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Historic Jesus
Son of God

The term "son of'" in Hebrew has two basic meanings. One is the literal son of a specific parent; the other is "to participate of the nature of' some person or attribute. In this second meaning, the "sons of thunder," for example, are people who have a stormy temperament.

Jesus is often called the "Son of God" in the Gospels. This term refers both to his divine origin and to his divine and human nature. Before Jesus' birth after the angel Gabriel told Mary about the child, she would have called Jesus "the Son of the Most High" and "the Son of God." At Jesus' baptism the voice from heaven affirmed "This is my beloved Son." This heavenly affirmation was repeated on the Mount of Transfiguration.

In the Gospels, "Son of God" is also another title for the Messiah. At the time of his transfiguration, Jesus talked with Moses and Elijah, two prophets who traditionally were regarded as the forerunners of the Messiah. The disciples were shown a glimpse of the glory that Jesus will have when he rules in the messianic kingdom.

Demons recognized that Jesus was the "Son of God" sooner than the disciples did. Satan and his evil spirits knew early on that Jesus was a threat to their influence in human affairs and that his rule would supersede theirs. The Gospels illustrate this confrontation between the Messiah's rule and Satan's rule in those encounters when evil spirits through people they had possessed cried out to Jesus, "Thou Son of God, depart from us." Jesus cast them out, thus defeating them. As applied to Jesus, the term "Son of God" focuses attention on his miraculous birth, his special relationship to God the Father -Jesus being God incarnate- on his mission as Messiah, and his relationship with his disciples who-through union with him-became "children God" themselves. Because Jesus was the "Son of God"-with all this richness of meaning-he was a direct threat to the religious establishment. The leaders taunted Jesus while he was on the cross to prove that he was the Son of God by coming down from the cross and saving himself. Yet Jesus demonstrated the reality of his divine sonship by calling God his Father during the agonies of Calvary and by ascending to the Father after the Resurrection.