Part 1a The preincarnate Son of God

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This post is intended to provide an exposition on the Son of God in scripture, to help the reader recognise and form a proper understanding on all that relates to the Son of God, who he is; what he did, does and is doing; his role in God’s ultimate plan; His status over all creation as God; His love, purpose and desire for mankind and creation; and much more…
Thus to form a clear understanding, this exposition of the Son is broken into four closely related series. The first part of the series specifically this Part 1a and 1b, will focus on His divinity that is, the divine makeup of the Son of God, how he become known as the ‘Son’ and his role particularly in the Old Testament. Part 2 of this series will then expound on his becoming flesh, taking the form of humanity and the various implications that flow from it. Part 3 of this series will then discuss the authority of the Son of God as giver of life through his blood, specifically the theological aspects of it and the consequential implications for those joined to him through faith. Then finally, Part 4 of this series will consider his power and authority as judge and king over all creation on the throne of David in the age to come.

I have broken Part 1 of the series into five sub-headings. They are, 1. The Only begotten Son, 2. The begotten Son as the Logos at creation, 3. The preincarnate Logos/Son as the Messenger of YHWH, 4. The Logos known as God and 5. The Son of God, the captain of the Lord’s army, The Lord of hosts.

1. The only begotten Son
Many of the early Christians, pastors and martyrs included had a particular view of the Son of God. Much of their understanding on the Son of God stemmed from an important passage in Proverbs 8, which named a particular being as “Wisdom” who was “begotten” by the Father at the beginning of the creation and who was His assistant in creation. This being was also commonly referred to as “The Beginning,” or “Wisdom,” or “Logos” (Word), or “the Angel (Messenger) of YHVH,” and many other titles.

So what exactly does the Bible mean when it refers to Christ not just as a Son but rather ‘the only begotten Son’. The word ‘only’ by itself draws an important distinction between Christ and every other being. But what does it mean when it says ‘begotten’?

There are about 4 variations of greek words that have been translated as begotten in the bible. The first is ‘gínomai’ which literally means ‘to come into being/existence’. The second is ‘monogenḗs’ which is a combination of two greek words, that is ‘monos’ meaning ‘only’ and ‘gínomai’ as already said means ‘to come into being/existence’. The two put together literally means ‘the only that came into existence’ using the simple past tense, meaning that at some particular time in the past, the subject was the only thing that came into being. The third greek word translated as ‘begotten’ is ‘prōtótokos’ which is also derived from two words, that is, ‘prōtos’ meaning ‘first in time’ and ‘tíktō’ meaning ‘produce or bring forth’. The two put together means ‘the first to be brought forth or produced’. The last greek word translated as begotten is ‘exérchomai’, also from two greek words. The first is ‘ek’ meaning ‘out from’ and the second is ‘érchomai’ which means ‘to come’. The two words put together means ‘to come out from’.

From all these greek words, we find one conclusive meaning for the word ‘begotten’, and that is ‘to proceed or come out from within at a particular time in the past’ or in other words ‘to be birthed out from within at a particular time in the past’
This we know to be true because Jesus Christ also declared it in John 8:42 “If God was your Father, you would love Me, for out of God I issued forth and have come. The greek word used is ‘exérchomai’ meaning ‘to come out from’ or ‘issue forth out of’.

Here’s an excerpt from Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with a Jew named Trypho, which reflects the consistent testimony of the earliest Christians immediately after the Apostles.
I shall give you another testimony, my friends,” said I, “from the Scriptures, that God begat before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Breath, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Word; and on another occasion He calls Himself Captain when He appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave (Nun). For He can be called by all those names, since He ministers to the Father’s will, and since He was begotten of the Father by an act of will; The Word of Wisdom, who is Himself this God begotten of the Father of all things, and Word, and Wisdom, and Power, and the Glory of the Begetter, will bear evidence to me, … that He whom Solomon calls Wisdom, was begotten as a Beginning before all His creatures and as Offspring by God, who has also declared this same thing in the revelation made by Joshua the son of Nave (Nun).(see Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. Lxii)

In support of this concept, many of the earliest writers of this concept, also wrote appealing to the words of Jesus himself in John 8:42 “for out of God I issued forth and have come.
The old testament passage these writers were pointing at to explain the Son as “begotten” by God is Proverbs 8:22-30 greek Septuagint (LXX) which describes a being called “wisdom”. The passage reads….“The Lord made Me THE BEGINNING of His ways for His works.
“Before the age He established Me in the beginning.
“Before the creating of the land, and before the creating of the deep, before the fountains of water came forth
“before the mountains were settled, before all hills, HE BEGETS ME.”…
“When He was preparing the heaven, I was together with Him. And when He set apart His throne upon the winds
“and when He was making the clouds above strong, and as He was setting the established fountains beneath the sky
“and making the foundations of the land strong
“I was beside Him, fine-crafting. I was His delight, and according to each day I was rejoicing in his presence in each appointed time.

The Apostles of Jesus Christ also adopted this view in their writings. Paul in Colossians 1:15-18 writes “He is the image of the God who is unseen, First-begotten of all creation, because through Him everything was created, what is in the heavens and what is on the land, the seen and the unseen (including thrones, dominions, principalities, and authorities). Everything has been created through Him and for Him. And He is before everyone, and everything has stood together in Him. And He is the head of the Body (the assembly), who is The Beginning, first-begotten out from among the dead, so that in everything He should become the prototype

Similarly, Apostle John writes in Revelation 3:14 “And to the messenger for the assembly in Laodicea write, ‘The Amen, The Faithful and True Witness, The Beginning of God’s creation, says this…”
Furthermore in his earlier writing, Apostle John notes in John 3:13 “And no one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, the one being in the heaven”. John here acknowledges that the Son of man who has now ascended into heaven had initially descended out from heaven which is where he was from the first. No wonder he wrote in John 1:1-3 that “In the beginning was Logos, and Logos was with God, and Logos was God. This one was in the beginning with God. Everything originated through Him, and without Him nothing originated which has originated

Someone may then ask how one comes to the conclusion that “wisdom” as spoken of in the Proverbs is a person, and not just a style of writing adopted by Solomon. In response to that firstly, one will have to account for the use by the Apostles and their disciples after them of language similar to that found in Proverbs. Secondly, why does Wisdom speak in the first person and ascribe actions to itself that can only be performed by persons/beings, particularly when it says “I was beside Him, fine-crafting. I was His delight, and according to each day I was rejoicing in his presence in each appointed time”. Thirdly, Jesus himself ascribes the title of wisdom to himself in the following parallel passages. In Luke 11:49, “Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,then the same in Matthew 23:34 “Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city. Luke as the narrator is equating Jesus as ‘Wisdom’ because of what Jesus said, and Matthew is quoting word for word what was said by Jesus.
Fourthly, Apostle Paul pins down the title wisdom to Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Here’s what Solomon the writer of the Proverbs acknowledges later in Proverbs 30:4
Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, If you know?
This Solomon writes acknowledging that God has a Son and makes enquiry into what his name is.

In conclusion here’s what can be known about the Son of God so far. He was the beginning of God’s creation, in that he was the first act of God when he was begotten, that is, when he was birthed out from within the Father. Hence why he is called the only begotten Son of God. Contrary to popular belief, the bible teaches us that the Son had a beginning. His beginning was a time before creation, enabling him to assist the Father in the creation of all things. That is why Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 1:15-18 “He is the image of the God who is unseen, first-begotten of all creation, because through Him everything was created, what is in the heavens and what is on the land, the seen and the unseen (including thrones, dominions, principalities, and authorities). Everything has been created through Him and for Him. And He is before everyone, and everything has stood together in Him. And He is the head of the Body (the assembly), who is The Beginning, first-begotten out from among the dead, so that in everything He should become the prototype

2. The Son as the logos at creation
John 1:1-18,
“1 In the beginning was Logos, and Logos was with God, and Logos was God. 2 This one was in the beginning with God. 3 Everything originated through Him, and without Him nothing originated which has originated. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not take hold of it. 6 (A man arrived having been commissioned from God whose name was John. This one came for a witness, so that he should testify concerning the light 7 so that all may believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but [came] so that he should testify concerning the light, 9 that was the true light which enlightens every man coming into the world). 10 He was in the world, and the world originated through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came into His own [things], and His own [people] did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those believing unto the name of Him 13 who was Begotten, not out of bloods, nor out of the will of the flesh, nor out of the will of a man, but out of God. 14 And Logos became flesh, and sojourned among us, and we gazed upon His glory, glory as of the Only-Begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testifies concerning Him, and has exclaimed, saying, “This was the one whom I said, The one coming after me has originated before me,because He used to be before me”). 16 And out of the fullness of Him we have received, and grace for grace 17 (because the Law was given through Moses; [but] grace and truth originated through Jesus the Anointed). 18 No one has seen God at any time. The Only-Begotten Son, the one being unto the Father’s bosom, that one declared Him.. (see Colossians 1:15-18 and Hebrews 1:1-2, 5, 10-12 for more about the Son of God as creator).

Apostle John makes it clear, pointing back to the beginning of creation that there was a being known as ‘Logos’ meaning ‘word’ that was present with God when the world was fashioned. Both the Apostle and John the Baptist testify that this same ‘Logos’ or ‘word’ then became flesh and walked amongst us. John the Baptist goes even further exclaiming that the ‘Logos’ who became flesh originated before him because he used to be before him. This he spoke again in John 1:29-31, a few verses later and identified Jesus as this ‘Logos’ when he saw Jesus coming towards him at the Jordan River. (see Part 2 for more about the Logos becoming a man).

‘Logos’ or the ‘word’ was the proper title given to the preincarnate Son of God. Apostle John’s own disciple Iganatius, a Pastor of the assembly in Antioch and personally taught by Apostle John writes
Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace. For the divinest prophets lived according to Christ Jesus. On this account also they were persecuted, being inspired by His grace to fully convince the unbelieving that …[T]here is one God, the Almighty, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, who is His Word, not spoken, but essential. For He is not the voice of an articulate utterance, but a substance begotten by divine power, who has in all things pleased Him that sent Him. (See Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, ch. Viii).

Justin Martyr, born shortly after John’s death elaborates further:
“But so much is written for the sake of proving that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God and His emissary, being of old the Word, and appearing sometimes in the form of fire, and sometimes in the likeness of angels [Messengers]; but now, by the will of God, having become man for the human race, He endured all the sufferings which the devils instigated the senseless Jews to inflict upon Him; who [i.e. the Jews], though they have it expressly affirmed in the writings of Moses, [that] ‘the Messenger of God spake to Moses in a flame of fire in a bush, and said, ‘I am that I am, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,’ yet [the Jews] maintain that He who said this was the Father and Creator of the universe. Whence also the Breath of prophecy rebukes them, and says, ‘Israel doth not know Me, my people have not understood Me.… The Jews, accordingly, being of opinion that it was the Father of the universe who spake to Moses, though He who spake to him was indeed the Son of God, who is called both Angel [i.e. Messenger] and Apostle [i.e. an emissary], are justly charged, both by the Breath of prophecy and by Christ Himself, with knowing neither the Father nor the Son. (Justin Martyr, First Apology, ch. Lxiii).
Justin Martyr tells us that although the scripture clearly says that the messenger of God was the one who spoke to Moses, the Jews maintained out of false understanding that it was the Father when actually it really was the messenger, the Son of God who spoke to Moses in the burning bush.

The Son of God was commonly known as the ‘Word’ or ‘Logos’. This was particularly popular among the apostles and their followers after them. (see also Hebrews 4:12-14 where the ‘Logos’ is depicted as a double edged sword to whom all will give an account because he sees all the thoughts and intents of people’s hearts).

Looking further into John’s testimony of the Son of God particularly when he writes “In the beginning was Logos, and Logos was with God, and Logos was God. This one was in the beginning with God. Everything originated through Him, and without Him nothing originated which has originated. John asserts that the ‘Word’ who was not an articulate utterance, but a substance begotten by divine power, was the one who created all things. It is even clearer from Genesis that God had a companion with Him in creation. For it says “Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; …So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”. Moses by writing this in Genesis declared that the human frame was the workmanship of God and his Son.

Justin Martyr also draws that conclusion. He writes “the same sentiment was expressed, my friends, by the word of God [written] by Moses, when it indicated to us, with regard to Him whom it has pointed out, that God speaks in the creation of man with the very same design, in the following words: ‘Let Us make man after our image and likeness. … we can indisputably learn that [God] conversed with someone who was numerically distinct from Himself, and also a rational Being. These are the words: ‘And God said, Behold, Adam has become as one of Us, to know good and evil.’ In saying, therefore, as one of Us,’ [Moses] has declared that [there is a certain] number of persons associated with one another, and that they are at least two. For I would not say that the dogma of that heresy which is said to be among you is true, or that the teachers of it can prove that [God] spoke to angels, or that the human frame was the workmanship of angels. But this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him; even as the Scripture by Solomon has made clear, that He whom Solomon calls Wisdom, was begotten as a Beginning before all His creatures and as Offspring by God, who has also declared this same thing in the revelation made by Joshua the son of [Nun].(See Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. Lxii).

There is no doubt that the Son of God who is known as the ‘Logos’ or ‘Word’ was together with the Father at the beginning of creation. All things were made through him and without him nothing was made that was made. It does also appear that the Son’s role in relation to his Father’s work did not end at day six of creation. He was indeed still active in the world even after creation week. This we learn more of in the next subheading, which is ‘The preincarnate Logos as the angel i.e. the messenger of YHWH’

See Part 1b the preincarnate Son of God for a continuation of this Part 1a.

 

 

References
1. The only begotten Son
Tim Warner, ‘The Son of God as “The Beginning” in Proverbs 8’, <www.4windsfellowships.net>
Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. Lxii
Proverbs 8:22-30 (LXX)
Colossians 1:15-18
Hebrews 1:2
Revelation 3:14
John 3:13
John 1:1-3
Luke 11:49
Matthew 23:34
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
Proverbs 30:4

2. The Son as the logos at creation
Tim Warner, ‘Who or What is the “Logos” in John’s Prologue’, <www.4windsfellowships.net>
Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. Lxii
Justin Martyr, First Apology, ch. Lxiii
John 1:1-18, Hebrews 1:1-2, 5, 10-12, Colossians 1:15-18 (the Word as creator)
John 1:29-31 (John the Baptist testifies Jesus as the Word)
Revelation 19:13 (The Logos identified as the Lamb and the King in Psalm 2)
Hebrews 4:12-14 (The Logos as the Judge over mankind)

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