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Jesus the Son of God D A Carson

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This short work is an adaptation of three lectures that became the three chapters of this book, focusing on the title of Jesus as the Son of God. At the outset, the author explain that much of the discussion of the Son of God in contemporary scholarship focuses on it’s implication for Trinitarian theology but here he wishes to explore more of the idea of Christ as the Son of God in of itself. I enjoyed the book, especially with how Carson began this study with what the concept of “son.” Besides biological son, Carson noted how there are many “son of X” idioms with various variables of its function, ranging from identity, deserving and generating. The first chapter has various helpful charts showing different “son of X” idioms and how some of these are not translated in our English versions of the Bible but it is there in the Greek or Hebrew. It is in this context that Carson then unpacks the use of the Son of God in reference to Jesus in which the New Testament uses it to refer to His pre-existence, His Davidic root to the Messianic promise and as the Suffering Servant. Carson mentions several times that he can only look at a few passages due to space limitation but I wish he could have surveyed more passages in chapter, not because I didn’t think he did a good job but because he is capable and there is much to gleam from the passages he did analyze. I think the one thing I most appreciate about this book is D.A. Carson’s discussion about the role of exegesis, systematic theology, linguistics and Bible translations in the third chapter. While this last chapter mainly focuses on this discussion in the context of the translation of the Son of God in Bible versions used to reach Muslims, the implication of this chapter transcends Bible translation for Muslims. He notes how systematic theology without strong exegesis can be problematic, with the example of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son of God as Berkhof attempt to establish. Noting various exegetical error by Berkhof, Carson here notes that the eternal generation of the Son by the Father is best anchored in John 5:16-30 with it’s main point in 5:26. Carson’s treatment of John 5:16-30 in chapter two to establish the eternal generation of the Father is excellent and shows how advance doctrines of God can be established on exegetical lines. Yet one must have the maturity of being balanced with understanding the philosophical bent of theology in helping us explain concepts such as the Trinity and why the Church fathers employed philosophical language to sharpen distinctions and clarity so as to avoid heresies. Chapter three is an excellent apologetics for why translators should translate “Son of God” in a Muslim context, and a refutation of reader response theory form of translation philosophy. While I don’t want to give everything away, some of the highlights that I appreciated include his argument that the concept of Jesus as the Son of God is radically foreign no matter what the non-Christian cultural context is, even in the West’s pre-Christian and post-Christian era. There is something that is loss if we fail to translate the Son of God terminology in our translations since this term is quite theologically rich and have greater continuity in terms of the Bible’s inter-textuality. I appreciated the chapter closing with an appeal for Bible translators not to be only narrowly focused on linguistics but also exegesis, biblical and systematic theology. His parting words also encouraged me to see Bible translations in the context of a biblical missiology: “…the spread of the gospel in the early church saw the dissemination of Scripture along with the provision of missionaries and pastors. One wonders if at least some of the tensions over Bible translation springs from the commitment on the part of some to provide adequate translations without simultaneously providing missionaries and pastors” (108-09). Overall, a great book and one that shows how some books are physically small but packs a big punch.

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