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Particulars of Christianity:
401 First Eight Writers' Consensus


Addendum 2: Eternal Begetting - Justin Martyr

Early Church Confirmation Rubric
Early Church Consensus: Introduction
1: Nature of the Godhead
2: Covenants & O.T. Saints Relationship to the Church
3: Kingdom (Hell), Timing of 2nd Advent and Kingdom
4-5: Age of the World (6000 Years); Communion Meal
6: Baptisms
7-8: Law of Christ; Repentance
9-12: Excommunication; Divorce; Sabbath; Tithing
13: Freewill (A) Against Original Sin and Total Depravity
13: Freewill (B) Against Unconditional Election
13: Freewill (C-D) Against Ltd. Atmt.; Ir. Grace, OSAS
14-15: Church Authority; Roles of Men and Women
16-18: Charismatic Gifts; Civil Gov't., War; Men & Angels
Addendum 1: Eternal Begetting - Irenaeus and Ignatius
Addendum 2: Eternal Begetting - Justin Martyr



Addendum 2: Eternal Begetting - Justin Martyr

 

Justin Martyr also makes numerous statements on this topic, all of which are best understood as equivalent in meaning to those of Irenaeus. There are two reasons for this conclusion.

 

1. First, Irenaeus himself accredits Justin Martyr as a reliable and non-heretical teacher of the Christian faith, which itself implies that Justin did not differ greatly from Irenaeus’ understanding on such central issues as the nature of the Word. Moreover, Irenaeus quotes from Justin 3 times, which means that Irenaeus was familiar with Justin’s writings and, therefore, would be in a position to know if Justin’s views differed from his own.

 

2. Second, all of the language used by Justin on the topic of the Word’s begetting is perfectly congruent with the language used by Irenaeus without anything significantly different and without any incompatibilities whatsoever. For these reasons, there is good reason to conclude that Justin’s view is the same as that of Irenaeus, even though Justin is less specific and elaborate in his commentaries. Consequently, Justin also should be understood to believe the Word was eternally begotten before the creation in a timeless way, so that the Word was always present with the Father rather than coming into being at some point as a separate entity.

 

 

Justin’s comments on the “begetting” of the Word can be analyzed as follows.

 

1. First, it must be considered whether or not Justin’s references to the pre-creation “begetting” of the Word actually indicate an eternal, timeless begetting, rather than “begetting” in the sense of the Word coming into existence just prior to creating all other things. Here it must be noted that Justin asserts time was created alongside the heavens.

 

Justin Martyr –

HORTATORY ADDRESS TO THE GREEKS

 

CHAP. XXXIII. And from what source did Plato draw the information that time was created along with the heavens? For he wrote thus: "Time, accordingly, was created along with the heavens; in order that, coming into being together, they might also be together dissolved, if ever their dissolution should take place." Had he not learned this from the divine history of Moses? For he knew that the creation of time had received its original constitution from days and months and years. Since, then, the first day which was created along with the heavens constituted the beginning of all time (for thus Moses wrote, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," and then immediately subjoins, "And one day was made," as if he would designate the whole of time by one part of it), Plato names the day "time," lest, if he mentioned the "day," he should seem to lay himself open to the accusation of the Athenians, that he was completely adopting the expressions of Moses.

 

 

This must be compared to Justin’s comments that the Word was begotten before all creatures (i.e. all creation).

Justin Martyr –

THE SECOND APOLOGY OF JUSTIN

 

Chapter VI. But to the Father of all, who is unbegotten there is no name given. For by whatever name He be called, He has as His elder the person who gives Him the name. But these words Father, and God, and Creator, and Lord, ant Master, are not names, but appellations derived from His good deeds and functions. And His Son, who alone is properly called Son, the Word who also was with Him and was begotten before the works, when at first He created and arranged all things by Him, is called Christ, in reference to His being anointed and God's ordering all things through Him…

 

 

Dialogue of Justin –

PHILOSOPHER AND MARTYR, WITH TRYPHO, A JEW

 

CHAP. LXI. "I shall give you another testimony, my friends," said I, "from the Scriptures, that God begat before all creatures a Beginning,(4)[who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos; and on another occasion He calls Himself Captain, when He appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave(Nun).

 

CHAP. LXII. 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 Nave(Nun).

 

CHAP. C. Accordingly He revealed to us all that we have perceived by His grace out of the Scriptures, so that we know Him to be the first-begotten of God, and to be before all creatures; likewise to be the Son of the patriarchs, since He assumed flesh by the Virgin of their family, and submitted to become a man without comeliness, dishonoured, and subject to suffering…For [Christ] called one of His disciples--previously known by the name of Simon--Peter; since he recognised Him to be Christ the Son of God, by the revelation of His Father: and since we find it recorded in the memoirs of His apostles that He is the Son of God, and since we call Him the Son, we have understood that He proceeded before all creatures from the Father by His power and will…

 

CHAP. CXXV.And that Christ would act so when He became man was foretold by the mystery of Jacob's wrestling with Him who appeared to him, in that He ministered to the will of the Father, yet nevertheless is God, in that He is the first-begotten of all creatures.

 

 

Since time is a created thing, and the Word was begotten before all created things, then the begetting of the Word must be timeless and eternal. 

 

It is also important to note that for Justin, the term “begotten” does not necessarily mean “come into being” or “begin to exist.” In his address to the Greeks, he quotes one of their own stories about how the Hebrews “worship God Himself, the self-begotten King.” It is clear that Justin does not mean that God created Himself or caused Himself to come into existence. This quote demonstrates that for Justin, the term “begotten” can mean “existing.” In this case, God is the “self-existing King.” Consequently, for Justin to describe the Word as “begotten” would not in any way automatically imply that the Word came into being, just because the term “begotten” is being used. For Justin, this term can just as easily mean that the Word “eternally existed” from the Father.

Justin Martyr –

JUSTIN'S HORTATORY ADDRESS TO THE GREEKS

 

CHAP. XI. For when one inquired at your oracle--it is your own story--what religious men had at any time happened to live, you say that the oracle answered thus: "Only the Chaldaeans have obtained wisdom, and the Hebrews, who worship God Himself, the self-begotten King."

 

 

 

2. Second, Justin describes the begetting of the Word as “peculiar,” thereby mirroring the kind of language used by Irenaeus who rejected the Gnostics’ sequential generation of divine beings and instead referred to the Word’s begetting as indescribable. This language is also compatible, if not indicative, of the eternal-begetting concept, given that an ordinary “begetting” or “coming into being” would neither be peculiar or unique or indescribable.

 

Dialogue of Justin –

PHILOSOPHER AND MARTYR, WITH TRYPHO, A JEW

 

CHAP. CV. For I have already proved that He was the only-begotten of the Father of all things, being begotten in a peculiar manner Word and Power by Him, and having afterwards become man through the Virgin, as we have learned from the memoirs.

 

 

 

3. Third, it is quite arguably the case that for Justin the “begetting” is not a reference to “how” the Word exists but a reference to the first time the Word proceeded from the Godhead into the realm of creation.

 

In his earlier discussion of these same points with Trypho, Justin gives additional details explaining by analogy his understanding of the pre-creation begetting of the Word by the Father. Justin says that this Word which “God begat before all creatures” “was a certain rational power from Himself.” These words potentially imply that the Word existed as a rational power within God before proceeding from God to create the world. In this case, the begetting would not refer to the Word coming into existence, but to the Word coming forth to create, while the Word would exist prior to that as a rational power that is part of God. The initial language at least allows for this, but further statements from Justin seem to corroborate it.

 

Justin goes on to say that, he was “begotten of the Father by an act of will; just as we see happening among ourselves: for when we give out some word, we beget the word.” In Justin’s metaphor, it would appear that the “us” is analogous to the Father and “our words” are analogous to the Word of God. What Justin says next is informative about his understanding of the Word’s eternal existence with the Father. Justin says that just as “when we give out some word, we beget a word; yet not by abscission, so as to lessen the word in us.” In other words, before the word came out, manifesting and creating physical sound, it was first present within us.

 

Moreover, Justin points out that the coming forth of that word does not diminish the existence of the word that was within us. Just says that likewise the coming for of the Word of God does not diminish the existence of the Word already within God. Consequently, it would seem that a complete understanding of Justin’s view would have the Word both being begotten to create the world while at the same time remaining in the Father undiminished by this proceeding forth. The Word then would exist simultaneously within the Father without being diminished and also outward from the Father forming the creation.

 

(It is also important to note Justin’s use of the word “appears” in the phrase “appears to exist by itself.” In particular, it is interesting that Justin does not say that it “exists by itself” but merely that it “appears” to do so. This implies that for Justin, the Word does not truly exist apart from God, but merely appears to do so. After all, in the analogy, the Word’s substance remains that of God himself. Perhaps Justin believes that it is the same substance, seemingly physical separated, but in reality still a singular, shared essence in unbroken communion with itself.)

 

If this is the case, then all of Justin’s references to the “begetting” of the Word “before all creatures” are merely references to the Word proceeding from the Father to create and are not reference to the Word coming into existence, since prior to proceeding to create the Word already existed as a rational power within the Father just as our words reside in us before we speak (or beget) them. Thus, the “begetting” of the Word might more accurately be viewed as the first time the Word came into the realm of creation, in fact, even creating that realm by this very proceeding forth from the Godhead. It was when this Word, who was formerly within God, was spoken that he became what Justin calls “a beginning” for creation, literally bringing creation into being as he is spoken, or brought forth.

 

Dialogue of Justin –

PHILOSOPHER AND MARTYR, WITH TRYPHO, A JEW

 

(cited above also) CHAP. LXI. "I shall give you another testimony, my friends," said I, "from the Scriptures, that God begat before all creatures a Beginning,(4) [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos; 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;(5) just as we see(6) happening among ourselves: for when we give out some word, we beget the word; yet not by abscission, so as to lessen the word(7) [which remains] in us, when we give it out: and just as we see also happening in the case of a fire, which is not lessened when it has kindled [another], but remains the same; and that which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not diminishing that from which it was kindled. 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, when He speaks by Solomon the following: 'If I shall declare to you what happens daily, I shall call to mind events from everlasting, and review them. The Lord made me the beginning of His ways for His works. From everlasting He established me in the beginning, before He had made the earth, and before He had made the deeps, before the springs of the waters had issued forth, before the mountains had been established. Before all the hills He begets me. God made the country, and the desert, and the highest inhabited places under the sky. When He made ready the heavens, I was along with Him…' …CHAP. LXII. "And 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,(3) 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. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heaven, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creeping things that creep on the earth. And God created man: after the image of God did He create him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and said, Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and have power over it.(4) And that you may not change the[force of the] words just quoted, and repeat what your teachers assert,--either that God said to Himself, 'Let Us make, 'just as we, when about to do something, oftentimes say to ourselves, 'Let us make;' or that God spoke to the elements, to wit, the earth and other similar substances of which we believe man was formed, 'Let Us make,' -- I shall quote again the words narrated by Moses himself, from which we can indisputably learn that[God] conversed with some one 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.'(5) 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(6) which is said to be among you(7) 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 Nave(Nun).

 

 

It is interesting to consider the last portion of the quote above in light of this concept. The closing portion of the quote states that before the Word who was “brought forth from the Father” was first “with the Father before all creatures” and “the Father communed with Him.” This imagery fits perfectly with the concept that the Word existed in the Father, just as our words do in us, before being brought forth (or begotten) when we speak.

 

In addition, it is also interesting that Irenaeus’ seems to have been familiar with Justin’s analogy comparing the Word of God to the words of men. Irenaeus also seems to note that the Gnostic heretics had heard of this analogy also and were taking it too far to the point where it became heretical. What was too far? What was heretical? It was the idea, favored by the heretics, that the analogy to human words indicated that the Word of God himself had a beginning or came into existence at a certain point in time, rather than being eternal and uncreated. Irenaeus even seems to comment indirectly on Justin himself, indicating that Irenaeus believes Justin’s analogy to be adequate although insufficient, yet still acceptable in contrast to the unacceptable views of the Gnostics. And what about Justin’s analogy does Irenaeus say is adequate and acceptable? It is the assertion that God is, in Himself, “all word” and “in that also He is Word.” Given the similarity, there can be little doubt that this is a reference to Justin’s assertion that the Word existed in God before being spoken or begotten. Both Justin’s analogy and Irenaeus affirm that even before the speaking or begetting or sending forth of the Word, the Word was already in God.

 

Irenaeus

AGAINST HERESIES, BOOK II

 

CHAP. XIII. 3. …he who affirms that He is all intelligence, and all word, and that, in whatever respect He is intelligence, in that also He is Word, and that this Nous is His Logos, will still indeed have only an inadequate conception of the Father of all, but will entertain far more becoming [thoughts regarding Him] than do those who transfer the generation of the word to which men gave utterance to the eternal Word of God, assigning a beginning and course of production [to Him], even as they do to their own word. And in what respect will the Word of God--yea, rather God Himself, since He is the Word--differ from the word of men, if He follows the same order and process of generation?

 

Moreover, the following quotes from Justin on the topic of “begetting” should be read in light of the specificity Justin lays out in this metaphor comparing God’s Word to our words.

 

 

 

4. Fourth, it is clear that Justin certainly believes that the Word is God.

 

Justin Martyr –

THE FIRST APOLOGY OF JUSTIN

 

CHAP. LXIII. For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God.

 

Dialogue of Justin –

PHILOSOPHER AND MARTYR, WITH TRYPHO, A JEW

 

CHAP. LXI. "I shall give you another testimony, my friends," said I, "from the Scriptures, that God begat before all creatures a Beginning,(4)[who was] a certain rational power[proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos; and on another occasion He calls Himself Captain, when He appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave(Nun).

 

CHAP. LXIII. And speaking in other words, which also have been already quoted,[he says]: 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of rectitude is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hast hated iniquity: therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. [He hath anointed Thee] with myrrh, and oil, and cassia from Thy garments, from the ivory palaces, whereby they made Thee glad. Kings' daughters are in Thy honour. The queen stood at Thy right hand, clad in garments embroidered with gold.(6) Hearken, O daughter, and behold, and incline thine ear, and forget thy people and the house of thy father; and the King shall desire thy beauty: because he is thy Lord, and thou shalt worship Him.'(7) Therefore these words testify explicitly that He is witnessed to by Him who established these things,(8) as deserving to be worshipped, as God and as Christ.

 

CHAP. CXXV.And that Christ would act so when He became man was foretold by the mystery of Jacob's wrestling with Him who appeared to him, in that He ministered to the will of the Father, yet nevertheless is God, in that He is the first-begotten of all creatures.

 

CHAP. CXXVI. "But if you knew, Trypho," continued I, "who He is that is called at one time the Angel of great counsel,(7) and a Man by Ezekiel, and like the Son of man by Daniel, and a Child by Isaiah, and Christ and God to be worshipped by David, and Christ and a Stone by many, and Wisdom by Solomon, and Joseph and Judah and a Star by Moses, and the East by Zechariah, and the Suffering One and Jacob and Israel by Isaiah again, and a Rod, and Flower, and Corner-Stone, and Son of God, you would not have blasphemed Him who has now come, and been born, and suffered, and ascended to heaven; who shall also come again, and then your twelve tribes shall mourn. For if you had understood what has been written by the prophets, you would not have denied that He was God, Son of the only, unbegotten, unutterable God.

 

CHAP. CXXVII. …Therefore neither Abraham, nor Isaac, nor Jacob, nor any other man, saw the Father and ineffable Lord of all, and also of Christ, but [saw] Him who was according to His will His Son, being God, and the Angel because He ministered to His will; whom also it pleased Him to be born man by the Virgin; who also was fire when He conversed with Moses from the bush. 

 

CHAP. CXXVI. And what follows in the writings of Moses I quoted and explained; "from which I have demonstrated," I said, "that He who is described as God appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and the other patriarchs, was appointed under the authority of the Father and Lord, and ministers to His will." Then I went on to say what I had not said before: "And so, when the people desired to eat flesh, and Moses had lost faith in Him, who also there is called the Angel, and who promised that God would give them to satiety, He who is both God and the Angel, sent by the Father, is described as saying and doing these things.

 

 

 

5. Fifth, in Justin’s discourse with the Jewish unbeliever named Trypho, it is Trypho who introduces the language “another God” with regard to the Word. Justin responds using this same language.

 

However, it must be noted that Justin’s clearly anticipates that Trypho will defend himself with a Modalistic model in which the Word is not distinct from the Father but merely a temporarily extended façade of the Father that can be retracted like sunlight into the sun.

 

Consequently, when Justin adopts Trypho’s phrase “another God,” Justin simply intends that phrase as representing the opposing view to Modalism. In short, as can be seen plainly from Justin’s language, he is merely arguing for the permanent distinctness between the Word and the Father, in contrast to the temporary extension view that Justin anticipates in response from Trypho.

 

Since Justin is operating within Trypho’s language, it should not be concluded that Justin necessarily intends to convey that the Word and the Father are separate Beings, merely that they are both Lord and God and that they a permanently distinct from one another. Moreover, since the focus of the debate is a Modalistic model, the most we can conclude about Justin’s position is that he is not a Modalist.

 

Dialogue of Justin –

PHILOSOPHER AND MARTYR, WITH TRYPHO, A JEW

 

CHAP. LV. And Trypho answered, "We shall remember this your exposition, if you strengthen [your solution of] this difficulty by other arguments: but now resume the discourse, and show us that the Spirit of prophecy admits another God

sides the Maker of all things...CHAP. LVI. "Moses, then, the blessed and faithful servant of God, declares that He who appeared to Abraham under the oak in Mamre is God, sent with the two angels in His company to judge Sodom by Another who remains ever in the supercelestial places, invisible to all men, holding personal intercourse with none, whom we believe to be Maker and Father of all things; for he speaks thus: 'God appeared to him under the oak in Mature, as he sat at his tent-door at noontide. And lifting up his eyes, he saw, and behold, three men stood before him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the door of his tent;  and he bowed himself toward the ground, and said;' "(1)(and so on;)(2) " 'Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward the adjacent  country, and beheld, and, lo, a flame went up from the earth, like the smoke of a furnace.'" And when I had made an end of quoting these words, I asked them if they had understood them. And they said they had understood them, but that the passages adduced brought forward no proof that there is any other God or Lord, or that the Holy Spirit says so, besides the Maker of all things. Then I replied, "I shall attempt to persuade you, since you have understood the Scriptures, [of the truth] of what I say, that there is, and that there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to(3) the Maker of all things; who is also called an Angel, because He announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all things--above whom there is no other God--wishes to announce to them." …Then I replied, "Reverting to the Scriptures, I shall endeavour to persuade you, that He who is said to have appeared to Abraham, and to Jacob, and to Moses, and who is called God, is distinct from Him who made all things,--numerically, I mean, not [distinct] in will. For I affirm that He has never at any time done(8) anything which He who made the world--above whom there is no other God--has not wished Him both to do and to engage Himself with." And Trypho said, "Prove now that this is the case, that we also may agree with you. For we do not understand you to affirm that He has done or said anything contrary to the will of the  Maker of all things." Then I said, "The Scripture just quoted by me will make this plain to you. It is thus: 'The sun was risen on the earth, and Lot entered into Segor(Zoar); and the Lord rained on Sodom sulphur and fire from the Lord out of heaven, and overthrew these cities and all the neighbourhood.' "(1) Then the fourth of those who had remained with Trypho said, "It(2) must therefore necessarily be said that one of the two angels who went to Sodom, and is named by Moses in the Scripture Lord, is different from Him who also is God and appeared to Abraham."(3) "It is not on this ground solely," I said, "that it must be admitted absolutely that some other one is called Lord by the Holy Spirit besides Him who is considered Maker of all things; not solely[for what is said] by Moses, but also [for what is said] by David. For there is written by him: 'The Lord says to my Lord, Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool,'(4) as I have already quoted. And again, in other words: 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever. A sceptre of equity is the sceptre of Thy kingdom: Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity: therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.'(5) If, therefore, you assert that the Holy Spirit calls some other one God and Lord, besides the Father of all things and His Christ, answer me; for I undertake to prove to you from Scriptures themselves, that He whom the Scripture calls Lord is not one of the two angels that went to Sodom, but He who was with them, and is called God, that appeared to Abraham."

 

 

In fact, Trypho and his associates were so entrenched in Modalistic explanations that Justin has to revisit the same issue fifty chapters later in the discourse.

 

CHAP. CXXVIII. "And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man, and Angel, and in the glory of fire as at the bush, so also was manifested at the judgment executed on Sodom, has been demonstrated fully by what has been said." Then I repeated once more all that I had previously quoted from Exodus, about the vision in the bush, and the naming of Joshua (Jesus), and continued: "And do not suppose, sirs, that I am speaking superfluously when I repeat these words frequently: but it is because I know that some wish to anticipate these remarks, and to say that the power sent from the Father of all which appeared to Moses, or to Abraham, or to Jacob, is called an Angel because He came to men (for by Him the commands of the Father have been proclaimed to men); is called Glory, because He appears in a vision sometimes that cannot be borne; is called a Man, and a human being, because He appears strayed in such forms as the Father pleases; and they call Him the Word, because He carries tidings from the Father to men: but maintain that this power is indivisible and inseparable from the Father, just as they say that the light of the sun on earth is indivisible and inseparable from the sun in the heavens; as when it sinks, the light sinks along with it; so the Father, when He chooses, say they, causes His power to spring forth, and when He chooses, He makes it return to Himself. In this way, they teach, He made the angels. But it is proved that there are angels who always exist, and are never reduced to that form out of which they sprang. And that this power which the prophetic word calls God, as has been also amply demonstrated, and Angel, is not numbered [as different] in name only like the light of the sun but is indeed something numerically distinct, I have discussed briefly in what has gone before; when I asserted that this power was begotten from the Father, by His power and will, but not by abscission, as if the essence of the Father were divided; as all other things partitioned and divided are not the same after as before they were divided: and, for the sake of example, I took the case of fires kindled from a fire, which we see to be distinct from it, and yet that from which many can be kindled is by no means made less, but remains the same. CHAP. CXXIX. "And now I shall again recite the words which I have spoken in proof of this point. When Scripture says,' The Lord rained fire from the Lord out of heaven,' the prophetic word indicates that there were two in number: One upon the earth, who, it says, descended to behold the cry of Sodom; Another in heaven, who also is Lord of the Lord on earth, as He is Father and God; the cause of His power and of His being Lord and God. Again, when the Scripture records that God said in the beginning, 'Behold, Adam has become like one of Us,'(1) this phrase, 'like one of Us,' is also indicative of number; and the words do not admit of a figurative meaning, as the sophists endeavour to affix on them, who are able neither to tell nor to understand the truth. And it is written in the book of Wisdom: 'If I should tell you daily events, I would be mindful to enumerate them from the beginning. The Lord created me the beginning of His ways for His works. From everlasting He established me in the beginning, before He formed the earth, and before He made the depths, and before the springs of waters came forth, before the mountains were settled; He begets me before all the hills.'"(2) When I repeated these words, I added: "You perceive, my hearers, if you bestow attention, that the Scripture has declared that this Offspring was begotten by the Father before all things created; and that which is begotten is numerically distinct from that which begets, any one will admit."

 

 

 

6. Sixth, it is also interesting to note the difference between how Justin describes the Godhead in defense of Trypho’s potential Jewish Modalism and how he describes the Godhead in defense of Greek polytheism. Comments from Justin’s discourse to the Greeks are included under the next subsection immediately below. For example, Justin’s address to the Greeks begins with the following comments, focused exclusively on refuting their polytheism.

 

Justin Martyr –

JUSTIN'S HORTATORY ADDRESS TO THE GREEKS

 

CHAP. I. I think it well first of all to examine the teachers of religion, both our own and yours, who they were, and how great, and in what times they lived; in order that those who have formerly received from their fathers the false religion, may now, when they perceive this, be extricated from that inveterate error; and that we may clearly and manifestly show that we ourselves follow the religion of our forefathers according to God. …CHAP. II. Whom, then, ye men of Greece, do ye call your teachers of religion? The poets? It will do your cause no good to say so to men who know the poets; for they know how very ridiculous a theogony they have composed,--as we can learn from Homer, your most distinguished and prince of poets. For he says, first, that the gods were in the beginning generated from water…So that if you believe your most distinguished poets, who have given the genealogies of your gods, you must of necessity either suppose that the gods are such beings as these, or believe that there are no gods at all.

 

It is in Justin’s discourse with Trypho that his language operates on Trypho’s framework and adopts the description of the Word as “another God.” In fact, during this discourse, Justin uses the “begetting” to prove the permanent distinction between the Word and the Father. But in Justin’s address to the Greek, he describes the Word as the one declared to Moses to be “the ever-existent God” who “eternally exists, and has no generation,” is “unbegotten is eternal,” “has no birth,” and “always exists…not one time only, but [in] the past, the present, and the future.” It would seem that by necessity, a complete model of Justin’s view would place him as neither Modalist, nor Polytheist. His view of the Word rejects the Greek idea that there were multiple gods and it rejects the potential Jewish argument that the Word is merely a temporary mode or façade of god. This contrast would place Justin’s view firmly within the normal Trinitarian view, that the Word and the Father are one God, not two, but they are permanently distinct from one another rather than being mere modes or façades of one another.

 

 

 

7. Seventh, the eternal existence of the Word is further demonstrated by Justin’s assertion that the God who appeared and spoke to Moses was the Word.

 

Justin Martyr –

THE SECOND APOLOGY OF JUSTIN

 

CHAP. CXXVII. Therefore neither Abraham, nor Isaac, nor Jacob, nor any other man, saw the Father and ineffable Lord of all, and also of Christ, but [saw] Him who was according to His will His Son, being God, and the Angel because He ministered to His will; whom also it pleased Him to be born man by the Virgin; who also was fire when He conversed with Moses from the bush. 

 

Dialogue of Justin –

PHILOSOPHER AND MARTYR, WITH TRYPHO, A JEW

 

CHAP. CXXVI. "But if you knew, Trypho," continued I, "who He is that is called at one time the Angel of great counsel,(7)…For Moses says somewhere in Exodus the following: 'The Lord spoke to Moses, and said to him, I am the Lord, and I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, being their God; and my name I revealed not to them, and I established my covenant with them.'(1) … And what follows in the writings of Moses I quoted and explained; "from which I have demonstrated," I said, "that He who is described as God appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and the other patriarchs, was appointed under the authority of the Father and Lord, and ministers to His will." Then I went on to say what I had not said before: "And so, when the people desired to eat flesh, and Moses had lost faith in Him, who also there is called the Angel, and who promised that God would give them to satiety, He who is both God and the Angel, sent by the Father, is described as saying and doing these things.

 

CHAP. CXXVIII. "And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man, and Angel, and in the glory of fire as at the bush, so also was manifested at the judgment executed on Sodom, has been demonstrated fully by what has been said."

 

 

Justin believes that the Word’s statements to Moses, particularly the name or title he gives himself in front of Moses, expresses his eternal existence, specifically including past, present, and future. Notice that the three separate quotes below all come from Justin’s address to the pagan Greeks, in contrast to his discourse with Trypho, who was a Jewish monotheist.

 

Justin Martyr –

JUSTIN'S HORTATORY ADDRESS TO THE GREEKS

 

CHAP. XXI. For God cannot be called by any proper name, for names are given to mark out and distinguish their subject-matters, because these are many and diverse; but neither did any one exist before God who could give Him a name, nor did He Himself think it right to name Himself, seeing that He is one and unique, as He Himself also by His own prophets testifies, when He says, "I God am the first," and after this, "And beside me there is no other God."(3) On this account, then, as I before said, God did not, when He sent Moses to the Hebrews, mention any name, but by a participle He mystically teaches them that He is the one and only God. "For," says He; "I am the Being;" manifestly contrasting Himself, "the Being," with those who are not,(4) that those who had hitherto been deceived might see that they were attaching themselves, not to beings, but to those who had no being.

 

CHAP. XXII. …For Moses said, "He who is," and Plato, "That which is." But either of the expressions seems to apply to the ever-existent God. For He is the only one who eternally exists, and has no generation. What, then, that other thing is which is contrasted with the ever-existent, and of which he said, "And what that is which is always being generated, but never really is," we must attentively consider. For we shall find him clearly and evidently saying that He who is unbegotten is eternal, but that those that are begotten and made are generated and perish(2)--as he said of the same class, "gods of gods, of whom I am maker"--for he speaks in the following words: "In my opinion, then, we must first define what that is which is always existent and has no birth, and what that is which is always being generated but never really is.

 

CHAP. XXV. …And whatever he thinks fit to tell of all that he had learned from Moses and the prophets concerning one God, he preferred delivering in a mystical style, so that those who desired to be worshippers of God might have an inkling of his own opinion. For being charmed with that saying of God to Moses, "I am the really existing," and accepting with a great deal of thought the brief participial expression, he understood that God desired to signify to Moses His eternity, and therefore said, "I am the really existing;" for this word "existing" expresses not one time only, but the three--the past, the present, and the future.

 

 

Conclusions on Justin Martyr: Consequently, this further confirms that although Justin believes the Word was begotten before all creatures, Justin understood that begetting to be eternal and timeless so that the Word always exists into past, present, and future, rather than the Word coming into existence at a certain point.

 

 

Addendum Conclusions: In conclusion, a thorough analysis of Irenaeus, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr indicates the following. While all three men believed that the term “begotten” applied to the Word’s divine nature, not just to his incarnation, they did not believe that this “begetting” meant that the Word was created or came into being at a certain point in time, not have previously existed. Instead, they believed that this “begetting” was timeless and eternal, so that the Word was always generated by the Father, and, therefore, always existed eternally with the Father. (However, it is more than likely that Justin’s view of the “begetting” was merely a reference to when the Word first came forth from the Godhead, having previously existed within the Godhead, rather than as a reference to “how” or “through what relationship” the Word exists with the Father.)

 

Most importantly, this eternal-begetting doctrine must be analyzed in light of the scripture. And on this topic, the scripture is remarkably clear and simple, in contrast to the complicated and admittedly “indescribable” abstractness of the “eternal begetting.”

 

First, the authors offer remarkably scant scriptural evidence to support these concepts. The total number of proofs includes two scriptural titles for the Word (presented without their surrounding scriptural context) and Proverbs 8. It is notable that apart from Proverbs 8, within the writings of these men there is no scriptural content or episode presented describing or discussing or necessitating a pre-creation begetting of the Word. Their concept rests entirely upon a presupposition about the meaning of terms like “only-begotten” and “first-begotten.”

 

Second, each author’s comments on this topic are self-contradicting. These contradictions themselves occur in three important ways.

 

Number one, in other places the authors each affirm the correct scriptural meaning of the titles and concepts. For instance, roughly half of the comments from each of the authors on this topic actually ascribe the terms “begotten” and “Son of God” to the incarnation and the appearance of the Word in His first advent, rather than to some pre-creation generation or production from the Father before the rest of creation. And sometimes these identifications of the “Son-ship” or “begetting” as the incarnation occur right in the very same passages where the author uses the terms “only-begotten” or “first-begotten” to speak of a pre-creation begetting. In addition, Irenaeus sometimes quotes John 1:18 as saying “the only-begotten God” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book IV, Chap. XX. 11) but at other times he quotes the exact same verse with the rendering “the only-begotten Son” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chap. XI. 6., Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book IV, Chap. XX. 6). Lastly, Justin specifically applies the term “begotten” to God’s declaration to bring forth His Son from Mary’s womb.

 

Number two, some of the arguments they offer in favor of this idea in one place are contradicted by other arguments in another. Again, Justin provides the pre-eminent example. In one chapter he declares that there is only one Un-begotten Being, even saying that it would not even be possible to conceptualize or detect more than one Un-begotten Being. Justin also specifies that all other beings, because they are begotten, are corruptible and perishing. Yet in another chapter, he directly contrasts the Word as begotten to the Father who alone is Un-begotten. This dictates that the Word is corruptible and perishing, not even having in Himself the attribute of eternal, self-existence. In still another passage, Justin argues that the name YHWH necessarily means its bearer is Un-begotten, ever-existent, and without generation from any predecessor. But, as stated earlier, Justin elsewhere plainly identifies that it was the Word who identified Himself to Moses from the burning bush, even though it was at this very encounter that the Word announced Himself by the name YHWH.

 

In addition, Irenaeus sometimes uses the term “first-begotten” to speak of the Word being begotten from God before creation but at other times he correctly apply these phrases in reference to the Word’s elevation to a place of pre-eminence in inheritance and rank over creation after his resurrection. But in applying this term to the post-resurrection elevation of the Word to pre-eminence, Irenaeus contradicts Justin’s application of this term to the pre-creation begetting of the Word chronologically before anything else was created.

 

Similarly, Justin appeals to Proverb’s 8, arguing that it was the Word who said, “The Lord made me the beginning of His ways for His works (Justin Martyr, Dialogue Of Justin Philosopher And Martyr, With Trypho, A Jew, Chap. LXI.). From everlasting He established me in the beginning, before He had made the earth.” However, Irenaeus quotes the exact same statement but argues these are the words of the Holy Spirit, not the Word, while at the same time distinguishing the Word and the Spirit as separate from one another (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book IV, Chap. XX. 3.) This contradiction between Justin and Irenaeus regarding Proverbs 8 is significant since Proverbs 8 is the only scripture passage appealed to by either author as a description of the pre-creation begetting of the Word.

 

Number three, when the terms “only-begotten” and “first-begotten” are both interpreted to refer to the begetting of the Word before creation, they contradict one another. This is critical since the mere terms themselves constitute the core of each authors’ articulation of a pre-creation begetting of the Word. To put it simply, if the Word is the only, then there are none after Him. Yet if He is the first and others follow, then He is not the only. This contradiction obviously results from interpreting the word “begotten” in both phrases as a reference to the generation of the Word by the Father before creation. However, scripture clears up this problem quite easily in two ways.

 

First, in scripture, these phrases are not synonyms, but instead each describes a separate concept. Second, in scripture, neither term is used to describe the existence of the divine nature of the Word. The term “only-begotten” is always used in reference to the incarnation. The Word literally became a “Son” to God when he took upon Himself a created human nature, flesh and blood. Prior to this he was not a “Son” to God because He Himself was Un-begotten and never experienced any part of His nature coming into being or being brought into being. In John 1:14-18, “only-begotten” is used to describe “the Word made flesh” and dwelling among men.

 

Conversely, the often-misunderstood phrase “bosom of the Father” does not describe some primordial existential relationship between the Father and the Word but instead an explanatory affirmation of the Word’s present location. In other words, this phrase is a counterpart to the similar term “Abraham’s bosom” and, in John 1:18, it is used by John in acknowledgement that the ascended Lord Jesus was now in heaven with the Father. And in John 3:16-18 and 1 John 4:9, the term “only-begotten” is associated with the Father sending the Son into the world, and consequently, it undeniably speaks of the incarnation. (Also see Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chap. XXII, which uses “bosom” to refer to the location where Jesus while describing the resurrected saints coming to reside near him and compare to John 1:18 and Matthew 27:51-52, Ephesians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 5:8, and Revelation 6:9-11.)

 

But perhaps the clearest demonstration of what the “Son-ship” of the Word refers to can be found the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Here the angel Gabriel explains to Mary in very simple terms that the reason her child will be called “The Son of the Highest” and “the Son of God” is because “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Clearly, according to the very earliest portions of the New Testament, the term “Son of God” was applied to the Word, not because of some pre-creation relationship or begetting from the Father, but because the Word became man in the womb of Mary by the power of God the Holy Spirit at the will of God the Father.

 

Similarly, the term “first-born” is always used in reference to the elevation of the Word to a place of pre-eminence as an heir and in rank over creation after his resurrection. This is seen by the fact that the term “firstborn” is often rendered in scripture as part of the phrase “firstborn of the dead” (Romans 8:29, Colossians 1:15, 18, Revelation 1:5). (The use of “firstborn” as a title after the resurrection for the Word, such as Hebrews 11:28 and 12:23 must be understood in connection to these more explicit, earlier usages in Romans and Colossians, not in isolation from them with an alternate meaning.) Consequently, the use of these titles by Ignatius, Justin, and Irenaeus in reference to a pre-creation production of the Word by the Father is shown to be not only self-contradicting, but plainly unscriptural.

 

Having surveyed and analyzed the totality of comments from Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus on this topic, the conclusion is simple. Their assertion that the Word was eternally begotten by the Father before the rest of creation cannot and should not be accepted.