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On Second Thought! Revisiting Jesus as God’s Son or Servant in Acts Pt. 2

We continue from where we previously left off 

Places where pais/paidion are used to refer to a person’s offspring

There are verses where the words pais/paidion refer to a child, either to a son or daughter. Some of these passages include the Lord Jesus, i.e., Christ is said to be a pais/paidion in contexts where the meaning clearly means child or son:

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him… And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child (tou paidiou); and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child (to paidion) was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child (to paidion) with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child (to paidion) and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child (to paidion) to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child (to paidion) and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son (ton hyion mou).  Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children (tous paidas) that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men… But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise, and take the young child (to paidion) and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s (tou paidiou) life. And he arose, and took the young child (to paidion) and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.” Matthew 2:1-2, 8-16, 19-21

Note the connection with Jesus being God’s Hyios (Son) whom God brought out of Egypt with his being a paidion (young child).

“And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus (to paidion ‘Iesoun), to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.’… And the child (paidion) grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him… And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast… And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s (tou Patros mou) business?’” Luke 2:27-32, 40, 42, 46-49

“But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children (tous paidas) crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were extremely displeased.” Matthew 21:15

“On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child (to paidion). And they were calling him Zechariah, after the name of his father… All those who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, ‘What kind of child (to paidion) will he be?’ For the hand of the Lord was with him.” Luke 1:59, 66

“And you, child (paidion), will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,” Luke 1:76

“And the child (paidion) grew and became strong in spirit, and he remained in the wilderness until the day of his appearance to Israel.” Luke 1:80

“While he was coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child (ton paida), and returned him to his father.” Luke 9:42

“When a woman is giving birth, she has pain, because her hour has come. But as soon as she delivers the child (to paidion), she no longer remembers the anguish for joy that a child is born into the world.” John 16:21

“When the morning came, Jesus stood on the shore. But the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children (Paidia), do you have any fish?’” John 21:4-5 

Places where pais/paidion are used interchangeably with hyios/thygater

Here are places where the Greek words for son/daughter are used interchangeably with pais/paidion:

“When they came to the crowd, a man came to Him and knelt before Him, saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son (mou ton hyon), for he is an epileptic and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire and often into the water. I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not heal him.’ Then Jesus answered, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.’ Jesus rebuked the demon, and he came out of him. And the child (ho pais) was healed instantly.” Matthew 17:14-18

“When Jesus had crossed again by boat to the other side, many people gathered to Him. And He was beside the sea. One of the rulers of the synagogue, named Jairus, saw Jesus and came and fell at His feet and earnestly asked Him, ‘My little daughter (To thygatrion mou) is lying at the point of death. I ask You, come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may be healed. And she will live.’ So Jesus went with him. And many people followed Him and pressed in on Him… While He was still speaking, some came from the house of the synagogue ruler and said, ‘Your daughter (He thygater sou) is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?’ As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not be afraid, only believe.’ He let no one follow Him, except Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw the tumult, and those who wept and wailed loudly. When He came in, He said to them, ‘Why make this uproar and weep? The girl (to paidion) is not dead, but sleeping.’ They laughed at Him in ridicule. But when He had put them all out, He took the father and the mother of the girl (tou paidiou) and those who were with Him and entered where the girl (to paidion) was lying. He took the girl (tou paidiou) by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were greatly astonished. He strictly ordered them to let no one know of it and directed them to give her something to eat.” Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

“So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son (ho hyios) was sick in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him, pleading that He would come down and heal his son (autou ton hyion), for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.’ The nobleman said to Him, ‘Sir, come down before my child (to paidion mou) dies.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way. Your son lives (ho hyios sou ze).’ And the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. While he was going down, his servants met him and told him, ‘Your son lives (ho pais autou ze)! When he inquired of them the hour when he began to heal, they answered, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’ Then the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives (Ho hyios sou ze).’ So he and his whole household believed. This was the second sign that Jesus did when He had come from Judea to Galilee.” John 4:46-54

The foregoing examples clearly affirm that the words pais/paidion can and often do refer to a child, an offspring, whether a son or daughter. This, therefore, makes it all the more likely that Acts identifies Jesus as the pais/paidion of God in the sense of his being God’s holy, spiritual Offspring/Son who humbled himself to become his beloved Father’s Servant in order to accomplish the redemption of God’s people by dying on the cross:

“For who is greater: he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? But I am among you as He who serves.. You are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I appoint to you a kingdom as My Father has appointed one to Me, so that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Luke 22:27-30

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to the entire flock, over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28

In other words, these terms were specifically chosen because they more precisely and succinctly convey the fact of Jesus’ being both the Son and Servant of God, more so than any other Greek word employed in the Christian Scriptures. This brings me to my next point.

Doulos Theou – The Servant/Slave of God

If Luke wanted to emphasize Jesus’ position and status as God’s holy Servant then he could have used the one term that he and the other inspired NT writers most often employ to convey this point, namely doulos:

“Now, Lord, look on their threats and grant that Your servants (doulois sou) may speak Your word with great boldness,” Acts 4:29

“She followed Paul and us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God (douloi tou Theou tou Hypsistou), who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’” Acts 16:17

“Paul, a servant of God (doulos Theou) and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth which leads to godliness,” Titus 1:1

“As free people, do not use your liberty as a covering for evil, but live as servants of God (Theou douloi).” 1 Peter 2:16

“They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God (tou doulou tou Theou), and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of saints!’” Revelation 15:3

Had this been the term used in Acts then there would have been no doubt that the primary focus in these passages is to highlight Jesus’ role as the Servant of God. Since Luke did not employ this term, but chose a word which can refer to both a child and a servant, it therefore becomes all the more likely that the point that these verses seek to affirm is that Jesus is God’s beloved, spiritual Offspring who humbled himself to become a Servant.

Concluding Remarks

A careful reexamination of the passages in Acts where our Lord is called God’s pais/paidion leads us to conclude that the inspired author deliberately employed these phrases to signify the fact of Jesus’ being both God’s Son and Servant. To, therefore, argue whether these Greek words mean that Jesus is the Son or Servant of God misses the point completely, since it is not either/or but both/and, i.e., Jesus is the unique Son of God who humbled himself to become the Servant of God. As such, Christ is God’s holy Child who assumed the status and position of a Slave for the express purpose of accomplishing the redemption of all those who would put their faith and trust in him:

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

“Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs,” Romans 15:8

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural references taken from the Modern English Version (MEV) of the Holy Bible.

Addendum A: What About David?

A person may raise the objection that pais/paidion is used in respect to David where the meaning clearly is servant:

“and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant (paidos autou) David,” Luke 1:69

“and who by the mouth of Your servant (paidos sou) David said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people devise vain things?’” Acts 4:25

The problem with this objection is that the God-breathed Scriptures testify that David was more than God’s servant. He was also chosen to become God’s son whom God appointed to rule over God’s people on his behalf:

“But I have been made king by him on Sion his holy mountain, declaring the ordinance of the Lord: the Lord said to me, Thou art my Son (hyios mou), to-day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen [for] thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth [for] thy possession. Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces as a potter’s vessel.” Psalm 2:6-9 LXX

“made a covenant with my chosen ones, I sware unto David my servant (to doulo mou)… I have found David my servant (ton doulon mou); I have anointed him by [my] holy mercy… He shall call upon me, [saying], Thou art my Father (pater mou ei su), my God, and the helper of my salvation. And I will make him [my] first-born, higher than the kings of the earth.” Psalm 88[Heb. 89]:3, 20, 26-27 LXX

This blessing was further extended to all of David’s sons who would sit on God’s earthly throne in the place of their ancestor:

“Go, and say to my servant David (ton doulon mou), Thus says the Lord, Thou shalt not build me a house for me to dwell in… And now thus shalt thou say to my servant David (ho doulo mou), Thus says the Lord Almighty, I took thee from the sheep-cote, that thou shouldest be a prince over my people, over Israel… I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son (hyion). And when he happens to transgress, then will I chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the sons of men… for a long time to [to come]. And [is] this the law of man, O Lord, my Lord? And what shall David yet say to thee? and now thou knowest thy servant (ton doulon sou), O Lord, my Lord… Almighty Lord God of Israel, thou hast uncovered the ear of thy servant (tou doulou sou), saying, I will build thee a house: therefore thy servant (ho doulos sou) has found [in] his heart to pray this prayer to thee. And now, O Lord my Lord, thou art God; and thy words will be true, and thou hast spoken these good things concerning thy servant (tou doulou sou). And now begin and bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee; for thou, O Lord, my Lord, hast spoken, and the house of thy servant (tou doulou sou) shall be blessed with thy blessing so as to continue for ever.” 2 Samuel 7:5, 8, 14, 20, 27-29 LXX

Note how these passages employ both the terms doulos and hyios, thereby highlighting the fact that David and his heirs were more than mere servants, since they were also God’s royal sons anointed to rule on earth as his representatives:

“Yet the Lord God of Israel chose me out of the whole house of my father to be king over Israel for ever; and he chose Juda as the kingly [house], and out of the house of Juda [he chose] the house of my father; and among the sons of my father he preferred me, that I should be king over all Israel. And of all my sons, (for the Lord has given me many sons,) he has chosen Solomon my son, to set him on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. And God said to me, Solomon thy son shall build my house and my court: for I have chosen him to be my son (mou hyion), and I will be to him a father. And I will establish his kingdom for ever, if he continue to keep my commandments, and my judgments, as [at] this day.” 1 Chronicles 28:4-7 LXX

Therefore, it seems reasonably clear that the reason why David is called God’s paidion is because he was God’s spiritual offspring chosen to serve as God’s earthly vice-regent. This in turn reinforces our claim that pais/paidion were deliberately employed to highlight the point that the person thus described was/is both a son and a servant.

Addendum B: The Witness of the Latin Version

It is interesting to see how the Latin Vulgate renders the verses from Acts where the Lord is identified as the paidion of God, seeing that this is a fifth century translation produced by one of the greatest Bible scholars who ever lived, namely Jerome. We provide the Douay-Rheims’ translation of the Latin for the convenience of the readers:

The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus, whom you indeed delivered up and denied before the face of Pilate, when he judged he should be released.

Deus Abraham, et Deus Isaac, et Deus Jacob, Deus patrum nostrorum glorificavit filium suum Jesum, quem vos quidem tradidistis, et negastis ante faciem Pilati, judicante illo dimitti. Acts 3:13 

To you first God, raising up his Son, hath sent him to bless you; that every one may convert himself from his wickedness.

Vobis primum Deus suscitans filium suum, misit eum benedicentem vobis: ut convertat se unusquisque a nequitia sua. Acts 3:26 

For of a truth there assembled together in this city against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel,

Convenerunt enim vere in civitate ista adversus sanctum puerum tuum Jesum, quem unxisti, Herodes, et Pontius Pilatus, cum gentibus, et populis Israel, Acts 4:27

By stretching forth thy hand to cures, and signs, and wonders to be done by the name of thy holy Son Jesus.

In eo quod manum tuam extendas ad sanitates, et signa, et prodigia fieri per nomen sancti filii tui Jesu. Acts 4:30 

We thus have the witness of one of the greatest scholars of the early church who understood the Greek term employed by Luke to mean that Jesus Christ is God’s uniquely beloved Son.

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