The Names of Jesus:
We reflected here on the radio about the name of Jesus: meaning the savior, or the victor or the conqueror, or the one who triumphs. And we said that Jesus was named Jesus because that’s what his name means. And that he is our savior, and he brings salvation. We also reflected upon what that salvation means. What does it means that Jesus is the savior? What does it mean that he saves us? And we try to understand that a bit. We also already spoke on the radio and reflected together, hopefully together, I hope that you are following and thinking and reading. We meditated on the word “Christ” or the Messiah, Jesus is the Christ, that he is the Messiah, and we even mentioned how Jesus Christ became a kind of a name, just Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus because the main creedal statement, so to speak, the main confession of the Christian faith is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of Israel. He’s God’s messiah.
He is the Christ, and the Christ had a very particular meaning as the anointed one, but we saw that the meaning that is given to it by Christians is not simply one of the many meanings that was floating around at the time, but was, in a sense, a whole new original meaning bringing together virtually all the meanings that that expression “the Christ” or the anointed of God or the anointed one could possibly have. So what we have seen so far is that the main and foundational basic Christian confession of faith is that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus Christ. That’s the foundation of Christianity: Jesus the Messiah.
Now we noted that in the synoptic Gospels: that’s Matthew, Mark, and Luke, that that was the central confession. That was even the center of the very Gospel, this confession that Jesus is the Christ. We can review and remember now how Jesus went around saying and doing all the things that according to the Scriptures, the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets, the messiah would do: all the messianic signs of proclaiming the good news, of God’s victory. Casting out the demons, bringing this good news to the poor and the lowly, and then all the activities of Jesus as a healer, all the miracles that he did of making the blind to see and the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the dumb to talk, casting out demons, the lunatics, the epileptics, the possessed people, those who were totally out of their minds that he restored them to sanity, and then he fed the multitudes in the wilderness, fulfilling the prophecy that when the messiah comes, bread will be given without price that he could set a table in the wilderness. And then there are also the cosmic wonders, the cosmic signs: walking on the water, calming the wind, you know doing those things that show that Jesus has all the power over creation.
And in fact, all the messianic signs, all the signs that show that Jesus is the Messiah are signs of activity and speech that in the Law and the Psalms and the Prophets, belongs to God alone: that only God can say and do these things. Only God can forgive sins, only God has power over the demons, only God has power over the oceans and the waves and the seas and the winds. Only God has power over disease, and ultimately only God has power over life and death. So the ultimate messianic sign was the raising of the dead. So you have in Mark’s Gospel, and you have in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus does these things, and then he asks the twelve who will become the twelve apostles—the center of his crowd of disciples—there are more than the twelve, but there are these twelve who are central, who become the pillars and the foundations of the Christian Church, just like the twelve tribes of Israel were the foundation of the Old Covenant church, he asked them saying, who do you say that I am? And the answer in Mark and Luke is “you are the Christ.” So that’s the foundational creed. Jesus is the Christ.
Now, what we want to see today is that in Matthew’s Gospel, in that very same setting, that very same instance, it’s in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, when Jesus does the same thing according to St. Matthew’s Gospel, he does all the messianic signs, and then he asks the disciples, who do the people say that I am? Who do the people say that I am? And then they respond, some say that you’re John the Baptist raised from the dead, because John had been killed, or Elijah or Jeremiah returning, one of the prophets, and then Jesus says to them and this is central question” who do you say that I am?” And here Simon Peter replies and answers “you are the Christ” and that’s all we have in Mark and Luke. So we have in Matthew too, “you are the Christ”, but Matthew continues. “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”
And then according to Matthew, Jesus answers and says, blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. So you have my Father. You are the Son of God, and then he says my Father. So when he speaks about my Father, he’s saying that he is the son of this one who is his Father and that is his Father is God. And then he says to Peter, on this rock, this rock of the confession, on this faith, I will build my church and the gates of Hades, the power of death, will not prevail against it. And then he speaks about giving the keys of the kingdom to Peter, and then to the other apostles and the other Gospels, and then he charges them to tell no one that he was the Christ. And he does tell them not to say to anyone that he is the Christ until he is raised from the dead.
But what we have here and what we want to talk about now is this extension of the confession in Matthew. Not just you are the Christ, but you are the Christ, the son of the living God. This is what we want to see. What does that mean? Son of God? The son of God? In Greek, that expression is ho huios tou Theou and the word son is “huios.” And that’s important because there are two other words that are used in Scripture that can sometimes be translated son, one of them particularly the word pais, which comes from primarily from the prophet Isaiah which means kind of son in terms of boy or servant, servant of God, and then there’s a word simply for a child, tekna, teknon. You are a child, and that could include being a son or a daughter. So you have three different words there that we have to keep in mind. But what we’re talking about now is the technical term huios which means son, like the son of a father, not a generic son, not like the sons of a nation or something, but in human terms, a biological terms, a son or an adopted son, a father who has a child who is a male who is called son.
Now, this expression, the Son of God for Jesus, it appears in the Scripture before the confession of Peter and the apostles in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for example, in St. Mark’s Gospel, the shortest Gospel, actually the Gospel opens in the very first sentence that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then the King James Version, says the Son of God, but that is not in Greek. It’s not there. However, what we have to see in Mark, in the baptism, in the very first chapter: you have God the Father, the voice of the Father testifying to Jesus at his baptism, this is my son. Si ho huios mou, and then my beloved, the beloved, hoi agapitos, this is son of me. And there’s a definite article there. This is the son of me. Very particular. Now, you have the same expression used in Mark at the transfiguration, ho huios mou agapitos, the son of me, the beloved, or my beloved son. So you have this expression, the son of God that comes in Mark for the first time at the baptism.
Now, in Matthew and in Luke, you have the expression the Son of God already in the infancy narratives, already referred to obliquely and sometimes directly in the story at Jesus’ birth. For example, in Matthew, when the baby Jesus is taken into Egypt, and then he’s brought out which somehow images or prefigures or fulfills, should put better, fulfills what was prefigured or imaged in Moses being brought out of Egypt because Matthew is kind of the Torah, the Law Gospel, this fulfills what the Lord has spoken, “out of Egypt have I called my son.”
So he is called my son. And then in Matthew, of course, at the baptism also, this is my son, the beloved, the same as in Mark and Luke. And in the temptation stories that you find in the three Gospels, not very extensive in Mark, but it’s more spelled out in Matthew and Luke, you have even the devil tempting Jesus, if you are the Son of God. So you have that expression, the Son of God there, very, very early. And in Luke’s Gospel, you have that expression also in Jesus’ childhood when he’s found in the temple where you don’t have the expression son being used, but you have the expression Father. Jesus says, I have to be about my Father’s business, or the affairs, or the things of my Father. And then of course, in the temptation you have, if you be the son of God. So you have this expression son, and in Luke’s Gospel, you already have the story about Jesus being born that he will be called God’s son. It’s when the angel comes and announces that he will be born and the one to be born of you will be called God’s son.
Now, here this leads to something that we have to talk about a little bit more directly, and this is this famous issue of the definite article. We spoke about it a bit when we spoke about the messiah. We will speak about it again when we speak about Jesus being called Lord, kurios, and Jesus being called God, and even Jesus being called Son of Man, we will speak about all those titles. But we have to know that in the Scriptures, in the New Testament, in the Gospels, in the letters of Paul, in the book of Acts I should say too, in all of the books of the New Testament, we always have to pay attention in Greek about when a definite article is used and when it is not used. Now, I think that’s one of the providential reasons by the way why the Lord God Almighty decided that the New Testament would be written in Greek because the Greek language has definite articles just like English has definite articles. And why I mention this is that Slavonic and Russian do not have definite articles. So you never know in Slavonic and Russian whether you are speaking about “a” son of God or “the” son of God. And in English you would know. You could say he is “a” son of God or you could say he is “the” son of God, and we see the difference in the meaning right away.
A son of God presupposes there could be many and he’s one of them, but the Son of God can mean in certain senses that there isn’t any other and we’ll get to that in a minute. But sometimes when this term, huios Theou, son of God is used for Jesus in the Holy Scripture, sometimes it is just God’s son. He will be called God’s son. For example, at the end of the Gospel according to Mark, where by the way, the term son of God is not used at all, and Jesus is not confessed as the Son of God or a son of God in Mark’s Gospel by any human being at all until he’s crucified. Then the soldier says, this one was truly God’s son. Now they translate it in English “this one is truly the son of God” but there’s no “the” there in Greek. So you can translate it, this man was truly a son of God, or he was truly God’s son. So there isn’t a kind of concrete definite point being made there that you could really build up a doctrine on, in the same way, but what we will see also however is that in the New Testament particularly and especially in later interpretations, the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, the unique Son of God, there isn’t any other son of God, all the other sons of God if there are sons of God are sons of God because they’re in him and through him and by him, that is something that will develop very, very clearly in Christian doctrine and already even in the pages of the New Testament. However, the expression son of God, or a son of God, or the Son of God, it’s there.
Now, in Mark’s Gospel, the demons actually do confess that Jesus is God’s son, the holy one of God they say sometimes or the righteous one, but there is also the expression, the exact expression of “the” Son of God. Now, not only God the Father says it in Mark, no human being says it, but the devils say that you are the holy one of God, ho hagios tou theou, but then you have the Son of the Most High is also found in Mark, and then of course in the transfiguration in the three Gospels, the definite article is there. The son of me, the beloved, and also you have expression like neither the son knows but the Father only, and so on, or the son of the blessed. So we wanted to just make that point that just like with messiah there can be an anointed person, but then there is the anointed one. Well, also it can be sons of God can be spoken about in plural. They are sometimes in the Old Testament, particularly they stood among the sons of God, or the sons of God gathered, or Israel my firstborn son, and firstborn means, as we will see, means they inherit everything and get everything. But this expression son of God, it’s definitely in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is there all the time in various ways.
However, in Mark as I mentioned, it’s only God and the demons who say it, and then it is the soldier at the cross who says it. In Luke, if we look at Luke, you would see that we have the article, for example, the demons, if you be the Son of God, or O Jesus son of the Most High, or the Son of God the chosen one, you have those expressions, and then in Luke there’s a very important text where at the passion Jesus is asked “are you the Son of God.” Point blank question. Are you the Son of God? Ho huios tou Theou? And he answers, I am. Ego eimi, and that’s the divine name as we will see. We find that also in Mark. Are you then the Christ, the son of the blessed, ho huios tou evelogi tou. And Jesus answers, ego eimi, I am. Sometimes he says, you have said so. But what we have to see here also as we’re looking at Mark and Luke and we can also look at Matthew where you have not only in Peter’s confession, you are the Christ, the son of the living God, ho Christos ho huios tou Theou, and at the baptism at the translation, you know this one is my son, houtos estin ho huios mou, this is the son of me, the beloved in whom is my good pleasure and so on.
You find that there, but what we have to notice, not only in Matthew, Mark, Luke, but in John, and we’ll get to John here now immediately, is that Jesus never uses the expression Son of God about himself. God the Father calls him my son or the Son of God, the son of me, demons confess it, people confess it, human beings confess it, but Jesus nowhere uses it for himself. And what we will see later on is that Jesus whenever he refers to himself, he doesn’t use the expression the Son of God, he uses the expression the son of man, ho huios tou anthropou. The son of man, and we will in the future reflect on what that expression the Son of Man means, and why Jesus refers to it himself.
So we have these expressions. In Mark, for example, when he’s asked at the Passion, there is no definite article. It’s simply, if you be God’s son, if you be God’s son, and that’s probably better than saying a son of God. It it’s better just to say God’s son, are you God’s son? And he says in Mark, that you may know that I am God’s son. Definitely God’s son, and then you have also in Matthew, you have the centurion saying, truly this one, houdos, was God’s son, but in Matthew, one of the most texts on this particular issue of Jesus being called the Son of God is that the baptismal formula at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, where the disciples are told to go forth and make disciples of all nations, the apostles. They are sent baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All with definite articles, in the name of the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. Not simply in the name of Father, and son, and Holy Spirit, but it’s “the” that is there.
Now, in the Gospels, and this would be true of John as well as Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when we are thinking about Jesus being called the son of God or God’s son, or a son of God, but particularly the son, the definite Son of God, there’s another extremely important way in which the Gospels show that Jesus is in fact the unique Son of God. And what would that be? That would be the fact that in the Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke and John, Jesus always speaks of God as Father. And he speaks about God not only as a Father, metaphorically. In fact he never does that as a matter of fact, but he speaks about God being his Father. And here we can say, and must say and must emphasize, that in the four Gospels, Jesus always calls God—always with the only exception when he quotes the Psalm when he’s hanging on the cross, “my God, my God why have you abandoned me”, all the other times he speaks about God as my Father or the Father, or simply he addresses him as Father. And it’s interesting that in the Scripture, Jesus never speaks of God as being Father together with other people. He doesn’t say for example, our Father. He teaches his disciples to pray to God, “our Father who art in the heavens”, but he teaches us and this is certainly the interpretation of St. Paul and Christian tradition that we call God Father because of Jesus, because of Jesus. Because we’re baptized into Christ and receive the Holy Spirit, we then can dare to address God as our Father. But Jesus doesn’t do it with us.
In St. John’s Gospel, for example, when Mary Magdalene wants to hold onto him, he says, do not cling to me, do not grasp onto me. Sometimes it’s translated, do not touch me, but that’s not, it doesn’t mean just not touching, it means don’t hold onto me, he said because I am not yet ascended to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. And what we can do in interpreting that we could say that I am not yet ascended to God who is my Father and now also is yours, will be yours in the Holy Spirit, in the Church. I am not yet ascended to my God who now will also be your God and must be your God. So those kind of little distinctions are made, but it’s really, really important on this subject to remember that Jesus is confessed as the Son of God, not simply because the expression the son of God is used, or God’s son, or son of the Father, but just because there’s this whole discourse, all this speech where Jesus is referring to God as his Father. If God is his Father, then he is his son. I mean, it just follows. So you have many, many texts in the Gospels about Jesus being related to God as to his Father.
In the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, God is the one who begets him in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t have a human Father. And then you have in these Gospels the voice of the Father speaking this is my beloved son. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, you have a very important for our Christian faith is the prayer of Jesus, for example, in the Garden of Gethsemane where says Father, and in Mark he even uses the term “abba”, abba, which is the Aramaic for Father, the endearing term for Father, like papa or daddy or dear Father or you know. So abba is used in Mark in the earliest Gospel where no human calls Jesus the son of God until you have the confession of the solider, the centurion, truly this was, or this is, God’s son, but you have Jesus calling God abba, calling him Father. You have also in Matthew and Luke, O my Father, that you have this expression being used, O my Father. But that pervasive fact of the New Testament that Jesus never refers to God except as the Father, my Father, or Father, shows that he is the Son of God.
Now, there is a very important text on this subject in Matthew and Luke. I believe it’s not in Mark, where sometimes even people call it the Johannine passage of the Synoptic Gospels which means it’s something that you would expect to find in St. John’s Gospel, but here it is in Matthew and in Luke. And in Matthew it is the 11th chapter, in Luke it’s in the 13th I believe, or the 10th, I’m not sure, but anyway, it’s virtually the same in Luke as it is in Matthew, and I will read Matthew. It says, at that time, Jesus declared, I thank thee Father, so there you have it. Lord of heaven and earth. So the Lord of heaven and earth is addressed as Father. That thou hast hidden these things from the wise and the prudent and revealed them to babes. Yea, Father, for such was your good pleasure, your gracious will.
Then he continues, all things have been delivered to me by my Father who is the Lord of heaven and earth. And no one knows the son, except the Father, definite articles, no one knows the Son except the Father. And no one knows the Father except the Son. And anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Now that’s an incredible sentence. Jesus says no one knows God but me. And no one really knows me, but God. Except those to whom God, the Father, wills to reveal, reveal this reality, reveal this fact, no one knows the Father but the Son, no one knows the Son but the Father, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. So here you have in this text, in a wonderful encapsulated form, like in a nutshell as they say, the center of the Christian faith and the relationship between Jesus and God. It is Father to son and son to Father, absolutely unique, and other people may have this revealed to them and come to know it and actually even to participate in it.
Now leaving behind Matthew, Mark, and Luke, let’s look at John. And here in the Gospel According to St. John, the theological Gospel, then the expression “the Son of God”, the only Son of God, the only begotten Son of God, is who you might even dare to say, it’s the main point of the entire Gospel. You might say it is the main theological teaching of St. John’s Gospel, the theological Gospel, which has all of the seeds of the future doctrine of the Holy Trinity in it because the Holy Spirit, of course, will appear in force too. The Holy Spirit, of course, is in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but in John, you have it very particularly set forth.
So, let’s quickly take a look at John. In John you have in the prologue that Jesus is the only begotten son. Now, this expression, monogenis, which is in the first chapter and the third chapter of St. John and becomes part of the Divine Liturgy, the hymn of Justinian that we sing at every liturgy in the Orthodox Church, O only begotten son and immortal word of God, ho monogenisios kai logos tou Theou, it has two meanings. One can mean unique, the only of a genus. There isn’t any other one like this. There is no other Son of God in this sense. That’s what that word means. The only one of a kind, but when it says monogenis, it could also mean the only one that God has born. That’s why he’s the only one of a kind because he’s born from the Father. And the holy Fathers of the Church will pick this up by insisting that Jesus is born of God, not created by God. That will be the answer to the Arian controversy and that will be enshrined forever in the Nicene Creed: that Jesus is one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages. And this is picked up primarily from the Gospel of St. John.
So, for example, you not only have in the prologue that he is the only Son of God, the only begotten Son of God, but you also have in the prologue of St. John, right in the very first chapter, right in the very beginning, and for Orthodox Christians, this is important for many reasons. It’s very important to know that it’s read at the Divine Liturgy on Pascha night. The feasts of feasts, the very center of the Christian faith, celebrating the resurrection of Christ, we say about Jesus that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten son from the Father. So the logos, the davar Yahweh, the word of God, the logos tou Theou, is also the huios tou Theou, even the monogenisios, the only begotten son. And then it continues in the very prologue also, where it says that this only son from the Father is testified to in the end of that prologue by saying no one has ever seen God. The only begotten son who is in the bosom or the entrails or within the very Father’s being, he has exegeted him. He has made him known.
Then, of course, virtually all Christians know the third chapter of St. John which is on billboards and at football games and is right at the heart of the Eucharistic anaphora prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, in the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, in the liturgy of Basil the Great. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, again, his unique only son so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent his son into the world, the son of himself, definite article. Not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him, that through him the world might be saved. And then you have to believe in him and believe in his name, and it even says believe in the name of the only begotten son of God.
Now, go through the Gospel of St. John, and you will see how this point is made over and over and over again. And you will see in St. John’s Gospel how you have Jesus constantly referring to the one God as Father. My Father is working, I am working too. That you have him even being killed in St. John’s Gospel because he dared to call God his Father, thereby making himself equal to God. And I would like to read now, kind of an extensive passage from St. John’s Gospel. It’s the fifth chapter which makes this point really strongly. And that is this: Jesus said to them, truly, truly I say to you, and we have to remember that when a sentence begins, amen, amen lego humin, amen, amen I say to you, or truly, truly, verily, verily, in the King James, assuredly in some of the new translations, that’s not a negotiable sentence.
In other words, Jesus is not asking for an amen from the person who hears him. He’s telling him amen before he speaks, which means I’m not offering this to you for your approbation. I’m approving it and verifying it before I tell it to you. So it’s non-negotiable. It’s the teaching. Truly, truly I say to you, the Son, and the definite article, the Son, can do nothing of his own accord, but he only does what he sees the Father doing, for whatever he, the Son, does, the Father does that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And for as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
So, this is the relationship that you see all through St. John’s Gospel. Again, amen, amen I say to you, the hour is coming and now is that when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear it will live for as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also the Son to have life in himself. Now we know that as you go through the Gospel of St. John this is what you see again and again, and in the long discourse at the supper, chapter thirteenth to chapter seventeen, all in that chapter is about how Jesus is related to God as Father and to Son. He who sees me sees the Father, I and the Father are one. Yet the Father is greater than I because the Father is the one from whom I come. I am the same divinity as he, but he is the origin of my divinity. I am begotten of him. I am God from God as the Nicene Creed will say a couple hundred years later when all of this is being clearly articulated in Christian history, being fought out in the great doctrinal battles. But then you have the Father is in me and I am in the Father, and I am in you and you are in me. And then he says my work is not mine, it is the work of the work of the Father. My words are not mine. They are the words of the Father. My will is not mine. It’s the will of the Father. So this is what you have in the Gospel according to St. John again and again.
Now, if we jump over to the letters of St. John, it’s so interesting that the first letter of John which is only five chapters long, right? And here I would say that if you’re interested in this topic of Jesus as the Son of God, and you want the best little summary of it that you could possibly find? Well, I think that I could just recommend to you that you would read the first letter of John in the New Testament. Now, that epistle, that epistle of John is five chapters long, but in that epistle, the expression “the son of God” is found 20 times, 20 times in the first letter of St. John. So let’s take a look at that, a little bit, right now, this first letter of John. It begins just like the Gospel does. The Gospel begins, “in the beginning”, that’s how the Bible begins: in the beginning. St. John’s Gospel begins, in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word became incarnate. He’s the only begotten son of God. But in the first letter of John, you have that which was from the beginning, which we have heard seen, looked up, touched, of the word of life, and then it says this life was with the Father, and then by the time you get to the fourth verse only of the first chapter, it says, we proclaim also to you so that you may have communion with us, koinonia. It says fellowship in RSV, but that’s not a good translation. It’s not very strong. Koinonia means communion, union, and our communion is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
There you have it. Right in the first verse, and then as you go through it, you have the anti-Christ is the one who denies the Father and the Son. He says that the reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. He speaks about that the son of God is given to the world. So here you have in this short letter all again the teaching of this relationship between God as the Father and Jesus as the Son. Now you have the second letter of John where he says, he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son. Who does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son. He says that if you deny the Son, you then deny the Father. This is what you find in the epistle of John.
Now we can go also to the rest of the New Testament. And what do we find testified to there? Now it’s interesting that in the book of Acts, you have the expression “the son of God” being used only once. You have several of the books of the New Testament where the expression “the son of God” is not used at all. For example, you have, let me quickly look here, 1 Corinthians, it’s not at all. In the pastoral epistles, Timothy and Titus, not at all, Philemon not at all, 2 Thessalonians not at all, so you don’t have the expression “the son of God” being used at all in some of them. In the book of Acts, it’s used only once: the expression the son of God. In the so-called captivity epistles, I mentioned already Philippians doesn’t use it, but Ephesians uses an expression that you find also in Romans and that you find also in 2 Corinthians, where the expression “the son of God” is used, and that is the expression “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So when God is confessed as the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that means that the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s son. So here again, if we want to meditate on what the son of God means, you have to realize why God is called the Father, and how there is that unique fatherhood of God who begets his son and the unique sonship of Jesus to the father. In the Colossian letter, you have wonderful expression. It’s usually translated “his beloved son.” But actually in Greek, it says the son of His, meaning God’s, love. Ho huios tes agape aftou, ho huios tes agapes Theou. The son of God’s love. In other words, God’s being love begets by nature, and Jesus is the product eternally, divinely, within the Trinity, of God’s love because he is the son of God’s very love.
Now, in St. Paul though, you have of course the expression being used. In Galatians, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law. In 1 Thessalonians, his Son whom he sent from heaven, and then in the letter to the Hebrews, you have a teaching very similar to the Gospel and the Epistles of St. John. That Jesus is the Son of God, with a definite article. That God spoke to us through his son that he is confessed as the son of God, the great high priest of the letter to the Hebrews, the one according to the priesthood of Melchizedek, is the son of God. He’s different from the angels because to what angel has God ever said, quoted twice in the letter to the Hebrews, thou art my son, this day I have begotten thee.
So, this radical confession of the uniqueness of Jesus of Nazareth’s as the Son of God in a very unique way that cannot be applied to anyone else. He’s not one of the many sons of God. He’s not a son of God. He’s not an avatar. He’s not like the kings of the Old Testament who were often called God’s sons because everything they had was from God, all their power and everything and therefore that made them, so to speak, sons, but the confession is that Jesus is the unique only begotten son of God who is divine with the very same divinity as God the Father, and there is no other one like him. He is one of a kind, and he is absolutely unique. And it is this unique divine son of God who becomes human as Mary’s child. And all of Christian tradition will be confessing that. Certainly, the ancient Orthodox tradition would confess that Jesus of Nazareth, the man Jesus, is God’s son: his divine son in human flesh. And that is the very center of the Christian faith. Iesous Christos ho huios tou Theou, and then it will be added, ho kurios, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, the Lord, and in John it would be also, ho logos tou theou, the word of God. And then at the end of John, it would even be ho Theos. The God: that he is the divine one.
So this is our confession about Jesus as the Son of God in the New Testament. Not a son, but the Son, and we will, in our next presentation, or in a next presentation, I don’t know if I’ll use a definite article or not, but we will certainly speak again on Ancient Faith Radio very soon about what does this actually mean? Yes the affirmation is there, clearly there in various different ways in the early Christian writings, and by the way, we should notice right now that some of the writings that don’t use the expression “the son of God” too much, and a couple that don’t use it at all, are written for other purposes, and in those writings you will have different titles expressed. For example, the Apocalypse, the expression “the Son of God” is found in the Apocalypse, and it’s there in the book of Revelation, Jesus is definitely ho huios tou Theou, the son of God. It’s used once, and he speaks about of the Father. But it’s interesting to note and we’ll talk about this later in the book of Revelation. However, the real central title, the central term of that particular letter is not the Son of God, but the Lamb of God, the Lamb of God, the arnios which will be found 26 times in the Book of Revelation. So, each of the books are making different points. The book of Acts, for example, wants to show Jesus as the pais, the suffering servant of God, and we’ll talk about that again, but that is sometimes translated as child or son. So, different books have different purposes, different didactic intentions as they say. They want to teach different things, but certainly Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and certainly John are having as their central point this Christian confession, Jesus Christ the Son of God.