Jesus – God the Son

Sam Shamoun

This is intended to supplement our earlier article Jesus Christ – Son of God or God the Son?

We intend to show here that the NT calls Jesus God and the Son of God which, when taken together, shows that the inspired authors of the Holy Scriptures truly believed that Jesus is God the Son. We will then follow that up with a specific text where Christ is actually called God the Only Son, or the unique Son who is God.

We do not plan to provide any in-depth exegesis on most of the passages we will be sourcing here since that has already been done elsewhere, the links to which will be provided at the end.

Passages Where Jesus is Called God

"Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’" John 20:28

to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." Romans 9:5

"But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever, and the righteous sceptre is the sceptre of your kingdom." Hebrews 1:8

"while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ." Titus 2:13

"Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ:" 2 Peter 1:1

Passages Where Jesus is Called the Son of God

"And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’" Mark 1:11

"Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’" Mark 9:2-7

"But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am; and "you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power", and "coming with the clouds of heaven."’" Mark 14:61-62

"And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’" Matthew 14:33

"All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Luke 10:22

"can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?" John 10:36

"The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’" John 19:7

"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh… He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Romans 8:3, 32

"For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming." 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze:" Revelation 2:18

A Passage Where Jesus is Called God the only Son

Here is a text which seems to be calling Jesus both God and the unique Son of God at the same time:

"No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son (monogenes theos), who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known." John 1:18

There is strong contextual evidence to support that the words monogenes and theos serve as two noun descriptions of Christ, i.e. "the only (unique) Son, God." They may even be functioning as two substantives (nouns) standing in apposition (*). Apposition refers to a grammatical construction in which two elements, normally noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one of the nouns providing a further definition of the other, e.g. "the only Son, [who is] God." This construction often results when the verbs in supporting clauses are eliminated to produce shorter descriptive phrases.

There is some evidence from the immediate context to show that this is how we are to take these two terms. For instance, John has already used these two nouns separately earlier in his prologue in describing the Lord Jesus:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (kai theos een ho logos)." John 1:1

"And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son (monogenous para patros), full of grace and truth." John 1:14

This strongly suggests that John intended to use both these terms in v. 18 as two different descriptions of Jesus, e.g. "God the only (unique) Son" or "the only (unique) Son, God,"

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." NIV

"No one has ever seen God. But God the only Son is very close to the Father, and he has shown us what God is like." New Century Version (NCV)

Or in apposition,

"No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known." New English Translation (NET; source)

"No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like." Contemporary English Version (CEV)

As opposed to using monogenes as an adjective modifying the noun theos, e.g. "the only (unique) God" or "the only-begotten God,"

"No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known." ESV

"No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." NASB

John may have wanted to reiterate the fact that Jesus is both the unique Son (monogenes) and God (theos) at the same time as a way of concluding the prologue which focuses on the nature and Person of Christ.

We do know that monogenes can function by itself, as can be seen from v. 14, and from the following examples where it is used as a noun describing a person’s only or unique child:

"Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child (monogenes).’" Luke 9:38

"By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son (ton monogene), of whom he had been told, ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’ He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back." Hebrews 11:17-19

All of these factors demonstrate the plausibility of monogenes functioning as a noun in John 1:18, as opposed to an adjective, describing Jesus as God’s unique Son, the only Son of his kind.

As noted Evangelical NT scholar Murray J. Harris says in his analysis regarding the precise meaning of monogenes in reference to Christ, especially as the Johannine literature uses it:

"… As far as the evidence of the NT is concerned, it may be safely said that monogenes is concerned with familial relations, not manner of birth. Neither the virgin birth of Jesus nor the ‘eternal generation’ of the Son is in John’s mind when he uses the adjective monogenes.

This leads us to conclude that monogenes denotes ‘the only member of a kin or kind.’ Applied to Jesus as the Son of God, it will mean that he is without spiritual siblings and without equals. He is ‘sole-born’ and ‘peerless.’ No one else can lay claim to the title Son of God in the sense in which it applies to Christ.

But the connotations that monogenes derives from Johannine usage greatly enrich the epithet or title. In the Johannine corpus, Jesus is monogenes because (1) he alone is huios theou, being ‘of sole "descent."’ No one can call him brother. As in the First Epistle of John, so in the Fourth Gospel Jesus alone is huios theou while believers are tekna theou (huioi theou does not occur). This distinction might be expressed in a non-Johannine idiom by saying that Christ’s sonship is essential, that of believers is adoptive. (2) He is ‘unique’ (a) in relation to the Father, because (i) both before and after his incarnation he was in the most intimate fellowship with his Father (1:18), (ii) he was the sole and matchless Revealer of the Father’s love (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9), and (iii) his origin is traceable to God the Father (John 1:14, cf. 1 John 5:18); and (b) in relation to human beings, because he is the object of human faith, the means of eternal salvation, and the touchstone of divine judgment (John 3:16, 18)." (Harris, Jesus as God –The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Baker Books], Chapter III – The Only Son, Who Is God (John 1:18), B. The Meaning of monogenes, pp. 86-87)

The evidence also suggests that the word theos stands in apposition to monogenes, identifying God’s unique Son as God, e.g. "the only Son who is fully God in essence." As the following translation note states:

45 tc The textual problem μονογενὴς θεός (monogenh" qeo", “the only God”) versus ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (Jo monogenh" Juio", “the only son”) is a notoriously difficult one. Only one letter would have differentiated the readings in the mss, since both words would have been contracted as nomina sacra: thus qMs or uMs. Externally, there are several variants, but they can be grouped essentially by whether they read θεός or υἱός. The majority of mss, especially the later ones (A C3 Θ Ψ Ë1,13 Ï lat), read ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός. Ì75 א1 33 pc have ὁ μονογενὴς θεός, while the anarthrous μονογενὴς θεός is found in Ì66 א* B C* L pc. The articular θεός is almost certainly a scribal emendation to the anarthrous θεός, for θεός without the article is a much harder reading. The external evidence thus strongly supports μονογενὴς θεός. Internally, although υἱός fits the immediate context more readily, θεός is much more difficult. As well, θεός also explains the origin of the other reading (υἱός), because it is difficult to see why a scribe who found υἱός in the text he was copying would alter it to θεός. Scribes would naturally change the wording to υἱός however, since μονογενὴς υἱός is a uniquely Johannine christological title (cf. John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). But θεός as the older and more difficult reading is preferred. As for translation, it makes the most sense to see the word θεός as in apposition to μονογενής, and the participle ὁ ὤν (Jo wn) as in apposition to θεός, giving in effect three descriptions of Jesus rather than only two. (B. D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 81, suggests that it is nearly impossible and completely unattested in the NT for an adjective followed immediately by a noun that agrees in gender, number, and case, to be a substantival adjective: “when is an adjective ever used substantivally when it immediately precedes a noun of the same inflection?” This, however, is an overstatement. First, as Ehrman admits, μονογενής in John 1:14 is substantival. And since it is an established usage for the adjective in this context, one might well expect that the author would continue to use the adjective substantivally four verses later. Indeed, μονογενής is already moving toward a crystallized substantival adjective in the NT [cf. Luke 9:38; Heb 11:17]; in patristic Greek, the process continued [cf. PGL 881 s.v. 7]. Second, there are several instances in the NT in which a substantival adjective is followed by a noun with which it has complete concord: cf., e.g., Rom 1:30; Gal 3:9; 1 Tim 1:9; 2 Pet 2:5.) The modern translations which best express this are the NEB (margin) and TEV. Several things should be noted: μονογενής alone, without υἱός, can mean “only son,” “unique son,” “unique one,” etc. (see 1:14). Furthermore, θεός is anarthrous. As such it carries qualitative force much like it does in 1:1c, where θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (qeo" hn Jo logo") means “the Word was fully God” or “the Word was fully of the essence of deity.” Finally, ὁ ὤν occurs in Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8, 11:17; and 16:5, but even more significantly in the LXX of Exod 3:14. Putting all of this together leads to the translation given in the text. (NETBible Text Notes; source; underline emphasis ours)

After considering several possible ways of understanding and translating monogenes theos Murray J. Harris provides a series of points to establish what he believes is the correct meaning:

"All of the above translations are possible renderings of the Greek. How then is one to decide between so many proposals? Several guidelines will help to restrict the choice.

  1. As seen above … monogenes here bears its primary sense of ‘only’ (with respect to filial status), not meaning ‘unique’ or its later sense of ‘only-begotten’ (where that means not simply ‘sole-born’ or ‘the only child in a family’ but ‘uniquely generated’ or ‘eternally begotten’).
  2. There is no reason to suppose that monogenes theos is equivalent to ho monos theos (John 5:44, 17:3; cf. Rom. 16:27; 1 Tim. 1:17; Jude 25), especially since in John 17:3 ‘Iesous Christos is distinguished from ho monos alethinos theos. By using this phrase the evangelist is not merely reaffirming Jewish monotheism in the context of his Logos theology.
  3. John did not write theos monogenes, which makes it doubtful that the popular translation ‘God the only Son’ is the most accurate. Nor did he write ho monogenes theos which renders difficult (although not, of course, impossible) the translation ‘the only begotten God’ or ‘the unique God,’ for elsewhere in the Johannine corpus when monogenes is an attributive adjective (viz., John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) the noun it qualifies is articular.
  4. Monogenes should be treated as equivalent to (ho) monogenes huios, since (a) in four of the other eight uses of monogenes in the NT (viz., Luke 7:12; John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9), it functions as an attributive adjective before huios. On three further occasions monogenes stands alone but in each case the context makes it clear that it means ‘only son’ (John 1:14; Heb. 11:17 RSV) or ‘only child’ (Luke 9:38 RSV, doubtless to distinguish monogenes moi from the preceding ho huios mou). The only occasion monogenes is not used of an ‘only son’ is Luke 8:42, where it qualifies thugater. (b) The phrase that qualifies monogenes or (monogenes theos), viz, ho on eis ton kolpon tou patros, indicates that monogenes denotes not simply ‘the only one’ but ‘an/the only Son.’ (c) In its primary sense monogenes designates familial relation (‘sole-born, without siblings’) whether or not huios or thugater is expressed…
  5. If monogenes is equivalent to (ho) monogenes huios in John 1:18, the corollary is that theos stands in epexegetic apposition to monogenes: ‘The only Son, who is theos.’
  6. The anarthrous theos is not indefinite. Since ekeinos in John 1:18 is specific, its antecedent monogenes, further defined as theos ho on ktl., must be definite. The absence of the article before monogenes and before theos is not without significance, for it draws attention (in the case of monogenes) to the uniqueness of the familial status of Jesus Christ as the one and only Son of God and (in the case of theos) to his possession of the attributes of Deity, all that makes God God (as in John 1:1c). In any case it is John’s custom to reserve ho theos for the Father.

These considerations point to the aptness of translating monogenes theos as ‘the only Son, who is God’ (cf. NAB2, M. J. Lagrange, and D. A. Fenema …)." (Ibid., C. Translation of monogenes theos, pp. 91-92)

Hence, the NT does call Jesus God the Son since in John 1:18 he is identified as both the only Son and God at the same time.

We want to conclude our discussion by emphasizing the fact that, regardless of whether our exegesis of John 1:18 happens to be correct or not, this point would still remain undisputed: The Deity of the Lord Jesus isn’t dependant upon this single text but is clearly established by the overwhelming Biblical data which affirms that Christ is both God and the unique, Divine Son of God.

Unless noted otherwise, all scriptural references taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Holy Bible.

Further Reading

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