In Matthew 2:15 the Evangelist quotes Hosea 11:1, “[and] Out of Egypt I called My son” in the context of Jesus’ return to the Holy Land after a spell in Egypt. I argued in my thesis that Hosea 11:1 was a referent to Israel (Exod 4:22) and that in the context of Matthew’s Gospel it serves to identify Jesus as the true Israel and Son of God, especially as he experiences exile, sojourn, and return from exile as a young child, and is tempted in the wilderness. I argued therefore that the key to understanding the Son of God christology in the first part of Matthew (including the Temptation account) is Matthew 2:15. Jesus is a son after the likeness of Israel (I think I said better there than I did in my thesis. Go figure).
I admittedly struggled a bit in researching the “Son of God” title in the Old Testament and Ancient Judaism, because I had a hard time finding any evidence that it was ever seen in terms of a pre-existent divine being. It referred to Israel (most commonly), a righteous Israelite, Judean kings (not so commonly) and sometimes angels. And it seemed to me, at least in the first part of the Gospel of Matthew, that it is used to emphasize Jesus’ typological relationship with Israel. It’s not that these things ever led me to doubt the divinity of the Son of God, or His pre-existence, or eternal relationship with the Father. Certainly those aspects of christology are evident in the New Testament, including the Synoptics. In the Matthean prologue, the name “Emmanuel” (God with us) identifies Jesus as God, who was with His people in the Old Testament and now with them in the little Child born in Bethlehem (see also Col. 2:9). But the meaning of that title “Son” in the context of Matthew’s Gospel has been somewhat elusive for me.
One aspect I did not develop as much as I would have liked or should have is the fact that Jesus is *the* Son whose eternal relationship with the Father was the prototype of Israel’s filial relationship with YHWH. This gets into the pre-existence of the Son, which is, of course, the main topic of Simon J. Gathercole’s latest book (which I just got in the mail today) The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Perhaps reading this book will help solidify some of the unanswered questions that arose from my thesis research. I’ve gotten through the Introduction and I’m into the first chapter where he deals with Pauline references to the pre-existence of the Son. It’s hard to concentrate with a 4 and 2-year-old jumping off the couch screaming though. Maybe I’ll get more read after hours!