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The Son of God or God’s Son?

I found something in the newer translations that have caused some reflection within me. I have noticed that some translations are not using the phrase “Son of God” but use “God’s Son.” I noticed this usage in the HCSB, NLT, and SENT (if you follow the Better Bible Blog, you will know what this translation is). There are a handful of instances where the NRSV has the reading “God’s Son” and only two instances in the NIV and TNIV. I understand that in terms of translation, either way is acceptable. “Son of God” or “God’s Son” are both perfectly acceptable translations of the Greek. But which is better? Are both terms equal?

I believe most scholars and students of Bible understand that the phrase “Son of God’ is not a generational statement. That is, Jesus is not described as “the Son of God” because God the Father had some sort of procreation with another god and therefore Jesus is the son of God. The Son of God is a title showing that Jesus is equal in deity. Consider some of the study Bible references on this topic from Matthew 3:17:

NLT Study Bible:

3:17 my dearly loved Son (see Ps 2:7): The title “Son of God” reveals and clarifies Jesus’ nature and role (see 4:3, 6; 14:33; 16:16; 17:5; 26:63; 27:54; 28:19). In his unique relationship to the Father, Jesus accomplishes salvation as the trusting and obedient Son.

NET Bible:

Grk “my beloved Son,” or “my Son, the beloved [one].” The force of agapetos is often “pertaining to one who is the only one of his or her class, but at the same time is particularly loved and cherished.”

ESV Study Bible:

The voice from heaven confirms the eternally existing relationship of divine love that the Son and Father share as well as Jesus’ identity as the messianic Son of God (Ps. 2:7). This beloved Son is the triumphant messianic King, yet he is also the humble “servant” into whose hands the Father is well pleased to place the mission to bring salvation to the nations (Isa. 42:1—4).

The concern I have is that changing the phrase “Son of God” to “God’s Son,” while translationally acceptable, emphasizes a false notion that Jesus is some sort of offspring of God. I would be interested in your thoughts. I cannot think of any benefit or clarity that is offered by the translation, “God’s Son.” It seems to be that this could bring greater confusion, not greater clarity. “Son of God” is a title recognizing Jesus to be God, an equal deity in every way. I think we can see the point of being “the Son of God” means you are God most clearly in John 5:18-25 –

5:18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but  has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (ESV)

All of this is to declare that Jesus is equal with God. Calling God his Father and calling himself “Son of God” meant that he was equal with God. If we use the phrase, “God’s Son,” then we need to make sure that our audience realizes that we do not mean this in generational terms but as a title. Jesus is God. In my opinion, “Son of God” is easier to recognize as a title than “God’s Son.”

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