How does the mortal figure of Jesus (the son of Mary and Joseph) reconcile with his Christian Church depiction as the divine son of God? Only the gospels of Matthew and Luke discuss Mary's conception and the birth of Jesus. Mark and John ignore the events.
Although not discussing the Nativity as such, John 7:42 does comment regarding the ancestry of Jesus: 'Hath not the scripture said, that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was.' In addition, St Paul's Epistle to the Romans 1:3-4 refers to 'Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the son of God'. Again, in Mark 10:47 and matthew 22:42 Jesus is called the 'son of David'. In Acts 2:30, Peter (referring to Kind David) calls Jesus the 'fruit of his loins, according to the flesh'.
These entries, along with the male-line genealogical lists in Matthew and Luke, make it abundantly clear that Jesus was of straightforward human descent from Kind David. Over and above that, St Paul wrote that Jesus was 'declared' to be the son of God; while in the Annunciation sequence of Luke 1:35, it is similarly stated that jesus would be 'called' the son of God.
The fact of Jesus' Davidic paternal descent is made even more apparent in Hebrew 7:14, which relates to his appointment in the high priestly Order of Melchizedek. From the time of Moses and Aaron, only the tribe of Levi had any automatic right to Isrealite priesthood. The tribe of Judah, which included David and his dynasty down to Joseph and Jesus, held the privelege of of kingship, but not of priesthood.
In writing his epistle to the Hebrews, St Paul clarified the matter of Jesus' new priestly status with the following: 'It is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah, of which tribe hath Moeses spake concerning priesthood' (Hebrews 7:14). Just before this, in Hebrews 7:12, the point is made that to accommodate this divergence from custom, there was 'made of necessity a change also of the law'. Nothing is mentioned here about Jesus being able to whatever he wanted because he was the son of God - only that the law had been ammended because of his birth into the Davidic line of Judah.
Related to this is the Coronation Psalm, which concerns the Davidic throne - 'I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee' (Psalm 2:7). This psalm is intimated when Jesus is baptised in the Jordan by John. Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22 all state that a voice from heaven said, 'This is [or Thou art] my beloved Son'.
When confronted by others as to whether he was the son of God, Jesus generally avoided the issue. In Matthew 26:63-64, when asked by the High Priest whether he was in truth the son of God, Jesus replied, 'Thou hast said' - implying that the priest had said itm not he. In Luke 22:70, Jesus answered in virtually identical terms: 'Then said they all, Art thou the son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am'. On other occasions, Jesus responded to the effect that he was the 'son of man' (as in Matthew 26:63-64).
Apart from the Davidic Psalm reference, the perception of Jesus as the son of God emanates from things said about him by others in the text. For example, John 20:31 states, 'But these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God'. Similarly in Acts 9:20 when Paul is said to have preached the Christ was the son of God. There are forty-five such entries in the New Testament, which state that Jesus was 'declared to be', 'preached as', 'believed to be', 'was called' the son of God. Alternatively, there are ninety mentions of his being the 'son of man', the majority of which references were made by Jesus himself.
The Greek biblical references to 'son of man' are: huios ho anthropos
. The linguistic equivalents are: Aramaic, bar nasha
, and Hebrew, ben adam
. In each case the phrase means simply 'a man - a human being'.
Luke 3:38 clarifies that Adam was the first of the line to be called the son of God. More important to the overall picture is that the Bible cites certain deserving people as being the 'children of God', commencing in the New Testament with Jesus' own words in Matthew 5:9: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God'. Once again, just as in the case of Jesus, the operative word is called 'called'.
All things considered, the term 'son of God', as applicable to Jesus, was a figurative and symbolic description, whereas his physical lineage from King David is given on numerous occasions as being the human reality of his position. The most important thing here is that it was the kingly line of David which was especially considered to be God's offspring, not Jesus as a lone individual. This premise is laid down in 2 Samuel 7:13-14, where God is recorded as announcing in respect of Kind David: 'He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son'.