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the ground, which resers the appellation Son of God, to the eternal generation of a nature divine.
I have produced the ground of my dissent from the doctrine of eternal generation. It will be incumbent on me, before I take leave of the subject, to notice the arguments which are adduced in support of it. But this must be reserved for another Letter.
Rev. AND DEAR SIR,
In considering the arguments adduced to support the theory of eternal generation, I will first follow Turretine, who certainly is one of the ablest advocates of this doctrine, and who has laid out very much of his strength in its defence.
He begins with the passage from the second Psalm ; but as I have already examined this, I will not again dwell upon it. Io commenting on this passage, he adverts to another in Hebrews, 1: 5 ; which has often been adduced, and which claims an examination. The writer of this Epistle is here endeavouring to prove the superiority of Christ over the angels. He represents him as exalted above them, because he has obtained a more excellent name than they. “For,” says he, “ unto which of the angels said he [the Father) at any time, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son."
It needs no argument, I suppose, to prove that the name obtained by inheritance cannot be literally understood. For then it would necessarily imply the death of the Father, in consequence of which his title descended to the Son. The whole difficulty in the passage is made by inadequate versions of it, xexangovounxev being translated as signifying, obtained by inheritance. Now nothing is plainer, than that the word xangovouew, as employed by the Hebrew-Greek, corresponds exactly to the Hebrew word unt; which means to get, acquire, obtain possession of, in any manner, or at any time. It was thus that the Israelites inherited the land of Canaan, from its heathen inhabitants.
Christ then is exalted above the angels, because he has obtained a more honorable title than they. But what is this title? Angels too are called sons of God. God is the author of their being. They are a bright reflection of his moral perfections. They are most like to him of all his rational creatures, of which we have any knowledge. It is not then, because Son designates DERIVATION from God, that Christ has a higher title than the angels, when he is called Son. For a similar reason they too might be called Sons. What then is the ground of preference? Why plainly the one which has already been assigned, viz, that Son designates Christ as King, the Messiah, the Head over all things, the agxn ruler of the creation of God. In both the passages which the apostle quotes, the context evidently shews that the title Son is given to Christ, as the constituted King of Zion.
But farther. How could he OBTAIN a better title than the angels? If he were Son eternally, did he obtain a filiation? And could the prophecies quoted, speak of his filiation as future ?
The angels are all ministering servants ;" but Christ, the “ bead of the creation of God, and preeminent over every creature (now totoxos ins raons XTLGEWS,") Christ the Son of God, has a rank and dignity far above them.
The second argument of Turretine is derived from Proy. 8:22; the chapter which contains a beautiful and poetic personification of divine wisdom. It would lead me into too wide a field, to discuss the subject of this text at length; a text on which all the Fathers, who held to the antemundane or to the eternal generation of the Son, placed so much reliance; in the interpretation of which they have been followed too, by the great multitude of divines in later ages. I will only
that the preceding and succeeding context shows, that wisdom is an attribute and not a person, a virtue and not a concrete being. A better understanding of the nature of Hebrew poetry and of poetic language in general, would have saved, as I must believe, all the speculations that have been indulged, respecting this celebrated passage.
But if one must needs have it, that it shall be understood of the Logos, and his eternal generation ; then there lies an insuperable difficulty in the way, from the language. “When there was no depths 73317 I was brought forth ;—before the hills onssin was I brought forth.” It is the action of parturition and not of generation, which is indicated by this language.
Excepting the figurative sense of creating or of forming, the verb in question has no other meaning that classes under this category. Neither of these meanings however, would comport with the Nicene Creed any better than “ brought forth.”
3. Turretine adduces the passage in Micah 5: 1, in
which it is said of a personage (the Messiah, who is to spring from, or as the Hebrew runs to come out of Bethlehem Euphratah,) that his going forth are of old, even from the days of eternity. In Turretine’s apprehension, this characterises the generation of the Son of God, and plainly represents it as eternal.
But the phrase is, at least, susceptible of two meanings, which differ from this; either of which appears to me more probable than this. The first is, that the Messiah should descend from a very ancient and illustrious house. For the words 7 and 79, rendered by Turretine eternity, are like the Greek aww, that also signifies any thing ancient, which has endured, or is to endure for a long period. The question when these words are to have the meaning of absolute eternity, and when the sense of ancient or very old, is always to be determined by the nature of the case, i. e. by the context. But the context, in the present case, is not sufficiently specific to determine with certainty. Of course, I must concede that the meaning of the phrase, as I have just given it, (though so interpreted by Rosenmueller,) remains somewhat uncertain.
A second ineaning may be, (and most probably it is the real one,) that the personage, who was to be born, should unite with him or in him an eternal nature, one which did not commence with his birth in Bethlehem, but one which was eternal, or which had no beginning. Exactly correspondent with this sentiment, is that of Isaiah, in Chap. ix ; where speaking of the Son who was to be born, and to be made universal King, he calls him, among other names, the mighty God, the father of eternity (79 %), which I understand, with Rosenmuel. ler, to be an idiomatic phrase, simply meaning eternal.
This child was to be not only a Son and a King, but the mighty and eternal God ; i. e. in this personage,
these natures were to be combined.
The same sentiment I take to be expressed by Micah. “Out of Bethlehem,” says he, “ shall issue (x3) a King over Israel, whose nixsin issues, goings forth, origines, are eternal.” The latter part of the verse, in respect to form, is an antithetic paronomasia of the formAs if we were to say, in English, A ruler shall
go forth from Bethlehem, whose goings forth are eternal ; i.e. a ruler shall be born there, who shall possess a nature that is incapable of birth; in other words, an eternal and divine nature.
Such is the natural exegesis of the passage, according to the spirit of Hebrew parallelism and poetic expression. But in this, I find no support for the doctrine of eternal generation.*
4. Turretine, and most who agree with him in sentiment respecting the doctrine in question, deduce arguments in support of it, from the epithets which are combined with the word Son. These are idios own ; ayaπητος beloved ; μονογενης only begotten ; and πρωτοτοκος first-born. I will now examine these in their order.
1. Iduos own. This epithet is applied by the sacred writers, in only one instance, to Christ. Paul
6 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, &c.” Rom. 8: 32. In one other case, the Jews aver, that Jesus “ not only profaned the Sabbath, but asserted that God was his own father (edcov namnga,) making himself equal to God.” John 5: 18. But that
* What Turretine can mean, when, in commenting on this verse in Micah, he says, " Nec potuit (Filius) prodiisse a Patre nisi per generationem substantialem," I will not attempt to conjecture.