Many Christians claim that, as Jesus is called "son of God" in the New Testament, that this means that the people who wrote those scriptures believed that he was God. The evidence against this is that people are called "son of God" in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), yet no-one, neither Jewish nor Christian, believes that they are God. In these cases, the term is interpreted metaphorically, to mean someone who is close to God. Such a metaphorical understanding would make sense from an Islamic viewpoint, whereas the usual Christian interpretation, that the term "Son of God" means divinity, is completely against Islamic teachings.
A clear example of the term "Son of God" being used in Jewish scripture is that Prophet Solomon (peace be with him) is called "Son of God" in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), and is even quoted by God as saying he is His Son, in the book 1 Chronicles.
The relevent passages are these:
1 Chronicles, chapter 17:
[God is being quoted as speaking to Nathan, telling him to say the following things to David.]
12: He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne for ever.
13: I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son; I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you,
14: but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom for ever and his throne shall be established for ever.'"
15: In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all
this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
Who is this son of David, who will be the "Son of God" ? This is made clear in two later passages in 1 Chronicles.
1 Chronicles, chapter 22:
8: But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, `You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me upon the earth.
9: Behold, a son shall be born to you; he shall be a man of peace. I will give him peace from all his enemies round about; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days.
10: He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my Son, and I will be his Father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel for ever.'
11: Now, my son, the LORD be with you, so that you may succeed in
building the house of the LORD your God, as he has spoken concerning
The second underlined part shows that the person who will be the "Son of God" is "you," that is, Solomon, to whom David is speaking.
Finally, here is the third and last passage....
1 Chronicles, chapter 28:
[Here, David is being quoted.]
4: Yet the LORD God of Israel chose me from all my father's house to be king over Israel for ever; for he chose Judah as leader, and in the house of Judah my father's house, and among my father's sons he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel.
5: And of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons) he has chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.
6: He said to me, `It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my Son, and I will be his Father.
7: I will establish his kingdom for ever if he continues resolute
in keeping my commandments and my ordinances, as he is today.'
These passages establish that the term "Son of God" is used in Jewish scripture to mean someone who is close to God, and in particular it is used for Jewish kings of the House of David. This explains why it was used for Jesus (peace be with him), who was of the House of David and the Messiah. Therefore, this helps to confirm the Islamic view, that Jesus (peace be with him) is NOT God, and that he wasn't considered to be God by his followers, who for example may have been the probably Jewish authors of the first three (synoptic) Gospels.
The term "Son of God" as used in Jewish scripture (such as for Solomon, peace be with him) has absolutely nothing to do with a person being God, or having any share in divinity. It is a metaphorical term meaning someone who is close to God.
Some important points to note are:
1. In the above passages, Solomon (peace be with him) is clearly indicated as being the "Son of God." This is most clear in the last passage quoted, in 1 Chronicles 28:6.
2. According to the Hebrew Bible, this is God Himself speaking. Therefore, Christian claims that God is supposed to have said directly that Jesus (peace be with him) was His Son means that Jesus (pbwh) was divine, have to also respond to the fact that here, Solomon (pbwh) is also stated by God to be His Son.
These passages from the Hebrew Bible clearly show that in Jewish usage, the term "Son of God" means nothing more than someone close to God. Therefore, if the early Christians also called Jesus (pbwh) the "Son of God," they would have meant it in a way consistent with the way the term is used in the Hebrew Bible, such as for Solomon (pbwh) in the passages above.
The early Christians were all Jews, and familiar with Jewish scripture. However, due to the efforts of Paul, after several decades the number of Gentile followers of Jesus (pbwh) continued to increase. These Gentile Christians did not have the knowledge of Jewish scripture which the Jewish Christians had, therefore they probably misinterpreted the term "Son of God" to mean Jesus (pbwh) was divine. This Gentile misunderstanding of Jewish terms has perpetuated into Christianity today, and is probably also partly responsible for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
The evidence is strong that Christian beliefs, as most Christians believe in them today, are not the beliefs of the earliest Christians, who were Jews and would have had a Jewish understanding of scripture. This is also the claim of Islam, and therefore the many statements of the Qur'an regarding Jesus (pbwh) seem to be supported, both by our investigations of early Christian history, and our investigations into terms such as "Son of God" in the Hebrew Bible.
It is because of this misunderstanding of the term "Son of God" that the Qur'an criticizes the use of this term:
May Allah help our Christian friends to realize that Jesus (peace be with him) was a great Messenger of Allah, and one who has helped to guide many to knowing the true spirit of faith, yet that he was also just a mortal, and not God.
Copyright © 1998 Fariduddien Rice. Permission to reprint and distribute is granted only if this notice is included, and the text is not modified in any way, shape or form to alter the intended meaning.
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