Formore than 2000 years of history, Christians have held differentinterpretations of the title ‘’son of God’’, which haveinvariably departed from the original Jewish meaning. To the modernChristians the title ‘son of God’ is just another word used torefer to the supreme God (Job 1:6, 38:7). This was the thought upheldin the Old Testament and by Judaism. Starting from the crest of theladder, the Hebrew bible assigns constituents of the heavenly courtas ‘’son of God’’ which in the New Testament is interpretedas ‘angels of God’ (Job 1:6, 38:7). Then there came the ancientlegendary King of Israel, King Solomon, whom God proclaims "Iwill be his Father, and he shall be my son" (2 Sam 7:8-14). Thethird step on the ladder is the fact that every Jew was referred toas ‘son of God’ from the time God emancipated Israelites from theyolk of bondage in Egypt "Thus says the Lord, Israel is myfirst-born son" (Exodus 4:22). In Luke 3.38, Adam isoccasionally referred to as ‘son of God’ apparently because hecame from God as his first creation (Peppard, 2009).
Fromthe commencement of the 6th century B.C. the descendants of Davidwere no longer at the helm of power and Israelites wee at differenttimes in history subjected to the authority of Babylonian, Roman,Persians and even Greeks. It is at this time that other societiesbegan to use the title ‘son of God’ to refer to various rulersand person in their jurisdiction (Peppard 5). The title was hithertoused to refer to Jesus was divested of their pagan connotations, andwantonly used to refer to Kings Sons. This paper shall seek todiscuss, compare and contrast the meaning of divine sonship in thefirst century Roman Imperial context and late Second Temple Jewishcontext with the meaning of divine sonship in your culture.
‘Sonof God’ in among the Romans
Themeaning son of God has become relatively stable in due course andthrough repeated use by Christians from different parts of the world.Scholars in the theological world concur that the conceptualconnotation of the title’ ’ is based on the belief thatthe son was begotten of the Father, and not made (Peppard 18).Nonetheless, our understanding of the divine sonship of ancientChristianity especially in the Roman Empire is pegged on a falseassumption and unchallenged anachronisms. This means that when we areanalyzing the meaning of the phrase son of God and the concept ofdivine sonship in the Bible, we are poised to consider its meaningwithin the framework of ancient Roman Christians. It is imperative tonote that in the ancient socio-political context of the nascentChristianity in the Roman world, the son was believed to be made andnot gotten (Peppard 20).
Inthe Roman empire of the 1st century, the emperor was the one referredto as the son, comparable to Jesus Christ. Many scholars have usedtext specific studies to assess the link between the Roman emperorand the early Christianity. They have highlighted many titles andnarrative shared by the Roman emperor and Jesus Christ, such as theconnection between the emperor structure of authority and power andChristian communal understanding and the royal family with Christianfamily. Nonetheless, the most prevalent connection between Jesus andthe Roman emperor has been the use of the title ‘’’’.In the ancient Roman civilization, there was a charismatic kingcalled Julius Caesar who everyone in the Roman emperor considereddivine. At some stage, he was assassinated, and Roman proclaimed himas a god of the Roman emperor, referred to as divus Iulius (Peppard77).
Thebattle for power that ensued after the assassination of Julius Caesarsaw Octavian who would later come to be known as Augustus declarethat he was actually the son of Caesar, a status that his challengerMark Anthony had desired for himself. From that moment, the Romanbegan to call Augustus divi filius meaning son of god. This statusenabled Augustus to rally support from the public and defeat MarkAnthony to become the successor of Julius Caesar (Peppard 77). Thiswas the first Roman leader who was assumed the title the son of godand it is him who is him the created a way through which the termdivine sonship could be propagated to coming generation of the royalfamily.
Thereforeis quite clear that the title’’Son of god’’ in the RomanEmpire during this period was used to refer to the son of the leaderof Romans, the emperor. In this respect to be a ‘’son of god’’in the ancient Roman state meant that one came from the royal familyor had a blood relationship with the royal family. Divine daughtersand sons were term used to refer to daughters and sons of a givendeity, for example, Apollo, Zeus, and Hermes. The majestic use of thetitle ‘’’ is significantly vital because of itsrarity as a title for a person combined with its extensivepropagation as a title used by the leader of the Romans. In thisrespect, imperial sonship encompassed both adoption and begetting.Both could afford a person political legitimacy, as observed in thecase of Augustus, who was an adopted son by Julius Caesar. Both hadreverberation in a Roman understanding of father and sonrelationship. While most scholars have argued that divine sonship isbased on natural begotten dynastic link, it is evident that in theancient Roman Empire divine sonship was a function of both adoptionand begotten link. Agustus was the first leader to assume the titleof a ‘’’’ even though he benefited from divinesonship through adoption (Peppard 78).
‘Sonof God’ in the era of thesecond Temple
Fromthe perspective of Jews in the period of the second temple, divinesonship only relates to the unique connection that Jesus had with Godthe father, even though it does not refer to procreation. In this eradivine sonship was a title that was exclusively meant for Jesus.Jesus status as ‘’son of God’’ was based on multipleassertions. First, there was dynastic reflection in depicting Jesusas the son of David, who was also referred to as the royal son ofGod. Second, Jesus childhood narratives and phenomenal childhood,which shed light on divine begottenness, and his baptismal,transfiguration and restoration events (Peppard 22). This is whatprovide answers to the claim that Jesus was the son of God. The title‘’’’ is synonymous to messiah, a term used to referto Jesus Christ for example’’ "And devils also came out ofmany, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ (Messiah) the Son ofGod’’(Luke 4:41).The term places an emphasis on Jesus humanity,even though he possessed divine attributes (Peppard 28). In the NewTestament is clear that Jesus understood he was the ‘’Son ofGod’’ and he used the title many times to refer to himself. Hewas also very conscious of the fact that the ‘’’’existed even before he was born (Hengel 12). The following quotationfrom New Testament illustrates this phenomenon ‘’No one has evergone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son ofMan’’. (John 3:13) and ‘’What if you see the Son of Manascend to where he was before!’’(John 6:62). It is, therefore,evident that the title son of God can only be interpreted to be aclaim of divinity. It communicated Jesus` unique status and intimaterelationship with God" (Peppard 50). In my culture, divinesonship is a term commonly used to highlight the relationship betweena son and his father. Just like in the Roman or in Judaism of thesecond temple, adopted sons are never considered as true sons. Andopted son assumes similar roles and legal status just likebiological children. The weight of divine sonship is slowly losingmeaning in our culture as aspects such as political power,inheritance and family status is no longer determined by the birthplace of a person. Integration of children rights in constitutionmake all children equal before the ye of the parent and law. Inreligious field, divine sonship refers to Jesus. The teaching of theBible is the guiding rod and in both the old and new testament Jesusis always referred to as the son of God. While the term ‘’son ofman` "designates Jesus operating in the human/historicalsphere," and `son of God,` on the other hand, "disclosesthe higher significance of who this human figure really is"(Peppard 47).
WhatIs The Purpose Of Sonship? (Why Do People Have/Want Children)?
Asindicated above, it is notable that, the concept of sonshiprunsthrough all the scriptures. External sonship affirms the fact that,the Person who is second in triune Godhead existed as the His Son. In other terms, no one should doubt that, there was never such aduration when He failed to be the , thus the existence ofSon/Father relationship which was within the Godhead. Asindicated byBible commentator named Jones R. B., being a son is clearly to bemore than a child, thus the Holy Spirit never use these two terms(Child and Son) loosely. This is due to the fact that, this is adifference in position and not in relationship. This is based on thepremise that, every child of God who is born again possess the natureof his Father, thus becomes a beloved member in this family.Therefore, this doctrine is cognizant of the fact that, Sonship isnot just a role or title given to Christ Jesus merely assumed to haveoriginated at some times in the history, but it is the crucialidentity of being the Second Person in the triune Godhead. Throughoutthe history of the church, the aspect of external Sonship has beenhighly esteemed, with many Christians truly believing Jesus existedas an external even prior to creation. As seen in theNicene Creed dated 325 A.D. ,
"Webelieve in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven andearth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, JesusChrist, the only , eternally begotten of the Father, Godfrom God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, notmade, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the powerof the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and wasmade man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate hesuffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again inaccordance with the Scriptures he ascended into heaven and is seatedat the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judgethe living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end."(Temple,1).
Thiscreed is reaffirmed later in the Anthanasian Creed during the 5thcentury. In the Bible, Sonship is looked at from the perspective ofpositional as well as experimental truth. For instance, some of thepassages relates to the idea of positional sonship. Thisiswhere God terms us to be legally adopted sons, which is via Hissovereign election (Gal.3:26 4:5-7 Rom. 8:15).During the Second Advent, this is where the fullness of the sonshipis completed (Rom.8:19, 23). There is thus the need for pressing on to maturity, thusacquiring sonship. Therefore, it is clear that, the Idea of God isfor us to attain the ultimate sonship, which entails more than justbeing born in the family.
Basedon the above, it is clear that, there are certain privileges bestowedto us by God, and arise out of sonship (United Church of God 1). Forinstance, when Adam, regarded as the crown of creation by God fell,his sonship was suspended, consequently making the whole creation tosuffer. This is an indication that, there are high levels ofprivileges which are bound as a result of sonship. Just like theFather, the responsibilities which arise as a result of sonship aswitnessed by Jesus Christ and other people like Adam is the mainreason people want to have children in order to safeguard theirinterests.
HowIs Adoption Viewed As A Means Of Sonship In Comparison To Sonship AsA Result Of Intercourse With The Father?
Adoptionis the act of taking a child belonging to other parents to be one’sdaughter or a son. It is noble noting that, this act provides afamily and home to those who requires it, and this is a greatblessing to the adoptive parents as well as the child. In many cases,adopted children are loved and cared for at an equal measure, a goodexample being Joseph who adopted Jesus despite not being his Father. As seen in the Bible,……….”NowI say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all froma slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardiansand managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while wewere children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of theworld. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth HisSon, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeemthose who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption assons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Soninto our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are nolonger a slave, but a son and if a son, then an heir through God.(Temple1)…..”, it is clear that, adoption can be viewed as a means tosonship as aresult of intercourse with the Father. As compared to sonship,adoption offer privileges to a person to be in a place of maturitywhere he can have full authority and resources bestowed by hisfather, as originally held by the Hebrew traditions. In this regard,any person who is adopted acquires the same privileges as a son, thusmaking adoption and sonship one and the same thing (Weber 1).
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