Institution Granting Degree
Dallas Theological Seminary
This dissertation aims to define the title "Son of God" as applied to Jesus Christ in the Synoptic Gospels.
In the Old Testament the term "son of God" was variously applied to angels, Israel, Israelites, Davidic kings, and possibly to the Messiah. In intertestamental Judaism the term was used mainly with reference to Israel and its righteous people, and is never specifically applied to the Messiah. In Hellenistic literature the title was sometimes given to pagan kings, emperors, and certain heroes. None of these occurrences can form the background for the Synoptic use of the title.
In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus uses only two titles of Himself: Son and Son of Man. With the title "Son" Jesus related Himself closely to God the Father in a unique and exclusive sense, particularly in such passages as Matthew 11:27 and Mark 12:6. Jesus always addresses God in prayer as "Abba," a term never addressed to God by contemporary Palestinian Jews. At His trial Jesus publicly and clearly accepts the full title "Son of God" for Himself while claiming exclusive association with God, highlighted by a resulting charge of blasphemy. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each emphasize Jesus's sonship as divinity rather than simple messiahship.
Normally beings with supernatural insight designate Jesus as the Son of God: Gabriel, Satan, demons, Peter, and the heavenly voice at His baptism and Transfiguration. Jesus' sonship requires a supernatural revelation and announcement. Even a pagan Roman centurion confesses Jesus' sonship through the divine revelation of the cross. The key revelation occurs at Jesus' baptism, where the perspective of the Father is given.
In virtually every reference to Jesus' sonship, it is either His supernatural origin, His unique relationship to the Father, or His claim to equality with God that is highlighted. The title may thus be defined as expressing that unique attribute of Jesus Christ by which He exclusively and ontologically shares the divine nature and character of His heavenly Father, revealing God to man as no other can do, and carrying out perfectly God's purposes as Messiah, Servant, and eternal Sovereign.