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Appendix 1 - The great importance of Psalm 2, and its Messianic promise, for understanding the title of Christ “the Son of God”

Appendix 1

The Great Importance of Psalm 2, and its Messianic Promise, for Understanding the Title of Christ “the Son of God”

The association of “Son of God” with the Davidic, Messianic “King of Israel” is, of course, well-known from the Script­ures, as we have seen, and is rooted in particular with an important Messian­ic psalm:

Psalm 2:

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed [Heb: Mashiach, Eng: “Messiah”; Gk: ho Christos, Eng: “Christ”], saying,

6 “As for me (i.e. the Lord, v.4), I have set my King on Zion [hence “King of Israel”], my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord (Yahweh) said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.

8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Here we see the three terms so important in the NT: “Christ” (God’s anointed one, v.2); the Davidic “King,” the King appointed by God (“my King,” v.6); and God’s “Son” (“my Son,” vv.7,12) or “Son of God” as the more generally used term in the NT, all linked together to refer to the same person. In v.12, “the Son” brings safety or salvation for all who take refuge in him. Thus this psalm speaks of God’s Messiah, God’s King, and God’s Son all with refer­ence to the same person. Why this psalm is so important should now be apparent.

The proclamations from heaven at Jesus’ baptism, at the commence­ment of his public ministry, and then also at his trans­figuration, are precisely in fulfillment of Psalm 2:7:

Matthew 3:17: and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (NASB)

Matthew 17:5: and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (NKJV)

Note that it is precisely in Matthew (the most Jewish of the gospels and accordingly the one which is most concerned that God’s word in the OT be shown to have been fulfilled in Christ) that God’s well-known declar­ation in Psalm 2 was literally fulfilled in Christ at these two pivotal points in his ministry.

It is of interest to note that in one important Greek manuscript (D) the words spoken at Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3:22 were, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”. The textual scholar B.D. Ehrman, in his recent work Misquoting Jesus (2005), maintains that this is the original reading which was changed by antiadopt­ionist (the later trinitarians) scribes in order to remove the verse from its use by the adoptionists who maintained that Jesus became the Son of God at his baptism. Prof. Ehrman points out that the antiadoption­ists need not have worried about this argument be­cause Jesus was already men­tioned as being the Son of God by reason of his virgin birth in Luke 1:35.

Luke 3:22 is discussed at length in Misquoting Jesus pp.158-161, where Ehrman gives the reasons for his conviction that “today I have begotten you” was the original reading. One important fact which Ehrman points out as evidence of its authenticity is the fact that many of the early church fathers (including Justin, Origen, and Augustine) quote this verse as reading “today I have begotten you” (see the text­ual apparatus in The Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies). “It is quoted in the second and third cen­turies (which is before most of our manuscripts were produced) every­where from Rome, to Alex­andria, to North Africa, to Palestine, to Gaul, to Spain” (Misquoting Jesus, p.159).

Now when we look again at Nathanael’s confession in John and Peter’s confession in Matthew, we can clearly see their OT found­ation:

John 1:49: Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Matthew 16:16: Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

In both these confessions Jesus is spoken of as “the Son of God” as in Psalm 2. Nathanael also confesses Jesus as the promised “King” while Peter confesses him as the “Messiah/Christ”. In Psalm 2, “Son” occurs twice, which suggests that of the three titles, “Son” is the predominant one, a fact which also comes out by comparing the two confessions (of Nathanael and Peter) and seeing that it appears in both.

Not only are these terms in this psalm important for the NT, but the twice repeated “Son” is of especial importance. Psalm 2:7 is quoted in several places in the NT. Even where it is not quoted, God’s declaration in Psalm 2 underlies the use of the term “Son” or “Son of God” in the NT and defines its meaning. One cannot, therefore, decide to use the title “Son of God” as though it had no basis in the OT and then give it such meaning as our own dogma de­cides for it, and even go so far as to take the liberty to invert it into “God the Son”—something totally foreign to both the OT and the NT.

Psalm 2:7 is quoted in the early apostolic preaching in Acts 13; here the apostle Paul declares:

We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’ (Acts 13:32,33).

Interestingly, the apostle sees the words in Psalm 2:7 as fulfilled by God’s raising of Jesus from the dead. That is, he sees a con­nection between “begotten” and “resurrection”. He makes this connection again in Romans 1:4, “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrect­ion from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Psalm 2:7 is also quoted in Hebrews 5:5 and 1:5:

Hebrews 5:5 “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’”

Matthew 16:16 “Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”

Hebrews 1:5a “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?”

Hebrews 1:5b “Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’ [2Sam.7:14; 1Chr.17:13]?”

The first part of this verse (Heb.1:5a) quotes Psalm 2:7, as we have just seen. The quotation in the second part of the verse (Heb.1:5b), is historically closely related to Psalm 2:7 and, like that verse, its import­ance for our under­standing of the title “son of God” in the NT is that it shows that this title is rooted in the OT, and is seman­tically different from the way the title is used in the Western (Gentile) church in its trinitarian teaching as officially established some 2½ centuries later at the Council of Nicaea (AD 325).

Hebrews 1:5b is a quotation of God’s promise to David concern­ing his son Solomon, who would become king of Israel after him and who would build the first temple in Jerusalem. This prom­ise of a Father-son relation­ship with Solomon is unique in the OT. The prom­ise is repeated no less than 4 times in the OT historical books, once in 2Samuel and three times in 1Chronicles:

2 Samuel 7:13: He (Solomon) shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.

1 Chronicles 17:12: He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him (Saul) who was before you.

1 Chronicles 22:10: He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.

1 Chronicles 28:6: He said to me, “It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.”

What connection is there between the two quotations in Hebrews 1:5?

It can be affirmed with considerable certainty that Psalm 2 was a coron­ation psalm sung at Solomon’s enthronement as king of Israel after David’s death. This conclusion can be drawn on the basis of the fact that it was only concern­ing Solomon that God made the promise quoted in Heb.1:5 above and there applied to Christ, who was “greater than Solomon” (Mt.12:42; Lk.11:31) and therefore stood in a closer Father-son relat­ionship than Solo­mon ever could.

The “only begotten son”

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [monogenēs] {Or his only begotten Son}, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

How is the word (monogenēs) in John to be understood? The word is translated variously as “only Son” (RSV), “only begotten Son” (KJV), or “one and only Son” (NIV). What then is its significance in John 3:16? There are at least two verses that can help us:

(1) The same word appears in Heb.11:17, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son (mono­genēs)” (cf. also Hebrew and LXX). Abraham eventually did not have to offer Isaac, but God did actually give His Son out of His love for the world and in order to save it.

The Jews gave the name “Aqedah” (“binding”) to Abraham’s offering of Isaac—a truly significant spiritual event. Insofar as that event was a kind of foreshadowing of God’s giving His Son for the salvation of the world, the parallel between Christ and Isaac should not be overlooked, otherwise an important element in its spiritual significance is missed. The account of the Aqedah in Genesis informs us that Isaac, when he heard from Abraham that his being offered up was the will of Yahweh, willingly offered himself without compulsion from Abraham. He sub­mitted voluntar­ily and totally to God’s will. This foreshadows Christ’s subordination and total obedience to the Father.

Abraham’s own complete submission to Yahweh, and his ab­solute trust in Him, should also not be overlooked. Trust (or faith) and sub­mission are inher­ently linked, and Paul points to Abraham’s trusting faith, as seen by the fact that he trusted God to raise Isaac from the dead if that was necessary to fulfill His promise to him (cf. Rom.4:17). This means that not only Isaac, but also his father Abraham, in their unquest­ioning submission and obedience to God, were both types of the life quality of Jesus.

It should not be forgotten that Christ’s exaltation to the right hand of the Father was God’s response to Christ’s obedience—something that trinitarian­ism obscures by suggesting that the exaltation was Christ’s by right as the Son, rather than something that the Father conferred upon him. In this way funda­mental Scriptural truths are obscured.

(2) The uniqueness of Christ as “only” Son lies also in this: that his sonship is of a kind that was not given even to the most exalted of angelic beings: Hebrews 1:5a, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?”

Even Moses, that great servant of God, was never called a “son of God,” even though he had a uniquely intimate relationship with Him:

5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. (Hebrews 3:5-6)

Solomon was certainly not of Moses’ spiritual stature, so why should God publicly name him His “son”? The reason is not found in Solomon himself but in that he was a “type” (a foreshadowing) of Christ, “the one who is to come” (Mt.11:3), the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Solomon built the first temple, but Christ is the build­er of the temple of God not made with hands; Christ is the true king of the “Israel of God” (Gal.6:16) and God “will establish his throne forever” (1Chr.17:12).


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