AN EXPLANATION FOR MUSLIMS
By A. Ibrahim
Christians do not believe that Jesus is the son of God in a physical sense. God forbid that he should take a wife! That would be blasphemy. However, they do believe that Jesus is the Son of God in a spiritual sense. Arabs, for example, are commonly known as “sons of the desert”. Nobody would ever think that the desert would have given physical birth to the Arabs. No, the term “sons of the desert” has to be understood in a spiritual sense. Arabs know the desert in and out; they are one with it, that is why they are called “sons of the desert.” In the same way the Quran calls a wayfarer a “son of the road”, “ibn as sabeel” (Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verse 177) The Arabic word “ibn” is used in a figurative sense as opposed to “walad” which is used in a physical way.
Besides having many other titles, such as “Messiah” or ” Son of man”, Jesus calls himself “Son of God” because he knows Him in a profound way, he is one with Him in essence.
They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He (Jesus) replied, “You are right in saying I am.” (Luke 22:70)
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father…” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father … Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” (John 14:8-10)
Because God is so much greater than man, He chooses to express Himself in human terms so that we can understand Him. When Surah 22, Hajj, verse 61 says that Allah sees and hears, it does not mean He has ears and eyes. Rather He is expressing a spiritual truth in such a way that we can understand that He is All-knowing. Similarly, behind the title “Son of God” is a spiritual truth expressed in human terms.
The Bible calls a number of people “sons of God” but Jesus is addressed as such in a particular way:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
The Greek word for “one and only son”, “mono-genes”, means literally, “one in kind, unique” and has sometimes been incorrectly translated into English as “only begotten”. This rendering is wrong because “Mono-genes” is also used in Hebrews 11:17 to describe Isaac as Abraham’s “one and only son”, namely the one who was promised by God to Abraham and his wife Sarah. (Genesis 15) Since Ishmael too was Abraham’s son, but through his servant Hagar (Genesis 16), the term “one and only” distinguishes Isaac as being unique in his kind but not as the only begotten.
Furthermore, the Hebrew word used to describe Isaac in the Old Testament story as “only son” in Genesis 22:2 is completely different from the word “begotten” used, for example, in Psalm 2:7:
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father (or, I have begotten you).
“In the ancient Near East the relationship between a great king and one of his subject kings, who ruled by his authority and owed him allegiance, was expressed….also by “father” and “son”.” (N.I.V. Studybible, Zondervan Bible Publishers, U.S.A., 1985, footnote) Psalm 2:7 is applied to the relationship between God and Jesus in a filial not in a carnal sense in Acts 13:33 as having been a fulfilled prophecy through his resurrection.
Just as other people are called “one and only sons” in the Bible because of their uniqueness in some ways, Jesus too is called exclusively “one and only son of God.” On a number of occasions he made statements to prove this fact:
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Luke 10:22)
Nobody else has ever used such language to speak about himself!
(For more examples see: John 5:22-23, Luke 20:9-19, Matthew 3:17)
Jesus, the Son of God, has come to show us what God is like:
No-one has seen God; but God’s only Son, He who is nearest to the Father’s heart, he has made him known. (John 1:18)