a Davidic king.

Christ’s self-confession.

This already has been implied by the baptism and the temptation, but it is explicit in the so-called “Johannine” passage in Matthew 11:25-27 (with a parallel in Luke). This shows clearly that Jesus was conscious of a unique relationship to the Father, defined as sonship, which consisted of intimate knowledge and mediatorship between God and man. Such self-confession is also involved in the acceptance of the title on the lips of His followers (Matt 14:33; 16:16). Similarly, when questioned by the high priest at His trial, Jesus admitted the title at once, although to do so was to court death for blasphemy. To deny would have been impossibe, for it would have been to deny His own nature. There are also a few other synoptic passages in which Christ refers to Himself, in Johannine style, as “the Son” in contrast to “the Father.” Of these Mark 13:32 is a striking example; no critic could discredit this as being fabricated by the Church, since it poses the problem of the limitation of omniscience.

The confession of Christ’s enemies.

Like that of the demons, this is involuntary, in the sense that it does not spring from the perception of faith. Unlike that of the demons, it is not independent supernatural testimony to the truth of Jesus’ claims; but it is the strongest possible proof of the existence of such claims. The question asked by the high priest at Christ’s trial (Mark 14:61) and the taunt of the crowd at the cross (Matt 27:43) bear this out. Unless it were well known that Christ made or at least accepted such claims, both question and taunt would have been meaningless. That neither priest nor people believed the claims, does not detract from the value of the evidence. Perhaps the testimony of the centurion at the cross (Mark 15:39) also comes under this heading. Unless the centurion knew that such claims were made for Christ, the words would hardly have sprung unbidden to his lips; it is, however, possible that he had merely heard the taunt on the lips of the crowd.

Usage in Acts

The pre-Pauline period.

In Acts 1-12 there is only one certain occurrence of the term “Son of God,” and even that is in a Pauline context. This is surprising since Acts is a sequel to Luke, and that gospel contains many instances. The only explanation can be that the pre-Pauline Jerusalem church preferred not to use it; they certainly took a high view of the person of Christ (see nodetitle.) It may be that such a title in evangelistic preaching to Jews would provoke a direct collision, which in early days before the rise of Stephen, the church, consciously or unconsciously, sought to avoid. The first generation can hardly have been ignorant of the term, if it was in fact used by Christ of Himself. Perhaps Cullmann is right in his view that they remembered the reticence with which Jesus Himself used the term (cf. Mark throughout). Two possible references are Acts 3:13 and 3:26, if παι̂ς, G4090, (boy) is to be tr. “son” and not “servant.” If the idea of “Son” is inherent in the Servant Songs (as some scholars feel, with reference to “my chosen” in Isaiah 42:1), then no such problem arises. Perhaps Acts is deliberately using an ambiguous word; the eye of faith will rightly see it as “Son of God” while the unbeliever will not be offended. The confession of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:37): “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” is not in the best MS, and therefore is not, in all probability, part of the original text. The only certain instance is Acts 9:20 where Saul, upon conversion, immediately proclaimed Jesus in the Damascus synagogues as “Son of God,” joining this with scriptural proofs of His messiahship; but this properly belongs to the next section.

The Pauline period in Acts.

Meaning to the pagan world.

This may explain the apparent absence of the term in Paul’s Gentile preaching, compared with its frequent occurrence in the epistles. To the unbelieving Jew, the term “Son of God,” if it indeed conveyed equality with God, was a blasphemous title; but to the unconverted pagan, it was too meaningless and commonplace. In Hel. times, the title θει̂οι ἄνδρες (divine men) was freely applied to various religious teachers and supposed miracle-workers (like the Neo-Pythagorean Apollonius of Tyana, for instance). While in the minds of the educated the adjective may have been “faded,” to the credulous multitude no doubt it had its full force. In addition, Graeco-Roman mythology was full of stories of heroes and demigods, born as a result of intercourse between gods and mortals. These beings were described as “sons of the gods,” and were usually credited with miraculous powers. Such stories were utterly offensive to Jewish and Christian thought, because of the physical understanding of divine generation, and the immoral behavior thereby attributed to the gods. Any borrowing from this source is thus unthinkable, in spite of the views of Bultmann. Another area of attribution of divinity to men was that of divine kingship. The Hel. diadochoi, successor kings, who followed Alexander, regularly proclaimed themselves as divine, or at least descended from the gods. Alexander himself had been saluted as “son of the god” by the priests of the desert oracle of Amon, like any Pharaoh before him. No doubt this was more for political than religious reasons, although temples and altars were dedicated to such kings. By the time of the NT, temples were rising to “Rome and Augustus”; an emperor was divus and divi filius, god and god’s son. The concept had lost all true reli gious meaning to the pagan, but it still outraged Jewish-Christian theology; therefore, the Christian cannot have borrowed his doctrine from paganism. Conversely, the Gentile, accustomed to the faded metaphor, could hardly appreciate all that was meant by the Christian claim. Gnosticism has also been suggested by Bultmann as a possible source; but Gnosticism was itself a parasitic growth upon Judaism and Christianity. Nevertheless, if the term had in fact already been in use among such speculative heretical sects, this is yet another reason why preachers should be slow to use it in Gentile evangelism. For Christians, when the term has been given its definition and theological content by the person and work of Christ, no such restraint is necessary; this would explain its wide use in John and the epistles. In view of the ambiguities mentioned above, it is hard to be certain of the exact force of the declaration by the centurion at the cross (Mark 15:39); but certainly the Christian Church saw in it a foreshadowing of its own beliefs.

Usage in Paul’s epistles



Ephesians 4:13 represents later Pauline theology. Spiritual maturity, which is the goal of all Christian ministry, is described as “knowledge of the Son of God.” It is hard to divorce this from the “Johannine” idea expressed in Luke 10:22, that knowledge of the Son is also knowledge of the Father. This in turn means that sonship is defined in terms of oneness with God. Colossians 1:15-20 contains the most advanced Christology of the NT; and all is predicated on God’s “beloved Son,” as v. 13 makes plain. He is not only the preexistent agent of creation, but also creation’s goal; and sonship is given a new dimension in terms of headship of the new “people of God,” the Church. His chief claim to sonship is the “image of the invisible God,” in whom “all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell.”

Johannine evidence



Personal claims.

John 10:36 is a clear instance of Christ’s deliberately claiming the title for Himself in the midst of controversy and close theological argument. It is also in the context of a claim to oneness with the Father (10:30), thus showing in what sense sonship is meant. Christ justifies His use of the title on the grounds that He is the one “whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world.” John 10:35 may be a veiled reference to Logos theology, but in any case, the words of Christ cannot be understood as less than a claim to full equality with God. There are also, as in the synoptics, numerous other passages in John where Jesus speaks of Himself as “the Son” in distinction from “the Father,” in a sense which leaves no doubt as to how He understood the uniqueness of the relationship.

Witness of Christ’s enemies.

John 19:7 is confirmation by the Jews that Jesus “made himself the Son of God”; again, they regarded it as a blasphemy worthy of death, so that they understood sonship in terms of equality with God. This occurs in a section of John rich in “King theology” (John 18:33-19:22). It is likely therefore that John has in mind the Messianic King of Psalm 2, who is hailed as the Son of God.


Lastly the whole purpose of the Gospel, as stated in John 20:31, is to create faith, “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (the primitive baptismal confession). From first to last, John associates sonship with messiahship. Sonship thus has a soteriological goal (3:16; 5:25). The Johannine epistles reiterate these truths even more strongly, but do not demand separate treatment.

Usage in Hebrews

General principles.

In Hebrews, the divine sonship of Christ is not only stated but vindicated by the author. Hebrews, even more than John, therefore comes very near to a full theological definition of sonship, all the more striking in that the book is a Jewish (even if Hel.-Jewish) production. Controversial definition is indeed demanded by the general plan of Hebrews, by which Jewish attacks are met directly. Point by point, it shows the superiority of Jesus to the “mediators” of the first covenant of Judaism. This inevitably leads to extended discussion of the nature of Christ’s sonship, for it is as Son of God that He is superior to all others.

Opening verses.

In Hebrews 1:1, 2, Christ’s superiority to the OT prophets is stressed, since He brought a full and final revelation of God, of whom He is spokesman. This is very close to the Johannine theology. Christ is also the Son because He is heir and inheritor of God’s universe. So far, perhaps even Jewish “adoptionist” Messianism could agree; but not when He is described as the One “through whom he also created the world” (1:2). This is either the theology of preexistent Wisdom, familiar in Alexandria, or else straight Logos-theology of the Johannine type. In either case, the Son is identified as a “cosmic Christ,” as in Colossians 1:15-20. In Hebrews 1:3, Christ is “Son” because He “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature.” This is similar to the Christological definition of Philippians 2:6 (although there is no reference to sonship, obedience is stressed).

Development of argument.

Sonship and soteriology.

One other striking occurrence is Hebrews 6:6: “They crucify the Son of God.” This has a Pauline and soteriological ring, reminiscent of Galatians 2:20. It may well be a reference to the frequent use of the title “Son of God” by friend and foe alike, in the gospel accounts of the trial and crucifixion of Christ. It is also a final reminder that suffering and death are, to the NT, the path of the Son of God, as much as the path of the Messiah, since the essence of sonship is obedience.


Only books published in or after 1955 are listed; for older books, see citations in Cullmann and Stauffer.

E. Stauffer, NT Theology (1955); R. Bultmann, Theology of the NT (1955); W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon of the NT (1957); C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel According to St. Mark (1959); A. Robert et A. Feuillet, Introduction à la Bible, I (1959); C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (1963); C. H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (1963); O. Cullmann, The Christology of the NT, 2nd ed. (1963); J. Danielou, A History of Early Christian Doctrine, I (1964); W. G. Kummel, An Introduction to the NT (1965). For further bibliography see nodetitle.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(ho huios theou):

1. Use of Title in the Synoptists

2. Meanings in the Old Testament

3. Sense as Applied to Jesus

4. Physical Reason

5. Alleged Equivalence to "Messiah"--Personal Sense Implied

6. Higher Use by Jesus Himself

7. The "Son" in Matthew 11:27

8. The "Son" in Mark 13:32

9. The "Son" in Matthew 28:18-20

10. Apostolic Doctrine: Deity Affirmed

11. The Fourth Gospel: Deity, Preexistence, etc.


1. Use of Title in the Synoptists:

While the title "the Son of man" is always, except once, applied by Jesus to Himself, "the Son of God" is never applied by Jesus to Himself in the Synoptists. When, however, it is applied to Him by others, He accepts it in such a way as to assert His claim to it. Now and then He Himself employs the abbreviated form, "the Son," with the same intention; and He often speaks of God as "the Father" or "my Father" or "my Father who is in heaven" in such a manner as to betray the consciousness that He is the Son of God.

2. Meanings in the Old Testament:

While to the common mind "the Son of man" is a title designating the human side of our Lord’s person, "the Son of God" seems as obviously to indicate the divine side. But scholarship cannot take this for granted; and, indeed, it requires only a hasty glance at the facts to bring this home even to the general reader, because in Scripture the title is bestowed on a variety of persons for a variety of reasons. First, it is applied to angels, as when in Job 2:1 it is said that "the sons of God came to present themselves before Yahweh"; they may be so called because they are the creatures of God’s hands or because, as spiritual beings, they resemble God, who is a spirit. Secondly, in Lu 3:38 it is applied to the first man; and from the parable of the Prodigal Son it may be argued that it is applicable to all men. Thirdly, it is applied to the Hebrew nation, as when, in Ex 4:22, Yahweh says to Pharaoh, "Israel is my son, my first-born," the reason being that Israel was the object of Yahweh’s special love and gracious choice. Fourthly, it is applied to the kings of Israel, as representatives of the chosen nation. Thus, in 2Sa 7:14, Yahweh says of Solomon, "I will be his father, and he shall be my son"; and, in Ps 2:7, the coronation of a king is announced in an oracle from heaven, which says, "Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee." Finally, in the nodetitle, the title is applied to all saints, as in Joh 1:12, "But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name." When the title has such a range of application, it is obvious that the Divinity of Christ cannot be inferred from the mere fact that it is applied to Him.

3. Sense as Applied to Jesus:

It is natural to assume that its use in application to Jesus is derived from one or other of its Old Testament uses; and the one almost universally fixed upon by modern scholarship as that from which it was derived is the fourth mentioned above--that to the Jewish kings. Indeed, it is frequently asserted that in the Jewish literature between the Old Testament and the New Testament, it is found already coined as a title for the Messianic king; but the instances quoted by Dalman and others in proof of this are far from satisfactory.

4. Physical Reason:

When we come to examine its use in the New Testament as applied by others to Jesus, the facts are far from simple, and it is not applied in a uniform sense. In Lu 1:35, the following reason for its use is given, "The nodetitle shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God." This is a physical reason, akin to that on account of which the angels or the first man received the title; but it is rather curious that this point of view does not seem to be adopted elsewhere, unless it be in the exclamation of the centurion at the foot of the cross, "Truly this was the Son of God" (Mt 27:54). As a pagan this soldier might be thinking of Jesus as one of those heroes, born of human mothers but divine fathers, of whom the mythology of his country had so much to tell (compare the margin).

5. Alleged Equivalence to Messiah--Personal Sense Implied:

(1) Baptism, Temptation.

It has been contended, not without plausibility, that for Jesus Himself the source of the title may have been the employment of it in the voice from heaven at His Baptism, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3:17). By these words, it is usually assumed, He was designated as the Messiah; but in the adjective "beloved," and the words "in whom I am well pleased," there is something personal, beyond the merely official recognition. The same may be said of the voice from heaven in the scene of the Transfiguration. Milton, in Paradise Regained, makes Satan become aware of the voice from heaven at the Baptism; but this is also implied in the terms with which he approached Him in the Temptation in the wilderness, "If thou art the Son of God" (Mt 4:3, etc.); and, if this was the sense in which the prince of devils made use of the phrase, we may conclude that in the mouths of the demoniacs who hailed Jesus by the same title it must have had the same meaning.

(2) At Caesarea Philippi.

When, at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus evoked from the Twelve their great confession, this is given by two of the synoptists in the simple form, "Thou art the Christ" (Mr 8:29; Lu 9:20); but Mt adds, "the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). It is frequently said that Hebrew parallelism compels us to regard these words as a mere equivalent for "Messiah." But this is not the nature of parallelism, which generally includes in the second of the parallel terms something in excess of what is expressed in the first; it would be quite in accordance with the nature of parallelism if the second term supplied the reason for the first. That is to say, Jesus was the Messiah because He was the Son of God.

(3) Trial before Sanhedrin.

There is another passage where it is frequently contended that "the Christ" and "the Son of God" must be exactly parallel, but a close examination suggests the reverse. In the account of the ecclesiastical trial in the Gospel of Lk, He is charged, "If thou art the Christ, tell us"; and, when He replies, "If I tell you, ye will not believe: and if I ask you, ye will not answer. But from henceforth shall the Son of man be seated at the right hand of the power of God," they all say, "Art thou then the Son of God?" and, when He replies in the affirmative, they require no further witness (Lu 22:67-71), Matthew informing us that the high priest hereupon rent his garments, and they all agreed that He had spoken blasphemy and was worthy of death (Mt 26:65 f). The usual assumption is that the second question, "Art thou .... the Son of God?" implies no more than the first, `Art thou the Christ?’; but is not the scene much more intelligible if the boldness of His answer to the first question suggested that He was making a still higher claim than to be the Christ, and that their second question applied to this? It was when Jesus affirmed this also that their angry astonishment knew no bounds, and their sentence was immediate and capital. It may be questioned whether it was blasphemy merely to claim to be the Messiah; but it was rank and undeniable blasphemy to claim to be the Son of God. This recalls the statement in Joh 5:18, "The Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only brake the sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God"; to which may be added (Joh 10:33), "The Jews answered him, For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God."

6. Higher Use by Jesus Himself:

Naturally it is with the words of Jesus Himself on this subject that we are most concerned. He speaks of God as His Father, and to the disciples He speaks of God as their Father; but He never speaks to them of God as their common Father: what He says is, "My Father and your Father" (Joh 20:17). H. J. Holtzmann and others have attempted to make light of this, and even to speak of the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven," as if Jesus might have uttered them in company with the disciples; but the distinction is a vital one, and we do not agree with those who can believe that Jesus could have uttered, for Himself along with others, the whole of the Lord’s Prayer, including the petition, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."

7. The "Son" in Matthew 11:27:

Of the passages in the Synoptists where Jesus speaks about God as "the Father" and Himself as "the Son," a peculiar solemnity attaches to Mt 11:27 parallel Lu 10:22, "All things have been delivered unto me of my Father: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him." There is a Johannine flavor in these words, and they reveal an intimacy of the Son with the Father, as well as a power over all things, which could not have been conferred by mere official appointment, unless there had been in the background a natural position warranting the official standing. Not infrequently has the word "Messianic" been allowed by scholars to blind them to the most obvious facts. The conferring of an office on a mere man could not enable him to do things beyond the reach of human powers; yet it is frequently assumed that, if only Jesus was Messiah, He was able for anything, even when the thing in question is something for which a mere man is wholly incompetent.

8. The "Son" in Mark 13:32:

There is a saying of Jesus (Mr 13:32) about His own Sonship which may seem to refute the church doctrine on the subject, as in it He confesses ignorance of the date of His Second Coming: "Of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." Yet, while there is much in this passage fitted to produce sane and sober views as to the real manhood of Jesus, there are few sayings of His that betray a stronger consciousness of His being more than man. Four planes of being and of knowledge are specified--that of men, that of angels, that of Himself, and that of God. Evidently the Son is above not only men but angels, and, if it is confessed that He is ignorant of anything, this is mentioned as a matter of surprise.

9. The "Son" in Matthew 28:18-20:

The conclusion would seem to be that He is a being intermediate between the angels and God; but this impression is corrected by the greatest of all the sayings in which He calls Himself the Son (Mt 28:18-20), "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Here the Son is named along with the Father and the Holy Spirit in a way suggesting the equality of all three, an act of worship being directed to them jointly. By those who disbelieve in the Deity of Christ, the most strenuous attempts have been made to get rid of this passage, and in certain quarters it is taken for granted that it must have been an addition to the text of this Gospel. But for this there is no ground whatever; the passage is the climax of the Gospel in which it occurs, in the same way as the confession of Thomas is the climax of the Gospel of Jn; and to remove it would be an intolerable mutilation. Of course to those who disbelieve in the bodily resurrection of our Lord, this has no more substance than the other details of the Forty Days; but to those who believe in His risen glory the words appear to suit the circumstances, their greatness being congruous with the entire representation of the New Testament.

10. Apostolic Doctrine: Deity Affirmed:

Indeed, it is the Son of God, as He appears in this final scene in the First Gospel, who dominates the rest of the New Testament. Thus, in Ac 9:20, the beginning of Paul’s testimony as a Christian is given in these words, "And straightway in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God"; and what this meant to Paul may be gathered from his own statement in the opening of Romans, "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which he promised afore through his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord" (Ro 1:1-4). In He the equality of the Son with the Father is theme throughout the entire book; and in Re 2:18, "the Son of God, who hath his eyes like a flame of fire," speaks from the right hand of power to the church.

On this subject there was no division of opinion in the apostolic church. On many other questions the followers of Jesus were divided; but on this one they were unanimous. For this the authority of Paul is often assumed to be responsible; but there was a prior and higher authority. This was the self-testimony of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Though this may not have been put in literary form till all the other books of the New Testament had been completed, it was active and influential in the church all the time, affecting Paul and the other New Testament writers.

11. The Fourth Gospel: Deity, Preexistence, etc.:

There is no real disharmony between the expression of our Lord’s self-consciousness in the Synoptists and that in John; only in the latter it is far ampler and more distinct. Here Jesus is not only called "the Son of God" by others, but applies the title to Himself in its full shape, as well as in the abbreviated form of "the Son." He further calls Himself the "only begotten Son of God" (3:16,18), that is to say, He is Son in a sense in which no others can claim the title. This seems expressly to contradict the statement, so often made, that He makes others sons of God in the same sense as Himself, or that His Sonship is ethical, not metaphysical. No doubt it is ethical--that is to say, He is like the Father in feeling, mind and will--but it does not follow that it is not at the same time metaphysical. In fact, the perfection of ethical unity depends upon that which is metaphysical. Between a dog and a man there may be deep sympathy, yet it is limited by the difference of their natures; whereas between a woman and a man there is perfect sympathy, because they are identical in nature.

Another feature of Sonship in the Fourth Gospel is preexistence, though, strange to say, this is more than once connected with the title "Son of man." But the strongest and most frequent suggestions as to what is implied in Sonship are to be found in the deeds attributed to the Son; for these are far beyond the competence of any mere man. Thus, He executes judgment (Joh 5:22); He has life in Himself and quickeneth whom He will (Joh 5:26,21); He gives eternal life (Joh 10:10), and it is the will of the Father that all men should honor the Son, even as they do the Father (Joh 5:23). Nevertheless, the Son does nothing of Himself, but only what He hath seen the Father do (Joh 5:19); and only that which He hath heard of the Father does He speak (Joh 14:10). In short, God is not only His Father, but His God (Joh 20:17). To statements such as these a merely official Sonship is not adequate; the relation must be ethical and metaphysical as well; and to a perfect Sonship all three elements are essential.


See the books on the Theology of the New Testament by Weiss, Beyschlag, Holtzmann, Feine, Schlatter, Weinel, Bovon, Stevens, Sheldon; and on the Teaching of Jesus by Bruce, Wendt, Dalman; Gore, The Incarnation of the Son of God, Bampton Lectures, 1891, and Dissertations on Subjects Connected with the Incarnation; Robertson, Teaching of Jesus concerning God the Father; full bibliography in Stalker, Christ’s Teaching concerning Himself.