Larry Hurtado posted last month on the title “son of God” in Paul’s writings. I thought that it would make sense to schedule a post about it to coincide with the 2016 Enoch Seminar meeting on John’s Christology and Jewish Messianism. Hurtado wrote:
The consistent feature in all of these references, however, is the use of the definite article: Jesus for Paul is the Son of God. This suggests that Paul saw Jesus as holding a unique sonship, and not as one member of a wider class of individuals. But, to be sure, Paul also refers to people being made God’s sons/children through being incorporated into Jesus (e.g., Romans 8:12-30). So, for Paul, Jesus’ status is unique but not exclusionist in effect; instead, Jesus’ divine status becomes the basis for the incorporation/inclusion of others into a filial status with God.
Jesus’ filial status seems to have been Paul’s favoured way of referring to Jesus in relation to God. In relation to believers, Jesus is “Lord.” In relation to God’s eschatological purposes Jesus is also “Christ” (Messiah). These latter two terms are used considerably more frequently by Paul as honorific terms for Jesus. But Jesus’ filial status with God seems to have held a special place in Paul’s beliefs.
It does not seem to me that “the” can be used emphatically in ancient Greek the way it can in modern English. And so the Gospel of John’s description of Jesus as the “one of a kind Son” is more likely to bear the weight of such an emphatic meaning.
But in John, as in Paul, Jesus is depicted as welcoming others into the relationship that he has with God the Father. And in the works of both these authors, as everywhere else in the New Testament, referring to anyone as “son of God” distinguishes them from God, rather than including them within the definition or identity of God.