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OLD TESTAMENT USAGE
The self-designation of Jesus as Son of God appears much more seldom in the Synoptics than the name Son of Man, while in the Fourth Gospel the converse holds good. In the Synoptics it is throughout more a suggestion, either by calling God His Father, or by plainly designating Himself as the Son, in a connection which leaves no doubt as to the complement “ of God,” such as Matt. xi. 27; Mark xüi. 14,- it is involved also in the Parables of the Vineyard and the Marriage Supper (Mark xii. 6; Matt. xxii. 2). The name Son of God
as distinguished from the Son of Man—is more frequently applied to Jesus by others. He is addressed as Son of God by the voice from heaven at the Baptism and the Transfiguration, by Satan in the Temptation, by the diseased and the healthy who wished to do Him homage (Matt. viii. 29, xiv. 33), by Peter in his celebrated confession (Matt. xvi. 16), by the high priest questioning Him at His trial, by His enemies mocking Him upon the cross. This use of the name by others from the first shows that it was one already current
in Israel, and one that had its roots in the Old Testament, abes and therefore we must go back to the Old Testament for the atome sense in which Jesus claims it for Himself. The angels are
called sons of God, Gen. vi. 1 ; Job i. 6, ii. 1 ; also the magistha
trates and judges, Ps. lxxxii. 6. Israel is called God's son
1 The baptismal formula Matt. xxviii. 19, in which likewise appears the Son simply, is not, for reasons to be adduced later, to be regarded as the ipsissima verba of Jesus.
preference to all nations, as the connection in the different
§ 8. THE MEANING OF JESUS
Still there is a difference between His meaning and use of this phrase and the people's, similar to that which existed
between His idea of the kingdom and theirs. His meaning is much deeper, more inward and more sublime in its humility. He does not fix upon the kingly Messianic interpretation of the name; on the contrary, He selected and stamped the name Son of Man as the designation of His office and calling; the conception which underlies His idea of divine Sonship is that of God's beloved and God's likeness, which is originally found in the Old Testament. For He felt Himself to be a Son of God, and called God in heaven “My Father” long before the awakening of His Messianic cousciousness at the baptism (Luke ii. 49); and it was not so much an official as a personal consciousness, the consciousness of being personally beloved of God, which at the baptism itself re-echoed in His heart in the voice from heaven : “ Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The “in whom I am well pleased:” indicates therefore the reason of this personal relation of love and communion which is expressed by the name Son of God. We reach the same result when we consider His application of the name to others; what He regards as the fundamental meaning and foundation of the divine sonship then plainly emerges. He applies the name in the plural not merely, as in Luke xx. 36, to those made perfect, who in the resurrection are to be transformed into the real image of God, but also (Matt. v. 9, 45) to children of earth so far as they in character bear the image of the heavenly Father. If the peacemakers are to be called sons of God, sons of the God whom Paul repeatedly calls the Ocòs tñs eipývns ; if men are to become sons of God by learning to love their enemies, after the example of God, ever good, who makes His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, it is manifest that He must have regarded the divine sonship as resting above all on inner moral likeness to God. For it is that alone which makes a man beloved of God, one in whom He can be well pleased. That is, as it were, the family likeness to the heavenly Father appearing in a man's spiritual aspect, which brings on him the smile of the Father's good pleasure. Now, if Jesus called those who do the will of His father, His sisters and brethren (Mark iii. 35), it is clear that He also, and above all, knew Himself to be a Son of God for the same reason which led Him to consider them as children of God, though with a distinction which we
must not overlook; this likeness to God and favour of God holds good of others in a comparative sense, but of Him absolutely. And this distinction, which is expressed in the Fourth Gospel by the epithet μονογενής added to υιός (cf. Mark xii. 6), is observed in the Synoptists, where Jesus designates Himself the Son in contrast to the υιούς του θεού in the plural, and never joins with His followers in a common “our Father,” but throughout keeps apart the “ your Father and My Father” (cf. e.g. Matt. vi. 32, x. 29, with xi. 27, xvii. 35, xx. 23). Here therefore, on the basis of the same idea of a sonship of God possible to man and representing the highest destiny of man, lies a sublimity and uniqueness of His relation to God which raises Him above all other sons of men and gives Him the character of true divinity, not, however, to the exclusion of His true humanity, but rather to its realisation in the highest original sense. In other words, when Jesus calls Himself the Son of God, He does so as the man who is truly one with God, who as perfectly loved by God and like God can alone serve as the instrument of a complete revelation of the eternal love, and can bring His brethren into that unrestrained fellowship with God which He Himself possessed, but which they lacked (cf. Matt. xi. 27). And from this
may be understood the relation of His consciousness of being a Son to His consciousness of being the Messiah. While the name Son of God was to the people only the outer title of honour which they attached to the Messiah expected from the house of David, the divine Sonship was to Jesus rather the expression of His inward right to Messiahship. He did not regard Himself as the Son of God because He knew Himself on other grounds to be the Messiah, but because He knew Himself to be the beloved Son of the heavenly Father; because in that crisis of His life at the baptism in the Jordan He had become conscious of His own unique personal relation to God, He also, at the same place and for the same reason, became conscious of His unique vocation for the world—His Messianic vocation.
$ 9. THE QUESTION OF DIVINE DESCENT
The question may be raised whether Jesus in this consciousness of being a Son, included also the idea of a
special descent from God. Phrases such as Matt. xvii. 26, xxii. 42, even without reference to well-known Johannine passages, might lead to that conclusion.
In the first passage, which treats of the obligation to pay the temple tax, Jesus, by the question, “Of whom do the kings of the earth levy taxes, of strangers or of their own children?” places Himself, in contrast with other men, under the conception of a member of a divine family, and thus seems to claim for Himself a special relation of origin to God.
And in the other passage, where, on the basis of Ps. cx. 1, He examines His opponents about their idea of Messiah, and places the divine Sonship of Messiah in opposition to the Davidic sonship which they emphasise, the inference is suggested, that as the Davidic sonship expresses a relation of descent, the divine Sonship comprises such a relation also. Still these inferences are quite uncertain, for in that question about the temple tax, the family relation, as distinguished from the subjection of strangers, is only a picture—a picture of the freedom of God's children from such outward institutions as contrasted with the bondage of the servant of the law, and the plural vioi may not at all refer to Jesus only, but also to Peter along with Him. In the exposition of Ps. cx. 1, again, Jesus is not at all concerned with the descent of Messiah, but with the opposing of that inner title of right on which His Messianic consciousness rests, to the outer genealogical title which is everything to the scribes. He would say to His opponents, You know very little of the Messiah if you only know that He is to be a scion of David's house. What constitutes the Messiah is not family descent, but a unique spiritual relation to God. However probable in itself it may be that Jesus cherished the idea of a special divine descent, we must decline to answer the question whether that idea was included in the Son-consciousness of the Synoptists. But even though that idea could be proved, it would only amount to a conviction of having come forth from God as a human personality in a unique way, that is, of having been originally planned and prepared in a very special way for that unique relation of communion with God, and for His vocation as Saviour, which was rooted in that communion; it would not imply the consciousness of having, as a divine person, passed from a former heavenly life