When I was a new Christian I lost count of the number of times that I told people that my new faith was based on the tenet that Jesus is the Son of God. I still do this to this day. In many cases, people ask me “How does God have a Son?” Or, the common objection from both Muslims and Jewish people is ”There is only one God and he has no Son!”
In order to answer these questions and objections it is important to understand the unity of the entire Bible and how it speaks to this issue. First, when we ask what we mean when we refer to Jesus as the Son of God, we need to also ask what we mean when we say “Jesus is the Messiah.” The word Messiah means “Anointed One” (Heb. messiah) (Gk. Christos) and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1; 2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community.
The image of the Messiah and the idea of messianism comprise a broad concept that far outreaches the few instances where the term “anointed” is used. It is the concept that we are seeking to define, not merely one particular word. Before 70 CE, we can hardly find any occurrence of the absolute term “the Messiah”; instead the word in Greek or Hebrew occurs with a genitive or possessive pronoun like “Messiah of Israel,” “Messiah of the Lord,” “Messiah of Aaron,” “Messiah of the Lord,” etc; no single meaning is ever assumed. Other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include “Son of David,” “ Son of God,” “ Son of Man,” “ Prophet,” “Elect One,” “Servant,” “ Prince,” “ Branch,” “Root,” “Scepter,” “Star,” “Chosen One,” and “ Coming One.” So the point is that “Son of God” is a name for the Jewish Messiah.
The Son of God and The Davidic King
Even though divine sonship appears in the Hebrew Bible with regards to persons or people groups such as angels (Gen 6:2; Job 1:6; Dan 3:25), and Israel (Ex. 4:22-23; Hos 11;1; Mal. 2:10), the category that has special importance to the Son of God issue is the king. When the divine sonship is used in the context of the relationship between Israel and the king (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7;89:26-27), the sonship theme emphasizes that the king is called or elected to a specific task as well. Furthermore, there is also a special intimacy between God and the king. So the true king was the means by which the Lord related to his people as a nation.
While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised King David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-37). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a person whose eternality will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom, and throne forever. The existence of Israel is directly related to God’s covenant with Israel and Israel’s relationship to God as the King. The Davidic covenant established David as the king over all of Israel. Under David’s rule, there was the defeat of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. David also captured Jerusalem and established his capital there (2 Sam. 1-6).
As seen in 2 Sam. 7:1-4, David wanted to build a “house” (or Temple) for the Lord in Jerusalem. God’s response to David was one of rejection. However, as just mentioned, God did make an unconditional promise to raise up a line of descendants from the house of David that would rule forever as the kings of Israel (2 Sam. 7:5-16; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-370. The desire for the restoration of the Davidic dynasty became even more fervent after the united kingdom of the Israelites split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, at the time of King Rehoboam.
The prophets even spoke of a Davidic Messiah who would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is. 9:6-7; 11:1-5; Jer 23:5-6; Mic. 5:2-5). Both Hosea and Ezekiel spoke of the Davidic aspect of the Messiah. While Hosea spoke of a time when the northern tribes of Israel would seek out David, Israel’s king (Hos. 3:5), Ezekiel spoke of a new David who would be a shepherd as well as a prince and a king to Israel (Ezek: 34:23-24; 37:24-25). This king’s function would help restore the Davidic dynasty after the exile.
Remember, I just said that the Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. Hence, they could be viewed as “a messiah.” However, this does not mean they are “the Messiah.” Also, just as a king could be viewed as “a son of God,” it does not mean the king is “The Son of God.” However, the Hebrew Bible spoke of one who would be the ulitimate Davidic King or The Son of God.
A look at Psalm 2
“Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (NASB)
After reading this, a few things stand out:
1.The figure in the Psalm is called “The Lord’s Anointed” (v 2), his King (v 6) and his Son (vv. 7, 12).
2. Psalm 2 should be read as a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) and today marks the moment of the king’s crowning.
3. Is this passage referring to King David? God tells the person to whom he is speaking that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the entire world to Him (v 8).
How does Jesus fulfill this text?
Let’s look at Romans 1:1-5
“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
We see the following:
Paul says through the resurrection, Jesus is installed (by God) as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Paul is not saying Jesus is being appointed as The Son of God is a change in Jesus’ essense. The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as a mediator—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).
Remember, the New Testament authors unanimously declare Jesus as the one who is from the “seed of David,” sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; 2 Tim:2:8; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two ways for this prophecy to come to pass. Either God could continually raise up a new heir or he could have someone come who would never die. Does this sound like the need for a resurrection?
As Murray Harris says,
“There is a loose parallel in the case of a royal family where a child is ‘born’ a king but subsequently ‘becomes’ king at his coronation. From this standpoint, the resurrection was the coronation or installation of Jesus as the Son of God.” (Harris, M. Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1983, 74-75
The Prophecy of Hosea
If we look into the book of Hosea, we see that there is a significant prophecy about why Israel lacks a king today. In Chapter 3, God instructs Hosea to take Gomer back, but apparently into some sort of restricted relationship rather than marital intimacy. The significance of this action is explained as follows:
“And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.”- Hosea 3:3-5.
Is it just a coincidence that Israel has gone for many centuries without a King? While today there are thousands of Messianic believers (Jewish people who think Jesus is the Messiah) in the United States alone – some estimate the number to be over half a million, the majority of Israel rejects Jesus as their Davidic King. So not much has changed since the first century .
We must remember that part of Psalm 2 is not fulfilled. This is what we call “prophetic telescoping.” Psalm 2 is one of several texts in the Hebrew Bible where part of the text is fulfilled in the first appearance of Jesus. But there is another part that will be fulfilled in the future. In this sense, Jesus will return and establish the earthly, national aspect of the kingdom of God (Is. 9:6; Amos 9:11; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14; 27; Is. 11:11-12; 24:23; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech.14:1-9; Matt. 26:63-64; Acts 1:6-11; 3:19-26). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).