Sabellianism/modalism and Isaiah 9:6


I’m having a conversation on another social networking site and a person there said that Jesus was his “Eternal father.” I, in my eagerness to defend orthodoxy, corrected him, telling him that Jesus is our brother, not our Father.

Then someone else brought up Isaiah 9:6:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

So was I wrong in correcting this person? What’s the orthodox response to the Sabellian/modalistic interpretation of this text?



Hi Jeremy, the hebrew phrase simply means “father of eternity”, that he is source of eternity. It would be like saying James Brown is the Father of Soul. It is basically attrubiting an attribute of God to the Messiah, that of being eternal and that of being the source of eternity.

In the Old Testament, He is the Child who is called ‘Mighty God’ and ‘Everlasting Father’ (Hebrew is literally ‘Father of Eternity’,meaning ‘Author of Eternity’) (Isaiah 9:6, cf. 10:21) He would be born in Bethlehem, yet His ‘goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.’ Micah 5:2)


The NET Bible writes,

tn This title must not be taken in an anachronistic Trinitarian sense. (To do so would be theologically problematic, for the “Son” is the messianic king and is distinct in his person from God the “Father.”) Rather, in its original context the title pictures the king as the protector of his people. For a similar use of “father” see Isa 22:21 and Job 29:16. This figurative, idiomatic use of “father” is not limited to the Bible. In a Phoenician inscription (ca. 850-800 b.c.) the ruler Kilamuwa declares: “To some I was a father, to others I was a mother.” In another inscription (ca. 800 b.c.) the ruler Azitawadda boasts that the god Baal made him “a father and a mother” to his people. (See ANET 499-500.) The use of “everlasting” might suggest the deity of the king (as the one who has total control over eternity), but Isaiah and his audience may have understood the term as royal hyperbole emphasizing the king’s long reign or enduring dynasty (for examples of such hyperbolic language used of the Davidic king, see 1 Kgs 1:31; Pss 21:4-6; 61:6-7; 72:5, 17). The New Testament indicates that the hyperbolic language (as in the case of the title “Mighty God”) is literally realized in the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy, for Jesus will rule eternally.


I have always perceived Isaiah 9:6 as being a Trinitarian text - or at least the foreshadowing of a Trinitarian text.

Wonderful, Counselor - God, the Holy Spirit
Mighty God, Everlasting Father - God, the Father
Prince of Peace - God, the Son

And yet “they” are all One God.


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