The Eternally Begotten Son

The Eternally Begotten Son
I have encountered some interesting discussion lately regarding the function of the three persons of the Trinity. One discussion specifically wondered if we can speak meaningfully of the roles of those persons in eternity past. Namely, could any one of the three have become the Son? Some have suggested the answer to this must be affirmative. The three persons, although eternally existent, were NOT eternal occupants of the roles we see revealed in scripture.

I wonder how well this fits with the Nicene Creed. The Creed states (see http://www.creeds.net/ancient/niceneg.htm for the full text of the creed):

Και εις ένα κύριον Ιησουν Χριστον, τον υιον του θεου τον μονογενη, τον ει του πατρος γεννηθέν τα προ πάντων των αιώνων, φως εκ φωτος, θεον αληθινον εκ θεου αληθινου, γεννηθέντα, ου ποιηθέντα, ομοουσιον τωι πατρί

in English:

[We believe] in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.

Question: Can the creed be read in such a way that the second person of the trinity was, at some point in eternity past, NOT the Son? Or does the creedal depiction of “begottenness” speak more of relationship rather than event?

3 Responses to The Eternally Begotten Son

  1. Clint says:

    In order to enagage in this conversation let me get you to clarify some terms (as I am new to this debate and am certainly no expert on the creed).

    In relationship to “begottenness,” by using the following terms do you mean:

    relationship-the Son is eternally the son of the Father relationally, which would seem to be the more natural reading of the creed

    event-the begottenness implies a certain temporal event when the the second person of the trinity became the son.

    It seems that when scholars talk about the persons of the trinity they are talking about some essential quality, or something that has always been, thus not accidental to God. If this is correct, then it seems that the begottenness would have to be eternal of necessity. I have a lot more questions for you, O Theology Scholar, but I will wait until these are answered to move on.

  2. Nathan says:

    You are asking the very questions that come to my mind as I wrestle with the ideas mentioned in the original post: If any one of the three persons could have become the Son, that would seem to imply that sonship is not eternal. It would seem to imply that the three persons *were* identical in this significant regard, but then *accepted* roles that were chosen at some point in eternity (I envision this as the divine institution of “Rock, Paper, Scissors”).

    This view would then differ from the perspective that says that the concept of sonship depicts a relationship that always obtained–that the second person of the Trinity has always been the Son to the first person’s Father.

    Moreover, it seems to me that *if* I am drawing the first view with any reasonable degree of fidelity, I find that drawing to be contradicted by the creed.

    I need to bring greater detail to this discussion by finding published works that tend toward the first view, but I haven’t got them at my fingertips…

  3. Xavier says:

    Ahhhhhh! All done with finals, now back to blogging.

    Here is my innitial response. As I understand it, the divine processions (and notions and relations) are necessarily what they are. That is, necessarily, the person that is the Son = the One that is begotten, the person that is the Father = the One that begets. So it could not have been the case that the person that is the Son is ≠ the begotten One and so on.

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