Holy Scriptures Examined

Son of God (B. M. Mirza, Ph.D.) The phrase son of God is used in numerous places in the Bible. Usually, it applies to one whose office specially represents God among men. The same epithet, when applied to Jesus (peace be on him), is taken to mean a physical relationship with God. Where did this new meaning come from? There is no place in the Bible where Jesus referred to this new meaning of the phrase. A careful study of the Bible, in fact, does not lend any support to this different meaning as applied to Jesus. Let us review some passages from the Old and New Testaments which include the phrase son of God. In the book of Luke, the genealogy of Jesus is described in detail. This description goes all the way to Adam. We read: “. . . Which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.” (Luke 3:38). Adam, according to this description, had to be the first son of God. We can all agree, however, that no literal physical relationship was alluded to and this phrase is explained in Genesis thus: “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him.” (Genesis 5:1). Around the time of Noah, this phrase is again used in the same sense: “. . .when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives . . . when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:1-4)-. SON OF GOD 35 Adam was not actually referred to as the firstborn son of God, but some of the prophets long after Adam are referred to as the firstborn sons of God: “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, thus sayeth the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn”. (Exodus 4:22). “I will cause them to walk by the rivers of water in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Jeremiah 31:9) In addition of Israel and Ephraim being referred to as the firstborn sons of God, David is also given the same distinction: “I have found David my servant. . . He shall cry unto me, thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.” (Psalm 89:20-7). In addition to all these “firstborn” sons of God, many others are given the distinction of being called the “son of God” in the Bible. For instance, Solomon is called the son of God. “Behold a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest. . .for his name shall be Solomon. . . and he shall be my son, and I will be his father . . . Now, my son, the Lord be with thee . . .” (1 Chronicles 22:9-11). The same phrase son of God is used in many more places. First we give some further quotes from the Old Testament. “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee:” (Psalms 2:17). “I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit inequity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men. (II Samuel 7:14). “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord . . .” (Job 1:6). “When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” (Job 38:7). “Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me 36 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.” (Isaiah 45:11). “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea . . . it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.” (Hosea 1:10). And here are some quotes from the New Testament: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name.” ‘ . ” (John 1:12). “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”. (The Acts 17:29). “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14). “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19). “And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:18). “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians2:15). “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt. 5:9). “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. . . . Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” (1 John 3:1,2). “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Revelation 21:7). Not only is the phrase “son of God” used for the chosen ones of God, sometimes they are called God also. SON OF GOD 37 “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most high.” (Psalms 82:6). “Unto us a child is born . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6). In a similar fashion, God is referred to as Father in numerous places. Here are a few examples: “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.” (Psalms 68:5). “Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us and Israel acknowledges us not: Thou O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer.” (Isaiah 63:16). “But now, O Lord, thou art our Father, we are the clay and Thou our potter . . .” (Isaiah 64:8) “Have we not all one Father? hath not one God created us?” (Malachi2:10). “And he said unto them, whey ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Luke 11:2). We have quoted both the Old and the New Testaments above. It should be quite clear to our readers that the use of the term son of God and Father are purely theocratic, implying no physical relationship. Son of Man The phrase ‘son of man’ is used extensively in the Old and New Testament. In the book of Ezekiel, for instance, it is used 90 times — and always to denote a prophet of God. It is repeated 80 times in the New Testament. Jesus used this phrase for himself 61 times in the New Testament. Since the phrase is used without any explanations, it must bear the same meanings which are historically accepted for its use in The Old Testament, namely, a prophet of God. Compared to this, Jesus used the phrase “Son of god” only a very few times. Nowhere in the synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) has Jesus ever used it for himself. Only in John, the phrase is ascribed to him and only on four occasions (John 5:25; 9:35; 10:36; 11:04). If this particular application 38 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS meant any different relationship, it needed an explanation. Jesus applies this term to himself without any new explanation which certainly was necessary if it was intended to convey any other meaning than the historical sense with which the people of his time were familiar. The use of the epithet son of man 80 times in the New Testament conveys to us a clear meaning that Jesus referred to himself as a prophet of God. Three of the canonical Bibles have no mention of Jesus calling himself “Son of God”. Only one writer — John — ascribes it to Jesus only 4 times. Since no special explanation is given anywhere, it can only mean the same it always meant throughout the Old Testament (and we have quoted numerous passages); namely, a chosen one of God, a prophet of God. Jesus himself explains the meaning of the title “Son of God” in one of the four instances he is reported to have called himself Son of God. The Jews accused him of calling himself God: “. . . For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being man, makest thyself God.” (John 10:31). Now, we must accept the answer given by Jesus himself if we profess to believe in him. Did he imply any physical relationship between himself and God? We read: “Jesus answered them, is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? (This is a reference to Psalms 82:6) If he called them gods unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say yet of him, whom the Father has sanctified and sent unto the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (John 10:34-6). This explanation, offered by Jesus himself, makes it quite clear that the expression “Son of God” as applied to Jesus by himself meant no more in his case than it had meant historically. Thus, Jesus claimed to be the son of God in a theocratic sense, not as God, the Son, as is now claimed. Other expressions used by Jesus, e.g., “the Father is in me and I in him.” (John 10:39), and “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) do not put any special meaning either. Similar expressions are used for the disciples also. We read: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hath sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one;” (John 17:21-3). SON OF GOD 39 “One God and Father of all, who Is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:6). “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him;” (I Corinthians 8:56). Jesus Disclaimed Godhead The fact is that Jesus did not claim to be God or a physical Son of God. If anything, one finds a repudiation by Jesus himself of the notion that he is God himself or God, the Son. The following quotations from the Bible make it obvious: “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good things shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” (Matthew 9:16-17). “And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.” (Matthew 20:23). “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” (Mark 13:32). “If you loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28). Only One God If Jesus was God the Son, a part of the Trinity preached by the Church of today, he most certainly would have said so very clearly and emphatically. The Jews of his time believed in One God. He should have clearly laid down that this was not so. The above quotations prove that he, in fact, denied being a deity: Not only that, he in fact preached that there was only one God: We read: “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 40 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: . . . “And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God, and there is none other but he:” (Mark 12:28-32). Here Jesus is repeating the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:” (Deut. 6:4). Again we read: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:5-6). In recent times, there has been a growing awareness on the part of theologians that the picture of Jesus as God or the physical Son of God cannot stand any scrutiny. Albert Schweitzer, in his well known book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, summarizes his book as follows: “The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and died to give His work its final consecration, never had any existence. He is a figure designed by rationalism, endowed with life by liberalism, and clothed by modern theology in an historical garb. This image has now been destroyed from without, it has fallen to pieces, cleft and disintegrated by the concrete historical problems which came to the surf ace one after another, and. . .refused to be planed down to fit the design on which the Jesus of theology of the last hundred and thirty years had been constructed, . . .” (p. 398). The Gospel of St. Mark begins with the following verse: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1). The title “Son of God” does not appear in many of the old manuscripts. Codes Sinaiticus, a manuscript of the 4th century does not have it. Tischendorf and Westcott & Hort have this title on the margin and not in the main text. It was much later that the expression became a part of the main text in the revised version. SON OF GOD 41 In the International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, prepared by the New York Theological Seminary, we read the following explanation of the title “Son of God”: “This term, Son of God, like the title Messiah, is applied to the Messianic King in the uncanonical Jewish literature. But its use is purely theocratic and official, corresponding to the O.T. (Old Testament) use to denote any one whose office specially represents God among men, such as kings and judges (John 10:36). Its use to denote the relation to God springing from the miraculous conception is confined to Luke (1:35), and its application to Jesus’ metaphysical relation to God is not found in the Synoptics. The term is applied by Jesus to himself in his discourse without any explanation, whereas it would require explanation if it was intended to convey any other meaning than the historical sense with which the people were familiar . . . In fact, there is nowhere in the Synoptics any indication that the title is used so as to involve any departure from the current theocratic sense; and indications, such as the above, are not wanting that the title does retain its common meaning at the time. When we get outside of these historical books, we come upon the metaphysical sonship as possibly the prevalent meaning of the term. Son of God means here, then, that the Messianic kingdom is a theocracy, in which God is the real ruler, and the Messianic king represents God.” (pp. 3-4). Charles C. Anderson, in his book, Critical Quests of Jesus, reviews a number of books on this subject. Reviewing the works of Harnack (What is Christianity, 1901), Klausner (Jesus of Nazareth, 1925), Case (Jesus: A New Biography, 1927), Mackinnon (The Historical Jesus, 1931), and Goguel (The Life of Jesus, 1933), the author concludes: “Here the writers are agreed both by direct statement and by implication that Jesus was not the metaphysical Son of God or deity. .. . “If then we are to attempt to estimate the significance of Jesus, it must be from the point of view of his excellence as a man.” (p. 53). In a recent book, The Myth of God Incarnate, edited by Rev. John Hick, we read the following: “The writers of this book are convinced that another major theological development is called for in this last part of the twentieth century. The need arises from growing knowledge of Christian origins, and involves a recognition that Jesus was (and he is presented in Acts 2:21) ‘a man approved of God’ for a special role within the divine purpose, and that the later conception of him as God incarnate, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity living a human life, is a mythological or poetic way of expressing his significance for us.” , . ^ • IP- “v- 42 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS We agree with the seven well known theologians who authored the book The Myth of God Incarnate, that Christianity is under great pressure, due the new knowledge about the life and times of Christ available to us today, “to go on adapting itself into something which can be believed.” There is still a lot of emphasis in the Christian literature on the physical Sonship of Jesus Christ. If Christ himself did not mean it and those present in his lifetime did not take it that way, by what authority can anyone else change the meaning of the title “The Son of God”? It is high time we face the realities and say out aloud what most of us must recognize deep down in our hearts. Promised Messiah’s Love for the Quran “You should therefore leave aside all other books and stick to this wonderful book of Allah. He who neglects this book and leans on other books shall exhibit his weakness in faith. It is therefore incumbent upon my followers to ponder over the Holy Quran and make it their guiding light…. If you take hold of the Holy Quran as a weapon you shall have ensured your victory. No darkness shall be able to stand against this Light”. (Malfoozat, Vol. 2, p. 122) “The Holy Quran is a unique glittering jewel, a sun resplendent—so much so thatthe lightfrom it and its splendours have become patent not in one or two ways but in a thousand different ways. The mo re the detractors of the Great Faith try to extinguish the Divine Light the most vigorously does it shine, the more does its beauty and its charm attract those who will observe and think. The eternal light of the Holy Quran furnishes its own proof; proof from every point of view—this Is the Book revealed by Allah”. (Minan-al-Rahnan, p. 1)