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In Matt. 26:63-64, 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 when the chief priest answered, he said to him, "I adjure you by the living God that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God!" 64 Jesus says to him, "You said. Nevertheless, I say to you, henceforth, you shall see the Son of Man sitting upon the right hand of the Power and coming upon the clouds of heaven."

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

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 (cp. Hos. 11:1), Yahveh commands Moses to say to Pharoah,

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.

Speaking of Yahveh, Moses asks the Israelites (Deu. 32:6),

"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,

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 (Greek ἡ υἱοθεσία; cp. Rom. 9:4). They were called sons and daughters, but all had actual human parents of whom they were literally begotten as sons and daughters.

Accordingly, some might insist that Jesus, despite being called the "son of God," is no different than any other Israelite being called God's son. However, we should note that Jesus 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,

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 Jesus 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 Jesus' words were understood as something more than the historical status quo. Jesus' 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 worketh 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.

As Augustine wrote,1

He saith not, Our Father: in one sense, therefore, is He mine, in another sense, yours; by nature mine, by grace yours. “And my God, and your God.” Nor did he say here, Our God: here, therefore, also is He in one sense mine, in another sense yours: my God; under whom I also am as man; your God, between whom and you 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, Jesus' identity as the "son of God" is indeed different from ours as Christians as well as the Israelites before. Jesus is the son of God by nature, both physically and spiritually begotten by God the Father. Whereas, Christians are spiritually begotten by Holy Spirit via regeneration (being born again), but obviously, we are physically begotten by our human parents.

John of Damascus wrote,2

Since, indeed, he participated just as we ourselves do in blood and flesh and became man, while we too through him became sons of God, being adopted through the baptism, he who is is by nature (φύσει) Son of God became first-born among us who were made by adoption and grace sons of God, and stand to him in the relation of brothers. 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).

Γεγόναμεν δὲ καὶ ἡμεῖς δι' αὐτοῦ υἱοὶ θεοῦ υἱοθετηθέντες διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος· αὐτὸς ὁ φύσει υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ πρωτότοκος ἐν ἡμῖν τοῖς θέσει καὶ χάριτι υἱοῖς θεοῦ γενομένοις καὶ ἀδελφοῖς αὐτοῦ χρηματίσασι γέγονεν. 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 Jesus' 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 Jesus 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 Jesus' latter claim about coming upon the clouds of heaven that was the impetus for the chief priest's accusation of Jesus committing blasphemy. In my opinion, it's likely the former admission of Jesus admitting (or rather, not denying) he is the son of God. It's unfortunate that even many Christians neglect to recognize the import of individuals claiming Jesus (and he himself admitting) to be the son of God.


Footnotes

1 Commentary on John 20:17: English | Latin

2 Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book VI, Ch. 8: English

  • 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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