The other day, I was conversing politely and lovingly with some people on Facebook, in a group where the members are supposedly similarly minded in their eschatological stance.
The actual topic of the initial post was on how the Bible says the “son of God,” yet never uses the term “God the son.” My response was that there was no need for such language to be used, because to the ancient Hebrews hearing the words of Christ and the Apostles, they understood full well what it meant when Christ used the term son of God, as well as son of man.
Of course, this type of post ended up attracting a lot of odd responses, but in a Christian forum like this, I did not necessarily expect there would ever be such ignorance and confusion as I found to be the case. For me, much of this is basic Christianity 101.
I guess maybe that is just because I was raised in an orthodox, Trinitarian church and at times just assume too much about others in our eschatological camp. The saddest part is that when you get into it with them, you find their reasoning and thought process tends to be quite shallow.
It seems to stem from their simply reading English words in Scripture and taking them in a too literal way, applying their modern thought and meanings to them. And while it may be admitted that on the surface these English words may cause confusion, it is not something that cannot be resolved by studying the words throughout the entirety of Scripture.
One of the major hurdles we modern readers have to get over, is our modern worldview. You hear this same message from this pulpit all of the time. The context of the Bible is not our context, the worldview of the Bible is not our worldview. It is not our modern worldview or culture that is presented within the pages of Scripture, and we cannot impose it upon them.
Because of that, it requires us to understand the culture and worldview of the writers of Scripture, in order to properly grasp what they are saying. I get so confused and frustrated when someone tries to claim this to not be the case, and it is just sadly humorous.
One of the issues we find with Scripture and English translations, is that words in the original language do not always have one concrete meaning as we try to force upon them. They can have various nuances and uses over time that may not be as easy to pick up on from just comparing a few literal translations of a word that gets used here or there.
I believe this is a large part of the problem with the terms we’re discussing today. The key words in question that we’ll be discussing are “firstborn” and “begotten” when used in the context of Jesus.
Now Dave has touched on these terms and topic in the past, even not too long ago, but usually it is just a quick comment in context of whatever the text was being dealt with. I want to bring these together into one more extensive look at the topic.
I initially thought this would be a quick and simple topic, but once I got into this study further, I actually started to find and connect additional things I hadn’t fully considered beforehand, and really wanted to go into so many other directions to bolster the position, but I had to pull back the reigns and trim so much away to keep it a single, more precise look.
So, let’s jump right in looking at the term “firstborn.” Now again, on the surface, a word like firstborn may sound cut and dry when we look at examples such as:
And they were seated before him from the firstborn according to his birthright to the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another amazed. (Gen 43:33)
These are the names of the descendants of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. (Num 3:2)
"I myself receive the Levites from the midst of the Israelites in the place of all the firstborn of the offspring of the womb from the Israelites. The Levites will be mine because all the firstborn are mine; on the day of my killing all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for myself all the firstborn in Israel, both humankind and animal; they will be mine. I am Yahweh."(Num 3:12-13)
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, in order that the one who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. (Heb 11:28)
So, in each instance, it seems pretty obvious that firstborn is being used to mean indeed the first child born into a family. Before going further, just a small point to keep in mind. In our culture, we do not really have this emphasis, but what was so significant about being the firstborn in that culture?
The firstborn had privileges that the other siblings did not have. They received a special blessing and special authority when it was passed down from their father. There was something real that happened between father and the firstborn son, something we have a hard time even comprehending or fully understanding.
We see in the story of Jacob and Esau, how Jacob dressed up and pretended to be his brother Esau, and came to their father to deceive him and receive his brothers blessing. As soon as he had received the blessing from their father Isaac, Jacob left and in came Esau.
As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also prepared delicious food and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son's game, that you may bless me.” His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?”
He answered, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.”
As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” (Gen 27:30-35)
So, while we in our culture may not fully grasp the deep significance of what this apparently substantive blessing was, it was something that was real and irreversible. So even applying this natural, physical aspect of this firstborn idea to Jesus means something very significant and blessed about Him.
The issue for most is how they force their view of the born part of the word into things. I believe this idea may suitably be considered a type and anti-type situation. The physical first male child of Israel held a special blessed place under the father, and we can apply all of that idea to Jesus, the true Israel, in a grander, fulfilled spiritual realm way.
And then there is this word “begotten,” which likewise tends to confuse some who only read it in English and take a basic, surface level view. This word appears in the one Scripture most everyone knows by heart:
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. (Joh 3:16 KJV)
Again, this has brought confusion to many who do not stop to think and study this through. Not only do some of the more cultic religions get this wrong, but even some in the more orthodox camps have gotten seriously messed here.
I believe the confusion comes from at least two different angles actually; the use of word itself, as well as a faulty understanding of what the idea of a son of God means. Just like the term firstborn, if you apply a wooden meaning to this word every time it occurs, it will lead to these problems.
When we read through the Hebrew Scriptures, we often read how so and so begat so and so, and so and so begat so and so, and we of course understand this to be speaking of parents having children.
Many will then apply a logic that, since that is the use of the word, when Jesus is called the only begotten son of God, that there must have been a time when Yahweh — the Father — “begat” the Son — right?
Obviously, most everyone grabs a concordance, they look up the meaning of the original word, and then they apply that meaning consistently throughout all of its uses. Sadly, this is not always a proper way to interpret things, as many words have multiple meanings and nuances, which is why oftentimes there are numerous meanings listed in concordances.
It requires knowing how words may have changed in meaning or use at different times in ancient history. Since the average reader, and often teacher, does not study deep enough to figure this out, mistaken applications get taught.
This type of understanding and logic has led some people down the path of believing Christ the son at one point didn’t exist, and then Yahweh begat him, or created Him — making the Son the first creation — the firstborn — of God.
But is that what this always means? Is Jesus a son “begotten” or “born” to God like we think of human sons being born? The problem is threefold at the minimum, as far as the terminology is concerned. So here are the three points I wish to cover today:
- What does it mean to be a son of God?
- How is Jesus the firstborn?
- How is Jesus the begotten of God?
Okay, so point one, what does it mean to be a son of God? I won’t spend too much time here, since this is a topic that has been covered in great detail in many prior. I will simply remind you, that the Hebrews, first century Christians and early church leaders all understood that the term “sons of God” — ben Elohim — speaks of spiritual realm beings.
In fact, the term Elohim is never used in Scripture to speak of any being except those in the spirit realm; never about a man or worldly creature. For a much more detailed look at the topic, go back to Dave’s sixth part in the Spiritual Warfare series of 2015 where he deals with it.
You have heard this much more lately, as the idea of the divine council worldview has been spoken of by us. Sadly, it is ignorance of this fact that tends to start the ball rolling off track for many today. They simply believe by saying son of God, that it means he is the literal created offspring of the Father.
They may associate the term son of God with the fact that the Spirit came and overshadowed the virgin Mary, causing this supernatural birth that is directly from God, therefore Jesus the man is therefore the literal son of God. Such a view requires no thought of a pre-existing Christ, though most orthodox believers believe in that as well.
Had everyone possessed this proper background and worldview understanding as the Hebrews held, chances are less likely that they would travel down the road to such error as we find today. So, a root of the problems seems to definitely stem from ignorance of this point.
It was here that I had to refrain from straying into a whole background study of the first century understanding and second Temple view of the terms son of God and son of man. At our spring conference in 2015 I gave a lecture on the influence of the Book of Enoch on the NT.
In it I covered how many messianic terms were used, and thus defined in 2nd Temple writings like Enoch, and how those influenced the usage of terms in the NT. You can find my blog posts from that study on the church studies page under Divine Council to read further.
Basically, because of this understood background in Second Temple literature, when Jesus comes on the scene, claiming to be the son of God as well as the son of Man, the Hebrew people would have immediately understood what he was implying about himself.
He was claiming to be in some way related to those beings in the spirit realm. This makes him much more than simply a human being like them, which is in fact what he was saying, and they knew it, even if some modern readers do not grasp it.
Numerous times he told them in language they understood, that he was sent from the Father, came down from above, and pre-existed his human form, etc. They often understood His words and implications, and they did not like them.
Not so much simply because of what He was saying with his claims, but because they had expectations of a divine political type leader, and they rejected Him because in their thoughts, the one they expected would be and act much different than he was.
Okay, moving on, Jesus is a son of God, a spirit realm being that existed before his fleshly birth as Jesus the man. He is referred to as the firstborn of God. As mentioned, based on the uses of firstborn discussed before, some want to say this means that the pre-existent Christ was the first creation, the one who was born first from the Father.
The issues we run into with this word “firstborn” is that it does not always fit as a use for a literal firstborn chronologically to a family. For instance, how can we force the chronological idea of first child when it gets applied to David, son of Jesse? If you’ll recall, David is one of eight sons, and is in fact the youngest. See 1 Samuel:
Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul (1 Sa 17:12-14)
David is the youngest of eight, and if we stick with a strict meaning for the term, there is no way you can use firstborn to describe him, right? Yet in Psalm 89 we see just that.
I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him… And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. (Psa 89:20, 27 ESV)
When you study into this word through Scripture, you hopefully begin to realize that by firstborn, it does not always mean those who are chronologically born first in line. As Adam Clarke puts it:
First-born is not always to be understood literally in Scripture. It often signifies simply a well-beloved, or best-beloved son; one preferred to all the rest, and distinguished by some eminent prerogative. (Adam Clarke on Psalm 89:27)
I believe he hits the nail on the head, that is how we are to understand this term at times, yet so many others fail to understand this. We further see such a use in action in Exodus 4:22:
Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son (Exo 4:22 ESV)
Wait! If Israel is God’s firstborn, then how is Jesus the firstborn of God? How can you have two firstborns? How is Israel born at all, in the physical sense? Here, as in its use regarding David, the tern is used to mean they are special, blessed, in a place of special blessing by God.
If you stop to think of it as mentioned, this special place idea is pretty much exactly applicable to those who are literally real firstborn children, they too are said to hold a special place of blessing and authority from God.
Continuing on with another use of firstborn, how about the use we find in Jeremiah 31:
With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. (Jer 31:9 ESV)
Like in the case of David, Ephraim the person is not the firstborn, chronologically. In some cases, Ephraim is the term used for the tribe of people, and is often used as a substitute for the whole nation of Israel, so it would be pretty much the same as what we just saw in Exodus about Israel being the firstborn.
In both instance, it does not refer to something being the first to be born or created. The way some teach that Christ was the first creation of Yahweh – the first thing he did in creation — they would have to somehow also say that Israel was first to be created, and that David is somehow first to be born. Its foolishness.
In these few examples, it is used to state that these parties of special, they are called out as blessed, distinguished or preferred. And when applied to Christ, being called firstborn therefore does not require it to imply he was created first, but that he likewise is special and distinguished.
The verse we examined in Psalms a moment ago seem to indeed make this direct connection:
I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him… And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. (Psa 89:20-27 ESV)
David would be made firstborn. The word for “make” in this context is not to make as in create like we may think, but it means to give, set, assign, appoint, or designate. So, David will be appointed as firstborn, a special place of favor, and being put into this place, he is then considered “The highest of the kings of the earth.”
The verse is basically giving us a more proper understanding for the term firstborn – to be designated as firstborn would be to make him the highest. On top of that, this Psalm is acknowledged as a messianic Psalm, meaning what is being said of David is a type, with the true anti-type applying this designation as king to Christ himself.
Christ was made firstborn, designated and set apart as better, more blessed and distinguished? Set apart and better than whom though? Better and higher than the other sons of God. Jesus, like the angels, is part of the body of beings in the spiritual realm that are known as sons of God.
Remember, a son of God, ben Elohim, is not necessarily referencing a specific type of being. In other words, Jesus is not necessarily on the same level as a created angel. Remember, Elohim is more of a reference to a location and not to a specific type of being. This is to say that He is a being in the same spiritual realm alongside of other beings like the angels.
The Greek word behind firstborn, is the word pro-tot-ok'-os and that word comes from the root word pro’-tos which means “in time, place, order or importance.” So while it can be used to specific something first in an order of things, like a chronologically first born child, it is also used in Scripture to refer to someone or thing first or of more importance or rank. For instance, in Luke:
And he was teaching every day in the temple courts, and the chief priests and the scribes and the most prominent men (protos) of the people were seeking to destroy him. (Luk 19:47 LEB)
The special people, the chief of the Jews as some translations put it, are referred to with this term, so it definitely has a related meaning and use as someone special or of higher class and not simply a chronological aspect.
Once we understand that this term firstborn can mean that the one spoken of is special and first in rank, and not necessarily first in existence, we can now look at other places where this understanding appears. Where else can we go to hear of Christ being different and better? The book of Hebrews opens with the case of the supremacy of Christ.
Although God spoke long ago in many parts and in many ways to the fathers by the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world, (Heb 1:1-2 LEB)
In those last days, Yahweh began speaking through a Son, and this particular son had been appointed as heir and was the one who made the worlds. Your translation may say that He has spoken to us by THE son, or by HIS son, but those terms are added erroneously by the translators.
The fact is, the Greek has no definite article when you get to the noun about his son, nor is there a possessive pronoun. It is literally that He spoke to us by a Son. Chances are the translators make it His son, or the son, because of a lack of understanding the Hebrew concept of the divine council context.
Most commentators who recognize this as being properly translated as “a son” tend to still make the mistake of explaining that it obviously means “the son” or “His son,” since, they say, God doesn’t have but one son. Without a divine council context, saying there are multiple sons of God does sound strange, but it is not. And while we know there are others designated as a son of God, Hebrews explains that this son is very different and significant.
While we know this is section in Hebrews is speaking of Jesus the Christ, note also, it is saying this Son clearly preexisted before he was born as Jesus into this world, for it states He is the one who made the world. Sadly, I have even run across some who associate in our groups, who try to claim that Christ did not pre-exist prior to his birth on earth.
At first, I thought they might just be playing with words, saying Jesus didn’t exist prior to his birth, as in, Jesus the man never existed prior to that. That I would agree with obviously, the human, fleshly man bearing the name Jesus did not. But to try to deny any pre-existence of the son that came to be born as that man is inconceivable in light of Scripture.
Moving on, Hebrews tells us that this son is special and above the angels because he has traits that the other sons do not have:
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Heb 1:3a ESV)
Sure, this sin is a spirit realm being like the angels are a spirit realm being, but this one is different, he is a direct representation of the essence of God. This is why he is different, but then what are we told about how we know of his special standing within the angelic hosts? We are told:
When he had made purification for sins through him, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become by so much better than the angels, by as much as he has inherited a more excellent name than theirs. For to which of the angels did he ever say, "You are my son, today I have begotten you," and again, "I will be his father, and he will be my son"? (Heb 1:5 LEB)
No angel was ever given or designated with the special privileged as this son did, for of all of the sons, which of them were ever declared begotten? We now see our other often confused word — begotten — popping in, as it says this son was begotten.
Before moving to that, and I don’t want to go off on a long tangent here, but I cannot help but raise a question at this point. This is directed at those who deny the existence of heavenly beings commonly known as angels, believing this term to always be speaking of human messengers.
If that is the case, then what is the significance in saying here that Jesus is much better than other human messengers? Or in what way, in Hebrews 2, was Jesus made a little lower than those human messengers? I don’t get it, as it really makes nonsense of the comparisons and point that Hebrews is pronouncing here.
Human messengers are already mentioned in verse one, where it says God spoke through prophets — those are humans messenger from God. Then you have this special son who is now speaking for Yahweh. Then we are told more details of this son, and find out he is not just another human messenger like the prophets were, he is the essence of Yahweh and obviously pre-existed his becoming human.
This makes Him to be much more than a human, and puts him into a whole other class of being. Then even farther, this son does a work, dies, and then sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high. The term Majesty here is used for someone of greatness and is understood as divinity — as God himself. Along with this Majesty on high, obviously not on Earth, we find there are these angels, also known elsewhere as sons of God.
Angels have also been messengers for God to man in the past, but are obviously being mentioned here to contrast and be noted as a different type of being from the human prophets already mentioned.
In taking such a human messenger view for angels, you end up with Hebrews stating there were human prophets, a pre-existent son who walked among other sons of God understood as angels elsewhere, and how this special son was somehow created lower than these human messenger angels, yet is in fact called out, better, and higher than those human messenger angels.
If the writer intended to imply humans in all cases, his use of different terms each time makes it impossible to understand that thought. Plus, in light of what we know the common Hebrew understanding of angels was at that time, it becomes absolutely humorous for someone to claim that angels simply meant human messengers to them, again, just because they take a woodenly literal definition for the term
However, if we properly understand that Christ has been seated in the same upper realm, and is among these other spiritual beings known as angels, then we can see it is saying that of all of these beings in the realm, He is highest of the sons, and rules in a throne alongside of the high Majesty.
Again, this failed understanding of angels and the spiritual realm comes from an ignorance of the Hebrew concept of the divine council. With the divine council context in mind, as the first century hearers had, the contrast being made here in Hebrews is much more powerful of a declaration about Christ than if this whole thing were simply about types of humans.
Now back on point, let’s begin looking at this word begotten. As mentioned, we have a long history of people who begat this one and that one, and we understand this as having children. And because of the metaphor of father and son used for Yahweh and Christ, people want to apply this use of begotten son as likewise being a child that is in some way created or birthed.
Because of that, the idea of Christ being Yahweh’s first creation is considered valid by some. Yet like the term firstborn, this term begotten also has multiple nuances, and does not always mean to birth a child. There are two things I would like to point out, that should jump out as being kind of basic logic here.
In this passage in Hebrews, it says “For to which of the angels did he ever say, "You are my son, today I have begotten you." If this was trying to imply that Jesus was created, begotten in the sense of having a starting point of existence, then how does this statement make any sense?
Are not angels considered created, begotten things in that creation sense? And if they were likewise created as Christ was, would they not also be similarly sons? If that is the use of begotten here, then it would apply to the angels too, as they were begotten — created — and sons that have a beginning?
So, for the question, “for which of his angels did he ever say today I have begotten you,” the answer would logically be “all of them,” as all of them had a first day of existence after creation, and all are sons of God.
It should be obvious from the start then, that begotten here is not about being created or born as it might be used to state at times. Yahweh is clearly differentiating between this one son and all of the other sons or angels. This one is different and the term begotten is being used here to say just that.
There is something different with this one, a difference that cannot be claimed by any of the others. Something that none of the others possess, that cannot be applied to them in any way. Therefore it seems quite obvious this term cannot be speaking of a creation date, which the others do have.
Let me quote another wise teacher on this topic, well, more specifically on the topic of “only begotten” referring to the son of God in John 3:16. Though a slightly different term with more of a focus on only, the application is still related:
How could Yeshua be the only divine son when there were other sons of God? The answer to this is that "only begotten" is an unfortunately confusing translation, especially to modern ears. Not only does the translation "only begotten" seem to contradict the obvious statements in the Tanakh about other sons of God, it implies that there was a time when the Son did not exist—that He had a beginning.
The word monogenes doesn't mean "only begotten" in some sort of "birthing" sense. The confusion extends from an old misunderstanding of the root of the Greek word. For years monogenes was thought to have derived from two Greek terms, monos ("only") and gennao ("to beget, bear"). Greek scholars later discovered that the second part of the word monogenes does not come from the Greek verb gennao, but rather from the noun genos ("class, kind"). The term literally means: "one of a kind" or "unique" without connotation of created origin. (David Curtis on John 3:16)
An example we could look at, that Dave also looked at, is the use of this same term in Hebrews, where we are told:
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son (Heb 11:17 KJV)
So it says Isaac is Abrahams only begotten —his monogenes. Since we know before Isaac was born that Abraham had fathered Ishmael, then Isaac was not an only begotten if this term is only meant to speak of literal birth. This term is used to mean that Isaac was Abraham's unique son, for he was the son of the covenant promises.
It is Isaac's genealogical line that would be the one through which Messiah would come. So monogenes means: "one kind, unique or only" (i.e. the only one of its kind). We also find this begotten phrase used elsewhere, and the usages also steer the understanding away from it having anything to do with a start date or birth of this son.
These next few points were brought out in a recent podcast discussion by Michael Heiser, the ancient languages scholar that is speaking at the upcoming conference. He directs the attention to Acts 13, where we are told:
And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.
And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore he says also in another psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ (Act 13:29-35 ESV)
In this context, the phrase about the son being begotten, is used in conjunction with the resurrection event. So again, this phrase cannot be linked to any kind of creation or birth event, as it is here being applied to something significant directly connected to the resurrection of Jesus. Another time it appears is in Hebrews 5:For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 5:1-6 ESV)
In this context, the phrase is being used in connection with the priestly office of Christ. Again, nothing to do with a beginning or creation idea. Now, if you were not aware from the start, this phrase is a quote from Psalm 2, and likewise there it has nothing to do with creation or birth.Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
So right from the start, the topic is about rulers of the earth conspiring against the Lord’s anointed one, and Yahweh’s response is appropriate:He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
So, aside from laughing, Yahweh has set his king on Zion. And what does he say about that king he has set up?I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” (Psa 2:7-9 ESV)
The context here is of one being called out, being declared as in the position of kingship and authority of some sort. The statement about being a son and the declaring of the son as begotten is a declaration of someone becoming an authority and ruler, a kingship situation that has nothing in any way related to creation or birth.
And with that in mind, we look back at the verses we’ve been discussing in the NT, and we find that they likewise relate in the same way with this type of use. In the opening Hebrews passages, this special son is being called out from all of the others and declared begotten, and if you read the whole first chapter, you cannot miss the purpose of this all. Here are the highlights:
As we have already seen, in verses one and two, we are told that the son is now the mouthpiece of Yahweh instead of the prophets of old, and this Son is the heir of all things.Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Heb 1:1-2 ESV)
In verse 3 and 4 we are told about the special traits of this Son that make him worthy and different, as well as the results of the work he accomplished:He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. 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. (Heb 1:3-4 ESV)
This son is an exact imprint of Yahweh, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. And after he atoned for sin he sat down at the seat of power, the right hand of Yahweh on high. This is the son taking a kingly, co-ruler position with Yahweh.
And notice what is stated next, after this position of authority is mentioned, it is then directly connected with the phrase about being begotten, for the very next verse is where we got:For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? (Heb 1:5 ESV)
In verse eight and nine we again have the son spoken of as taking the throne as well as being anointed with oil, which is typical for one taking a position of authority:But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions (Heb 1:8-9 ESV)
And while he already asked which of the angels was ever declared begotten, he reiterates it with a further connection of it as relating to a position of authority, when in verse 13 he asks:And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? (Heb 1:13 ESV)
This special son makes a purification for sin and sits at the right hand of Yahweh, taking a throne and position of authority, and this is tied to His being declared as begotten, and taking a position above that of the angels. This is all the context of kingship, and these terms are directly connected to that.
Here is mentioned another quote, and this time it is from Psalm 110, and guess what the whole topic of that Psalm is? The rulership of the coming Messiah, and it tells us:The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! … The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. (Psa 110:1-5 ESV)
So the sitting at the right hand is clearly related to taking a ruler position. But what event had to occur in connection with his making the purification for sin, before he could take the right-hand position? Well, the purification for sin required his death on the cross, which was of course followed by his resurrection, which is exactly the connection Paul made in Acts 13 that we read earlier:And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ (Acts 13:33)
The resurrection is connected to being called a begotten son. Then as we saw in Hebrews 5, the term is connected to the son becoming the high priest:So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 5:1-6 ESV)
So in the end, with all of this, we can deduce that this Son is special, called out, declared significant by using the term begotten, and that this is tied to his being the ultimate prophet, priest and king over all creation. And this “begotten” quote, originally from Psalm 2, is likewise relating to the anointed one being established as ruler and king of the creation.
Want a little more proof? Let’s look real quickly at our initial verse in Hebrews:For to which of the angels did he ever say, "You are my son, today I have begotten you," and again, "I will be his father, and he will be my son"? (Heb 1:5 LEB)
What about this last part, about being the father and Him being the son? It seems obviously a quote like the one before it, so what is that referring to? It is quoting 2 Samuel 7, so let us look at a decent chunk of it to understand the context:Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you.And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel.And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” (2Sa 7:8-16 ESV)
This is the Davidic covenant, this is about the kingship of David. And notice the placement of our phrase:I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. (2 Sam 7:12b-14 ESV)
This phrase is connected to the son of David. To this son, God will be a father. This son will build God a house, so it is obviously speaking of Solomon right? David’s son who built the most wonderful temple back in his day? Solomon was wise, his kingdom great, with peace and greatness during the time. So how does this little phrase regarding Solomon have anything to do with being applied to Jesus?
I believe what we have here is another case of type and anti-type. Solomon is the type, the literal son of David that physically built the temple, but Christ is the anti-type fulfillment of this. Christ is wisdom, Christ brings peace, and He likewise built a house — a tabernacle — for Yahweh, where he himself was the chief cornerstone.So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22 ESV)
And is not Jesus also clearly considered and referred to as the son of David? Hopefully you say yes, because others in his life sure thought so:Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” (Mat 12:22-23 ESV)And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” (Mat 20:30 ESV)And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mat 21:9 ESV)Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” (Mat 22:41-42 ESV)
It seems clear that the people of his day understood the prophecy of 2 Samuel and the reference to the son of David, and how it would be fulfilled by the Messiah. Christ is that son of David, and as his son, this verse in 2 Samuel about the kingship of David and later his son and their throne is applicable to Christ.
Therefore this verse about God being his father and he being the Son and its relation to kingship are further solidified. So with all of the evidence, we can deduce that this term about being begotten, in reference to the Son, can be summed up as not being about the birth or creation of Christ at all. It is instead, directly related to the declaration or the inauguration of the kingship of the resurrected, high priest, eternal Son.
Jesus became king when he sat down at the right hand of Majesty, a prophecy laid out in Psalm 110; a Psalm dealing with the establishment of a kingly ruler from God. His sitting at the right hand as king took place after he was resurrected, which took place after he was sacrificed, all of which we have seen are steps connected to this phrase “today I have begotten you.”
Yahweh is saying, today I have called you out, established you in this position, to ultimately achieve all that was beforehand spoken of to my human kings, priests and children.
The evidence is clear that this term begotten, as well as firstborn, when used in relation to Christ the Son, have nothing to do with chronology of a birth or creation. The only way to make such a case is to strip them out of content, both the content of the text they appear in, as well as the context of the worldview and understanding of the people using them at the time. Heiser states it plainly:I would say, based on these usages (this variety), that anyone who would connect the phrase "today I have begotten you" with the origin of Jesus—as though he was not pre-existent—is simply guilty of ignoring the scriptural use of the phrase. It's pretty much that simple. (Michael Heiser, Hebrews 1:5-14, Naked Bible podcast 176)
I especially love his later comments, as they relate directly to my circumstance. In speaking of how people are going to continue to take these terms out of context and continue to confuse things, he says:
Just because we make these points doesn't mean people aren't going to do it. They are going to do it! They're going to do it every day. You're going to see it on Facebook. You're going to see it all over the place—all over the web. You're going to run into people at work.
You'll get into a religious discussion and you'll find someone who rejects the eternality or the pre-existence or the deity of Christ. This is what you're going to get, if they're taught. This is what you're going to get.
Next time you get it, ask, "You know that phrase, 'you are my son, today I have begotten you' that we're talking about? Where are the other two passages that it's used?" I'll bet they don't know! (Michael Heiser, Hebrews 1:5-14, Naked Bible podcast 176)
An honest studier will have to admit that it is near impossible, when comparing Scripture to Scripture, and considering the Hebrew worldview, to come away with an idea that this tern begotten or firstborn, when found in the context as it appears in these verses regarding the son, could ever be misconstrued to apply to a birth, beginning or creation of Christ the Son.
Sadly, these types of mistakes are made because people don’t know, read or study the Scriptures like they should. They are not so entrenched in God’s Word as to quickly be able to make the connections we’ve discussed today. Or they are ignorant of the worldview that is portrayed in Scripture.
There are many people who make theological decisions based on what they have been taught by someone, or by simply not going any deeper than reading the English text, and that often out of context, and then coming to conclusions on their own.
Few people take the time to fully study the context, the original languages, the ancient usage, the worldview of the writing, etc. and yet they will stand firm and defend a position on such weak a foundation.
Don’t be deterred by this thought though. True, not everyone has the time, skills or know-how to do the kind of extensive work needed to dig as deep as is often required to get to such a clearer knowledge on a doctrine. It does often require the assistance of others with more skill. But it doesn’t require all of the extra work to have a good foundation of Scripture in general.
When it comes to topics like this and so many more, the extensive study is not fully needed at first in order to avoid much of the confusion and error in one’s theology. Often times, just a good familiarity with the whole of the Word of God and the full story presented there will go a very long way in alerting someone to inconsistencies and questionable divergence from the theme of Scripture.
When you better know the entire story, all of the pieces and details, it becomes much easier to spot someone’s teaching that doesn’t totally seem to line up or actually goes contrary to the story line elsewhere. Then you can focus in and do additional study on such an issue to acquire more clarity. But first and foremost, you have to know the Word thoroughly.
As usual, with today being the end of a year and tomorrow is the start of a new year, we wish to challenge you all to either start one, or continue a yearly Bible reading plan. It is a New Year resolution that keeps on giving for the child of God.
I recently overheard a Christian lady who was brought up in the church, still very active to this day, now in her mid-40’s, and she stated that she has never read the Bible all of the way through. Don’t be content to be like that. Don’t be a child of Yahweh who doesn’t even know what Yahweh has fully said. While Churchianity is diseased with this sad ignorance of God’s Word, let 2018 be your chance to become part of the cure. Amen.