Generation of the Word

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The topic here is the origin of the Son from the Father within the Godhead. As such that origin is not an object of direct consideration in the New Testament. This is not, however, to say it has no background there; quite the contrary is the case. The Father and Son (prescinding from the Holy Spirit) appear on the same side of the dichotomy between Creator and everything else. And precisely in this frame of reference they are still related to each other in the way their very names imply (see god [son]). To speak of the Son as being generated is to continue further the Biblically inspired analogy of paternityfiliation in the Deity. The Latin version of the Scriptures gives reason for so doing in applying unigenitus to the Son (Jn 1.14, 18; 3.16, 18; 1 Jn 4.9), although the Greek mon oγενής has more the sense of unique, sole, or only one of its kind, than only-begotten. All this has importance as it indicates the type of origin ascribed to the Son before the Incarnation, namely, generation. The Bible being what it is, its authors were not concerned with giving a description of the preconditions, constituents, and consequences of that intra-Trinitarian generation. Its factual character is, however, asserted, namely, a dependence of Son on Father in a way that is diverse from that of all other realities.

If the Scriptures did not enter into the precise manner of the origin in question, the case was decidedly otherwise in the postapostolic Church. It was no small task to find a formula that would express both the origin and dependence of Jesus on the Father and also not imply that He was on the other side of the above-mentioned dichotomy. The difference between γίνoμαι and γєννάω was difficult to grasp and explain, this due to a resemblance at once literal and ideological. At the instance of Arius, the Council of Nicaea I entered more directly into the implications of the Son's eternal generation. Excluding origin from nothing and origin from other preexistent beings, He was said to be generated (not made) from the Father's own reality, or substance (Enchiridion symbol-orum, 125126). When later the Holy Spirit was proposed as the creature of the Son, the orthodox reaction affirmed His origin from the Father by way of procession (Enchiridion symbolorum, 150) distinguished from the Son's generation (Enchiridion symbolorum, 75, 800). Finally the connection between the conception of the Son in time and His eternal birth from the Father entered very much into the Nestorian controversy of the 5th century [cf. A. Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, tr. J. S. Bowden (New York 1965) 369399].

The assertion that the Father's personal note (αγєννησία) was connected of utter necessity with the nature of Deity excluded not only the Son (as generated) but also much mystery from the Godhead (Eunomius, Apol.; Patrologia Graeca 30:842847). By reaction, the incipient theology of the beatific vision found some Greek Fathers qualifying the intellectual union of man with God even in glory so as to preserve the transcendence of the Deity [Chrysostom, Incomprehens., Patrologia Graeca 48:704; Theodoret, Eran. (Dial. ) 1, Patrologia Graeca 83:49].

In dependence on Augustine, scholastic theologians considered the human psychology of knowing and loving analogous to the divine processions (see word, the). The difference between the two in man provided intelligibility to an increased degree for the article of faith that in the Godhead only the Son arises, or takes origin, by way of generation (intellection). Contemporary Christian theology, with its emphasis on christology, is attempting to investigate or consider the procession of the Son (generation) as continued in His temporal mission (see missions, divine) and as a possible precondition for the concession of revelation and grace by God to man (see logos).

See Also: consubstantiality; filiation; homoousios; trinity, holy, articles on.

For bibliography, see god (son); word, the; logos; trinity, holy.

[c. j. peter]