The Son of God

“For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18)

“Tons of sons!”- the angry Muslim shouts out in his flimsy attempt to “refute” Christians who proclaim the deity of Christ. In other words, unitarians groups (esp. Muslims) deny that Jesus’ unique claim to be the “Son of God” was in fact a claim of deity, that is, truly God. Muslims, for example, are taught that Jesus was only speaking metaphorically when He referred to Himself as the Son of God (Mark 14:61-64; John 10:30-36). Muslims, along with JWs, mistakenly assume that if Jesus is Son of God He cannot be God. Of course, they start with their unitarian assumption (God is one person), from which their conclusions flow.               

These unitarian groups also argue that Jesus was the Son of God by doing good works, glorifying God, being humble, etc., thus, He was not the “one and only” (monogenēs) Son in a unique sense. Unitarians further point out that both in the OT and NT there were many who were referred to as a “son of God” or God’s son—such as Adam (Luke 3:38); Israel (Exod. 4:22); judges (Ps. 82:6); David (Ps. 89:27); Ephraim (Jer. 31:9); Christians (Gal. 3:26); and even angels (Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6; 38:7). So, as it is argued, if the title “Son of God” indicates deity, then Adam, David, angels, etc. are also God. 

In response, it must first be pointed out that the meaning of biblical words and phrases are determined by the context (as with the term Elohim). Second, in a Semitic (Jewish) context, to be the “son of” something frequently meant that one possesses or shares the nature of that something. Ephesians 2:2-3, for example, the unsaved are said to be the “sons of disobedience . . . by nature children of wrath,” in that they possess the nature of disobedience and wrath. Unbelievers are said to be “sons of the Devil” (John 8:44), whereas believers are “sons of God” by adoption (Eph. 1:5), through faith (Gal. 3:26).


Jesus Christ, the Unique Son of God  

Even though the phrase “son(s) of God” was applied to angels and men, when it was applied to Jesus, it was in a context of essence or nature. Christians are sons of God by adoption, Jesus is the Son of God by nature[1]—which was clearly a claim of being God the Son. In a similar ontological semantic (as a title of absolute deity), Jesus’ also identified Himself as the “Son of Man”[2] (Mark 10:45; 13:26; 14:61-62; John 1:51; 3:13; 5:27; 6:62 et al.; cf. Dan. 7:13-14).


Consider these examples below

 John 5:17-18. Son of God, God the Son:  


16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on a Sabbath. 17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” 18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”

One of the best examples of where Jesus’ claim to be the “Son of God” denoted ontological (viz. in very nature) equality with God is found in the Gospel of John chapter 5. In verse 17, Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” This was Jesus’ response to the charges brought against Him. The Father’s creative activity stopped after six days, but not His governing and upholding the universe. However, the Son’s activity of mediating, rewarding, punishing, etc. is ongoing. Then we read in verse 18: “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He was not only breaking the Sabbath, but He was also calling God His Father, making Himself equal with God.”

The Jews (and the Apostle John) clearly understood that by Jesus claiming God was His Father (i.e., the Son of God), Jesus was claiming to be “equal with God.” This is confirmed by the specific response of the Jews, “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He was . . . calling God His Father, making Himself equal with God.” Note the response of the Jews in John 19:7: “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”

Again, this sharply opposes the position of those who assert that Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was not a claim to be equal with God. There is one more notable feature in this text. The verbs translated, “breaking” (eluen, lit., “relaxing, losing”) and “calling” (elegen) as in “calling God His Father” are both in the imperfect tense. The force of an imperfect tense indicates a continuous or repeated action normally occurring in the past. Thus, apparently, this was not the first time He made this claim—He had been repeating this claim. In addition, note the reflexive pronoun (heauton, “Himself”), which grammatically indicates that the action of “making Himself equal with God” was made by and for Christ Himself: “He Himself was making Himself equal with God.”[3] So, it was not merely the view of the Jews, rather it was Jesus Himself who made Himself equal God the Father (see discussion on the reflexive pronoun in John 10:33 below).    


John 10:30. “I and the Father are one” (Egō kia ho Patēr hen esmen, lit., “I and the Father one we are”).

Both historically and currently, Christians have pointed to this passage to show that Jesus indeed claimed equality with God the Father. As with Jesus’ other undeniable claims to be equal with and truly God (Matt. 12:6; John 5:17-18; 8:58-59 et al; Rev. 1:7-8, 17; 2:8; 22:13; etc.), the response of the Jews in verse 33 hence an irrefutable confirmation of Jesus’ claim: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” This passage also provides a clear refutation to the Oneness view, which erroneously asserts that Jesus is the Father (i.e., the same person). Ironically, Oneness advocates actually use it as a so-called proof text. Aside from the fact that throughout chapter 10, Jesus and the Father are clearly differentiated as two persons (vv. 15, 17, 18, 25, 29, 30, 36, 37, 38). But note the following points regarding verse 30 that refutes Oneness theology:      

Not one person within conservative recognized Christian scholarship agrees with a Oneness interpretation. Neither historically nor contemporaneously has any Christian writer interpreted John 10:30 in a modalistic (Oneness) way. Rather, all standard scholarly sources (patristics, commentaries, grammars, lexicons et al), interprets the passage in the plain intended way within the defining context: The person of the Son claiming equality with the distinct person of the Father.

Plain reading. Jesus simply says, “I and the Father ARE one.” Only by pretexting can one read something into this text beyond the simple plain reading.                             

 The neuter adjective hen (“one”) is used—contextually indicating a unity of essence, not personal identity. If Jesus wanted to identify Himself as the Father (same person), He certainly could have used the masculine heis to indicate this (e.g., John 12:4; Rom. 3:10; 1 Tim. 2:5 et al.). In this passage, the Father and the Son are the subjects of the sentence (egō, “I,” and Patēr, “Father”—both in the nominative case). The neuter adjective hen (“one”) is the predicate nominative and it precedes the plural verb esmen (“are”).

The predicate nominative is describing the essential unity of Jesus and the Father.[4] In other words, Jesus is explaining that the Father and Son are—one thing, not one person. In the context of unity, not identity of person, the same neuter adjective is used in John 17:21, where Jesus prays that His disciples “may be one [hen]” even as Jesus and the Father are one.  

The plural verb esmen (“are”). Again, in sharp contrast to the false Oneness interpretation (viz., that Jesus is the Father), the Greek contains the plural verb esmen (“I and the Father are one”), and not a singular verb such as eimi (“am”) or estin (“is”) in which case, the passage would read: “I and the Father am/is one.” Furthermore, Jesus’ claim to deity is not merely found in verse 30. Rather, the passages leading up to verse 30 undeniably prove His claim. In verses 27-29, Jesus claims that He is the Shepherd that gives His sheep eternal life and no one can snatch them from His nor His Father’s hand (same words of YHWH in the LXX of Deut. 32:39[5]).

The Jews were well acquainted with Deuteronomy 32:39: “And there is no one who can save anyone from My hand” and Psalm 95:7: “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” The Jews knew that only YHWH could make this claim of having sheep in His hand and giving them eternal life (cf. also Isa. 43:11). It was after Jesus made these familiar and exclusively divine claims of having sheep in His hand giving eternal life to them, that He stated, “I and the Father are one.” So, it is easy to understand the response of the Jews: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God [poieis seauton Theon]” (v. 33).[6] If Jesus were only claiming to be “one” with the Father in the sense of mere representation as with judges, Moses, prophets, etc., then Jesus’ claim would not have warranted blasphemy (Lev. 24:16).



[1] Although, not a son in a biological sense (like the LDS teach; see below), but rather, in a relational sense.  

[2] Especially in light of Daniel 7:13-14, Son of Man was a well-recognized epithet. Jesus identified Himself as the Son of Man approximately eighty times in the Gospels (His preferred title of Himself). In Mark 14:61-64, when questioned as to His identity, Jesus declared to the high priest, “I am [the Messiah and the Son of God]; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Against the backdrop of Daniel 7:13 (“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man was coming”), the high priest clearly understood that Jesus’ claim to be both the Son of God and the Son of Man as claims of absolute deity.   

[3] The reflexive pronoun is where the subject is also the object of the action of the verb. It intensifies the identification of the subject as participating in the action of the verb. “On a broader scale, the reflexive pronoun is used to highlight the participation of the subject in the verbal action, as direct object, indirect object, intensifier, etc.” (GGBB, 350). Paul uses the reflexive pronoun in Philippians 2:7 and verse 8 to indicate that the emptying and humbling of Jesus was something that Jesus Himself did by and for Himself. Consequently, it was self-emptying and self-humbling.        

[4] Renowned Greek grammarian A. T. Robertson comments on the application of the neuter hen in John 10:30: “One (hen). Neuter, not masculine (heis). Not one person (cf. heis in Gal. 3:28), but one essence or nature” (Archibald T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament [Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1932], 5:186).

[5]  Note the same phrases used in both in Deuteronomy (LXX) and John: Deuteronomy 32:39: “And there is no one who can deliver ek tōn cheirōn Mou [‘out of the hands of Me’].” John 10:28: “they will never perish; and no one will snatch them ek tēs cheiros Mou, “out of the hand of Me.” John 10:29: “no one is able to snatch them ek tēs cheiros tou Patros (“out of the hand of the Father”). 

[6] As in John 5:18, in John 10:33, the second person reflexive pronoun seauton (“Himself”) indicates that the Jews understood that Jesus’ claims in John 10, which culminated in verse 30 (“I and the Father are one”) were by and for Himself—namely, He Himself made Himself “out to God.”    



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