The Title “Son of God” in Matthew’s Gospel
Students of the Bible will easily notice that the title
Son of God is often used in Matthew without agreement from Mark and Luke. For
example, what did the passers-by say at the scene of the cross? Their
saying is reported in Mark 15:29-30 and also in Matthew 27:40. If you
compare the two reports, you will notice that Matthew has added a phrase to the
effect that Jesus is the Son of God.
We find another example of this in Matthew 14:22-33.
Jesus had just miraculously fed five thousand people with five loaves and
two fish. Then he sent his disciples to the other side of the sea. After
praying to God, Jesus went out miraculously walking on the sea to meet his
disciples. Eventually he got into the boat with them. How did the
disciples react to all this? Mark and Matthew give us two different
answers. Mark says:
were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their
hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:51-52).
In Matthew, however, the disciples were not perplexed at
all. They had it all figured out and they knew exactly what to do. Matthew
“And those in
the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God”” (Matthew
Again, Matthew has improved the story to show that Jesus
is the Son of God.
It may be useful here to see what Bible commentaries
say about this difference. In Matthew’s Gospel, the New American Bible
has a footnote saying as follows:
confession is in striking contrast to the Markan parallel where the disciples
are “completely astounded”” (Revised New Testament, p. 35).
In the Pelican New Testament Commentaries, author John
Fenton reminds us that in Mark the disciples were uncomprehending. Fenton
omits this, because in his Gospel the disciples are presented as men who have
been given insight” (The Gospel of Saint Matthew, p. 247).
The difference here between Matthew and Mark was pointed
out also in Harper’s Bible Commentary. Commenting on Matthew, the
reacting, as in Mark, with incomprehension, the whole crew confesses Jesus as
the Son of God” (1988 edition, p. 967).
So can we know what really happened? Commenting on
the same passage in Matthew’s Gospel, the Interpreter’s One-Volume
Commentary on the Bible says:
of Matthew’s favorite phrase little faith suggests either that he has
created this story or that he has reworked it to suit his purpose” (p. 627).
As we have said before, careful study reveals that the
title Son of God is not one that Jesus claimed for himself. Nor did his
true disciples call him by that title.
In the next part, God willing, we will point out some
other changes which Bible students should know about.