Begotten Before All Ages

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Paidion
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Begotten Before All Ages

Post by Paidion » Thu Jun 10, 2021 7:30 pm

The Begetting (or Generation) of the Son of God Before All Ages

During my youth, I thought Jesus being the “only-begotten Son of God” referred to his having been begotten in the womb of Mary. But when I began reading second-century Christian writers in my early twenties, I realized that they taught that He was begotten before all ages, the first of God's acts. I came to see that this was the universal opinion of the first and second-century Christians. This understanding persisted right into the fourth century

Now I understand that Jesus is the Son of God because God the Father begat Him as the first thing He ever did, and that that event marked the beginning of time.

We read in Colossians 1:15 :

He [God’s beloved Son ---vs 13] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. NASB

This seems to say rather clearly that the Son was the first being that God produced, and because He was “begotten not created” as we read in the hymn “Adeste Fideles” (O Come All Ye Faithful), He is the exact image of the Father’s essence (Heb 1:3)

The following translations render it “the firstborn of all creation” (as in the Greek):

NASB, ASV, Darby, RSV, ESV, ERV, and Revised Webster.


Interestingly, the Philips translation renders it, “He was born before creation began,”

The NIV and the NKJV render it “the firstborn over all creation” giving it a completely different meaning. There is nothing in Greek to justify the addition of the word “over”. One suspects that the translators were inserting a word in the phrase which reflects their theological bias.

The early catholics when instituting the first Christmas, (that is, the first “Christ’s Mass”), as a replacement for the Saturnalia celebrations, held three masses in honour of Christ:

1. The first to celebrate Christ’s “birth before all ages”

2. The second to celebrate Christ’s “birth from the virgin’s womb”

3. And the third to celebrate Christ’s “birth in the hearts of the faithful”.

In John 8:42, it is written: Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I emerged out of God and come.” Though I have never seen it translated this way, this seems to be the literal meaning of the Greek.

ἐγω γαρ ἐκ ……..του θεου ἐξηλθον ….και…. ηκω

..Ι.....for..out of….the God.. emerged..and… come

The word I translated as “emerged” literally means “came out of”. Could Jesus have been referring to his having been brought forth from the Father at the beginning of time?

When I realized that the begetting of the Son before all ages seems to have been taught and believed by the apostles as well as the majority of Christians up to the late 4th century, I then understood that Luke in Acts 13:32-33, reports Paul quoting Psalm 2 to show that God begat Jesus at the beginning of time For the purpose of bringing the gospel to the world. Then in verse 34, he quotes another psalm to support the resurrection of Christ. The phrase “as for the fact” indicates that he is adding the matter of Christ’s resurrection to his initial affirmation.

32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers,

33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’

34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he spoke in this way, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’

Justin Martyr, a second century Chistian (110-165 A.D.) spent several days dialoguing with a Jewish man, Trypho, and his companions to show them that the ancient Hebrew Christians prophesied the coming of the Messiah, and that this Messiah was the Son of God, the Messiah, and that He was begotten (or generated) as the first of the Father's acts. He compared this generation to starting a small fire from a big one. This quote is taken from Justin's work called “Dialogue with Trypho”:

Chapter LXI—Wisdom is begotten of the Father, as fire from fire.

“I shall give you another testimony, my friends,” said I, “from the Scriptures, that God

begat before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding]

from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son,

again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos; and on another occasion

He calls Himself Captain, when He appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave

(Nun). For He can be called by all those names, since He ministers to the Father’s will, and

since He was begotten of the Father by an act of will; just as we see happening among

ourselves: for when we give out some word, we beget the word; yet not by abscission, so as

to lessen the word [which remains] in us, when we give it out: and just as we see also

happening in the case of a fire, which is not lessened when it has kindled [another], but remains

the same; and that which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not

diminishing that from which it was kindled. The Word of Wisdom, who is Himself this

God begotten of the Father of all things, and Word, and Wisdom, and Power, and the Glory

of the Begetter, will bear evidence to me, when He speaks by Solomon the following: ‘If I

shall declare to you what happens daily, I shall call to mind events from everlasting, and

review them. The Lord made me the beginning of His ways for His works. From everlasting

He established me in the beginning, before He had made the earth, and before He had made

the deeps, before the springs of the waters had issued forth, before the mountains had been

established. Before all the hills He begets me. God made the country, and the desert, and

the highest inhabited places under the sky. When He made ready the heavens, I was along

with Him, and when He set up His throne on the winds: when He made the high clouds

strong, and the springs of the deep safe, when He made the foundations of the earth, I was

with Him arranging. I was that in which He rejoiced; daily and at all times I delighted in

His countenance, because He delighted in the finishing of the habitable world, and delighted

in the sons of men. Now, therefore, O son, hear me. Blessed is the man who shall listen to

me, and the mortal who shall keep my ways, watching daily at my doors, observing the posts of my ingoings. For my outgoings are the outgoings of life, and [my] will has been prepared by the Lord. But they who sin against me, trespass against their own souls; and they who hate me love death.' ”

So, as I now see it, Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God is another exactly like the God who begat Him, the exact image of the Father's essence. (Heb 1:3). Thus He reveals to us what God is really like. That's why, when Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, He said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus wasn't saying that He WAS the Father, but that He was exactly like the Father.

Suppose I had two prints of a photo of myself taken from the same negative (or from the same file if a digital camera were used). I take the first out of my pocket and show you. Then I take out the other one, and say, “Here is another picture of me.” You might respond, “That's not another. That's the same picture.” Then I might say, “Look! (holding up the first print) here's one picture and (holding up the second picture) here's the other. There are two pictures.”

Nevetheless, if you've seen the first picture, you've seen the other. That's the sense in which Jesus meant, “If you've seen me, you've seen the Father.” They were two individual divine Beings, but yet exactly alike, so that if you know one of them, you know the other.

Trinitarianism did not become widespread until the fourth century. Even early Trinitarians understood Jesus as have been begotten before all ages. The Nicene Creed in it's original form (composed by Trinitarians) used the phrase:


THE NICENE CREED

As set forth at Nicea, A.D. 325

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, only begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father; God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made; both things in heaven and things on earth; who for us people, and for our salvation, came down, and was incarnate, and was made man; He suffered, and was raised again the third day, and ascended into heaven and he shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.

Later Trinitarians, realized that “begotten of the Father before all ages” contradicted their Trinitarian understanding. So they changed the phrase in the Nicene Creed to “eternally begotten”.

You will find in the New Testament that the norm was to address prayer to the Father. The only prayer you find there addressed to Jesus was that of Stephen as he was dying from being stoned. He called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” You will find NO PRAYER addressed to the Holy Spirit.

But I don't think it matters much whether we address our prayers to the Father or to the Son. They are exactly alike, and I am sure if we talk to either of them, the other will be well aware of it.
Paidion

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commonsense
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Re: Begotten Before All Ages

Post by commonsense » Thu Jun 10, 2021 11:42 pm

Paidion, when Jesus is confronted by Nicodemus and talks about being born of God, Nicodemus seemed to have no idea what He was talking about.
This is why the whole New Testament is dedicated to teaching what it means to be begotten by God, to be a son of God, born of the Spirit, to be God's offspring, to be in the image of God etc. etc. Being a son of God is not dependent upon your physical parentage. There's only one way that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had sons, which is through the Spirit of God and obedience to His word.

As it says in the Genesis, God breathed into Adam the breath of life and he was made in the image of God. Adam was the first Son of God.

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Re: Begotten Before All Ages

Post by darinhouston » Fri Jun 11, 2021 11:37 am

I note even Grudem has struggled with the meaning of this term. He has famously reversed his position on it only this past year, I believe.

Here is the description from the notes of the non-Trinitarian Revised English Version.

“The firstborn of all creation.” This phrase refers to Christ being the firstfruits of those raised from the dead (cp. 1 Cor. 15:20). The Greek is “the firstborn of all creation” (or, “the firstborn of every creature,” since there is no article before “creation”), but the exact significance of the genitive is debated. One natural reading of the genitive case is the partitive genitive, which would be saying that Jesus is the firstborn one of the rest of creation, which is true and makes sense, since Jesus was indeed the first person ever to be raised from the dead in a new, everlasting body. However that interpretation is rejected by Trinitarians, not because of grammar, but because they claim that Jesus was not in fact part of the creation at all, but is actually the eternal God.

The genitive can also be a genitive of relation, which would mean that Jesus was the firstborn in relation to other creations, that is, that Jesus was “firstborn,” i.e., raised from the dead, before anyone else. Although that is also a natural reading of the genitive case in this context, and is certainly true, that explanation is also sometimes rejected by Trinitarians because it does not inherently recognize the Trinitarian doctrine that Jesus is God in the flesh.

Some Trinitarians prefer the genitive of comparison (cp. Lenski), because that would make the verse say that Christ was inherently better than the others who were raised from the dead. But while Christ is no doubt better than the other saved people who will be raised from the dead, that use of the genitive is not usual in a context like this, and thus is not the most natural reading of the genitive in this verse. The genitive in the verse is not naturally supportive of the doctrine of the Trinity. Nevertheless, the idea of the comparative genitive combined with the doctrine of the Trinity is why some versions translate the verse into English as “the firstborn over all creation,” which is an interpretation of what the Greek means, rather than a translation of the Greek.

God likely used the genitive in this verse because it can be understood in multiple ways, all of which are true, which is the beauty of the genitive case: it can emphasize several things at one time. As a partitive genitive it shows Jesus is part of God’s creation, which he is; as a genitive of relation it shows that Jesus was the first person raised from the dead to everlasting life, which he was; and as a comparative genitive it shows that God has given rank and privileges to Jesus Christ, which He did. In biblical society, being the firstborn had privileges associated with it that Jesus Christ, as the firstborn, certainly receives.

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Re: Begotten Before All Ages

Post by Paidion » Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:15 pm

Well... in the original post, I expressed the prevailing view among historic Christianity prior to the advent of Trinitarianism. That position can be rejected, but those who do so are rejecting the historic Christian position of the begetting of God's son. He is the ONLY begotten son of God (John 3:18). So the position that the begetting of Jesus as just another son of God is clearly false.Rather, the begetting of Jesus as God's first act is unique. However, I don't intend to argue the point. For the historic Christian position will either be accepted or rejected by God's people according to their proclivities.
Paidion

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commonsense
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Re: Begotten Before All Ages

Post by commonsense » Fri Jun 11, 2021 9:55 pm

Paidion wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:15 pm
That position can be rejected, but those who do so are rejecting the historic Christian position of the begetting of God's son. He is the ONLY begotten son of God (John 3:18).
Paidion, As Jesus warned, many will come in my name teaching false things. Just because it was an historic Christian position doesn't mean that it was correct. The churches were already beginning to go astray not long after Jesus as we read in Revelation.

Being a son of God ( born of the Spirit and the word) was synonymous with the name of Israel. There were not two sons of God as in the days of Jesus when those of the Levitical law were claiming to be sons of Israel. Their relationship to Abraham was only physical. There was only one Israel ( One son of God) "Israel is my son, My firstborn."

Deut.18:15 " The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear."
Deut. 18:18-20 " I will raise up for them a Prophet like you( Moses) from among their brethren, and will put my words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die."

Israel was born through Isaac who was born according to the Spirit.
"By faith Abraham when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who received the promises offered up HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON.

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Re: Begotten Before All Ages

Post by Paidion » Fri Jun 11, 2021 10:11 pm

So how does your post refute my position on the matter?
I quoted John 3:18 in which John asserted that Jesus is the ONLY begotten son of God.
Do you believe that he is the only one or not? Clearly the apostle John believed it, and so it is true.
You wrote:"By faith Abraham when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who received the promises offered up HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON.
Yes, Isaac was Abraham's only begotten son, but he was not God's only begotten son. That one was JESUS and no one else!

It's only common sense!
Paidion

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commonsense
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Re: Begotten Before All Ages

Post by commonsense » Sat Jun 12, 2021 11:27 pm

Paidion wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 10:11 pm
Yes, Isaac was Abraham's only begotten son, but he was not God's only begotten son.
Paidion, Abraham had more than one son. When they say that Isaac was the only begotten son, who do you think he was begotten of?

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Re: Begotten Before All Ages

Post by darinhouston » Sun Jun 13, 2021 8:04 am

commonsense wrote:
Sat Jun 12, 2021 11:27 pm
Paidion wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 10:11 pm
Yes, Isaac was Abraham's only begotten son, but he was not God's only begotten son.
Paidion, Abraham had more than one son. When they say that Isaac was the only begotten son, who do you think he was begotten of?
This is a good example that I either was not aware of or which I had forgotten about that would tend to lend this term to be titular and not descriptive. In other words, not describing the nature or timing of one's birth or generation, but the special role that the child has in its place in the family as understood in Hebrew culture. The "chosen" one.

If this is the case, it isn't really helpful at all to drive the pre-existence/eternality discussion. Nonetheless, since monogenes has in its root the term we use for creation, the "nature" of the begetting as connoting derived authority and even derived existence of some sort would seem to be at least a relevant connotation I would think when doing exegesis.

As I noted earlier, Grudem has recently gone back and forth on his understanding of this term. But, I think it's possible that "all three" aspects are in view. (1) assuming we're talking about human birth or at least some sort of descendance with transmitted characteristics; (2) the titular aspect of special one or chosen one; and (3) perhaps even unique - the only one I've done like this (contrasting Adam's formation from Jesus' human birth or between his creation of angels and his natural birth of Jesus).

Looking at the oft-cited examples from patristics and ancient literature, I don't see how we can be dogmatic about this and therefore it doesn't help us much outside the clear context of the way in which it's used. As I'm coming to think about a good many of John's unique use of terms and phrases, he may well have intended to grab the attention yet again of the gnostic/alchemical/platonic terms to speak into their understanding the truth of who Jesus is in their own context. It was yet another term used both by Plato and other gnostics such as Valentinus to describe aspects of one of their "aeons" (the special one of 12 emanations from God). If so, this is yet another way that John seems to often be taking their ethereal metaphysical gnostic views and grounding them in the earthly reality of a real man, and real humanity and earthly truths that God used to reveal himself. Not some apparition of a spiritual being or anything like it, but a real man who was God's annointed Messiah - born of a virgin and free of sin not from being "separate" from the world, but being a part of it yet being elevated by his obedience to his rightful place as this special one, at the right hand of God. In this context, John isn't moving from an earthly understanding of the Jews re: the Messiah to a metaphysical eternally generated person of a godhead (another view taken by Trinitarians more from Valentinus and other gnostics than from God's revelation) but instead from an ethereal mystical view of Jesus to a more earthly and "REAL" tangible view of who Jesus was, not as a person or part of God or one of heaven's angelic beings or whatever, but as God's appointed human Messiah.

Consider reading this paper (https://www.scribd.com/document/475140424/Chandler-pdf) from Kegan Chandler on a way to square many of the various views of the Gospel of John in terms of dealing with Gnostic heresies and movements at the time. Most traditional theologians have widely recognized these themes in John's epistles. But, they have found it difficult to consistently apply this to his gospel (though most have seen the themes and similarities and have "tried" yet abandoned this direction in GJohn). Kegan bridges these theories with a very interesting and (to my understanding) compelling way of reading GJohn. His view, generally, is that you don't have to take John as getting his views from hellenized or gnostic ideas but instead it seems to have been primarily an evangelistic writing to them co-opting over and over their terms but "TWISTING" them in various ways to explain the gospel to them in their terms. Using their terminology and ideas, but not in their own ways to grab their attention and redirect their teachings to an understanding of who Jesus really is. This is consistent, also, with his clear attention to this audience in his epistles.

Here is an extract of a portion of the paper after describing many similarities of terms and ideas between Gospel of John and Hermetic/Gnostic ideas:
Kegan wrote:"Sufficient to say, the similarities between GJohn and Hermetic ideas are striking. But what is the nature of their relationship? A careful analysis will reveal that GJohn does not rely on Hermeticism for its own doctrine. GJohn's background is Jewish Palestinian, and is dependent on Wisdom tradition and the LXX. However, John, for the purposes of competition, casts his Jewish-Christian doctrine in the superficial form of Hermetic teaching. In this, he presents the Jewish-Christian version of Gnostic trends in order to draw disciples away from various forms of Gnosticism. Though bearing a superficial resemblance, John's true doctrine is in reality radically opposed to Gnostic ideals, and his Gospel's affinity with the teaching of Christian and Hermetic Gnosticism is no accident; it is a deliberate challenge, and a Jewish-Christian alternative, to rising Hellenistic fashions in John's environment. Below we will survey several of GJohn's parallels with Gnostic teaching, including some features of the Gospel which cannot be accounted for by Judaism alone, but are able to be accounted for by a relationship with Hermeticism."

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Re: Begotten Before All Ages

Post by Paidion » Sun Jun 13, 2021 7:09 pm

Paidion wrote:However only one was begotten in the sense that his divine son was—the first of God's acts.
Apart from Patristics, where do you glean "first of God's acts" from Scripture?
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Re: Begotten Before All Ages

Post by commonsense » Mon Jun 14, 2021 1:27 am

darinhouston wrote:
Sun Jun 13, 2021 8:04 am
This is a good example that I either was not aware of or which I had forgotten about that would tend to lend this term to be titular and not descriptive. In other words, not describing the nature or timing of one's birth or generation, but the special role that the child has in its place in the family as understood in Hebrew culture. The "chosen" one.
Darin, The term begotten son is describing Isaac as being born of the Spirit, which is equivalent to being begotten by God. In other words he was a son of God, just as Jacob was a son of God( " The Lord alone led him and there was no foreign god with him.)
"All who are led by the Spirit are sons of God."
They were the ones through which Israel ( Israel is my son, My firstborn) was born.
Israel was to be a holy people of God, a people for God's own possession, "a people above all others."

Galatians 4:29 describes Isaac as being born according to the Spirit. "But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now."

"For those who are according to the flesh, set their minds on things of the flesh. But those who are according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit."
Paidion wrote:
Sun Jun 13, 2021 7:09 pm
Apart from Patristics, where do you glean "first of God's acts" from Scripture?
Paidion, I'm not sure what you're asking. Can you clarify?

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