THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Is the doctrine of eternal Sonship biblical?
By Gloria Small
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The doctrine of eternal Sonship says that Jesus has always existed as the Son of God the Father. It speaks against the false teaching of Modalism and Patripassianism, Ebionism, and Socinianism, among others. It affirms the full deity of Christ and the eternality of the Trinity.
Eternal Sonship, the Prophets, and the ApostlesDid the prophets and apostles teach eternal Sonship? Did they even understand it? The prophets of the Old Testament were looking for the "seed" or the Messiah, but they did not see the interlude of the age of grace, and for the most part the Jews did not recognize Jesus as their Messiah when He was on earth. The Jews were looking for the conquering Messiah to come to free them from the yoke of bondage to Rome. Instead the suffering Savior (Isaiah 53) came to them and they received Him not. As the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8, the crucified Christ was a "mystery" hidden from the "princes" or the prophets, and God gave the Apostle Paul the "mystery" to unfold. That mystery was that both the Jew and the Gentile would come to God the same way, through Christ (Galatians 3:6, Ephesians 6:19, Colossians 1:25, 28, Colossians 2:2).
The apostles, however, did understand Christ's eternal character — see Colossians 1:15-10, Hebrews 1:8, Hebrews 7:3, Revelation 3:14. In Revelation 1:8 we have a clear statement of Christ's eternal character as John records this statement made by Christ, "I AM the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the LORD, which is, which was, and which is to come, the Almighty!" (Also see Revelation 21:6.)
Not only did the apostles know about eternal Sonship, but they taught about the Father, the Son and the work and office of the Holy Spirit — Ephesians 4:6, Colossians 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:19. The language of the Old Testament and the names of God beginning in Genesis 1:1 proves the plurality of God. The name of God here is Elohim, and it is a plural form of el or eloh or elah. Elohim is a plural noun but singular in meaning when it refers to the true God. Then again in Genesis 1:26, Elohim said, "Let us" make mankind in OUR image. Elohim is the name of God used in Scripture until Israel was called and then LORD is used, which is Jehovah the covenant name of God.
Eternal Sonship, the Nicene Creed, and the "Grandville Sharp Rule"The first version of the Nicene Creed was written in AD 325 to counter the Arian heresy, which claimed God created Jesus first and that Jesus was not of the same essence or nature with God the Father.
To justify this belief, they played with the translation from the original Greek. Take, for example, Romans 15:6. This is a passage that is used to say that the Father and the Son are not equal. But, doesn't take into account the "Grandville Sharp Rule," which was named for Granville Sharp more than 200 years ago. The rule says that when two nouns or other substantives (substantive adjectives and participles) of the same case that are not proper nouns (Paul, Peter, James, etc.), and that are describing a person, are joined by the conjunction "kai," and the first noun is preceded by the article, and the second noun is not, then both of the nouns are referring to the same person. It is important to note that Sharp's rule applies only to personal nouns and it is absolutely valid for singular nouns only. However, it may also apply to plurals if the context so warrants.
We know that Jesus called God "His Father" on the cross (Luke 23:34, 46). He also called God "His God" (Mark 15:34). In John 6:17-47, the LORD Jesus claims equality with the Father, and He presents the witness of John the Baptist, the witness of His miraculous works, the witness of the Father and the witness of the Scripture. Jesus and God the Father are one and Paul confirms this in Romans 15:6:
That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (KJV; emphasis added)In the original Greek, the word God is auricular or has an article, but the King James translators did not add it. The word "Father" is anarthrous — it has no article — but the King James added it. What is the point? In the original Greek, here is an example of the "Grandville sharp rule." When two nouns are connected or joined by a "kai" (which is the Greek word translated 'even'), only one noun has an article so the effect is to equate the two nouns. Therefore, in the original Greek, God and Father are equal and mean the same things. The phrase should then be written, "The God and Father our LORD Jesus Christ."
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Image Credit: NASA; "Sunset Over Earth"; Creative Commons
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