“How do you know me?” (John 1:48)Jesus then made the second statement about seeing Nathanael under the fig tree. Then Nathanael declared:
"Rabbi, you are the son of God; you are the King of Israel." (John 1:49)Let's consider Nathanael's statement carefully.* The word "king" here is translated from the Greek word βασιλεύς (basileus), which can mean "leader of the people" as well as "commander" or "prince" according to the lexicon. Why is "king" being chosen?
Jesus was not a secular king
Obviously, Jesus was not a king in any practical sense, as there was no governmental authority to rule over the people of Israel. The word “king” here is thus a mistranslation. A better translation is “leader,” which would fit the circumstances of the situation. One might also consider the Pope as the "king” of the Catholic nation today, but most in the Catholic church would rather refer to the pope as the leader or leading teacher of the Catholic sect.
This is because the Pope - or any other religious leader for that matter - does not typically hold a governing position. Thus the term “king” in this statement would more appropriately refer to Jesus being a spiritual leader of the people.
What about 'son of man'?
Now let's consider Nathanael's statement regarding being the son of God, and then afterward, Jesus' own use of the word "son" in the context of "son of man":
Here the Greek word that has been translated to “son” is υἱός (huios). This may indicate a relationship of offspring in the limited sense of the physical body, but it is more appropriately defined, as taken from the Greek lexicon, to mean "one who depends on another or is his follower."
Furthermore, the Greek word that has been translated to "man" is ἀνθρώπου, which can mean "man" but can also mean "mankind" or "humanity."
Thus, within the context of the self-reference of υἱὸς τοῦ [of] ἀνθρώπου, the more appropriate translation would be:
"servant of humanity"We see this use of the word "son" as follower or servant in this text spoken by Eli to his student, Samuel:
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” (1 Samuel 3:6)"Son" is also the wrong translation used in connection with υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ or "son of God." Let's consider how the term "son of God" is used in the larger context:
...the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. (Genesis 6:2)
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.(Genesis 6:3-5)
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Jesus, Matthew 5:8-10)
...because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:13-15)
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:18-20)
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:25-27)We can see by these statements that the use of the "son of God" is much broader than simply Jesus being the only son of God. We are certainly seeing this among Jesus' disciples as well.
God does not have only one son
Are we saying that God can only have one son? Are we saying that God is now impotent since He had His one son and no one else?
Certainly, this is ridiculous. God has innumerable children. He has directly created each of us. It is not as if, as the politically-driven Synod of Nicea - assembled by emperor Constantine in the fourth century as part of his effort to control Europe and the middle east through the control of the Christian church - Jesus is the only begotten son of God while we are all indirect sons of God. This is preposterous. We are all children of God.
Rather, as we can see from the use of the phrase "sons of God" in the texts above, the word "son" was used to signify a loving servant of God: Someone who has, out of freedom of choice and love, given their life to God. The "son of God" is someone who has dedicated their life to God.
While we find many references to "son of God" in the Bible that many sectarian teachings have singled out Jesus as the only son of God.
In reality, this reference is describing a particular role or position, not one single person. When the prophets in the Old Testament refer to a coming "son of God" they are referring to someone who will take on the role of loving servant of God and become God's representative.
This might be compared to the word "ambassador." While we might refer to someone in particular as "ambassador," we will also refer to the duties of a person in that role in general. A person might say, "the ambassador will represent the president of the United States and all of the people of the United States." This would be a correct statement that could be applied to a particular person who is currently holding that office, as well as any other future person who may hold that office in the future.
But if someone says, "there will only be one ambassador," well that is another story altogether. What about those who served as ambassadors of the U.S. before this particular ambassador? How about those who will succeed the ambassador currently holding office?
This is the same misconstruction that has happened within the sectarian world. Because of a combination of two things:
1) The desire of emperors, popes and bishops (and other sect and church leaders) to control the people and thus declare that Jesus was the only son of God (i.e., if there were others, they would lose their control)
2) Those not becoming servants of God themselves. Because they did not follow Jesus and surrender their lives to God and become the loving servants of God, they instead took on this falsehood of just proclaiming Jesus as the son of God and then supposedly being saved by Jesus (salvationism - a selfish desire that has nothing to do with serving God).
We can see this also in Acts, where Jesus is described as God's servant, yet it is translated to "son of God" in the King James version. In the New International Version, it has been translated correctly:
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus. (Acts 3:13)Here the Greek παῖς or ‘pais’ better translates to "servant" than "son."
The combination of these two elements has created this misconstruction of the notion of Jesus as the only son of God. In fact, we are talking about Jesus being the loving servant of God. And as he says above in Matthew 5:8-10, we can all become sons of God simply by following Jesus' instructions, the first and most important being:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)Now let's consider the true meaning of the words being translated to "son of man." What the heck is a "son of man"? Does this make any sense?
Remember the translation of υἱός (huios) to "follower" or "loving servant." This also applies to the meaning of “son of man.” The use of "man" is not a single "man" here. It is not one man, but men in general. In other words, mankind, or humanity.
Here Jesus is describing himself as a “servant of mankind” or a servant of humanity. In other words, he feels that he has come to serve people by bringing them the teachings of God. This is certainly the highest service, as Jesus is practicing the second greatest commandment:
"And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matt. 22:39)The reason the second command is like the first, is that once a person loves God, they will automatically love all of God's children. It is automatic. They will instantly feel saddened by the state of existence that some of God's children are in as they (we) are ignoring God and not loving God. Thus, the loving servant of God will work to deliver the message of love of God to all of God's children.
Heaven and earth opening?
Consider Jesus’ next statement. Jesus predicts that they will see heaven opening, and angels ascending and descending on the servant of humanity. What is Jesus saying here? He is saying that he will be teaching them about God, and those teachings will open the gates of heaven to those men (the translation from Greek refers to a plural “you”) who accept the guidance of God's representative.
Should they follow the teachings of God's representative(s), they will guide them back home to the kingdom of God. Notice that some of the angels are "descending." Why?
These are God's representatives - angels - who are being sent down to earth to teach us about God. It isn't that God is losing some angels and gaining others. They are coming and going, because God is sending them and bringing them back. It is a passageway, that allows God's messengers to descend to the earth, and bring others back home, back to God's kingdom. And why are they on the "backs of the son of God?"
It is because as these angels descend from God's kingdom to bring us back, they become loving servants of humanity. They bring God's message to us as a gift to us. And the message: If we also become God's loving servants (sons of God) we will be happy, and will return to our eternal loving relationship with God.
*Here is the translation of these verses from the Gospels of Jesus:
Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, and said of him, “Truly, an Israelite in whom there is no deceitfulness.” Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to him, “Rabbi, you are the Representative of God; you are the leader of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I saw you under the fig tree, you are believing? You will see greater things than this.” (John 1:47-50)