Eternally Begotten of the Father

Maybe over the last three days, I’ve complicated things too much. Maybe the simplest way to get modern Trinitarians to understand the early churches’ definition of the Trinity is get them to acknowledge that the Son was begotten, not just in the flesh at Bethlehem, but in eternity past as well.

I know that for me, once someone explained to me, some 30 years ago, that the Son was begotten before the creation, all the Scriptures that touch on the Trinity fell into place.

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9 Responses to Eternally Begotten of the Father

  1. Tuomas Nurmi says:

    Let’s be a bit more precise then. Yes, the word Kurios in it’s different forms means lord or master, and is used to refer human masters several times. Apparently it’s used to refer to Jesus in this sense at least in one context, John 4.

    However, for our topic Christology, we are only interested in its use when applied to Jesus in a case other than the vocative (kyrie), which has a clearly distinct meaning. These can be divided roughly in three categories: 1) Refrences to Jesus as the “overlord over he creation” in the sense of the so called “great commission” 2) Christological statements about the nature of Christ 3) Corner cases, like above and e.g. Matthew 7:21.

    There are several hundred such references, so I wont make a throughout, or even extensive, analysis of them here. Almost everywhere the context makes this distinction clear, and in any case this question has been extensively covered in the literature.

    For the purposes of this question, we are only obviously interested in type 2,can can completely ignore the others. Specifically we should pay attention to those references that are directly connectable to the Tanakh. Again, a short comment to a blog post does not justify extensive analysis, but I’ll pick up a passage from the Corinthians, which is a fairly early source.

    Beginning from verse 2 “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The specific expression “call upon the name” occurs several times in Tanakh, and refers consistently to the name YHWH of God. Undoubtedly the recipients of the letter were well aware of this, given that Paul himself had baptized the ruler of the local synagogue. Paul’s addition of the words “Jesus Christ” makes it clear, that the person Jesus Christ is the same person as the one, whose name is to be called upon, that is YHWH.

    And this is just an offshoot at a beginning greeting in a letter about completely different things.

    As for my mention of “Athanasius” you corrected me about, mea culpa: I used it simply as a shorthand reference to the creed, and meant no implication the the person, who lived a century earlier. I guess that was lost in translation 😦

  2. Tuomas Nurmi says:

    …continued after accidental send…

    Starting from the 1st century.

    Thus I’d be more in the lines of Paul than you with the OT: that revelation is a shadow of Jesus, but not of the NT, which is a revelation of Jesus. The NT does not supercede the OT. It’s part of the same revelation.

    Finally, about the use of Kurios in the NT. I have to disagree with you here. First, OT is the theological context of NT. Second, that word is used to refer to YHWH in the OT Greek reference translation, Septuagint. Third, that word is used to make some extremely strong theological statements about Jesus. To claim that these statements would be made or even meaningful without their proper context is pretty thick. And finally, ultimately this is simply equivalent to some statements made by Jesus about Himself, such as “I am” “I’m one with the Father”. To say that Kurie here does not stand for YHWH is confessing that He is a lord with lips, deny that He is the Lord in essence and meaning.

    (Hmm… I wonder if that word is ever used in the NT in the lesser sense… Should I check?)

    In any case I’m looking forward for your post on Athanasius. It’s always nice to listen to someone who uses his own brains 🙂

    • paulfpavao says:

      I’m going to just leave our overall discussion where it is. On Kurios, however, I need to clear something up.

      You wrote, “To claim that these statements would be made or even meaningful without their proper context is pretty thick.” That is just my point. “Kurios” in and of itself does not carry the connotation of YHWH. It is used as a translation of Yahweh, but it is also used as a translation of Adonai and Adoni. It can be used to call someone a nobleman or a ruler, and it can be used to teach that Jesus is Yahweh. Thus the “proper context” is what carries the weight, not the word Kurios.

      I emphasize this because there is a noted Greek scholar–Wuest, I think–who makes some outrageous claims for Kurios. Of course, he makes some other outrageous claims, too, if I have the right person, so I shouldn’t be surprised. The problem is, he has a lot of influence because he put out a Greek NT or interlinear.

      Also, I promised a post on the Athanasian Creed, not on Athanasius. Athanasius didn’t write the Athanasian Creed. His name was just attached to it because he was the champion defender of the Council of Nicea against the Arians throughout much of the 4th century. I tell his story in the 9th or 10th chapter of Defending Nicea.

  3. Tuomas Nurmi says:

    Hi,

    Glad to see someone fighting for the truth 🙂

    I’ve skimmed through your thoughtful posts for during the past week, and would like to point out couple things:

    1) You seem skip the Athanacian creed. I admit, it’s fairly late, but when talking about trinity, that does straighten out a few things (and raise a few questions).

    2) When we look at the NT from it’s own context – essentially as an appendix to the OT, some interesting points come up. First, the confession that “Jesus Christ is the LORD.” Ok,now, what does that mean? The LORD is here a known and predefined term, referring to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, revealing His proper name “I-am-who-I-am”, which became translated in Greek “Kyrie”, and in English, Lord. So, to say that Jesus Christ is the Lord, is saying that Jesus Christ is the same Being(sic), who was in the burning bush. Denying that is literally denying that Jesus Christ is the Lord.

    It should be obvious that the term “LORD” is both different and more precise than “God”. LORD means Him as He is. God could mean just about anything. In English “God” and “Father” are often used as synonyms, but in Greek the word was very generic. A good example of the difference of these two words in Greek (and in OT as well) is in the Greatest commandment Jesus quoted: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (There are no smaller case letters in the manuscrips, so pay no attention to the capital G in the translation.) It reads like this: Our god is the LORD, and That Chap is one. God means here something like “the great personal power, who has committed to us”. Thus it doesn’t mean much, if someone is said to be “god”.

    In fact, if we start from this point of view, and read the Athanasian statement: “So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. ” it makes perfect sense: God is the one we consider to be our god in terms of relationship. Since Scripture testifies, that Jesus Christ is LORD, Holy Spirit is LORD and Father is LORD, and LORD is one, we can say: “Our God is the LORD, who is one.”

    Personally I’d describe the trinity something like this: There’s one and only one who truly is. As we consider at Him at His eternal transcendence, He reveals Himself as the Father. When we consider Him in His omnipresence, He reveals Himself as Holy Spirit. In the history He has revealed Himself as human being, incarnated into full humanity as Jesus of Nazareth. Thus we could say that LORD is the Father, LORD is the Son and LORD is the Holy Spirit.

    As for the pre-existence of Jesus, there are several references to Him the in OT. First, His and Abraham’s meeting at Mamre, which Jesus Himself mentioned in the gospel of John. Second, the elders of Israel got to watch His face when they were eating the covenant meal (this has a direct link to John 1:18.). Third, He spoke with Moses face-to-face, and Finally there was this one wrestling match at Penuel, where God actually lost. These four are pretty undeniable.

    As for the pre-existence of Christ before creation, IMO the most obvious argument is John 1:1-3, 10-14, which spells out just that.

    • paulfpavao says:

      Hi TN: On the Athanasian Creed, I need to do a post on it. I do not like it. I think it’s a deviation from what the apostles taught, and it is just one more thing that really can’t be reconciled with Scripture. I’ll do the post soon.

      Your general description of the Trinity here is basically what United Pentecostals and Apostolic Churches teach. They also teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is always accompanied by speaking in tongues and that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the only way to receive the Holy Spirit. Thus, they require speaking in tongues as evidence of being a saved Christian. I don’t really want to join those groups in their belief.

      That description you gave would have satisfied Sabellius and Praxeas in ancient history, too.

      There are Scriptures that teach what you say, but there are also verses that don’t fit what you’ve said at all. I’ve brought up several of those in the last few days. For example, how does your view account for Yahweh sending Yahweh in Zech. 2:8-11? How does your view explain the Son sitting at the right hand of God?

      Maybe I’m not understanding what you’re trying to say, or maybe you didn’t mean to say things that way. You discuss the pre-existence of Jesus, which of course I agree with. But your description has “one” who in “eternal transcendence” is revealed as the Father and “in history” revealed as a human being. Those two statements clash. If the Son is the revelation of “the one” as humanity, then why are there two revealed even in the creation, as per John 1:1-3, which you referenced?

    • paulfpavao says:

      Sorry, TN, but I need to add one more thing that I disagree on.

      The Greek word kurios is a very common word. It does not automatically express divinity any more than señor (Spanish) or Herr (German) do. In fact, kurios is used in Greek, and in our New Testament, in exactly the same way “lord” is used in English. We apply the word to God with great reverence, it is used as a translation of both the Hebrew YHWH and Adonai, and we also apply the word to men, obviously with less reverence.

      Well, one more thing. I’m going to assume you didn’t really mean to express the New Testament as an “appendix” to the Old Testament. The New Testament is the fullness of the Old Testament. It supercedes it. Maybe a better analogy would be Paul’s. The Old Testament was the shadow cast by the Jesus, who sealed the New Covenant with his blood, and then rose to be the High Priest of that covenant.

      • Tuomas Nurmi says:

        First, about Yahweh Sensing out Yahweh, I think this describes exactly my view. As Yahweh, or LORD as the word is rendered in English, is one, as per the witness of the first commandment quoted by Jesus, He is sending out Himself. Yet Jesus is not transcendent, but within history, a human. Being Yahweh, He still is the one being with the Father. This is what two persons means. Same applies to Him sitting on the right side of the Father.

        As for Logos, I forgot to mention that aspect. Our starting point is, that Logos is Son, and He is God, who is one. Thus the difference between them is that of a person. Conclusion is that the Son is revealed both as a historical person, and as Word, which again is historical (in history) as it is perceived. Of course the Word is by its nature is eternal as well, which is equivalent to the person of Jesus being eternal.

        I’m not well aware what Pentecostals or Apostolics teach, my background is Lutheran. As such, I believe the reformed idea of baptism in general, or any sacraments for that matter, is lacking, and ultimately reflects their weak view of incarnation. Or perhaps it would be better to say: exaggerated view of ascension.

        As for the NT, I used the somewhat provocative word appendix on purpose. I should even have said “eschatological appendix”.80% of the Bible is OT, quotes of OT or references to OT. OT, or Tanakh, is the context of NT. NT is the key to understanding the OT, but OT gives meaning to the NT.

        Historically and structurally Christianity should be seen as some kind of sect of Judaism, consisting solely of converts. More accurately, Christianity belongs in the continuum of the First Temple era Judaism. This is evident from the fact that the New Covenant was made “with the tribes of Judah and Ephraim” (I.e. the rest of Israel). If we don’t belong to either, we are not in that covenant. If we have the Spirit in our heart, we belong to either.

        This relationship has always been difficult to both sides, and both have taken measures to differentiate from the other.

  4. Seth says:

    Paul, which Scripture talks about the Son being begotten before Creation? I am familiar with the Son being slain before the foundation of the world but I am not recalling which one you might be referring too. Thanks.

    • paulfpavao says:

      Several Scriptures do, but before I list them, it’s important to understand how the early Christians approached this teaching (which is the same way we do). They were taught about the Trinity, just like we are today. They were given particular Scriptures, and, for the most part, they never questioned how they should be understood.

      The ones that would seem the strongest to us, I think, are:

      Col. 1:15 – He’s the image of the invisible Father, and he’s the firstborn over creation.
      Jn. 1:18 – The early Christians all understood this to refer to his birth before time.
      Prov. 8:22-31 – This, of course, was almost always quoted concerning the Son

      Ones we wouldn’t notice because we use the Masoretic text rather than the Septuagint:

      Ps. 45:1 – My heart has emitted a good Word (LXX).
      Ps. 110:3 – I have begotten thee from the womb before the morning (LXX).

      Those are all I can think of right now, but I want you especially to think of Colossians 1:15 and compare what the early Christians said about the Father and Son, and what we say. The verse says that he is the image of the invisible God. That addresses their teaching that the Father has never been seen. The image of something invisible can be seen because it’s an image. “Image” means something we can see.

      The verse goes on to say that he’s the firstborn over all creation. Our response is to deny that firstborn means firstborn. Theirs, as usual, was just to believe what the Scriptures say.

      Revelation calls Jesus the firstborn from the dead. Clearly that means he was the first to escape the grips of death. Even so, he is called the firstborn over all creation because, to use early Christian terminology, he is “the first product of the Father.” Only he is the firstborn, not the first created, because he was, indeed, “begotten, not made.”

      Hope that helps!

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