Vol. 7, No. 11
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Ignatius, an elder of Antioch and a Christian martyr, in 110 A.D. wrote that Jesus was "begotten and unbegotten" (gennetos kai agennetos, Ephesians VII 2, B-G-D, 126).
Physically Jesus was "begotten" in Mary's womb "by the Holy Spirit" (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:20). Figuratively, on a special "today" (Psalm 2:7), Jesus was "begotten" three ways: (1) on his resurrection day; (2) on his coronation day and (3) on his ordination day.
1. Begotten on his resurrection day. In heaven, a thousand years before Jesus died on the cross, he was already rejoicing that he would not stay dead, saying, "I will celebrate the decree of Yahweh. He said to me, 'You are my Son. Today I have begotten you'" (Psalm 2:7). The apostle Paul explains why Jesus was so happy, writing, "God raised him from the dead...as it is written in the second psalm, 'You are my Son. I have begotten you today'" (Acts 13:30-33). So we learn that the "today" of his resurrection (April 9, A.D. 30) was figuratively portrayed as his being "begotten." As the word "begotten" points to the beginning of new life, so the resurrection of Jesus pointed to the beginning of Jesus' new life as a king and as a priest.
2. Begotten on his coronation day. In God's wisdom, the "today" prediction of Psalm 2:7, of Jesus being "begotten," not only referred to Jesus' resurrection day, April 9, A.D. 30, but also to his coronation day as "King of kings and Lord of lords," on Pentecost day, May 28, A.D. 30 (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). On that day, after "he had made a cleansing of sins, he sat at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven," and listened as the Father said to him, "You are my Son! I have begotten you today" (Hebrews 1:3, 5). In the coronation ceremony in heaven, the Father even called Jesus "God," saying: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows" (Hebrews 1:8-9).
As the word "begotten" points to the beginning of new life, so the Father used the word "begotten" figuratively when he crowned Jesus at the beginning of his kingdom, which Jesus also called "my church" (Matthew 16:18; Colossians 1:13).
Not only did the Father use the word "begotten" non-literally when he said to Jesus, "I have begotten you today" (Hebrews 1:5), but he also used the word "oil" non-literally: "Therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows" (Hebrews 1:5). Literally, "Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed" David as king (1 Samuel 16:13), but certainly "the oil" God used in heaven in anointing Jesus was not literal olive oil.
3. Begotten on his ordination day. Similarly, in God's wisdom, the "today" prediction of Psalm 2:7, of Jesus being "begotten," not only referred to his resurrection day (April 9, A.D. 30), and to his coronation day (May 28, A.D. 30), but also to his ordination day as high priest (May 28, A.D. 30).
Christ "did not glorify himself to be a high priest, but the One who spoke to him, 'You are my Son! I have begotten you today'" (Hebrews 5:5; Psalm 2:7), and "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6, 10; 7:17).
"However, if he were on the earth" (Hebrews 8:4), Jesus, having "descended from Judah" (Hebrews 7:14), not "after the order of Aaron" (Hebrews 7:11), Jesus "would not be a priest" (Hebrews 8:4). But now, in heaven, he has "become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:20; 7:11, 14).
How was the priesthood "after the order of Aaron" (Hebrews 7:11) inferior to the priesthood "after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:20)? The difference was that Melchizedek was both "a priest of God Most High" (Genesis 14:18) and also "the king of Salem" (Hebrews 7:2).
Similarly, some 500 years before Jesus' coronation day as "King of kings" (Revelation 17:14), the prophet Zechariah announced that Jesus would "rule upon his throne" and would "be a priest upon his throne" (Zechariah 6:13). Thank God,
we have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. ...As every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, so it was necessary that he have something which he might offer. ...Such a priest is appropriate for us: holy, blameless, spotless, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. He does not need daily to bring offerings, first for his own sins, then for the sins of the people, as those high priests; for when he offered himself, he did this once for all. (Hebrews 8:1, 3; 7:26-27)
What a picture! "Christ appeared as a high priest," not with the "blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood," obtaining "eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:11-12).
If the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer which sprinkle the unclean, set apart the flesh to purity, how much more will the blood of Christ (who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God) purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God! ...and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in the full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our body washed with pure water. (Hebrews 9:13-14; 10:21-22)
Not only did God have a literal, physical meaning in the word "begotten" in reference to Jesus being in Mary's womb (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35), but in his wisdom, he used the same word figuratively in teaching about Jesus' resurrection, coronation, and ordination.
But to say that Jesus was "the only begotten Son of God" (as in the KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB in John 3:18) is to contradict the verses that say that all Christians are "begotten" of God (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18), and the verse that says Jesus had "many brothers" (Romans 8:29).
Furthermore, as regards Jesus' eternity, in nowise can it be said that he is a "begotten" being, for every "begotten being" had a beginning. The Father-Son terminology that Jesus loved (John 3:35; 5:20, 23; 11:41; 17:1) cannot be literal, for literally no son can be as old as his father, and Jesus actually never had a beginning (Micah 5:2; Revelation 2:8; 22:13). The Father-Son terminology is simply Jesus' figurative family way to describe God as being "greater" than himself (John 14:28). Actually, "God is the head of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:3).
It is sad that the RSV gives Jesus an "origin," and the NIV gives him a plurality of "origins" (Micah 5:2). If Jesus is "God," and he is (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:8), he had no origin, let alone more than one. The literal translation of Micah's word, derived from the Hebrew yatsa', is "his goings forth," not "origin" or "origins." Thank God, there are two translations that stick with Micah's Hebrew and with the NT teaching that Jesus had no beginning (Revelation 2:8; 22:13): the KJV says that the "goings forth" of Jesus are "from everlasting," and the NASB says that his "goings forth" are "from the days of eternity."
But the two translations, that do such a good job in translating Micah 5:2, go too far in causing Isaiah to call Jesus "The everlasting Father" (KJV) and the "Eternal Father" (NASB) in Isaiah 9:6. Jesus is "God" (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:8), but he would be embarrassed and ashamed to hear anyone call him "Father." He said, "The Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). The ASV also errs in calling Jesus the "Everlasting Father," but that version has a marginal note that Isaiah's Hebrew correctly translated says that Jesus is the "Father of Eternity" (Isaiah 9:6). That version's literal translation of Isaiah's Hebrew ('abi-'ad) has to be understood figuratively, meaning that Jesus himself is eternal, which means he was "unbegotten."
The Jehovah Witnesses seek to demote Jesus from being eternal, from being "unbegotten," by saying in their translation of Revelation 3:14 that Jesus is "the beginning of the creation by God," inserting the word "by," which is not in the Greek, trying to leave the impression that Jesus was the first thing that God created. Such a meaning, that Jesus was "first created," is "linguistically possible" (B-G-D 112), but such cannot be the meaning of Revelation 3:14 because "all have been created through him and for him," and "without him was nothing created," and "he himself is before all things" (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). He could not have created himself, for "out of nothing, nothing comes" (ex nihil, nihil facit).
Moreover, the same Greek word translated as Jesus being the "beginning" (arche) in Revelation 3:14 God uses of himself in Revelation 2:16, saying, "I am the A and the Z, the beginning [arche] and the end," which must mean that he, like Jesus (Revelation 1:17; 22:13) is the beginner and ender of everything.
Furthermore, if the arche of Revelation 3:14 gives Jesus a beginning, Revelation 22:13 gives him an ending: "I am the A and the Z, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
Moreover, the word arche not only means "beginning," but it also means "origin" (Thayer 76; B-G-D 112), a meaning that agrees with what Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit are, the originators of all things, but not of themselves. Not possible to human understanding is the clear Bible teaching that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit all "inhabit eternity" (Isaiah 57:15; Micah 5:2; Hebrews 9:14), and so all three are uncreated and unbegotten. The 4th edition the FHV says of Jesus in Revelation 3:14, that he is "The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Originator of God's creation."
When the Greeks spoke of the "supreme deity," whom they called "Zeus" (Acts 14:11-13), they did not think of him as being created and begotten, but as the "First Cause," the Arche. Therefore it is no surprise that the Holy Spirit has identified both the Father and the Son as the Arche (Revelation 3:14; 21:6). How three (Matthew 3:13-17) can be one (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:6, 8) is beyond human comprehension, but biblically the statement is indisputable (Matthew 3:13-17; Isaiah 44:6, 8; Hebrews 9:14). Truly, "the Godhead," the theotes (Colossians 2:9), the Father and Son and Holy Spirit (Isaiah 57:15; Micah 5:2; Hebrews 9:14), is "unbegotten."
Who is Jesus? My mind falters! The only one of his nature, unparalleled, matchless, irreplaceable, unexampled, incomparable, peerless, inimitable, unequaled, nonduplicable, singular, unique, "the way and the truth and he life" (John 14:6), the "King of kings and the Lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16).
In heaven I want to meet Ignatius, a Christian martyr, whose life reminds us of the words that Jesus spoke to his apostles: "the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think that he is serving God" (John 16:2). Ignatius, nearly 2000 years ago so understood spiritual truths as to write of the only being in all eternity, human or divine, that he was both "begotten and unbegotten."