What Child Is This? (ATP)  

Jesus is called the son of God, but there were others in the book of Genesis called sons of God as well. Can you please explain this?

This phrasing can tend to cause some confusion for people for sure. A simple understanding of translations can be helpful.

Basically, we have to remember when reading the Bible, although it is truth, it is a translation. As a believer that should not cause concern. In fact, a well rounded believer embraces this fact. Unbelievers however sometimes use this as a way of trying to disprove scripture. Knowledge will make this clear.

First, let’s understand some things about translations. ANY GOOD translation is put together by a team of the top scholars in language and religion. These are people who devote their lives to these things. Many of them are archeologists who also find evidence for all the different claims in the Bible. They are also people who don’t always agree and therefore have long discussions on accuracy and understanding. Bible translators are at the very top of their fields of study. 

The Bible versions we have generally come in one of several forms. Direct, word for word translations (KJV, NKJV, NASB), thought for thought translations (NIV), and paraphrased (The Message Bible, The Living Bible) are some examples. Word for word means that when translated the best equivalent word is given from language to language. Thought for thought is when they translate what is being expressed. Paraphrased means that they are breaking down what is being said in modern language using examples of what modern people may identify with. Though some people claim some as better than others, I believe all are necessary and have a place. Some people think word for word translations are the best. Consider this, if I called someone nice you would think highly of them. However, if you were in Europe in the 1600s you would think something different as nice was equivalent to calling them an idiot. Therefore you can see, something written in ancient times may have a different understanding in modern usage. The King James Bible, written in 1611 uses the word unicorn several times. We would think that’s crazy, however if you look at an 1800’s dictionary you would see that unicorn is a word to describe a rhinoceros. This is why we can have discrepancies in understanding and I have seen even ministers misunderstand scripture because they refuse other translations. 

That said, there are different usages for the phrase, sons or son of God. Typically, in the Old Testament when this phrasing is used it tends to refer to spiritual beings often understood to be angels. The best explanation I heard was this, “A son of God denotes a being brought into existence by a creative act of God.” When we apply that knowledge to all of scripture it makes more sense.

Angels have no parents, they were created. Jesus had a human mother (so He would have human DNA) but she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit (not the way human fathers do). Thus these all were created directly by God. But what about us human Christians? Don’t we all have human parents yet we are also called sons of God? We who are Christians have been born again by God’s power, so we qualify as sons of God as well. This was not the case for those humans of the old covenant. Jesus said in John 3:6-7 (NASB), “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.” Jesus is also sometimes referred to as the Son of man, and this is also true being that His mother had human flesh. 

I want to take an opportunity to present a common but slight translational misunderstanding. In maybe one of the most popular scriptures, John 3:16 (NASB) it is said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The word for “only begotten” was not always fully understood. Until recently the Greek word for it ‘monogenes’ was translated as only begotten. However, upon more recent archeological discovers it is believed a better rendering would be the word unique. This makes more sense as we know Jesus was not the “only begotten” but was the unique one. The same word is used in Hebrews referring to Isaac, whom we also know was not the only son of Abraham, and not even the first, but he was the unique one.

This is why as believers we should never get hung up on something just because we don’t quite understand it. God is perfect but He has chosen to not just save us but have us partake in His nature. That being the case, our humanity will have some effect. Only on the day we are with Him will we see true perfection. Until then, God is working with us and in us. Not just as creation, but He does so as sons!

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff