I did an unscientific search for the phrase "son of God" and the only OT reference in the KJV that I found was this:

[Dan 3:25 KJV] 25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

That could easily be translated as "a son of the gods".

So since the phrase doesn't seem to be an OT phrase but is present in the NT frequently, what would be the background of the word's usage at that time? What would be the Jewish expectation?

My first thought is the miraculous birth. Is that what Matthew and the Satan are contemplating here?:

[Mat 4:3 KJV] 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

  • 1
    Excellent Question +1
    – user25930
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 21:15

2 Answers 2


Let me put this in context by examining four closely related phrases.

Son of Man

"Son of man occurs in three different ways:

  • A title for humanity generally Num 23:19, 1 Sam 5:12, Job 25:6, Ps 8:4, 56:2
  • Title or form of address for just two of the prophets Eze 2:1ff (about 80 or 90 times) Dan 8:17 (only once)
  • A title for Messiah in Dan 7:13 and often used in the NT

In most instances this appears to emphasis mankind's mortality.

Sons of God

"Sons of God" is used in some highly debated ways

  • Humans who are servants/disciples of God Gen 6:2-4, Matt 5:9, Luke 20:36, John 1:12 Rom8:14, 19, Gal 3:26, Phil 2:15, 1 John 3:1, 2, etc.
  • Non-earthly beings Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7

Son of the Devil

The phrase "son of" is used as a title of character in places like John 8:44 (sons of the Devil), 1 Kings 21:13 (literally sons of Belial), Eph 2:2 (sons of disobedience).

Son of God

Apart from the above references to "sons of God" the phrase "son of God" appears to be almost exclusively reserved for Messiah (Mark 1:1, 5:7, 2 Cor 1:19, Heb 6:6, etc) but not exclusively. It is also applied to Adam, Luke 3:38. In the debatable reference in Dan 3:25, Nebuchadnezzar appears to be observing a person ("the son of God") with a particularly noble bearing.

Thus, as best I can determine, the title "son of" is more a statement of character that true origin. The exception might be John 5:18. Thus, Jesus' two titles are significant, "Son of God" and "Son of Man" about which John makes much (1 John 4:3, 2 John 7). Thus, "Son of God" appears to be simply a statement that the person is God-like in character.

The comment in Matt 4:3 is, I believe, deeply significant. Jesus was God (Phil 2:5) and so, could have easily made the stones into nourishing bread. Both Jesus and the devil knew this. Jesus wanted to be a "son of God" that depended on the Father for all things, especially as an example to us being "sons of God".

  • Excellent answer. Interesting, too, that Satan started off his sentence with "If" ("IF thou be the Son of God..."). I've always understood the 'If' there meant, of course, that this isn't conditional, as if to say: "PROVE that you ARE the Son of God..." but rather that it's being used in a rhetorical sense, as if to say: "Since you ARE... the Son of God..." How accurate is that? Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 2:46

In Daniel 3:25 the term is used "LeBar Elahin". Bar is "son" Elahin is "God" therefore Son of God.

Proverbs 30:4 speaks of One that is able to ascend or descend into heaven, gather the wind in His fists, to bind water in His garments, establish all of the ends of the earth, referring to God. The remaining part of the verse asks "What is His name and what is the name of His son? This is another reference that allows them to think about a son of God.

An important verse that they understood much more readily than most do today is Isaiah 9:6. Beside this child's name being "El Gibor" Mighty God, he is also named "Aviad". Avi means "My Father". Ad means "Eternal" or "Everlasting". Aviad means "My Father Is Eternal". It is in essence calling this child the Son of the Eternal God! Hence, the Son of God.

Today's translations have lessened the verse such as the JPL version where in their interpretation they have moved the "Veyikra Shmo" to be placed AFTER Aviad, thereby making it appear as though this child is only called Sar Shalom. The original Hebrew has veyikra shmo placed directly before Pele Yoetz. A clear violation of Hebrew sentence construction, as well as a violation of the Torah.

Isaiah 7:14 is the forerunner of Isaiah 9:6 and speaks of a child called "Immanu El", With Us God. Many understand this to be the Son of God.

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