There are seven sonship titles of the Messiah in the Bible:
1. The Son of God
The title “son of God” is used in the Old Testament for persons who had an intimate relationship with God. Angels, Adam, the descendants of Seth, the selected representatives of God to lead Israel like the kings, princes, and judges, just or pious men were known as the “sons of God” (Job 1:6; 2:1; Ps 89:7; Wis 2:13). God considered the nation of Israel as his first-born son (Ex 4:22). They were creations of God and not sons in the strict sense. However, Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of God. Meaning of begotten is fathered or generated by procreation. So, Jesus as the begotten son of God means he is also God. No one else can claim this position. Hence, the Son of God, when applied to Jesus, had a special meaning in the New Testament because of the divinity of Jesus. So, we capitalize the initial letter of “Son” when used for Jesus to distinguish him from other sons of God.
Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus back as the son of God (Lk 3:38) emphasizing the divine origin of Jesus. Though he was born of a woman, he had no human father. “Son of God” has a greater and unique meaning when applied for the Messiah. Angel Gabriel said to Mary: “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 called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). At the time of his baptism and transfiguration, God revealed him as His Son. This divine sonship was confirmed in the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 13:32-33), (Rom 1:3-4). Peter acknowledged Jesus as “the son of the living God” (Mt 16:16) and Thomas as ‘My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28) both affirming the divinity of Jesus. Though Adam was also God’s son through direct creation, Jesus was far different from Adam.
The Church believes Jesus existed as the eternal son of God. The Nicene Creed of 325 AD states: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.” Colossians 1:15-18 and Hebrews 1:2 mention the creation of the world through the Son of God.
The Hebrew phrase “the Son of Man” means a human being (Ezek 2:1). However, when Daniel used the same phrase for the vision (Dan 7:13), it gained divine qualities because the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven. Ordinary humans cannot travel on the clouds. Jesus chose this phrase for himself out of his humility while others used “Son of God” that gives emphasis to the divine origin of Jesus. So, it designates the human and divine nature of Jesus.
2. The Son of Adam
Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus also as the son of Adam (Lk 3:38). This title emphasizes the humanity of Jesus as an outcome of the Adamic Covenant: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel.” (Gen 3:15). Thus, the promised son of Adam was to be born of a woman who would strike the head of the serpent.
3. The Son of Man
This usage has different senses: The incarnation as son of a human being, the suffering of the Messiah like a human (Mt 12:40, 17:22, 20:18-19,28), the supernatural nature of Jesus (Jn 1:51) and his second coming in glory (Dan 7:13). Jesus preferred to use “son of man” for himself out of his humility.
4. The Son of Abraham
The genealogy of Matthew traces back Jesus as the son of Abraham (Mt 1:1). This shows the relationship of the Messiah to the Abrahamic Covenant. The parents circumcised Jesus on the eighth day following this covenant. Jesus was the fulfillment of Abraham’s words to his son Isaac: “My son, God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.” (Gen 22:8). Though God saved Isaac’s life by replacing a ram, the real replacement took place with Jesus, the lamb of God, who was sacrificed on the same mountain. All the three promises God made to Abraham were fulfilled in Israel and continued to fulfill in Jesus. Through Jesus, God selected the descendants of faith, promised a perfect dwelling place for the faithful, and a blessing to all nations through the faithful.
5. The Son of David
Luke gives the genealogy of Mary tracing back to King David, where he states that Jesus’ legal father was also from the lineage of David as a fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. Mathew starts his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus asserting him also as the Son of David (Mt 1:1). The emphasis here is on the royalty or kingship of Jesus and as the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.
“Son of David” was a Messianic title originating from the covenant God made with King David around one thousand years before Christ. When King David asked permission from God through Prophet Nathan to construct a house for the Lord, the Lord did not allow his wish. However, God promised to David: “when your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom. He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever” (2 Sam 7:12-13). Though the promise was partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon, who built the Temple and ruled for only forty years, the promise came to its completion only in Jesus, who established the universal kingdom and rules it forever. God continued in verse 16: “Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever.” Thus, “forever” is repeated thrice (v. 13 and 16) emphasizing the everlasting nature of the Kingdom of David’s greater son.
Because of God’s promise to David that his son would establish his kingdom firmly forever, the Israelites have been hoping for an everlasting king from the line of David to sit on the throne of David and to rule the kingdom for eternity with no failure. God revealed this son of David through Angel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of the Messiah. “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33). Matthew starts his gospel stating: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The New Testament uses Son of David” seventeen times in the New Testament for Jesus, meaning that he was the promised and long-awaited Messiah. Jesus was a direct descendant of David through Mary and his adopted father Joseph as per the genealogy of Luke and Matthew. Because of this, Jesus has the title, the Son of David.
Angel’s salutation of “son of David” to Joseph is not the messianic title. It is an acknowledgement of Joseph’s birth from the bloodline of King David, from whose line the deliverer would come. So, Joseph, as the legal father, also had a role in the genealogy of the Messiah. There is a difference between using “son” by translators: they use “Son of David” for Jesus and “son of David” for Joseph.
People used “Son of David” for Jesus while seeking his mercy. A Canaanite woman called Jesus, “Lord, Son of David” when she beseeched him to cure her demon-tormented daughter (Mt 15:22). Two blind men requested healing from Jesus, calling him, “Lord, Son of David.” (Mt 20:30). The people acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah by proclaiming, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9) during his triumphant entry into the temple of Jerusalem. In these cases, they were acknowledging Jesus as their savior using the term Lord and the Messianic title “Son of David.”
In answer to Jesus’ question, the Pharisees answered the Messiah must be the Son of David. That was a popular expectation of the public regarding Messiah. Though Pharisees’ answer was correct, Jesus challenged their response to prove that Messiah was more than a descendant of David (Mt 22:41-46).
6. The Son of Mary
Jesus is also known as son of Mary (Mk 6:3) emphasizing his human origin from Mary. His humanity came only from Mary, who was also from the Davidic line according to the genealogy given by Luke. Jesus had the royal blood of King David through his son Nathan and his descendants.
7. The Son of Joseph
Some people considered Jesus as son of Joseph (Mt 13:55, Jn 6:42) because Joseph was his foster father from the Davidic line. The genealogy of Jesus that Matthew presents traces back Joseph to Solomon, the son of David.
We are the sons and daughters of God through baptism. That makes us the privilege to call God, Abba (Father). When we are the children of God, we also have the responsibility to behave as children of God. Let us honor and cooperate with God, and if we fail like the prodigal son, let us reconcile with God at the earliest.