THE Son of God and THE Son of Man

Continuing the discussion from A De Novo Adam's Language?:

Not quite, but good guess, I think.

Actually “Son of God” is used for several purposes through out Scripture. Every Christian, for example, is considered “born again” as a “son of God”. Angels are called “Sons of God.” Adam is called a “Son of God”. Kings are called “Sons of God.” Meanings range from:

  1. Close to God.
  2. Heavenly being
  3. From God
  4. Kingly authority

…and probably more.

About Jesus, it is said, however, that he is the “only begotten Son of God” (see here You’ll notice that different translations translate this in different ways. Some very confusingly say “One and Only Son.” It is one of the places where the precise translation is difficult to english. This word “Begotten” is trying to point out that Jesus exists along side God from the beginning as a member of the Godhead (to use our trinitarian language and perspective), but also has a discrete entry-point into the world at in the Virgin Birth.

So, in some senses, Jesus is the Son of God among many other sons and daughters of God. However, in one important sense, he is the only Son of God. In retrospect, it is easy to read other uses of Sons of God just foreshadowing THE Son of God to come.

The much more interesting messianic term, however, is Son of Man, or Son of Adam. We see parallel in usage here. Just as there are many sons of God, but Jesus is THE Son of God, there are many sons of Adam, but Jesus is THE Son of Adam. Both these claims were understood as claims to divinity at the time, and this was why he was crucified, for the official charge of blasphemy (among other factors). All he had to do was say He did not mean it as a Messianic title, and they would have had no claim against him. Yet he is silent as they claim He claimed to be God.

They are both (Son of Man and Son of God) are Messianic titles that converge on Jesus, and historical theology ends up coming to believe that BOTH are true in special way with Jesus, he is THE man-god, incarnate, fully Man and fully God.

The use of these terms before do not diminish their meaning in relation to Jesus. Rather, the use in other areas is anticipatory, telling a long story of longing anticipation, waiting for the coming of the One to usher in a new order to the world.

Great question @Patrick.

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Great theological analysis and discourse, @swamidass. Thanks!


As for another plug, I’ve really enjoyed this children’s book by my colleague at WUSTL. I highly reccomend it. My two year old often wants to sleep with “M’rcle Maan!!”.

It is beautifully illustrated, like work of art. In the narration, Jesus is called “The Man.” This is close to how “Son of Man” might have been heard; it is a reasonable cultural translation (though obviously not perfect). There are many men who came before and after, Jesus is THE Man.

I always wondered why it would take an eternity of suffering for me to pay the price of just my individual lifetime of sins most of which appear to be “thought crimes”, Jesus paid for the sins of billions of people’s lifetimes over the span of a single Friday. I’m not sure how the math works out on that, but part of the fun of religion is that things don’t have to make sense.

Theology is supposed to make sense of that, and it does. Partly because the way you describe it isn’t precisely correct. Regarding heaven and hell, what do you think of the Great Divorce by CS Lewis?

For Christians, the issue of eternity --life beyond this present existence, is NOT a matter of either a) paying for eternity for all my sins through death and suffering, or b) just enjoying the “paid in full” status of accepting what Christ did for me, on my behalf, when he suffered unjustly, but of c) wanting to be more in line with God’s character. We love because He first loved us. God is not a cosmic killjoy, out to get His “pound of flesh.” In a very real sense, when we disagree with God about our need for Him, we are, in essence, saying "I want to be my own god; I don’t need to get to know my “Maker.” Which, by definition, means you wouldn’t want to be in perfect fellowship with God in heaven. And so, God will eventually allow you that choice --to live where He isn’t especially present, in what is commonly called hell --the state of being where a person who chooses to refuse to acknowledge God chooses --of their own accord --to go, “where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, and where their fire is never quenched.” C.S. Lewis presents this well, in parable form.


This I don’t believe is accurate. The title ‘son’ is not referring to Angels or Heavenly beings…

Hebrews 1:4 - For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”?

In this passage it’s explained that Jesus sits higher than the angels, stating that his being a “son” means he’s higher.

This seems to be an element added by the church to persuade. In the most well known of passages, it says “… shall not “perish”, but have ever-lasting life”. If you’re continually burning for eternity, you’re not perishing. It’s the opposite, actually.

The “eternal” part described when spoken of in the bible is usually referring to the flame. An eternal flame where you go to “perish”. Cease to be. You can either participate in eternity or cease to exist. There would be no point in burning for eternity. That’s not much of a choice. That’s a threat. That’s a decision made under duress. Intimidation.

@Patrick This philosophy where hell is “ceasing to exist” is called annihilationism and is not accepted by the greater church, generally. Some hold to it, but it is not what the majority believe, nor does it meet well with scripture.

That said, remember, Jesus himself said that hell was a place that was originally designed for Satan and his followers (other angels who fell.) This is seen in Matthew 25:41. People who choose to follow Satan and not Jesus do so on their own volition. Satan will go there to be punished and people who do not choose life will follow.

Something that Jesus also clarifies about hell, that meets with our inner sense of justice is that there are degrees of hell. In Matthew 11:21-24 and Luke 12:27-28, Jesus describes differing degrees of punishment. In this way a person can be “comforted” that one who leads a pretty decent life but fails to accept the gift of life will not suffer the same as a Hitler or Amin or Stalin.

The bigger issue, really, is why go there?? We are spiritual beings living in a physical body. There’s good reason to assume that our spirits will persist beyond the death of our bodies. The entrance fee is to receive and believe. That’s all. To not do so is folly in the most extreme sense. I have friends who have even said to me, “When I meet God, I’m going to tell him…” They professed to disbelieve and refused to accept the gift, but they were still prepared to let him know how He let them down!

That’s just plain pride, and it’s so sad and unnecessary. It reminds me of a much stupider me. My third roommate was my sister. She and I didn’t get along so well when we were younger, but we got along swimmingly as adult roommates. In fact, she used to do my laundry for me, fold it and put it into a basket for me. She told me that if I only put the folded clothes away into their respective drawers, she would continue to wash, dry and fold my clothes. Aghast that she had attempted to saddle me with such limitations, I refused to put (my own) clothes away. Eventually, she stopped washing, drying and folding them. To this day, I wonder, what in the world caused me to be so prideful that I wouldn’t spend 30 seconds a week putting my clothes away.

I don’t want to minimize the gift of life by comparing it to my sister doing laundry, but rather contrast the risk / reward of the two situations. The point is not why would God punish you eternally for a few, short years of sin, it is why in the world would you reject the free gift of life though forgiveness of the same?!

This is a very good book that does a much better job of explaining the problem of hell (along with others) than I could ever do:

As Joshua mentioned, in The Great Divorce, Lewis does a very good job of articulating what is at stake and why.

However, it is was never considered heresy either. It is one of many views that were held by church fathers.

Hi Michael, good to meet you. I’m new here and am thrilled to see all the various areas of expertise participating on this site. I look forward to learning some things.

First, I have a question about something you said …

Which is better? …

Your wife chooses of her own volition to marry you because she loves you and chooses you?


She chooses to marry you because you threatened to beat her with a stick everyday of the rest of your/her life if she didn’t?

We’re contemplating whether or not to move into this being’s house for eternity. Does this not raise some reasonable concerns?

Another question … If you choose to accept just to basically save yourself, is that really in keeping with the whole purpose for the decision in the first case?

Re: annihilationism … Are these statements true?

yet …

When you say it doesn’t meet well with scripture, why were there still church fathers and others who held to it? Should scripture have not settled this matter? Or is it not conclusive?

Re: annihilationism vs eternal damnation

None of us asked or agreed to exist. But to be given the opportunity to decide and make your own choice, you have to exist. So, which sounds more reasonable?

  • I created you, now conform to me or burn for eternity


  • I created you, conform or return to non-existence

One reasonable answer would be to say that, IF annihilationism is incorrect, and eternal conscious disembodied exile from God’s good presence is, instead and in fact, the case, it’s not a threat, but rather a description of the full tragedy of that reality of a person’s prideful choosing to reject his Maker, and God’s reluctant honoring of their free decision to do so. Lewis’ work explores that tragedy, while not really commenting fully on the “annihilation” view so much as the “eternal alienation and ennui” view.
Again, these issues ought properly to be explored for how much versus how little each is sufficiently true, and so I am glad of the dialogue.

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