What Does It Mean To Be God’s Son In The Old Testament? (gospel Of John 1:14-15)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)

In vs. 14 it is interesting that the word translated as “dwelled among us” literally could be translated “tabernacled or pitched a tent among us.” While it communicates pretty much the same idea as “dwelling together” in most English translations, it does evoke to a far greater degree the connection between Jesus and the Tabernacle, between God’s presence in the tabernacle of old and the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus, which is central in Christian tradition.

Additionally, in vs. 14 the concept of the sonship of Jesus appears for the first time in this Gospel. It is important to note that in the Hebrew Bible, kings (especially at the time of their coronation) were granted the title the son of God. We read in Psalm 2.7-9:

“‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree. The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

The very act of crowning someone king over Israel is a symbolic act of enormous proportions within Israel’s narrative history. It signified receiving the authority of Israel’s God Himself to rule over Israel and to exercise authority over the nations of the world with the power and the confidence that come from being God’s own son. So while there are other aspects to Jesus’ sonship that should be taken into account when constructing one’s theology, we must keep in mind that the most important aspect must remain – royal authority over all things created.

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© By Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Ph.D.

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  1. Lois Eaton

    Has anyone given serious consideration to the idea that the Christian church may be wrong about the trinity? The capital letter in “Word” in John 1:1 was not in the original Greek. I find Psalm 110 v1 exciting. The Lord – Adonai – speaks with the Lord – Adoni. Also, the trinity doctrine was not accepted into the church until Constantine – who remained a priest of the sun god until the day he died. That is the real reason the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      People (good and godly people) have debated this issue on both sides. If I am asked personally what do I think I think that the trinity as is historically defined in early church history is there in the Scriptures in non-systematized form. If the apostles were read a trinity statement of the later church they would have debated it and much prayer and study (I think) would have accepted it. But that is how I see it. Its just a speculation of course. We will not know things for sure for a long time :-).

  2. […] John 5.19-30 the texts cited from Daniel are then merged with the idea of the Royal Son of God from Psalm 2. (See also Logos Theology in pre-Christian Jewish Tradition and ReReading John 3.:16). […]

  3. Conny Young

    I received a blog post in which you quote John 3:16. What version of the bible are you using? I notice your version says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son….” where as the KJV says “… his only begotten son …” The distinction is subtle but significant because later scriptures teach that we are all sons of god. Begotten has an important meaning to Christians.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I am almost always using ESV (English Standart Version). Only begotten son and only son is the same concept, communicating uniqueness of this relationship in comparison to everyone else.

      1. Rafael

        I have to disagree. The word begotten carries the element of siring. And that is truly unique to the virgin birth. No one else can claim to have been begotten by God. Wasn’t Joseph told this in his vision from God?

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          I agree virgin birth is unique, thought there were other miraculous births in the Bible. But the Son of God is still something that relates largely to the idea of Israel kingship albeit in a new way.

  4. […] however, the connection between the Sonship of God (see previous discussion on the Sonship of God) in this Gospel as based on relevant Old Testament texts, we are forced to come to the conclusion […]

  5. […] current leadership structure was of course talking with Nicodemus at night. His name was Jesus, the Royal Son of God. It was a Judean self-critique that was meant to provoke Samaritan Israelites to challenge their […]

  6. […] It is likely that this story served as double critique. On the one hand it showed the Jerusalem leaders (even the best of them) not in a good light, while at the same time it meant to provoke an appropriate question in the mind of the readers: “What if my (Samaritan) sages/leaders also are just as blinded and spiritually incapable as the leadership of Jerusalem?” The main challenger of Judean and Samaritan current leadership structure is of course – Jesus, the Royal Son of God. […]

  7. Eric Rodríguez

    BS”D
    In this verse, is clear that is related and anunced the fullfilment of the promise in Ex 25:8 “וְעָשׂוּ לִי, מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם” = And they will do for me, a Sancturay, and I will inhabite with comfidence among them”; the Greek word σκήνωσεν (skee-noe-sen) was employed in Septuagint for translating many Hebrew words related to “Tend” “Tabernacle” (Jd 5:17 שכן, – Gn 13:12 אהל) So, saying “He inhabited with comfidence” (tabernaclized) among us, sends a wonderful message to Israel entire. God began to inhabite with comfidence amog us, like in ‘Eden…

    1. Eric Rodríguez

      BS”D
      On other hand, To be Sons For God (God’s sons) means to receive the attribute of the Everlasting life, to begin a Sanctity way, and to be “Colaborators/servants of the Messiah; This also implies that which was writen on Psalm 82:6 “I said, You are Godlike (Only can mean: “Judges”) and Sons of the “Soarer” (The Almighty) you all…” Yehoshua’ (Jesus) The Messiah explained the sense: Sons of the Almighty is to have the capacity of Judge according to the God’s word, as was writen (Psalm 119:105 נר לרגלי דבריך, ואור לנתיבתי Kindle to my feet are your words, and Light to my path…

  8. Jerry Christensen

    The idea of tabernacle, dwelling, and glory also gives rise to the term Shekinah which, I believe, comes from the word משכן. When Solomon dedicated the temple, a visible manifestation of the glory of G-d filled the temple. While the Israelites were in their exodus from Egypt, a visible manifestation in the form of pillars of fire and cloud indicated G-d’s dwelling among them. Does the phrase “we have seen his glory” give rise to the same idea?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Jerry, can you explain your second point better?

      1. Jerry Christensen

        I’m asking what was John trying to say when he said “we have seen his glory”, and then following up with “as of the only son from the Father”. Was there something tangible by one of the five senses, or is it metaphorical? There are some extra-biblical references that the shekinah glory of G-d was still present at the temple during the lifetime of Jesus. Certainly when Jesus was “transfigured” there would have been a tangible form of glory (strangely it is not recorded in John, but is in the other three gospel accounts) Was John implying something similar to the shekinah glory on Jesus. Mishkan carries with it the idea of taking up residence or making a place home. Dwelling – glory, both in Christ. Being that John was Jewish, would he have been thinking along those lines, or am I reading too much into it? There is also John 17:5 which seems to hint at this as well. What do you think?

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          You may be on to something here.

  9. Jerry Christensen

    While not near as educated as most contributors to this blog, I find this discussion fascinating. I’ve wondered often if there should be any attempt to link this usage of “son of G-d” in the new testament to the B’nai Elohim of Genesis 6? I understand this would be considered heresy in some circles. Similar references were made in the book of Job. I realize this strikes at the heart of longstanding Christian theology attributing Deity to Jesus. I appreciate the fact that the title was placed on the kings of Israel. Would first century Jews leaned more towards the kingship understanding and given no thought to the B’nai Elohim of Torah?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I personally do not think there is any connection between the two. Although we should never be afraid to think in “heretical” categories. Most of things “the orthodox” christians belief are heretical or were heretical some other people. The issue is not that it is heretical (from Greek – “other”), but is it accurate. Read Boyarin’s new book “Jewish Gospels”. He has a layman discussion there in the first couple of chapters.

      1. Rafael

        Investigating “other”, no problem. Teaching “other”, big problems. But exactly what is “other” is not always so easy to determine. Start with the law of non-contradiction.

        If something contradicts itself, it is false. If something contradicts OT (Moses or the Haftarah), it is false. If something contradicts the NT (B’rit Hakhadasha), it is false. If something contradicts my perceptions of these, it appears to be false, though my perceptions could be mistaken. In other words, if something contradicts what is known to be true, it is false.

        The b’nei Elohim were sons of God, but none of them were begotten. They were created beings. They were fallen angels who were trying to thwart the prophecies of God by polluting the human gene pool. Noah and his children were the only ones left with purely human DNA.

        The Son of God in the new testament is not a reference to an angel, a created being. But it might connect to “the angel of the Lord”, an uncreated being who was not just the messenger of God but somehow was also God, the one with whom Jacob wrestled.

        It is my belief that the angel of the Lord was none other than Yeshua in His glorified body, and not limited by time, being that He was God.

        But speaking now to Dr Eli, I must disagree with you that “Son of God” would have been applied to kings, specifically because of the statement “this day have I begotten you”. Do you have any contemporary Jewish commentary on that? I believe that phrase applies uniquely to the virgin birth of the Meshiakh, the ultimate king of Israel.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Rafael, I don’t want to argue with you about this. But if you almost any scholar of OT they will all tell you that the phrase was applied to coronation of Israel’s king and therefore can not be EXCLUSIVELY applied to Jesus’ birth (which is what I think you are saying).

          1. Rafael

            I have no desire to argue either. And I am certainly no expert on Jewish coronation customs, which is why I requested a contemporary commentary on it. But although I’m no expert on the OT, or the NT, I’m no slouch either.

            I went straight to every biblical reference of begotten, several of which in the NT spoke directly to psalm 2. I won’t mention all of them. But the way I see Hebrews 1:5-6 doesn’t leave any room in my mind. And, personally speaking, I tend to think that the author of Hebrews (to name just one) might have known more about it than any modern day expert. And that’s another reason I asked you for contemporary commentary on the matter.

            My mind is not closed. But the careful student must assign weight to each source.

      2. phillip

        Dr. Eli

        I wondered why you so easily dismissed–if I may use the word here–Jerry Christensen’s very slight argument on his noticing a connetion of Y’shua as the “Son of God” and all the rest of the heavenly “sons of God” by the same exalted title of B’nai Elohim of Genesis 6 as well as in many other places in Scripture?
        While, I would be the first to agree that there certainly are many classes of angels who are called B’nai Elohim in the Divine counsil of heaven but surely they are all sons of God, just as Y’shua Himself is one of them.
        I wonder therefore, just why Paul in Hebrews 1: 13, would write “But to which of the angel said he at anytime, sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”

        Wouldn’t it make better, proper, English to have rather translated this passage as “But to which of the ‘other’ angel said he at any time…”?
        As the passage is clearly comparing one class of created beings with another one of their kind, as it seems to me that Paul also said two chapters later:
        “Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also was Moses was faithful in all his house.”

        But in the verse Paul said that Y’shua was “made” as the original Greek has it, but the King James translators substituted the word “appointed” but adding the meaning of the original in the margin: appointed: gr, made.
        Another severe problem which I have been struggling so long with, is in seeing Y’shua acting in His pre-incarnate state anywhere in the Old Testament accounts. Except in one.
        And this is in relation to the two thrones appearing in the Scriptures.
        One is the “Birthright Throne” in the heavenlies, and the other is the “Sceptre Throne” as seen in the palace complex in Jerusalem.
        And this is relation with the arch angel Michael, who is said “to stand up”. So I wondered if they could be one and the same person, since angels do not sit on any thrones that we know of, but the one called in Hebrew “He who is like God” certainly doe seem to do so.
        But yet, we know that it was Y’shua Himself Who earned the right to occupy the Birthright throne by inheritance. And isn’t He the One telling them and us, that it is He the only one Who is like God?

        I am just a bumb horse reading the Bible and to my dumb mind that is what it is saying to us: that B’nai Elohim Michael and B’nai Elohim Y’shua are the same person….

        Phillip

        1. phillip

          PS:
          could you please explain this seeming contradiction between these two types of sons of God to me, because this would really be very much appreciated…thanks

  10. Laurence Henry Bosma

    I have read that in Gen 33:17 that Jacob’s “booths” for his cattle is the same word in the LXX as the “manger” Jesus was born in, seemingly indicating Jesus was born in a sukkah on sukkot which would make Jesus circumcision on the 8th day feast.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      This comment sounds like its trying to hard 🙂 🙂 :-). But the idea is good though. I need to think more on it.

    2. Rafael

      Being that the feast of Sukkot was indeed an eight-day feast, and given that circumcision was to be done on the eighth day from birth, then unless Yeshua was born on the very first day of Sukkot, then his circumcision would NOT have coincided.

      However, I do believe that He was born in a Sukkah, sometime during the eight days of Sukkot. I believe that a Jew would sooner give birth in an open field than in an unclean stable. I believe that the innkeeper offered his sukkah since he had no other vacancies left.

      1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

        What is the reason behind your belief here? What is wrong with the stable?

        1. Rafael

          I’ll clarify.

          This idea did not occur to me. The first time I even heard that it might have been in a sukkah, it was Rabbi Kasdan who expressed it. He suggested that the Jewish mind would consider unkosher a place where animals defecate, even if they are all kosher animals. Although he never said an open field would be preferable, that’s what came to my mind.

          That made sense to me in addition to the fact that I had already come to the conclusion years earlier that Yeshua was born in the autumn.

          And just in case you’re curious about my Rabbi, I attend a messianic synagogue in San Diego. It is more traditional than modern, but has respectable levels of both. You are invited to check us out if you find yourself in the area.

          1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            I will let you and your Rabbi figure this out :-). Dr. Eli

  11. Benjamin Cook

    Doctor, why don’t you use the aramaic from the “new testament” you can very clearly see it was originally written in aramaic.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Benjamin, please, my answer to Dr. Ley. I do not believe that you “can clearly sea that it was originally written in Aramaic” as you suggest. There are more logical way to explain hebraisms and aramaisms and a more simple one. Modern example, when someone from Russia writes in English, you can see many examples of Russian pattern of thought and Russisms 🙂 present. It does not mean that you reading the actual translation from Russian. Do you see my point? This is so with every language.

  12. eli

    God dwelling with his people “in person” (Eden) was at the beginning of Torah, and since, according to John, in Jesus things are moving towards the (happy) end of history – the recovered Garden of Eden – then it would make sense for him to evoke such a powerful imagery in the prologue. That is if he is in fact deliberate and we are in fact correct about making a big deal about it. 🙂

  13. eli

    I wonder too. But there are of course several options including: 1) coincidence, 2) absence of connection, 3) loan word from Hebrew, 4) loanword from Greek. One one of my trips to Tajikistan, where I grew up, I noticed that the word for “center” in farsi has the same root as the word for center in Modern Hebrew – “Mirkaz”. Words are like travelers that know no borders. They are like passports that do not need any visas.

    1. Peter

      Good points and quite logical. Thanks. I myself lean towards 1 or 2 at this point but would not mind to be convinced otherwise. Perhaps my mystical bent tends to be skeptical of coincidence dismissals. As far as Tadjik language goes, it is much easier to explain the similarity than with Hebrew and Greek. Hebrew and Arabic share much in common(both Semitic). Tadjik language has been influenced by Arabic via Islam, thus the same Semitic root MRKZ is understandable. But it is really possible for the pre-LXX Greek to be influenced by Hebrew? Greek is Indo-European. Is it a loan word? So I am always looking for an expert to explain this similarity. I believe this explanation, since it pertains to original Greek wording deliberately chosen by a first century Jew may open new nuances of the passage for the exegetes.

      1. Rafael

        If you look at the history of written alphabets, you will see that virtually all of them have nearly identical marks for the same sounds in their origins. This proves that they all had close contact with one another for some time after the incident of the tower of Babel. Borrowed words could happen easily in that setting, especially if you believe as I do that the original language was Hebrew. If this were indeed the case, then after the languages were confused by God, then the only ones who would still be able to read the documents already written would be those who spoke Hebrew. Naturally, everyone would want to learn how to write their own language. Naturally, they would seek tutors from the only ones who could still read and write. However, this is largely conjecture on my part. But it’s logical.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          When we hold a hammer in our hand everything looks like a nail. We must be a little more careful.

          1. Rafael

            Perhaps, but I don’t think I’m the one holding a hammer.

            I’d love to her a better explanation. I might even settle for an explanation half as good.

          2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            We all have to be careful. Don’t we?

    2. Laurence Henry Bosma

      All languages east of Jerusalem write from right to left, all languages west of Jerusalem write left to write (Chuck Missler).

      1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

        Very interesting!

      2. Lois Eaton

        Are you saying that all languages point towards Jerusalem? That is powerful.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          It probably would be powerful, but I don’t believe I said so. :-).

  14. Peter

    The conceptual allusion is quite clear with the Greek verb “to dwell”. It seems deliberate on John’s part. The overall the beginning of this pericope parallels creation described in Bereshit in many ways and I was wondering how this interpretation fits into the greater creation framework of what John is writing? Naturally I see the connection of dwelling. As far as hermeneutical link, I see the beauty of the imagery implied in using this particular word. I have always been curious in the similar sounding words in Greek “skineo” (dwell) and Hebrew “shachan” (dwell). What amazes me is that they seem to have the same sound and the same root (SKN) structure. But Greek and Hebrew are so different…How did this happen?

  15. Alastair Ferrie

    Ihave often thought that the choice of the term “tabernacled” hinted at the temporary nature of His earthly sojourn.
    A wonderful tie in here also with 1 Jn1:1-4…that which was from the beginning (the Word) … we saw Him, we heard Him, we touched Him. A real incarnation.

    1. eli

      Tabernacle was a temporary structure. Yes. But incarnation was permanent. Incidentally, the end of the Book is more or less described in Rev. 21. It tells us that there will be a New Earth for all eternity.