|Mark 1:11 in the Codex Sinaticus |
Note the inserted verb making the sentence more regular.
In the Greek Bible, also called the New Testament, there are several instances that indicate that Jesus became the Son of God at a certain point of his life, and actually, even after his death.
That is exactly what we hear in the opening verses of the Epistle to the Romans. According to Romans 1:4 The Spirit of holiness appointed Jesus, through his resurrection to be the Son of God.
The same sentiment is shared a generation later in the Acts of Apostles 13:33. There it is a legendary rendition of the early Christian preaching - but the message is almost identical - In Jesus’ resurrection the Psalm too was fulfilled which says: You are my Son; today I have begotten you.'
Furthermore in the Gospels we hear about at least two other occasions when Jesus is promoted and made into the Divine Son. One is on the mountain of Transfiguration which is associated with the beginning of his journey to Jerusalem. The other one, earliest in Jesus’ life, was at his baptism, when he came up from the water, saw the skies opened and heard the voice declaring him the Son of God.
Each of these biblical instances references, or even directly quotes ancient formulas which made and inducted kings into their office. The Ancient Near East king became a king by being declared the Son of God (being adopted to the Sonship of God). And so in the New Testament we have at least three different moments when it was supposed to happen to Jesus - at the resurrection, at the transfiguration, or at his baptism.
Yet this uncertainty about the time is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the fact that it is mentioned at all because from the early fourth century onward claiming that Jesus became the Son of God, regardless at what point of his life or afterlife, could cost people excommunication and eventually it might cost them even their very lives.
So here we go, even on such an important matter as the sonship of God, the Bible itself contains what the later church would declare to be a grievous error. And that is something you might not know about the Bible.
And let me say one more thing - all of this might sound academic, pedantic, perhaps dull - distant from our daily reality - what’s the big deal, and who cares? But knowing this and grappling with issues like this can protect our faith and our sanity. It is theological inoculation against all sorts of fanaticisms, fundamentalisms and dangerous religious manipulations. This is why I share it with you: to keep our faith informed and healthy.
This Sunday, the first in Lent, we will read one of those texts about Jesus’ baptism. However, we will not discuss this issue which the church made into heresy, but we will rather concentrate on Jesus’ liberating and hopeful message.