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I am curious to hear what the term “Son of God” means to a Biblical Unitarian when it applies to Jesus.

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1. 'Son of God' has its primary meaning in Jesus' conception by the power of God (Luke 1:35). As the angel Gabriel explains

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God."

This is confirmed by a voice from heaven at Matthew 3:17.

"This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!""

2. However, 'the Son of God' is also a prophetic title, and is a co-referent with 'Messiah' and 'King of Israel'. All 3 are linked in Psalm 2.

"His Anointed One [...] I have installed My King on Zion [...] You are My Son; today I have become Your Father."

You see this reflected by Caiaphas at Matthew 26:63.

"Then the high priest said to Him, "I charge You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.""

Caiaphas here is using the two titles, "the Christ" and "the Son of God" as roughly synonymous or co-referential. The second clarifies the meaning of the first, and presumably refers to Psalm 2 (among other places) for its meaning.

So in this sense, 'Son of God' is that person who fulfills the prophecies of Psalm 2 in particular.

You also see this linking of roles in Psalm 2 with Nathanael at John 1:49.

""Rabbi," Nathanael answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!""

Again, the terms here are used seemingly as co-referents and roughly speaking as synonymous phrases. (Note the term 'rabbi' wasn't seen by Nathanael as incompatible with 'the Son of God'. Rabbis are human beings, and Son of God for Nathanael did not mean God the Son.)

3. Combining 1. and 2., the term 'the Son of God' also suggests the task He heroically fulfills (despite real risk He might fail), leading to the triumph of his death, resurrection, and then ascension, where He now rules at the right hand of God.

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  • Does this mean Jesus did not pre-exist before Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit?
    – Lesley
    May 1, 2022 at 7:09
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    @Lesley The standard BU understanding of Jesus' pre-existence is notional, i.e., in the mind of God. Notional pre-existence is a well-established trope in ancient Jewish literature. May 1, 2022 at 7:10
  • Thanks for the explanation, although I confess "notional pre-existence" is not a concept I've ever heard off. Is there any biblical support for that?
    – Lesley
    May 1, 2022 at 7:57
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    Jesus is not part of John 1:1-3 Why, pray tell do people read whatever they want into the word of God? Jesus, obviously, by John's own inspired words, place Jesus only 2000 yrs ago. when the logos became flesh through Mary.
    – steveowen
    May 1, 2022 at 11:18
  • New question: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/90895/… May 1, 2022 at 11:48
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What does the son of God mean regarding Jesus?

From a Biblical Unitarian understanding as requested, Jesus is the one God sent into the world. He is the only holy man, born of Mary by God's intervention (as the 2nd Adam) who has accomplished what God sent him to do. Without him, there could be no resurrection to eternal life, no remission of sin, no reconciliation with God and no defeat of evil and death, no new heavens or new earth. Jesus, as the holy son of God, accomplished all this as a man and not as God.

Generally the same as most Christian denominations, except for Jesus being a man only as expressed by the scriptures below.

Beginning with the 4 complementary Gospels, the origin and means of Jesus' beginning is explained.

the angel said to her, “Fear not, Mary; for you have found favour with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in womb, and will bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great, and he will be called Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob to the ages. And of his kingdom there will be no end!”

35And the angel answering, said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore also the holy one being born will be called the Son of God Luke 1:30-35

Luke begins his Gospel with this important pronouncement. Luke 1:3-

it seemed fitting to me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in an orderly sequence, most excellent Theophilus; 4so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

An exact truth... To infer another beginning or to suggest there is another pre-existing Son is without biblical merit and support unless one relies on biased translations and solitary, mis-applied proof texts.

The Lord Jesus is who Peter said he was, “a man approved of God” Acts 2:22. I wont labour the matter here with all the scriptures describing Jesus as a man. Simply, that is all he is described as - a holy man without sin who experienced life as all men do - facing evil (temptation) and relying totally on his God and Father to save him from sin and a resultant death (Heb 5:7).

Jesus himself said he was a man. To make him something other is to make him a liar or to make him speak with forked tongue.

But now you seek to kill me, a man who has spoken to you the truth that I heard from God. John 8:40

That Jesus has a God - just as all men do, even once raised from the dead, exalted to God's right side, he still (obviously) has a God, Rev 3.

I ascend to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God John 20:17

So the son of God is not God, no scripture says he is, but supports the consistent revelation of the man born of Mary, who could be the Lamb of God - being tempted, able to sin, able to die - none of which God can do.

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3

We also have confirmed that Jesus began as a mortal human actually mastered by death just as all men are Rom 6:9. He has his own will which needed to be made subject to God's will - all his life to, and including the cross. After he was raised by his God and Father, he became the firstborn of the dead and the firstborn of creation (these are two descriptors of the same occasion).

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation... he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he himself will come to have first place in everything Col 1:15-18

'First place' under God in all things. God who gave him life (John 5:26), the spirit and the giver of spirit life (Acts 2:33) to those who trust in him because God has granted him authority - while on earth to forgive sin and raise the dead, and in heaven to judge and grant eternal life at the resurrection. Of himself, he said he could do nothing (John 5:30) but did and spoke as God gave him.

Jesus, the Son of God, born of Mary, descendant of Abraham (Gal 3:16) and David, promised and prophesied since Gen 3 of the one to come who would be the Messiah and Saviour of the world, defeated evil and death, made Lord and Christ, and now sits at God's right hand in command over all things under God.

For Jesus to be also (somehow) God, this generates far too many contradictions with scripture to remain a valid hypothesis.

Conclusion

What does it mean for Biblical Unitarians that Jesus is the son of God?

It means that he is who he said he was and not what tradition says he should be. As the brief sampling above shows, Jesus is a man only and not a pre-existing ‘God the Son’ scripture makes no mention of.

Jesus is the one who 'overcame', who learned obedience through suffering, who submitted his different will to align with God's, who was tempted in all things as men are yet without sin. This God could do without any trouble, so why go through all this complicated process at all? God needs to overcome nothing, does not need to learn, or grow or mature. The concept of a two-natured Jesus is also without scriptural support and is unfortunately a doctrine of men and not of God or of the teachers God established the church under, the Apostles.

The BU understanding of Jesus aligns with scripture in ways that no other denomination does. There is no need to add to the word of God, it is self-interpretive and needs no post-Apostolic creeds to explain Jesus or God or the holy spirit.

Extracted in part from Jesus is the son of God, not God the Son.

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    How is Jesus the son of God? this is not what I’m asking. I’m asking what it means for Christ to be the son of God.
    – Luke Hill
    Apr 26, 2022 at 12:51
  • You also asked, what the term “Son of God” means. maybe you should align the two questions to be more specific. You did not ask about 'Christ'.
    – steveowen
    Apr 26, 2022 at 13:06
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    means to a Biblical Unitarian when it applies to Jesus. is something I explicitly said. The title asks the same thing.
    – Luke Hill
    Apr 26, 2022 at 13:13
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    This does not answer the question 'according to Biblical Unitarians'. I would expect reference to be made to documentation, not just a personal exposition of one's own view of scripture.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 26, 2022 at 14:06
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    @NigelJ maybe you got a bit flustered and didn’t get to the end. There is a link to an article which is BU - a term specifically requested by OP. There are many other Unitarian groups which form part of the Unitarian Christian Alliance. They would be a agreeable.
    – steveowen
    Apr 30, 2022 at 22:11

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