De Moor V:9: Eternal Generation Defended against Arianism


Council of Nicea (Arius underfoot)

But that Generation is overturned in the worst way: 1. by the ancient Arians, having their name from Arius, a heretic of the Fourth Century, a Presbyter of Alexandria, ejected from the Church in the year 322, whose followers were in turn divided into various names and sects, and some receded farther than others and erred more grossly, as Ecclesiastical History abundantly shows. They maintained that the Son of God was created, ἐκ μὴ ὄντων, out of what was not, and so was a made God, less properly called the Son of God, not ὁμοουσίον/homoousios/ consubstantial with the Father, yet in a more excellent manner than others, since He was the first, most glorious Creature, created before the Mosaic Beginning, yet no from eternity, but through which as an Instrument all other things in the Mosaic Creation were made. The Fathers condemned this error in the First Ecumenical Council, held in Nicea, metropolis of Bithynia, in the year 325: consult SPANHEIM, Historia ecclesiastica, Century IV, chapter X, § 1, columns 882-889, chapter XI, § 2, columns 894-897, 899-901; LEYDEKKER, Veritate Euangelica triumphante, tome I, book I, chapter VI; BULL, Proœmio Defensionis Fidei Nicænæ; PETAVIUS, Dogmatibus theologicis, tome 2, book I, chapters VII-XII, book II, chapters I-V, X-XII; ADRIAAN VAN CATTENBURGH, Spicilegio Theologiæ Christianæ, book II, chapter XVII, § 5-10, pages 165-171, following EPIPHANIUS, Hæresi LXIX, opera, tome 1, pages 727-807; AUGUSTINE, de Hæresibus, chapters XLIX, LI, LIV; DANÆUS, his commentary on de Hæresibus, pages 972-974, 976, 977, 980-982, etc. What is argued in favor of this error is of no great moment. Namely,


They Object: α. Proverbs 8:22, where the Septuagint has, Κύριος ἔκτισέν με, the Lord created me. But, I Respond, a. These Interpreters did not enjoy the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and infallible guidance, and so they were able to err. Aquila,[1] Symmachus,[2] and Theodotion[3] better expressed the Hebrew קָנָנִי by ἐκτήσατό με, possessed me. b. The verb κτίζειν, to create, is able also to be expounded in a looser sence concerning Generation, just as the words to Create and to Generate are also used interchangeably in other passages: thus וְעַ֥ם נִ֜בְרָ֗א, in Psalm 102:18, and a people which shall be created, is a people which shall be born. Contrariwise, the Generations, the nativities, of heaven and earth are put in the place of the Creation of the same, in Genesis 2:4,אֵ֣לֶּה תוֹלְד֧וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ. Now, how miserably the Fathers, on account of their ignorance of the Hebrew Tongue, torture themselves in resolving this doubt, BUDDEUS indicates in his Isagoge ad Theologiam universam, book II, chapter VII, § 4, tome 2, pages 1034, 1035.


They Object: β. That the Son of God is called in Colossians 1:15 πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, the firstborn of every creature; in Revelation 3:14 ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ, the beginning of the creation of God.



I Respond, a. That on the prior passage, a. ERASMUS on that passage suggests that the accent is able to be changed, and to be πρωτοτόκος πάσης κτίσεως, and that thus the sense is going to be, He first produced all things, and every creature was born of Him. He observes that what follows, that in Him were all things created, etc., verse 16, does not poorly cohere with this sense. b. Others observe that the Son of God is here said to be begotten, not created, to have been before every creature, just as in verse 17 it is simply said πρὸ πάντων, before all things; and, that AMBROSE discoursed upon this opinion, the same ERASMUS just now cited advises. But this, according to the opinion of others, could be more easily admitted, if πρότοκος or προτερότοκος were read: but they think that a superlative in composition is never taken for a positive, and in comparison with other things is everywhere used of things of the same sort with which it is compared. Nevertheless, it is able to be considered, whether this criticism be more subtle than just, and whether this passage is able to be compared with John 1:15; 15:18. c. And so, with respect had to the superiority and privileges of the Firstborn formerly, they maintain that the Firstborn of every Creature is metonymically nothing other than the Lord of creatures: just as Cæsar was indeed the name of a family, which name adhered to Julius Cæsar on account of his birth from this family; but on account of the dominion that he here obtained, this cognomen was bestowed upon subsequent Emperors because of their succession in the same empire. CALVIN, Institutes of the Christian Religion, book II, chapter XII, § 4, “I do indeed acknowledge that in the first order of creation and the whole state of nature Christ was put in charge of angels and men as head: for which reason He is called by Paul the firstborn of every creature, Colossians 1:15.” And in § 7, “For Osiander[4] quite unadvisedly snatches at what no sane person will concede, that supremacy over the Angels does not agree with Christ, that they might enjoy Him as Prince, except as He is man. But it is easily elicited from the words of Paul, Colossians 1:15, that He, as He is the eternal word of God, is the Firstborn of every creature, not because He was created, or ought to be numbered among creatures: but because the whole state of the world, which sort from the beginning was manifest in consummate beauty, had no other beginning: then, that He, as He was made man, was the firstborn from the dead. For in one, brief context the Apostle sets forth both for consideration, that all things were created through the Son, that He might have dominion over the Angels: and through Him man was made, so that He might undertake to be his redeemer, Colossians 1:18, 16.” Again, chapter XIII, § 2, “Concerning the name of Firstborn they ignorantly agitate controversy. They allege that God ought to have been born immediately from Adam in the beginning, so that He might be the Firstborn among brethren. For Primogeniture is referred, not to age, but to degree of honor and eminence of virtue.” Add FRANCISCUS JUNIUS’ Locos Communes theologicos, chapter XXVII, column 59, opera, tome 2; and especially WESSELIUS’ Nestorianismum et Adoptianismum redivivum confutatum, chapter XII, § 157-159, where you may read among other things: “For no other reason does the Apostle call Him the Firstborn of every Creature, Colossians 1:15, than because He is the Lord of it. Which Universal Dominion, since it springs immediately from the creation of all things, Paul immediately subjoined in verses 16, 17, for through Him were all things created, etc. But, since that Same Dominion was first founded in the Superiority of His highest Deity and His Natural and eternal Filiation, Paul set down beforehand, who is the Image of the invisible God, etc. But I would have this especially to be observed, that a Genitive added to the word πρωτότοκος/firstborn, that is, when it connotes the genus that is rightly to be attended to, expresses, either the parent, as if I should say, He is the Firstborn of Abraham, of Jacob, of Mary; or collateral sharers of the same nature of Origin…. But the Genitive in this Title, the Firstborn of every creature, is not able to express the Parent, because thus the Son of God would be said to have been begotten of all created things; which is absurd and impious. Neither is it able to signify Collaterals, because then it would denote such Brethren as are of the same essence and specific generation from the Father with the Firstborn Brother…. Therefore, because the Genitive, of every creature, is here able to expres neither the Parent, nor Brethren and sharers of the same specific nature, one of which it ought to signify according to the common manner of speaking, if generation from the Father be connoted in this Title of Firstborn; with good reason I conclude that that Title, here given to Christ, does not connote His divine descent and generation from the Father, but only expresses His Dominion over every Creature, which He made and bears by the word of His power.[5] Certainly then all things flow easily in the Text and Context, when the Firstborn of every Creature is determined to be the same thing as the Prince and Lord of every Creature.” And this exegesis is certain very probable. What things HERMAN VENEMA[6] discusses in Exercise IV de Vera Christi Divinitate, § 8, pages 157-159, are also able to be considered and weighed.


b.In Revelation 3:14 the Son of God is called, a.not the Passive Beginning of Creation, but the Active, in comparison with Revelation 1:8; 21:6.Indeed, Christ is not able to be called the Passive Beginning of Creation, nor the first Creature; for either according to the human Nature He ought thus to be called, or according to the divine.But such He is not able to be called according to the human Nature; He is not the first Creature in this manner, but at length in the fullness of time He was made of a woman, Galatians 4:4:still less according to the divine Nature; for thus He is very God.But according to the same Nature not without contradiction and the greatest absurdity is Jesus able at the same time to be called God and Creature, since God and Creature are immediately and contradictorily opposed.According to the divine Nature was the Son of God before the beginning of the Creation, and that, not by Creation, but by divine Generation, Colossians 1:17; Proverbs 8:24-26.But He is the Active Beginning or the Efficient Cause of Creation, just as κτίσις also denotes Creation elsewhere, Mark 10:6;[7] 2 Peter 3:4.[8]And thus ἀρχὴ/beginning in Greek here shall come to the same sense as רֵאשִׁית in Hebrew, Proverbs 8:22;[9] it is also able best to be taken in this sense:let ARISTOTLE’S Metaphysics, book V, chapter I, be brought for comparison, in which he relates that all Causes are also ἀρχὰς:Πάνταγὰραἴτιαἀρχαι·πασῶνμὲνοὖνκοινὸντῶνἀρχῶν, τόπρῶτονεἶναι, ὅθενἢἔστιν, ἢγίνεται, ἢγιγνώσκεται·τούτωνδὲαἱμὲνἐνυπάρχουσαίεἰσιν, αἱδὲἐκτός, for all causes are beginnings:therefore, it is common to all beginnings to be the first, whence either a thing is, or becomes, or is known:of these some are inherent, but others are without, tome 2, page 1282.Or, b.ἡἀρχὴτῆςκτίσεωςτοῦΘεοῦ, the beginning of the creation of God, will indicate the Prince, Lord of every creature; as ἀρχὴ/beginning is also found elsewhere in the place of ἄρχων/ruler, Ephesians 3:10;[10] Colossians 1:16:[11]and κτίσις signifies Creature, no less than Creation, Mark 16:15;[12] Romans 8:19-22;[13] Hebrews 4:13.[14]

[1] Aquila of Sinope produced his Greek version of the Old Testament in the second century of the Christian era. Aquila’s translation champions the cause of Judaism against Christianity in matters of translation and interpretation. The product is woodenly literalistic. [2] Symmachus (second century) produced a Greek translation of the Old Testament, which survives only in fragments. Symmachus’ work is characterized by an apparent concern to render faithfully the Hebrew original, to provide a rendering consistent with the rabbinic exegesis of his time, and to set forth the translation in simple, pure, and elegant Septuagint-style Greek. [3] Theodotion was a linguist and convert to Judaism, who translated the Hebrew Scripture into Greek in the middle of the second century AD. His translation appears to be an attempt to bring the Septuagint into conformity with the Hebrew text. [4] Lucas Osiander (1534-1604) was a Lutheran theologian. He produced an edition of the Vulgate with supplemental annotations and corrections, inserting Luther’s translation in the places in which the Vulgate departs from the Hebrew. He was also an accomplished composer of music. [5] See Hebrews 1:2, 3. [6] Herman Venema (1697-1787) was a student of Campegius Vitringa, specializing in Old Testament exegesis and Church History. He served as Professor of Theology at Franeker (1723-1774). [7] Mark 10:6: “But from the beginning of the creation (ἀπὸ δὲ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως) God made them male and female.” [8] 2 Peter 3:4: “And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation (ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως).” [9] Proverbs 8:22: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning (רֵאשִׁית; ἀρχὴν, in the Septuagint) of his way, before his works of old.” [10] Ephesians 3:10: “To the intent that now unto the principalities (ταῖς ἀρχαῖς) and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God…” [11] Colossians 1:16: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities (ἀρχαί), or powers: all things were created by him, and for him…” [12] Mark 16:15: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει).” [13] Romans 8:19: “For the earnest expectation of the creature (τῆς κτίσεως) waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature (ἡ κτίσις) was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature (ἡ κτίσις) itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation (πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις) groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” [14] Hebrews 4:13: “Neither is there any creature (κτίσις) that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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