The term 'son of God', as used in reference to Jesus of Nazareth, denotes a spiritual and ethical relationship to God and describes a man whose character in action was an expression of the divine will. It differs from the pagan concept of sonship of the gods in that Jesus himself had no claim to 'divinity.'
The God of the Israelites was envisaged as the 'father' of the race; Israel was his son.
"When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." (Hosea 11:1)
The position taken by Jesus of Nazareth was that the son should honour the father. 'Sonship' implied the acceptance of greater responsibility not greater favour. Jesus was a 'son' anointed for a position of greater responsibility than other messiahs* had been.
Jesus, by identifying himself in this way, was publicly acknowledging and accepting all the responsibilities that went with the title.
His claim to be the 'son of God' was based on the Israelite concept that all are children of God and his own statement that the ones to whom the word of God came were themselves 'gods' or 'exalted ones'. (Psalm 82:6, John 10:34-36)
It is recorded in John 40-50 that when first joined by his disciples, Jesus was described by them as:
- the Christ
- he of whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote
- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph
- the son of God
- the King of Israel
As we can plainly see, the disciples believed that Jesus was the son of God while still acknowledging his human parentage, thus demonstrating that 'sonship' of God was, to them, a spiritual relationship. Given this fact, and given the propensity of theologians to wrest from biblical texts the most obscure and anachronistic of meanings in order to support their doctrine of choice, we are entitled to ask why they have chosen to ignore the clear witness of the disciples.
In contrast to the supposed 'mystery' of faith which theologians are so fond of explicating, the truly great 'mystery' is that the modern, supposedly educated mind should still hold to the crude and demeaning belief that the Universal Being could assume human form! Surely a great wonder, even in the heavens.
*The word 'christ', left untranslated and treated as though a name by the churches, simply means 'anointed' and is the equivalent of the Hebrew 'messiah'. There are other 'christs' in the Bible but in all other cases the word is translated. It is left untranslated only where it refers to Jesus. Each of these 'anointed' had an assigned role, some of more importance than others.