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Credo 10 - ...the only Son of God...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Sometimes, people make the claim, ‘Jesus never said he was the Son of God’.
If we look at the witness to Jesus Christ, if we look at the gospels, it is true that in this record such a title is always claimed for Jesus, by others: whether it be by the gospel narrators, as at the beginning of Mark (1.1) or at many points in John (cf. 3.16; 20.31); by the angel Gabriel to Mary (Lk. 1.35); by demoniacs whom Jesus goes on to heal (Mt. 8.29); or by the Pharisees who seek to charge him with blasphemy (Jn. 10.33-39). Even the devil rebukes him with this title in his wilderness temptations (Mt. 4.1-6; Lk. 4.1-10).
The messianic title Jesus most often uses himself, referring to his ministry, is ‘Son of man’. We also hear the term ‘Son of David’. Jesus’s own words seem to circumvent the issue: not answering questions of his identity directly; speaking of himself in the third person. We feel like echoing the plea of the Jews in John’s gospel: ‘if you are the Christ, tell us plainly’ (Jn 10.24). Why is there this confusion?
We can mention two aspects here. First, it is essential to acknowledge the 1st century milieu of the gospel witness. A coherent and agreed concept of the identity of the Messiah simply did not exist, there were many ideas. This is seen in passages from John where the Jews argue over Jesus’s identity: ‘again the Jews were divided because of these words’ (10.19). It is anachronistic to apply any systematic ‘Christology’ to Jewish thinking at this time let alone when viewed through our 2,000 year lens. So it is misleading to hang on to distinctions between the messianic titles found in the scriptures.
But secondly and most importantly, notwithstanding these disparate ideas about the Messiah, Jesus cannot give the Jews an answer to satisfy them because he reveals an entirely unthought-of situation to the world: the nature of God. Regardless of what ‘Son of man’ or ‘Son of God’ were taken to mean in first-century Palestine (or now for that matter) we believe Jesus is the Only Son of God in the new yet eternal meaning he teaches through the Incarnation. It is because of Jesus that we can affirm both the uniqueness of the One God and also believe in the Son of God. We learn that God is truly Father only because of the Son and by this God’s love for the world (Jn. 3.16). This mystery of the life of God, and that life shared with us, is expressed well by the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer during Mass: ‘Jesus taught us to call God our Father and so; we have the courage to say…’ He teaches us by his very being.



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