Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed

Greg Strand – February 7, 2013 4 Comments

Yesterday I mentioned an excellent book by D. A. Carson that addressed the translation of the divine familial language, specifically “God the Father” and the “Son of God”: Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012).

Crossway has made available the preface and chapter three of the book:

Carson describes the focus of this book in his preface, 11-12 (which I have reformatted from a single paragraph to three):

I chose the topic about three years ago. Some work I had done while teaching the epistle to the Hebrews, especially Hebrews 1 where Jesus is said to be superior to angels because he is the Son, prompted me to think about the topic more globally. Moreover, for some time I have been thinking through the hiatus between careful exegesis and doctrinal formulations. We need both, of course, but unless the latter are finally controlled by the former, and seen to be controlled by the former, both are weakened. The “Son of God” theme has become one of several test cases in my own mind.

Since choosing the topic, however, the debates concerning what a faithful translation of “Son of God” might be, especially in contexts where one’s envisioned readers are Muslims, have boiled out of the journals read by Bible translators and into the open. Entire denominations have gotten caught up in the controversy, which shows no sign of abating.

The last of these three chapters is devoted to addressing both of these points—how, in a Christian context, exegesis rightly leads to Christian confessionalism, and how, in a cross-cultural context concerned with preparing Bible translations for Muslim readers, one may wisely negotiate the current debate. But I beg you to read the first two chapters first. They provide the necessary textual detail on which discussion of the controversies must be based.

Please remember to heed Carson’s counsel in his final paragraph: read the first two chapters before reading the third.

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

4 responses to Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed

  1. Thanks for you are doing and helps me to further understand what others are teaching, understanding and applying…

    • Ken, I am grateful to the Lord you find these resources helpful. This is one way I believe I can serve pastors, leaders and others engaged in ministry on the front-lines in and through the local church.

  2. Thanks again for recommending this book, it has been a very helpful resource. There is nothing new or surprising about the material that Carson presents (which on this topic is a very good thing!) but it does bring together a whole lot of information in one place and it is presented by someone with a well respected resume. I truly hope this book will be an aid to the leaders in missions organizations that need to begin to define limits for acceptable levels of contextualization within the organizations they lead.

    • Thank you for your reply, Mike. I appreciate the additional affirmation of Carson’s excellent work, along with an exhortation to leaders of missions’ organizations to do the hard and necessary work in the Scriptures and theology to discern the acceptable limits of contextualization.

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