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The Divine Sonship: Not a Piece of Information

The Divine Sonship: Not A Piece Of Information

At a time when the reality of the gospel threatens to fall apart into the constructions of an historical Jesus and a doctrinal Christ, one cannot stress strongly enough the status of a gospel as a symbolism engendered in the metaxy of existence by a disciple’s response to the drama of the Son of God. The drama of the Unknown God who reveals his kingdom through his presence in a man, and of the man who reveals what has been delivered to him by delivering it to his fellow men, is continued by the existentially responsive disciple in the gospel drama by which he carries on the work of delivering these things from God to man.

The gospel itself is an event in the drama of revelation. The historical drama in the metaxy, then, is a unit through the common presence of the Unknown God in the men who respond to his “drawing” and to one another. Through God and men as the dramatis personae, it is true, the presence of the drama partakes of both human time and divine timelessness, but tearing the drama of participation asunder into the biography of a Jesus in the spatiotemporal world and eternal verities showered from beyond would make nonsense of the existential reality that was experienced and symbolized as the drama of the Son of God.

The episode on the way to Caesarea Philippi ( Matt. 16:13-20) may be considered a key to the understanding of the existential context into which the logion 11:27 must be placed.FN   There Jesus asks the disciples who the people say the Son of man is, and receives the answer that he is variously understood as an apocalyptic of the type of John the Baptist, the prophesied Elijah, a Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.

His questioning then moves on to who the disciples think he is, and he receives the reply from Simon Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16). Jesus answers: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona; for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” The Matthean Jesus, thus, agrees with the Johannine (John 6:44) that nobody can recognize the movement of divine presence in the Son unless he is prepared for such recognition by the presence of the divine Father in himself.

The divine Sonship is not revealed through a [piece of] information tendered by Jesus, but through a man’s response to the full presence in Jesus of the same Unknown God by whose presence he is inchoatively moved in his own existence. The Unknown God enters the drama of Peter’s recognition as the third person. In order to draw the distinction between revelation and information, as well as to avoid the derailment from one to the other, the episode closes with the charge of Jesus to the disciples “to tell no one that he was the Christ”(Matt. 16:20).


This excerpt is from Published Essays: 1966-1985 (Collected Works of Eric Voegelin 12) (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1990)

Eric VoegelinEric Voegelin

Eric Voegelin

Eric Voegelin (1901-85) was a German-born American Political Philosopher. He was born in Cologne and educated in Political Science at the University of Vienna, at which he became Associate Professor of Political Science. In 1938 he and his wife fled from the Nazi forces which had entered Vienna and emigrated to the United States, where they became citizens in 1944. He spent most of his academic career at the University of Notre Dame, Louisiana State University, the University of Munich and the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. More information about him can be found under the Eric Voegelin tab on this website.

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