By Imam Shabir Ally
It will be quickly obvious that they often referred to him as a servant of God, but never Son of God. Peter, for example, said:
“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus” (Acts 3:13).
Peter further said: “God raised up his servant” (Acts 3:26), where the title servant refers to Jesus.
Not only Peter, but the entire group of believers viewed Jesus as God’s servant. When they raised their voices together in prayer to God, in the course of their speaking to God they called Jesus “your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed” (Acts 4:27). They repeated this title also in verse 30. Consistently, Jesus was being called servant of God by the original followers of Jesus.
Some people mistakenly thought that the disciples called Jesus Son of God. An inconsistency of translation actually helped to give this wrong impression. In the King James Bible, the translators call Jesus “Son of God” in Acts 3:13, 26, and “child of God” in Acts 4:27. They simply translated the Greek word paida as “son” or “child”. But the word paida also means “servant”, and the present context demands this translation since the author of Acts is trying in this passage to establish that Jesus is indeed the servant of God.
The translators knew that the Greek word paida means servant. When the same word was used for David in chapter 4, verse 25, they translated it “servant”. Why not call Jesus also by the same title? Or, if they feel that “son” is the correct translation, why not also call David “Son of God”? Jesus and David are both called by the same title in Greek. Why not call them by a same title in English also?
Other translators recognised this inconsistency and corrected it in the modern translations of the Bible. Therefore the New International Version of the Bible and many others call Jesus Servant of God in the verses already quoted above. Nevertheless, the fact that Jesus was God’s servant was so well known that even the King James Bible called him by this title in Matthew 12:18. Referring back to Isaiah 42:1, Matthew identified Jesus as the servant of the one true God Yahweh.
In the next part, we will see how the eagerness in some people to call Jesus “Son of God” led them to invent explanations that indirectly insult God.