Is the doctrine of eternal Sonship biblical?

By Gloria Small

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 Apostles

Did 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."

We find the same type of example in Titus 2:13:
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
This passage should read, "The Great God even our Savior Jesus Christ," which then supports the claims that Jesus is the Great God.

Cults use these vagaries of the translations to say that Jesus is not the same as God the Father, and so we need to understand the context of the original language and its correct translation. It is a fact that no translation that we have available to us today is perfect because they were all done by fallible men, and so going back to the original language is necessary. Therefore, when we see two nouns joined together by "and" or "even" (Greek "kai"), and those two nouns are the same class, and a definite article before them is the same class as the nouns, then the latter noun relates to the same person. Example: Ephesians 4:11 "pastors and teachers" should read, "pastor teacher." Therefore, the very original language of the Word, in context, supports the truth of the eternal Sonship of Christ.

Eternal Sonship and Jesus' Words

Did the Son exist before He was born of Mary? I would ask you to turn to John, whose gospel presents the LORD Jesus Christ in His deity. The first two verses tell us Jesus was "In the beginning" and was "God." Then in John 1:3 we see that Jesus was there at creation, for nothing that was made was made without Him. Also in John, we have the record of Jesus' words "I AM." In His conflict with the Pharisees in John 8:12-59, Jesus states five times He is the "I AM," and the Pharisees knew exactly what Jesus was claiming to be because they knew the Scriptures and sought to kill Him because of His claim to be God. And in the last verse of John 8, Jesus says, "Before Abraham was I AM." In Exodus 3:13-15, when Moses asked God who to say sent him, God answered, "I AM THAT I AM." It is interesting to note that the word used for God here is the Hebrew word Elohim, again, the plural form of God. God did not say, I AM as I was, or I AM as I will be, but I AM as I AM! God declares His eternal identification over and over in the Old Testament. This phrase means that God is eternal, from vanishing point to vanishing point, and the LORD Jesus, Who is the Son, the Christ, used that phrase to claim that He is the "I AM" or the eternal Almighty God.

Therefore, the truth of the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ is a doctrine clearly taught in Scripture. We may not understand the fullness of this doctrine, for God's ways and thoughts are far above our own. But just as we must take by faith that Christ's death, burial and resurrection freed the believer from sin and death, and when we trust in Him we are positionally placed in Him and all the resources of His Life are ours, and that we may know, reckon to be true, and believe this reality by faith, so we must know, reckon to be true, and believe by faith that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one in the same; a Triunity. However, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17), and it is in His Word that the "Word" of God declares His eternal Spirit.

God bless you.

Published 10-8-14