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In Matt. 26:63–65, Jesus effectively admits to being the “son of God” according to his response to the chief priest, (i.e., “You said.”).

English translation:

63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” 64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! NKJV, ©1982

Greek text:

63 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐσιώπα καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ἐξορκίζω σε κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος ἵνα ἡμῖν εἴπῃς εἰ σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ 64 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς σὺ εἶπας πλὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ἀπ᾽ ἄρτι ὄψεσθε τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καθήμενον ἐκ δεξιῶν τῆς δυνάμεως καὶ ἐρχόμενον ἐπὶ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ 65 τότε ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς διέρρηξεν τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ λέγων ὅτι Ἐβλασφήμησεν τί ἔτι χρείαν ἔχομεν μαρτύρων ἴδε νῦν ἠκούσατε τὴν βλασφημίαν αὐτοῦ TR, 1550

But what puzzles me is Matt. 26:65 where the chief priest interprets that as “blasphemy” (note the verb ἐβλασφήμησεν and the noun βλασφημίαν).

I heard that the phrase “Son of Man” became equated with “Messiah” and also “Son of God,” but where does it become equated with God?

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In the English language the expression "son of X" usually means an offshoot from X and therefore something which is distinct from X. Therefore "Son of God" may seem to imply a being who is not God. But in Hebrew idiom "A is the son of B" may mean that A shares the same nature as B, or A is a member of the group B. For example:

Genesis 5:32 says literally "Noah was a son of 500 years" but means 'Noah was 500 years old'.

Deuteronomy 25:2 says literally "a son of stripes" but means 'a man who deserves to be beaten'.

1 Samuel 20:31 says literally "he is a son of death" but means 'he must die'.

1 Kings 20:35 says literally "sons of the prophets" but from the context refers to a group of men who were actual prophets.

When the high priest accused Jesus of speaking blasphemy, he wasn't merely reacting to Jesus' claim to be Son of God, since out of context the expression "son of God" could be used to refer to mere angels or exalted humans (see Job 1:6 Hebrew, cf. John 10:34,35). Instead the high priest was reacting to Jesus' claim to be Son of God within the context of Jesus' other words about sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven, which are allusions to David's Lord in Psalm 110:1 and the heavenly figure in Daniel 7:13ff. respectively. The significance of this context is explained thoroughly in chapter 20 of the book "Putting Jesus in His Place" by Bowman and Komoszewski.

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A quick methodological note. An answer to the question of what was regarded as "blasphemy" by the Sanhedrin requires an answer rooted in Jewish Law of the Second Temple period,1 rather than in the Hebrew Bible itself.

Scholarship on Jesus' trial in the context of Roman and Jewish law of the period has been carried on for a very long time. One of the authorities of an earlier generation, C.G. Montefiore, considers the evidence that in this period, the claim to be the "son of God" would not, technically speaking, be regarded as "blasphemy". However, allied to a claim of messiahship, the ground changes. The assumption at that time was that the messiah in some sense in a special relationship with God. It produced a fine (i.e., "minutely precise") legal judgment. Montefiore thus concludes (in a comment on Mark 14:61):2

If the judges sought for a plea on which to condemn Jesus, his confession of the Messiahship would surely have sufficed, even if, in the most technical sense, it was not blasphemy.

That "technical sense" is exacerbated in the form in which the scene appears in Matthew 26 (as cited by OP). Jesus is depicted as using very carefully chosen language in which

Jesus avoids using even the word "God" (let alone pronouncing the divine name [i.e., Yahweh]), instead making use of the circumlocution τῆς δυνάμεως, "the Power" (v 64). This seems to be a deliberate attempt to show that Jesus was not guilty of blasphemy, at least technically...3

As Hagner notes, however, the broader understanding of "blasphemy" of the kind noted by Montefiore is enough to confirm the charge.


Notes

  1. See, e.g., D. Piattelli and B.S. Jackson, "Jewish Law during the Second Temple Period", in An Introduction to the History and Sources of Jewish Law, ed. by N.S. Hecht et al (Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 19-56.
  2. C.G. Montefiore, The synoptic Gospels (Macmillan, 1909), vol. 1, pp. 352. See the preceding page for context and more discussion.
  3. D. A. Hagner, Matthew 14-28 (Word Biblical Commentary, 33B; Dallas: Word, 1995), p. 801.
4

The idea of a human or group of humans being God’s son is not uncommon in the Hebrew Tanakh (“Old Testament”). For example, in Exo. 4:22,1 it is written,

22 Thus said Yahveh, “Israel is My son, even My firstborn.”

The motif of the nation of Israel being God’s child is reiterated in various other books of the Tanakh. In Deu. 32:6, Speaking of Yahveh, Moses asks the Israelites,

6 “Do you thus requite Yahveh, O’ foolish and unwise people? Is He not your father who bought you? Has he not made you and established you?”

Similarly, in Mal. 2:10, it is written,

10 Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

But, of course, none of the Israelites were ever actually begotten by God the Father. They weren’t literally God’s sons or daughters. Rather, they were sons and daughters by adoption.2 They were called sons and daughters, but all had actual human parents of whom they were begotten as sons and daughters.

Accordingly, some might insist that the Lord Jesus Christ, despite being called the “son of God,” is no different than any other Israelite being called God’s son. However, we should note that he distinguishes his relationship with the Father to that of everyone else’s (i.e., other Israelites) relationship to the Father.

For example, in John 20:17, it is written,

17 Jesus says to her, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Why didn’t he simply say, “I ascend to our Father and to our God”? Instead, he explicitly distinguishes his relationship with the Father to theirs. There’s also no doubt that his words were understood as something more than the historical status quo. His statement that God was his Father was understood as blasphemous, worthy of death.

For example, in John 5:17–18, it is written,

17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father works until now, and I work.” 18 Therefore, the Jews sought to kill him even more, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but he also said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

Augustine wrote,3

He does not say, “Our Father.” Therefore, in one way [He is] mine; in another way, [He is] yours. By nature [He is] mine, by grace [He is] yours. “And my God and your God.” Nor did he say here, “Our God.” Therefore, here also, in one way [He is] mine; in another way, [He is] yours. [He is] my God under whom I am man; [He is] your God, between whom and Himself I am mediator.

Non ait: Patrem nostrum: aliter ergo meum, aliter vestrum; natura meum, gratia vestrum. Et Deum meum, et Deum vestrum. Neque hic dixit: Deum nostrum: ergo et hic aliter meum, aliter vestrum; Deum meum sub quo et ego homo sum, Deum vestrum inter quos et ipsum mediator sum.

So, his identity as the “son of God” is indeed different from Christians as well as the Israelites before. He is the son of God by nature, both physically and spiritually begotten by God the Father. On the other hand, Christians are spiritually begotten by the Holy Spirit via regeneration (being born again), but they are physically begotten by their human parents.

John of Damascus wrote,4

Wherefore he said, “I ascend to my Father and your Father.” He did not say “our Father,” but “my Father,” clearly [in the sense of Father] by nature (φύσει), and “your Father,” [in the sense of Father] by grace (χάριτι).

Ὅθεν ἔλεγεν· «Ἀναβαίνω πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου καὶ πατέρα ὑμῶν.» Οὐκ εἶπε· πατέρα ἡμῶν, ἀλλὰ «πατέρα μου», φύσει δῆλον, καὶ «πατέρα ὑμῶν» χάριτι.

In summary, the reason why his admission of being the “son of God” was considered blasphemy by the chief priest was because the chief priest acknowledged it (just as others did in the Gospel of John) as a claim that the Lord Jesus Christ was likewise God in nature, and of course, the chief priest didn’t believe that claim was true. I’m not exactly sure it was his latter claim about coming upon the clouds of heaven that was the impetus for the chief priest’s accusation of the Lord Jesus Christ committing blasphemy. In my opinion, it’s likely the former admission of him admitting (or rather, not denying) that he is the son of God. It’s unfortunate that even many Christians neglect to recognize the import of individuals claiming the Lord Jesus Christ (and he himself admitting) to be the son of God.


Footnotes

1 Hos. 11:1
2 Greek ἡ υἱοθεσία; cf. Rom. 9:4
3 John 20:17, Tractate 121 (CXXI), Chapter 20 (XX), §3, pp. 1957–1958
4 Book 4 (IV), Ch. 8 (Ηʹ), p. 1117

References

Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis. Patrologiæ Cursus Completus: Series Prima. “In Joannis Evangelium Tractatus CXXIV” (“124 Tractates on the Gospel of John”). Ed. Migne, Jacques Paul. Vol. 35. Petit-Montrouge: Imprimerie Catholique, 1845.

John of Damascus (Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός). Patrologiæ Cursus Completus: Series Græca Prior. “ΕΚΔΟΣΙΣ ΑΚΡΙΒΗΣ ΤΗΣ ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΟΥ ΠΙΣΤΕΩΣ” (“Accurate Exposition of the Orthodox Faith”). Ed. Migne, Jacques Paul. Vol. 94. Petit-Montrouge: Imprimerie Catholique, 1864.

This answer originally written by Der Übermensch under previous account.

  • Fine answer, as usual. +1. Don – rhetorician Oct 25 '14 at 12:11
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It is the particular Son of Man passage that Jesus was referencing in Daniel 7:13-14 that the chief priest said as blasphemy:

 “I saw in the night visions, 
             and behold, with the clouds of heaven 
 there came one like a son of man, 
             and he came to the Ancient of Days 
 and was presented before him. 
       And to him was given dominion 
 and glory and a kingdom, 
             that all peoples, nations, and languages 
 should serve him; [לֵ֣הּ יִפְלְח֑וּן  BHS; αὐτῷ λατρεύουσα, LXX]
             his dominion is an everlasting dominion, 
 which shall not pass away, 
             and his kingdom one 
 that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14, ESV) 

Note the language “the Ancient of Days” and “everlasting dominion.” While Daniel’s Aramaic word for serve is different than the Hebrew word for serve in Exodus 20:5 (תָעָבְדֵ֑ם֒),

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, (Ex 20:5, ESV)

The Septuagint translates them with the same Greek word (λατρευω).

This Greek word for serve is the same word Jesus used in Matthew 4:10.

τότε λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ὕπαγε, σατανᾶ· γέγραπται γάρ· κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις. (Matt 4:10, NA27)

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” (Matt 4:10, ESV)

People here may question whether Jesus called himself God in reverencing Daniel 7:13-14, but the reaction of the chief priest showed that the chief priest took Jesus’ statement as claiming to be God.

The chief priest probably had planned to probe what Jesus meant when he called himself the Son of God. Jesus gave him what he was after with the reference to the Son of Man passage in Daniel. Jesus did this because it was his time to be crucified.

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John 10:34,

“The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, 'I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?' The Jews answered Him, 'For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.'”

Jesus claimed God as his Father in the illustration of the previous verses and the Jews did not misunderstand the implication.

This was a criminal charge of blasphemy if indeed Jesus was not who he claimed. Jesus was claiming to be the Shephard of Israel. The Jews knew Jehovah was the Shepherd of Israel (Ps 34). Their response was to pick up stone to stone him for blasphemy, “You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” Although Jesus never said in his illustration “I am God” they immediately and correctly made the connection.

Jesus offers two arguments for defense against the charge of blasphemy to show the foolishness of their charge, 34-39.

  1. He first offers the technical argument from the evidence of scripture. "...because you, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” The Jews understood the implication of Jesus statement. When they threatened Jesus with stoning, Jesus reminded them of the 82 Psalm, which says "You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High." Apparently, they had properly understood the Psalm and did not equate being called gods as a declaration of man's equality with God. They knew to whom this Psalm was directed. “He called them gods, to whom the word of God came.” They knew this was talking about those who were charged with giving the Law of God to the people. Yet, now, Jesus is himself “sanctified and sent into the world” by the Father to impart the word of God again to the people. This is the exact same function that was given to the judges yet, when Jesus calls himself the Son of God, they want to stone him for it. Jesus is simply pointing out the lunacy of their reasoning.

The passage to which Jesus refers is Psalms 82:6.

“God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, 'You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless, you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.'”

The first thing that needs to be understood is who God was speaking to in Psalms 82. He was not speaking to all men. In fact, he was not even speaking to all of those of Israel. He was speaking to those who were appointed as judges over the people "YOU are gods." So, this declaration is very limited in its scope. Calling them gods is NOT related to their intrinsic nature, but to their appointed function as those who were responsible for giving the Law of God to the people. In the very next verse, God reminds them of their intrinsic nature, “you will die like mere mortals.” These 'gods' were those who sat in the seat of Moses to whom God said, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh.” Like Moses before Pharaoh, these judges stood before the people as god to the people. As such, their function was to “defend the weak and the fatherless, uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed,” to “rescue the weak and the needy,” and “deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” They had abandoned this appointed function and had defended the unjust and shown partiality to the wicked. Of them God says, “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness.” All of these charges are contrary to the intrinsic nature of God. Since God cannot defy his own nature, we know that the term gods then defines not their nature, but their function. For this reason, God says he will render judgment among these 'gods'.

  1. He then offers the pragmatic argument form the evidence of his works.

Ellicott makes a good point that

“Whether He is a blasphemer or not depends upon whether He represents God or not, and to prove this, He appeals again to (His) works.”

“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the- Father.” “Therefore, they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp.”

Even if they took issue with his words, they were still confronted with the reality of the miracles. There is no way to account for the miracles except to attribute them to the power of God. His works prove who he is. These two lines of argumentation served only to infuriate them further and they again attempted to arrest him.

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