THE GOD OF JESUS: PART THIRTEEN
Is Jesus Eternally Begotten?
It is a common tenet of Trinitarian theology that Jesus is eternally begotten. Since Jesus is believed to be co-eternal with the Father, it became necessary to view the Scriptural passages that speak of Christ’s begettal in a different manner from the way begettal is normally understood. Belief in the eternal begettal of Jesus is largely tied to the Nicene and Constantinople Creeds of the fourth century. We will begin our discussion of this issue by providing a short historical overview of perspectives that led to the development of these Creeds.
Historically, there have been a variety of positions held as to the nature of God and the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Second century theologians such as Irenaeus and Justin appear to have believed in the deity and eternal existence of the Father and the Son while also believing the Father and Son were not equal in authority since the Scriptures show the Son as being subordinant to the Father. There is some indication that Justin may not have believed in the eternal existence of the Son.
In the early second century a teaching appeared called Docetism taken from the Greek word dokeo, which means “to seem” or “to appear.” This view maintained that Jesus was only divine and was not at all human but only appeared to be human. A leading proponent of this view was the philosopher/theologian Marcion. Marcion taught there were two Gods, the legalistic God of the Old Testament and the forgiving God of the New Testament.
In the late second and early third century, a view of God developed called Monarchianism. One form of Monarchianism called Dynamic or Adoptionist Monarchianism taught God was a one of a kind deity and Jesus was not deity but a created human person filled with the Holy Spirit and thus able to fulfill God’s (His Father's) will. Some early Adoptionists even believed Jesus was not born of a virgin but from a normal sexual union of Joseph and Mary It was believed Jesus was later “adopted” by God Father at His baptism or at His resurrection at which time He became the Son of God. This view was held by a Jewish Christian group called Ebionites.
A form of Monarchianism called Modalism was taught in the third century by a theologian named Sabellius. Sabellius taught God is only one person who acts as Father in creating the universe, as Son in redeeming sinners and as Holy Spirit in sanctifying believers. While this position may appear Trinitarian on the surface, it is not Trinitarian as it does not view the one God as made up of the three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It sees no relationship in God. It views the one God playing three different roles at different times in history while retaining single personhood. This view was actually quite popular in the early church as it preserved the oneness of God while allowing for the deity of Jesus.
Early in the third century a Bishop from Rome named Callistus proposed the idea that the Father actually became Jesus the Son. This belief was called Patripassian as it postulated the Father participated in humanity as the man Jesus. This was an attempt to preserve the monotheism of the Scriptures while accounting for the deity of the Son. This view has present day proponents in what is called Oneness Theology which I discussed in an earlier Chapter.
Also in the third century, the respected scholar and theologian Origen maintained the subordination of the Word (Greek logos) to God the Father. Origen believed the logos of John chapter one is Jesus Christ. Origen emphasized the independence of the logos as well as its distinction from the Being and substance of the Father. Origen apparently believed the logos was not of the same substance as the Father but merely an image of the Father. Origen believed there could be degrees or grades of divinity, with the Son being slightly less divine than the Father.
Origen pictured God within a framework of the Father being the Supreme Deity over all things while the Son was over creation in a lesser way with the Spirit acting only within the context of the church. The Spirit was seen as leading back to the Son and the Son back to the Father. It appears Origen considered the Father and the Son to be deity and of eternal existence but not con-substantial and co-equal as in later Trinitarian thought.
In the early fourth century a church leader named Marcellus proposed that the word of God existed eternally as the intrinsic reasoning faculty of God. When God decided to make the heavens and the earth, the word became the power and energy through which God created all things. The word later became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. In this manner Marcellus strove to maintain the oneness of God.
Also in the early fourth century, a presbyter by the name of Arius advanced the position that the Father alone is God with the Son having been created by this one and only God at some point before the universe was created. It appears Arius believed it was through the Son that God created the universe although it isn't certain whether he understood this in a literal or a figurative sense. Arius firmly believed the Son was subordinant to the Father. Arius felt this view maintained monotheism as opposed to the polytheism he saw in seeing the Son as equal deity with the Father. This view was embraced by a number of Church leaders but hotly contested by other Church leaders who believed the Son to be deity on par with the Father. Much controversy ensued over this issue with Arius being excommunicated by the Bishop of Alexandria which created a great deal of conflict within segments of the Christian Community.
It is interesting that Origen, as well as many fourth century Bishops such as Eusebius of Nicomedia and Eusebius of Caesarea; all believed the Son was subordinant to the Father not only as the human Jesus, but also in His glorified state. This position was a major dynamic in generating a showdown with Bishop Alexander of Alexandria, Egypt and his associate Athanasius at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. Both of these men believed the Son was not subordinant to the Father and that the Son was equally God with the Father.
The Council at Nicaea was attended by over 250 Bishops, mainly from the Eastern Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine hosted this event. Very few attended from the Western part of the Empire. The Bishop of Alexandria and Athanasius firmly advocated that Jesus is God as much as the Father is God and the Son is not subordinant to the Father. Church leaders representing the Alexander/Athanasius position went head to head with defenders of the Arian position led by Eusebius, the Bishop of Nicomedia. After all was said and done, the Alexander/Athanasius position prevailed and the belief the Son is con-substantial with the Father (“God of very God”) became the accepted position among many of the church hierarchy. This position was articulated in what became known as the Nicene Creed. However, many Christians and Church leaders continued to take the Arian view.
Following Nicaea, dozens of Councils were held at which proponents of both the Arian and Athanasian position were alternately condemned and reinstated. In A.D. 359 a Council at Rimini-Seleucia was attended by more than 500 Bishops from both the Eastern and Western parts of the Empire. This Council adopted an Arian Creed only to have it later rescinded.
A good overview of the dynamics involved in this conflict can be found in the book, When Jesus Became God, by Richard E. Rubenstein. The tenet of the Nicene Creed pertaining to our discussion reads as follows:
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 [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; And in the Holy Ghost.
The Nicene Creed states belief in one God the Father Almighty and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is begotten of the Father. To this point, the Creed is in total harmony with what the Scriptures instruct as to who the one God is and who the one Lord is. The Creed shows the one God to be the Father just as Christ, Paul and John taught. The Creed shows Jesus to be the Son of this one Father God as is seen throughout the NT. The Creed shows Jesus is begotten by God the Father as is taught in the NT Scriptures. After these introductory statements, however, this Creed begins to teach some things not found in the Scriptures.
This Creed goes on to define begotten as being of the same essence as the Father. It states Jesus is of the same essence as the Father. The Creed uses the Greek word homoousios to say “of one essence.” Homoousios means “same in substance or essence.” Homoousios, however, is not found in the Greek Scriptures. NT writers do not use this word to define the relationship between the Son and the Father. The very use of homoousios (substance/essence) in speaking of God may be problematical as the word substance is ordinarily associated with the material world. Scripture teaches God is Spirit. Can we really associate a word like substance with Spirit?
Trinitarianism teaches God is a Being in three distinctions of Father, Son and Spirit and of one homoousios. To say the word God is to say Father, Son and Spirit. While the Trinitarian God is seen as having internal differentiation as characterized by the three distinctions seen in this God, it is believed that when this God acts, He acts as one single Being and never as individual distinctions of his Being. He always acts as Father, Son and Spirit. God is seen as undivided. Trinitarians believe this undivided God became incarnate in Jesus through the distinction in the Godhead called the Son. The distinctions of Father and Spirit did not become incarnate. Only the distinction called the Son became incarnate. Yet if God is a single undivided Being of Father, Son and Spirit, it would appear that if the Son became incarnate in Jesus, the whole of the Godhead became incarnate in Jesus. Trinitarians appear to dance around this issue with statements such as the following taken from page 108 of The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons, written by prominent twentieth century Trinitarian theologian Thomas F Torrance.
“It was, of course, not the Godhead or the Being of God as such who became incarnate, but the Son of God, not the Father or the Spirit, who came among us, certainly from the Being of the Father and as completely homoousios with him, yet because in him the whole fullness of the Godhead dwells, the whole undivided Trinity must be recognized as participating in the incarnate Life and Work of Christ.” On page 118 of his book, Torrance quotes Athanasius as saying, “Jesus Christ is from the Being of the Father and of one and the same being or homoousios with God.”
Torrance is saying only the Son became incarnate and came from the Being of the Father. Trinitarianism teaches God is a single Being of Father, Son and Spirit. How then can it be said the Son came from the Being of the Father? In Trinitarian thought, the Son is one in Being with the Father and Spirit. The Father doesn’t have his own separate Being. God is seen as a single, undivided Being of Father, Son and Spirit. There is only one God Being not three Beings. Therefore, if the Son became incarnate it would follow the Father and Spirit also became incarnate. Yet Torrance says only the Son became incarnate and then virtually contradicts himself by writing that the whole of the undivided Trinity is represented in the incarnate Christ. This is tantamount to saying the whole Being of God became Christ which is the only thing you can say if you believe Christ is one in Being with the Father and the Spirit. If this is the case, however, when Christ died, the whole of God died which, as seen in Chapter Nine of this book, is an absolute absurdity.
Trinitarians teach God is one Being in three persons or distinctions. Yet in their writings there is reference to the Being of the Father and the Being of the Son which on the surface gives the impression the Father and Son are their own separate Beings. The following is typical of such writing as seen on Page 145 of Torrance’s book where he appears to largely be quoting Athanasius.
“The whole Being of the Son is proper to the Being of the Father and the Being of the Son is the fullness of the Father’s Godhead. Hence Athanasius could say repeatedly that the Son shares perfectly and fully in the one Being of the Godhead. When considered in himself, he is himself very God, and has his divine Life from himself. ‘For as the Father has life in himself, so he has given the Son to have life in himself’ ”
It appears when Torrance writes that the Being of the Son resides in the Being of the Father, what he means is that the Person of the Son resides in the Person of the Father who, along with the Spirit, constitute Divine Being. Therefore, the Son is seen as having divine life from Himself. However, Jesus said it is the Father who has life in Himself and He (Jesus) derives His life from the Father as Athanasius implies by quoting John 5:26. If Jesus derives His life from the Father, He does not have life from Himself and cannot be considered equal to the one He receives His life from. As discussed elsewhere in this book, all life ultimately comes from the Father, including the life of the Son. Jesus, as the begotten Son of God, did not have intrinsic life from Himself. His life was given to Him by the giver of all life, the one and only Supreme God who is the God and Father of Jesus.
Trinitarians acknowledge that the life of the Son comes from the Father. Trinitarianism teaches the Father is the unoriginate God which means the Father has always been. He has no origination. The Son and the Spirit are seen as eternally generated from the Father. They originate from the Father. The Son is said to be eternally begotten and the Spirit is seen as eternally proceeding from the Father. Because the Son and the Spirit are seen as of the Father, they are considered to be of the same essence as the Father and together with the Father constitute the one God. The three are considered ontologically one which means they are one in Being. Therefore, when Trinitarians speak of Father, Son and Spirit being co-eternal, co-equal and con-substantial, they are primarily referring to their ontological oneness.
Functionally, the three are seen as acting in different ways while all the while being in total agreement and unity as to what they do. Therefore, while functionally different, it is believed they always act with singleness of will and purpose. They always act as Father, Son and Spirit. It is believed when Scripture speaks of the Son and the Spirit being of the Father, it is speaking of their eternal generation from the Father. When the Son, as the human man Jesus, calls the Father His God, says the Father is greater than He, says the Father grants Him His life, and says the Father is the one and only true God, it is believed Jesus is relating to the Father within the relational structure of the Trinity wherein the Father is seen as the life source of the Son but not ontologically superior to the Son.
Trinitarians give the example of a human generating a new life through procreation. It is pointed out that a newborn is of the same human essence as its parents. In like manner the Son of God is seen as being generated by the Father and being of the same essence as the Father. C.S. Lewis writes on page 157 of his book Mere Christianity, “What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man.”
It is true that when humans beget other humans, they pass on human physicality which could be labeled human essence. However, a human newborn is a separate Being from its parents and exhibits many different characteristics from that of its parents as it develops. Within Trinitarianism, being of the essence of the Father is seen as being identical with the Father in every way short of being the Father. This obviously is not true in the transmission of human essence to a newborn. In the transmission of human essence, the basic components of human life are transmitted to the newborn from which the newborn develops many characteristics that are often quite different from the parents. When I procreated my son, he became a different Being from me in multiple ways. We are not the same Being. Jesus is considered ontologically one with the Father which is to say He is one in Being with the Father. While physical procreation produces another Being of the same basic human essence, that human is an entirely separate Being having a number of attributes different from the parent. This does not analogize with the Trinitarian concept of the Father, Son and Spirit indwelling each other and being a single entity called God.
Can God only beget God as C.S Lewis states? Trinitarians make a big issue out of defining beget as passing along ones essence to someone while to create is to make something other than your own kind. C.S. Lewis argues that “To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make.” He writes, “When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself” (page 157 of Mere Christianity). This is a very arbitrary limitation placed on the word beget as used in relation to God the Father. While it is true that at the physical level organisms can only beget other organisms of the same kind, there is no evidence to show that God is limited in this manner. While it may be inherent to physical begettal that physical essence is passed on from one organism to another, it is rather presumptuous to conclude God must pass on His Godly essence when begetting a physical life.
As mentioned, C.S. Lewis writes, “To beget is to become the Father of.” There is nothing limiting how God the Father becomes the father of a human. There is nothing necessitating God pass along to such human newborn His Divine essence. God can generate a life in any way He pleases. The Scriptures show God the Father directly generated a life in a human female through the power of His Spirit. In so doing He became the Father of a Son named Jesus. To beget is to become the Father of. God can beget in any way He chooses. To beget a life is to bring into existence a life that didn't exist before. God isn't limited as to how he begets. God is not under obligation to pass along His Divine essence when He supernaturally begets a physical life. God is the source of all life and can facilitate life in any way He chooses.
Since both Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians agree the Son receives His life from the Father, the only question that needs to be answered is when this occurred. Trinitarians believe this occurs as a continuous process of begettal throughout all eternity. Is this concept found in the Scriptures? No it is not. The Scriptures teach the begettal of the Son took place at a particular moment of time when the Most High God through the power of His Spirit brought about the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary.
We know from Scripture the Son is generated by the Father and plainly reveals the Father is greater than He. The Scriptures reveal the Son receives His life from the Father and relates to the Father as His God. This should be sufficient evidence the Father is both ontologically and functionally at a higher level than the Son. How can the recipient of life be ontologically equal to the giver of life? The whole of Scripture points to the Father as the giver of life. Therefore, it appears quite reasonable to conclude the Father is both ontologically and functionally superior to the Son. It is reasonable to conclude the power that generates life and from whom life originates is greater than the life such power generates.
Since the Father is the source of the Son and Spirit, the Father is seen as the first person of the Trinity with the Son being the second and the Spirit being the third. On page 137 of his book, Mr. Torrance writes, “The relationship between the Son and the Father is irreversible, for the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son. The Father comes first because he is the Father, although the Son is not less divine because he is the Son of the Father for there is no difference in Being or nature between them.” On page 176, Torrance writes, “while the Father ‘naturally’ comes first, the Son is nevertheless everything the Father is except being the Father.”
If the Son is everything the Father is except being the Father, the Son must have the same level of power, wisdom, understanding and knowledge as the Father. The Son must be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent as the Father is said to be. The Son must be able to speak things into existence as the Father does. In fact, if God is a single essence of Father, Son and Spirit and always acts as Father, Son and Spirit, there really are no distinctions in God. It's superfluous to speak in terms of the Son and the Spirit being distinct from the Father and from each other if all three have the same level of Divinity and indwell each other.
If the Father, Son and Spirit indwell each other, as Trinitarians teach, they are equally Divine. Why then does Jesus, as “God incarnate,” relate to the Father as His God when He also is God in every respect short of being the Father? Why does Jesus say the Father is greater than He when He is ontologically one with the Father and of identical mind and will with the Father? How can the word “greater” even be used in describing the relationship between the Father and the Son if they are of equal Divinity? Why does Jesus say the Father grants Him His life if, as Athanasius writes, He has His divine life from Himself? Why does Jesus, as “God incarnate,” say the Father is the one and only true God when He also is the one and only true God? There can be only one, one and only true God.
Trinitarians take the position that when Jesus and the Apostles speak of the Father as the one and only God, they are seeing the Father as the head or first person of the Trinitarian Godhead of Father, Son and Spirit. Therefore, when Jesus says the Father is greater than He and grants Him life, this is seen within the context of the Father being the source of the Son's existence within the Trinitarian Godhead. All the dozens of Scriptural passages that appear to show the Son as lower in status than the Father, are seen within the context of the Father generating the Son and Spirit within the Trinitarian Godhead.
The problem with this approach is that on the one hand the Father is seen as the source of the Son and Spirit while at the same time the Son and Spirit are seen as being equal to the Father in every way short of being the Father. If the Father has always existed and the Son and Spirit have always existed, it would follow that all three are unoriginate and not just the Father. It is superfluous to say the Son and Spirit originate from the Father if in fact they have always existed just as the Father has always existed.
Trinitarians respond by saying the origination of the Son and Spirit is not in time but is in the Father and since the Father has always existed so have the Son and Spirit. The Scriptures clearly teach the Father is unoriginate. The Scriptures show that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and always has. As you will see in Chapter Twenty-Three, the Spirit is the power and cognitive activity of the Father. The Scriptures teach the Spirit encompasses all that the Father is in power, glory, purpose and will. Therefore, the Spirit is unoriginate with the Father since the Father would always have Spirit. The Spirit of the Father is intrinsic to what the Father is. It is not something the Father generates but is integral to the very makeup of the Father. It proceeds from the Father as the Father’s mind and power. The Spirit is a dynamic of what God is just as the human spirit is a dynamic of what a human is. On the other hand, Scripture clearly shows the Son as being begotten by the Father which would make the Son to have a beginning in time. As will be seen, begettal involves a beginning in time.
Scripture shows the Father to be the one and only God. This one and only God is seen as begetting the Son at a specific moment in time and giving Him a physical, mortal life which ended at the cross. The Father resurrected His dead Son and granted Him immortal life. The Scriptures clearly show Jesus was the first human to be born from the dead to eternal life (Colossians 1:18, Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 15:20, Revelation 1:5).
How did the concept of eternal begettal develop? Before we get to what the Scriptures say about the term begettal, let's briefly review the history that led to the concept of eternal begettal.
In the book I have been quoting from author Thomas Torrance, he writes that the “Nicene term homoousios is not a Biblical term but it was appropriated by the fathers of Nicaea and recoined through believing commitment to God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ and careful interpretation of the Biblical witness in order to give unequivocal expression to the Deity of Christ, the incarnate Lord and Savior” (page 94). Mr. Torrance goes on to write, “As the epitomized expression of this truth, the homoousion is the ontological and epistemological linchpin of Christian theology. It gives expression to the truth with which everything hangs together and without which everything ultimately falls apart” (page 95).
Mr. Torrance, as do other Trinitarians, sees the non-Biblical term homoousios as the basis for understanding who God is. This non-Biblical word is seen as the linchpin (number one dynamic) in understanding the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit. While I don’t see a problem in using non-Biblical words to help us understand Biblical concepts, it should become evident as you move through the material presented in this book that homoousios is not the "ontological and epistemological linchpin of Christian theology," much less the means whereby God is identified as a Trinity.
After formulation of the Nicene Creed, controversy over the relationship between the Father and the Son raged on for many years. Both the Arian and the Athanasian views were supported by various Church leaders and Roman government officials during this time. Just before his death, Arius, who had been excommunicated, was reinstated at the request of Emperor Constantine. Because of this and Constantine's baptism just before his death by an Arian Bishop, some believe Constantine died an Arian. Athanasius, who had become Bishop of Alexandria, was alternately condemned by various Church Councils and reinstated by others. At times the Arian view prevailed in the Church and at other times the Athanasian view prevailed. Roman Emperors often participated in this ongoing conflict. With the exception of the Athanasian Egyptian Churches, the Greek speaking Churches of the Eastern Roman Empire were largely Arian while the Latin speaking Churches of the Western Roman Empire largely followed Athanasius.
Upon the death of the Eastern Arian Emperor Valens in A.D. 378, a pro-Nicene Emperor took his place and called together 180 selected Eastern Bishops for a council at Constantinople in A.D. 381. The Nicene Creed was updated at this council to include the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the Father and worthy of worship as is the Father and the Son. Thus was established a Trinitarian concept of God. This concept was affirmed in the Western Empire at the Council of Aqulileia later in 381 although some Western theologians argued that the Creed should be worded to say the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. This argument became an important dynamic in developments that led to the West separating from the East and the formation of the Greek Orthodox Church.
The Trinitarian concept of God was made the orthodox view of God throughout the Roman Empire and any advocacy of the Arian or any other view became punishable by death. Thus the role of Imperial power continued to play a significant role in establishing and enforcing what was determined to be orthodox doctrine. Many outside the Empire, however, continued to follow the Arian position for hundreds of years. The tenets of the Constantinople Creed pertaining to our discussion are as follows:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (aeons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified.
It is largely from the Nicene and Constantinople Creeds that the concept of “eternal begettal” developed. It is believed Jesus is eternally begotten by the Father. It is believed that in order for the Father to eternally be the Father, He always had to have the Son. Therefore, since the Father has always existed, so must the Son have always existed. The Son is seen as being eternally begotten from the very essence of the Father. This concept was formulated as a rebuttal to the Arian proposition that “there was once when he was not,” thus implying the Son was created. The essence of the Father came to be called the divine essence as it was believed to be the same single essence that is Father, Son and Spirit and not just the essence of the Father. The divine essence was defined as the attributes of eternal existence, omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience.
As covered above, Trinitarian theology teaches the Son originates from the Father. This is seen as what differentiates the Father from the Son and vice versa. The Father is seen as unoriginated while the Son is seen as originating from the Father but doing so in an eternal way. When asked to explain this construct, the answer is that it is an unexplainable mystery. Is the origination of the Son an unexplainable mystery?
In the English language the word beget means to become the father of a child and is also used in various ways to designate the beginning of something. The word has the intrinsic meaning of beginning. Therefore, the phrase “eternal begettal” is a virtual oxymoron. To postulate an eternal beginning is to postulate a contradiction. Yet, the concept of the eternal begettal of the Son of God is firmly entrenched in Christian theology.
In the NT Scriptures, gennao is the Greek word commonly translated as beget, begat, begotten and born. It means to become the Father of and is used in a variety of ways to designate a beginning. Gennao appears 97 times in the NT and by context can be seen to most often refer to becoming the father of someone and where it is not used in this manner it can be seen to show the beginning of something.
In Acts 13, Apostle Paul addresses an assembly of Israelites and Gentiles who had gathered together in a synagogue on the Sabbath. He provides a short history of the Nation of Israel and shows how God brought Jesus to Israel through the descendants of David. He then relates how the people and leadership of Israel did not recognize Jesus for who He was and condemned Him to death. Paul then makes the following statement:
Acts 13:32-33: We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” (NIV).
The Greek word translated “become” in this passages is gennao. In most English translations of this passage this word is translated “begotten.” Paul shows Jesus to be a descendant of David and goes on to apply to Him the OT passage that speaks of God becoming a Father of the Son. We know from our review of OT Scripture, the Father is YHWH and is without beginning or end. Trinitarians claim the Son is also YHWH and without beginning or end. Yet we see the Father becoming the Father of Jesus at a specific point in time indicating a beginning for the Son. We see more of this in the letter to the Hebrews.
Hebrews 1:5: For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”?
Hebrews 5:5: So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”
As in Acts 13, the Greek word translated “become” in these passages is gennao. In most English translations of this passage this word is translated “begotten.” When did God the Father become the Father of Jesus? When was Jesus begotten by the Father?
Matthew 1:20: But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived (gennao) in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Luke 1:35: The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born (gennao) will be called the Son of God.”
Jesus came to be called the Son of God as a result of God the Father bringing about the impregnation of Mary through the power of His Spirit. The Most High God, the Father, played a direct role in facilitating the begettal of Jesus and thus became the Father of Jesus. There is no Scriptural reason to believe God eternally begat the Son. The very concept of eternal begettal is a contradiction in terminology. Begettal means a beginning as opposed to a non beginning which the word eternal implies. To say Christ is eternally begotten is to say Christ has an eternal beginning which is an absolute oxymoron. Matthew makes it clear Jesus had an origin and is not without beginning.
Matthew 1:18: This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
Some will argue Matthew is only referring to the human Jesus in this passage who had an obvious beginning as the incarnate Son of God. The passages quoted from Acts and Hebrews, however, make it clear God became the Father of His Son at a specific time in history which negates the concept of eternal co-existence of the Son with the Father and certainly cancels out the concept of eternal begettal. In the second Psalm, in what is considered a prophecy of the coming of Christ, it is clearly shown the Messiah is the anointed of YHWH and not that the anointed is YHWH.
Psalm 2:2, 6-9: The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD (YHWH) and against his Anointed One. Verse 6-9: “I (YHWH) have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
The decree of YHWH was that He, YHWH, would beget a Son and anoint Him to be King. As shown in the quote from Acts 13:32-33, Apostle Paul quotes the second Psalm in showing Jesus became the Son of the Father which is to say He became the Son of YHWH. These passages speak strongly against the idea of eternal begettal and against the Son being YHWH.
In Isaiah 9:6, in a prophecy about the birth of Christ, the prophet says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” Here the arrival of the Son of God is tied to the Son of God being born at a specific moment in the past.
Among the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Qumran in 1947 are documents called “Rule Scrolls.” Rule Scroll 1QSa says the Messiah will come when God will have begotten him. The writer of this Scroll apparently understood that the coming of the Christ would take place when God begat Him. There is no reason to believe this writer understood begotten in any way other than a beginning at a point in time and not some process that has been going on eternally.
The Greek word translated into the English word birth in Matthew 1:18, is gennesis which is a derivative of gennao and means to be begotten or born. Like gennao, gennesis implies a beginning. In the oldest Greek Manuscripts, the Greek word genesis is found in this passage instead of gennesis. Genesis can mean birth but can also mean creation, beginning and origination. It is interesting that Matthew uses the Greek genesis at the start of his Gospel to introduce the ancestry of Jesus.
Matthew 1:1: The book of the generation (Greek genesis) of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Some argue that because Mary was impregnated by the power of God, immortal divine essence of the Father was passed on to Jesus the Son much like mortal human essence is passed on to a baby through human begettal. Scripture says nothing about the begettal of Jesus happening in this manner. Scripture simply reveals Mary becoming pregnant through the power of God. This is all Scripture reveals about this event. We don’t know how God did this other than knowing it was accomplished through the power of His Spirit.
Unless we are willing to totally disregard the meaning of words in order to uphold a particular doctrinal position, it should be evident that when the Scriptures speak of the begettal of the Son, they are speaking of His origination at a particular time in history. To look at accounts of the Son’s begettal and conclude these accounts are speaking of such begettal being an ongoing event throughout all eternity and continuing to this very day is ludicrous to say the least. One Trinitarian theologian actually stated to me that the concept of eternal begettal is an oxymoron. When asked to explain “eternal begettal,” Trinitarians say it is an inexplicable, incomprehensible mystery. Yet, with no evidence for the validity of this “mystery,” we are asked to accept it as fact.