This post is a throw-back to my “Weird Parts of Scripture” series. If you’re interested, a while back, I wrote a crazy series that took Atlantis seriously and that spent a lot of time on Noah and the Flood. I even wrote a really fun piece about “Titans” in the Bible, and I followed it up with another piece about “Giants” in the Bible. Boy was it weird, and boy was it fun. Well, I found something else that touches on those subjects, so we’re going to go back to it, because I noticed something…. ….Weird.
The Weird Part of Peter Recognizing Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God
In Matthew 16, Jesus asks Peter who Peter thinks Jesus is, and Peter says the following:
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:16-17)
As we can see, Jesus is rather impressed with this. Jesus tells Peter that his own knowledge did not give him this info, but that it was revealed to him by God the Father. Then Jesus gives the very famous coda to this proclamation by Peter:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:18-20)
But then I noticed something strange. Look what happens PREVIOUSLY in the same book:
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:32-33)
After this occurs:
- Jesus does NOT instruct the disciples to keep this a secret as he did later with Peter.
- Jesus does NOT tell the disciples that God the Father revealed to the disciples that he was the Son of God.
- There is no special significance given to the acknowledgment of the disciples.
Well, I think I found the answer, and it comes from the original Greek grammar. It also involves the fact that there are… …and I know I’m becoming a broken record on this, but stick with me here, because it’s important… …there are MULTIPLE Sons of God in the Bible, and it has a significant effect on the story that is being tol.
The Greek Grammar of the Statements “the Son of God.”
In Matthew 16:16, the following Greek text is used to describe Jesus:
Ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ, Σίμων Πέτρος εἶπεν, Σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος.
[Answering] [now], [Simon] [Peter] [said], [You] [are] [the] [Christ] [the] [Son] [of] [God] [the] [living].
That Greek word ὁ is just an omicron with a hard breath mark, making it “ho.” It is a definite article in Greek. It is mostly translated “that,” “which,” “what,” or “some” depending on the context. It is the same word rendered τοῦ later in the same sentence, with a change in spelling just due to the grammar. That form is most often translated as “the” in the context.
Now let’s compare it to the words in Matthew 14:33:
οἱ δὲ ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ, λέγοντες, Ἀληθῶς, Θεοῦ Υἱὸς εἶ !
[Those] [then] [in] [the] [boat] [worshipped] [him], [saying], [Truly], [of God] [Son] [you are]!
Did you notice the difference? There is no definite article “the” in the sentence. To be fair, this is not necessarily a bad translation. It’s more like the fact that there is no non-awkward way to express this Greek thought in English without an article. Additionally, the word order is also weird in the Greek, which we have to change. But there is a choice to be made. How do we translate that phrase:
- Truly, a Son of God you are!
- Truly, the Son of God you are!
I’d like to suggest that a more accurate reflection of the disciples’ thoughts is the first translation, not the second.
Break-Down of Peter’s Confession
When Peter claims that Jesus is the Christ, notice the facts he asserts through his words:
- “You” – this person standing in front of me, Jesus
- “are the Christ” – is the “lord’s anointed” or “the messiah” in Hebrew or “the Christ” in Greek
- “the” – he is a particular one set off from all the rest
- “living” – the God that Peter is talking about is the “living” God, the one who gave life to mankind, and not any sort of dead and false god of idolatry
- “son” – someone with an immediate relationship with “the father” and not a secondary relationship like a “grandson” or “descendant”
- “of God” – from the heavens and from the God in the heavens, not a normal person like us
Then, notice the things that the disciples were saying in the boat:
- “Truly” – really guys, this is for real. We just saw it.
- “you are” – we are about to say who this Jesus guy is
- [“the”] – remember, this word does not appear in the Greek, so we’re not going to incorporate it
- “son” – someone with an immediate relationship with “the father” and not a secondary relationship like a “grandson” or “descendant”
- “of God” – from the heavens and from the God in the heavens, not a normal person like us
There are only two differences between these two statements. One is that Peter says that Jesus is the Christ. The other says that Jesus is ONE PARTICULAR Son of God, distinct from all others. Which one is Jesus impressed by?
One thing we know is that it is NOT the fact that Peter thinks that Jesus is the Christ. Why? Because the disciples have ALWAYS thought that Jesus was the Christ. Note what John says at the very beginning of his gospel:
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (John 1:35-42)
So we have a weird situation. Jesus says that “flesh and blood” did not reveal to Peter what Jesus was impressed with. Instead, it was revealed by “my father in heaven.” But here in John’s gospel, Peter’s brother Andrew (who is flesh-and-blood, by the way) is the one who told Peter that Jesus was the Christ. And if we want to be technical and claim that some “spiritual” word by John the Baptist gave him that information, we need to remember that John the Baptist is also flesh and blood, and Jesus explicitly names God the Father as the source of this information, not the spirit. So, things are getting weird. I won’t say I’ve “proved” that Jesus is not impressed with Peter saying that Jesus is the Christ. However, I will say that the issue is murky at best.
Instead, we have a different conclusion about what Jesus is impressed with:
Peter has said that ONE PARTICULAR SON OF GOD is the Messiah, and he is NOT a normal person like us.
That is something that is NOT very clear at all in the Old Testament. That is also something that the disciples in Matthew 14:33 did not say. But here, Peter is the first to say it, and Jesus is quite happy with that fact.
So, What Does This Mean?
If you want to know what the significance is, then you need to realize that Jesus IS NOT A NORMAL PERSON. He is something called a “Son of God.” And yes, there are multiple Sons of God in the Bible, and ALL OF THEM have a direct one-to-one relationship with God, with no intermediaries:
Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, . . . the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:23, 38)
The Greek version of that “the son of Adom, the son of God” is:
In other words, Adam is the particular Son of God through which Joseph (and all of us for that matter) descended.
Another Son of God would be Melchizedek:
He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
That’s the ESV, which says “resembling” because of how weird this concept is, but note how the ASV renders the same phrase:
without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually.
The Greek of Hebrews is the following:
ἀπάτωρ, ἀμήτωρ, ἀγενεαλόγητος, μήτε ἀρχὴν ἡμερῶν μήτε ζωῆς τέλος ἔχων, ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ Υἱῷ τοῦ Θεοῦ, μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές.
[without father], [without mother], [without genealogy], [neither] [beginning] [of days] [nor] [of life] [end] [having], [having been made like] [however] [the] [Son] [untranslated definite singular article “ho”] [of God], [he remains] [a priest] [unto] [untranslated definite singular article “ho”] [all time].
I know Melchizedek is complicated, but I would just like to make the very clear point that this passage compares Melchizedek to Jesus. But notice what DOESN’T match up between Melchizedek (as described here) and Jesus. Jesus does have a father, (two fathers, in-fact), God and Joseph. He does have a mother, the virgin Mary. He does have a genealogy (two, in fact), in Matthew ad Luke. Jesus (as a man) has a beginning of days, the nativity. He did have an end of life, the crucifixion (although, that didn’t last long).
The only way in which Jesus IN ANY WAY corresponds with Melchizedek as he is described here is the main point of the book of Hebrews: Just like Melchizedek, who was NOT a normal person and comes directly from God, Jesus did that, too.
Also, look at what we see in Genesis:
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. (Genesis 6:1-2)
Also, look at what we see in Job:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. (Job 1:6)
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. (Job 2:1)
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7)
And look what we see in Proverbs about a very, VERY detailed personification of a female “elohim,” that I think is not so much of an analogy as it is a description of someone in the heavenly places:
“The Lord possessed [footnote: or “fathered,” Septuigent “created”] me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth,
before he had made the earth with its fields,
or the first of the dust of the world.
When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man. (Proverbs 8:22-31)
No Hebrew interlinear needed. It’s clear that we’re talking about MULTIPLE Sons (and daughters) of God.
Multiple Sons of God vs. Polytheism
If you’re getting nervous about polytheism vibes, then you’re instincts are correct. But there’s some good news and some bad news. Here’s the bad news. It gets even worse. Look at Psalm 82:
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!
Did you notice that? The “Most High” said (past tense) to certain beings who end up being evil, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.” And now he’s saying they’re going to die like “any prince,” or that is, LIKE MEN.
Here’s the good news, though. I’m not some random dude on a blog coming up with all of this. This is well-trod ground. Read Michael Heiser’s The Unseen Realm if you want an accessible scholarly book on the matter. Here’s the main point. We modern Christians are trained to see the word “God” and think that it means A CERTAIN SET OF ATTRIBUTES, including omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, being the creator of the universe, etc. However, SCRIPTURE NEVER SAYS THAT. The word “god” (Hebrew: elohim) is a BROAD word, that even includes disembodied human spirits:
When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.” The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god [Hebrew: Elohim] coming up out of the earth.” He said to her, “What is his appearance?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage. (1 Samuel 28:12-14)
Even when the word “elohim” is not used, you can also see the broad cast of characters in the Heavens described in Daniel:
The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’ (Daniel 4:17)
These “watchers” and “holy ones” are not the God that we know and worship in Christianity. However, they DO EXIST in the heavenly places. And they seem to be quite active, making choices and either helping or opposing the God [elohim] Most High.
Additionally, the other spiritual beings are AFRAID of Jesus when they see him and know who he is:
And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed [footnote: Greek daimonizomai (demonized); elsewhere rendered oppressed by demons] men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:28-30)
Who are these people? They are NOT NORMAL PEOPLE. They are bad-guy beings from the heavenly places who have been cast down into the belly of the earth. Peter (who witnessed this event above) comments on it:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell [Footnote: Greek Tartarus] and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; (2 Peter 2:4)
Notice that these “demonized” men are afraid that Jesus is going to “torment” them “before the time.” When is that time? Well, we were told in the Old Testament:
On that day the Lord will punish
the host of heaven, in heaven,
and the kings of the earth, on the earth.
They will be gathered together
as prisoners in a pit;
they will be shut up in a prison,
and after many days they will be punished. (Isaiah 24:21-22)
In other words, these demons know their fate. They have broken out of prison (from the tombs), and they are afraid that Jesus is going to absolutely light them up for doing it. They also call him a Son of God. Why don’t they call him THE son of God? Because ALL of these individuals – Jesus and both of the “demonized” men – are from the heavenly places, and therefore “elohim” or “sons of God.”
When it comes to Jesus among these “elohim” and “angels” and “demons” and “sons of God” and “holy ones,” We notice something unique about him. He is the biggest and strongest one, and he instills absolute fear in them all. Or, as C.S. Lewis said:
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (C.S. Lewis, the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)
That is because Jesus IS the God Most High. Who was the person who named these others in the divine council “gods,” That was Jesus. That is why we read things about him like:
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3)
You will never see anything like that said about any other elohim. Other people in scripture (and in myths) have seen divine beings. That’s nothing new. But Jesus is not merely one of many options. He is unique. Why? Because unlike these other beings who were made by God, Jesus wasn’t made. Why not? Because HE IS THE ONE MAKING EVERYTHING. He IS God. That’s why he’s the unique or “only begotten” Son of God. He is the only one who inherits the power and authority and rights of the Most High God.
The Difference Between the Second and First Person of the Trinity
At this point, we might as well cover another strange thing that we read in John’s gospel. How can Jesus be both the Son of God and God himself? Well, I’ll solve this riddle by making it even more confusing and then fixing stuff. Notice how John describes the relationship of the Godhead:
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:18 ESV)
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18 ASV)
With that verse in mind, look at what we read in the book of Exodus:
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank. (Exodus 24:9-11)
Try to add John 1:18 and Exodus 24:9-11 together. No one has ever seen “God.” THEN WHO DID THEY SEE IN EXODUS? They saw Jesus, or more accurately… …they saw “the Word” that later “became flesh.”
The God that “no one has ever seen” is obviously not Jesus, because “the LORD” shows up all the time in visible form in the Old Testament. However, the higher level of reality of God that no one — LITERALLY NO ONE — has ever seen is God the father.
Imagine it this way. There’s an author of a book. The person who writes, types, or speaks every letter and word into existence is obviously the author. He does it with his hands, fingers, and mouth. The book is written THROUGH his body. But the aspect of this author that planned the entire story — including the way that the book is going to shame the other human beings who are not living right — is his mind, which is LITERALLY INVISIBLE. However, that is the thing that plans, predestines, and “writes” the book, even though “everything that has been made” is made THROUGH the author’s body.
And then, when “the word became flesh,” that’s like the author making himself into an ordinary character in the book, in the middle of a sad story where there is absolutely no hope. A story that other beings — with their crappy “fan fiction” have twisted the story so bad that most authors would have to throw it in the trash. The relationship between Jesus as the second person of the trinity and Jesus as the guy who lived in Nazareth 2000 years ago is the same relationship between the author of the book and the character in the book who also is the author of the book. THEY ARE THE SAME PERSON. No other “human being” sitting next to the author is the author, even though they are both the same TYPE of person, compared to characters in the book.
This also explains how Philip and Jesus can have the following interaction:
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. (John 14:8-11)
The thing Philip was asking to see was the thing that John said at the beginning of his gospel “no one has ever seen.” See my post on an analogy of the trinity if you want to read more about that.
But look what John says Jesus did when he “became flesh”:
He came to his own, [Footnote: Greek to his own things; that is, to his own domain, or to his own people] and his own people [People is implied in Greek] did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
Notice that those who believe in Jesus do not immediately become these super-human “son of God” beings. They are also not “born” in a tangible way from God like Adam was, or the other “sons of God” who were “created” or “fathered” before the foundation of the Earth. Instead, we are given “the right to become children of God. What does it mean to “become” the child of someone if you are not a direct tangible descendant from them? The word you’re looking for is ADOPTION. One who is adopted receives all the powers, rights, and authority of a “son.”
This is INCREDIBLY DEEP. While there are many “beings” that are called “gods” or “sons of God” or “elohim” in the scriptures, only one is called LORD or Lord God. Who is this elohim that is called LORD and Lord God?
It’s Jesus. And we are being adopted into the same class of beings as him. That’s why we are “fellow heirs” with him: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17)
That’s why this isn’t polytheism. There are lots of “spiritual beings” (in fact, Paul tells us that’s where our battle is directed, and NOT a blood and flesh), but only one Lord God. He has no rival, and he has no competitor. He only has rebels who have captured what is his (the Earth, and humanity), and God has been patient with the evil on Earth so that he can save us HIMSELF, and not through any other being — whether human or spiritual.
Cosmic Geography in the Scriptures
We need to understand when we read the Bible that there is a metaphysically up-and-over-the-tangible-world place, called the “the heavenly realm” or “spiritual places.” And that’s where God is. That’s where Jesus as “the Word of God” was.
That same place is also where lots of beings WHO ARE NOT “the” God, (as we understand him) also are located. Sometimes they are called “angels” or “watchers” or “Wisdom” or “holy ones” or “sons of God.”
God happened to throw some of them out of that location when they sinned (See 2 Peter 2). Satan himself was thrown down “like lightning” from those places (See Luke 10:18). In fact, it is the fact that Satan is no longer “up there” but “down here” that we are in such bad trouble:
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:12)
The Bible talks about VERY REAL (but not “tangible”) places, that do not follow the normal geographic rules of tangible “places” on Earth. However, we know — because the Bible says so — that this “place” is “up”:
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
Notice the “up” and “down” language there.
We also can tell that when Jesus (as “the Word”) shows himself in the Old Testament, he is also “up there.” Notice what it shows in Exodus and elsewhere:
and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. (Exodus 24:10)
The Lord God of hosts,
he who touches the earth and it melts,
and all who dwell in it mourn,
and all of it rises like the Nile,
and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt;
who builds his upper chambers in the heavens
and founds his vault upon the earth;
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—
the Lord is his name. (Amos 9:5-6)
“Is not God high in the heavens?
See the highest stars, how lofty they are!
But you say, ‘What does God know?
Can he judge through the deep darkness?
Thick clouds veil him, so that he does not see,
and he walks on the vault of heaven.’
This idea is what I was trying to capture in my poem “Night and Day,” and it is also something that I do not believe that many Christians can intuitively understand, even though they know there is something to it. After all… …it’s in the Bible.
So, let’s bring it full-circle. The disciples after Jesus walked on water knew that Jesus was NOT an “ordinary person.” He was one of those “son of God” type people. He MUST be one of those “mighty men of old” type people that they read of in Genesis 6.
However, Peter was the first to notice and say something that none of the other disciples did. Jesus did not come down to show off his buoyancy. He did not come down to show off his power over other disobedient sons of God. He is the Messiah, and contrary to what anyone else had figured out before, the salvation of Israel was going to come FROM HEAVEN.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.