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Children of God in the Lexicons

January 28, 2014


1. —son, Il.6.366, etc.; υἱὸν ποιεῖσθαί τινα to adopt as a son,Aeschin.2.28υἱεῖς ἄνδρες grown-up sons, D. 25.88: metaph., Κόρον Ὕβριοςυἱόν Orac. ap. Hdt.8.77: rarely of animals, Ev.Matt.21.5.
2. periphr., υἷες Ἀχαιῶν, for ἈχαιοίIl. 1.162, al.; cf. “παῖς” 1.3.
3. generally, child, and so υἱἄρρην male child, Apoc.12.5,PSI9.1039.36 (iii A. D.).
4. freq. in LXX in periphrases (Hebraisms with various meanings), “υἱὸς ἐτῶν ἑκατόν” 100 years old, Ge.11.10, al.; “υἱοὶ ἀδικίας” 2 Ki.7.10; “υἱοὶ θανατώσεως” 1 Ki. 26.16; “υἱοὶ τῶν συμμίζεωνhostages, 4 Ki.14.14; so “υἱὸς εἰρήνης” Ev.Luc.10.6.
5. in some dialects, including the Ion. Prose of Hdt.υἱός is replaced by παῖςυἱός is rare in Trag., A.Th.609Fr. 320E.Or.1689 (anap.), al., and 7 times in S.Hom. has both words in this sense.
6. as a general term of affection, PGiss.68.2 (ii A. D.), POxy.1219.2(iii A. D.); υἱέ, an author’s address to the reader, LXX Pr.1.8, al.
Several parts of this entry from Liddell, Scott, Jones indicate that υἱός can indeed mean “child.” First, meaning number 3 says “child,” second it can be replaced with παῖς which is a common gender word, and third, it can be qualified by the adjective “male.” In the plural, if often refers to the nationality of a group of people. It is paraphrastic for the Achaeans in 2. above. In various Hebraisms it refers to groups of people. It translates banim which is the Hebrew word for “children” in the phrase, “the children of Israel.”
But the guidelines, which I have been sadly reviewing say,
“Son” (huiosben) should not be changed to “child,” or “sons” (huioi) to “children” or “sons and daughters.” (However, Hebrew banim often means “children.”)
I know it is like banging your head against cement – very much like that. But if the word got out that theologians don’t make a habit of looking things up in a lexicon, it might push people to ask more questions.
Why in the Hebrew Bible were people called “the children of the living God” but in the New Testament, it is “sons of God?” Because women will be treated as sons? Not so far. Here is a comment I read on a Christian woman’s blog this morning and I cried for her. She wrote,
The office of Old Testament Prophetess is closed to us today. But we can still learn from Huldah and her example…. Women are not to be busybodies. They are to mind their own affairs. They are to avoid going from house to house spreading rumors (1 Timothy 5:13).
That is what she learned from studying women in the Bible, and she posted this on a blog called “Theology for Girls.” I feel so sad when I read things like this. Why did women have more respect in the Hebrew Bible? Why were there authoritative women who acted independently in the Hebrew Bible, but we don’t take these lessons from the NT?
6 Comments leave one →
  1. Stephanie permalink
    January 28, 2014 5:20 pm

    Suzanne, thank you for these posts. I am new to this blog and have come a very long way
    over the years into greater freedom and understanding. I am thankful that God has used the writing of women and men who think and question and strive to understand and then live out truth.
    You may already be aware of these authors but just in case you are not, I wanted to list the books that have been and continue to be the most encouraging to me to this point.
    Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes and Women in the New Testament (dvd) by Kenneth E. Bailey
    As For Me & My House by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
    Just How Married Do You Want To Be? by Jim and Sarah Sumner
    Love Yourself by Walter Trobisch
    Kenneth Bailey has a phrase that I really like. He says he holds the things he learns as tentatively final. Tentative because he always wants to be teachable and able to be corrected. Final because he cannot wait for the next scholarly work but must get up and live out what he believes. This seems like a humble way to be in the world.
    I was born a questioner and discovered that people are not always comfortable working out answers. I always figured God could handle any question I had and that some answers might take a long time coming or might have to wait until the new Heaven and Earth.
    May God continue to bless your studies and your writing.
    Peace in Christ, Stephanie

  2. January 30, 2014 10:43 pm

    Suzanne, I too grieve that the commentaries, etc., want to read the verses in whatever way will give men more power and women less– particularly because, whether translated “children” or “sons,” I’m convinced that the meaning of the passage in Galatians 4 is that we all have the same status in Christ– whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. There are no poor cousins in the kingdom, no charity orphans, but only heirs/children.

  3. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 2, 2014 9:51 am


    Thanks for the encouragement! I am familiar with most of those books except Wangerin.


    I don’t like any implication that Christians are male in God’s eyes, that somehow women have to become male to inherit God’s blessings. Anyway, the same crowd that press for “sons of God” believe in eternal gender and male headship in heaven. Women may inherit eternal life but not a snippet more of the sons’ inheritance than that. I can’t stand their silly articles about how women are going to submit to men in heaven for eternity.

  4. February 2, 2014 9:59 pm

    Suzanne, I can’t stand any of that either. All I’m saying is that I think these passages mean that whatever the best inheritance package is, that’s the one everyone gets in God’s kingdom. Whatever the mentality was at the time they were written, even if back then boys got more than girls when the estate was distributed, everyone in Christ gets the same inheritance– the best one, the one that the boy would get. If people want to make that mean that women have to become male, then they’re fundamentally misunderstanding it.

  5. February 3, 2014 12:56 am

    For the rest– if the word is gender inclusive, great! But I don’t like the idea of its being used to say, “well, you’re all adopted children, but obviously adopted boys get greater status, more rights and privileges, than adopted girls. So you women just be grateful for salvation. The men get a better inheritance than you do.” I can’t see that as part of the meaning conveyed.


  1. Words on the Word | Septuagint Studies Soirée #6, and this Saturday

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