A Methodist from Ghana who has been searching the scriptures to discover scriptural truth.
The christological titles of Jesus: The Son of God and the Son of Man are two of Jesus' self-designation titles which are found mainly in the Gospels and some few passages in the rest of the New Testament (Romans 1:1-4 and Galatians 4:4). The titles should not be understood in the sense of the two natures of God—Jesus truly God, and Jesus truly man.
In this study, we shall briefly examine the background of the titles in the Old Testament, their place in the faith of the early church, the relationship and the implications of the two titles for the Christian faith.
The Son of God
In the Old Testament, Kings especially those from the Davidic line were referred to as the 'sons of God' (2 Samuel 7:14). Drawing from this premise and conviction, Jesus is seen as the ultimate Davidic King and thus, the 'Son of God'. It is therefore understood by some people that Jesus' source of claim to this title is traced to King David whom God said he will be his Father.
The early church, using this Davidic concept, also included the title in the confessional faith in the Apostles' Creed (...And in Jesus Christ His only Son) and in the Nicene Creed (...the only begotten Son of God). It is to be noted however that Jesus, the only Son or begotten Son of God does not mean that Jesus was birthed through sexual relationship between God and Mary. Jesus is God's Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in human form (John 1:1-14) through the agency of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).
The significance of the title doesn't lie basically in how Jesus even became God's Son, but rather how Jesus functions as a son in God's mission to the world. This is known as Functional Christology. A careful study of John 5:19-26 summarizes the function of the title of the Son of God—there is a working relationship between the Father and the Son. Jesus exercises authority as the Father's agent.
References: Matthew 26:63-64; Mark 1:9-11; Hebrews 1:2&3.
The Son of Man
The 'Son of Man' is by far Jesus' favorite self-designation title. On what basis did Jesus actually refer to himself as the Son of Man?
The title Son of Man is basically linked to two Old Testament books, Ezekiel and Daniel. The phrase "Son of Man" appears 90 times in the book of Ezekiel. In Ezekiel the phrase always applied to the prophet himself and designates his prophetic mission—a mission not as his own, but as the work of God. Thus, the title was borne by someone before Jesus of Nazareth.
In Daniel 7:13-14, the prophet had a vision which he narrated as follows: "In my vision at night I looked, and there was before me one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven...He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped before him..." (NIV).
Jesus used the title from Ezekiel and Daniel to express his own consciousness of belonging to the prophetic line. This is because Jesus made allusions to the passage in Daniel in Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27 and Luke 21:25-28.
Here, the significance of the title Son of Man is not tailored to any argument as to how God could become man, but how Jesus Christ applied the title to execute God's mission to the world (John 5:27-29). It means Jesus as the Son of Man will judge all people at the end of the age. It also connotes the idea of the suffering servant in Mark.
Relationship of The Titles
Although Son of God has distinct function from the Son of Man, some Gospel passages may seem to equate them in some respects. For instance John 5:19-29. The Father empowers the Son to give eternal life whiles the Son of Man will appear in human form and be empowered by the Father to judge all people at the end of the age.
Implications of the Titles: Son of God
- It clarifies the text, "anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" John 14:9.
- He, the Son of God gives life and we must therefore always have faith in Him.
- The obedience of the Son to His Father irrespective of the authority he has given to him, should spur us on to obey God and do his will.
Son of Man
- Jesus as Son of Man is our intercessor because he has experienced all that we go through (Hebrews 4:15).
- Jesus is our example and mentor for he lived among us. We must look to him as a true model of the Christian faith.
- God is not totally removed from us. He lives among the human race and was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 2:19).
© 2020 Ernest Festus Awudey
Ernest Festus Awudey (author) from Ho, Ghana. on August 25, 2020:
Thanks very much, Jeshurun. These titles are mostly misunderstood, and it's a nice privilege to know the difference.
Jeshurun from Nellore AP India on August 24, 2020:
You have done good job for those who get doubts in the Bible.....Good Narration