Monday, May 16, 2016

Another Response to the Son = "Nature of X" Argument

Interlocutor:

"I gathered my 'data' on the matter from a wide range of sources, over many years, here are a few; New Bible Dictionary (second edition) says, 'Son' is commonly used in Semitic languages to denote membership of a class, as 'son of Israel' for 'Israelite,' 'son of might' for 'valorous.' 'Son of God' in Hebrew means 'God.'"

My Response:

So, are you now saying that one who is called or identified as a "Son of God" is a member of the "class" God?

BDAG states that when hUIOS is followed by the genitive of the thing, it denotes "one who shares in [the thing named] or who is worthy of it [i.e., the thing named in the genitive], or who stands in some other close relation to it, oft[en] made clear by the context; this constr[uction] is prob[ably] a Hebraism in the main . . ." (p. 1025).

One example of this usage provided by BDAG is Lk 16:8: hOI hUIOI TOU AIWNOS TOUTOU. Also, hUIOS POLEWS, both of which refute your [earlier] "possessing the nature of X" suggestion.

Interlocutor:

"Vine's Expository Dictionary says, 'huios primarily signifies the relation of offspring to parent…It is often used metaphorically of prominent moral characteristics…the word `Son' is used sometimes (a) of relationship, sometimes (b) of the expression of charater [sic]."

My Response:

This source, at least, as you quoted it, does not say that a "son" (hUIOS) in the Hebraic idiom "sons of" (followed by the genitive of the thing) necessarily possesses the nature of the thing named (i.e., of X).

Interlocutor:

"niv Bible Dictionary, 'Son… Another very common biblical use of this word is in combination with another word to express something about the individual or individuals described…'Son of perdition' is used of Judas.' Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, "The word "son" is also used in a figurative sense in the Bible." Many good theological dictionaries and word books will also explain it for you.>>

My Response:

First, I own and have consulted "many good theological dictionaries and word books," Barnabas. Second, what you have cited here does not support your previous assertion about "son" referring to one "possessing the nature of X." Are we to believe that Jesus meant Judas possessed the nature of destruction, after his defection from the Son of God (Jn 17:12). Rather, was not Jesus pointing out that Judas was given to destruction or intimately related to it, as suggested by BDAG and Zerwick?

Interlocutor:

"Friend, an angel is NEVER defined as "a son of God" like you say (see Hebrews 1:5), they are termed thusly in the plural only. It is interesting that when used with reference to creatures, whether men or angels, the phrase is always in the plural (sons of God), the singular with the definite article is only used of Jesus. To equate the Sonship of Jesus with the plural used elsewhere would be to deny the plain truth of the Bible."

My Response:

Who is "equating the Sonship of Jesus with the plural used elsewhere," my friend? I have not seen anyone here doing that. Besides, your argument that the plural usage "sons of God" somehow differs in meaning from the singular "son of God" is just wrong-headed from a logical or lexical semantic standpoint.

Interlocutor:

jesus is more than one of God's chosen people, more than one of the heavenly messengers, more than one who rules on God's behalf on earth. Even a casual reading of the verses where Jesus is called the Son of God will show the difference in both quality and extent from the other uses in the plural, read them and see. When applied to Jesus it is a title of nature, the plural form is of office.

My Response:

(1) I agree that Jesus is the unique Son of God. No argument there.

(2) It seems that you've now changed the direction of your argument, now wanting to make a distinction between the plural denoting one's "office" and the singular "son" denoting Jesus' "nature," whereas previously you said that the "nature" of the sons mentioned in Eph 2:2 was being delineated. Have you thus adjusted your understanding of the plural "sons of" construction?

(3) Your distinction does not seem to hold water when we actually take the time to look at real examples of the construction "sons of" in the relevant texts or literature. hUIOI most certainly does not refer to an office in Lk 20:36 or in Mt 5:9 or in 2 Thess 2:3.

Interlocutor:

"in 2 Kings 20:35 [1 Kings 20:35], "a certain man of the sons of the prophet" means that the man is a prophet, as the rest of the verse verifies…everything that makes a prophet a prophet is what this man was."

My Response:

"Actually, according to BDB, the Hebrew word BEN here (used in the plural) refers to one who is a member in a guild or certain order. It does not mean that the man possesses every quality that a prophet has or should have. In fact, the NAB translates this verse, "One of the guild prophets was prompted by the LORD to say to his companion . . ."

Interlocutor:

"Interestingly, one definition entry in my BDB for ben has "sons (as characterisation, i.e. sons of injustice [for un-righteous men]…"

My Response:

This definition does not help your argument at all, considering how you define the term "nature" in relation to Jesus, the Son of God.

Interlocutor:

"on Ephesians 2:2, I agree that 'the sons of disobedience' means nothing more than 'disobedience ones' or 'those that are disobedient,' the characteristic of these ones is of a disobedient nature, but you would be stretching the idiom to mean 'disobedient sons,' for the term, as the context shows, is not referring to offspring.>>

My Response:

The terminology "sons" is most certainly being employed metaphorically in Eph 2:2, just as we find in 1 Thess. 5:5 or Lk 16:8. And since we evidently have an instance of the descriptive genitive in Eph 2:2, why can we not render the construction "disobedient sons"? [The Greek word is also hUIOI in Eph. 2:2 which would most naturally be rendered "sons" contra my interlocutor's suggestion. See ASV and Darby's translation.]

My Interlocutor:

"jesus used the term 'Son of man' for Himself to indicated that He was Himself human, lets remember how He carefully guarded His identity that He was the Messiah (Matt 16:20; Luke 4:41), so it would be quite contrary for Him to go about, using the term Son of man in that sense you claim when you say that that was the way Christ 'primarily made use of the title or formula.'"

My Response:

There are places in the Gospels, which if we accept them as historical texts, seem to verify Jesus' use of the title "Son of Man" as a way to identify him as the Messiah (Jn 5:26-27). Let us assume that he did not utilize this expression as a title. Does this mean that he was merely indicating that he was human by his use of these words? Not necessarily, since Geza Vermes and E.P. Sanders (among others) have pointed out that Christ could have been availing himself of an Aramaic idiom, "that man," which was really a circumlocution for the first-person singular pronoun, "I." I consider this as a good possibility in light of the findings made by both Vermes and Sanders. But see BDAG under the entry hUIOS.

Addendum: While I no longer think the explanation of Vermes or Sanders is likely, although it's possible, the overall position advanced in this dialogue remains the same.

5 comments:

omar meza solano said...

Such edgar, how could see your studies in Spanish ? Maybe you have some web translator that is specific

Edgar Foster said...

Omar, it's been a long time since I tried to learn Spanish. Outside of some common phrases many people know, I rely on google translate now.

omar meza solano said...

Hi Edgar was reading the information on the topic "son of God = possession of the nature of God"

For example Lord is divine nature
Angels are also divine nature

That leads me to ask you perhaps Los Angeles do not have the nature of God?

How can I understand this?

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Omar,

The terminology "divine nature" is ambiguous in English. Anointed Christians will share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and angels are spirits as God is spirit. However, "divine nature" also refers to God's essence or the unique properties that he possesses or exemplifies as God (omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, etc). So it really depends on what is meant by divine nature. Trinitarians normally mean that Christ (God's Son) has the divine nature in the sense that he has all the properties of God or he is God for them. If that is what one means by "divine nature," then angels do not have it. if, however, one simply means a spiritual nature, then angels do have God's nature in that sense. I guess that son of God is a metaphorical term for me; for others, it could be ontological or functional.

Edgar Foster said...

Omar, as I mentioned earlier, whether angels have the divine nature or not, depends on what we mean by divine nature. For instance, D.S. Russell ("The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic") writes concerning Old Testament theology:

"There is ample evidence to show that conception of monotheism was held in conjunction with a belief in a spiritual world peopled with supernatural and superhuman beings who, in some ways, shared the nature, though not the being, of God" (page 235).

So he distinguishes between angels having "in some ways" the nature of God, but Russell states that they do not have the being of God in Jewish monotheism.