We're making big changes. Please try out the beta site at beta.ccel.org and send us feedback. Thank you!
« Prev IV Next »



At this point, before considering the idea of the Suffering Servant, it will be of advantage to discuss the title 'the Son', which in the Old Testament11   The strange phrase, 'the sons of Elohim', in Gen. vi. 4 (cf. Job i. 6, xxxviii. 7) is used either of divinities or, in later times, of angels. Cf. The Beginnings of Christianity, vol. i. part 1, 392-403. is used of Israel, of kings, and of the Messiah. The title rarely appears in the Passion-sayings,22   Cf. Mk. xii. 6: 'He had yet one, a beloved son: he sent him last unto them, saying, 'They will reverence my son.' See later, p. 106ff. but its use by Jesus elsewhere must of necessity, if the relevant sayings are genuine, throw light on His estimate of His Person, and, in consequence, on His view of His mission and destiny.

When Moses is sent to Pharaoh, he is commanded of God to say: 'Israel is my son, my firstborn: and I have said unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me' (Ex. iv. 22f.). Here, the term is used of the nation in its relation to God. The same usage appears in the well-known words of Hos. xi. 1:

'When Israel was a child, then I loved him.

And called my son out of Egypt.'

Besides this use of the term it is also applied to individuals. This is done by implication in the case of David in Psa. lxxxix. 26f.:

'He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father,

My God, and the rock of my salvation.

I will also make him my firstborn,

The highest of the kings of the earth,'


and explicitly with reference to Solomon in 2 Sam. vii. 14: 'I will be his father, and he shall be my son'. In later Jewish writings similar language is used to describe the typically righteous man, as in Ecclus. iv. 10:

'Be as a father unto the fatherless,

And instead of a husband unto their mother:

So shalt thou be as a son of the Most High,

And he shall love thee more than thy mother doth',

and again in Psa. Sol. xvii. 30: 'For he shall know them, that they are all sons of their God'.

The Messianic use of the title is both late and sporadic. Psa. ii. 7 probably referred originally to an earthly king, but already by the time of Jesus the words:

'I will tell of the decree:

The Lord said unto me, Thou art my son;

This day have I begotten thee',

had come to be interpreted Messianically.11   Cf. J. A. Bewer, The Literature of the Old Testament in its Historical Development, 370. Later, in 4 Ezra vii. 28f., the expression: 'My Son the Messiah,' appears.22   Cf. W. O. E. Oesterley, 2 Esdras, 70. If Jesus spoke of Himself as 'the Son', He may well have been influenced by Psa. ii. 7, just as He was indebted for the phrase 'Son of Man' to Dan. vii. 13.

In Mark the term is used of Jesus in several passages, of which the most important are the saying: 'But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father' (xiii. 32), and the words of the heavenly voice in the stories of the Baptism (i. 11) and the Transfiguration (ix. 7). The saying in xiii. 32 is one of Schmiedel's nine 'foundation-pillars for a truly scientific life of Jesus'.33   Encycl. Biblica, col. 1881. Its genuineness has been 47 contested by the Editors of The Beginnings of Christianity who think that the phrase, 'neither the Son', may be a scribal gloss, or may have replaced an original reference to the Son of Man.11   Vol. i., part 1, 396. Schmiedel's insight was truer, for it is hardly likely that words which limit the knowledge of Jesus would have been invented. The saying is conclusive proof that Jesus spoke of Himself as 'the Son'.

In Q the same usage appears in the saying concerning the Father and the Son in Lk. x. 21f. = Mt. xi. 25-7, and the term 'Son of God' is used in the story of the Temptation (Lk. iv. 1-13 = Mt. iv. 1-11). The opinion of Albertz is that the Temptation story is the work of an artist who 'is to be sought in Jesus Himself;22   Die synoptischen Streitgesprache, 48. and, if this is so, the story confirms the view that Jesus expressed His sense of vocation in the title 'Son of God'. The former passage, however, is more important. In its Lukan form it is as follows:

' I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,

That thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding,

And didst reveal them unto babes:

Yea, Father; for so it was well-pleasing in thy sight.

'All things have been delivered unto me of my Father:

And no one knoweth who the Son is, save the Father;

And who the Father is, save the Son,

And he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him.'

The text and interpretation of this passage have often been the subject of learned discussion.33   Cf. Harnack, The Sayings of Jesus, 272-310; Dom Chapman, The Journal of Theological Studies, x. 552-66; A. E. J. Rawlinson, The New Testament Doctrine of the Christ, 251-64; T. W. Manson, The Teaching of Jesus, 109-12; B. S. Easton, 164-7; J. M. Creed, 147-50; B. T. D. Smith, 127-9; H. K. Luce, 2O2f. The attempts to obtain 48 a more original text,11   See the discussions of Harnack and Easton. by omitting either the second or the third line in the second strophe, and by reading 'knew' instead of 'knoweth', have not proved successful. The reading 'knew', which appears in many quotations of the early Fathers and in two Old Latin MSS. (a and b), is probably due to assimilation to the preceding aorists, while the case for omission is weakened by the fact that it is exceedingly difficult to quote the saying correctly.22   As an experiment easily shows. In most cases clauses are quoted in the wrong order or one of them is omitted.

The genuineness of the saying is often questioned because of its similarity to the sayings in the Fourth Gospel,33   Compare the famous phrase of Hase: 'an aerolite from the Johannine heaven', Geschichte Jesu, 527. or because it is doubted that Jesus can have claimed to be the sole revealer of the Father. Bousset, for example, explains the passage as a word of Jesus which has been transformed by the piety of Hellenistic-Christian circles,44   Kyrios Christos, 50. and he cites parallels from the Hermetic Literature of the early Christian centuries. Probably, such doubts are largely due to the habit of reading the saying in the light of later Christological developments. The knowledge of God implied is nearer to that which is described in the Old Testament55   Cf. Jer. xxxi. 34; Hos. iv. 1; Amos iii. 2. than it is to the utterances of Hellenistic piety. There is no real parallel, for example, in the mystical prayer: 'I know thee, Hermes, and thou me. I am Thou, and Thou I,' which is the first parallel cited by Bousset;66   Op. cit., 48. and still less close are the examples in the extracanonical literature and the Odes of Solomon which are 49 quoted by Dibelius.11   Cf. From Tradition to Gospel, 279-83. Dibelius cites, for example, the ninth Ode of Solomon: 'Open your ears and I will speak to you. Give me your souls that I also may give my soul to you. The Word of the Lord and His good pleasures, the holy thought that He has thought concerning His Messiah.... Be enriched in God the Father, and receive the intention of the Most High...' If we allow for the influence of the Old Testament, and perhaps also of Ecclesiasticus li, upon the mind of Jesus, there is no adequate reason why the genuineness of the saying should be doubted.22   Cf. W. F. Howard, The Fourth Gospel in Recent Criticism and Interpretation, 221; T. W. Manson, op. cit. 110f.; W. F. Lofthouse, The Father and the Son, 29f. The words describe the intimate communion with the Father which Jesus knew and which He was able to make known to others; and the sense of Sonship which is revealed is fundamentally ethical and religious. Whether it is not also metaphysical is a question which depends on our estimate of the Person of Jesus. A metaphysical relationship is not expressed in the saying, and there is no reason to think that the mind of Jesus moved in such realms of thought. What is expressed is the consciousness of a unique filial relationship to the Father, and it is in this relationship that we must find the foundation of His Messianic convictions.

This sense of Sonship is also expressed by the words 'my Father' in the saying (x. 22), and in many other sayings in which Jesus speaks of 'the Father', 'my Father', and 'my heavenly Father'. It lies behind the prayer: 'Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee' (Mk. xiv. 36), and is implied in the words 'but the Father' which follow the denial of the Son's knowledge in Mk. xiii. 32. It also appears in several sayings in the M source in which Jesus speaks of the Father.33   Cf. Mt. vii. 21, xv. 13, xvi. 17, xviii. 10, 19, 35, xxvi. 53. Some of these passages 50 could not be pressed if they stood alone, since Jesus also speaks, with reference to men, of 'your Father' and 'your heavenly Father'.11   Cf. Lk. vi. 36, xii. 32; Mt. v. 16, vi. 1, 14, 15, &c. If, however, we take the sayings of Jesus with reference to the Father as a whole, and relate them to those in which He speaks of Himself as 'the Son', a filial consciousness is revealed which, for the want of a better word, can only be described as unique. If the term 'Son of Man' expresses a vocational consciousness closely related to the idea of the Reign of God, the title 'the Son' points to an intimate personal relationship to God out of which the sense of vocation springs. It is because Jesus is the Son that He accepts the role of the Son of Man, and it is probably for the same reason that He recasts the form of the Son of Man in terms suggested by the figure of the Suffering Servant. The ultimate truth about Jesus is that He is the Son of God. The Synoptic Gospels do not tell us what that title means, and the best answers of Christian theology are incomplete. What can be said with confidence is that a filial relationship with the Father, to which there is a parallel nowhere else, is the secret of the ministry and work of Jesus.

« Prev IV Next »

| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |