There are several scriptures in the Bible that seem to indicate that God has multiple sons, not just one, while other scriptures suggest that Jesus Christ referred to Himself as the Son of Man, rather than as the Son of God. How can these scriptures be explained?
First, we will consider some scriptures that seem to indicate that God has sons in addition to Jesus Christ. [Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, except when we quote a non-biblical source that is using Scripture from a different version of the Bible.]
Sons of God Mentioned in the Old Testament
One of the scriptures in the Old Testament that mentions sons of God is Genesis 6:1-2, which states, “Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.”
In this regard, Gleason L. Archer says on pages 79-80 of his book entitled Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties,
The term “sons of God” . . . is used in the Old Testament of either angels or men who are true believers, committed to the service of God.
The reasons for understanding Genesis 6:2 as referring to members of the covenant family, descendants of the line of Seth, are quite compelling. Scripture clearly teaches that angels are spirits, “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14, NIV). While they may on occasion appear in bodily form in the semblance of men, they have no physical bodies, and are therefore utterly incapable of carnal relations with women.
What Genesis 6:1-2, 4 records is the first occurrence of mixed marriage between believers and unbelievers. . . . [T]he “sons of God” in this passage were descendants of the godly line of Seth. Instead of remaining true to God and loyal to their spiritual heritage, they allowed themselves to be enticed by the beauty of ungodly women who were “daughters of men” – that is, of the tradition and example of Cain.
Likewise, in reference to the same verses of scripture, Norman Geisler, Ph.D. and Thomas Howe, M.A. indicate that Bible scholars are divided as to whether the sons of God refers to angels or to men of renown. In their book entitled When Critics Ask, they state on page 40,
Some Bible scholars believe “sons of God” refers to the godly line of Seth (from whom the redeemer was to come – Gen. 4:26). . . .
Other scholars believe that “sons of God” refers to great men of old, men of renown. They point to the fact that the text refers to “giants” and “mighty men” (v. 4). This also avoids the problems of angels (spirits) cohabiting with humans.
Still others . . . speculate that the “sons of God” were angels who “did not keep their proper domain” (Jude 6) and possessed real human beings, moving them to interbreed with “the daughters of men,” thus producing a superior breed whose offspring were the “giants” and “men of renown.” This view seems to explain all the data without the insuperable problems of angels, who are bodiless (Heb. 1:14) and sexless spirits (Matt. 22:30), cohabiting with humans.
Additional support for the belief that the “sons of God” referred to in Genesis 6:1-2 are humans, rather than angels, is provided by Isaiah 43:6-7, in which God says, “Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”
On the other hand, Job 1:6 states, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” (Job 2:1 is worded similarly.)
Some Bible scholars believe that the “sons of God” mentioned in Job 1:6 are angels, not humans. Among these scholars are Geisler and Howe. On page 225 of their aforementioned book, they assert, “These are angels. . . . The angels are the “sons” of God in the sense that they are His creation.”
So, the foregoing considerations indicate that the Old Testament scriptures are not clear as to whether “sons of God” pertains to humans or to angels.
Sons (or Children) of God Mentioned in the New Testament
In contrast with the Old Testament scriptures, several scriptures in the New Testament imply that every follower of Jesus Christ (i.e., true Christians) is an adopted son or child of God. Among the most relevant of these New Testament scriptures are the following:
John 1:12: [A]s many as received Him [Jesus Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. . . .
Romans 8:14: [A]s many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
Galatians 4:5: [A]s many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
1 John 3:1-2: Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Now, we will consider scriptures which indicate that, on a number of occasions, Jesus Christ referred to Himself as the Son of Man, rather than as the Son of God.
Son of Man Mentioned Many Times in the Bible
Some people may ask the question: If Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, why did He frequently refer to Himself as the “Son of Man”?
Archer, on page 322 of his previously-mentioned book, states that this title was “used of Christ thirty-two times in Matthew, fourteen in Mark, twenty-six in Luke, and twelve in John.” Such a term seems to deny the deity of Jesus.
In our effort to understand the significance of the term “Son of Man,” we need to consider Daniel 7:13-14 , which states,
“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.
In regard to this scripture, Archer declares on pages 322-323 of his previously-mentioned book,
It [the Son of Man] was this celestial figure with whom Jesus identified Himself. . . .
This raises the question of what the title “Son of Man” . . . signified. Why was the Messiah represented as a glorified human being rather than as the divine King of Glory? The answer is to be found in the necessity of the Incarnation as indispensable to man’s redemption. The fallen, guilty race of Adam could not have their sins atoned for except by a Sin-Bearer who represented them as a true human being as He laid down His life for their sake.
Geisler and Howe, on page 335 of their previously-mentioned book, offer the following additional perspective:
[E]ven if the phrase “Son of Man” is a reference to Jesus’ humanity, it is not a denial of His deity. By becoming man, Jesus did not cease being God. The Incarnation of Christ did not involve the subtraction of deity, but the addition of humanity. Jesus clearly claimed to be God on many occasions (Matt. 16:16-17; John 8:58; 10:30). But, in addition to being divine, He was also human. He had two natures conjoined in one person.
And, in his book entitled Rediscover Jesus, Matthew Kelly states on page 33,
So, when Jesus said, “I am the Son of Man,” he was saying:
I am the one Daniel spoke about. I have dominion, glory, and kingship. . . . Every nation will worship me. . . . People of every language will serve me. My dominion is divine. . . . I am the one you have been waiting for.
The clearest evidence that Jesus Christ is the only natural Son of God is found in John 3:16, which declares, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Therefore, because Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, He is the only inherent (or natural) Son of God.
Whereas Jesus Christ is the only being who is inherently the Son of God, God also has adopted sons (or children). Although the Old Testament is not clear as to whether these other sons (or children) are people or angels, the New Testament is sufficiently clear that they are godly people, not angels.
As for Jesus Christ being referred to in number of scriptures as the Son of Man rather than as the Son of God, the former term emphasizes the necessity of His incarnation so that He could be the Savior (or Redeemer) of sinful humans who trust in Him for eternal salvation. [Note: For a discussion of whether people other than Christians will have eternal salvation, click on the title of our article entitled “Will Only Christians Have Eternal Salvation?”]