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Jesus is the Eternal Father but He is not God the Father!

The following verse is typically misused to refute the doctrine of the Trinity:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father (Abi Ad), Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 Modern English Version (MEV)

Oneness modalist heretics use this passage to prove that Jesus is the human manifestation of God the Father since this prophecy explicitly calls the Messiah the Eternal Father. Muslims, on the other hand, employ this text to show that this cannot be a prophecy of the Messiah since Trinitarians do not believe that Jesus is God the Father, and therefore cannot appeal to it as a prooftext for Christ’s divinity.

The problem with both of these objections lies in their understanding of the particular Hebrew phrase in question. The literal rendering of the expression Abi Ad is “Father of Eternity/Everlastingness,” just as we find in the following English versions:

“… and he will be given the name Pele-Yo‘etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom [Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace],” Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

“… and his name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace.” DARBY

To better understand what this expression means in reference to the Messiah it would be helpful to see how the word Ad is employed elsewhere in Isaiah:

“For thus says the High and Lofty One (ram wa’nissawho inhabits eternity (shoken ad), whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15 MEV(1)

In this text, Yahweh is said to inhabit or dwell in eternity, which is simply another way of saying that Yahweh is eternal by nature. And because he is eternal, Yahweh lives forever and ever. This understanding of the term is reflected in the following translations:

“For the High and Exalted One, who lives forever…” Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

“The one who is high and lifted up, who lives forever…” Common English Bible (CEB)

“For thus says the High, Exalted One who lives forever…” CJB

“Our holy God lives forever in the highest heavens…” Contemporary English Version (CEV)

“God is high and lifted up. He lives forever…” Easy-To-Read Version (ERV)

“And this is the reason: God lives forever and is holy. He is high and lifted up [exalted]…” Expanded Bible (EXB)

“The High and Lofty One lives forever…” GOD’S Word Translation (GW)

“I am the high and holy God, who lives forever…” Good News Translation (GNW)

God lives forever and is holy…” International Children’s Bible (ICB)

“For thus says the high and lofty one who resides forever…” Lexham English Bible (LEB)

“The High and Lofty One lives forever…” Names of God Bible (NOG)

“For thus says the high and lofty One, the One who dwells forever…” New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE)

“For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever…” New American Standard Version (NASB)

“And this is the reason: God lives forever…” New Century Version (NCV)

“For this is what the high and exalted one says, the one who rules forever…” New English Translation (NET)

“The God who is highly honored lives forever…” New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

“For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever…” NIV (New International Version)

“for thus says the High and Exalted One who lives eternally…” New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)

“For the high and honored One Who lives forever…” New Life Version (NLV)

“For this is what the High and Lofty One says, Who lives forever…” New World Translation (NWT)

“For thus saith the High and Exalted, Shokhen Ad (the One Who abideth forever, i.e., the Shekhinah)…” Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)

“For the Lord high, and enhanced, saith these things, that dwelleth in everlastingness…” Wycliffe (WYC)

With the foregoing in perspective, we can now better appreciate the point of the Messiah being the Father of Eternity/Everlastingness.

Since the Hebrew term for father can mean source/possessor/originator/author/progenitor etc., as any lexical source will easily confirm (https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1.htm), this expression, therefore, conveys the fact that the Messiah is the possessor and source of eternity/everlastingness. Note how the following versions render the phrase:

“For unto us a yeled is born, unto us ben is given; and the misrah (dominion) shall be upon his shoulder; and Shmo shall be called Peleh (Wonderful), Yoetz (Counsellor), El Gibbor (Mighty G-d), Avi Ad (Possessor of Eternity), Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace).” OJB

“… His Name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God My Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace.” Tree of Life Version (TLV)

“… And He doth call his name Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace.” Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

As such, the title is meant to convey the point of the Messiah being the One from whom eternity or everlasting life originates since he himself is Life and the Source of eternal life, which is precisely what the NT teaches about Christ:

“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 were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created. IN HIM WAS LIFE, and the life was the light of mankind… The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not know Him.” John 1:1-4, 9-10 MEV

“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He will… Truly, truly I say to you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has given to the Son to have life in Himself… Do not marvel at this. For the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” John 5:21, 25-26, 28-29 MEV

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me shall never hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst. But I told you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All whom the Father gives Me will come to Me, and he who comes to Me I will never cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who has sent Me, that of all whom He has given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’ The Jews then murmured about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus therefore answered them, ‘Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day… Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in Me has eternal life… Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day… As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on Me also will live BECAUSE OF ME.’” John 6:35-44, 47, 54, 57 MEV

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’” John 11:25-27 MEV

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and THE LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:6 MEV

“and you killed the Creator of Life, whom God has raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.” Acts 3:15 MEV

“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they are thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. All things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and IN HIM all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17 MEV

“For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then you also shall appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:3-4 MEV

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have touched, concerning the Word of life— the life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and announce to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you that which we have seen and heard, that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:1-3 MEV 

The foregoing helps us understand why the Messiah is called the Father of Eternity/Everlastingness. The Messiah is the Mighty God who is the Source/Possessor of eternal life and is, therefore, the One who grants life, in fact, eternal life, to all those who would believe in him.(2)

In other words, the phrase does not mean that the Messiah is God the Father, but that he is the Son who is one with the Father in essence, and therefore one with him in being able to grant immortal life to all who come to love and trust him:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life. They shall never perish, nor shall anyone snatch them from My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them from My Father’s hand. My Father and I are one.” John 10:27-30

Hence, the prophecy of Isaiah provides absolutely no solace for those seeking to undermine the Trinity and/or to establish Jesus’ identity as God the Father. A careful and accurate understanding of this text within its immediate and overall contexts actually confirms that Jesus is God Almighty in the flesh, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, who is personally distinct from both the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Further Reading 

Jesus Christ – The Mighty God: More OT Evidence for the Deity of the Messiah (https://answeringislam.net/Shamoun/jesus_mighty_god.htm)

Endnotes

(1) It is rather interesting that the prophet employs this same pair of words, i.e. “the High and Lofty One,” to describe the Messiah’s exaltation after offering up his life as a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of the nations:

“Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up (yarum wa’nissa), and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.” Isaiah 52:13-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

Isaiah also uses these very words in narrating the vision he had where he saw Yahweh visibly seated upon his glorious throne:

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up (ram wa’nissa); and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’” Isaiah 6:1-5 ESV – cf. 33:5, 10

What this shows is that God will exalt his messianic Servant to sit upon God’s very own throne in order to share in God’s unique sovereignty over all creation.

(2) Other versions understand the expression to imply either that the Messiah is a Father who lives forever,

“… His name will be “Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace.”

“… His name will be Wonderful Counselor [or Wonderful! Counselor!; or Extraordinary Advisor], Powerful [Mighty] God, Father Who Lives Forever [Eternal Father], Prince of Peace.” EXB

“… His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace.” ICB

“… His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace.” NCV

“… He will also be called Father Who Lives Forever and Prince Who Brings Peace.” NIRV

“… His name will be called Wonderful, Teacher, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace.” NLV

Or is a Father forever,

“… They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” NABRE

Again, these translations do not equate Jesus with God the Father. Rather, these renderings merely imply that Jesus is the One who provides for his people, since he always lives to sustain them. After all, the term father is used in this sense in reference to Eliakim who was entrusted with the care and oversight of the Davidic dynasty and the people of Israel:

“In that day I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah. And I will clothe him with your robe and tie him securely with your sash. And I will entrust him with your authority, and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder. Then he shall open, and no one shall shut. And he shall shut, and no one shall open.” Isaiah 22:20-22 MEV

And since Jesus is the heir of the Davidic throne and who in fact has possession to the key of the house of David,

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens, says these things:’” Revelation 3:7

It would, therefore, only make sense that he too would be described as a father in this manner.

Still, other versions translate the phrase to mean that the Messiah is the Father of the world to come, i.e. of the new heavens and earth:

“… and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.” Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

“… and his name shall be called… Father of the world to coming… Father of the world to come…” WYC

This manner of translating the expression still doesn’t end up provin that the Messiah is God the Father. It only confirms that the Messiah is a father in the sense of being the One who ushers in, i.e. creates, the age to come and who personally sustains it forever and ever:

“because he who is blessed in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he who swears in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten and because they are hidden from My eyes. For I create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Isaiah 65:16-17 MEV

“in these last days did speak to us in a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He did make the ages; who being the brightness of the glory, and the impress of His subsistence, bearing up also the all things by the saying of his might — through himself having made a cleansing of our sins, sat down at the right hand of the greatness in the highest,” Hebrews 1:2-3 YLT

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