Carson, D.A. Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2012. 117 pp. $15.99
Stemming from three lectures at Reformed Theological Seminary (and then again at Westminster Theological Seminary and the Colloque Reformee) in 2012, D.A. Carson’s contribution on the subject of the Divine Sonship of Jesus Christ cannot be considered the exhaustive, definitive work on the subject. However, it stands as a superb course-corrective parlay in which he challenges those already engaged in the discussion to think critically – even if outside their area of expertise.
For instance, Carson mourns that, “the ways in which both exegesis and systematic theology are commonly taught ensure that the two disciplines do not engage each other well” (76). Rather, those who teach exegesis warn their students of imposing systematic categories on the text, while rarely developing their exegesis to the extent of such categories. In like manner, those who teach systematic theology, according to Carson, do so “with minimal dependence on firsthand study of the biblical texts” (76).
Carson leads the reader through a cursory, biblical study of the phrase, “Son of God,” followed by a thorough examination of this title in Hebrews 1 and John 5:16-30. These texts were selected by Carson because they seem to him, “to be among the richest and most evocative of biblical passages to treat this title” (43). Then, Carson expertly and bravely enters into the current debates regarding the translation of this title in Muslim contexts. The debate centers on the question of translating “Son of God” in some other manner in order to remove any offense to those raised with Muslim beliefs.
While acknowledging the difficulty presented to translators and missionaries alike, ultimately, Carson argues that the text should say what the text says.
“The richest theological loading of the expression “Son of God” as applied to Jesus springs from passages that deploy the expression to cross-pollinate distinctive uses. This fact constitutes a driving reason to translate “Son of God” and “Father” expressions consistently, for otherwise these crucial intracanonical links will be lost to view” (107).
In Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed, Carson brings the debates surrounding this issue back to the main issue – the text itself. While others may argue that nothing is lost by translating “Son of God” as something else in order to be least offensive to Muslims, Carson counters that after diligent study and exegesis, one discovers that this great theme runs the scope of Holy Writ (both typologically and overtly) and cannot be re-translated lest we lose the staggering truth of Jesus the Son of God.
I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.