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Friday, November 13, 2009

"Begotten" and "Created" as Found in Scripture

"Begotten" and "Created" as Used in Scripture (An RDB File)

"Begotten" and "created" are English words carefully chosen by Bible translators to convey the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words of the original manuscripts as closely as possible. So first we should determine what the words "created" and "begotten" actually mean in English. The Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1963 ed. that I have at home says:

"create ... 1: to bring into existence...3 : cause, make" - p. 195. And beget ... begot ... begotten ... 1 : to procreate as the father : sire 2 : cause" - p. 77.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company:


1. To father; sire.

2. To cause to exist or occur; produce

World English Dictionary:

1. to father

2. to cause or create

These two words can share the identical meaning of "cause to be." That is, we may say the mother (or father) has created a child or (more often) someone has begotten some thing that he built or produced somehow.

The Hebrew word yalad means "to bear, bring forth, beget"- Gesenius, #3205, but it can be used (as the equivalent English word also can) for "cause to be." For example, when God says he "begot"/"fathered" (yalad) the nation of Israel (Deut. 32:6, 18), he clearly means that he caused it to be or created it as a nation. There is no implication that it was somehow begotten out of the very substance of his body. In like manner God calls the nation of Israel his son, his firstborn because it was the very first nation created by him and for him (cf. Ex. 4:22). Again, anything Jehovah causes to be may be said to be "begotten" by him and is his "offspring."

"Do you thus repay [YHWH], O foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?" - Deut. 32:6, NRSV. 
"You forsook the creator who begot [yalad] you and ceased to care for God who brought you to birth." - Deut. 32:18, NEB.

"Men of Athens [non-Christians], .... The God who made the world and everything in it ... does not live in shrines made by man. .... Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold or silver, or stone..." - Acts 17:22, 24, 29, RSV.

It’s especially important to note the dual application of Psalm 2:7. Here Jehovah speaks to the Israelite king and says “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten [yalad] thee.” It’s true that the Israelite king (David?) prefigures Jesus Christ here, but notice that this scripture must directly apply to David also. Jehovah hasn’t really begotten him out of his very own substance so that now King David’s very body and substance are identical to God’s.

No, the king has, at this point, been accepted by God in a new way. God has caused him to be in a new status.

So when this scripture is also applied to the Christ, it is to be applied in a similar (although greater) manner.

In Ps. 90:2 we also see yalad used in the sense of created:

 "Before the mountains were born [yalad] or you brought forth the earth" - NIV, AT, JB, NJB, NAB (1991), NASB; "begotten" - NAB (1970); "were given birth" - MLB. Or, "Before the mountains were created, before the earth was formed." - Living Bible, cf. TEV. So, the Hebrew word most often translated "begotten, brought forth" may also be understood (as in English) to mean created or produced.

 And whether or not God means that the earth (or “mountains”) was literally “begotten” from his very own spirit body or created out of nothing really matters very little. The point is that at one time it did not exist and then was brought into existence by the Creator, God!

The very title of God (“Father”) used as “source of all things” shows this common meaning throughout both testaments. God is the Father of all. What does this mean? He is the Father of the Universe, the Father of all creation, and even the Father of the Angels. (They truly are called “sons of God” and they were in existence before the earth was created - Job 38:4, 7, cf. Living Bible and NIVSB f.n.) They are spirit persons. Should we assume then that the angels were “begotten” from God in the sense that they have existed eternally and are actually composed of his very own spirit substance, etc.? After all, it doesn’t actually say that they were “created.” We know they were created because their Father created/“begot” everything: He is the “Father of all” including the spirit persons in heaven. - Eph. 4:6; Heb. 1:7; 12:9.

1 Cor. 8:6 (compare Eph. 4:6) tells us, again, that God is the Father of ALL things. He is the Creator of all things. The very common usage of "Father," "son," "begotten," "born," etc. is again used here for creation. Not only is God the Father of all created things here, but these things have literally "come out" (ek) from him. ("But to us there is but one God, the Father, [out of - ek] whom are all things".) Yes, the original New Testament word used here is "ek" which literally means "out of" (W. E. Vine, p. 1270) and is commonly used in the sense of generating, begetting. For example, Matt. 1:3 literally reads in the original manuscripts: "Judah generated Perez and Zerah out of [ek] Tamar." Judah was the father, but the children were literally out of the body (essence, flesh) of their mother Tamar.

Someone could speculate that since God existed alone before creation, he used some of his own substance (Spirit), which apparently is an incomprehensibly powerful and infinite energy "substance," to create or produce the other spirit creatures in heaven (his 'sons,' the angels - yes, angels are called 'sons of God' - e.g., Job 38:7; Ps. 89:6). If so, he may have modified it before producing them (just as he must have modified somewhat the earth 'substance' from which he created Adam's substance [and yet Adam is called ‘the son of God’ - Luke 3:38, NASB; KJV; RSV.]), so that their spirit "substance" is different from his own (just as there are different forms of energy found within this universe). Then we might speculate that he directed his "Firstborn Son" (through whom he created everything else) to use more of that Spirit (unlimited energy) to create the material universe which scientists know started in an incomprehensible blast of energy ("the Big Bang") which was then converted into the matter and energy of our universe. God then (through his firstborn son) created (or "begot") all the complex details within that universe, including mankind.

{Does it help to consider Adam and Eve? Eve “existed” for quite some time as a part of Adam - his very own rib. She was “begotten” out of (ek) Adam from his very substance. Her new existence began her own conscious life - she was not aware of her previous existence “within” Adam. She was not equal to Adam in authority. She did not know everything he did. She was not as powerful as he.

She shared his “substance” (literally), but she was by no means equal to him in any real sense. She was his “only-begotten” in the sense of being truly “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” and being the only one so “begotten,” but we must not consider them as both equally Adam. She was an entirely different person, created (or “begotten”) some time after Adam, and in subjection to him (1 Cor. 11:3).

Whether Jesus was literally created out of Jehovah’s own substance is pure speculation, but even if he had been, it wouldn’t have to mean anything more than this example of Adam and Eve does.}

The terms "generated" and "begotten" had different meanings for Christians before the 4th century advocates for a trinity idea transformed them into the trinitarian terms that are generally used today. Church historian (and trinitarian) Dr. Williston Walker writes in his classic work, A History of the Christian Church, 4th ed.:

"[The beginning of the 4th century debates over the deity of Christ] hinged in turn on interpretation of the Greek term gennetos ['generated'] as that was applied to the Son. [Although] traditionally translated 'begotten,' in Greek philosophical terminology [as well as in Scriptural terminology: Luke 7:28; Jn 3:5; 1 Jn 5:1; Ps. 90:2; Prov. 8:25] it had a broader and hence vaguer sense. It denoted anything which in any way 'came to be' and hence anything 'derivative' or 'generated.'  Christian thought had early learned to express its monotheistic stance by insisting that God is the sole agennetos ('underived,' 'ungenerated'  ['unbegotten']): that is, the unique and absolute first principle. By contrast with God, all else that exists - including the Logos, God's Son - was described as generated ['begotten']." - p. 132, Charles Scribner's Sons, Macmillan Publishing Co., 1985. [Emphasis and bracketed material added.]
Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 A.D.) wrote:

God alone is unbegotten and incorruptible, and therefore He is God, but all other things after him are created and corruptible {Justin has just concurred that the world itself was begotten by God} .... take your stand on one Unbegotten [the Father], and say this is the Cause of all. -  ANF 1:197 ('Dialogue').

Jesus Christ is the only proper Son who has been begotten by God, being His Word and first-begotten - ANF 1:170 ('Apology').

And thus do we also, since our persuasion by the Word, stand aloof from them (i.e., the demons), and follow the only unbegotten God through His Son - ANF 1:167 ('Apology').

"NT 1. ginomai is used in the NT in a variety of connections.

"(a) It means to be born (Gal. 4:4); .... to be made, be done (Jn 1:3; Matt. 11:21) ....
"3. genesis means birth in Matt. 1:18 and Lk. 1:14. It also means created life or being." - p. 181, Vol. 1, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan, 1986.

And, that, of course, is why the first book of the Bible is named "Genesis" - the Greek word for 'birth' is here intended for 'creation.'

"The first book [of the Bible] generally known among Christians by the name of Genesis....because it gives an account of the origin [creation] of all things." - Today's Dictionary of the Bible, p. 254, Bethany House Publishers, 1982.

And, Bara is the Hebrew OT word which means, according to Gesenius, "(2) to create, to produce" and (3) "to beget" and "NIPHAL - (1) to be created, Gen. 2:4; 5:2; .... (2) pass. of Kal No. 3, to be born, Eze. 21:[30]...." - p. 138, 139, Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, Baker Book House, 1979.

Remember, the angels and men are called sons of God in scripture. This obviously does not mean the spirit person who created everything literally gave birth (in the sense of earthly creatures) to them!

The Father has 'begotten' us all as his creation (through his firstborn son).

An RDB File


Unknown said...

very informative article. I'm at the beginning of researching the unchristian concept of creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) it appears this concept played a pivotal role in the philosophizing that concluded with the trinity doctrine. By denying that everything produced was ek (out of/from) Jehovah himself (1cor 8:6;Rom 11:36; heb 2:11) the philosophers placed all creation on one side of a mythical divide, it substance/essence created out of nothing. Whereas all divine things, God, law, will, reason, wisdom,spirit etc. were placed on the other. When the theologians got around to philosophizing about the "Word" it was put on the Divine Side of the equation and conjectured to have emanated out of God as a separate quasi-entity. This was all part of wisdom/logos speculation (compare philo)Theological opinion grew that when God beget (generated from his own substance) this was different than when he created out of nothing. Unfortunately the concept of divine begetting vs creation ex nihilo became so pervasive even Arius succumbed to this concept. This error contributed to the demise of Arian thought since many vacillating theologians could not accept that Christ was produced on the created side of this fabricated divide where Arius mistakenly put him. If there had never developed this false catagory of production (creation ex nihilo) the false divide between the word and the rest of creation may have never developed (heb 2:11). I am attempting to pinpoint the exact period it developed. It makes sense that it developed before Origen becuase he speaks of Eternal Generation. Perhaps his thinking was that everything on the Divine side must somehow be eternal even if it was produced . Origen does speak of Christ as a Ktisma (Creation) based on prov 8:22 but he also believed the rest of creation was eternally created (otherwise how could the Creator be eternal?-Duh! :) ). Although he put christ on the Divine side of the Divide, several Patristic scholars agree that Origen believed and taught that the Word's Ousia (essence/Being) was separate from that of the Father from various statements he made. The statements supposedly showing origen believed in the Homoousios (same Identical being)of father and son were fabrications of Rufinus who made know that he had reworded origen's writings. This was detailed in the writings of Jerome. How different all this speculation was from the actual truth, that the Word alone was a Direct creation (only-begotten) of Jehovah and that Jehovah used his Firstborn son as a conduit for his Creation of all Spiritual (angels and whatever else is spirit) and physical (the Universe)productions using Gods Spirit as Building material(ps 33:6,Isa 40:26;Jer 32:17; Isa 53:1)

aservantofJEHOVAH said...

it is important to realize that there are aspects of jehovah's work that will ever be beyond our full comprehension.ecclesiastes3:11.
what is made clear from Isaiah40:13,26.Is that Jehovah possesses both infinite potential and infinite intelligence.This being the case he should be able to generate any amount of kinetic energy without suffering any loss of his substance Isaiah40:28.