"born of the Father before all ages"


I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.

From the Nicene creed we recite every Sunday.

How are we to understand the act of being born, coming into existence from a another, “eternally begotten” we used to say if He is eternal? He is always becoming? Born “before all ages” outside time? Still seems to be a process. Doesn’t it?


John Chapter 1

  1. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…
  2. And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us…"


It is the internal procession of the Son from the Father, which is not in* time*, but “before all ages”. This is described in the Catechism: 240 Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father by his relationship to his only Son who, reciprocally, is Son only in relation to his Father …

242 Following this apostolic tradition, the Church confessed at the first ecumenical council at Nicaea (325) that the Son is “consubstantial” with the Father, that is, one only God with him.66 The second ecumenical council, held at Constantinople in 381, kept this expression in its formulation of the Nicene Creed and confessed “the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father”.67


I have been hung up on the process aspect of “begotten” but I see it deals more with uniqueness.

So what does monogenes mean? According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD, 3rd Edition), monogenes has two primary definitions. The first definition is “pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship.” This is its meaning in Hebrews 11:17 when the writer refers to Isaac as Abraham’s “only begotten son” (KJV). Abraham had more than one son, but Isaac was the only son he had by Sarah and the only son of the covenant. Therefore, it is the uniqueness of Isaac among the other sons that allows for the use of monogenes in that context.

The second definition is “pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind.” This is the meaning that is implied in John 3:16 (see also John 1:14, 18; 3:18; 1 John 4:9). John was primarily concerned with demonstrating that Jesus is the Son of God (John 20:31), and he uses monogenes to highlight Jesus as uniquely God’s Son—sharing the same divine nature as God—as opposed to believers who are God’s sons and daughters by adoption (Ephesians 1:5). Jesus is God’s “one and only” Son.

Read more: gotquestions.org/only-begotten-son.html#ixzz3GvS4BwvL


In the NABRE Gospel of John 1 is a footnote for monogenes theos. 18 No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, [12] who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.
[INDENT] 12 [18] The only Son, God: while the vast majority of later textual witnesses have another reading, “the Son, the only one” or “the only Son,” the translation above follows the best and earliest manuscripts, monogenes theos, but takes the first term to mean not just “Only One” but to include a filial relationship with the Father, as at Luke 9:38 (“only child”) or Hebrews 11:17 (“only son”) and as translated at John 1:14. The Logos is thus “only Son” and God but not Father/God.[/INDENT]


*To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set – or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like man indeed. But, of course, it is not a ream man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.

  • CS Lewis*

To create is to make. Man is created by God. Man is not God.

To beget is to give birth. Jesus is born of the Father. Jesus is begotten of God the Father. Both the Father and Jesus are God.



Because God is wholly “other,” we can only refer to him by way of analogy; and every analogy has limitations. You have discovered one such limitation. In human terms, birth, or being begotten, implies going from one state to another, from non-existence to existence. But it’s only an analogy.

As to what divine begetting really means, obviously we can’t understand it fully or perfectly. Theologians say that the Son proceeds from the Father by way of “intellectual generation,” meaning that the Father eternally contemplates himself; and this thought is so perfect, so divine, that it is a living copy of himself, a Son as it were, or a Word which emanates from the mind of the Speaker. God is eternal, so his act of begetting is eternal: not over and over again, but rather one timeless act. Remember that eternity is not infinite time but limitless life.


But “born” “begotten” “birth” as we undestand them mean a coming into being, as Vico points out, from another of its own kind. That seems to necessitate a prior non being or process of becoming. For two eternal persons that would not make sense.

If we go back to “Monogenes” it has two primary definitions,

“pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship”

and “pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind”.

It sounds less like a process and more like a descritive classification of relationship.
It comes down to the questoin of what the Gospel writers (and Creed writers) meant by the word.

The meaning of monogenēs was part of early Christian christological controversy regarding the Trinity. It is claimed that Arian arguments that used texts that refer to Christ as God’s “only begotten Son” are based on a misunderstanding of the Greek word monogenēs and that the Greek word does not mean “begotten” in the sense we beget children but means “having no peer, unique”.

Alternatively in favour that the word monogenēs does carry some meaning related to begetting is the etymological origin mono- (only) + -genes (born, begotten). The question is whether the etymological origin was still “live” as part of the meaning when the New Testament was written, or whether semantic shift has occurred.



You could look at it that way. It comes from the Latin “ante omnia secula.” Compare to the “per omnia secula seculorum” which means “though all ages of ages” but translated as “world without end,” for reasons I was never sure of.


I like St. Augustine’s statement of the dilemma:*

  1. He that comes from heaven is above all; and what He has seen and heard, that He testifies: and no man receives His testimony. Comes from heaven, is above all, our Lord Jesus Christ; of whom it was said above, No man has ascended into heaven, but He that came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven. And He is above all; and what He has seen and heard, that He speaks. Moreover, He has a Father, being Himself the Son of God; He has a Father, and He also hears of the Father. And what is that which He hears of the Father? **Who can unfold this? When can my tongue, when can my heart be sufficient, either the heart to understand, or the tongue to utter, what that is which the Son has heard from the Father? **May it be the Son has heard the Word of the Father? No, the Son is the Word of the Father. **You see how all human effort is here wearied out; you see how all guessing of our heart, all straining of our darkened mind, here fails. :wink:

***and his explanation:

  • I hear the Scripture saying that the Son speaks that which He hears from the Father; and again, I hear the Scripture saying that the Son is Himself the Word of the Father: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. " The words that we speak are fleeting and transient: as soon as your word has sounded from your mouth, it passes away; it makes its noise, and passes away into silence. Can you follow your sound, and hold it to make it stand? Your thought, however, remains, and of that thought that remains you utter many words that pass away. What say we, brethren? When God spoke, did He give out a voice, or sounds, or syllables? If He did, in what tongue spoke He? In Hebrew, or in Greek, or in Latin? Tongues are necessary where there is a distinction of nations. But there none can say that God spoke in this tongue, or in that. **
    Observe your own heart. When you conceive a word which you may utter—For I will say, if I can, what we may note in ourselves, not whereby we may comprehend that—well, when you conceive a word to utter, you mean to utter a thing, and the very conception of the thing is already a word in your heart: it has not yet come forth, but it is already born in the heart, and is waiting to come forth.** But you consider the person to whom it is to come forth, with whom you are to speak: if he is a Latin, you seek a Latin expression; if a Greek, you think of Greek words; if a Punic, you consider whether you know the Punic language: for the diversity of hearers you have recourse to various tongues to utter the word conceived; but the conception itself was bound by no tongue in particular. Whilst therefore God, when speaking, required not a language, nor took up any kind of speech, how was He heard by the Son, seeing that God’s speaking is the Son Himself? As, in fact, you have in your heart the word that you speak, and as it is with you, and is none other than the spiritual conception itself (for just as your soul is spirit, so also the word which you have conceived is spirit; for it has not yet received sound to be divided by syllables, but remains in the conception of your heart, and in the mirror of the mind); so God gave out His Word, that is, begot the Son. And you, indeed, beget the word even in your heart according to time; God without time begot the Son by whom He created all times. Whilst, therefore, the Son is the Word of God, and the Son spoke to us not His own word, but the word of the Father, He willed to speak Himself to us when He was speaking the word of the Father. This it is that John said, as was fit and necessary; and we have expounded according to our ability. He whose heart has not yet attained to a proper perception of so great a matter, has whither to turn himself, has where to knock, has from whom to ask, from whom to seek, of whom to receive.*


[size=2][size=2]Given in Strong’s Concordance, [/size][/size][size=2][size=2][size=2]H5769 seen in Isaiah 45:17[/size][/size], is **o-lawm’ **[/size][size=2] from conceal (aw-lam’) translated “world without end” when used with ad, H7503, from aw-daw’, H5710. Therefore: [/size]**o-lawm’ ad **is “world without end” or “to ages everlasting”. (DRC)

17 But Israel will be saved by the Lord
with an everlasting salvation;
you will never be put to shame or disgraced,
to ages everlasting.


17 [But] Israel shall be saved in the LORD
with an everlasting salvation:
ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded
world without end.


I believe the term “world” in an archaic sense refers to a generation or lifetime, so “world without end” would literally mean an unending lifetime, or something to that effect. A word history buff can give you more details.


Thanks, vico and ao. But more to the OP’s point wouldn’t that be “world without a beginning and a world without end” ? Or did the kjv presume that?

Incidentally other languages translate it as “through all ages of ages” or equivalent. That should cover infinity all ways.


Born (whatever that means; I’m sure I cannot comprehend it) before our time standards (rotation if our planet and others…and so on) were established, is the way I’ve always “understood” it. English really is a terrible language to use when trying to speak of eternal truths.


The Creed of the Council of Toledo (AD 675) has this

We also confess that the Son was born, but not made, from the substance of the Father, without beginning, before all ages, for at no time did the Father exist without the Son, nor the Son without the Father. Yet the Father is not from the Son, as the Son is from the Father, because the Father was not generated by the Son but the Son by the Father. The Son, therefore, is God from the Father, and the Father is God, but not from the son. He is indeed the Father of the Son, not God from the Son; but the latter is the Son of the Father and God from the Father. Yet in all things the Son is equal to God the Father, for He has never begun nor ceased to be born. We also believe that He is of one substance with the Father; wherefore He is called homoousios with the Father, that is of the same being as the Father, for homos in Greek means ‘one’ and ousia means ‘being’, and joined together they mean ‘one in being’. We must believe that the Son is begotten or born not from nothing or from any other substance, but from the womb of the Father, that is from His substance. Therefore the Father is eternal, and the Son is also eternal. If He was always Father, He always had a Son, whose Father He was, and therefore we confess that the Son was born from the Father without beginning. We do not call the same Son of God a part of a divided nature, because He was generated from the Father, but we assert that the perfect Father has begotten the perfect Son, without diminution or division, for it pertains to the Godhead alone not to have an unequal Son. This Son of God is also Son by nature, not by adoption; of Him we must also believe that God the Father begot Him neither by an act of will nor out of necessity, for in God there is no necessity nor does will precede wisdom.


What fits OP is Colossians 1:15-17 (DRC)15Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him. 17And he is before all, and by him all things consist.


I just found this in St Bonaventure’s Tree of Life, beautiful!

See: Jesus Begotten of God



DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.