What Is Eternal Generation?

The post-apostolic church fathers fall into two camps regarding who Jesus is: Logos Christology and eternal generation. Eternal generation is the belief that the Father eternally generates the person of the Son, and in doing so, eternally communicates the divine nature to him so that the Father is the fons divinitatis or fountain of divinity from whom the Son derives his divine nature making the Father the eternal origin and fontal source of the Son who is his eternal product. Richard Muller defines eternal generation as “the eternal and changeless activity in the Godhead by which the Father produces the Son without division of essence and by which the Second Person of the Trinity is identified as an individual subsistence or modus subsistendi, mode of subsistence, of the divine essence” (Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, 127).

To understand eternal generation as it was historically understood, we must go back to the original sources to the time when it was first articulated. Origen was the first person in the history of the church to teach eternal generation and therefore we must consult his writings to accurately define the doctrine. Origen says concerning this generation:

“We recognize that God was always the Father of his only-begotten Son, who was indeed born of him and draws his being from him, but is yet without any beginning” (On First Principles 1.2.2).

“This is an eternal and everlasting begetting, as brightness is begotten from light; for he does not become Son in an external manner, through the adoption of the Spirit, but is Son by nature” (On First Principles 1.2.4).

“The existence of the Son is derived from the Father but not in time, nor from any other beginning, except, as we have said, from God Himself” (On First Principles 1.2.11).

“For in the exercise of His will He employs no other way than that which is made known by the counsel of His will. And thus also the existence of the Son is generated by Him” (On First Principles 1.2.6).

“Each fills the place of a fountain – the Father is the fountain of divinity, the Son of reason” (Commentary on John 2.3).

But in Origen’s theology, it is not just the Son who is eternally begotten, but everyone who believes in him:

“The Savior is eternally begotten by the Father, so also, if you possess the ‘Spirit of adoption’ (Rom 8:15) God eternally begets you in him according to each of your works, each of your thoughts. And being begotten you thereby become an eternally begotten son of God in Christ Jesus” (Homilies on Jeremiah 9.5).

Origen taught a doctrine of deification where those who are in Christ are lesser gods:

“And thus the first-born of all creation, who is the first to be with God, and to attract to Himself divinity, is a being of more exalted rank than the other gods beside Him. . . . It was by the offices of the first-born that they became gods, for He drew from God in generous measure that they should be made gods, and He communicated it to them according to His own bounty. The true God, then, is ‘The God,’ and those who are formed after Him are gods, images, as it were, of Him the prototype” (Commentary on John 2.2).

Origen subordinated the Son to the Father and created a hierarchy within the Trinity:

“The God and Father, who holds the universe together, is superior to every being that exists, for he imparts to each one from his own existence that which each one is; the Son, being less than the Father, is superior to rational creatures alone (for he is second to the Father); the Holy Spirit is still less, and dwells within the saints alone. So that in this way the power of the Father is greater than that of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and that of the Son is more than that of the Holy Spirit” (On First Principles 1.3.5).

“The Father exceeds the Saviour himself and the Holy Spirit as much (or even more) as the Saviour himself and the Holy Spirit exceed the rest. . . . For he is an image of the goodness and brightness, not of God, but of God’s glory and of his eternal light, and he is a vapour, not of the Father, but of his power” (Commentary on John 13.151-53).

Like Eusebius of Caesarea, Origen believed that the Holy Spirit was a created being:

“We therefore, as the more pious and the truer course, admit that all things were made by the Logos, and that the Holy Spirit is the most excellent and the first in order of all that was made by the Father through Christ” (Commentary on John 2.6).

To support his belief in eternal generation, the main texts he drew from were Proverbs 8:22-36 and Wisdom 7:24-26. The apocryphal text from Wisdom says: “For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.” Since Christ is the wisdom of God, and wisdom is an emanation from God, this created a kind of emanation Christology where Christ is eternally proceeding from God in an always ongoing yet never completed action. Muller even calls generation and procession active emanations in the Trinity (Dictionary, 309-10). The passage calls Wisdom “a reflection of eternal light” which became the basis for the saying that Christ is “light of light.”

Origen had called the Son a “creature” (On First Principles 4.4.1), “another god” (Dialogue with Heraclides 2), a “second god” (Against Celsus 5.39; 5.61), and even said “the Son is other than the Father in being and essence” (On Prayer 10). He believed that prayer in its fullest sense should only be given to the Father (On Prayer 10). The Arians were able to use Origen’s theology to defend their own because of Origen’s subordinationist tendencies even though he believed that there was never a time when the Son did not exist because of eternal generation. But Origen did not just believe that there was never a time when the Son did not exist, he also believed this to be true when it came to the created order. He believed created beings must exist eternally as well or else God could not be eternally sovereign (On First Principles 1.2.10). Therefore, he affirmed a belief in the pre-existence of the soul (Commentary on John 2.24). For Origen, Jesus is a pre-existent human soul who became the Logos because he alone did not fall away from God as the other souls did (On First Principles 2.6.5; Against Celsus 5.39; Commentary on John 2.2). Before the Logos became man in the incarnation, the soul of Jesus had to be united with the Logos.

Origen was deeply influenced by Greek philosophy having been trained by the philosopher Ammonius Saccas (John Dillon, The Middle Platonists, 362-69, 381-82, 396). He had a penchant for allegorical interpretation: literalizing verses that were meant to be understood metaphorically and spiritualizing verses meant to be understood literally. He even castrated himself based on his literalizing of Matthew 5:28-30. Origen, together with Gregory of Nyssa, affirmed a belief in universal salvation where eventually all created beings will be reconciled to God (On First Principles 3.6.6). Origen’s theology is the reason why those who are Eastern Orthodox believe in deification and a large number of them are universalists believing that it is possible that in the end all will be saved. Out of all the early church fathers, Origen is one of the most influential. As Gregory the Theologian once said, “Origen is the whetstone of us all.”

In spite of the unbiblical theology of Origen, Athanasius was able to use Origen’s doctrine of eternal generation as a means to combat the arguments of Arianism. To give one example of this, the Arians argued that since Colossians 1:15 says that Christ is the “firstborn” of all creation, he must have come into existence. But the orthodox responded by arguing that Christ is eternally born from the Father and therefore there was never a time when he could have come into existence. All of the verses used to argue that Christ had a beginning became eternalized into never-ending timeless actions. But the proper way to interpret this verse is to understand the Old Testament background of what it means to be a firstborn son and the rights that come with it known as primogeniture (Ps 89:27). To say that Christ is the firstborn over all creation is to say that he is exalted and supreme over his Father’s creation analogous to how a firstborn son has the rights over his father’s estate.

Hilary of Poitiers continues Origen’s legacy of teaching that the Son derives his divine nature from the Father:

“Is not the meaning here of the word homoousion that the Son is produced of the Father’s nature, the essence of the Son having no other origin, and that both, therefore, have one unvarying essence? As the Son’s essence has no other origin, we may rightly believe that both are of one essence, since the Son could be begotten with no substance but that derived from the Father’s nature which was its source” (On the Councils 84).

“And lastly, when the Son said, I went forth from the Father and have come, did He leave it doubtful whether His Divinity were, or were not, derived from the Father? He went out from the Father; that is, He had a birth, and the Father, and no other, gave Him that birth. He bears witness that He, from Whom He declares that He came forth, is the Author of His being” (On the Trinity 6.16).

The eternal generation of the Son became a way to explain those verses which appear to subordinate the Son to the Father as Basil of Caesarea explains John 14:28 by arguing from the created order back to God:

“Since the Son’s origin is from the Father, in this respect the Father is greater, as cause and origin. Wherefore also the Lord said thus, ‘My Father is greater than I,’ clearly inasmuch as He is Father. Yea, what else does the word Father signify unless the being cause and origin of that which is begotten of Him?” (Against Eunomius 1.25).

But this raises the question, if the Son derives his eternal origin and divine nature from the Father, then is the divine nature communicated from the Father alone to the Spirit or from the Father and the Son? That is, is the ability to communicate deity itself communicated in the communication of the divine nature from the Father to the Son or is the ability to communicate deity only a personal property of the Father which distinguishes him from the Son and the Holy Spirit? This is what the debate over the filioque is about. The Western church added “from the Son” to the Nicene-Constantinople Creed at the Third Council of Toledo in 589 arguing that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. The Eastern Church rejects this and argues that doing so would result in two gods since there would be two fountains of divinity instead of one. They argue that the fountain of divinity must be located in the Father alone because it is located in the Father’s person rather than his nature. Since it exists in the Father’s person and not his nature, the Son cannot act as a fountain of divinity because he does not share the Father’s person, only his nature. Since he does not participate in the fountain of divinity, he cannot communicate divinity to the Holy Spirit as the Father does. If the fountain of divinity is located in the Father’s nature rather than his person, then there would be three fountains of divinity since all three persons share the one divine nature so even the Holy Spirit would have the ability to communicate divinity because a nature cannot exist in a naked state by itself apart from a supposit to dwell in. This would result in more than one God since there would be more than one self-existent, uncaused, unoriginated subsistence (Laurent A. Cleenewerck, His Broken Body, 317-44). As Paul Owen notes, the East and West have a long history of misunderstanding and anathematizing each other:

“The Eastern Church charges the West with subordinating the person of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son; and furthermore suspects that the Western tradition leaves an open door to the heresy of modalism. The Western Church charges the East with subordinating the Son to the Father; and furthermore suspects that the Eastern tradition leaves an open door to the heresy of tritheism.”

This is the result when you abandon the exegesis of the text of Scripture and engage in speculative theology concerning fountains of divinity. When this happens, human reasoning and the authority of man usurp the place of the Word of God which makes no mention of such things. The debate over the filioque is a reductio ad absurdum which God foreordained to show us how ridiculous these conceptions of generation and procession are just as the debate over the pretribulational rapture versus the midtribulational rapture demonstrates how silly it is to interpret 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:4 as something distinct from the second coming of Christ. The entire question of whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone or the Father and the Son is based on a misunderstanding of John 15:26. This verse is talking about the missio Dei of the Spirit, not his ontological origin. The Spirit proceeds or goes forth from the Father to carry out the Father’s mission of bringing salvation to the elect by pointing them to Christ. “Proceeds” is in the present tense because the Spirit’s work in the world did not begin at Pentecost, but has been ongoing from the beginning of creation (Ps 104:30).

I do not believe Origen’s concept of eternal generation can be supported from Scripture. It is better to say that the Son is autotheos or God of himself rather than saying he derives his divine nature from the Father. If this makes me a heretic, then John Calvin was also a heretic because he did not accept eternal generation’s teaching that the Son’s divine nature is derived or communicated from the Father. While many theologians have tried to reconcile Calvin’s doctrine of Christ as autotheos with eternal generation, they must redefine how eternal generation was historically understood. Communication or derivation of essence from the fons divinitatis is essential to eternal generation. Origen explicitly denied that the Son is autotheos. He does not possess the divine nature of himself:

“To such persons we have to say that God on the one hand is Very God (Autotheos, God of Himself) . . . But the archetypal image, again, of all these images is the Word of God, who was in the beginning, and who by being with God is at all times God, not possessing that of Himself, but by His being with the Father” (Commentary on John 2.2).

This is what the Nicene Creed means when it says that the Son is “true God from true God.” His deity comes from God the Father who is the fountain of being. The Son does not exist of himself as the Father does, but he owes his personal existence and divine nature to the Father who “continually gives existence to him” (Origen, Homilies on Jeremiah 9.4). The belief that the Son owes his hypostatic existence to the Father was shared by the proponents of Logos Christology except that they believed this generation occurred before the foundation of the world rather than being an eternally ongoing action within the being of God. Eternal generation is an evolution of Logos Christology which took its place because eternal generation was able to be reconciled with the immutability of God and answer the arguments of Arianism. But ironically, it is the mistaken assumption that the Son owes his existence to the Father that led to the rise of Arianism to begin with.

My study of the early church fathers has only reinforced my belief that we must make Scripture alone our starting point for doing Christian theology and treat every piece of writing outside of Scripture with caution lest we derive our theology from man instead of God. Otherwise, we are simply condemned to the beliefs of our tradition. The theology of Origen is a rotten foundation on which to do Christian theology. That he was the first person to teach eternal generation should immediately raise a red flag and send us back to the Scriptures.


15 thoughts on “What Is Eternal Generation?

  1. I think this wording is imprecise, and thus misleading: “For Origen, Jesus is a pre-existent human soul who *became* the Logos because he alone did not fall away from God as the other souls did.”

    No, the Logos is another “epinoia” for the eternally begotten Son. Jesus does not “become the Logos.” The divine Logos joins himself to the soul of Jesus (i.e., Origen’s version of the hypostatic union), and becomes flesh/human so as to save and redeem the rest of fallen creation.

    On the biblical side, the issue is not whether “generation” is or should be a Trinitarian category, it is what is its significance/meaning. The language of generation is *biblical* so it must be reckoned with theologically.

    More broadly, while I appreciate the energy you’ve put into this, I’m wondering if you realize the implications of setting yourself against no less than the Council of Nicaea. You’re really prepared to set yourself above Ecumenical Councils? The Fathers were out to lunch when they codified “True God of true God”?



    1. I affirm that Jesus is true God of true God in the sense that he shares the nature of the Father (Heb 1:3). It is their concept that the deity of the Son is derived from the Father that I disagree with because it overthrows the aseity of Christ. I do not consider the ecumenical councils to be infallible since they taught things like praying to Mary and the saints and the veneration of icons in the Seventh Ecumenical Council, the perpetual virginity of Mary in the Fifth Ecumenical Council, baptismal regeneration in the Second Ecumenical Council, and that monks and nuns are not allowed to marry in the Fourth Ecumenical Council (canon 16). Since these teachings are contrary to Scripture, they must be rejected (Mark 7:7-13). For an example of this, see my article on the question of Mary’s perpetual virginity:


      As for Origen’s understanding of Jesus and the Logos, I am following Richard A. Norris Jr. in his work “The Christological Controversy” in which he says about Origen’s understanding of the Logos: “The first stage in this process of mediation is fulfilled through the unification of the Logos with the one rational spirit which did not fall away from God – the soul which is Jesus. The mode of this union, as Origen sees it, is contemplative love. The unfallen soul’s love for Wisdom is so intense that it identifies itself in and with God’s eternal image of himself, and so becomes the expression, the mediator, of Wisdom . . . so the soul which is Jesus is assimilated to the divine Wisdom, the Logos, and thus reveals and conveys Wisdom. The second stage in the mediation comes when this soul which is united to the Logos becomes embodied through a human birth” (12).


      1. No problem with what Norris says. Union with the Logos is not “becoming the Logos” in the sense of erasing distinction. Origen is attempting to deal with several very significant questions all at once, most prominent here the “hypostatic union.”

        “Their concept”–the universal understanding of East & West until the (radical) Reformation? That’s the whole point, Christ, while homoousios with the Father, eternally receives his Deity from the Father, who is the Fountainhead, the Monarch of the Trinity. This is the historic teaching of the Church catholic. So, indeed, Christ’s divinity is not “self-existing” (again, the whole point of the Trinity!).

        The notion of “infallibility” is a red herring, in that it involves an ahistorical, extrinsicist understanding of authority and the function of the Councils. The Councils are not “making [up] doctrine.” It is simply a wedge for you to exalt your private opinions as the standard of judgment.

        But 10 years ago I would have been saying the same things as you, so I am humbled …


  2. “It is possible to see in the words ‘this day’ a prophecy of the day on which Jesus Christ was born in His human nature. Yet as the words ‘this day’ denote the actual present, and as in eternity nothing is past as if it had ceased to be, nor future as if it had not yet come to pass, but all is simply present, since whatever is eternal is ever in being, the words ‘Today have I begotten Thee’ are to be understood of the divine generation. In this phrase, Orthodox Catholic belief proclaims the eternal generation of the Power and Wisdom of God who is the only-begotten Son.”
    St. Augustine, Comm. Ps. 2 (reproduced in Manley, “Grace for Grace: The Psalter and the Holy Fathers,” Monastery Books, 1992, p. 9-10).

    Indeed the resemblance to Origen is striking!:
    Origen, Comm. Jn. 1.204 (Heine, 74):
    But the noble origin of the Son is not presented clearly by all these titles. It is, however, when God, with whom it is always “today,” says to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” There is no evening of God possible and, I think, no morning, but the time, if I may put it this way, which is coextensive with his unoriginated and eternal life, is today for him, the day in which the Son has been begotten (Ps 2.7). Consequently neither the beginning nor the day of his generation is to be found.


    1. Thank you for your reply. I will just make one more comment since I have many things to do today. When you say “eternal generation” is “the historic teaching of the Church catholic,” remember that Origen was the first to teach it. It might be historic, but where did it come from? It doesn’t matter how many people believe something is true if the origin of it comes from Origen since so much of his theology was bad (universalism and the pre-existence of the soul for example) which should drive us to the Scriptures to see if his beliefs can be verified by God’s Word which is the sole infallible rule of faith (Acts 17:11). The belief that Scripture alone is the ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice was the majority teaching of the early church:


      What I am trying to do is go back to the primary source of Scripture and test Origen’s theology by it. His teachings were not the teachings of the apostolic church fathers either. Ignatius of Antioch taught that the Word is unbegotten with respect to his divine nature and begotten with respect to his human nature: “There is one only physician, of flesh and of spirit, generate (gennetos) and ingenerate (agennetos), God in man, true Life in death, Son of Mary and Son of God, first passible and then impassible, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Ephesians 7:2). But Origen later taught that the Word is begotten (gennetos) with respect to his divine nature and not just his human nature. But Ignatius taught that the Word is unbegotten as God. The Word as God is self-existent together with the Father and the Holy Spirit who share equally and indivisibly the one divine nature without any subordination.

      I agree with your statement that the “notion of ‘infallibility’ . . . involves an ahistorical, extrinsicist understanding of authority and the function of the Councils.” It was not until later in church history when the ecumenical councils were given the authority they do now in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Those at the council of Nicaea did not call themselves the first ecumenical council or view their creed as infallible. It was the consensus of the leadership of the church at that time. The later consensus at the Council of Sirmium in 357 taught Arianism. Where councils disagree, we must go to Scripture to discern the truth.

      As for the begetting of the Son in Psalm 2:7, this verse is interpreted by the authors of the New Testament as being fulfilled in the resurrection, ascension, and exaltation of Christ to the right hand of the Father (Acts 13:33; Heb 1:4-5; 5:4-5). It was then that the Father bestowed on him the name Yahweh which the Son has always had to vindicate who he is in contrast to his rejection by man (Phil 2:9). The begetting of this verse takes place after the Messiah’s rejection by man in verses 1-3 and not before. “Today” is the day of the Son’s vindication from the Father, not a day in eternity past. “Begotten you” in the context of Psalm 2 is the enthronement of the king of Israel to be God’s representative on earth. Over time, this hymn took on messianic overtones and was seen as a prophecy about the future Messiah. “I have set my King on Zion” in verse six is parallel to “I have begotten you” in verse seven as an expression of God’s exaltation of the Messiah. The king is begotten because he is firstborn or supreme over all things (Ps 89:27). But whereas Israel’s kings were made sons by adoption in this enthronement, the Son has existed as God’s Son from eternity. Hence, using it as a proof text for eternal generation ignores how the New Testament interprets the verse, does not take into account that the begetting takes place after the Messiah’s rejection by man and not before, and ignores the parallelism between begetting and being enthroned as king in the previous verse.


  3. Speaking from an Orthodox perspective (as an ex-evangelical, with still much to learn), what I’m reacting to is what I perceive to be the move to equate the Ecumenical Councils with the RCC “magisterium.” That move is one side of the coin, and the other side is the (implied) notion of a self-interpreting or self-authenticating Bible. Neither are theologically accurate understandings, nor are they how the Eastern Church has historically understood them.

    Authority and Truth are invested, in their various expressions, in and to the Church–which is the pillar and ground of the Truth. Councils can and have erred, which is why we (by the guidance of the Holy Spirit) only recognize some of them as Ecumenical and thus authoritative.

    On Ps 2: Heb 1.5 is most certainly reading Ps 2 in terms of eternal generation, not with regard to the economy of salvation. Cf. also the robust (chairotic) notion of “Today” from Ps 95 in Heb 3-4 … Further, your reading of Ps 2 assumes that textual meaning is constrained by original historical context–very similar to the Antiochene “school” whose hermeneutics and Christology were rejected by the Church. (No little irony there.)

    On Origen: the Church has already done what you are trying to do, which is why Origen is not a saint. The issue is that you (and I) have no authority to judge the whole tradition of the Church based on our private interpretations of the Bible, and certainly not by using wedges like the notion that Origen “dreamt up” eternal generation, which was what then doomed the rest of the Church to unwittingly embrace heresy and unscriptural teaching.

    That posture is in essence the same as the JWs who re-write Church history as the “fall” due to the embrace of Greek philosophy, or the Progressives who deconstruct all historic Christian teachings (e.g., on morality) based on their own self-ascribed moral superiority.

    But again, I thank you for your posts, and for your interest in the Fathers. I will look into the question of eternal generation further. I’m dubious about your assertion that Origen was the first to articulate it. With all his speculation, Origen was a very conservative person; he did not see himself as an innovator, but rather as a student of the Apostles committed to the Church’s catholic faith. (See his prologue to “On First Principles” …)


  4. I just ran across this from Tertullian, looking through CCEL: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.v.ix.vii.html?scrBook=Ps&scrCh=2&scrV=7#v.ix.vii-p11.1

    Which reminded me that Wisdom is “begotten” in Prov 8.25, which became an important anti-Arian text in St. Athanasius. Origen had based his understanding of eternal generation on this text as well, citing it in his comment in the Homilies on Jeremiah, as I recall. Because the LXX has it in the *present tense*! The Father did not “beget” the Son/Wisdom, past tense; the Father is begetting the Son eternally/perpetually.

    Again, the issue is Origen’s understanding is being formed by *close exegesis of and attention to Scripture*!

    I did see that St. Justin does appear to offer an “economic” reading of Ps 2 … which surprised me a bit. But I will keep looking …


  5. The self-authenticating nature of Scripture is the teaching of Scripture, not the invention of Protestants:


    Hebrews 1:5 most certainly is not teaching eternal generation because the author of Hebrews interprets Psalm 2:7 as being fulfilled in the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God at his ascension. That is what he is talking about in the immediate context: “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” His language is a direct allusion to the early Christian hymn of Philippians 2:9 which describes the exaltation of the Messiah after his rejection by man: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.”

    I appreciate your comment that “your reading of Ps 2 assumes that textual meaning is constrained by original historical context.” Exactly, the meaning of the text of Scripture must be determined by its original historical-grammatical context and authorial intent. To do anything else is to engage in an allegorical reading of Scripture that could be used to prove anything. I want my interpretation of the text to be the same as the author’s interpretation. We are commanded to compare what we are taught with the Bible because none of our teachers can stand before us on the day of judgment (Mark 7:9-13; Acts 17:11; 1 Thess 5:21; Rev 2:2). Also, I do not believe that eternal generation is heresy, but that it is sub-biblical and the result of an allegorical reading of Scripture coming from Origen. Not every teaching which falls short of Scripture is heresy.

    My view of church history and authority is not the same as the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they reject sola Scriptura as you do. The Witnesses exalt the authority of the Watchtower organization to the level of Scripture and interpret the Bible through the grid of the teachings of their organization which they believe come directly from God. Instead of adopting the teachings of the ecumenical councils, you could have chosen to embrace the authority of the papacy, the teachings of the prophets of Mormonism, Ellen G. White, or any other cultic group. While they all claim to speak for God, they cannot all be right and the only way we can know if they are true or not is by comparing their teachings with the Bible which no one else can do for us (Acts 17:11). This is why every non-Christian cult must undermine the sufficiency and clarity of Scripture to establish their extra-biblical revelation through which they interpret the Bible. While each group claims infallibility, the decision to embrace claims to infallibility is not itself infallible:


    And Origen was not theologically conservative. He taught the heresy of universalism and many doctrines which depart from the teachings of both the Bible and the apostolic church fathers:


    Proverbs 8 is talking about Lady Wisdom who is the personification of God’s attribute of wisdom, not Jesus Christ. When Paul calls Jesus “the wisdom of God” in 1 Corinthians 1:24, he is drawing an analogy between Lady Wisdom and Christ, not a one-to-one correspondence, otherwise, Jesus would be a created being.

    If you would like to understand what Protestants believe about the gospel, then I encourage you to read Charles Spurgeon’s book “All of Grace.”



  6. Another text for your consideration: Theophilus of Antioch, “To Autoclytus” 2.10. Theophilus of Antioch is dated in the ANF volume from AD 115-181.

    And first, they taught us with one consent that God made all things out of nothing; for
    nothing was coeval with God: but He being His own place, and wanting nothing, and existing
    before the ages, willed to make man by whom He might be known; for him, therefore, He
    prepared the world. For he that is created is also needy; but he that is uncreated stands in
    need of nothing. God, then, having His own Word internal46 within His own bowels, begat
    Him, emitting47 Him along with His own wisdom before all things. He had this Word as a
    helper in the things that were created by Him, and by Him He made all things. He is called
    “governing principle” [ἁρκή], because He rules, and is Lord of all things fashioned by Him.
    He, then, being Spirit of God, and governing principle, and wisdom, and power of the
    highest, came down upon the prophets, and through them spoke of the creation of the world
    and of all other things. For the prophets were not when the world came into existence, but
    the wisdom of God which was in Him, and His holy Word which was always present with
    Him. Wherefore He speaks thus by the prophet Solomon: “When He prepared the heavens
    I was there, and when He appointed the foundations of the earth I was by Him as one brought
    up with Him.”48 And Moses, who lived many years before Solomon, or, rather, the Word
    of God by him as by an instrument, says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the
    earth.” First he named the “beginning,”49 and “creation,”50 then he thus introduced God;
    for not lightly and on slight occasion is it right to name God.

    Again, as with the passage from St. Justin shared a while back, Proverbs 8.22ff is part of the biblical constellation in and from which the question/idea of the eternal generation of the Son emerged.

    Theophilus does not say “eternally” generated here, but that is clearly implicit, because the Son’s relationship to the Father is set in the context of “creation ex nihilo” understanding of creation as well as of God’s aseity. God does not create out of need, and there is no third category of something both created & uncreated. The Son/Logos is not on the “created” side of the ontological divide, in terms of the eternal life of God. Rather, the Son is intrinsic to God’s being, as the Father by definition must have a Son.

    With a little tightening up of the language, to be sufficiently clear about the distinction between understandings of God in his eternal being (ontology) versus his works in the economy of salvation/creation (economy), Theophilus is essentially saying the same thing as St. Athanasius is saying 200 years later.


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