What does it mean when we say Jesus is the only Son of God? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
When we say Jesus is the only Son of God, there can be some pushback immediately. Many people and even angels are called sons of God in the Bible aren’t they? Why on Earth would we expect that the case would be different for Jesus?
Meanwhile, those who are Muslims will look at this in a different way. They will tell us that we are guilty of the sin of shirk for assigning partners to God. How dare we say that God has a Son? It would be seen as a sort of illicit sexual union between God and Mary to produce Jesus.
Let’s start with the first. The term son of God is indeed used of many people. Kings are said to be the sons of God. We Christians are said to be sons of God. Paul says about mankind in Acts 17 that we are all his offspring. Angels are called sons of God. Jesus is called the Son of God.
Yet Jesus is said to be the monogenes in John 1:18. He is the only begotten. This is also repeated in John 3:16 and Hebrews 11 has Jesus compared to Isaac. How can this be with Isaac? After all, Abraham had Ishmael and after Sarah died, he had other sons through a second wife. What made Isaac unique?
Isaac was a miracle baby in that Sarah’s womb was essentially dead and yet she was able to give birth. There was nothing miraculous about the other children that Abraham had, but Isaac was the exception. Also, Isaac was the one who was promised. Ishmael and the others were not promised.
Jesus likewise is the child of the promise and He is unique because of how He came into the world. Note I am not saying how He came into existence as He eternally existed. I am talking about how the incarnation took place, and that was through the virgin birth.
So let’s talk about that some for our Muslim friends.
To begin with, in the case of the virgin birth, we’ll often be told that there were virgin births in other cultures and places and surely this is just a copycat of them.
Not so fast.
Most of these are not virgin births. It is the god somehow taking a form where he has actual sex with the person involved. Sometimes. the woman involved is most certainly not a virgin. I recommend listening to Ben Witherington on this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast starting at around the second hour.
Note also the virgin birth would also be likely pointing to an embarrassing detail. This is that Jesus’s conception was not natural, which would lead to a charge of illegitimacy. Someone like Bart Ehrman might say “Well surely this would be worth mentioning in Mark and John!” Well no. That would lead to the charges being there and frankly, why would the writers do anything that would not only be an unusual conception that could lead to charges of illegitimacy, but then have a birth that would indict God in the process?!
Does that mean the account is definitely historical? No. It does mean that this is not really an event that would be made up. At the same time, it explains why Mark would not want to mention it and if John is a supplement to Mark, it explains why John would not mention it.
So what about the charge of shirk? Well to begin with, there is no mother Mary in the Trinity as some Muslims think, but also we are not saying Jesus is conceived of a sexual union but rather, in saying that He is the Son, we are saying He is the unique embodiment of the nature of God.
And that gets us to what makes Jesus unique. Jesus alone shows us who God is, unlike anyone else. For some parents, it could be you might think “Well I have a child, and God’s relationship is kind of like that.” That’s backwards. God is not like anything else. Anything else is like God, the original. God is the Father from whom all fatherhood comes, and parents having children is kind of like that.
Jesus is unique unlike anyone else. He is the only one who is truly the Son of God. No one else can claim the title like Jesus.