In the previous article, we saw that the Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. However, despite the clear evidence from Scripture, some deny this great truth. We now consider the main “proof texts” they use to support their views.
One of their arguments runs like this: In Proverbs 8 and 9, wisdom is portrayed as a person, who has been “brought forth” (8:24, 25), that is, who had a beginning. This person is identified in 1 Corinthians 1:24: “Christ … the wisdom of God.” Ergo Christ had a beginning.
On the surface, this sounds plausible, but it is a monumental error. It confuses two very different things: personification (Proverbs) and the description of a real Person (1Cor).
Personification is defined as: “A figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstractions are endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form.” The writer of Proverbs uses poetic language, and depicts wisdom as a person. For example, wisdom is said to “cry,” to “stand” (8:1, 2), and to have “builded her house” (9:1). Indeed, in the previous chapter, there is the exhortation to “Say unto wisdom, ‘Thou art my sister'” (7:4). It is evident that, in describing wisdom in this way, Solomon is not describing an actual person, but using a literary device, personification.
When he writes, “When there were no depths, I was brought forth … before the hills was I brought forth” (8:24, 25), he is not describing the coming into existence of a real person; it is part of the personification of wisdom. Thus, it is unwarranted to transplant the phrase “the wisdom of God” (1Cor 1:24) into Proverbs, and deduce that everything said of wisdom in Proverbs is a description of Christ.
A couple of further points show the illogicality of such a position. First, in Proverbs wisdom is presented as a woman. If these verses were talking about the Lord Jesus, surely the character would have been presented as male. Moreover, if Proverbs 8:24, 25 refers to Christ, and shows that He had a beginning, it would also mean that there was a time when wisdom had a beginning, and thus there was a time when Jehovah did not have wisdom, the period before it was “brought forth” by Him. The absurdity of such a suggestion should be apparent to all.
A word of clarification: we are not denying that the things said of wisdom in Proverbs 8 and 9 are true of our Lord. Indeed He is the One, the only One, Who exemplifies them fully. And it is entirely appropriate to apply words from this passage to Him. Most of us have heard the words of 8:30 quoted at the Breaking of Bread: “Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight.” This is a valid application of the passage, and perfectly true of Him; but it does not annul the fact that, in its original setting, the writer is personifying wisdom.
Another passage used to teach that our Lord Jesus had a beginning is the phrase: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Col 1:15). This, they assert, shows that He is the first created being.
This deduction makes the (unwarranted) assumption that “firstborn” means “first in time.” This is not always so; for example Exodus 4:22, where God refers to “Israel … My firstborn.” Israel was not the first nation in time, but it certainly was so in rank, and this is the sense in which it is used of the Son in Colossians 1:15.
Indeed, if those teaching this error would honestly consider the next verse, it would save them from a lot of trouble. Verse 16 begins with the word “For.” It is explaining the phrase at the end of verse 15. It gives us three ways in which He relates to creation: all things were created “in Him,” “through Him,” and “unto Him” (the RV brings out the distinction in the three prepositions): He is the cause of all that was made, the agency through Whom it was made, and the One for Whom it was made. This is the explanation of the term “firstborn of all creation,” and, rather than teaching that He is a created being, it teaches the very opposite; He was there before anything was, He made it, and it is all for Him.
Then there are the words of Psalm 2:7, “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. These words are quoted three times in the NT: Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5. Surely, they say, this shows there was a day when He became the Son. But this conclusion results from the wrong idea that the second part of the phrase explains the first, i.e., that He is the Son because of a day when God begat Him. Regrettably, the NIV, “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father,” perpetuates this misunderstanding. However, if we see the second part of the phrase, not as an explanation of the first part, but as a demonstration and acknowledgment of it, the difficulty disappears. The first part, “Thou art My Son,” is eternally true. The second part, “this day have I begotten Thee,” refers to an event in time, not when He became the Son, but when He was declared and demonstrated to be so; when He was shown (in time) to be Who He (eternally) is.
What is the event referred to here? The incarnation (when He was begotten into humanity)? His resurrection (when He was begotten from the dead)? His ascension and entering into His priesthood? The writer will refrain from stating his opinion, as the purpose here is not to determine to which event it refers, but to show that it does not disprove His eternal Sonship. Whichever of these events is in view, the doctrine of His eternal Sonship is unaffected.