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Is Jesus the Son of God, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1696

Essay

The term “Son of God” occurs some forty-seven times in the course of a reading of the New Testament. The precise number of times varies depending on which version of The Bible that one may be reading there is no denying that the term is used in reference to Jesus. This belief is the essence of the Christian religion and it is only through a belief in this doctrine that one can earn his or her way to heaven (e.g. King James Bible, John 5:18-24). Similarly, in the Old Testament, the term “Son of God” is used but it is not used in reference to Jesus. Instead, the there is a vague reference to “My son (King James Bible, Hosea 11:1)” and to the sons of God (King James Bible, Job 1:6).

This concept of Jesus as the Son of God is confusing to a great number of people. For instance, for the followers of the Muslim religion the term “Son of God” conjures up images of a divine being who together with some undefined goddess wife produce a child named Jesus. For Muslims, the thought that God could have participated in such an activity is pure blasphemy (Brown, 2005). The Christians would counter this Muslim belief by arguing that the term “Son of God” does not mean that God participated in any physical act that resulted in creating a human son but is meant to have occurred on a more spiritual level and refers to the essence of God and his possessing three separate forms: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

For those outside the Christian faith, however, this spiritual explanation is difficult to grasp. Being largely based on faith, it requires putting aside one’s preconceived notions of the father/son relationship and abandoning one’s reliance on reason as a form of learning and understanding. Yet, a powerful and influential religion prospered on this basis and an examination of how this occurred is compelling.

Not unexpectedly, there are a great number of people who doubt the sanctity of Jesus. Some believe he was a great moral teacher, others believe he was the founder of one of the world’s great religions, while others question his very existence, but a great many believe that he was God and that he visited us in human form. What does the available evidence say?

The idea that Jesus was a great moral teacher is accepted by many who otherwise do not consider themselves Christians. For example, Mahatma Ghandi, a follower of Hinduism, spoke highly of Jesus’ moral standards and the beauty of his words (Donagan, 1966). Similarly, numerous other religious scholars from other religions have also marveled at the depth of his ethical principles and noted historian Will Durant, an atheist, said of Jesus, “he lived and struggled unremittingly for ‘equal rights’; in modern times he would have been sent to Siberia (Durant, 1961, p. 428).”  None of these learned individuals, however, have ever asserted that Jesus was the Son of God.

One of the unique features of the historical Jesus, however, that is rarely, if ever, commented on is the fact that in the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ life He is never quoted as proclaiming himself as a religious leader. Other than his brief encounter in the Temple when he was in his young teens, there is little evidence presented that Jesus ever involved himself in religious politics or advocated any particular religious agenda. In fact, if anything, Jesus spent most of the three years of his ministry operating outside the traditional framework of the religion in which he was born: Judaism. For the most part, Jesus did not advocate a particular doctrine or set of beliefs. Instead, the way he lived his life was his message and he simply advocated that others follow his example. Throughout all four New Testament books, Jesus’ constant refrain was “Follow me (King James Bible, Matthew 4:19)” or “Obey me (King James Bible, John 14:23).” He did not leave a book of doctrine for others to follow like Mohammed or Buddha. He simply implored others to live like he had. The New Testament books are not the work of Jesus but the recollections of his followers. Their value is in how they reflect the basic goodness of Jesus and how Jesus claimed from the beginning of his ministry that he was divine. None of the other human leaders of the other world religions ever made such a claim. Jesus is alone in this regard and it is upon this claim that the Christian Church has built all its beliefs.

It has already been pointed out that there are a great number of people who stand in the middle between being devout Christians and those who do not believe in any divine entity. These individuals view Jesus as a great philosopher, great moralist and a great teacher but they refuse, for a variety of reasons to attach any spiritual nature to Jesus. These individuals number in the millions and their point of view must be afforded some credibility. On the other extreme, however, are the millions of others who deny the significance of Jesus entirely. These individuals, whether agnostic or atheists, deny the spirituality and divinity of Jesus and would strongly argue that it is impossible for Jesus to be the Son of God.

The arguments against the existence of Jesus as a person and as the Son of God have been offered by historians and religion study scholars for many years (Bock, 2002). Some of these arguments are based on the lack of historical documentation relative to Jesus’ birth and life. Other arguments are based on the remarkable similarities between the stories of Jesus’ life and the various pagan stories that were popular in the first few centuries of the modern age (Eddy, 1996). Still others point out the remarkable conflicts between the four New Testament books that are reported by Christians to tell the story of Jesus’ human life. These arguments are singularly compelling but when considered in their entirety they can be overwhelming.

How then does one resolve the issue of whether or not Jesus was the Son of God? The question has remained unanswered for over two thousand years but a large proportion of the world holds onto to the belief that it has. In directing one’s attention to answering the question, the possible answers depend heavily on what approach is taken to do so. If one takes the approach advocated by Christians, that it is a matter of faith, then believing that Jesus is the Son of God is an easy next step. If, however, one takes the approach advocated by empiricists and others that rely upon reasoning as the source of knowledge than God’s existence must be demonstrated through empirical proof and, ergo, so must the relationship between God and Jesus. Beyond these two approaches there are a plethora of other intermediate approaches.

For most of the past two thousand years in which the issue of Jesus’ divinity has been discussed there has been very little discussion, except in very select intellectual circles, as to the essence of the question. For a variety of reasons, including the political power of the Christian Church, the pervasive nature of the Christian Churches’ dominance of intellectual thought, and the lack of generalized education the issue was seldom, if ever, discussed. The coming of the Reformation, the Age of Reason, and the Enlightenment brought the issue to the surface and it has been popularly discussed ever since. To date, there has been no resolution.

The purpose behind this paper will be to examine whether and how Jesus can be established to be the Son of God. Every attempt will be made to reach a determination based on historical documentation but it should be realized that such a determination is problematic. The historical documentation is sketchy and subject to considerable interpretation. Objectivity in this area is important and the passage of time makes it difficult to maintain absolute objectivity. Two thousand years and the influence and input of millions of individuals with vested interest in manipulating the facts make it difficult to sift through the results.

Putting aside a historical approach and examining the matter from a different angle by assuming that the assertion that Jesus was the Son of God meant something to Jesus different from the literal and common usage of the words may make the pursuit easier. Utilizing such an approach may make it possible to understand how millions of Christians through over twenty centuries have held so strongly to such belief. Common sense reveals that so many millions cannot conceivably be so misdirected. There must be some substance to the belief and the source of this substance will be examined in an attempt to understand what is meant by the assertion that Jesus is the Son of God.

The fact that there is such a divergence of thought on the issue makes reaching a definitive answer difficult. Divorcing oneself from the influence of a lifetime of mostly Christian oriented beliefs makes it even more difficult. Despite these inherent problems, every attempt will be made to reach a well reasoned resolution. Based on years of exposure to mostly Christian religious philosophy, I feel in my heart that the assertion that Jesus is the Son of God is a truism but exposure to alternative thoughts on the issue have caused some skepticism to arise. Hopefully, the intellectual pursuit of the issue will assist me in making a final determination but the likelihood is that I will be placed in the same position of uncertainty that I presently find myself and that, in the end, I will be forced to make a final decision based on my heart and not on any rational test.

Works Cited

Bock, D. L. (2002). Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods. Ada, MI: Baker Academic.

Brown, R. (2005). Explaining the Biblical Term ‘Son(s) of God’ in Muslim Contexts. International Journal of Frontier Missions , 91-96.

Donagan, A. (1966). Other Minds and Other People. The Journal of Philosophy , 577-579.

Durant, W. (1961). The Story of Philosophy. New York: Washington Square.

Eddy, P. R. (1996). Jesus as Diogenes? Reflections on the Cynic Jesus Thesis. Journal of Biblical Literature , 449-469.

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