The Nicene Creed
Begotten of His Father
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God,
begotten of his Father before all worlds
Do you remember the “begats” in the King James Version of the Bible? You know, those passages which told us who was the father of whom: Abraham begat Isaac who begat Jacob who begat Judah who begat etc., etc. The Israelites and later Jews were meticulous in keeping their genealogies; this is especially true when tracing the Messiah’s genealogy as he was prophesied to be of the line of King David. Anyway, I’m guessing that you didn’t care as much about genealogies as they did and probably skipped over those “begats” so you could read the more, shall we say, edifying, parts of the Bible.
But you need to understand what that word “begat” means and its vital importance in the Christian faith. “Begat” simply means “fathered.” I remind you of this only because the word has fallen out of usage in our day. Women birth; men father or beget. I have two daughters whom I begat.
Now there’s an inescapable fact about begetting, and it is simply this: A father can only beget his own kind. Dogs beget dogs and cats beget cats; cats do not beget dinosaurs. And, using myself as an example just above, men beget boys and girls, and nothing else besides. This is a law of creation that God has built into the world.
In fact, God has so built this law into the universe that it even applies to Himself. John 3:16 tells us: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….” There’s that word, “begotten,” a cognate of “begat.” God the Father begat a Son. Now, if dogs can only beget dogs and cats only beget cats and human beings only beget human beings, then what does God beget when He begets? The answer is simple: God begets God—His Son, of course, but no less God than He, Himself.
And this is why that word “begotten” is so important and why the Early Church Fathers insisted on it. It is a critical word from the Scriptures affirming the divinity of the Son: The Son was begotten of his Father, not made. God can make dogs and cats and people, but even He can’t make a God. But He can beget God, who would then be His Son, who would then be of His own essence, who would then be One with Him (John 1:1-2).