The Gospel of Luke teaches that Jesus, the son of God, was created by God.

The consensus opinion of historians of the New Testament is that Luke was probably written around 80-85 AD. Like Matthew, Luke in chapters 1 and 2 of his gospel adds a birth narrative to Mark’s gospel. But as Professor James Dunn notes,

‘Here too it is sufficiently clear that it is a begetting, a becoming which is in view, the coming into existence of one who will be called, and will in fact be the Son of God, not the transition of a pre-existent being to become the soul of a human baby or the metamorphosis of a divine being into a human foetus.’

In plain English then, Jesus, the son of God, was created by God. Dunn, like many other scholars I have surveyed, seems shy of speaking plainly about the implications of his research, particularly when it leads him away from orthodox positions on Christology. New Testament scholarship is dominated by Christian believers who inevitably bring a certain bias to their work. Bart D. Ehrman – a non believer – is a notorious exception to this.

In Luke 1:35 we read, ‘The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.’ Dunn also notes that in the Acts of the Apostles there is no sign of any christology of pre-existence.

Luke is famous for presenting a picture of the ‘human’ Jesus, one who has compassion for the poor and sinners. Jesus‘ concern for sinners is found in the famous parable of the Prodigal Son found only in this gospel at Luke 15. The overwhelming impression is of a man who is a friend and advocate of the socially marginalized (see also the parable of the Good Samaritan, again exclusive to Luke in 10:25-37).

But what about Luke’s christology? Luke suggests that Jesus was regarded as and believed himself to be a Prophet. Jesus compares his mission with that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha (Luke 4:25-27).

When Jesus brings the widow of Nain’s son to back to life the people exclaim ‘a great prophet has risen amongst us’ (7:16).

Consistent with Jesus’ self-designation as ‘son of man’ in Matthew and Mark, the Jesus of Luke calls himself the ‘son of man’. This mysterious title is found only on Jesus‘ lips. The controversy surrounding this title (if it is a title) will be discussed later. It is noteworthy that though ‘son of man’ is ubiquitous in Jesus’ preaching before his ascension it is virtually absent from Luke’s story of the early church in Acts (with the sole exception of Stephen’s vision in Acts 7:56). Acts is the second volume of Luke’s two volume work, the first volume was his Gospel. ‘Acts’ (short for Acts of the Apostles) seems to provide a historical sketch of the spread of the Christian gospel by Jesus’ apostles, especially the apostle Paul. Scholars, however, have long known that ancient historians typically made up the speeches of their characters, so the speeches in Acts tell us more about Luke’s views than the views of the people they purport to characterise (see A Brief Introduction to the New Testament chapter 11, by Bart D. Ehrman, Oxford University Press, second edition 2009).

Jesus own use of the term ‘son of man’ is entirely missing from Paul’s writings about Jesus.

Extract from my book Jesus as Western Scholars See Him, pp 25-27. Also, see Part 2 of this article here.

Categories: Bible, Christianity, Christology, Gospels, Jesus, New Testament scholarship

12 replies

  1. That’s because the gospel authors made that title up.

    I’d like to know the evidence Dunn gives that supports the claim that Luke didn’t believe in Jesua’ preexistence. Absence of that tradition is not evidence that he didn’t hold that tradition. Luke was a Pauline Christian, and Paul taught Jesus’ preexistence.

  2. Of course. It’s because Jesus was born of a virgin that he’s the son of God. Like prophecy said. So regardless of his preexistence, his virgin birth is supposed to ne a sign that he’s the son of God, because prophecy supposedly says the Messiah would come by virgin birth.

    • Adam is called ‘the Son of God’ too. He had neither mother or father! But it does not mean he is god.

      Luke 3:38

      • Luke 3:38

        Literally: “the one of Enosh, the one of Adam, the one of God”

        τοῦ Ἐνὼς τοῦ Σὴθ τοῦ Ἀδὰμ τοῦ θεοῦ

        Interesting that the Greek word “son” ( υἱός ) does not exist in these verses. It is open for a reason.

        The verse that “son” ( υἱός ) does appear is that context is at the beginning of the chain of the genealogy in Luke 3:23 where is says that Jesus was supposedly thought ( ἐνομίζετο) to be the son of Joseph.

        Καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὡσεὶ ἐτῶν τριάκοντα ἀρχόμενος ὢν ὡς ἐνομίζετο υἱός Ἰωσὴφ τοῦ Ἠλὶ

        “of Heli” is open- “the one of”, so that it seems clear that that is means “the son in law” of Heli, which makes Heli the father of Mary, and that Luke’s genealogy is that of Jesus’ line from Mary that goes back through Nathan, another son of David, (not Solomon, as in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, which is of Joseph) – the openness “the one of so and so” could mean “son” or “son in law” or “grandson”, “descendent”, etc.

        the open structure of the Greek grammar construction shows how Mary’s line is understood that gives the humanity of Jesus (His human nature) and it shows at the end that God created Adam. (from the ground, not by biological birth)

      • Well, I didn’t say Jesus was God, nor did I say his being called a “son of God” entails his preexistence. I’m only saying there isn’t evidence in the gospels denying that.

      • The point of the virgin conception and birth is that Al Masih, Jesus the Messiah, had no human father, so God was His Father and He has the same nature / substance.

        The power of the Most High and the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary shows the Divine Nature (same substance) of all three eternal persons within the one Being of God.

        Luke 1:34-35

        Islam has no reason for the virgin birth – except that by accepting it, the Qur’an is unknowingly accepting the New Testament Scriptures as revelation and God-breathed.

        “for this reason, the holy offspring will be called “the Son of God”

        Luke 1:34-35
        34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
        35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

        “Son” = the same nature as the Father and the Holy Spirit.

        three eternal persons in One God. the Holy Trinity.

        John 1:1-5 and 1:14 and many other passages in John, and Philippians 2:5-8 & Hebrews 1:3, 6, 8, 10-12, Colossians 1:15-20, Romans 9:5, 10:9-10, and other passages fills in whatever gaps were left out in the complete doctrines of the Trinity and NT Christology.

  3. You’re correct.

    Son of God has the sense of Friend of God.

    Saul is heretic innovator, for he made the false teachings of Jesus Christ.

    That’s why I don’t want to be Christian anymore, and I prefer to stay Sunni Muslim.


  1. Further thoughts on the Gospel of Luke: Jesus as ‘Lord’ and ‘Christ’ – Blogging Theology

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