John 17:5: A Verse to Be Trapped By
March 31, 2016
Who is The Son of Man?
March 31, 2016

CSI: Begetting

Part 1 of a series.

The title takes after those popular crime shows on television which are involved in Crime Scene Investigations. The Bible is riddled with crime scenes whose chalk outlines can be traced back thousands of years. Much of the violence has been perpetrated by the very custodians whose particular brand of dogmatic zeal has driven them to corrupt texts which they cherished as sacred. In this paper I investigate various texts from the Old to the New Testaments which have become victims in the millennia-old war regarding the begetting and birth of Jesus.

Our crime scenes deal with texts associated with the “begetting” of the Son of God, “the man Messiah Jesus” [1Tim 2.5]. As the evidence will show, there is a strong case to be made that very early in the transmission of the NT letters, people at times sought to obscure and totally remove evidence relating the unique creation of God’s Son in the womb of a young Jewish virgin. The evidence will show this took place not in some “pre-existence”, “time before time” [as per the Catholic-Protestant creeds], but in a small Jewish village near Jerusalem some 2 000+ years ago.

Crime Scene 1: Ps 2.7:  “You are my son. Today I have begotten you.” [cp. 2Sam 7.14]

The verse as it appears in the LXX translates the Hebrew for “begotten” [yalad] as gennao. Scholars are adamant that, in its OT usage/background, “the few passages (Dt. 32:[15], 18; Ps. 2.7; LXX 110.3[LXX 109.3]) in which God appears as subject of [yalad] must be interpreted figuratively”. So that in each case these verses allude to the “enthronement of the [Davidic] king”[1], as opposed to a physical/literal “begetting” by YHWH. Yet, the verse as used by the NT writers [Acts 13.33; Heb 1.5; 5.5] gives it an altogether literal, as opposed to figurative, meaning. It is here where we will discover clear signs of ‘violence’ based on Christological bias.

The verse is first cited by the writer of Acts [13.33] in a sermon the Apostle Paul gave to a Synagogue in Pisidia, Antioch.  Paul aptly explains how some of the Jews did not recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah because they could “not understand the words of the prophets” [v.27]. Though unjustly killed as a criminal, God raised him from the dead, thus proving to everyone that he was the Messiah. Paul then explains how these events were fulfilled when God “raised up Jesus, as it was written” in Ps 2.7.

Evidence: Acts 13.33

Early on in the translation of v.33, it was taken as a second reference [the first being at v.30] to Jesus having been ‘raised up from the dead’. For example the KJV [1611] added the word “again”, whereas some modern translators paraphrase it as “from the dead”. This has led to its wide acceptance amongst many noted scholars and commentators[2].

The popular Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the NT, under their definition of gennao in Matt. 1.20, make the claim that “it is used of the act of God in the birth of Christ, Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5, quoted from Psalm 2:7, none of which indicate that Christ became the Son of God at His birth.” Yet, when giving us the definition of the Greek word translated “raise (up)” [anistemi] they note:

“[It is] said of Christ, Acts 3:26; 7:37; 13:33, RV, ‘raised up Jesus,’ not here by resurrection from the dead, as the superfluous ‘again’ of the AV [NCV; WNT] would suggest; this is confirmed by the latter part of the verse, which explains the ‘raising’ up as being by way of His incarnation, and by the contrast in ver. 34, where stress is laid upon His being ‘raised’ from the dead, the same verb being used.”

So, even though the word can be used in reference to being “raised up from the dead”, the context dictates the meaning of the word. Thus, in Acts 13.33, God is said to have “raised up” His Son onto the scene; a clear allusion to and in complete harmony with, the writer’s use of Ps 2.7.

Furthermore, many have argued [incredibly enough] over the centuries that Ps 2.7 should be understood in reference to Jesus’ resurrection and not his birth! This is due to a running debate amongst scholars on the variant reading found in some ancient manuscripts, as well as patristic writings that quote Ps 2:7 in connection with Jesus’ baptism. (Even though the weight of the manuscript testimony is against this reading, some still argue for its inclusion.) Most of these obviously agree with the assumption, as stated above, that Jesus only became Son of God at his resurrection and not at his virgin birth.

Ps 2.7 is much used in the NT. At Acts 13.33 the “to-day” of the generation of the Son of God is the resurrection. At Luke 3.22 (western reading) it is the baptism. [At Hebrews 1.5; 5.5] it is again doubtful whether the reference is to his birth or his baptism…This begetting is more than adoption. For the resurrection, in which it was consummated, is the beginning [of something new]…”[3]

[1] TDOT, yalad. Emphasis mine.

[2] Dunn, Christology in the Making, pp 35-36, cites: Brown, Birth of the Messiah, pp. 29f., 136; J.H. Hayes, “The Resurrection as Enthronement and the Earliest Church Christology,” Interpretation 22, 1968, pp. 333-45; Kummel, Theology, pp. 110ff; Hengel, Son of God, pp. 61-6. See his “notes to pages 32-35, 35-39”; fn. 138, 142.

[3] TDNT, gennao.