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Throughout scripture Jesus is identified as the “only begotten of the Father”. Is Jesus eternally the Only Begotten of the Father or did He become the Son at His incarnation?

Scripture to me seems clear that Jesus is eternally the begotten of the Father, which imposes an eternal "family" dynamic within the Godhead. Do Christians generally agree with this perspective and if not how do they view the sonship of Christ?

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To be more precise: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” appears only once in the KJV. And with variations in other Bibles. –  Waeshael Aug 7 '13 at 21:36

7 Answers 7

ANSWER FROM AN INDUCTIVE BIBLE STUDY PERSPECTIVE

PRIOR TO THE INCARNATE WORD:

God As Father are in regards to Israel, her King, and those who recognize Him as their Father (See Isaiah 63:16):

Deuteronomy 32:6 Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you?

2 Samuel 7:14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.

1 Chronicles 17:13 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son; and I will not take My mercy away from him, as I took it from him who was before you.

1 Chronicles 22:10 He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.'

1 Chronicles 28:6 Now He said to me, 'It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father.

1 Chronicles 29:10 Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: " Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.

Psalms 89:26 He shall cry to Me, 'You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.'

Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.

Jeremiah 3:4 Will you not from this time cry to Me, ' My Father, You are the guide of my youth?

Jeremiah 3:19 "But I said: ' How can I put you among the children And give you a pleasant land, A beautiful heritage of the hosts of nations?' "And I said: ' You shall call Me, "My Father," And not turn away from Me.'

Jeremiah 31:9 They shall come with weeping, And with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, In a straight way in which they shall not stumble; For I am a Father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn.

Malachi 1:6 " A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?'

Malachi 2 10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another By profaning the covenant of the fathers?

Son(s) of God= men and angels in right relation with God:

Genesis 6:2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.

Genesis 6:4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

Job 1 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.

Job 2 1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.

Job 38 7 When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Daniel 3:25 "Look!" he answered, "I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."

Luke 3 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

AFTER THE DIVINE INCARNATION: We see Jesus referred to as the Son of God. He is eternal as the Word that was with God in the beginning and was God.
He is Son by incarnation and physical birth. Thus he shared the Glory of His Father (so called in regard to his being the physical son now)

THE PRE-INCARNATE CHRIST:

1) In what way is He eternal:

John 1: The Eternal Word

1 **In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God.**3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In the Beginning was the Word . . with God, God, the Word became flesh. 4 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

2) In what way was he the same?

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Certainly, he was not always the same in humanity, because he "became flesh".
But in His divinity, He always was always Spirit (Christ/annointed/annointing) and Jesus (Yah-Saves/Yah-Salvation). That has always been the nature and character of God.

ONE WITH GOD/EQUAL WITH GOD/YET SUBJECT TO GOD AS A MAN

Phillipians 2:5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

John 10:25-39

JOHN 17

SO WHERE DID THE DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL BEGETTING ORIGINATE? A look at church history surrounding the development of the Nicean and Athenasian Creeds reveals that the doctrine of "eternally begotten" was in response or reaction to doctrinal concerns of the day presented. Athenasius, sought to avoid a doctrine of Jesus subordination and thus inequality with the Father that would naturally spring out of viewing Jesus as a creature or part of Gods creation. Also at play were matters of the indivisibility of the divine and human natures of Christ Jesus. Athenaseus developed a theology based on the timelessness of God, time began at creation and the Word was present at creation--What occurs in the future already occurred in the past. Thus, the Word who would become son was already Son at creation.

One matter that needs also to be considered in reference to timelessness is the reference in Revelation to the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth

Considering the two parallel passages we see however, that it was the book of life that was from the foundation of the World and this book is the book of life of the Lamb slain.

Revelation 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Revelation 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

see related post.

Conclusion: In Scripture, there is no reference to Jesus as Son prior to His birth. God is eternal. The Word was with God at the beginning of time and was God at the beginning of time. The Word became flesh, thus was begotten and became "Son" at conception. Jesus is eternal as as God; but as the Word become flesh, he was subject to the Father.

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It is important to note that God is spirit--not physical.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24 NASB

Thus, in eternity past, Jesus was in relation to the Father as the Son--but this has nothing to do with biology or reproduction, as the Son is co-eternal with the Father. Paul describes Jesus as the creator of all things--thus, Jesus is un-created and eternal.

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16 NASB

The terms "Father" and "Son" describe the kind of relationship--not reproduction or order of existence. The Bible never speaks of God the Mother, and, indeed, without a Mother, there could be no divine Family. God uses the terms "Father" and "Son" in order for us to understand a relationship that would otherwise be obscured to us. A basic principle of teaching is that you use the known to describe the unknown. God uses concepts with which we are familiar in the physical realm to describe a relationship in the spiritual realm.

The Bible never indicates in any way that there was or ever will be any reproduction in the spiritual realm.

The Only Begotten

A note about the phrase "only begotten"... This comes from the word in Greek "monogenes", which is a compound word--"mono" and "genes". A literal translation of this could be "one kind".

Interestingly enough the term is actually used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) in reference to Isaac--who was not the only son of Abraham, nor was he even the first. Abraham's first son was Ishmael, and he had five sons by Keturah, whom he married after Sarah died. Isaac was then the 2nd of 7 sons.

However, he is still called the "one kind" or "one of a kind" son of Abraham. Why is this? Not because of his uniqueness of being a son, but because of the uniqueness in which he was a son. He became a son from a promised miraculous birth.

God refers to all His followers as "sons (and daughters) of God". Jesus' sonship, however, is what makes Him unique. He is eternal. He always existed. If He always existed, He could never be born and He could never be the product of reproduction. Thus, the eternal nature of Jesus is precisely what invalidates any idea that He was ever conceived or born in the spiritual realm.

His sonship is a "one of a kind" sonship specifically because He is the only eternal Son. His sonship is unlike any other. It describes relationship, but not progression or succession.

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Certainly we must separate our incarnate understanding of reproduction from the spiritual or eternal. However, Jesus cannot be the “only begotten of the Father” unless through reproduction. –  Rick Nov 1 '13 at 11:50
    
@Rick See updates. Jesus' eternal nature precludes Him from succeeding anyone. Also, "begotten" is probably a poor translation. –  Narnian Nov 1 '13 at 11:59
    
While we through the biological process understand the time contingencies with physical birth. I do not believe those same contingencies exist in eternity. Eternally Begotten does not necessitate a beginning. –  Rick Nov 1 '13 at 12:03
    
@Rick That's an interesting belief, but that is also a really big assumption, and one that defies logic. You still don't have any mention of a spiritual mother in all of Scripture. –  Narnian Nov 1 '13 at 12:04
    
How would you understand "Eternally" other than transcending space and time? –  Rick Nov 1 '13 at 12:05

No. The Son was begotten by the Father before creation. He was begotten in a timeless realm.He's not eternally begotten.

LOVE FELT
[God is alone doesn’t mean there’s a point when he’s not love but that love is an emotion that cannot stay inactive and hence, because God is fruitful by nature, he naturally desires to beget an offspring of his own. The fact that action is inevitable in love makes God naturally begets]

God is alone and being fruitful by nature he naturally desire to beget and being perfect, only his Wisdom is the offspring that he can beget. He did beget his own Wisdom to be his offspring so that Wisdom is not an inanimate trait but a conscious person exactly as him.

Proverbs 8:21-30 (Septuagint)

God’s wisdom is how he manages his knowledge. God naturally desires to beget Wisdom to be his fellow so that he doesn't need knowledge but his offspring to be his Wisdom ( 1 Cor. 1:24-25).

LOVE SHARED [God cannot stay alone for all eternity although he did at some point but no too long because it is inevitable for him to beget an offspring so that he could share his love to a fellow person]

God begets a Son not dependent in creation. It means that even without creation the Son will be begotten.

The moment Wisdom was begotten (i.e. made person not made God) was the moment God became the “Father” and Wisdom became the “Son”. Hence, God and Wisdom are coeval in getting their natural roles and function yet not coeval in co-existence as personalities. Hence, No eternal Father, no eternal Son but once assumed such roles it will be forever, that is, no ending. The relationship is impossible to destroy once it became existent.

Also, the moment the Son was begotten was the moment he began existing and instantly he gained all knowledge the Father has by the Father’s command and therefore, he is co-equal with the Father in knowledge but not co-equal with him in experiential knowledge.

The Son knows his status as a Son and hence, he knows that he is subordinate to the Father in authority ( functional subordination) and that he is equal to the Father in nature(ontological equality). The Father and the Son shares the same substance but not the same experience.

The Father is without beginning of existence and without ending of existence The Son has beginning of existence without ending of existence

The Son has the following abilities:

--to be present everywhere at the same time

--to know everything absolutely

--to do everything not contradictory to his nature

But all of these abilities the Son cannot use unless he’s given the authority or the right to use it ( Acts 1:7, John 17:2)

LOVE PROVEN God gave Wisdom the very life he has i.e. personality, self-sufficiency and self-existence( John 5:26). Abstract became concrete. This is given in God’s act of begetting Wisdom and in this begetting the Holy Spirit was also made a person through being breathed by the Son. This single breathing is act which produces (the person not the nature) of the Spirit is inevitable because the Son is indeed alive. This Spirit is the same Spirit the Father has for all eternity albeit non-person but became a person at the very moment of the Son’s begetting. Because of this, he is under the Father and the Son (as God and Wisdom they are his one source). The breathe of the Son became a person exactly like him. This means that the Son’s evidence of life is alive (and it also confirms God’s for he’s the begetter of the Son). A living life proves a living love for the Father begets because of love.

At the moment of the Son's existence was the same moment the Spirit became existent and they both instantly

The Holy Spirit has a beginning of existence and without ending of existence.

The Holy Spirit has the following abilities:

--to be present everywhere at the same time

--to know everything absolutely

--to do everything not contradictory to his nature

But all of these abilities the Spirit cannot use unless he’s given the authority or the right to use it.( Mark 13:32, 1 Corinthians 2:10).

CONCLUSION:

Although it’s impossible for the Son and Spirit to cease to exist, eternality is the only thing they don’t possess.

The Son and the Holy Spirit are equal to the Father in all honor, glory, praise and worthiness of worship for they are three persons who shares one single indivisible nature (Matthew 28:19).

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It seems you are saying "No" the Son is not eternally begotten, but then you explain how He is eternally begotten. How would you interpret the word eternal? –  Rick Nov 1 '13 at 11:43
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It might help if you specified what denomination/group holds this view. This seems to reject the idea of the Trinity as most Christians understand it, leaving me to wonder if this is a Jehovah's Witness perspective, LDS, or what? –  David Stratton Nov 1 '13 at 12:33
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@David Stratton, this is the view of the pioneer Adventists. ( I do not believe in it,,, I am a Trinitarian). I just posted it to show that there is an alternative explanation about the Triad without lessening their one deity. In fact, this is Tertullian's view. For him the Son is not eternal yet of same nature with God. –  Radz Matthew Co Brown Nov 14 '13 at 18:32
    
Thanks for the clarification! –  David Stratton Nov 14 '13 at 19:32

Fantastic Bible index of all scriptures by topic. Then click on Jesus Christ, Antemortal Existence of. (pre-earth existence)

http://www.lds.org/scriptures/tg/jesus-christ?lang=eng&letter=j

specifically:

John 17:5 - glorify thou me … with the glory which I had with thee before the world was

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I have a little difficulty with the name Jesus attached to the Son when discussing eternal existence. I will have a go at an answer.

ACC: The Son and the Father always existed - "there was never a time when they did not exist." The Son in ACC doctrine is not subordinate to the Father. They are of the same essence, and different hypostases. The Son took on flesh (was born of Mary) and became the God-Man Yeshua (Hebrew pronounced ee-shoe) around 4 BCE, who, by definition of the Councils of Nicea and Nicea/Constantinople 4th. cent., had both human and divine natures, but one divine personality. Later it was declared he had two wills, human and divine. The man part of the Man-God did not exist prior to conception in Mary. You might think of God taking on a human body at the incarnation, like putting on a new "front," without changing the personality. The body by itself had no divine powers, just normal human power. The Master said "I can do nothing by myself." All his divine power came from The Father. And He and the Father are one.

Hope this isn't simplifying things too much. This is a complex subject.

BTW: The 1643 Westminster Confession of the dissenting Protestants spelled ee-shoe’s name as “Jesus”. In 1648 this Confession was adopted by the American Church in New England.

So, AFAIK, The Son (also called God the Word) eternally existed, the man ee-shoe at incarnation.

The name Jesus did not appear in any Bible before the American printing of the NT c. 1645. The man-God was never called anything but Master, Good Master, rabbi, and teacher by the disciples. In the Gospels only the evil spirits called Him by name ee-shoe.

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I'm just new here so don't have enough reputation score to comment on the previous answer, so even though I start with that I will answer the question too!

The variation of the Nicene Creed that was stated in the answer before mine isn't the one that I'm used to saying in church... the line highlighted, in my version, is "eternally begotten of the Father"

In a course I did at uni last year I read Pannenberg, who said that the Father generates the Son (the meaning of beget) and the two of them collectively spirate the Spirit. Don't ask me to explain what spirate means because I got really confused about it! Basically, he seems to say that the Father can eternally beget the Son but the Spirit is spirated slightly later than the beginning of this eternity. Which I know is a digression from the original question, sorry.

I firmly believe (along with my Anglican tradition) that yes, Jesus is eternally begotten from/by the Father.

The trinitarian relationships are hard to explain since I haven't done much research on them, but yeah I believe that the Son is eternally the Son, rather than becoming the Son at the Incarnation. It was always God's plan from the outset to send His Son to earth to die at Calvary; the main reason this has such an emotional effect on people is that we then think of God as a Father, who sends His Son to die; how many fathers could sit back and watch as their child dies, let alone decree it to happen? If the Son only became the Son at the Incarnation, then there would not have been this Father/Son relationship in heaven which would greatly lessen the Father/Son relationship when Jesus came to earth, lessening the whole impact of the crucifixion and every bit of Jesus' words that state something about "My Father in heaven"

Sorry for such a long and convoluted way of saying "yes," I didn't know I was going to get so many ideas in my head as I was typing!!

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So do you then believe that "family" is of divine origin? –  Rick Aug 7 '13 at 16:19
    
Yes. I believe that "family" in the sense of God/Jesus Father/Son existed before the world was created. Then, also, Genesis states that God desired for human beings the kind of family that we know today; parents bringing up children who will eventually leave, and start their own family. –  GreekGeek Aug 7 '13 at 16:24

The Nicene Creed (Wikipedia: "It forms the mainstream definition of Christianity for most Christians.") answers this question (emphasis added):

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only begotten Son of God,
begotten of his Father before all worlds,
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;

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