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In a comment on another thread in Christianity.SE, one member said,

Regarding Acts 13:33 we read it to refer to His eternal generation, it's timeless.

The Greek text of Acts 13:33 according to the Textus Receptus:

ὅτι ταύτην ὁ θεὸς ἐκπεπλήρωκεν τοῖς τέκνοις αὐτῶν ἡμῖν ἀναστήσας Ἰησοῦν ὡς καὶ ἐν τῷ ψαλμῷ τῷ δευτέρῳ γέγραπται Υἱός μου εἶ σύ ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε

The English translation of Acts 13:33 according to the King James Version:

God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

Does Acts 13:33 refer to the eternal generation (begetting) of the Word or to another generation (begetting) of the Word? Please note the phrase ἀναστήσας Ἰησοῦν, "after He resurrected (raised) Jesus."

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On the one hand, Jesus Christ was the only begotten Son of God from eternity to eternity (John 1:18, 3:16). John 3:16 clearly shows that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. Yet on the other hand, based on Acts 13:33, Paul interprets that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the birth in Psalms 2:7. If He was already the only begotten Son of God from eternity, why would He need to be begotten again? How do we reconcile this?

We must compare Acts 13:33 with 1 Peter 1:3 and Romans 8:29:

[1Pe 1:3 NKJV]

3 Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

[Rom 8:29 NKJV]

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

1 Peter 1:3 shows that on the day of resurrection His believers are begotten again as well. This birth was not a small individual birth but it was a great delivery that includes humanity (all His believers) as a whole. From this perspective Paul said that He was the firstborn Son of God among many brothers (Romans 8:29).

To understand further, let's see Paul comparison of Jesus Christ with Adam in 1 Corinthians 15:45 and 47:

[1Co 15:45 NKJV]

45 And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam [became] a life-giving spirit.

[1Co 15:47 NKJV]

47 The first man [was] of the earth, [made] of dust; the second Man [is] the Lord from heaven.

On the cross, Jesus Christ brings to an end the old Adamic (all humanity) nature by being the last Adam. And through His resurrection, He was begotten as the second man, a new species of God-man, the new man in resurrection.

So what was begotten in His resurrection is His humanity. Through incarnation He brings divinity into humanity and through His resurrection, He uplifted His humanity into divinity.

Thus we can understand Romans 1:4 better:

[Rom 1:4 NKJV]

4 [and] declared [to be] the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

The word "declared" is from the Greek word horizō, which also means appointed. He was appointed to be the Son of God in power with respect to His being the Firstborn Son of God among many brothers.

This is why all those who believe into Him have the authority to become the children of God (John 1:12-13). Through the preaching of the gospel, we are "scattering" His genetic Word into the human heart. If this genetic Word is received, then it will cause an organic birth, a regeneration, a born again experience to take place deep in the receiver's being.

On the one hand, the great delivery took place two thousand years ago on the day of His resurrection, but on the other hand we are experiencing it in real time every time we preach the gospel to others today.

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Act 13:33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

This day here is referring to the resurrection day, and begotten thee means he was declared(manifested) to be the son of God (Rom 1:2,3)

begotten (gennaō) - to procreate (properly of the father, but by extension of the mother); figuratively to regenerate: - bear, beget, be born, bring forth, conceive, be delivered of, gender, make, spring.

yâlad - A primitive root; to bear young; causatively to beget; medically to act as midwife; specifically to show lineage: - bear, beget, birth ([-day]), born, (make to) bring forth (children, young), bring up, calve, child, come, be delivered (of a child), time of delivery, gender, hatch, labour, (do the office of a) midwife, declare pedigrees, be the son of, (woman in, woman that) travail (-eth, -ing woman).

Num 1:18 And they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, by their polls.

So when Jesus rose again, it was manifested that he was the son of God. He was the only begotten of the Father before the resurrection, but after the resurrection, he became the first begotten of many brethren- the first and the chief one among many glorified humans.

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The significance of the citation is that a clearly messianic psalm is being applied to Jesus, and he is being given status of the Son of God. In other words the promise made in the psalm is fulfilled in Jesus.

However precisely how Paul intended to apply the psalm beyond that has been debated for some time:

Some have argued that the text says the resurrection of Jesus is the act in which God “begat” him in the sense that he bestowed new life on him and enthroned him and thereby gave him the status of Son. Paul has already referred to the resurrection in 13:30, many scholars think that this is in mind here (see Jervell, Theology of the Acts of The Apostles 1998: 359). Bock (1987: 244–45) maintains that the three elements in 13:32–33—the promise to the fathers, the fulfilment for their children, and the raising of Jesus—correspond to the three citations that follow: the promise to David in Ps. 2, the promise to “you” in Isa. 55:3, and the incorruptibility of the Holy One in Ps. 16; hence the “raising” of Jesus is his resurrection. There are however difficulties with this interpretation;

1) Begetting is not an obvious metaphor for resurrection.

2) It is also odd to beget somebody who is already God’s son.

A second view notes that 13:23–31 tells the story of Jesus, and then a fresh start is made with the good news that results from it in 13:32. The resulting break allows Paul to go back to the beginning of the story in 13:32, and therefore 13:30 does not control the thought here. In which case the reference may be to the raising up of Jesus as Messiah at his birth, where the coming of the Spirit on Mary is tantamount to a divine begetting.

I am sure there are other interpretations that I am unaware of though.

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  • "Begetting is not an obvious metaphor for resurrection." Are any metaphors obvious? In any case, begetting and resurrection are linked in quite a few verses, for example, Rev. 1:5 where Jesus is referred to as the "firstborn from the dead." – user862 Feb 18 '15 at 18:12
  • Which uses uses πρωτότοκος not γεγέννηκά and speaks of death not resurrection so I am not convinced of the parallel. As for metaphors being 'obvious' well by that statement I meant to imply that it seems unusual to use 'beget' as a metaphor for resurrection - I don't see evidence of it elsewhere in Paul's words, or the Old testament that he draws from. – Jonathan Chell Feb 18 '15 at 19:37
  • πρωτόγονος, πρωτογενής, πρωτογέννητος, πρωτότοκος, and πρωτοφυής are all synonymous, meaning "first-born" or "first-begotten." See pp. 8-9 of this paper. And it says "first-born" ("first-begotten") from the dead (ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν), which is an obvious reference to his resurrection from the dead. – – user862 Feb 18 '15 at 20:39
  • πρωτόγονος, πρωτογενής, πρωτογέννητος, πρωτότοκος, and πρωτοφυής certainly have semantic overlap that is correct, as does γεννάω but 'first born from the dead' is an idiom implying others will be born 'from the dead' also, whereas the idiom in Acts 13:33 cannot be said to be implying that but rather it is a claim to the divinity of Jesus demonstrated in his resurrection. I do not see a parrallel – Jonathan Chell Feb 19 '15 at 9:53
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The immediate context of Acts 13:33 only shows that Psalm 2:7 is quoted in reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Acts 13:32-35 (KJV)

32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,

33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.

35 Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

But this does not stop there because the text isn't saying that Jesus was begotten from God on Sunday morning in the first century but rather, the greater context shows that Acts 13:33 ( quoting Psalm 2:7) is about God declaring to the world that this resurrected Jesus is his only begotten Son, of same nature with Him:

Romans 1:4 (KJV)

And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

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  • The "greater context" of what? – user862 Feb 18 '15 at 15:40
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81 The greater context of Acts 13:33 is Romans 1:4. We have one Bible. One inspired Bible( 2 Timothy 3:16-17). comparing spiritual things with spiritual ( 1 Corinthians 2:13). – Radz Matthew C. Brown Feb 18 '15 at 15:53

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