Son of God: Divine Sonship in Jewish and Christian Antiquity

In antiquity, “son of god”—meaning a ruler designated by the gods to carry out their will—was a title used by the Roman emperor Augustus and his successors as a way to reinforce their divinely appointed status. But this title was also used by early Christians to speak about Jesus, borrowing the idiom from Israelite and early Jewish discourses on monarchy. This interdisciplinary volume explores what it means to be God’s son(s) in ancient Jewish and early Christian literature.

The essays here collected were originally presented at  the St Andrews Symposium for Biblical and Early Christian Studies, in June of 2016.  The aforementioned essays are divided into two major divisions: Son of God in Early Jewish Literature and Son of God in Early Christianity and the Gentile World.

Part one consists of 5 essays by Reinhard Kratz, George Brooke, Jan Joosten, Garrick Allen, and Matthew Novenson.  Part two is comprised of 8 essays by Richard Bauckham, Max Botner, NT Wright, Michael Peppard, Sarah Whittle, Mateusz Kusio, Menahem Kister, and Michael Lyons.

Each contributor offers their own perspective on the phrase and each supplies evidence of a textual nature in order to do so.  None of the essays are terribly long and each is instructive.  Different readers of the work will have different impressions of the essays: some will seem well crafted, others a bit weak, and still others exceptional.  Most contain no surprises.

What I mean by that is that those who are familiar with Kratz’s work will find no revolutionary change of mind here in his discussion.  Those familiar with Bauckham will find vintage Bauckham.  Nevertheless those essayists included who lack the towering reputations of a Wright or Kratz or Bauckham have some fresh new insights (if not wholly fresh new thoughts).

For instance, Max Botner’s essay on Mark’s understanding of the ‘Son’ of God is well written and concise without being dry and uninspiring.  He avoids the buzzwords so common in the discipline and instead of fluff offers substance and solid thinking.  His is a solidly, well argued, intelligent essay.  You may never have heard of him before, but his is a name you should get to know. You will be hearing more from him.

Kusio’s essay on Hebrews too is really a fascinating piece.  The general conclusion that

… in no ancient text before the New Testament and nowhere as adamantly as in Hebrews is a divine figure called a sibling of humans.

Is supremely provocative.  You owe it to yourself to see how he arrives at that place.

The work concludes with a bibliography and a list of contributors as well as with an index of ancient sources.  It is a volume worth your time and your money.  I heartily recommend it.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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