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While "Son of God" is most widely related to Christian New Testament concepts, similar terminology was present, before, during and after the Apostolic Age, in the Gentile and Jewish cultural and historical background of Jesus: while in the Greek and Roman polytheistic culture rulers and heroes were called sons of Zeus or Poseidon or Apollo or some other god among many, Christians consider Jesus to be the unigenitus Dei Filius (lat. "only-begotten Son of God"), of the only God there is, and regard themselves as monotheists. In Judaism the term "son of God" was sometimes used of the expected Jewish mashiach figure.
In Greek mythology, Heracles and many other figures, human and divine, were considered to be sons of gods such as Zeus, their highest god, and Zeus himself was represented as one of the sons of another god.
The Roman emperor Augustus was called "divi filius" (son of the deified Julius Caesar): "Divi filius", not "Dei filius" (son of God), was the Latin term used, and, in Greek, the term huios theou ("son of a god") was applied.
Historians believe Alexander the Great implied he was a demigod by actively using the title "Son of Ammon–Zeus". (His mother Olympias was said to have declared that Zeus impregnated her while she slept under an oak tree sacred to the god.) The title was bestowed upon him by Egyptian priests of the god Ammon at the Oracle of the god at the Siwah oasis in the Libyan Desert The title was also used of wonder-workers.
In the Hebrew Bible, the phrase "son(s) of God" has various meanings: there are a number of later interpretations. Our translation most likely comes from the Septuagint, which uses the phrase "Uioi Tou Theou", "Sons of God", to translate it.
In the Jewish literature that was not finally accepted as part of the Hebrew Bible, but that many Christians do accept as Scripture (see Deuterocanonical books), there are passages in which the title "son of God" is given to the anointed person or Mashiach (see Enoch, 55:2; IV Esdras 7:28-29; 13:32, 37, 52; 14:9). The title belongs also to any one whose piety has placed him in a filial relation to God (see Wisdom 2:13, 16, 18; 5:5, where "the sons of God" are identical with "the saints"; comp. Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] iv. 10).
Throughout the New Testament (see "New Testament passages", below) the phrase "son of God" is applied repeatedly, in the singular, only to Jesus. "Sons of God" is applied to others only in the plural. The New Testament calls Jesus God's "only begotten son" (John 1:14, 3:16 3:18, 1 John 4:9), "his own son" (Romans 8:3). (It should be noted that while the use of the original Greek word "μονογενής, monogenhs" is often translated as "only begotten," another usage for it in the Septuagint is "one-of-a-kind" (Heb 11:17) where Isaac is described as μονογενής although he was not Abraham's only son according to the Old Testament.) It also refers to Jesus simply as "the son" in contexts in which "the Father" is used to refer to God the Father.
In mainstream Christianity the title of Son of God is used to describe Jesus as a divine being and a member of the Trinity. This is expressed, for instance, in the Nicene Creed, which refers to Jesus as God's only Son, true God from true God, who took human form in the flesh. This view interprets the New Testament as referring to or implying the deity of Jesus in, for example, Hebrews 1:8, which quotes Psalm 45:6 as addressing him as God, and in John 8:58, where Jesus states, "Before Abraham was, I am", seen in this view as referencing God's name "I am", revealed in Exodus 3:14. Also in John 5:18, John writes "but he [Jesus] was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God".
Another view is that, in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus styled himself the Son of God in the same sense as a righteous person was sometimes referred to as a son or child of God (though not the son of God), as in Wisdom 2:18. Since New Testament books present Jesus as without sin, those who hold the first view, that of Jesus as divine, can hold this view too, but not as an exclusive interpretation.
See also: Divine filiation.
In the Gospel of John, the author writes that "to all who believed him and accepted him [Jesus], he gave the right to become children of God" [John 1:12]. The phrase "children of God" is used ten times in the New Testament. To these can be added the five times, mentioned above, in which the New Testament speaks of "sons of God". The New Testament speaks of no individual Christian as it speaks of Jesus, as the son of God, not just a son of God.
Humans, including the New Testament writers, calling Jesus Son of God
Attributed to Jesus himself
Unclear whether attributed to Jesus himself or only a comment of the evangelist
Jesus referred to as ὁ υιός (ho huios)
"Son of God" is the "Word" in the gnostic The Teachings of Silvanus (115:15): "For all dwell in God, that is, the things which have come into being through the Word who is the Son as the image of the Father." Supporting this, The Apocryphon of John also has "light" as the "only-begotten child" of the Father—not Jesus, personally: "And he looked at Barbelo with the pure light which surrounds the invisible Spirit, and (with) his spark, and she conceived from him. He begot a spark of light with a light resembling blessedness. But it does not equal his greatness. This was an only-begotten child of the Mother-Father which had come forth; it is the only offspring, the only-begotten one of the Father, the pure Light." Trimorphic Protennoia has: "Then the Son who is perfect in every respect--that is, the Word who originated through that Voice; who has within him the Name; who is a Light--he (the Son) revealed the everlasting things and all the unknowns were known."
In Islam, Jesus (Arabic: عيسى `Īsā) is a messenger of God who had been sent to guide the Children of Israel (banī isrā'īl) with a new scripture, the Injīl (gospel). The Qur'an, believed by Muslims to be God's final revelation, states that Jesus was born to Mary (Arabic: Maryam) as the result of virginal conception, a miraculous event which occurred by the decree of God (Arabic: Allah). To aid him in his quest, Jesus was given the ability to perform miracles, all by the permission of God. According to The Qur'an, Jesus was neither killed nor crucified, but God raised him to himself. Some Muslims take this to be a physical ascension while others interpret it as a metaphorical rising of his status as a true Messiah. Islamic traditions narrate that he will return to earth near the day of judgment to restore justice and defeat al-Masīḥ ad-Dajjāl (lit. "the false messiah", also known as the Antichrist).
Islam rejects that Jesus was God incarnate or the son of God, stating that he was an ordinary man who, like other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God's message. Islamic texts forbid the association of partners with God (shirk), emphasizing the notion of God's divine oneness (tawhīd). Numerous titles are given to Jesus in the Qur'an, such as al-Masīḥ ("the messiah; the anointed one" i.e. by means of blessings), although it does not correspond with the meaning accrued in Christian belief. Jesus is seen in Islam as a precursor to Muhammad, and is believed by Muslims to have foretold the latter's coming.
Although Jesus is thus a highly respected prophet in Islam, and considered to be the Messiah, Muslims do not believe that he was a son of God. They look on him as the son of the virgin Mary and as a great prophet like other prophets such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Muhammad. They believe that associating others with God in any kind of worship, even if the associated person is an angel or prophet, is polytheism and is an unforgivable sin.
It is generally agreed that the language Jesus ordinarily spoke was Aramaic, even if he perhaps also spoke some Greek (see Aramaic of Jesus). The lack of primary sources in Aramaic about the life of Jesus makes it impossible to determine whether he himself or others referred to him in that language as "a son of God" or as "the Son of God" or neither.
In 42 BCE, Julius Caesar was formally deified as "the divine Julius" (divus Iulius). His adopted son, Octavian (better known by the title "Augustus" given to him 15 years later, in 27 BC) thus became known as "divi Iuli filius" (son of the divine Julius)  or simply "divi filius" (son of the Divine One),  because of being the adopted son of Julius Caesar. He used this title to advance his political position, finally overcoming all rivals for power within the Roman state. The title was for him "a useful propaganda tool", and was displayed on the coins that he issued.
The word applied to Julius Caesar as deified is "divus", not the distinct word "deus". Thus Augustus was called "Divi filius", but never "Dei filius", the expression applied to Jesus in the Vulgate translation of the New Testament, as, for instance, in 1 John 5:5, and in earlier Latin translations, as shown by the Vetus Latina text "Inicium evangelii Ihesu Christi filii dei" preserved in the Codex Gigas. As son of Julius Caesar, Augustus was referred to as the son of a god, not as the son of God, which was how the monotheistic Christians referred to Jesus.
Greek did not have a distinction corresponding to that in Latin between "divus" and "deus". "Divus" was thus translated as "θεός", the same word used for the Olympian gods, and "divi filius" as "θεοῦ υἱός" (theou huios), which, since it does not include the Greek article, in a polytheistic context referred to sonship of a god among many, to Julius Caesar in the case of the "divi filius" Augustus. In the monotheistic context of the New Testament, the same phrase can refer only to sonship of the one God. Indeed, in the New Testament, Jesus is most frequently referred to as " ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ" (ho huios tou theou), the son of God.
Human or part-human offspring of deities are very common in other religions and mythologies. A great many pantheons also included genealogies in which various gods were descended from other gods, and so the term "son of a god" may be applied to many deities themselves.
In Plato's Apology, an account of Socrates' defence at his trial, Socrates meets the accusation of atheism by getting his accuser to admit that, since he had spoken of Socrates as believing in "spiritual agencies", he was admitting that Socrates believed in "spirits or demigods", and since spirits or demigods are "either gods or the sons of gods" (theon paidas not uioi theou), he was illogical in accusing him of atheism.
In the Greek and Roman cultures in which early Christianity expanded after first arising within Judaism, the concepts of demi-gods, sons or daughters of a god, as in the story of Perseus, were commonly known and accepted.
In the Rastafari movement, Haile Selassie is considered to be God the Son, a part of the Holy Trinity. He himself never accepted the idea officially.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest recorded legends of humanity, Gilgamesh claimed to be of both human and divine descent.
According to the Radha Soami Satsang Beas teachings, known as Sant Mat or Teachings of the Saints, "Son of God" refers to a living Master who connects souls with the Creator through the Shabd or Holy Spirit.
There are no direct analogues in Chinese culture which has been essentially atheistic among the literate classes since Han times, but the Emperor was generally styled the Son of Heaven and his or her rule was justified by the Mandate of Heaven.
Son of God
The plural, "sons of God," is used (Gen 6:2ff) to denote the pious descendants of Seth. In Job 1:6; Job 38:7 this name is applied to the angels. Hosea uses the phrase (1:10) to designate the gracious relation in which men stand to God.
It occurs thirty-seven times in the New Testament as the distinctive title of Jesus. He does not bear this title in consequence of his miraculous birth, nor of his incarnation, his resurrection, and exaltation to the Father's right hand. This is a title of nature and not of office. The sonship of Christ denotes his equality with the Father. To call Christ the Son of God is to assert his true and proper divinity. The second Person of the Trinity, because of his eternal relation to the first Person, is the Son of God. He is the Son of God as to his divine nature, while as to his human nature he is the Son of David (Rom 1:3f. Comp. Gal 4:4; Jn 1:1ff; Jn 5:18ff; Jn 10:30, which prove that Christ was the Son of God before his incarnation, and that his claim to this title is a claim of equality with God).
When used with reference to creatures, whether men or angels, this word is always in the plural. In the singular it is always used of the second Person of the Trinity, with the single exception of Lk 3:38, where it is used of Adam.
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