Paul and the “Son of God”
In Paul in Fresh Perspective, N. T. Wright reflects on Paul’s ‘redefinition of God.’ There he says,
Paul’s thought can best be understood, not as an abandonment of [a Jewish monotheistic] framework, but as a redefinition of it around the Messiah…All this and more is summed up for Paul in one of the titles for Jesus which, though he does not use it very often, comes with great force when he does. The phrase ‘son of God’ was known in Judaism as a reference to angels, but it is the two other uses which indicate where Paul sees its roots: Israel itself as ‘son of God’ (not least in Exodus 4.22), and the Messiah as ‘son of God’ in 2 Samuel 7.14 and Psalms 2.7 and 89.27. What Paul has done is to take this idea and fill it with new content, without losing the messianic meaning and the cognate of representing Israel. What has happened in, to and through Jesus has convinced Paul that hidden within the divinely intended meaning of Messiahship was God’s determination not just to send someone else to do what had to be done but to come himself to do it in person. Only so can we make sense of passages like Romans 5.6-11, where the death of Jesus (precisely as the son of God, as in 8.3 and 8.32) expresses more clearly and anything else the love of God. This can only be so if Jesus is understood as the very embodiment of the one God.
-N. T. Wright, Paul in Fresh Perspective, 84, 95