Appendix B: The Translation: ‘spiritual Son of God’
The Translation: ‘spiritualSon of God’
When the Injīl speaks of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)as ‘Son of God’, it is notteaching that Allah SWT took a wife, or that he physically begets children. Allah forbid! Al-Masīh ‘Īsā’s mother, Hazrat Maryam (pbuh)was a virgin until after Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)was born. In Injīl, Matthew 1:23-25 this is especially clear as it says,
‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son...’
24 When Yūsuf woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do and took Maryam as his wife. 25 But he had no marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son. And Yūsuf named him ‘Īsā.
Bībī Maryam (pbuh)was a virgin and had marital relations with no one until afterthe birth of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu), as the wife of Hazrat Yūsuf (pbuh).
In the Hebrew and Aramaic idiom of the time, ‘son of X’ often meant someone with the characteristic of X. For example, Injīl, Luke 10:6 speaks of ‘a son of peace’. Peace cannot literally have a son; it means one who is characterised by peace. The Qur’an also uses a similar idiom in Arabic; ‘son of the road’ (al-Baqarah 2:215), meaning traveller or wanderer.
Varied uses in the Noble Taurāt, Zabūr, Books of the Prophets and Injīl
‘Son of God’ is used in a number of ways in the Taurāt, Zabūr, Books of the Prophets and Injīl, all of them depicting a non-physical, non-biological relationship. The following are examples.
Prophet Adam (pbuh)
Prophet Adam (pbuh)is called the ‘son of God’in Injīl, Luke 3:38. This is based on teaching in the Taurāt,Genesis 1:26-27,
Then Allah said, “Let us make mankindin our image, in our likeness.Let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the animals, and over all the earthand over everything that moves on the earth.” 27So Allah created mankind in his own image, in the image of Allah he created them, male and female he created them.
Being in the image and likeness of Allah probably includes everything in humans that is distinct from other creatures, and that corresponds in some way to what Allah is like. One important aspect is that mankind is given rule over the rest of creation, under Allah’s supreme rule. This is very similar to what the Qur’an says when it calls Prophet Adam (pbuh)a khalīfah(al-Baqarah 2:30).
A little further on, in Taurāt, Genesis 5:1-3, we read,
When Allah created mankind, he made them in the likeness of Allah.2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them, and he named them ‘Mankind’ when they were created.
3 When Adam was 130 years old, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.
Thus, being in the image and likeness of someone includes the idea of son-ship. Prophet Adam (pbuh), and by extension, the whole of humanity, are children of Allahby virtue of the fact that we are all made in the image and likeness of Allah SWT.This is clearly not a physical or biological son-ship, because Adam (pbuh)was created by Allah from the earth, and Prophet Adam’s offspring all have human fathers.A clear distinction is made in Taurāt, Genesis 5 between Allah SWT and Adam (pbuh)in the Hebrew verbs that are used. In v1, Allah SWT creates(bārā’) mankind, and makes(‘āsāh) them, whereas in v3, Adam (pbuh)has or begets(yālad) a son.
In the Injīl, ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)is presented as the second Adam or the last Adam.The title,‘Son of God’ when used of Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)would seem to include this idea.
The Banī Isrā’īl
The Banī Isrā’īl as an entire nation were called God’s son. In Taurāt, Exodus 4:22-23 the Prophet Mūsā (pbuh)is told to tell Pharaoh,
“This is what the LORD says: Isrā’īl is my firstborn son, and I said to you, ‘Let my son go, so that he may serve me.’ But you refused to let him go; so now I am going to kill your firstborn son.”
Ancient Isrā’īl as a nation was physically descended from Prophet Ya’qūb (pbuh)(also called Isrā’īl, see Taurāt, Genesis 32:28). Thus, when ‘the LORD says: Isrā’īl is my firstborn son’it is clearly not a biological or physical son-ship that is spoken of.
One aspect of al-Masīh ‘Īsā’s son-ship is that he is in some sense the embodiment and fulfilment of what the Banī Isrā’īl was meant to be.
The King descended from Prophet Dāwūd(pbuh)
In the 2ndBook of Prophet Samuel 7, Allah SWT promises Prophet Dāwūd (pbuh)that his ‘house’ or descendants would reign forever. Speaking of Prophet Dāwūd’s offspring, Allah says,
‘I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father and he shall be my son’ (v.13-14).
In the first instance this speaks of the Prophet Sulaymān (pbuh)–
‘He is the one who will build a house(al-Bayt ul-Muqaddas)for my name (v.13)…When he does wrong, I will discipline him with a rod used by men...’ (v.14).
But the climax of this prophecy is only completely fulfilled in al-Masīh;
‘Your house (dynasty) and your kingdom shall continue for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever’ (v.16).
Closely connected with this passage is Zabūr, Psalm 2:7,
I will announce the decree of the LORD:
He said to me, ‘You are my son;
today I have become your father.’
Zabūr,Psalm 2 was an enthronement Psalm. When the heir to King Dāwūd’s throne was crowned king, he became ‘son of God’. This is clearly not a biological or physical son-ship – King Sulaymān’s biological father was King Dāwūd (pbut). Zabūr, Psalm 2 goes on to speak of a universal reign which has never been fulfilled in any king of the Banī Isrā’īl, and has reference to al-Masīh’s kingship.
Similarly, in Zabūr, Psalm 89:26-27, Allah says of Prophet Dāwūd (pbuh),
He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, the Rock of my Salvation!’
And I will appoint him as the firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
Thus, ‘Son of God’ is a title that can apply to any king in Hazrat Dāwūd’s line, and especially to al-Masīh. In many contexts in the Injīl, the title ‘Son of God’ is closely related to the title, ‘al-Masīh’.
Al-Masīh ‘Īsā’s Followers
Sometimes in the Injīl, ‘Īsā al-Masīh’s followers are referred to as ‘children of God’,and Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)instructs his followers to address Allah in du’ā as ‘Father’.Obviously, each of his followers has a natural human biological father, but their relationship to Allah is in some ways like that of children to a perfect father.
Agreement between the Holy Injīl and al-Qur’an al-Karīm
The Injīl and the Qur’an can be seen to be in agreement with each other when the latter says:
Say, “He, God, is One, God, the Eternally Sufficient unto Himself. He begets not; nor was He begotten. And none is like unto Him”(al-Ikhlās 112:1-4).
And exalted is the majesty of our Lord: He has taken neither a wife nor a son(al-Jinn 72:3, AYA).
It befitteth not (the Majesty of) Allah that He should take unto Himself a son(Maryam 19:35, MMP).
The Unique Originator of the heavens and the earth! How should he have a child when he has no consort…?(al-An’ām 6:101).
We can see agreement because neither the Taurāt, the Zabūr, the Books of Prophets nor the Injīl teach that Allah physically begets offspring. When ‘Son of God’ is used, it always speaks of a non-physical, non-biological relationship. To try and keep this clear we have chosen to translate the term using the phrase, ‘spiritualSon of God.’
Some of the titles that are attributed to ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)in the Qur’an, as well as in the Injīl, may help us in our understanding.
Al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)is called ‘Rūhullāh’, (Spirit or Soul of/from Allah).A person’s soul or spirit is very much bound up with that person’s identity – with who they are. So the title, Rūhullāh, is a very high affirmation of ‘Īsā al-Masīh(hpbuu)and identifies him closely with Allah SWT.
‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)is also called Kalamatullāh, or Allah’s Word.A person’s word is their self-expression, revealing and communicating their thoughts. Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)as the Word of Allah, is the one who reveals Allah to us, who makes Allah known.
Why is father-son language used?
It is clear that there are ways that the father-son relationship of Allah SWT to ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu), Prophet Adam (pbuh), the Banī Isrā’īl, the king descended from Prophet Dāwūd (pbuh)and ‘Īsā al-Masīh’s disciples are unlike human father-son relationships. Allah took no wife and did not physically beget any offspring. Why then is father-son language used at all?
Any good father has a deep love for his own son that is expressed in providing for his needs, in protecting him from harm, and in teaching him and disciplining him in the right path. His son is also heir of the father’s name and estate. The concept of heirs or inheritance is present in the Qur’an, where believers inherit ‘the garden’ (al-A’rāf 7:43, Maryam 19:63, ash-Shu’arā’ 26:85), ‘paradise’ (al-Mū’minūn 23:11), and ‘the earth’ (al-Anbiyā’ 21:105).This human father-son relationship in some small way reflects Allah’s great love for those who are called his sons or his children.
In turn, a good son will also love his father, and that love will be expressed in loyalty, obedience, in seeking to please his father and in seeking the honour of his father’s name. This should be reflected in all those who are called sons or children of Allah and is perfectly reflected in the life of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu).
Al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)is spiritual Son of God in a uniquely special way
As we have seen, the phrase ‘son/children of God’ is used in a variety of ways, all of them non-physical and non-biological. However, in Injīl, Luke, ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)is presented as spiritual Son of God in a unique and special way on at least three occasions.
On the Mountain Top
The first is in Injīl, Luke 9:28-36, when some disciples witnessed Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)being transformed and revealed in glorious splendour on the mountain top along with Prophets Mūsā and Ilyās (pbut). One of the disciples, Peter (pbuh)said to Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu),
‘Master, it’s good that we are here. Let us make three shelters; one for you, one for Mūsā and one for Ilyās.’(v33)
Perhaps Peter (pbuh)was thinking that Prophets Mūsā, Ilyās (pbut)and ‘Īsā (hpbuu)were worthy of equal honour. If that is so, then the voice of Allah SWT puts him right:
But as he was speaking, a cloud came and began to cover them, and the disciples were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came from out of the cloud, ‘This is my spiritualSon, my Chosen One. Listen to him!’(v34-35)
Whether or not Hazrat Peter (pbuh)had made the mistake of according these three prophets equal honour, it is clear that of these three, only al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)is called, ‘my spiritualSon, my Chosen One.’
‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)claims a Unique Relationship with Allah
The second passage that presents al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)as spiritual Son of God in a unique and special way takes place after Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)has sent out seventy-two disciples to preach and heal, and they return with reports of great miracles performed in his name. ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)says,
‘All things have been entrusted to me by my heavenlyFather. No one knows who the spiritualSon is except the heavenlyFather, and no one knows who the heavenly Father is except the spiritualSon and those to whom the spiritualSon wishes to reveal him.’ (Injīl, Luke 10:22)
This describes a unique relationship between Allah SWT and al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu). Allah, as his heavenly Father, has entrusted all things to ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu). Sayyidnā ‘Īsā (hpbuu)says something similar in Injīl, Matthew 28:18, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ And Injīl, Hebrews 1:2 says that Allah SWT made ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu), as his spiritualSon, ‘heir of all things.’
Al-Masīh ‘Īsā(hpbuu)also claims that he is known uniquely and intimately by Allah and that he himself possesses a unique intimate knowledge of Allah. He alone also has the authority to reveal Allah to those he chooses.
The Parable of the Vineyard Owner and the Wicked Tenant Farmers
The third passage that points to al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)as spiritual Son of God in a unique way is in Injīl, Luke 20:9-16 in the parable Prophet ‘Īsā (hpbuu)himself told of the vineyard owner and the wicked tenant farmers.
‘There was a man who planted a vineyard and let it out to tenant farmers. Then he went away for a long time. 10At the time of the grape harvest, he sent a servant to the tenant farmers to receive from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenant farmers beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He then sent another servant, but the tenant farmers beat and insulted him as well, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 Again, he sent a third servant, but they injured him and drove him out.
13 ‘The master of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my son whom I love. Perhaps they’ll have some respect for him.”
14 ‘But when they saw the son, the tenant farmers discussed together and said, “This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and then the inheritance will be ours.” 15 So they drove him out of the vineyard and killed him.
‘What then, will the master of the vineyard do to those tenant farmers? 16 He will come and put those tenant farmers to death and give the vineyard to others.’
In the parable, the vineyard owner represents Allah, who sends his servants, the prophets to the Banī Isrā’īl to look for the fruit of righteousness and justice. The tenants are Isrā’īl’s leaders who ill-treat the prophets. Finally, the vineyard owner’s son is sent, who represents al-Masīh. He is the one who is especially close to Allah – the son he loves. Al-Masīh ‘Īsā(hpbuu)also predicts here what will happen to him – he will be killed.
The point we are making here is that ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)speaks of the prophets as servants while al-Masīh (himself) is represented as the son. The concept of the son as heir who will gain the inheritance is also present here.
The word translated ‘mankind’ in Taurāt, Genesis 1 and 5 is actually adamin the original Hebrew text. This is the name of the first man – Adam (pbuh). In Hebrew, the word can also refer to an individual human being or to humanity as a race.
The words ‘image of Allah’ may be misunderstood, as they may cause some people to think of idols and visual representations of Allah. In fact, these words are the very opposite of that. Here it is Allah who makes humans and places his image and likeness in them. In idol worship, it is the other way round – humans make images, and then claim they represent Allah, which is a gross distortion of the created order. This practice is forbidden in the Taurāt in the second great commandment of the Sharī’ah given to Prophet Mūsā (pbuh):
‘You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above, or on the earth below, or in the waters below the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them…’(Taurāt, Exodus 20:4-5).
Injīl, Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians15:21-22, 45-49. Compare also Qur’an, Āl-’Imrān 3:59, ‘Truly the likeness of Jesus in the sight of God is that of Adam’.
In the Arabic of the Qur’an there are two words that can be translated as ‘son’: ‘walad’ always refers to a son that is physically begotten. This is the term the Qur’an usually uses when it denies that Allah has a son. The other word is ‘ibn’, which is a broader term that can include a non-physical, non-biological relationship. ‘ibn’ in Arabic is closely related to the Hebrew word for son, ‘ben’.
See also, al-Baqarah 2:116, Yūnus 10:68, al-Kahaf 18:4, Maryam 19:88, 91-92, al-Anbiyā 21:26, al-Muminun 23:91, al-Furqan 25:2.
The Christ Jesus son of Mary is indeed the prophet of God... and a spirit from Him.(TK).
Injīl, 1Corinthians 15:45,
The first man, Adam became a living being; the final Adam (al-Masīh ‘Īsā) became a life-giving spirit.
The Christ Jesus son of Mary is indeed the prophet of God and His Word...(TK).
Also, Injīl, John 1:1, 14,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Allah... and the Word became (human) flesh and lived among us. We have seen his glory...
The concept of inheritance and heirs also appears in a number of places in the Injīl:
For all those who are led by the Spirit of Allah are the spiritualchildren of Allah. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you slaves of fear again; instead, you received the Spirit who brings adoption to spiritualson-ship, by whom we call out, ‘Abba, heavenlyFather.’ 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are Allah’s spiritual children. 17 If we are children, we are also heirs – heirsof Allah and joint-heirswith al-Masīh, if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also receive glory with him.(Injīl, Romans 8:14-17)
In the past Allah spoke to our ancestors many times and in various ways through the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us through a spiritualSon, whom he made heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.(Injīl, Hebrews 1:1-2)