In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was collectively referred to as God’s son (Exodus 4:21-23; Hosea 11:1-9). The term son of God was also a title given to the king of Israel or Judah at his enthronement (Psalm 2). Sometimes, the term “sons of God” referred to heavenly beings, such as in Job 38:1-7. So in what sense do we find both continuity and discontinuity with the Old Testament usage of this phrase and the New Testament’s identification of Jesus as the “Son of God”?
Well for one, if Israel was in a sense, God’s son, Jesus was even more so. Israel was called to be the faithful light to the nations, but unfortunately, they mostly failed in this vocation. Jesus however sums up the entire story of Israel in his life and ministry, but where Israel failed, Jesus was faithful and overcame (see Matt 1-7, especially 4:1-11).
The kings of Israel and Judah were meant to represent God’s people before God and the world, but they too largely failed in this vocation. However, Jesus as God’s true Son was the just and righteous king who came to set up a kingdom for the world, but not of the world (John 18:28-37).
And if the heavenly beings participate and share in the glory of God through his acts of creation and redemption, how much more does Jesus (John 1:1-5)?
Jesus fully and faithfully sums up and brings to completion each of these Old Testament notions of God’s son, but he does so in ways that far transcend that limited understanding. It was only after the resurrection that Jesus’ followers could fully comprehend who Jesus truly was and what exactly he had come to accomplish (Romans 1:1-4). This is topic worthy of further exploration. – Shay