“Begotten, Not Made” Nicene Creed

[Lately, renovation and repairs are taking much of my time, so, I cannot read and post as much as I want.]

Christians, I notice, are still divided on the meaning of monogenas (only begotten). Jesus was unique, absolutely, but, that does not mean monogenas means “one of a kind,” or “unique.” Just because it fits, doesn’t mean, “it fits together.”

The kicker, for me, remains: that the church of the first few centuries knew their language (Koine Greek) better than we do today and formulated ideas found in Scripture based on that understanding. The Nicean Creed did not see a temporal aspect of begetting; instead, it referred to an eternal state (“not made”). There was never a time when The Father didn’t have The Son (or The Spirit).

Here are some quotes from Gregory Nazianzen, Athanasius, and Cyril of Jerusalem on this:

The eternal generation of the Son is “beyond the sphere of time, and above the grasp of reason” (Gregory Nazianzen, Third Theological Oration, NPNF2 7.302).

“Let every corporeal inference be banished on this subject” (Athanasius, De decretis 24, NPNF24.166).

“Whereas it is proper to men to beget in time, from the imperfection of their nature, God’s offspring is eternal, for His nature is ever perfect” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.14, NPNF2 4.315).

“Authors of blasphemy, verily, are these foes of God! who, sooner than confess that the Son is the Father’s Image, conceive material and earthly ideas concerning the Father Himself, ascribing to Him severings and effluences and influences. If God be not a man, as He is not, we must not impute to Him the attributes of a man” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.21, NPNF2 4.319).

Here I paraphrase Athanasius: The Arians ask “silly women” if they had a son before bearing one. And since it is obvious that women do not have sons before they bear them, they apply the same to the Son and conclude that the Son did not exist before his generation. But they might as well ask an architect whether they build without materials, and then conclude that God could not make the universe without materials. Or ask every man if he can be without place, and then conclude that God is confined in place. “… till they end in groveling with Manichees” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.22-23, NPNF2 4.320).

“God is not a man; for men beget passibly, having a transitive nature, which waits for periods by reason of its weakness. But with God this cannot be; for He is not composed of parts, but being impassible and simple, He is impassibly and indivisibly Father of the Son … That none may think of the Offspring humanly, while signifying His essence, [Scripture] also calls Him Word, Wisdom, and Radiance, to teach us that the generation was impassible, and eternal, and worthy of God” (Athanasius, Against the Arians I.28, NPNF2 4.322-3).

“On hearing of a Son, understand it not merely in an improper sense, but as a Son in truth, a Son by nature, without beginning … a Son eternally begotten by an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation … God is a Spirit; He who is a Spirit has spiritually begotten, as being incorporeal, an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation … And whenever you hear of God begetting, sink not down in thought to bodily things, nor think of a corruptible generation, lest you be guilty of impiety. God is a Spirit, His generation is spiritual: for bodies beget bodies, and for the generation of bodies time needs must intervene; but time intervenes not in the generation of the Son from the Father” (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 11.4-7, NPNF2 7.64-6).

NPNF2 = Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, edited by Schaff and Wace.

Here is a five part series by Lee Irons defending the original understanding of this crucial term: http://upper-register.typepad.com/blog/eternal-generation-of-son/

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