"I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee (Psalm 2.7)."
Few subjects in the Word of God are more sublime and comforting than the contemplation of our dear Redeemer in His many offices, character, mission, and in particular, His very being. This is holy ground; all who approach here must tread reverently, and in humility.
Our many years of reading from, and listening to, varied expositors addressing the theme of the only begotten Son of God leads us to this unmistakable conclusion: most resist assertive opinions or bold interpretations on this subject. They shed little light, and have borrowed from the stale views of those now past. Thoughtful investigation has been left to others. Sadly, the few firm opinions we have come across are strongly influenced by the views of ancient Catholic Counsels or the compromising views of Reformers, who themselves borrowed heavily from Catholic creeds.
We have no desire to appear wiser than our brethren, for we surely feel our personal ignorance and lack of understanding. Nor is it our purpose to challenge those with whom we differ. Rather, we humbly and cautiously seek to affirm what is clear and unmistakable language from the Word of God concerning the begetting of our Lord. To the extent our brethren may agree with us we thank our God; if they cannot abide our views we nevertheless appreciate and love them.
Reluctance to state one's views on the begetting of our Lord usually results from fear of conflict with accepted Trinitarian views of the Godhead. By accepted views we do not mean the correct views; only those views deemed correct, whether deemed so through ignorance, fear, or evil intent. The Trinity is a vital subject, but not our primary theme in this article, and will only be indirectly addressed.
ONLY BEGOTTEN OR ETERNALLY BEGOTTEN?
We do not contend against or question the eternal Sonship of Christ, for we believe it with all our heart if not fully deceived. Christ is the eternal Son of God. Many texts make this amply evident. The question to be asked is, if Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the only begotten or the eternally begotten Son of God? The difference is incalculable. Consider: many Scriptures refer to Christ as God; co-equal with God the Father, and one with the Father in power, glory, wisdom. We give several. "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2.9)." "And the glory which thou gayest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one (John 17.22)." "I and my Father are one (John 10.30)." However, if Christ became the Son of God by eternal begetting, there are at least two major problems to confront. The first is, how can Christ be eternally begotten and at the same time be, in all respects, one with, and equal to, the Father? Does the word begotten, as used in the Scriptures, anywhere agree with any meaning necessary to suggest an eternal begetting of Christ? Christ is, after all, God, and is at the same time one with the Father, underived, solitary, and everlastingly unchangeable. Moreover, does a text exist suggesting in any way there was an eternal begetting? We ask not for a specific text; only for one containing implied evidence of such. Only begotten, yes. First begotten, yes. Eternally begotten, never! We mention as well that those contending the Son was eternally begotten usually describe this begetting to an eternal generation, a view fully as troubling as eternal begetting. Many espousing an eternal begetting sometimes confess correctly they are but attempting to put the doctrine they profess into acceptable words. They should, nevertheless, be able to satisfy dissent from their view. It appears they are dressing a non-existent doctrine with accommodating language.
The second major problem is, if it is assumed Christ was eternally begotten, but the Scriptures give us clear evidence of an obviously different meaning of His begetting, then we cannot avoid concluding - either eternal begetting is wrong, or there must be two begettings of our Lord. Worse still, the erroneous interpretation, based on assumption, would obscure the true interpretation causing considerable confusion about what the Word of God says on the issue.
Any interpretation of Scriptures suggesting an eternal begetting is without proof. Proponents of eternal begetting are more likely to quote the views of other writers than to attempt to prove their assumption from the Word of God when asked for proof of the doctrine they profess.
If the Lord enables, we shall show the Scriptural meaning of Christ's begetting contrasted with the assumption of eternal begetting, and hopefully put to rest both of the problems arising from the idea.
"I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee (Psalm 2.7)."
This verse contains the only direct reference in the Old Testament to the begetting of the Son of God. If there are others, direct or indirect, we have not found them. Thus it is vital to our current study. The New Testament reveals considerable about the begetting of the Lord, and will be made evident in due time. Any interpretation of Psalm 2.7 must be in harmony with whatever truth on the subject is revealed there.
There are other texts, but Psalm 2.7 could stand alone to establish forever that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God and King in Zion. But again, a question must be asked: if Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, and His begetting was not eternal, then when did He become the Son of God? Answer: Jesus never became the Son of God; He always was the Son of God, even from everlasting. Psalm 2.7 establishes that Jesus Christ is and was, not shall become, the Son of God, and there was a day (mark well, a day) when He was begotten by God. Additionally, the Son of God, speaking in this verse, says He would declare the decree. So then, there was a decree - Jesus would be begotten of the Father and He, Jesus, would declare it. The decrees are eternal and this decree is no exception. But - if the Son of God was generated eternally - of what use was any decree which clearly spoke of God's purpose for a begetting yet to come? Obviously there would be no need for a decree to be declared if the event was eternally past. The New Testament verses relative to Psalm 2.7 shall clarify, the Lord willing, how Christ declared the decree, and what He declared.
IS THERE A HOLY SPIRIT BEGETTING?
Passing from eternal begetting, neither can it be argued successfully that Jesus was begotten by the Holy Ghost in the womb of Mary. This view, while not as prominent as eternal begetting, has its few supporters. But whatever else may be known (or not known) on the subject, the idea of the Holy Ghost being the Father of the child Jesus should be discarded. Could God the Father be the Father if the Holy Spirit was responsible for the generation or begetting of Jesus? That would make the Holy Spirit the Father. This notion is so strained the difficulty is obvious. It is most perplexing to think anyone could believe it. Attempting to find somewhere to apply the fulfillment of Psalm 2.7, some, nevertheless, do believe the Holy Ghost begat Jesus.
An examination of Luke's record recounting Mary's conception is revealing, both for what is told, and what is not told. It was told in positive tones that Mary would conceive, and how, but there was nowhere a mention of begetting.
"And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1.30-33)."
Mary was eternally chosen to bear the Christ-child, for no other reason than God's good pleasure, thus fulfilling the prophesy of Isaiah 7.14. It certainly was a great display of grace and blessing from God in choosing Mary to carry the body of Jesus in her womb, but the eternal will of God alone directed the choice of this maiden. She was in every respect, with all other women, a fallen daughter of Adam.
"Thou shalt conceive in thy womb" offers no hint Mary's conception was by a Holy Ghost begetting. Her conception was no different from any other conception when a woman knows a man, with this exception - she never knew a man. There is no contradiction here, even when the pronouncement of the angel to Joseph in Matthew 1.18-20 is compared. First, it was written that Mary "was found with child of the Holy Ghost." Then it was told Joseph, "for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost," not meaning the Holy Ghost would be the father of the Christ-child. Rather, His coming upon Mary would empower her to bear a son, even in her virginity, for it could not possibly be accomplished by human means. The Holy Ghost, One with the Father and the Son, in power, purpose, and wisdom, came upon the virgin to render her, not only capable, but certain to conceive, for no reason other than it was the will of God executed.
"And bring forth a son" indicated that, beyond the miracle of conception without knowing man, Mary's deliverance of the child would be as ordinary as all other births, except that she had prior knowledge the child would be a son. "And shalt call his name JESUS" sets the seal to God's total control over this sacred event, even to giving the child His human name and title.
"He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest" denotes the supreme elevation and station to which Jesus would rise - both in greatness and favor. As the Son of the Highest, nothing less could be possible. Comparing the expression, the Highest, with the angel's earlier salutation to Mary, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured" compels acknowledgment that Mary's favor was the ultimate favor - as none other than the Highest bestowed it upon her. The child was to be named Jesus, but He was to be called the Son of the Highest, for He was truly and manifestly the Son of the Highest. Mark well: Jesus did not become the Son of the Highest by being born of the virgin. He Who was to be born of the virgin was called the Son of the Highest because He was eternally the Son of the Highest. It would be doctrine of the most dangerous sort to suggest Jesus became the Son of the Highest by His birth. To establish this point we need look no farther than the profound prophecy of Isaiah regarding Jesus: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9.6)." A child was born, and at the same time the child was born, a son was also given. The child born of Mary was also the Son of God given for the redemption of His elect. But, should that not satisfy the doubter, there is more. He, the Son that was given, was also "The mighty God; The everlasting Father!" Surely the Son given could then be none other than God with us! Jesus was God, Who is eternal. He was the Son of God, so again He must be eternal. And yet for all this, there is nothing here to suggest to us the meaning of begetting as recorded in Psalm 2.7.
SCRIPTURE USE OF BEGOTTEN
The word begotten is used sufficiently in Scriptures to establish an unmistakable meaning of the word as well as its pattern of usage. Begotten is found 9 times in the Old Testament and the usage is consistent with the idea of procreation, generating life, or a bringing forth. Sometimes begotten and other related words are used figuratively, but the core idea of the life process remains, nevertheless. We offer the following interesting example from Job, adding bold face type for emphasis:
"Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it (Job 38.28,29)?"
The words, father, womb, and gendered, in association with begotten make it perfectly clear how the word begotten is used in the Old Testament. It is also consistent with New Testament usage.
In the New Testament begotten is found 15 times, and at least 9 of those times it is used of Jesus Christ as the begotten of God. The first four times begotten is used (John 1.14; 1.18; 3.16; 3.18) it is associated with the word only and in each of these texts except John 1.14 the phrase only begotten Son is employed. In John 1.14 the wording is only begotten of the Father. I John 4.9 also uses the expression only begotten Son. Only begotten son is found also in Hebrews 11.17 where it speaks of Abraham offering up Isaac. There are many fruitful thoughts to be gleaned from a comparison of Abraham and God offering up their sons. We suggest the reader reflect seriously thereon.
An examination of several texts in order to get a clear view of how Jesus is the begotten Son of God should prove profitable. In the first of these texts the word begotten relates to, not the oneness of Jesus Christ and the Father in eternity, not the conception in the womb of Mary, but His resurrection from the dead. "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Revelation 1.5)." Here in this last reference in the Scriptures to Jesus as the begotten He is described as the first begotten of the dead. Elsewhere He is said to be the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1.18). It cannot be stressed too strongly then - if Jesus Christ is the first begotten from the dead His resurrection constitutes a begetting. It really does not matter what extraneous efforts are made to nullify the force of this conclusion; if the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a begetting, and it was, then unless He was begotten more than once, we have a time frame and a specific incident with which to identify Psalm 2.7 where God said, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee."
Does not the resurrection from the dead meet all the figures used in Job 38.28, 29? The words were, father, begotten, womb, and gendered. First, it was by the power and pleasure of the Father that Jesus came again from the regions of the dead. Second, the begetting was a bringing forth; Jesus was brought forth or begotten from the bowels of the hidden regions of the earth. Third, the womb of the morning broke (Psalm 110.3) so that the Son of Righteousness might arise with healing in His wings (Malachi 4.2). Finally, as Sinai gendereth to bondage (Galatians 4.24), 5o Jerusalem the mother of us all, and embodied in the resurrected Jesus, gendered to freedom from hell, death, and the grave.
In Acts 13.14-43, we have the protracted account of Paul's discourse at Antioch in Pisidia. It is important to mention that this was the first recorded discourse of Paul after he had been set apart to the work of the gospel. The contents of this message is thus of great importance. Paul recited the travels of Israel, beginning with their bondage in Egypt and continuing to the resurrection of our Lord. From that discourse reflect carefully on the text following: "But God raised him from the dead: And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee (Acts 13.30-33)."
Despite all the malice and rage of His enemies, God raised Jesus from the dead for, "He, whom God raised again, saw no corruption (Acts 13.37)." This is a critical point, for had Jesus been subject to corruption He would have been no better than David who prophesied of His resurrection. Jesus was begotten from the dead for He alone was worthy. Only Jesus was God's Son and only God's Son could fulfill the will of the Father in the conquest of death. This victory neither men or angels were capable of gaming. "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee (Hebrews 1.5)?"
It cannot be stressed too strongly; Paul emphatically associated the resurrection of Jesus from the dead with the declaration from Psalm 2.7, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." The language cannot be mistaken. It may be denied or deemed of little consequence by those too hardened to yield to light, but Paul said in forcible and positive tones: God made a promise to the fathers; He fulfilled it unto us their children by raising Jesus from the dead on the third day and accomplished what David wrote in the Psalm respecting His only begotten Son, Jesus.
How sublime! How profound yet plain! There is no need for the tortured interpretations of Mother Babylon's disciples; Jesus was begotten from the dead thus bringing to pass all that was written on His begetting. There is no need for airy flights into vague theological high places to find a meaning to fit the words of Psalm 2.7. No one need any more to look curiously at the moving of the Holy Spirit on Mary and wrestle with the frightful idea that Mary's conception was somehow a Spirit begetting. The confusing idea of Jesus somehow being eternally begotten and yet still one with the Father may also be dismissed. God the eternal Father owned the work of His eternal Son and in fulfillment of the everlasting covenant raised Jesus from the dead saying, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." What day was that? It was the day marking the new dispensation; the day signaling the end of the former days and the beginning of the latter days (last days, Hebrews 1.2); it was as well the morning of the third day when Jesus was to rise from the tomb.
The expression, "I will declare the decree" from Psalm 2 will be covered in another article if the Lord spares us to write again. Additionally, several texts from the New Testament (John 1.14; 3.16,18; Hebrews 5.5; I John 4.9) relating to the begetting of the Lord that might seem difficult to harmonize with Acts 13 will be covered as well.
J. F. Poole
Volume 11, No. 1