A photo capturing the serenity of a deserted church, where sunlight streams through stained glass, evoking the timeless question: "When did Jesus become the Son of God?"

When Did Jesus Become The Son Of God?

The question of when Jesus became the Son of God has been debated for centuries among Christian theologians and scholars. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: according to most mainstream Christian beliefs, Jesus has existed as the Son of God since his pre-existence as the Word prior to the creation of the world.

In this in-depth article, we will examine the biblical and historical evidence surrounding when Jesus became the Son of God. We will look at the various Christological views held throughout Christian history and analyze relevant passages from the Bible.

By the end, you will have a thorough understanding of the different perspectives on when Jesus’ Sonship began.

The Pre-Existence of Christ

The Word Was With God in the Beginning

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ existed with God before the creation of the world. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word refers to Jesus Christ, who took on human form when He was born on earth (John 1:14).

Other verses also point to Christ’s pre-existence, such as John 17:5, where Jesus prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Jesus affirmed His eternal nature when He said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

The pre-existence of Christ proves His deity and eternal nature.

Several Old Testament passages also imply that the Messiah existed before His earthly incarnation. Micah 5:2 prophesies that the ruler of Israel would come from Bethlehem, but His “origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Isaiah 9:6 says the Messiah would be called “Eternal Father,” indicating His eternal nature. Overall, the doctrine of Christ’s pre-existence affirms that Jesus is the eternal Son of God who took on human flesh at a point in time to bring salvation to the world.

Old Testament Depictions of the Pre-Incarnate Christ

The Old Testament contains several appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ, often called “Christophanies.” For example, many scholars believe the Angel of the Lord references were appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ.

When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar in Genesis 16, she exclaimed, “You are the God who sees me” and called Him “the Living One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). This indicates the Angel of the Lord was actually God Himself.

Other possible Christophanies include Jacob wrestling with a “man” who is also identified as God in Genesis 32, as well as the fourth person in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, “like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25).

Additional references that possibly hint at pre-incarnate appearances of Christ include the commander of the Lord’s army who appeared to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-15) and the wisdom of Proverbs, personified as a woman who was present at creation (Proverbs 8).

While scholars debate specific passages, overall the Old Testament foreshadows Christ’s later incarnation to bring salvation to the world.

Jesus as Son of God in the Synoptic Gospels

At Jesus’ Baptism

The Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all depict Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River as a pivotal moment when Jesus is proclaimed as the Son of God. As Jesus comes up out of the water after being baptized, the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends upon Him like a dove, and a voice from heaven says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22).

This scene marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and illustrates His divine sonship. Though Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to the Virgin Mary, His identity as the Son of God is affirmed by God the Father Himself at His baptism.

During His Earthly Ministry

Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus acts and speaks with divine authority that affirms His identity as the Son of God. He teaches, heals, casts out demons, calms storms, forgives sins, and raises the dead.

When accused of blasphemy for claiming authority to forgive sins, Jesus heals a paralyzed man to demonstrate His divine power (Luke 5:24). He declares that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18).

When Peter testifies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus affirms this and declares Peter blessed (Matthew 16:16-17). At His transfiguration, the voice from heaven again confirms that Jesus is the beloved Son (Matthew 17:5).

Though Jesus does not explicitly refer to Himself as the Son of God throughout His ministry, His words and deeds consistently point to His unique divine identity and relationship with the Father.

Christ’s Pre-Existence and Sonship in John’s Gospel

In the Beginning Was the Word

John’s Gospel starts by declaring that Jesus, as the Word, was with God in the beginning and was God (John 1:1). This affirms Christ’s pre-existence and deity. The Word is said to have become flesh and dwelt among us as Jesus Christ (John 1:14).

This teaches Jesus’ incarnation as the divine Son of God. The prologue to John’s Gospel provides a powerful statement about Christ’s eternal existence as the Word who took on human form to reveal the Father.

In John 8:58, Jesus declares “Before Abraham was, I am.” He claims continuity with the “I AM” name of God in Exodus 3:14. This affirms his eternal existence. Jesus also says he descended from heaven (John 6:38) and pre-existed with the Father before creation (John 17:5).

Statements like these set Jesus apart as the eternal divine Son.

Before Abraham Was, I Am

John 8 highlights Jesus’ claim to deity by having Him assert “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). This echoes God’s statement to Moses in Exodus 3:14, linking Jesus to the great “I AM.” As the eternal Word of God, the Son of God pre-existed before His incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth.

So in His divine nature, Jesus preceded Abraham.

Some key implications of this stunning statement include:

  • As the “I AM”, Jesus claimed absolute divine identity with Yahweh God of Israel.
  • Jesus affirmed His eternal existence even before the father of the Jewish nation Abraham.
  • This stood in sharp contrast to His opponents who only had a human origin.

Jesus as the divine Word and Son of God shared glory with God the Father before time began (John 17:5). Christ’s identity is firmly rooted in His eternal pre-existence and Sonship long before Abraham or any ancestor of the Jews.

Jesus audaciously claimed He is the great I AM before whom all must bow down and worship.

Paul and other Epistles on Jesus as Eternal Son

Christ as Pre-Existent and Agent of Creation

The apostle Paul’s epistles contain several passages indicating that Christ existed before his incarnation as a human. In the letter to the Philippians, Paul describes Christ as existing in the “form of God” prior to his incarnation and humbling himself by becoming human (Philippians 2:6-7).

The Greek word “form” (morphe) implies Christ’s divine nature and attributes before becoming human. Paul also calls Christ the “firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15), implying Christ’s preexistence and active role in creating the universe.

In 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul describes the Father as the one God “from whom all things came and for whom we live,” and the Lord Jesus Christ “through whom all things came and through whom we live.” This passage presents Christ as the agent through whom God the Father created all things.

Some scholars see an allusion to Christ’s preexistence and creative work in Romans 11:36, which describes all things as coming from, through, and to God.

Ephesians 3:9 refers to a mystery hidden for ages that has now been revealed – “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Here Christ seems to be equated with the divine mystery long hidden but now revealed in the incarnate Jesus and the indwelling Spirit.

Colossians 1:26-27 similarly refers to “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints” as “Christ in you.” Such passages imply Christ’s preexistence before creation.

Sonship Before and After the Resurrection

In Romans 1:3-4, Paul contrasts Jesus’ human life as a descendant of David with his divine holiness shown in the resurrection and declaration as Son of God. This implies he was already God’s Son in some sense prior to the resurrection.

Yet the resurrection also marks a transition to a new mode of Sonship and power.

Sometimes Paul simply refers to “the Son” or “his Son” without further qualification (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:9; Galatians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). Such statements likely refer to Christ’s divine Sonship even before becoming human.

However, in Romans 8:3 and Galatians 4:4, the titles “Son of God” and “his Son” are specifically applied to the incarnate, human Jesus, highlighting the new manifestation of Sonship through the Incarnation while retaining the eternal aspect.

The Early Church’s Understanding of Christ’s Sonship

Arian Controversy and the Council of Nicaea

In the early centuries of Christianity, there was much debate around the nature of Christ and His relationship to God the Father. A priest named Arius taught that Jesus was created by God and did not exist eternally with God.

This teaching, known as Arianism, was deemed heretical at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The council affirmed that Jesus was begotten, not made, and was of the same divine essence (homoousios) as God the Father.

The Nicene Creed established the eternal pre-existence of Christ and that He was begotten not made. This affirmed the divinity of Christ as proclaimed in John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

However, the question of when Christ became the “Son” was not precisely defined at Nicaea. Overall, the Council rejected the Arian view and established an orthodox understanding that Jesus, the Son, was divine and co-eternal with the Father.

Later Christological Developments

In the decades after Nicaea, debates continued around how to understand Jesus as both fully human and fully divine. The Council of Constantinople in 381 AD affirmed the divinity of the Holy Spirit and clarified that Christ has two natures, human and divine, united in one person.

Later councils continued to unpack the mystery of Jesus’ divine sonship. The Council of Ephesus in 431 AD affirmed that Mary was the Theotokos (God-bearer), meaning Jesus was divine from conception. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD declared that Christ exists as one person in two natures, fully God and fully man.

Jesus is the eternal Son of God in His divine nature, while also being the Son of Mary in His human nature.

Throughout history, the church has affirmed the eternality of Christ as the Son while also recognizing the incarnation as a pivotal moment when Christ entered humanity as Jesus of Nazareth. The relationship between Father and Son within the Trinity is eternal, while “Son of God” also refers to Christ’s humanity as conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.


In conclusion, while there is some diversity of perspective, most mainstream Christian traditions affirm that Jesus existed as the eternal Son of God prior to his incarnation. His Sonship was reaffirmed at his baptism and resurrection, but did not originate at those events.

By examining the biblical testimony and tracing the historical theological understanding, we gain a enriched understanding of Christ’s identity as the Son who was with the Father from the beginning.

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