The Generation Of The Son -- By: John V. Dahms

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 32:4 (Dec 1989)
Article: The Generation Of The Son
Author: John V. Dahms


The Generation Of The Son

John V. Dahms*

According to the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) the divine Son was “begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead.” In this paper we consider (1) whether the Bible teaches that the Son was begotten, (2) whether the doctrine has theological significance, and (3) objections to the doctrine.

I. Biblical Teaching

1. That the NT represents the Father as uniquely the Father of the Son, and the Son as uniquely the Son of the Father, needs no argument. The evidence is unmistakable in Matt 11:27 (“All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”), in 1 John 4:14 (“The Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world”), and in numerous other passages.

The relevant question is whether such language implies the generation of the Son. In this connection several points must be noted. (1) In the OT God can be called Father, and personal beings can be called sons of God, without generation or derivation from God being in view (e.g. Deut 32:6; Mal 2:10). Generation language can also be used when derivation from God is not literally intended (e.g. Exod 4:22; Deut 32:18; Ps 89:27). Moreover there is no evidence either in the OT or in the intertestamental literature that a personal being was ever thought to have been begotten by God.

(2) In the first-century hellenistic and Near Eastern environment, relevant father-and-son terminology was often used without any suggestion of generation or derivation.1

(3) In the NT, relevant father-and-son terminology can occur without any suggestion of generation (e.g. Jas 1:17; Eph 3:14–15; Rom 8:15–16; Gal 4:4–7). Indeed it has been argued that God can be described as the Father of Jesus, and Jesus as the Son of God, without implying a metaphysical relationship between them. It has been contended that such usage is due solely to Christ’s unique obedience to God, his unique

* John Dahms is professor of New Testament at Canadian Theological Seminary in Regina, Saskatchewan.

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