The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Tale of Two Columnists

Death comes for each of us sooner or later.  This month he took away two of my favorite opinion columnists.  On Sunday, May 12th 2013, Peter Worthington, founding editor of the Toronto Sun passed away.   Then, last Tuesday, May 21st, Charley Reese, an editorial writer who retired from the Orlando Sentinel in 2001 and from his syndicated column in 2008, breathed his last.
Worthington and Reese were similar in a number of ways.  Both men had served in their respective countries’ military. Worthington, whose father was a career military officer, served in both World War II and the Korean War.  Reese was a tank gunner in the American army for a couple of years.  Both were writers of higher than average output.   Reese’s column, until his retirement, came out thrice weekly, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Worthington’s column also appeared far more frequently than the once or twice a week most opinion writers average.  Both men were small-c conservatives, i.e., men who were conservative by conviction and principle rather than merely by adherence to the Conservative Party.   For both men, the classical liberal ideal of small, limited, fiscally responsible government was one of the most important of those convictions.  Both were hard core, anti-Communist Cold Warriors.   In 1976, when the American liberal media was trying to sell America on the image of Jimmy Carter as an outsider to the world of Beltway politics who would revitalize America with his fresh, new, ideas, Reese became the first American columnist to point out that Carter, a charter member of the Rockefeller funded Trilateral Commission, the membership of which is a Who’s Who of Washington insiders, was anything but an outsider.  Two years later Worthington ran afoul of Canada’s own darling of the liberal media, Prime Minister Pierre Eliot Trudeau, when he embarrassed the Trudeau premiership by exposing a number of Canadians who had been lured into betraying our country to the Soviet Union by the KGB.
There were differences as well as similarities.  The one that stands out the most, in my mind at least, is in their views on post-Cold War geopolitics and military conflicts.   This became most noticeable after September 11th, 2001, because their comments on the Clinton administration’s military adventures were often similar, (1) but the difference really does go back to the end of the Cold War.
Reese believed that with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet regime, the United States should bring home her troops, which had been deployed around the globe since World War II to counter the Soviet threat, and return to a policy of not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries when vital American interests are not at stake.   This view was shared by many who had taken a strong anti-Communist stance during the Cold War including Joseph Sobran of National Review and Samuel Francis of the Washington Times.  There were many others who thought differently, however, and the leadership of the Republican Party was not particularly sympathetic to Reese’s point of view.   The end of the Cold War coincided with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, upon which occasion US President George H. W. Bush declared the dawn of a New World Order, in which the United States would provide leadership to a coalition of democratic and free nations that would police the world against aggressors like Saddam Hussein, a doctrine that he immediately put into practice in Operation Desert Storm.    Reese, in his delightfully curmudgeonly manner, criticized the Bush administration’s actions, ridiculed  their utopian vision, expressed cynicism regarding their motives, and predicted that it would come back to bite the United States. (2) 
Reese subjected the foreign and military policies of the Clinton administration to the exact same criticism.  Nor did he change his tune for the second Bush administration.  This angered a lot of people but it is one of the things I respected the most about him.
Reese had supported George W. Bush in his campaign for the Presidency in 2000.  Patrick J. Buchanan, whose views on most subjects were far closer to Reese’s, was the Reform Party candidate in the same election, but Reese did not believe in third party campaigns. (3) He lauded the election of Bush, mocked leftist outrage over his election (4), defended his nominees from leftist attacks (5),  and for most of Bush’s first year in office he supported the administration in his column.   He defended the administration against the attacks of environmental lobbies when Bush refused to pass carbon-dioxide emission controls (6), told Dick Cheney that he  “had not enjoyed a campaign victory so much since Ronald Reagan’s in 1980” (7), and advised those complaining that Bush had taken the month of August as a vacation to “Give the prez a break. If he wants to shovel manure on his ranch, well, that's better than shoveling it from a podium, which was the year-round pastime of Bill Clinton.” (8)   When the Bush administration did something he disliked, he said so, especially when it came to foreign policy, but for the most part his columns in Bush’s first year in office were supportive.

Then came September 11, 2001 and the terrorist attack on the United States. As the Bush administration responded to this event, declaring a Global War Against Terror, introducing anti-terrorist legislation and a new bureau of Homeland Security, and then invading, first Afghanistan where the Taliban were purportedly hiding Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda high command, and later Iraq, many took the position that the Bush administration should be above criticism. Reese did not. He weighed George W. Bush in the same balance in which he had weighed Bill Clinton and Bush’s father and found him to be wanting.

Reese was no pacifist. His country had been attacked and he believed it had to retaliate, track down the men responsible, and take them out. He condemned, however, the Bush administration’s ill-defined war aims, indiscriminate bombing, and heavy-handed manner (9). When Clinton had tried to pass legislation, following the 2005 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, conservatives had considered it to be an unnecessary assault upon the civil liberties of ordinary Americans. Reese did not change his mind when Bush and company introduced the same kind of legislation, even though many other conservatives began to sing “but it’s cute when our guy does it”. (10) It was foolish, he believed, to treat the September 11th attacks as a blank cheque authorizing the President to enhance Executive powers and wage war at will. (11) Retaliation against the thugs who were responsible for the attacks was justified, but expensive wars of regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq were not. Indeed, in re-reading some of his columns written months before September 11th, he almost seems to have anticipated the Bush administration’s post-9/11 actions and condemned them in advance. (12) At any rate, he certainly saw the 2003 invasion of Iraq coming long in advance and warned against it, (13) and he persistently maintained his criticism of the Iraq War through to his retirement. (14)

Peter Worthington saw things differently. He was not a believer in armed neutrality or non-interventionism. He too saw the Iraq War coming in advance, but approved of it. (15) He was enthusiastic about the Bush administration’s response to terrorism (16) and highly critical of our own government here in Canada, for its failure to wholeheartedly get aboard. (17) He acknowledged that we did not have the military resources necessary to play the part in these wars that he would have liked, (18) but this served to illustrate a larger point – that our government was not committing enough funds to defence and was not taking national security seriously and that it had not been doing so since the Trudeau Liberals slashed the military decades previously.

The well-being of Canada’s armed forces, and the soldiers who compose them, was a major concern of Worthington’s. He frequently wrote columns aimed at building up the morale of servicemen currently deployed and took up cudgels on behalf of our veterans or of a particular veteran to whom an injustice of some sort or another had been done. In this, despite their radically different take on post-9/11 conflicts, he and Reese were alike.

It is easy enough to see where Worthington’s focus on the military came from. He was born in the Fort Osborne Barracks here in Winnipeg. His father was F. F. “Worthy” Worthington, who after his early adventures as a mercenary, enlisted in the Canadian Black Watch by mistake (he thought he was enlisting in the British) in World War I, became a Vimy Ridge war hero, and then a career military officer, eventually rising to the rank of Major General. Peter Worthington grew up in army camps and joined the navy in 1944 when he was only seventeen, having previously tried and failed to run away and join the merchant navy when he was fifteen. He was commissioned a sub-lieutenant before the end of the War, and was made a second lieutenant upon his re-enlistment to fight in Korea, in which he joined the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the division to which his father had belonged when he was born. (19)

After the Korean War, Worthington graduated from the University of British Columbia and studied journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.   When fighting broke out in the Middle East in 1956, he tried to talk Doug MacFarlane of the Toronto Telegram into sending him to the Gaza Strip.  MacFarlane was skeptical and only agreed when Worthington arranged for his own transportation through his military contacts.  This launched his fifteen year career as foreign correspondent with the Telegram.   In those fifteen years he was sent around the world, to wherever a war had broken out or was likely to break out.   He met all sorts of interesting people, securing a famous interview with King Hussein of Jordan in 1958, when other journalists had failed, through a case of mistaken identity (the King and everyone else present thought he was part of a German trade delegation).  He was present on a number of historic occasions, such as when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. (20)
Worthington’s fifteen years at the Toronto Telegram came to an end when the paper folded in 1971.   Rejected by the Globe and Mail, and offered a job with the ultra-left wing Toronto Star, Worthington instead joined Doug Creighton and Don Hunt in founding the Toronto Sun.   Under Worthington’s editorship, the new tabloid quickly became a thorn in the side of Pierre Eliot Trudeau.
Worthington was, in my opinion, at his best when he was standing up for someone against whom an injustice had been done.   Like when he stood up for Canada’s veterans when the government got the bright idea to merge Veteran’s Affairs with the Department of National Defence. (21)  Or when he helped Kyle Brown, a trooper in the Canadian Airborne Regiment who was made the scapegoat for the murder of Shidane Arone in the Somalia controversy, tell his story. (22)  Or when he risked the wrath of Bernie Farber by opposing the Canadian Jewish Congress’ obscene efforts to have several elderly Ukranian and Polish men who had been captured and forced into service by the Nazis in the World War II and who had immigrated here after the war, deported on the grounds that they were “war criminals”. (23)
In the last example, we see another instance of similarity between Worthington and Reese.   For Worthington also spoke out against the similar persecution of John Demjanjuk, who had been wrongly identified as war criminal “Ivan the Terrible”, stripped of his American citizenship, extradited to Israel, convicted, then had his conviction overturned on appeal when the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that evidence proved conclusively that Demjanjuk could not have been “Ivan the Terrible”.  Demjanjuk was subsequently accused of being a different war criminal and extradited to Germany, Israel having refused to hear the accustations.   Worthington condemned the whole affair, placing him in the company of a very small number of conservative journalists who were willing to do so. (24)  Pat Buchanan had been Demjanjuk’s main advocate in the press. Charley Reese was another.
This displayed a trait I admired in these men – the willingness to say what they thought was true, and stand up for what they thought was right, even if it was sure to bring an onslaught of unpleasant name-calling down upon their heads.
Charley Reese exemplified this trait. In an age of ever increasing “political correctness”, in which the Left succeeded in having more and more opinions, once common and freely expressed, driven from the marketplace of ideas, Reese defied them completely. He stood up for Southern Americans, their Confederate heritage and its symbols, for absolute freedom of speech, for gun owners’ rights, for the rights of the unborn, and for a host of other things that it takes great courage to stand for today. I agreed with him on most of these issues, but hope that I could have respected his forthrightness and courage even if that was not the case.

Reese and Worthington both set excellent examples for conservative writers – indeed, for commentators of any sort. May they rest in peace.

(1) For example, compare Peter Worthington’s “NATO’s reputation a casualty of war”, Toronto Sun, November 18, 1999 ( and “The hoax that started a war”, Toronto Sun, April 2, 2001 ( with Charley Reese’s “What to do when facts are different”? Why, just stop reporting”, Orlando Sentinel, November 14, 1999 ( and “If there is to be any real hope of peace NATO has to go”, Orlando Sentinel, March 9, 2000 (

(2) Charley Reese, “Time To Give Bouquets and Raspberries for the Persian Gulf War”, Orlando Sentinel, February 28, 1991 ( “Just What Did We Americans Get Out of the Persian Gulf War?”, Orlando Sentinel, March 28, 1991 (; “Persian Gulf War Isn’t Off Everyone’s Timetable – Just Ours”, Orlando Sentinel, August 15, 1991 (

(3) Charley Reese, “Tweedle Dee Vs. Tweedle Dum: The Differences Are Important”, Orlando Sentinel, March 26, 2000 (

(4) Charley Reese, “A Gnashing Sound From the Left”, Orlando Sentinel, January 2, 2001. (

(5) Charley Reese, “A Good Executive, That’s Bush”, Orlando Sentinel, January 9, 2001, (, “Perversion Perfectly Illustrationed”, Orlando Sentinel, January 21, 2001 (

(6) Charley Reese, “Go To Source of Energy Problem”, Orlando Sentinel, March 20, 2001. (

(7) Charley Reese, “Phone Chat With Veep a Nice Touch”, Orlando Sentinel, March 22, 2001 (

(8) Charley Reese, “Don’t Grumble About the Bush Vacation.” St. Augustine Record, August 26, 2001( The St. Augustine Record ran this column on a Sunday. The King Features Syndicate would have released it during the previous week.

(9) Charley Reese, “Indefinite Bombing Will Get Us In Trouble”, King Features Syndicate, November 14, 2001.

(10) Charley Reese, “Americans Should Worry Lest Liberty Became a Casualty”, King Features Syndicate, November 30, 2001.

(11) Charley Reese,”A Whole Lot of Coincidences Here”, King Features Syndicate, November 26, 2001, “A Poorly Covered War”, King Features Syndicate, December 3, 2001, “Nobody Should Like War”, King Features Syndicate, December 14, 2001, “What Happened to the Tightening Noose”, King Features Syndicate, December 24, 2001, “No Peace, No Good Will, No Justice”, King Features Syndicate, December 31, 2001.

(12) Charley Reese, “Peace? Let’s Just Pray for Good Sense”, Orlando Sentinel, January 4, 2001 (, “One Bad Act Begets Another”, Orlando Sentinel, February 27, 2001. (

(13) Charley Reese, “Don’t Attack Iraq”, King Features Syndicate, January 9, 2002.

(14) See the archives of his columns at paleolibertarian Lew Rockwell’s website ( and at (

(15) Peter Worthington, “Rogue Nations Beware: Bush Is Serious”, Toronto Sun, February 6, 2001, “Bush’s Pressure is on UN, not just Saddam”, Toronto Sun, January 30, 2003,

(16) Peter Worthington, “War on Terror Right Course”, Toronto Sun, September 5, 2004, “Why George Bush is Today’s Churchill”, Toronto Sun, September 28, 2004.

(17) Peter Worthington, “No Fighting – PM’s decree insults our soldiers and embarrasses Canada”, Toronto Sun, November 23, 2001.

(18) Peter Worthington, “Canuck Army has no Teeth”, Toronto Sun, September 24, 2001.

(19) All of this can be found in Peter Worthington, Looking For Trouble: A journalist’s life… and then some (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1984)

(20) Ibid.

(21) Peter Worthington, “The Kiss of death for Canada’s Veterans”, National Post, July 30, 2010. (

(22) Peter Worthington and Kyle Brown, Scapegoat: How the Army Betrayed Kyle Brown (Toronto: Seal Books, 1997)

(23) Peter Worthington, “Ukranian guard wasn’t a Nazi”, Toronto Sun, April 5, 2001,“Stay of Execution”, Toronto Sun, November 5, 2002, “Justice a Long Time Coming”, Toronto Sun, June 2, 2004, “Feds’ witch hunt isn’t punishing real war criminals”, Toronto Sun, December 8, 2009.

(24) Peter Worthington, “Germany targets Demjanjuk”, Toronto Sun, March 30, 2009 ( , “Demjanjuk was not Ivan the Terrible, but he's on trial again”, Toronto Sun, December 11, 2009 (, “No satisfaction in Demjanjuk case”, Toronto Sun, May 25, 2011 (

Friday, May 24, 2013

Jesus Christ: The Eternal Son of God

I wrote this essay for my friend Mitchell Richard to whom I dedicate it.  May it edify and bless him and all who read it, to the glory of Him Who is its subject. - GTN

Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius

Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father – from “Te Deum Laudamus”, the Latin original, and the English rendition in the Book of Common Prayer. (1)

In his epistles St. John the Apostle (2) warned the Church against false teachers that he called “antichrists”.  In his first epistle, he alluded to previous warnings about an antichrist that would come in the last time, and told his readers that it was now the last times, and many antichrists had entered the world.  These had abandoned the Apostolic fellowship and doctrines and denied that Jesus was the Christ.   By denying the Son, they denied the Father also. (1 John 2:17-24)   In his second epistle, he warned the elect lady about deceivers who “confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” (v. 7).  She was warned against allowing such antichrists into her home and even bidding them “God speed” lest she become a partaker in their evil doings.

In the history of the Church which Jesus founded, during the first few centuries after the deaths of His Apostles, she was engaged in several struggles which culminated in the formulation of the ecumenical Creed at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and its revision into its present form at the Second Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. (3)  There were struggles to establish and maintain her legal right to exist in peace against external opposition and persecution, particularly from the civil authorities of the Roman Empire.   There was also the internal struggle to maintain orthodox, Apostolic, doctrine against various heresies that arose.   In the Johannine warnings against the antichrists in the Sacred Canon we see the beginnings of that internal struggle and in the Creed that is commonly called Nicene we find the Church’s definitive confession of the Apostolic faith and doctrine. 

The early heresies were many and they differed from themselves as much as they differed from Apostolic orthodoxy.   What they had in common was that they defected, in one way or another, from the doctrine that Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man and from the doctrine of the Trinity, that God is One in Being, and three in Person, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.   Some taught that Jesus was divine but not truly human.  The Docetists, (4) for example, taught that He was pure spirit and that He had only the appearance of a physical body.   This doctrine appealed to the Gnostics, such as Mani (5) and Marcion (6), who taught a form of dualism to their followers, in which a good God created the spiritual world which was incorruptible, but the evil Demiurge created the physical world which was irredeemable.   Others taught that Jesus was truly human but denied His full deity.  The Theodotians (7) taught that He was only human at His birth but that He was adopted as the Son of God when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him at His baptism.   Arius (8) taught that He had pre-existed before His Incarnation but that He was a created being and not equal with God the Father.   Sabellius (9) accepted the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, but rejected the distinction between the Persons of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, teaching that these were different roles which God played at different stages in the divine economy.

Incarnational Sonship

There is a disturbing new trend among some evangelical leaders today.  It is not a revival of any of these particular early heresies.   The leaders I have in mind all assert their belief in One God, Who is three co-equal and co-eternal Persons.  They all profess faith in the hypostatic union of full deity and full humanity in the Incarnation and Person of Jesus Christ.   They deny, however, that He was the Son of God from eternity past, maintaining that prior to His Incarnation He was the eternal Word of God, but that His Sonship is derived from His miraculous conception and Virgin Birth. (10)

This is a heresy that is tailor made for the day and age in which we live, for the initial reaction of many evangelicals, upon hearing of this new doctrine, will probably be to think that it is not important, that it is a semantic argument.   If these leaders accept the deity and humanity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity, many will reason, why quibble about something like this?  If we agree that Jesus is God from eternity past why is it important that He was also eternally the Son of God?
There are several answers to these questions.   To reject the eternal Sonship of Christ and declare that His Sonship dates to the Incarnation is to contradict the Creed which asserts that He was “begotten of the Father, before all worlds”. (11)  It is also a step in the direction of Sabellianism.  The assertion that in the Incarnation the Second Person of the Trinity became the Son of God is a step towards asserting that in the Incarnation the Father became the Son.   It reduces His Sonship from being an element of His essential deity to being a role He assumed at a point in history.   Most importantly, the eternal Sonship of Christ is essential to the doctrine of the Trinity, which requires an eternal relationship between the Father and the Son.

Sadly, the first of these points, that Incarnational Sonship involves a contradiction of the Creed will be dismissed by many evangelicals as unimportant and irrelevant.   This is because the Reformers’ doctrine of Sola Scriptura, by which they meant that the Word of God is the final authority over Church doctrine, discipline, and tradition, has degenerated in much of evangelicalism into Bible-onlyism, a kind of ultra-individualistic approach to doctrine in which the understanding and interpreting of the Word of God is a private matter between the individual believer and the Holy Spirit, into which Church Creeds, history, doctrines, and tradition must not intrude.

Jesus, on the night of His betrayal, told the disciples that when He went to the Father, He would send them a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, and that “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13)   In the Greek and in the Authorized Version, “you” is a plural, a fact obscured in translations where the single and plural second person pronouns are identical in form.   Was Jesus addressing His disciples as a group but meaning that they would each individually be guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth, or was He saying that the Holy Spirit would guide His disciples as a corporate body into all truth? (12)

If the latter is the case, then the Nicene Creed, the Church’s corporate declaration of belief, drawn up before she was divided by schism, as an act of faithfully contending for the doctrine of Christ against the heirs of the antichrists the Apostle warned against, and still confessed regularly by the various branches into which the early Church divided, should not be lightly set aside as being of little to no importance to how we as individual believers understand our faith and the doctrines of Scripture today.  One of the tragedies of modern evangelicalism is that many with an admirably high view of the authority of the Scriptures seem to feel that such a view requires a corresponding low view of Church tradition and authority, even that of the Church in its early, undivided state. (13)

Does the Gospel of Luke Teach Incarnational Sonship?

Those evangelicals who teach Incarnational Sonship maintain that their doctrine is more true to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures than that of the Nicene Creed.   The most obvious verse to use as a proof-text in favour of that claim is found in St. Luke’s account of the Annunciation.  In this account, Gabriel, visits the Blessed Virgin and greets her with the Ave Maria.   This disturbs her peace of mind, and the angel explains that she has found favour with God, that she will conceive a Son Whom she is to name Jesus, and that He will be the long-awaited Messiah.   When she then asks how this is possible since she is still a virgin he begins his answer by saying:

The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Lk. 1:35)

Now at first glance this verse does seem to support the idea that Jesus’ Sonship is due to His miraculous conception and Virgin birth.   The Virgin’s pregnancy will be a miracle wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit, for this reason her Son will be called the Son of God.

Note, however, that the verse does not say that Jesus will be the Son of God because of His miraculous conception, only that He will be called the Son of God due to it.   This alone is insufficient to establish that the Incarnational Sonship interpretation of this verse is in error, but look at what else this verse says about Jesus’ conception.

Who is the divine Person Who actively brings about the miraculous conception of Jesus by the Virgin?

According to this verse it is the Holy Spirit.   Does St. Matthew concur with this in His account of Jesus’ miraculous conception and birth?

Yes he does.   The Evangelist both states in his role as narrator that Mary “was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18) and records the angel’s having told Joseph “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (1:20).

Incarnational Sonship is a Gateway Heresy to Sabellianism 
We have a problem here.  If Luke 1:35 teaches the doctrine of Incarnational as opposed to Eternal Sonship then it also teaches that the Holy Spirit is the Father of Jesus.   That would be an argument for Sabellianism, in which the Persons of the Father and the Holy Spirit (and the Son for that matter) are identical.

Sabellianism, however, or modalism or Patripassionism (14) by which alternative names the heresy of Sabellius is also known, is clearly not consistent with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.  This ancient heresy, which was  revived in certain Pentecostal circles in the 20th Century, (15) teaches that God is one in Person as well as in Essence and Being, and that “Father”, “Son”, and “Holy Spirit” are merely different titles, roles, and offices for that one Person. The Father, this doctrine teaches, became the Son in the Incarnation, and after the Ascension returned to earth as the Holy Spirit to indwell the Church.

What do the Holy Scriptures say about this matter?

St. Matthew, in the third chapter of his Gospel, tells of the ministry of St. John the Baptist and how Jesus came to him and asked to be baptized.  After Jesus was baptized:

lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (vv. 16-17)

This is also recorded by St. Luke in the twenty-second verse of the third chapter of his Gospel, and by St. Mark in the tenth and eleventh verses of the first chapter of his Gospel.

If you had been present at this event, and had seen the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus and heard the voice of the Father speaking from Heaven identifying Him as His Son, would you have concluded that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were just three titles or roles of the same Person?   If the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were three titles or roles of the same Person, what would be the purpose of that Person putting on a show like this that would be guaranteed to produce the impression that He was three different Persons among all who witnessed it?

St. John, in his Gospel, records this event indirectly by giving John the Baptist’s account of it at a later date (1:32-34).   Later in his Gospel, however, he presents an extended discourse that Jesus gave to His Apostles following the Last Supper.  In that discourse Jesus had much to say about the Father and the Holy Spirit.  

In that discourse He said that He was the way to the Father (14: 6) that He was going to the Father (14:12, 28; 16:5, 10, 16-17, 28), that He will answer their prayers in order that the Father would be glorified in the Son (14:13), that He will ask the Father in prayer to send a Comforter (14:16), that the person who loves Jesus is loved by the Father (14:21, 23; 16:27), that the words they hear from Him are not His own but His Father’s (14:24), that the Father sent Him (14:24; 15:21; 16:5), that the Father will send the Comforter (14:26),  that He loves the Father (14:31) and does what the Father commands (14:31; 15:10), that He is the vine and His Father the husbandman (15:1), that He loves His disciples the way the Father loves Him (15:9), that He has made known what He has heard from His Father (15:15), that if they abide in Him and bring forth fruit the Father will give them what they ask in His name (15:16; 16:23), that He will send them the Comforter from the Father (15:26; 16:7), that the Spirit proceeds from the Father (15:26), that the Spirit will testify about Jesus (15:26), that the Comforter will not come unless He departs (16:7), that the Comforter will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement (16:8-11) and will guide them into all truth, not speaking of His, the Spirit’s, Own Self, but speaking and showing the things which He, the Comforter, has received from Jesus (16:13-14), Who in turn shares in what is the Father’s (16:15), that He will pray to the Father for His disciples (16:26), that He came from the Father (16:27-28), and that He is not alone because the Father is with Him (16:32). (16)

Each of these statements indicates that the Persons Who are mentioned, sometimes the Father and the Son, sometimes the Son and the Comforter (the Holy Spirit, cf. 14:16-17, 26; 16:13), sometimes all three, are distinct from each other.   Other statements in this discourse speak of their essential unity.  Those who know Jesus should know the Father (14:7), he who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (14:9), the Father is in Jesus, and Jesus is in the Father (14:10-11, 20), Jesus says of the coming of the Comforter “I will come to you” (14:18) and “we [The Father and Jesus] will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (14:23),  and the person who hates Jesus hates the Father (15:23-24).   These statements pose no problem to the orthodox believer because the unity or oneness in essence, being, and substance of the divine Persons is part of the doctrine of the Trinity.   The statements previously mentioned pose a major problem to the Sabellian, however, because his doctrine denies any distinction in Person between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

If this were not sufficient evidence of the distinction of the Persons, immediately after this discourse, the next thing we find in the Gospel is a prayer of Jesus.  He begins by lifting up His eyes to Heaven and addressing God as “Father”.  Six times in the prayer He addresses the Person to Whom He is speaking as “Father”, “O Father”, or “Holy Father”. (17:1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25).   This is inexplicable if “Father” and “Son” are merely two roles of a single Person.   The prayer is for Christian believers, the Church, who are spoken of throughout the prayer as the ones the Father has given the Son from out of the world (17:2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24).  Throughout the prayer He constantly makes references to His having been sent into the world by the Father (17:3, 8, 18, 21, 25).   He requests that the Father glorify Him with the glory He shared with the Father before the world (17:5), that He might in turn glorify the Father (17:1).  He also speaks of the love which the Father had for Him before the creation of the world (17:24).  He has shared the glory and love, which He and His Father shared before the world, with those whom the Father had given Him, and prays that they may be united as the Father and Son are one, and that they may be sanctified and kept from the evil of the world.

The heresy of Sabellianism would turn this prayer from a beautiful, intimate, expression of the Son’s desire that those whom the Father had given Him would share in the love, glory, and unity which the Father and Son shared from eternity past into an ugly farce, in which either Jesus was talking to Himself or His human nature was talking to His divine nature.  No, the plain teaching of the New Testament is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons.   The defining characteristic of a person, in the sense in which we use the word to refer to the Persons of the Holy Trinity, is the conscious awareness of self and of the other as distinct from self. (17)   The Father is eternally aware of Himself as Father, distinct from the Son and Holy Spirit, the Son is eternally aware of Himself as the Son, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is eternally aware of Himself as the Holy Spirit, distinct from the Father and the Son, just as the three are also eternally aware that although they are distinct Persons from each other, they are in essence and being, One God.

That Sabellianism is a heresy and that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost have eternally existed as three co-equal Persons in the Trinity is acknowledged by the evangelical leaders who teach Incarnational Sonship.  If the distinction between the Persons of the Father and the Holy Spirit is accepted, however, the doctrine of Incarnational Sonship becomes untenable for all the references to Jesus’ conception say that the Holy Spirit was the Divine Person active in the conception.   If Jesus’ Sonship is due to His miraculous conception and birth, then He must be the Son of the Holy Spirit rather than the Son of the Father. 

That is clearly not Scriptural, however.   Scriptural references to God the Father as a distinct Person from the Son and the Holy Spirit speak of Him as the Father because He is the Father of Jesus Christ.  Other ways in which God is Father, such as the universal Fatherhood which St. Paul referred to in his address to the Epicureans and Stoics at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:28-29), apply to all three members of the Trinity – hence the interesting reference to the Son as the “everlasting Father” in the prophecy of the birth of the Messiah in the ninth chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. (18)   Similarly, all Persons of the Trinity are Spirit, (19) but Holy Spirit is the special designation of the third Person of the Trinity because of His relationship with the Father within the Trinity.

The Orthodox Doctrine of the Trinity Includes the Relationships Between the Three Persons

The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity includes more than just the fact that God is one in essence and three in Person.   It also includes the relationships between the three Persons.   The designations of the Three Persons each arise out of their relationships within the Trinity.   The Father is the Father because He begat the Son, the Son is the Son because He is begotten of the Father.   The designation of the Holy Spirit also arises out of His relationship to the other Persons of the Trinity but it is less obvious why.   The Creed, in its Greek formulation of 381 AD, states that the Spirit proceeds from the Father.   The Latin version of the Creed, upon which most English renditions, including that of the Book of Common Prayer are based, was amended by the Third Synod of Toledo of 581 AD to include the word “filoque” – “and the Son”.   The Greek Churches and Latin Churches have disagreed over whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone or from the Father and the Son ever since, and this became part of the basis of the Schism between East and West in 1056 AD. (20)  Where they do agree, is on the use of the verb “proceed” to describe the way in which the Spirit comes from either the Father alone, or from the Father and the Son.   The term “proceed” does not immediately suggest His designation, “Holy Spirit”, the way the term beget suggests the designations Father and Son.  There is a term that theologians use interchangeably with procession to describe this relationship which does indicate why He is so called, and that term is spiration. (21) It literally means “to breathe.”  The Spirit is breathed forth by the Father and hence is called the Holy Spirit, for both of the original languages of the Holy Scriptures employ a single word to express the ideas of breath, wind, and spirit. (22)

The Eternal Generation of the Son 

So, in the ad intra relationships of the Holy Trinity, i.e. the relationships and interaction between the Divine Persons as opposed to their ad extra relationships with the created world, the Father begets the Son and the Son is begotten of the Father.  
What does the word beget mean?

It is a word that is not as common as it used to be.  It refers to the generation of children from the seed of their parent(s).  While it has a less common generic sense in which either parent can be said to beget, in the vast majority of cases it is the father who begets, and thus beget has a more specific meaning of the father’s act in generating his children from his seed.   If one wanted to distinguish between the father and mother’s part in the generation of their offspring, one would say that the father begets and the mother conceives.  Thus, “sire” and “father” when used as verbs, are synonyms of beget.    It is a concept that is easy to grasp when used of the reproduction of created life.  It is more difficult to understand what it means when predicated of the relationship between two Eternal Persons.   

To understand what it means that the Father begat the Son, we must take the meaning of beget as we would use it with regards to an ordinary human father and son, and strip it of all connotations that could only apply to created beings.   A human father cannot beget a son without the cooperation of a human mother.   Indeed, a human father’s begetting and a human mother’s conceiving are two different aspects of the same act.  A human father is prior to the son he begets.  The father exists first and by the act of begetting brings his son into existence.  In begetting a son, a human father duplicates or reproduces, his essence, that which makes him a human being.  Thus the father and son have the same essence in the sense that they each possess a human essence, the son’s human essence being a duplicate of the father’s.

None of this can be true of God the Father’s begetting of God the Son.   Jesus did have a mother, of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Her miraculous conception of Jesus by the power of the Holy Ghost was not the same act as the Father’s begetting of Jesus, however.   The conception of Jesus was a temporal act, an act that took place in human history, at a specific time and in a specific place.   The Father’s begetting of the Son is eternal, beyond time and space.   

The Father is not prior to the Son because both are co-eternal, as is the Holy Spirit.  There was never a time before any of them existed, therefore there was never a time when the Father existed and the Son did not.   This is why the words γεννηθντα ο ποιηθντα – “begotten not made” – were placed in the Creed.   This distinction between begetting and making was not put in there just to say that the Son is a Person, an I and a Thou rather than an it, although it does, of course, mean this.   It was placed there to say that in the case of God’s Son, begetting does not carry the connotation of beginning to be, when one was not before, a connotation the concept of begetting would ordinarily carry.

The Son has the same essence as the Father but not in the same way a human son has the same essence as his human father.   The Son’s essence is not a duplication of the Father’s essence but literally the same essence.   This is what the Nicene Fathers meant when they included the words ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί - “being of one substance with the Father” – in the Creed.   The word ὁμοούσιον was deliberately chosen instead of the alternative ὁμοιούσιον which was preferred by the Arians, for precisely the reason that it expressed this meaning.

One in Essence 

This last point deserves emphasis because of its importance to the doctrine of the Trinity.   God is one in essence, three in Person.  What we mean when we say God is one in essence is not the same thing we mean when we say that Joe, Bob, and Louie, all have the same human nature.  When we speak of human beings having the same essence, we mean that they have the same kind of essence, that their individual essences belong to the same general category.   When we say that the three Persons of the Trinity have one essence, we mean that there is only one divine essence.   The divine essence is sine divisione et multiplicatione – without division or multiplication. (23)   If it were divided among the three Persons, so that each possessed a third of it, each would be only a part of God, rather than fully God.   If it were multiplied among the three Persons, so that each possessed an individual divine essence that was one in kind with that of the other two, we would not have one God but three Gods. 

What this means for our understanding of the Father’s generation of the Son is that it is not a reproduction of one’s own essence in another new being as it is among human beings or any other created living being. 

So what is left to the concept of generation if we remove from it the necessity of a mother’s cooperation, the father’s having existed prior to the son at a time when the son did not exist, and the duplication of essence?

What is left is the idea that the Father is the source of the Son, that the Son comes from the Father, and that the Son obtains His essence, from the Father.   Since the Son’s essence is not a duplicate of the Father’s essence but literally the same divine essence, this means that the Father’s generation of the Son is a communication or sharing of His divine essence rather than a reproduction of it.   Since the Father and Son are co-eternal, so that there never was a moment in which the Father existed but the Son did not, the generation of the Son is not an event, with a before and after, but an eternal relationship.  This is the doctrine of the eternal generation or filiation of the Son. (24)

Jesus’ Sonship Denotes His Deity

The doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son and the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ are two sides to the same coin, despite the efforts of some theologians to separate them. (25)  Both doctrines are Scriptural.   If Jesus’ being the Son of God meant only that He had no human father, that it was by the power of the Holy Ghost that He was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary, then the title Son of God would describe Him in His humanity.  The New Testament, however, constantly links His Sonship to His deity.

In the fifth chapter of the Gospel According to St. John, for example, we read that after Jesus had justified His healing on the Sabbath by saying “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” this only made His enemies wish to kill Him all the more because He  “said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18).

It is natural that they would have drawn the conclusion that He was claiming equality with God by saying that God was His Father.   The Torah begins with the account of God’s creation of the world, in which it is stated of each order of living things that they reproduce after their own kind.   If like begets like, then for Jesus to claim that God was the Father Who begat Him, was to claim that He was the same kind of being as God, in other words that He was God.

It is natural that they would have drawn the conclusion that He was claiming equality with God by saying that God was His Father.   The Torah begins with the account of God’s creation of the world, in which it is repeatedly stated of all living things God creates that they reproduce after their own kind.   If like begets like, then for Jesus to claim that God was the Father Who begat Him, was to claim that He was the same kind of being as God, in other words that He was God.

For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.  For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: (vv. 21-22)

The Son will raise up the dead, restore them to life, and be the One to pass final judgement upon them.   These are all acts that belong to God alone, and for Jesus to say that He as the Son of God, will be the One to do them, is for Him to claim, loudly and clearly that He is God.   If that was not enough to clobber it into the heads of His hostile audience, He then explained the purpose for which the Father has committed all judgement to the Son:

That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. (v. 23)

All men are to honour the Son, even as, i.e., in the same way, that they honour the Father.   This means, of course, that they are to worship the Son as God.   It is God the Father’s intent that they do so, for this is the reason He has committed the judgement of men to the Son.   In making these further claims, Jesus has intensified, bolstered, and amplified the meaning which the Jews had attached to His claim to be the Son of God, i.e., that it was a claim to be equal with God, to be God.   He also turns it around on them, by saying that their refusal to honour Him, to believe that He is God and worship Him as such, means that they do not even honour the Father, the God of the Old Testament.

Note that in all of this, the attributes of deity that Jesus has been claiming for Himself as Son, thus cementing the interpretation of His claim to Sonship as a claim to deity, He says that He got from His Father. This can only mean one of two things.  Either Jesus obtained these divine attributes from the Father at a specific point in time prior to which He did not possess them or that He has eternally possessed them and thus has eternally existed in a relationship with the Father in which He, the Son, obtains the divine essence with all its attributes from the Father.  The first of these would mean either that Jesus is a non-eternal God, Who was born to the eternal God, or that Jesus underwent an apotheosis, prior to which He was not God, after which He was God.  Either way, if this is the correct interpretation it would also mean that the Father and Son are two different Gods.  This cannot be the correct interpretation, because the Scriptures are clear that there is only One God and that He is eternal.  Eternity and oneness are both qualities of the divine essence.  This leaves us with the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son - that the Father eternally generates the Person of the Son with Whom He communicates or shares His undivided and unmultiplied divine essence. (26)

That this is, in fact, the correct interpretation can be seen in an interesting statement Jesus makes a few verses further down.   Jesus is continuing on the topic of His being the One Who will raise the dead and sit in Final Judgement over them on the Last Day.   In this context Jesus declares:

For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself. (v. 26)

This is a basic ontological statement.  (27)  The Father “hath life in himself”.  So does the Son.  This created a contrast with those of whom He has just been speaking, i.e., the dead who hear His voice at the Last Judgement and receive life.   These have life, but not in themselves, it comes to them from another, from Jesus.

The ontological distinction between God as Creator and His creation is that God has being or existence in and of Himself, whereas all of creation has being or existence in a secondary, derived, sense. (28) Although Jesus is here speaking of the Resurrection at the end of history rather than the Creation at its beginning and of life rather than existence, the thought is otherwise the same.

Note, however, that the Son has life in Himself, because the Father has given to the Son to have life in Himself.   Only God has life in Himself.  All other life, created and resurrected, has life as a gift from God.   The Son has life from the Father, but the life He has from the Father, He has in Himself.  The only way to understand this is that the quality of having life in One’s Self is a property of the divine essence, never passed on to created beings, but eternally shared by the Father with the Son.

It is by Eternal Generation that Jesus’ Sonship is Unique

The doctrines of the eternal generation of the Son and the eternal Sonship of Christ are required by the uniqueness of Jesus’ Sonship.   When Jesus speaks of Himself as the Son of God, or is spoken of as the Son of God, it is either understood or stated explicitly, that He is God’s Son in a way that nobody else is.  As we have just seen, the Sonship which He claims for Himself and for Himself alone, means that He is God as His Father is God.    This cannot be said of any of the others who are called sons or children of God in the Bible.  

This is actually a fairly large group.   In the sixth chapter of the book of Genesis, there is an account of how the “sons of God” took wives of the “daughters of men”, resulting in the birth of a race of giants, the Nephilim, who “became mighty men which were of old, men of renown” (v. 4).  God does not appear to have been pleased with this, for the context would suggest that this is somehow tied to the wickedness which brought about the judgement of the Deluge.   Exactly who the “sons of God” are who are referred to in the passage is unclear, (29) but whoever they are they are many and they are obviously not Jesus.   The first and second chapters of the book of Job tell of two occasions on which “the sons of God” came to pay homage in the heavenly court, and Satan came amongst them to make accusations against the book’s eponymous protagonist.   The “sons of God” referred to here, are usually understood to be the angels.  In the fourth chapter of the book of Exodus, the Lord tells Moses to tell Pharaoh that Israel, i.e., the Hebrew people, is His firstborn son, and that if Pharaoh does not let Israel go, He, The Lord, will slay his, Pharaoh’s, firstborn son.   In his speech to the Athenian philosophers in Acts 17, St. Paul quotes the fifth line of Phaenomena by the 3rd Century BC poet Aratus of Soli, “Τοῦ γὰρ καὶ γένος εἰμέν”, “we are also his offspring.” (30) That which Aratus wrote of Zeus, St. Paul applied to the true God of Whom He was speaking, thus saying that all people are God’s children.   The Apostle John, in the first chapter of his Gospel, writes that the Word, Jesus, came unto His own, i.e., the Jewish people, but they did not receive Him, i.e., did not believe in Him.  To those who did receive Him, who did believe in Him “gave he power to become the sons of God,”  sons born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (vv. 12 and 13).  St. Paul, writing in the first chapter of his epistle to the Church at Ephesus, says that God “hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself” (v. 5).

So then angels and all human beings in general are spoken of as children of God by virtue of creation, Israel the nation was collectively spoken of as God’s firstborn son, believers in Jesus are children of God both by spiritual rebirth and by adoption, and some unidentified group in the book of Genesis are also called sons of God.   That is quite a few “sons of God”.   In the sense in which Jesus is the Son of God, however, He is the only One.

We already know that Jesus Sonship is not via creation, because His Sonship means He is God and not a created being.  He is therefore not the Son of God in the same way that angels and other human beings are children of God.  He was born of the Virgin Mary, and announced as God’s Son by the Father at His baptism, but these cannot be the basis of His unique Sonship, for all who believe in Him are born of the Spirit and adopted as children of God.

The uniqueness of His Sonship, therefore, is due to His having been begotten of the Father, and since this Sonship means that He is Himself God, equal with His Father, the begetting and Sonship must be eternal.

His Only-Begotten Son

Those who are familiar with the Scriptures in the English translation, authorized by King James VI of Scotland, and I of England, for use in the services of the Church of England, first published in 1611 AD, will recognize that this is what the Bible actually says of Jesus.  In that venerable old translation, St. John, immediately after saying that the Word “was made flesh and dwelt among us” wrote that “we”, meaning the Apostles, “beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (v. 14), and a few verses after that wrote “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (v. 18).  Later, in the third chapter, he recorded the most well-known and most loved words Jesus ever spoke, of which in English, the Jacobean rendition simply has no parallel “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (v. 16).   Two verses later, the words “only begotten” appear in reference to the Son for a fourth time.

The word translated “only begotten” in these verses is the Greek word μονογενς.   This word was also used by the Nicene Fathers in the Creed, which declares: καὶ εἰς ἕνα Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν Μονογενῆ.  As with the Authorized Version of the Bible, Thomas Cranmer rendered μονογενς as “only begotten”, and thus this part of the Creed appears in the Book of Common Prayer as “and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God”.

Now you may have noticed that more recent translations tend not to translate μονογενς as “only begotten”.  Nor do they update it to something less archaic in English, like “only fathered.”   The New International Version and New Century Version render it as “one and only”,  Eugene Peterson in The Message renders it as “one and only” and “one-of-a-kind”, the English Standard VersionRevised Standard Version, Good News VersionContemporary English Version, Common English Version, New Revised Standard Version, God’s Word Translation and New Living Translation simply translate it as “only” as do James Moffett and J. B. Phillips, while the Amplified Bible uses “only begotten” but suggests “unique” as an alternative.  (31)

What are we to make of all of this?   Does the New Testament, in saying that Jesus was τν υἱὸν τν μονογενς, actually call Jesus the only begotten Son of God, or just the unique Son of God leaving us to infer that it is in being eternally begotten of the Father that He is unique?

The translators who have opted for “one of a kind”, “one and only” or “unique” in more recent translations have done so because they believe that the earlier translation of “only begotten” was a mistake.   There is a theory as to how this mistake came about.   The word μονογενς is a compound word, formed by the combination of μόνος which means “alone”, “solitary” or “only” (32) with the word γένος which means “race”, “stock”, “kin”, “offspring”, “clan”, “family” “posterity” or “class”. (33)  According to the theory someone, at some point in time mistook the word for a compound formed from μόνος and γεννάω, which is the verb meaning “to beget” (34).   Thus μονογενς was misunderstood to mean “only begotten” instead of “only one of a kind.” (35)  While early translations of the New Testament, such as the earliest Latin versions, translated μονογενς with words like unicus that mean “one and only”, the mistake about the word’s origins and meaning spread due to people reading the Nicene Fathers’ doctrine of eternal generation and Sonship back into the word, and thus St. Jerome translated μονογενς as unigenitus, only begotten, rather than unicus, unique, from which the error spread to other translations. (36)

While this seems like a rather solid theory at first glance, there are a few observations which may call its plausibility into question.  The first of these is that to maintain that because μονογενς is a combination of μόνος and γένος  and not of μόνος  and γεννάω  it therefore can only mean unique in the sense of one of a kind and not only-begotten, is to assume that only a lesser, secondary meaning of  γένος was carried over into the meaning of μονογενς.   If you look up γένος in Liddell- Scott, for example you will find that “class, sort, kind” is the fifth definition.   The first and main definition of γένος is “race, stock, kin”.  Now each of these words, race, stock, and kin, denotes the concept of a line of generational descent.   Every other definition that precedes the fifth includes this concept as well. The second definition, for example, is “offspring, even of a single descendent”, which comes with a sub-definition “collectively, offspring, posterity.”   Moreover, when you get to the fifth definition, which for the theory that μονογενς cannot mean “only begotten” to work must be the only meaning of γένος to carry over into the compound, you discover that it too has sub-definitions, and that these, which include such meanings as “species”, “class”, and “genus” bring the idea of biological descent back into the definition.   The idea, therefore, that γένος  refers to “kind” or “class” in the sense of a category, with no basic connotations of familial relatedness and common descent, is just plain wrong.  (37)

Our second observation is that the theory that “only begotten” is a misinterpretation of μονογενς based upon a faulty etymology seems to assume that there is no relationship between γένος and γεννάω.   Given the common stem of the two words, this is a rather huge assumption.  (38) That γένος and γεννάω are unrelated is, however, seriously argued by those who maintain that μονογενῆς means “unique, one of a kind”.   The argument is basically as follows: there is a single nu in γένος and μονογενς demonstrating that these words are of a common etymological descent that differs from that of the double nu’d γεννάω, that γίνομαι is root of γένος, and that because γίνομαι is a “verb of being”, γένος does not derive from it any sense of birth or begetting but must mean class, category or type.  (39)

This entire line of argument, however, is spurious.  Indeed, it is wrong on every point and strung together from errors that are so basic, one can only wonder that the kind of people who should know better, have been putting it forth seriously. (40)

To claim that the doubling of the stem consonant in γεννάω indicates that it is unrelated to γένος is hardly more plausible than to claim that the different stem vowels in γίνομαι and γένος show that they are unrelated, both claims having no plausibility whatsoever to anyone familiar with the kind of stem changes that take place in Greek. (41)  Moreover, the claim ignores the existence of such words as γενεά, (race, family), (42) γενεαλογία which is transliterated into English to become genealogy, (43) γενέθλιος (pertaining to birth) (44), γένεσις (origin, source, birth) (45), and γενετή (hour of birth) (46).  Note that all of these have a single nu.

To say that γένος means class, kind, or type because its root verb γίνομαι is a verb of being is to ignore how the word γένος was actually used, which is the basis of the definitions in lexicons like Liddell-Scott and Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich, all of which give “race” as the primary meaning of γένος.    Furthermore, γίνομαι is a verb of becoming, not primarily a verb of being.  Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich gives its basic meaning as “come to be, become, originate”, immediately under which they give the first sub-definition as “be born or begotten.”   (47) Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich does identify a second class of definitions with the basic sense of to be, but these it says, are not γίνομαι being used as a verb with its own meaning, but “as a substitute for the forms of εμί, which is the verb of being. Liddell-Scott also identify γίνομαι as being primarily a verb of becoming, assigning it the basic meaning of come into a new state of being”. (48)

So, the basic meaning of γένος is “race, lineage, stock”, categories whose members are connected to each other by means of common descent, i.e., through birth or begetting, and the root verb of  γένος is γίνομαι the basic meaning of which is “to become”, of which one of the first connotations is “to be born or begotten”.   The argument against “only begotten” as the meaning of μονογενς requires the basic, lexical, meanings of both γένος and γίνομαι to be ignored and secondary meanings to be substituted as the primary meanings.

Our third observation is that μονογενς is not the only word to use γενς as a suffix.   If this suffix does not have any connotations of birth and begetting due to its etymology, a conclusion which we have just seen is based upon rather dubious grounds, then it would not be likely to have these connotations in other compounds that use it either.   In fact, however, all of the other compounds have connotations of birth or begetting. (49)

Our fourth observation is that μονογενς itself, is generally used to modify nouns like πας (child, boy, girl) or υός (son) and that when the adjective is used substantively, i.e., on its own with an implied noun it typically implies the meaning of one of these words. This strongly suggests that μονογενς is not just a word denoting a generic uniqueness, the idea of being the only member of a category, but that it denotes a specific kind of uniqueness, one which is connected to the idea of the generation of children.  (50)

On the basis of these observations, a strong case can be made that in verses like John 1:18 and John 3:16, the Scriptures do indeed explicitly state that Jesus was the “only begotten” Son of God.   Even in the unlikely chance that those who say μονογενς means “unique, one of a kind” rather than “only begotten” are right, these verses do still point to the eternal generation of the Son because it is His being eternally begotten of the Father, and thus eternally God as the Father is eternally God, that makes His Sonship unique.

What About the Word?

The doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son, let us reiterate, is that the Father is the source of the Son and that the Son comes from the Father, not through either a division or multiplication of the divine essence, but a communication or sharing of it, so that the Father and Son each possess the same divine essence in its entirety, and that this relationship between the Father and Son, in which the divine essence comes to the Son from the Father and not the other way around, is an eternal relationship which never began but always was.  Those who teach that Jesus’ Sonship is a relationship with the Father that began with the Incarnation, while still claiming to be orthodox Trinitarians, say that prior to becoming the Son in the Incarnation Jesus was the eternal Word of God.  Yet by making this claim, they cannot escape that which they object to in the doctrines of eternal generation and eternal Sonship, the idea of an eternal genitive-of-source relationship between the Father and the Son.   The relationship of speaker to word is as much a genitive-of-source relationship as that of father to son.

Now it might be argued that that reasoning does not hold because it depends upon the translation of λόγος as “Word”.   The word λόγος, despite its direct correspondence to the verb for speaking, λέγω, has a wide range of meanings, and can express rational thought or wisdom as well as its verbal expression in speech. (51) St. John’s use of the term in reference to Christ refers back to its use in Greek philosophy, in which it referred to reason as the divine order underlying reality. (52)

 It also, however, points back to the first chapter of the Book of Genesis.  When John 1:1 begins by saying Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, “in the beginning was the Word” this is a direct reference to Genesis 1:1: וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”.   A couple of verses later St. John writes that πάντα δι’αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν, “all things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.”  The words δι’αὐτοῦ which are rendered “by him” in English, express agency or instrumentality.  It is “through” the Word that God created all things, St. John is saying, and this too points back to the first chapter of Genesis.   The words וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים are found at the start of verses 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, and 26, beginning each of the six days of creation, and occurring twice on the third and sixth days.   The English translation of these words is, of course, “And God said”.   St. John’s declaration that it was through the λόγος that all things were created is clearly referring to this.   This means that in John 1:1-14 the meaning of speech in the word λόγος is actually emphasized, although it clearly has other connotations here as well.  The word λόγος as used of Jesus, therefore, does establish a Speaker-Word relationship that is as much a source relationship as Father-Son.  The eternal generation and Sonship cannot be escaped by the fact that Jesus is the eternal λόγος as well as the eternal Son. (53)

What Day is This Day?

There is one last potential argument against the eternal generation and Sonship of Christ that we will consider.  The Second Psalm speaks of the enmity between the heathen nations on the one hand, and God and His king on Mount Zion, on the other hand.   It begins with the heathen nations and their rulers raging against God and conspiring against Him.   God’s response is to laugh, to hold them in contempt, and then to pour out His wrath upon them.  He declares that He has set His king on His holy hill, that He has given him the nations of the world as an inheritance, and that all the kings and nations of the world had better serve the Lord and pay homage to His king or else they will face His wrath and perish.

So what does this have to do with the matter we are discussing?

In this Psalm, the Lord proclaims the king to be His Son. The king says

I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (v. 7)

King David, in writing these words, presumably was referring to himself, but, as with many other verses in the Psalms, there is a dual application. We know this, because St. Paul, in his first recorded sermon in the Book of Acts and the author of the Book of Hebrews both quote this very verse, and attribute it to Jesus. The author of the book of Hebrews does not tie the verse to any specific event, but rather uses it to demonstrate the superiority of the Son over the angels, writing:

For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? (1:5)

The Apostle Paul, however, preaching at the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia, quotes this verse and ties it to the Resurrection:

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 13:33)

Does this mean that the begetting of Jesus as the Son of God was an event that took place in time after all?

It does not, because if St. Paul’s application of Psalm 2:7 to Jesus means that He was begotten as the Son of God at a time and place in history, it therefore means that He was begotten as the Son of God on Easter Sunday. Yet the Gospels are quite clear that Jesus was God’s Son long before that. God the Father spoke from heaven and identified Jesus as His Son at His baptism (Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:10-11, Luke 3:22). He did so again at the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35). Throughout His ministry, Jesus referred to God as “My Father” that indicated that He had a special Son-Father relationship with God that no one else had.

When King David wrote the Second Psalm, and originally applied to himself the words that the Holy Spirit through St. Paul applied to Jesus, it is widely, although not universally, (54) believed that the occasion was his coronation as king of Israel. It was therefore a declaration that his kingship was endorsed by God, Who had acknowledged David as His own, and that those who looked to stir up trouble against the newly crowned king had better beware, for they risked the ire of God. The statement “thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee” as applied to David, would not mean that God had literally begotten David, in the sense of having brought him forth as the fruit of His seed, much less that He would have done so on the very day that David was crowned. The declaration was, then, an emphatic way of saying that God claimed David as His very own.

We would expect, therefore, that the same words, when applied to Christ in the New Testament, would have a similar meaning, that they would be a public acknowledgement of Christ by God. This is, in fact, the way they are used. St. Paul himself gives this very interpretation to the event. The key to understanding his use of the Second Psalm is found in his Epistle to the Church in Rome. In the introduction to that epistle, he writes that the Gospel of God, of which he is an apostle, concerned:

His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh: And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness; by the resurrection from the dead. (1:3-4, bold indicating italics in the Authorized Version)
  It is not that Jesus became the Son of God or was made the Son of God by the Resurrection. By the Resurrection, God declared Jesus to be His Son. It is the third time God did so – the first two being at His Baptism, and Transfiguration, but on both those occasions God was speaking to a select audience. In the Resurrection He speaks to the whole world.

Furthermore, the Resurrection, in which God declares before the whole world that Jesus is His Son, is also the answer, or the beginning of the answer at any rate, to Jesus’ request of John 17:5 “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” With the Resurrection, His Humiliation was over and His Exaltation, in which He would ascend to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty had begun. Thus, Jesus having glorified the Father in the world, the Father was now glorifying the Son, with the glory they had shared together, in eternity past.

Hence, therefore, what God declares of His Son in the Resurrection, is what has been true of the Son, from eternity past. Far from being a declaration that Jesus was begotten as God’s Son on a particular day in time, it is a declaration of His eternal filiation. The final word on the subject, with which we close this essay, we will give to St. Augustine of Hippo, whose commentary on Psalm 2:7 declares:

Although that day may also seem to be prophetically spoken of, on which Jesus Christ was born according to the flesh; and in eternity there is nothing past as if it had ceased to be, nor future as if it were not yet, but present only, since whatever is eternal, always is; yet as today intimates presentiality, a divine interpretation is given to that expression, Today have I begotten You, whereby the uncorrupt and Catholic faith proclaims the eternal generation of the power and Wisdom of God, who is the Only-begotten Son. (55)

(1) Traditionally, the writing of this ancient hymn is ascribed to St. Ambrose of Milan. The English version in the Order for Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer was translated by Thomas Cranmer.

(2) Traditionally, the composition of the Fourth Gospel, the three Johannine epistles, and the Apocalypse of St. John the Divine, are attributed to the Apostle John. While there are early dissenting voices to this tradition, the modern critical attitude which takes as its starting point that tradition must be assumed to be wrong unless there is overwhelming evidence that it is correct, is unjustifiable folly. The opposite attitude, that tradition should be assumed to be right except in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is far more reasonable. This is the attitude we will take, towards Johannine authorship, as well as other matters.

(3) The discussion at the Council of Nicaea concerned the Father and the Son, the question being whether the Son was equal to the Father , of one substance or essence with the Father, and thus fully God. Thus the original Nicene Creed contained only the sections pertaining to the Father and the Son. The Second Council of Constantinople revised the original Nicene Creed and expanded it to include the third section on the Holy Spirit that is in the Creed as it has come down to us,

(4) Docetism is the name given to his heresy by Serapion, a second century Bishop of Antioch. He coined it from the word δόκησις which means “opinion, fancy, apparition, phantom, appearance”. He was writing to the Church of Rhossos to condemn the non-canonical, pseudepigraphical Gospel of Peter, which taught the doctrine. Serapion’s epistle is only known to us through a reference to it in Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiastica, although fragments of the Gnostic pseudogospel were rediscovered in Egypt in the 19th and 20th Centuries. The heresy predates both Serapion and the Gospel of Peter, being condemned by St. John in his epistles in the New Testament.

(5) Mani, born in 216 AD, borrowed elements from Buddhism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of his homeland Persia, which he joined into a new religion. One of the key elements of his religion, taken from Zoroastrianism, was the idea of dualism. Today, the name of his sect, Manichæism is virtually synonymous with dualism. He taught that there are two eternal beings, the Father of Light and the King of Darkness, whose realms are infinite except where they border on each other. At one point, Mani taught, the Kingdom of Darkness tried to invade the Kingdom of Light, and the children of Light who were sent to fight the archons of Darkness, were swallowed by their enemies. As the war continued, the physical universe was fashioned out the fallen bodies of the archons of Darkness. Some of the swallowed Light was released to form the heavenly lights, but sparks of light remained as the spirits of men. The physical world is doomed to destruction, he taught, but human spirits can be saved from the destruction, and reunited with the kingdom of Light, through attaining gnosis or knowledge. To help men achieve this salvation, he taught, Buddha, Zoroaster, and Jesus had been sent, and now he, Mani, was come. About Jesus, he taught the Docetist heresy, that Jesus was pure light, who took on the appearance of man, and the appearance of suffering and death. About himself, he made the less-than-modest claim to be the Paraclete which Jesus had promised to send. A century after Mani was put to death by the Persian Emperor, the man who would become St. Augustine of Hippo, joined the Manichæan religion while studying rhetoric at the University of Carthage. He turned away from Manichæism prior to his conversion and baptism into the Christian Church. Later, as a Christian bishop, he wrote and preached extensively against Manichæism, including his Contra Faustum Manichaeum, written against the Manichæan bishop Faustus of Mileve.

(6) Marcion, born sometime late in the first or early in the second century AD, was the son of the bishop of Sinope in Pontus, now Sinop in Turkey. Consecrated a bishop by his father, he was later excommunicated by him, and fled Asia Minor for Rome. Arriving just after the death of Pope Hyginus around 142 AD, he donated a large sum to the Roman Diocese, presumably in expectation of becoming the next Pope. He did not receive the position, and the money was returned to him when he was put out of the Church in Rome over his heresy. He believed, despite Jesus’ warnings against this very error (Matthew 5:17-19) that the teachings of Jesus were incompatible with those of the Hebrew Scriptures. He believed that Jesus was the Son of a God of love, and that YHWH, the God of the Tanakh, was a God of severe justice and wrath. He taught, therefore, YHWH, the God who created the world in the Book of Genesis, was the Demiurge, and not the supreme God and Father of Jesus Christ. The latter was not known, Marcion taught, until Christ revealed Him. Like Mani, Marcion taught the docetist view that Christ only manifested Himself in the flesh, but did not actually become incarnate. He founded a rival episcopal hierarchy to that of the orthodox Church and his rejection of the Old Testament in its entirety and most of the New Testament prompted the orthodox Church to discuss and determine the matter of the canon of Scriptures. According to Tertullian, he recanted prior to his death (De Praescriptione Haereticorum, chapter XXX). His followers were absorbed by other Gnostic sects, especially that of Mani. The most thorough still-extent rebuttal of Marcionism by a Patristic author is the five book Adversus Macionem  by Tertullian.

(7) Also known as Dynamists and Adoptionists, the Theodotians are named after their founder, Theodotus of Byzantium, a tanner who came to Rome towards the end of the second century, and taught that Jesus was merely a pious man until His baptism, at which point the Spirit descended upon Him and He was adopted as the Son of God. Variations of the heresy have popped up from time to time, some arguing that the adoption took place at the Resurrection, some that it took place at the Ascension.

(8) Arius, who studied under St. Lucian in Antioch, was ordained a deacon by Peter bishop of Alexandria, then excommunicated by the same bishop, then readmitted and ordained a priest by the next bishop of Alexandria, Achillas, only to shortly thereafter get into the most famous theological controversy of all time. He taught that the Son was of a different essence or substance from that of the Father. This had previously been taught by Origen of Alexandria, from whom Arius probably learned it, but he took it one step further and taught that the Son was a created being Who had a beginning. The controversy over his teachings began in the Diocese of Alexandria, where Arius had been placed in an influential position y Achillas. Arius provoked the controversy, by denouncing Alexander, who had succeeded Achillas as bishop, as a Sabellian for teaching the unity of the Godhead. Alexander called a local synod at which Arius was denounced and excommunicated. The controversy did not end there, however, for Arius found supporters among ecclesiastical leaders elsewhere in the region. At a regional council, Arius was anathematized, and finally the controversy came to the attention of Emperor Constantine who summoned Arius and Alexander to appear before an ecumenical Council of the Church at Nicaea in 325 AD, which Council was be charged with dealing with the matter. Although Alexander was present, the charges against Arius were made primarily by his deacon deputy, St. Athanasius. The Council condemned Arius, upheld his excommunication, and produced the Creed that declares the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son.

(9) Sabellius, who was excommunicated by Pope Callistus early in the third century, was not the first to teach the heresy that bears his name. It was taught first – that we know of – by Noetus, then by Cleomenes, then by Sabellius.

(10) Examples of evangelical leaders who taught or who teach this doctrine include Walter Martin, John F. MacArthur Jr., and Millard Erickson. Martin was the founder of the apologetics organization the Christian Research Institute and of the radio problem the Bible Answer Man, on which he was the host/speaker until his death in 1989. He was the author of The Kingdom of the Cults, (Minneapolis: Bethany House Books, 1965, 1977, 1985), a book consisting of profiles of sects that defected from orthodox Christian teaching regarding the Trinity, Jesus Christ, and eternal salvation. Ironically, it is in this book, that he disavowed the orthodox Christian doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ. John F. MacArthur Jr., a minister in the IFCA International (formerly the Independent Fundamental Churches of America), is the pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, the president of The Master’s College and Seminary, the Bible teacher on the radio program Grace To You, and the author of a large number of Christian books. He has caused controversy by espousing a number of less-than-orthodox views over the years, including Incarnational Sonship, but to give him due credit, he has recanted this heresy. His recantation can be read here: Millard J. Erickson, who currently teaches theology at Western Seminary (formerly Western Baptist Theological Seminary) in Portland, Oregon, espoused the Incarnational Sonship view in his God In Three Persons (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995).

(11) The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

(12) A related question is the question of whether the indwelling of the Holy Spirit referred to in the New Testament is an indwelling of individual believers, an indwelling of the Church as an organic body, or both.


(14) The heresy is called Patripassionism because it teaches that the Father suffered on the Cross. Note carefully the reason that this is a heresy. God is both One and Three. He is not One in the same way He is Three, or Three in the same way He is One. He is One in Essence and Three in Person. The Three Persons of the Holy Trinity eternally share the same One Divine Essence. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, from the Incarnation on, is One in Person, Two in Essence. In the Incarnation, the Son took unto Himself a human essence so that in His One Person, the Divine Essence and the human essence are united (but not mixed). It is only in the Person of the Son that the Divine Essence and the human essence are united. Since, in the One Person, the two natures are united, what can be predicated of the Son as man, can be predicated of Him as God, because He is One in Person. Therefore, when we say that the Son underwent terrible physical agony, shed His blood, and died on the Cross, we can say that God underwent terrible physical agony, shed His blood, and died on the Cross. If however, in saying that God underwent terrible physical agony, shed His blood, and died on the Cross, we were to mean that the Father underwent terrible physical agony, shed His blood, and died on the Cross, we would be in error. It is only in the Person of the Son, not in the Persons of the Father and the Holy Ghost, that Deity and humanity are united. It is in this sense that the condemnation of Patripassionism, “the Father suffering”, as a heresy, should be understood. It does not mean that orthodoxy teaches that the Father was hard-heartedly indifferent to the agony which the Eternal Object of His Eternal Love underwent on our behalf.

(15) Variously called “Oneness”, Unity, or Apostolic, this kind of Pentecostalism is also known as “Jesus Only” Pentecostalism because of its insistence that only the name “Jesus” be invoked in the baptismal formula, its assertion that baptisms in which the formula “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” is used are invalid, and that only those baptized in the name of Jesus alone are saved.

(16) He also says in this discourse that the Father is greater than Him (14:28). Since this comes towards the end of a Gospel that began by asserting that He was in the beginning with God and was God, throughout which Jesus repeatedly asserts His deity, His oneness with His Father, His doing the works of His Father, His sharing the same glory as His Father, and basically His equality with the Father, this requires some explanation. The first part of the explanation, is the doctrine of the hypostatic union as explained in endnote 14. In the One Person of Jesus Christ, the Son, the Divine and human natures are united so that what can be said of either of the two essences can be said of the Person in Whom they are united. In the Divine Essence He shares with His Father, He is, of course, equal with His Father. In His human nature, He is less than His Father, for humanity is less than God. Uniting these two natures in His One Person, Jesus can both declare both His equality with His Father in His Divine Essence and, in His humanity, that the Father is greater. Note also, that in this verse, Jesus connects the thought of the Father being greater than Him, to His going to be with the Father. This points us to the second part of the explanation, that when Jesus made this statement, He was still undergoing His Humiliation. In His prayer, immediately after the discourse, He asks the Father to glorify Him, with the glory He had with the Father, before the world was made. The idea here is that in some way, the Son left behind the glory He had shared with the Father from eternity past (the Humiliation) in order to accomplish the work the Father had set for Him, and with that work completed would resume the glory (the Exaltation). Compare Jesus’ prayer in John 17, to the Christ-hymn quoted or composed by St. Paul in the second chapter of his epistle to the Philippians, which also speaks of the Humiliation and Exaltations of Christ, offering the Humiliation as a model of humility to be followed. The exact nature of the Humiliation is a bone of theological contention, but it makes sense that Jesus would speak of this aspect of His human nature in a context where He was anticipating His Exaltation and thus speaking from a standpoint within the Humiliation. At any rate, the Quicumque Vult, or Athanasian Creed, the third of the great Ecumenical Creeds of the undivided Church, declares both the co-equality of the Persons of the Trinity, and the two natures of Christ. Of the first it says “And in this Trinity there is no before or after, no greater or less: But all three Persons are co-eternal together, and co-equal.” Of the second it says “Equal to the Father as touching his Godhead, less than the Father as touching his Manhood.”

(17) Charles Hodge, the 19th Century Presbyterian theologian and president of Princeton Theological Seminary, put it this way:

The Scriptural facts are, (a) The Father says I; the Son says I; the Spirit says I. (b) The Father says Thou to the Son, and the Son says Thou to the Father; and in like manner the Father and the Son use the pronouns He and Him in reference to the Spirit. (c) The Father loves the Son; the Son loves the Father; the Spirit testifies of the Son. The Father, Son, and Spirit are severally subject and object. They act and are acted upon, or are the objects of action. Nothing is added to these facts when it is said that the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons; for a person is an intelligent subject who can say I, who can be addressed as Thou, and who can act and can be the object of action. Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995 reprint of 1872 original). p. 444.

(18) Of this, John Theodore Mueller, early 20th Century Lutheran theologian and Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary wrote:

The name Father is sometimes used essentially (οὐσιωδῶς), referring to the divine Persons equally (Jas. 1, 7; 2 Cor. 6, 17. 18; Luke 12, 32), and sometimes personally (ὑποστατιχῶς), referring alone to the first Person of the Godhead, John 10, 30; 14, 9; 1 John 2, 23. Christian Dogmatics: A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology for Pastors, Teachers, and Laymen (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934), p. 157. Bold indicates italics in original.

(19) Cf. John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

(20) Jesus, in John 15:26 says “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me”. The Eastern Orthodox position is derived from the words ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται, “which proceedeth from the Father”. Conversely, the Western position is based upon the words ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω, “whom I will send”. If this verse were the sole factor in the debate, the Eastern position would seem to be the strongest. When the Second Council of Constantinople added the section about the Holy Spirit to the Nicene Creed, the words τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον which were adapted from John 15:26, were placed in the Creed to describe the Spirit’s eternal relationship to the Father. By adding the filioque, the Third Synod of Toledo seems to have equated the Spirit’s proceeding from the Father with His being sent by the Son from the Father. The latter, however, clearly refers to a temporal act, which was yet future when the words were uttered. From the Eastern perspective, therefore, the Western position must look something like Incarnational Sonship looks to orthodox believers, Eastern and Western, in the Eternal Generation and Sonship of Christ, i.e., the confusion of the temporal with the eternal. The Western position is strengthened, however, by other New Testament verses which place the Son in a genitive relationship to the Spirit, such as Romans 8:9 and Galatians 4:6 .

(21) The need for another term to express the way in which the Spirit proceeds from the Father – or from the Father and the Son – is evident from the fact that the Son also proceeds from the Father (John 8:42), although it could be argued that the latter is a reference to Son’s entry into the world rather than His eternal generation. Both the Son and the Spirit come from the Father. In both cases it is the Person Who comes from the Father, with the whole divine essence communicated to Him. There must, however, be a difference, because otherwise, there would be two Sons. Hence the need for the term spiration, or “breathing forth”, to signify that the procession of the Spirit, spiration, is different from that of the Son, generation. According to Methodist theologian Justo L. Gonzalez :

It was the Cappadocians – Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa – who first sought to establish this distinction, claiming that while the Son is begotten directly by the Father, the Spirit proceeds “from the Father, through the Son” by spiration. Essential Theological Terms (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005) p. 141.

Gonzalez went on to say that:

In the West, however, Augustine understood this procession in a different way. For him the Spirit was the bond of love joining Father and Son.

This, he added, “lies at the root of the controversy surrounding the Filioque”.

The Augustinian understanding can be seen in Western liturgical traditions, such as the phrase “in the unity of the Holy Spirit” that is typically found in the Trinitarian formula that closes Anglican Collects and the Prayer of Consecration over the elements of the Eucharist. Nevertheless, the West also uses the language of spiration to describe the Spirit’s procession. At the Second Council of Lyons in 1262, called for the purpose of reunifying the Western and the Eastern Churches, it was declared that the “Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, yet, not as from two origins, but as from one origin, not by two breathings but by a single breathing”, quoted by Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology (New York: HarperOne, 1992), p. 521.

(22) In Greek this word is πνεῦμα. In Hebrew it is רוּחַ.

(23) “If God is one indivisible unity, any distinction referred to must not divide God into two, three, or more separable parts…God is one. Father , Son, and Spirit are three. God’s unity is not a unity of separable parts but of distinguishable persons.” – Thomas C. Oden, op. cit., p. 109.

(24) Origen of Alexandria was among the first to use this terminology. As he was not exactly the most orthodox of the Church Fathers, and taught like the Arians that the Son was not of the same substance or essence as the Father, some, for this reason, consider the doctrine of eternal generation to be suspect. The Fathers at Nicaea, however, rejected the Christological heresies of both Origen and Arius, and affirmed both the eternal generation of the Son and the cosubstantiality of the Father and the Son.

(25) J. Oliver Buswell, a past president of Wheaton College, for example, affirmed the eternal Sonship of Christ, while denying the doctrine of eternal generation. A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion , Vol. 1,(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962) pp. 106-112. Charles Hodge, while not denying the doctrine as taught in the Nicene Creed, questioned the larger explanation of it given by the Nicene Fathers, i.e., the communication of the divine essence. Hodge, op. cit., pp. 468-471.

(26) It is the Person of the Son not the divine essence that is generated, but that generation involves the communication of the divine essence which, because it includes the attributes of eternality and unity, means that the generation had no beginning but always was, and hence is eternal.

(27) Ontology is the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being or existence.

(28) That God alone has being or existence, in Himself, is part of the metaphysical concept of God, which is human reasoning derived from natural revelation, such as that St. Paul writes about in Romans 1:20. All things are either causes or effects, and the causes we see are themselves the effects of previous causes. Ultimately, however, there must be a First Cause, which is itself Uncaused, a Prime Mover, an Unmade Maker. The Uncaused Cause of all other causes, the Unmoved Mover, the Unmade Maker, by definition is, in and of itself, rather than by derivation from anything else. While the metaphysical concept of God falls far short of the divine revelation of Who, as opposed to What, God is, beginning in the Old Testament and culminating in the Incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ, note that when asked by Moses for His name, the God of the Patriarchs of Israel answered I AM that I AM.

(29) Theories as to their identity include the angels (presumably the fallen ones) and men of Seth’s lineage (as opposed to Cain’s, from whom the “daughters of men” would have sprung in this interpretation).

(30) A similar phrase with the same meaning is also used by Cleanthes in his Hymn to Zeus, but St. Paul’s quotation is closer to Aratus’ wording, the only difference being that the Apostle uses the indicative form of the verb instead of the optative.

(31) Newer translations that have retained the use of “only begotten” include those whose translators were consciously trying to stay in the tradition of the Authorized Version, such as the New King James Version, the King James II, and the Twentieth Century King James Version, and the American Standard Version family of translations, although the New American Standard Version offers “unique” as an alternative in its notes.

(32) Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, Henry Stuart James, A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th Revised Edition, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1843, 1925, 1996) is to ancient Greek, what the Oxford English Dictionary is to our language. This work will be referred to in the body of this essay as Liddell-Scott, and cited in the references as LSJ. Citations will appear as LSJ, followed by the word being defined, which will be a hyperlink to the entry for that word in the online edition of the lexicon. Here, the reference is to LSJ, μόνος
(33) LSJ, γένος 

(34) LSJ, γεννάω  

(35) Liddell and Scott originally defined μονογενῆς as “only begotten”. The online entry, based upon the current print edition of the 9th revised edition of their work that came out in 1925, defines it as as “the only member of a kin or kind: hence, generally, only, single” LSJ, μονογενῆς . In 1889, an intermediate lexicon based upon the 7th revised edition of the original was published entitled An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon. The online version of this, which is usually referred to as Middle Liddell, still gives the definitions “only-begotten, single” and “one and the same blood.” Middle Liddell, μονογενῆς. The change made to the basic definition in LSJ, reflects the fact that since Liddell and Scott first put out their lexicon in the middle of the 19th Century, scholars have concluded that it means “unique” rather than “only begotten”. Since I will be calling into question the line of reasoning by which this conclusion was derived in the body of the essay – and LSJ remains an invaluable resource for calling this reasoning into question – I will not dwell on it further in this note, but wish simply to point out that the idea of “only begotten” has not really been eliminated from the current edition of LSJ. If someone is the “only member of a kin” he has no siblings – in which case he is an “only-begotten” son.

(36) Fenton John Anthony Hort, who along with Brooke Foss Westcott put out the critical edition of The New Testament in the Original Greek (1881) that was the antecedent of later critical editions such as the Nestle-Aland and United Bible Societies, and served on the revision committee that produced the Revised Version, the New Testament of which came out the same year and was largely based upon the Westcott-Hort text, was one of the first proponents of the school of Textual Criticism in which the Alexandrian text type of the New Testament was considered to be superior to the Byzantine text type due to the earlier dates of the Alexandrian manuscripts. I disagree with that school, but for the purposes of this essay that is neither here nor there. In the first of his Two Dissertations, published in Cambridge by MacMillan and Company in 1876, he defended the Alexandrian reading of the last verse in the prologue to the Gospel of John, in which the words μονογενῆς θεός appear instead of μονογενῆς υἱός as appear in the Byzantine text (which in this case as in most cases is also the Majority Text). His Note D to this dissertation begins on page 48 and is entitled “Unicus and unigenitus among the Latins.” He first lists the various readings for μονογενῆς in “Passages referring to our Lord”, then for “Other passages”. The first list includes John 1:14, 1:18, 3:16, 3:18, and 1 John 4:19. For each of these, there are both unicus and unigenitus readings, and for John 1:14 there are four different variations that use unici. For each of these verses except John 3:16 and the 1 John reading, in which it is basically even, unigenitus is the most often used. In the other New Testament references, where μονογενῆς is used of someone other than Jesus, such as the widow’s only son in Luke 7:12, unicus is almost universally used. Hort also notes that יָחִיד is the only one word in Hebrew that is translated μονογενῆς in Greek, and that it is “uniformly rendered by ungenitus in the Vulgate where an only son or daughter is meant.” He then points out that the LXX, in all but one of these instances, uses a different Greek word, although “μονογενῆς was used by one or more of the other translators in at least five of the other places.” He then identifies witnesses to a no longer extent LXX reference to Isaac that must have used μονογενῆς and notes that the majority of remaining Latin references use unicus. His conclusion from all of this, is that “unicus is the earliest Old Latin representative of μονογενῆς; and unigenitus the Vulgate rendering of יָחִיד, however translated in Greek, except in St. Luke and the Apocrypha, where Jerome left unicus untouched, and the four peculiar verses from the Psalter…where he substituted other words”. He concludes that in the verses where μονογενῆς refers to Jesus “unicus had been previously supplanted by unigenitus”, i.e, before Jerome, and that “in the Prologue of the Gospel the change took place very early”. It is not obvious, however, that the conclusion that unigenitus supplanted unicus, however early, is demanded by the evidence cited.

(37) The reasoning of those who say that γένος means “kind” or “class” seems to be that even if γένος has clear implications of the idea of blood descent in the vast majority of its uses, if one or two instances can be shown where this idea is unclear or does not seem to be present, then the idea of “category” must be the primary thought.

(38) It is also a blatantly false assumption. Both γένος and γεννάω are derivatives of γίνομαι, as can be found in their entries in Liddell-Scott (see endnotes 34 and 35) and for that matter any competent lexicon that includes etymological references.

(39) Dr. James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, for example, makes this argument in a footnote in his The Forgotten Trinity (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1998), p. 201. He also makes the argument that the suffix may not impart much meaning to the compound as a whole, but rather intensify the meaning of μόνος.

(40) See previous footnote. E. F. Harrison also argues for “only” or “unique” over “only begotten” as the meaning of μονογενῆς in his entry under “Only Begotten” in Walter A. Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001) without making these basic mistakes, correctly defining γένος as “origin, race, stock”, and noting that:

the old rendering, “only begotten” is not entirely without justification when the context in John 1:14 is considered. The verb genesthai occurs at the end of 1:13 (“born of God”) and ginesthai in 1:14. These words ultimately go back to the same root as the second half of monogenes. Especially important is 1 John 5:8, where the second “born of God” must refer to Christ according to the superior Greek text.

(41) One of the most basic rules with regards to searching for a verb’s root stem, in ancient Greek, is that the root stem can often be found, by simplifying a doubled consonant. To say that two words do not have the same source because of a difference which may occur in the inflected forms of a single word is absurd.
(42) LSJ, γενεά
(43) LSJ, γενεαλογία
(44) LSJ, γενέθλιος
(45) LSJ, γένεσις
(46) LSJ, γενετή    

(47) William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Fourth Revised and Augmented Edition translated and adapted from Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Wörterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 157.

(48) LSJ, γίνομαι  

(49)   Examples include  εγενής means “well born”, γηγενής means “earth born”, μεταγενής means “born after”, οκογενής means “born in the house, homebred”, πρωτογενής means “first born, primeval”.  Hyperlinks to the online LSJ entries are included in each word.

(50) F. J. A. Hort remarks: “The sense of μονογενῆς is fixed by its association with υἱός in the other passages, especially v. 14, by the original and always dominant usage in Greek literature, and by the prevailing consent of the Greek Fathers. It is applied properly to an only child or offspring; and a reference to this special kind of unicity is latent in most of the few cases when it does not lie on the surface, as of the Phoenix in various authors” Hort, op. cit., p. 16-17.

(51) LSJ, λόγος  

(52) In pre-Socratic philosophy, the composition of reality was the major subject of discussion. The famous four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, was the answer Empedocles of Agrigentum gave to the question of what substance the universe is made up of. About a century before Empedocles, however, Heraclitus of Ephesus, had identified fire as the basic element of reality. Other elements were formed out of fire, and to fire they returned, he argued, and in the meantime were always moving and changing, thus the universe could be described as being in a constant state of flux. “You never step in the same river twice” he famously put it. Although a constant state of flux may seem to be the epitome of disorder, this was not how Heraclitus saw it. Beneath the flux, there was a principle which ordered all things. This principle was λόγος – reason, wisdom, word. From Heraclitus, this concept spread throughout other schools of philosophy. The school of Stoicism, for example, adopted it, regarding the λόγος as soul to which the physical universe was the body. Obviously not all of the connotations of the pagan concept were carried over into the Christian concept, but see the next note.

(53) It should be noted, that in addition to the reference to God speaking in Creation, which St. John is obviously alluding to with his use of λόγος, the Old Testament frequently speaks of “The Word of the Lord” in a personalized sense. Examples of this include, but are by no means limited to, Genesis 15:1, Isaiah 55:11, Ezekiel 27:1, Psalm 33:4,6, 107:20, and 147:15). Thus in the Targum, the Aramaic translation of and commentary on the Tanakh, and other rabbinic literature, the concept of the “memra”, developed parallel to that of the λόγος in Greek . Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenized Jewish philosopher who lived in the first centuries BC and AD, used the similarities between these two concepts to attempt a synthesis between Hebrew thought and Greek philosophy. See The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1906), memra 

(54) Derek Kidner, who was Warden at Tyndale House in Cambridge, acknowledged the usual understanding, but suggested that it might have been written for a later time of trouble, such as that described in 2 Samuel 10, because “At David’s own accession there were no subject peoples to grow mutinous”. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction & Commentary (Leicester, England and Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), p. 50.