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CHRIST’S ETERNAL GENERATION: IS BEGETTING THE SAME AS BEING CREATED?

In this post I am going to prove that, contrary to claims of anti-Trintarians, begetting and creating are not necessarily synonymous as far as the Holy Bible is concerned. I will cite instances where the Holy Bible refers to individuals who were already in existence even before they were begotten.

For instance, Israel’s king is said to have been begotten by God on the day he began ruling on God’s throne as God’s earthly representative:

“But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You (yalidtika).’” Psalm 2:6-7

“‘I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: Your seed I will establish forever, And build up your throne to all generations.’… Then You spoke in a vision to Your holy one, And said: ‘I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found My servant David; With My holy oil I have anointed him, With whom My hand shall be established; Also My arm shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not outwit him, Nor the son of wickedness afflict him. I will beat down his foes before his face, And plague those who hate him. But My faithfulness and My mercy shall be with him, And in My name his horn shall be exalted. Also I will set his hand over the sea, And his right hand over the rivers. He shall cry to Me, “You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.” Also I will make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.’” Psalm 89:3-4, 19-27

“However the LORD God of Israel chose me above all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever, for He has chosen Judah to be the ruler. And of the house of Judah, the house of my father, and among the sons of my father, He was pleased with me to make me king over all Israel. And of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons) He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. Now He said to me, ‘It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father.’” 1 Chronicles 28:4-6

“Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him.” 1 Chronicles 29:23

“Blessed be the LORD your God, who delighted in you, setting you on His throne to be king for the LORD your God! Because your God has loved Israel, to establish them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.” 2 Chronicles 9:8

“And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD, which is in the hand of the sons of David; and you are a great multitude, and with you are the gold calves which Jeroboam made for you as gods.” 2 Chronicles 13:8

In light of the foregoing, would anyone claim that David and his heirs were not already consciously alive before God begot them to reign upon his earthly throne in Jerusalem?

Interestingly, the [N]ew [T]estament writings ascribe Psalm 2:7 to Jesus’ post-resurrection ascension into heaven to sit enthroned alongside the Father:

“And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You (gegenneka).’” Acts 13:32-33

“And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You (gegenneka)’? And again, ‘I will be a Father to Him And He shall be a Son to Me’?” Hebrews 1:3-5

Once again, is there anyone who would argue that Christ wasn’t already alive before he physically ascended into his Father’s heavenly presence to begin his reign as King of kings and Lord of lords?

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesuswhom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:29-36

“and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE all principality and power and might and dominion, and EVERY NAME that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23

“Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” Hebrews 9:23-28

“and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,” Revelation 1:5

“These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” Revelation 17:14

With that said, here are cases of individuals receiving life within themselves or who are said to have been born of God, and who were already consciously existing beforehand:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’” John 6:53-54

“In the exercise of His will He gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” James 1:18

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. Read full chapter 1 Peter 1:3, 23

“If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness also has been born of Him.” 1 John 2:29

“Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves the child born of Him.” 1 John 5:1

The aforementioned texts clearly demonstrate that begetting doesn’t necessarily refer to the act of bringing someone into being who had no prior existence, which leads me to my next point.

Does Being Created Imply Non-Existence?

It may come as a surprise to both believers and heretics/unbelievers alike to discover that even when the Holy Scriptures employ the verbs for creating, this still doesn’t always apply to something or someone that was created from nothing, or to causing something to exist which had no prior existence. Nor does it mean to be created from matter.

For instance, the Jewish writings describe God as creating wisdom before all things:

“I, wisdom, dwell in prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion… The LORD created me (qanani) at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth;” Proverbs 8:12, 22-25 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

“Wisdom was created (ektistai) before all things, and prudent understanding from eternity.” Sirach 1:4 RSV

However, this does not mean that the Lord brought wisdom into existence from nothing. Rather, wisdom came forth from God himself, since it proceeded from his “mouth” so to speak:

“For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;” Proverbs 2:6

“Wisdom will praise herself, and will glory in the midst of her people. In the assembly of the Most High she will open her mouth, and in the presence of his host she will glory: ‘I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist. I dwelt in high places, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud. Alone I have made the circuit of the vault of heaven and have walked in the depths of the abyss. In the waves of the sea, in the whole earth, and in every people and nation I have gotten a possession. Among all these I sought a resting place; I sought in whose territory I might lodge. Then the Creator of all things gave me a commandment, and the one who created me assigned a place for my tent. And he said, ‘Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.’ From eternity, in the beginning, he created me (ektise me), and for eternity I shall not cease to exist.’” Sirach 24:1-9 RSV

As such, wisdom has eternally existed as an essential characteristic of God which the Lord employed to create all things:

“O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions—” Psalm 104:24

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding He established the heavens; By His knowledge the depths were broken up, And clouds drop down the dew.” Proverbs 3:19-20

As such, to be created doesn’t mean to be brought into existence from non-existence.

The Holy Bible on the Eternal Begetting of the Son

Keep in mind the fact that God’s wisdom is said to have been created even though it proceeded forth from the mouth of God before all creation. As I explained, this affirms that wisdom has eternally existed as an intrinsic aspect of God’s own eternal and immutable Being, and therefore refutes the notion that creating must necessarily refer to something being brought into being from non-existence.

This depiction of wisdom’s begetting/creating serves as a helpful illustration to the biblical description and the early church’s understanding of the eternal begetting/generation of the Son of God since God’s wisdom and word are equated:

“O God of my fathers and Lord of mercy, who hast made all things by thy word, and by thy wisdom hast formed man, to have dominion over the creatures thou hast made,” Wisdom of Solomon 9:1-2 RSV

And this is precisely where the NT writings come into play.

According to the Christian Greek Scriptures, Jesus is the eternal Word of God who became a flesh and blood human being:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men… There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-4, 9-10, 14

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:1-3

“He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.” Revelation 19:13

This depiction of Christ as the Word that became flesh is important since, like wisdom, God’s word is said to proceed from his own metaphorical mouth, since it springs forth from God’s eternal heart:

“Now hear the word of the LORD, O you women, And let your ear receive the word of His mouth; Teach your daughters wailing, And everyone her neighbor a dirge.” Jeremiah 9:20

“But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”’” Matthew 4:4

“To the chief Musician. Upon Shoshannim. Of the sons of Korah. An instruction;—a song of the Beloved (yadidot). My heart is welling forth/bursting with a good word (rachash libbi dabar tob): I say what I have composed touching the king. My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” Psalm 45:1

Here’s the Greek rendering of the foregoing Psalm:

“For the end, for alternate [strains by the sons of Kore; for instruction, a Song concerning the Beloved (tou agapetou). My heart has uttered a good word (he kardia mou logon agathon): I declare my works to the king: my tongue is the pen of a quick writer.” Psalm 44:1-2 LXX

What makes this particular Psalm rather intriguing is that this happens to be one of the biblical texts that the early church fathers cited as evidence for their belief in the eternal generation of the Son!

Chapter 7. The Son by Being Designated Word and Wisdom, (According to the Imperfection of Human Thought and Language) Liable to Be Deemed a Mere Attribute. He is Shown to Be a Personal Being

Then, therefore, does the Word also Himself assume His own form and glorious garb, His own sound and vocal utterance, when God says, Let there be light. Genesis 1:3 This is the perfect nativity of the Word, when He proceeds forth from God — formed by Him first to devise and think out all things under the name of Wisdom — The Lord created or formed me as the beginning of His ways; Proverbs 8:22 then afterward begotten, to carry all into effect — When He prepared the heaven, I was present with Him. Thus does He make Him equal to Him: for by proceeding from Himself He became His first-begotten Son, because begotten before all things; Colossians 1:15 and His only-begotten also, because alone begotten of God, in a way peculiar to Himself, from the womb of His own heart — even as the Father Himself testifies: My heart, says He, has emitted my most excellent Word. The Father took pleasure evermore in Him, who equally rejoiced with a reciprocal gladness in the Father’s presence: You are my Son, today have I begotten You; even before the morning star did I beget You. The Son likewise acknowledges the Father, speaking in His own person, under the name of WisdomThe Lord formed Me as the beginning of His ways, with a view to His own works; before all the hills did He beget Me. For if indeed Wisdom in this passage seems to say that She was created by the Lord with a view to His works, and to accomplish His ways, yet proof is given in another Scripture that all things were made by the Word, and without Him was there nothing made; John 1:3 as, again, in another place (it is said), By His word were the heavens established, and all the powers thereof by His Spirit — that is to say, by the Spirit (or Divine Nature) which was in the Word: thus is it evident that it is one and the same power which is in one place described under the name of Wisdom, and in another passage under the appellation of the Word, which was initiated for the works of God Proverbs 8:22 which strengthened the heavens; by which all things were made, John 1:3 and without which nothing was made. John 1:3 Nor need we dwell any longer on this point, as if it were not the very Word Himself, who is spoken of under the name both of Wisdom and of Reason, and of the entire Divine Soul and Spirit. He became also the Son of God, and was begotten when He proceeded forth from Him.

Do you then, (you ask,) grant that the Word is a certain substance, constructed by the Spirit and the communication of Wisdom? Certainly I do. But you will not allow Him to be really a substantive being, by having a substance of His own; in such a way that He may be regarded as an objective thing and a person, and so be able (as being constituted second to God the Father,) to make two, the Father and the Son, God and the Word. For you will say, what is a word, but a voice and sound of the mouth, and (as the grammarians teach) air when struck against, intelligible to the ear, but for the rest a sort of void, empty, and incorporeal thing. I, on the contrary, contend that nothing empty and void could have come forth from God, seeing that it is not put forth from that which is empty and void; nor could that possibly be devoid of substance which has proceeded from so great a substance, and has produced such mighty substances: for all things which were made through Him, He Himself (personally) made. How could it be, that He Himself is nothing, without whom nothing was made? How could He who is empty have made things which are solid, and He who is void have made things which are full, and He who is incorporeal have made things which have body? For although a thing may sometimes be made different from him by whom it is made, yet nothing can be made by that which is a void and empty thing. Is that Word of God, then, a void and empty thing, which is called the Son, who Himself is designated God? The Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 It is written, You shall not take God’s name in vain. Exodus 20:7 This for certain is He who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. Philippians 2:6 In what form of God? Of course he means in some form, not in none. For who will deny that God is a body, although God is a Spirit? John 4:24 For Spirit has a bodily substance of its own kind, in its own form. Now, even if invisible things, whatsoever they be, have both their substance and their form in God, whereby they are visible to God alone, how much more shall that which has been sent forth from His substance not be without substance! Whatever, therefore, was the substance of the Word that I designate a Person, I claim for it the name of Son; and while I recognize the Son, I assert His distinction as second to the Father. (Tertullian, Against Praxeas; bold emphasis mine)

  1. That the same Christ is the Word of God

In the forty-fourth Psalm: My heart has breathed out a good Word. I tell my works to the King. Also in the thirty-second Psalm: By the Word of God were the heavens made fast; and all their strength by the breath of His mouth. Also in Isaiah: A Word completing and shortening in righteousness, because a shortened word will God make in the whole earth. Also in the cvith Psalm: He sent His Word, and healed them. Moreover, in the Gospel according to John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. Also in the Apocalypse: And I saw the heaven opened, and lo, a white horse; and he who sate upon him was called Faithful and True, judging rightly and justly; and He made war. And He was covered with a garment sprinkled with blood; and His name is called the Word of God.

  1. That Christ is the Hand and Arm of God

In Isaiah: Is God’s Hand not strong to save? Or has He made His ear heavy, that He cannot hear? But your sins separate between you and God; and on account of your sins He turns His face away from you, that He may not pity. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with sins. Moreover, your lips have spoken wickedness, and your tongue meditates unrighteousness. No one speaks truth, nor is there true judgment: they trust in vanity, and speak emptiness, who conceive sorrow, and bring forth wickedness. Also in the same place: Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom is the Arm of God revealed? Also in the same: Thus says the Lord, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is the support of my feet. What house will you build unto me? Or what is the place for my rest? For all these things has mine hand made. Also in the same: O Lord God, Your Arm is high, and they knew it not; but when they know it, they shall be confounded. Also in the same: The Lord has revealed His Arab that holy Arm, in the sight of all nations; all nations, even the ends of the earth, shall see salvation from God. Also in the same place: Behold, I have made you as the wheels of a thrashing chariot, new and turned back upon themselves; and you shall thrash the mountains, and shall beat the bills small, and shall make them as chaff, and shall winnow them; and the wind shall seize them, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: but you shall rejoice in the saints of Israel; and the poor and needy shall exult. For they shall seek water, and there shall be none. For their tongue shall be dry for thirst. I the Lord God, I the God of Israel, will hear them, and will not forsake them; but I will open rivers in the mountains, and fountains in the midst of the fields. I will make the wildernesses watery groves, and a thirsty land into watercourses. I will establish in the land of drought the cedar-tree and the box-tree, and the myrtle and the cypress, and the elm and the poplar, that they may see and acknowledge, and know and believe together, that the Hand of the Lord has done these things, and the Holy One of Israel has shown them.

  1. That Christ is at once Angel and God

In Genesis, to Abraham: And the Angel of the Lord called him from heaven, and said to him, Abraham, Abraham! And he said, Here am I. And He said, Lay not your hand upon the lad, nor do anything unto him. For now I know that you fear your God, and hast not spared your son, your beloved son, for my sake. Also in the same place, to Jacob: And the Angel of the Lord spoke unto me in dreams, I am God, whom you saw in the place of God where you anointed me a pillar of stone, and vowed to me a vow. Also in Exodus: But God went before them by day indeed in a pillar of cloud, to show them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire. And afterwards, in the same place: And the Angel of God moved forward, which went before the army of the children of Israel. Also in the same place: Lo, I send my Angel before your face, to keep you in the way, that He may lead you into the land which I have prepared for you. Observe Him, and obey Him, and be not disobedient to Him, and He will not be wanting to you. For my Name is in Him. Whence He Himself says in the Gospel: I came in the name of my Father, and you received me not. When another shall come in his own name, him you will receive. And again in the cxviith Psalm: Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Also in Malachi: My covenant of life and peace was with Levi; and I gave him fear, that he should fear me, that he should go from the face of my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found in his lips. In the peace of the tongue correcting, he walked with us, and turned many away from unrighteousness. Because the lips of the priests shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at His mouth; for He is the Angel of the Almighty. (Cyprian, Treatise XII (Book 2); bold emphasis mine)

Chapter 13 That the Same Truth is Proved from the Sacred Writings of the New Covenant.

And thus also John, describing the nativity of Christ, says: The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full Of grace and truth… For, moreover, His name is called the Word of God, Revelation 19:13 and not without reason. My heart has emitted a good word; which word He subsequently calls by the name of the King inferentially, I will tell my works to the King. For by Him were made all the works, and without Him was nothing made. John 1:3 Whether says the apostle they be thrones or dominations, or powers, or mights, visible things and invisible, all things subsist by Him. Colossians 1:16 Moreover, this is that word which came unto His own, and His own received Him not. For the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. John 1:10-11 Moreover, this Word was in the beginning with God, and God was the Word. John 1:1 Who then can doubt, when in the last clause it is said, The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, that Christ, whose is the nativity, and because He was made flesh, is man; and because He is the Word of God, who can shrink from declaring without hesitation that He is God, especially when he considers the evangelical Scripture, that it has associated both of these substantial natures into one concord of the nativity of Christ? (Novatian, Treatise Concerning the Trinity; bold emphasis mine)

The reason why this Psalm readily lend itself in support of Christ’s eternal begetting is that not, only does it mention the Word but also because it is specifically addressed to the Beloved, a term which the NT ascribes to Christ as God’s uniquely beloved Son:

“and a voice came out of the heavens: ‘You are My beloved Son (ho Hyios mou, ho agapetos), in You I am well-pleased.’” Mark 1:11

“Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is My beloved Son (ho Hyios mou, ho agapetos), listen to Him!’” Mark 9:7

The Father loves the Son (agapa ton Hyion) and has given all things into His hand.” John 3:35

“Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me (hegapesas Me) before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24

“to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (to Hegapemenoo).” Ephesians 1:6

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (tou Hyiou tes agapes autou),” Colossians 1:16

And just as the Psalmist speaks of the Word springing forth from God’s heart, Jesus is said to be dwelling in the bosom or heart of the Father:

“No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father (ho on eis ton kolpon tou Patros), He has explained Him.” John 1:18

“God, unseen until now, is revealed in the Voice, God’s only Son, straight from the Father’s heart.” The Voice (VOICE)

Therefore, a more appropriate biblical passage could not be found than Psalm 45(44):1-2 to affirm the eternal nature of the Son’s begetting, not as an act which brought Christ into existence, but rather as an apt description of Christ’s being an eternal, inseparable, intrinsic “aspect” of God’s own infinite, uncreated Being. I.e., Christ is the eternal Word/Son of God who eternally and fully partakes of the Father’s very own underived essence, an essence of which the Father is the Source. As such, the Father and the Son are inseparable from each other since there never was a time when the Father existed without his Word/Son.

Hence, the early church fathers were absolutely correct when they affirmed that “there never was a time when the Son was not,” since the Son is “begotten, not made,” being “begotten of the Father before all ages.”

Unless noted otherwise, biblical references were taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

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