For the week of April 22, 2006 / 24 Nisan 5766
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47
Haftarah: 2 Samuel 6:1 - 7:17


Can God Have a Son?

I will be his father, and he will be my son. (2 Samuel 7:14)

When I was told about Yeshua almost thirty years ago, one of my obstacles in considering his relevancy to my life was the claim that he was the Son of God. As a Jewish young person this was a repulsive concept to me. At that time, even though I didn't concern myself that much about spiritual matters - in fact I don't think that I believed in God at all back then - still I knew that if God did exist, he did not and could not have a son.

This conviction, which is so firmly established in traditional Judaism, is intimately connected to Judaism's understanding of monotheism - the belief in the existence of only one God. While the New Covenant writings (commonly known as the New Testament) also clearly assert that there is only one God, through the centuries there has developed great differences in how Judaism and Christianity view the nature of the one God.

As I have studied, it is evident to me that the reasons for those differences have more to do with poor attempts on the part of Christian scholars to accurately express God's nature, and Jewish reactions to both inaccurate Christian teaching and a general desire to distance Judaism from Christianity.

Centuries of animosity and misunderstanding between Jews and Christians have clouded the teaching of both the Hebrew Scriptures and New Covenant writings to the point that a Jewish person like myself could confidently assert that God cannot have a son.

It was on that same day, so many years ago now, that I encountered several passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that shook many of my misconceptions about God and the Messiah. One of those misconceptions was regarding this issue of God having a son.

One of the passages that I read for the first time that day is part of this week's Haftarah portion. In this passage King David desires to build a temple. The prophet Nathan delivers a message from God to David, promising him an eternal dynasty. But as for the building of the temple, David would not be the one to do that, but rather his son. To this unnamed son of David, God made an unusual pledge: "I will be his father, and he will be my son." (2 Samuel 7:14).

It would seem that there is a primary fulfillment of this prophesy in the person of David's son Solomon, since he was the one who did, in fact, build the temple. Also when Solomon and his descendants' misdeeds led to the demise of their rule and the fragmentation of the kingdom, there was always a descendant of David reigning as king, even though it was over a reduced part of the land. Yet David's dynasty did not last forever as might have been expected, ending as it did in the 6th century B.C.E.

The fullness of Nathan's words to David therefore don't find their fullest meaning in Solomon, but rather in the life of the greater son of David who was to come many years later. Nathan's prophesy became an essential ingredient in the development of the biblical understanding of the nature of the Messiah as one who would be the true and everlasting King of Israel. Therefore whatever God may have intended regarding his words, "I will be his father, and he will be my son," and their primary application to Solomon, the fullness of their meaning is found in the Messiah.

I am aware that this one statement does not sufficiently deal with the issue of whether or not God can or does have a son. But it is one of several passages that sound very different from the impression of God and his nature that I had thirty years ago. Although most Jewish people today are still uncomfortable with this concept, God appears to be fine with it. And if it is fine with God, then perhaps we should be fine with it too.

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