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Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed Kindle Edition

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No christological designation is as essential as 'Son of God'; none is more important. This study makes that impressively clear by sound and careful exegesis and theological reflection in the face of misunder­standings and disputes, past and current. Once again, D. A. Carson serves the church well. --Richard B. Gaffin Jr.

I know what it is to reject Jesus as the 'Son of God.' As a former Muslim, nothing baffled and, quite frankly, angered me more than hearing Christians call Jesus 'the Son of God.' I thought such persons were blasphemers worthy of condemnation. But now, nothing gives me more joy than to know that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and that the title 'Son of God' carries far more truth and wonder than I could have imagined. So I welcome this volume from D. A. Carson with all the enthusiasm and joy of one who once denied the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. With his customarily clear, warm, careful, and balanced manner, Carson gives us a fresh exploration of a precious truth that so many Christians take for granted and so many Muslims misunder­stand. If you want to know Jesus and the Bible better, this surely is one aid that will not disappoint. --Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman; author, 'What Is a Healthy Church Member/'

What does it mean for us to confess that Jesus is the Son of God? D. A. Carson tackles this question in 'Jesus the Son of God'. In this little book he lays a firm foundation to help the church understand 'Son of God' with reference to Jesus. After considering uses of 'Son of God' in Scripture, both in general and when applied to Jesus, Carson models the way systematic theology should be based on solid biblical exegesis. Carson is especially concerned to bring his study to bear on the contro­verted issue in missiological circles concerning how to present Jesus as Son of God in Christian and Muslim contexts. Here he critically, but kindly, calls for rethinking new translations that have replaced refer­ences to God the Father and Jesus as his Son to make them more accept­able to Muslims. --Robert A. Peterson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Covenant Seminary

About the Author

D. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, and President of The Gospel Coalition. He has written or edited over fifty books, including 'Christ and Culture Revisited', 'The Gagging of God', 'The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God' and 'How Long, O Lord?'

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 462 KB
  • Print Length: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway; 1 edition (30 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A3L0G78
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #706,686 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Paperback
What do we mean when we say that Jesus is the "Son of God"? Maybe you have pondered this and it has never quite made sense. You wouldn't be alone, the question is a common one; and especially with current controversies over how the title should be translated in Muslim contexts, a voice of sanity is needed. D. A. Carson is such a voice, and intends for his book Jesus the Son of God to "foster clear thinking" (p12) on these issues.
Jesus the Son of God

This book is split into three chapters, which were originally delivered as three talks at RTS.

First, Carson surveys the variety of relationships that "son" language can imply and splits them into three broad categories: biological, hypothetical, and metaphorical. Next, Carson shows that angels, Adam, Israel, and Christians are all called "son[s] of God" in Scripture with varying metaphorical meanings. Finally, Carson addresses passages where Jesus is seen as "the Son of God". Is His sonship different? Are there distinct meanings when the term is applied to Jesus? Carson identifies four main categories:

1) Where no distinct meaning can be readily discerned from the context (the "catchall")
2) Where Jesus's role as the promised king in the line of David is portrayed (John 1:49)
3) Where Jesus is seen as the true, obedient Israel (comparing Hosea 11:1 with Matt 2:15)
4) Where Jesus is identified as divine (John 5:23; Heb 1:1-3; John 1:1, 14)

In the second chapter we zoom in and examine two texts closely, Hebrews 1 and John 5:16-30, in order to see "what the New Testament writers meant when they declared Jesus to be the Son of God" (p42).
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D.A. Carson, `Jesus The Son of God: A Christological Title Often
Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed', IVP
(Nottingham: England), 2012.

This is a nicely presented and well written book. It originated in
three lectures the author gave at the Reformed Theological Seminary,
Jackson, Mississippi in March 2012. It is a slim book of 117
pages. The few footnotes are where they belong (at the bottom of the
page they are referenced on). There is no bibliography, but it does
have a General index and a Scripture index.

The book has the following structure:

1. Son of God as a Christological Title
2. Son of God in Select Passages
3. Jesus the Son of God in Christian and Muslim Contexts

Some books are the distilled essence of years of study and reflection,
benefit from having been taught on numerous occasions, and have many
insights to impart, and do so with wonderful economy, without tedious
repetition. Others have only one or two things to say, and spend tens
or even hundreds of thousands of words to do so. This book is most
definitely one of the former.

The first chapter starts with a reflection what son-ship means in
pre-industrial society where children tend to gain their identity and
trade from their parents. This leads to a reflection of the diverse
biblical use of "son of" language, much of which reflects this
"functional" usage. This is based on the original languages, and a
helpful table shows how this "son of" language is often lost in modern
translations, such as the NIV and ESV, which smooth out such alien
idioms.
Read more ›
Comment 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Don Carson brings a clarity and illumination to this important topic. It is short, but profound and makes one want to worship as well as continue to delve into the richness of scripture.
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The recent debates about the titles used to describe Jesus in missionary contexts are overviewed and dealt with in a carefully exegetical and pastoral manner. Highly recommended for all seeking clarity about what the Bible, and Hebrews in particular, mean when they give Jesus the title of Son of God.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8b7b3b7c) out of 5 stars 29 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b7e8714) out of 5 stars Short but helpful introduction to the issues 7 Dec. 2012
By Timothy Bertolet - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
D.A. Carson has written a helpful little book that will be of interest to pastors, missionaries, Bible students and aspiring theologians. This book was originally given as a short lecture series delivered at Reformed Theological Seminary, then repeated at Westminster Theological Seminary and Colloque Réformée held in Lyon, France. It is a helpful albeit brief examination of the title Son of God and its relationship to Christology. As we would expect from Dr. Carson it is a model of solid exegesis in order to address pressing theological issues.

The first chapter is an examination of the title "Son of God" as a christological title. In this brief lecture Carson gives us a scope of the varied uses of the idiom `son of' and how it is translated into English. Here he quickly condenses a lot of Biblical data into general categories. His larger point is that the phrase "son of" is more than a reference to genetic and familial identity as often limited in the English usage of such a phrase. This data is placed into two helpful charts on pages 21 and 23-24.

This discussion lays the groundwork for discussing how "Son of God" itself is used a title in various ways in some cases referring to angels, Israel, the Davidic King and New Testament believers. Anyone familiar with the Biblical data and the Biblical semantics will already be abreast with this treatment. Nevertheless, this work gives one a general survey and could serve as an introduction to the topic. Chapter one concludes with a brief reference to the unique use of the title Son of God, which will build into the next chapter.

Chapter two is a treatment of select `Son of God' passages as it relates to Christ. The bulk of the chapter is spent in Hebrews 1 and John 5:16-30. Along the way, Carson will drop hints of what his argument would look like if sketched out in the Gospels and other New Testament books. Carson clearly shows how the title `Son of God' as a Davidic reference comes together with a clear reference to deity. So for example, in Hebrews 1, Son of God clearly has a Davidic referent--that Jesus is the Messiah. But the flow of the passage and the use of the Old Testament clearly identifies Jesus as God. Thus, sonship language referring to Jesus "cannot be restricted to a strictly Davidic-messianic horizon" (59). This is not a novel thesis to those familiar with Biblical studies. However, Carson's work serves as a healthy introduction to the issues.

Chapter 2 ends with a briefer discussion of John 5:16-30. Carson argues that 5:26 where the Father grants the quality of life-in-himself is an eternal grant from the Father to the Son. This sets some exegetical grounds for what becomes known in historical theology as `the eternal generation of the Son.' It is in this discussion, to which Carson will return in the third chapter, that Carson models the connection between exegesis and systematic theology. This modeling will serve students, pastors and even Biblical scholars adverse to making systematizing claims.

In the final chapter, Carson turns his attention to the theological use of the title `Son of God' to tackle a pressing missiological issue that has arisen. In recent years, some Bible translators have suggested that in Muslim contexts the title `Son of God' should not be translated as such because of the potential misunderstanding. Depending on the verse, these translators often suggest a title that emphasizes Jesus' messianic identity. While the Christian title `Son of God' has never meant God the Father produced a son in union with Mary, seeking to avoid the title to correct this misunderstanding will lead to misunderstandings of its own. Carson draws out the pitfalls and reductionism such translation creates. Carson argues that one cannot reduce a translation of `Son of God' to messianic identity precisely because the New Testament especially in Hebrews 1 uses Messianic identity together with divine identity. In one chapter we have "two analytically differentiable uses of `Son' terminology" (p.106).

Overall, there is a lot of content back in this short book. It is a solid argument that moves along. Readers unfamiliar with the issues will receive a good introduction. The only criticism of this work that I would offer is its brevity. At times I found myself wishing that certain points could be developed more or that certain areas or works of scholarship could receive interaction. Along the way, Carson himself drops hints of what we be needed to fully defend his case or what other twists and turns the argument could take. One would hope that perhaps Carson would consider expanding this work into a full blown scholarly monograph. This is not to take away from the strength of what he has produced.

I would highly recommend picking up this work and reading it.

(Crossway provided me with a review copy of this work)
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b7e8768) out of 5 stars An insightful introduction to a negelicted christological title 14 May 2013
By S. E. Paynter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
D.A. Carson, `Jesus The Son of God: A Christological Title Often
Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed', IVP
(Nottingham: England), 2012.

This is a nicely presented and well written book. It originated in
three lectures the author gave at the Reformed Theological Seminary,
Jackson, Mississippi in March 2012. It is a slim book of 117
pages. The few footnotes are where they belong (at the bottom of the
page they are referenced on). There is no bibliography, but it does
have a General index and a Scripture index.

The book has the following structure:

1. Son of God as a Christological Title
2. Son of God in Select Passages
3. Jesus the Son of God in Christian and Muslim Contexts

Some books are the distilled essence of years of study and reflection,
benefit from having been taught on numerous occasions, and have many
insights to impart, and do so with wonderful economy, without tedious
repetition. Others have only one or two things to say, and spend tens
or even hundreds of thousands of words to do so. This book is most
definitely one of the former.

The first chapter starts with a reflection what son-ship means in
pre-industrial society where children tend to gain their identity and
trade from their parents. This leads to a reflection of the diverse
biblical use of "son of" language, much of which reflects this
"functional" usage. This is based on the original languages, and a
helpful table shows how this "son of" language is often lost in modern
translations, such as the NIV and ESV, which smooth out such alien
idioms. The chapter goes on to survey the Bible's use of the "Son of
God" term for beings other than Jesus; and the Bible's use of the
"Son of God" term for Jesus. Carson is aware of the various nuances
the term has in different contexts, and does not conflate them into a
flat reductionistic category.

In the second chapter Carson selects just a couple of interesting and
illustrative texts where Jesus is called the Son of God, and does just
enough to draw out their profound witness. The two texts are Hebrew 1
and John 5:16-30. Hebrews 1 affirms that Jesus is greater than the
angels, and does so in part by quoting Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel
7:14. Psalm 2:7 is elsewhere also used to argue that Jesus did not
take on the high Priestly role by himself, and that Jesus had to be
raised up. Carson in a wonderful section unpacks the Bible's Davidic
typology to show how these are legitimate readings of these
passages. He goes on to show how Psalm 45 is used by the writer of
Hebrews to testify to the divinity of the Jesus, the Son of God.
Carson uses the passage in John to explore John's profound portrayal
of Jesus as the eternal Son of God. He draws attention to John's
teaching which point both to the true deity of the Son, and his
carefully drawn subordination to the Father.

The third chapter starts by drawing some conclusions from the first
two chapters: namely, 1) that "Son of God" terminology is not a
terminus technicus (technical term) that always has the same meaning;
2) attention must be paid to the biblical theological trajectories
through the Bible if the "Son of God" language is to be understood
correctly; 3) the relationship between exegesis of the biblical "son
of God" passages and the systematic theological category of "Son of
God" is complex; 4) the "eternal generation of the son" is convoluted
territory; 5) understanding Jesus as the son of God should impact our
evangelism, 6) and our worship. The chapter then rehearses the
different models of "Christ-centred communities", from c1 (foreign
language, foreign concepts and foreign culture), to c5 (indigenous
language, concepts and culture, only rejecting a small number of
indigenous practices and beliefs seen as incompatible with confessing
Jesus is Lord). Carson portrays the debate in missionary circles over
whether or not to use the Son of God language (which is open to
misunderstanding in the Muslim context) is seen part of the debate
over the legitimacy of the c5 model of churches. Carson draws a few
lessons from the earlier chapters for this debate.

This book is profound, masterful, and timely. Don Carson is a
respected biblical scholar who has a real gift for distilling his
insights in digestible teaching for the entire church. This book is
Carson at his best. It is a book that will repay repeated
readings. Buy, read, be blessed.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b7e8ba0) out of 5 stars Good little book! 21 Oct. 2013
By SLIMJIM - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This short work is an adaptation of three lectures that became the three chapters of this book, focusing on the title of Jesus as the Son of God. At the outset, the author explain that much of the discussion of the Son of God in contemporary scholarship focuses on it’s implication for Trinitarian theology but here he wishes to explore more of the idea of Christ as the Son of God in of itself. I enjoyed the book, especially with how Carson began this study with what the concept of “son.” Besides biological son, Carson noted how there are many “son of X” idioms with various variables of its function, ranging from identity, deserving and generating. The first chapter has various helpful charts showing different “son of X” idioms and how some of these are not translated in our English versions of the Bible but it is there in the Greek or Hebrew. It is in this context that Carson then unpacks the use of the Son of God in reference to Jesus in which the New Testament uses it to refer to His pre-existence, His Davidic root to the Messianic promise and as the Suffering Servant. Carson mentions several times that he can only look at a few passages due to space limitation but I wish he could have surveyed more passages in chapter, not because I didn’t think he did a good job but because he is capable and there is much to gleam from the passages he did analyze. I think the one thing I most appreciate about this book is D.A. Carson’s discussion about the role of exegesis, systematic theology, linguistics and Bible translations in the third chapter. While this last chapter mainly focuses on this discussion in the context of the translation of the Son of God in Bible versions used to reach Muslims, the implication of this chapter transcends Bible translation for Muslims. He notes how systematic theology without strong exegesis can be problematic, with the example of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son of God as Berkhof attempt to establish. Noting various exegetical error by Berkhof, Carson here notes that the eternal generation of the Son by the Father is best anchored in John 5:16-30 with it’s main point in 5:26. Carson’s treatment of John 5:16-30 in chapter two to establish the eternal generation of the Father is excellent and shows how advance doctrines of God can be established on exegetical lines. Yet one must have the maturity of being balanced with understanding the philosophical bent of theology in helping us explain concepts such as the Trinity and why the Church fathers employed philosophical language to sharpen distinctions and clarity so as to avoid heresies. Chapter three is an excellent apologetics for why translators should translate “Son of God” in a Muslim context, and a refutation of reader response theory form of translation philosophy. While I don’t want to give everything away, some of the highlights that I appreciated include his argument that the concept of Jesus as the Son of God is radically foreign no matter what the non-Christian cultural context is, even in the West’s pre-Christian and post-Christian era. There is something that is loss if we fail to translate the Son of God terminology in our translations since this term is quite theologically rich and have greater continuity in terms of the Bible’s inter-textuality. I appreciated the chapter closing with an appeal for Bible translators not to be only narrowly focused on linguistics but also exegesis, biblical and systematic theology. His parting words also encouraged me to see Bible translations in the context of a biblical missiology: “…the spread of the gospel in the early church saw the dissemination of Scripture along with the provision of missionaries and pastors. One wonders if at least some of the tensions over Bible translation springs from the commitment on the part of some to provide adequate translations without simultaneously providing missionaries and pastors” (108-09). Overall, a great book and one that shows how some books are physically small but packs a big punch.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b7e8f6c) out of 5 stars a superb course-corrective parlay 8 Mar. 2013
By David Norman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Stemming from three lectures at Reformed Theological Seminary (and then again at Westminster Theological Seminary and the Colloque Reformee) in 2012, D.A. Carson's contribution on the subject of the Divine Sonship of Jesus Christ cannot be considered the exhaustive, definitive work on the subject. However, it stands as a superb course-corrective parlay in which he challenges those already engaged in the discussion to think critically - even if outside their area of expertise.

For instance, Carson mourns that, "the ways in which both exegesis and systematic theology are commonly taught ensure that the two disciplines do not engage each other well" (76). Rather, those who teach exegesis warn their students of imposing systematic categories on the text, while rarely developing their exegesis to the extent of such categories. In like manner, those who teach systematic theology, according to Carson, do so "with minimal dependence on firsthand study of the biblical texts" (76).

Carson leads the reader through an cursory, biblical study of the phrase, "Son of God," followed by a thorough examination of this title in Hebrews 1 and John 5:16-30. These texts were selected by Carson because they seem to him, "to be among the richest and most evocative of biblical passages to treat this title" (43). Then, Carson expertly and bravely enters into the current debates regarding the translation of this title in Muslim contexts.

While acknowledging the difficulty presented to translators and missionaries alike, ultimately, Carson argues that the text should say what the text says.

"The richest theological loading of the expression "Son of God" as applied to Jesus springs from passages that deploy the expression to cross-pollinate distinctive uses. This fact constitutes a driving reason to translate "Son of God" and "Father" expressions consistently, for otherwise these crucial intracanonical links will be lost to view" (107).

In Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed, Carson brings the debates surrounding this issue back to the main issue - the text itself. While others may argue that nothing is lost by translating "Son of God" as something else in order to be least offensive to Muslims, Carson counters that after diligent study and exegesis, one discovers that this great theme runs the scope of Holy Writ (both typologically and overtly) and cannot be re-translated lest we lose the staggering truth of Jesus the Son of God.

I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b7ed06c) out of 5 stars clear, charitable, and Scripture-based 10 Mar. 2016
By Lars - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Carson does not come to this book grinding an axe, unless it is that we should all be deeper students of the Bible and should not take the meaning of "Son of God" for granted, whichever position we come down on.

He builds a careful case (within the limitations of a short, popular format) for the various meanings of this and related phrases in many passages of Scripture, cautioning against the oversimplification that often comes with knee-jerk reactions about translation issues. His criticisms of "new translations" that seek to avoid the meaning of biological sonship are expressed charitably, but show clearly the associated risks and problems.

Carson concludes with implications for evangelism and for worship, as well as for Bible translation. Anyone who wants to be able to speak informedly about the translation issues should not ignore this book.
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