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What Did Jesus Say? (2012) - 7 topics 

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Baptismal Account in Hebrew Matthew


In the Hebrew Matthew of 38 AD, there is a variant to the baptismal account which is different from a much later Greek text tradition. This earliest variant has God say from Heaven to Jesus at His baptism: "This Day I have begotten thee."  

As we shall see below, this earliest variant is validated by two quotes from the Epistle to the Hebrews in the NT, including Hebrews 5:5. This variant is also confirmed as originally present by numerous quotes by the early orthodox commentary of preachers. They relied upon the earliest Greek New Testament, but it was evidently changed later as these words were contrary to the "eternal son" doctrine that emerged in the 300s. 

So what did the Hebrew version of Matthew say -- the original version of our Gospel of Matthew? This Matthew, Jerome later explained, was written in Hebrew and translated into Greek. (Jerome in 393 AD explained the Ebionites-Nazarenes still maintained custody of that copy in a library at Caesarea.)

Epiphanius recorded near 400 AD that this original Hebrew Matthew had God speak from heaven at the baptism "today I have begotten thee."

After saying many things, this Gospel continues: “After the people were baptized, Jesus also came and was baptized by John. And as Jesus came up from the water, Heaven was opened, and He saw the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove and enter into Him. And a voice from Heaven said, ‘You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.’ And again, ‘Today I have begotten You.’ “Immediately a great light shone around the place; and John, seeing it, said to Him, ‘Who are you, Lord? And again a voice from Heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ Then John, falling down before Him, said, ‘I beseech You, Lord, baptize me!’ But He forbade him saying, ‘Let it be so; for thus it is fitting that all things be fulfilled.’” (Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13.7) [Wikipedia]

Historical Evidence That "This Day I have begotten thee" is Correct


A. Old Mss. of Matthew

Also, “this day I have begotten thee” appears in the following Greek of Matthew: D (Greek) and the Old Latin. (E.B. Nicholson, The Gospel according to the Hebrews (1879) at 40.) Also, in "Codex Bezae and most of the old Latin manuscripts...the voice instead cites Psalm 2:7: 'This day I have begotten thee." (Barbara Aland, Joël Delobel, New Testament textual criticism, exegesis, and early church history (Peeters, 1994) at 120.)

Jesus as young man

B. Luke 3:22 In Old Manuscripts

The baptismal account of Jesus in Luke 3:22 in old manuscripts likewise had this account that the Father spoke from heaven to Jesus: "This day I have begotten you."

A modern study Bible comments on Luke 3:22: "Other ancient authorities read You are my Son, today I have begotten you." (Wayne A. Meeks, Jouette M. Bassler, The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version (HarperCollins: 1997) at 1962.)

The New American commentary reads: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased: this is the best attested reading in the Greek manuscripts. The Western reading, ‘You are my Son, this day I have begotten you,’ is derived from Psalm 2:7.” http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/luke/luke3.htm (last accessed 2005.)

This reference to a "Western" text that reads "begotten thee" is because it appears in the Greek Western type text known as Codex D. It also appears in many other texts of Luke 3:22.


C. Augustine Could Not Win Eternal Son Argument

This removal can only be proven after Faustus in the mid-300s quoted from both Matthew and Luke to shred the "eternal" son of God doctrine which was circulating at that time. See Faustus-Augustine exchange in Schaff’s AugustinThe Writings Against the Manicheans and Against the Donatists (1890)(CCEL 2020) Book XXIII at 313.


As Faustus said to Augustine -- first as to Matthew:


"The Catholic doctrine is well-known, and it is as unlike Matthew's representation as it is unlike the truth." Id., Para. 2.


As to Luke, Faustus quotes Luke too saying the same:


"when about thirty-years old, according to Luke, when also the voice was heard saying to him: 'Thou art my son, this Day I have begotten thee." Id.


Obviously, both passages were erased as a result of Augustine's debate, even though Augustine conceded no then present manuscript did not support Faustus.  Augustine could only claim that some "say" that there are earlier codices that lack the language in Matthew. He did not say he saw them, or knew of them as a fact; he only had some identified person(s) "say" there are versions missing these statemens. More on that below. 


Thus, these two passages with "this day I have begotten thee" were removed in the late 300s rather than to allow them to negate emerging doctrine that Christ was an eternal son.


D Augustine Responds Feebly That Some "say" some Manuscripts Only Might Not Contain 'This day I have begotten thee'


Throckmorton in Gospel Parallels (1992) at 14 lists some of the sources for "This day I have begotten thee." He lists - "D it Justin, Clement, Origen, Augustine, Gospel of the Ebionites."


Why does Throckmorton mention Augustine?


First, because Augustine in the late 300s acknowledges to Festus in a mutual correspondence that "this day I have begotten thee" is present in "some codices."


Second, because Augustine cannot prove to Festus it was missing in any Greek early text. Instead, in the correspondence with Festus, Augustine simply says instead "it is SAID not to be found in the more ancient Greek codices...." Augustine does not say he knows of any ancient Greek codice that is lacking "this day I have begotten thee." Instead of proof, he offers an unattributed claim that some 'say' it is not in SOME earlier Greek codices. Augustine offered no scholarly verification of which he was certainly capable of easily checking at Rome. The entire quote is worth reading. 


Augustine in In De Cons. Evang. 2,31 writes to Festus:

But once more, with respect to that rendering which is contained in some codices of the Gospel according to Luke, and which bears that the words heard in the heavenly voice were those that are written in the Psalm, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee" [Ps 2:7]; although it is said not to be found in the more ancient Greek codices, yet if it can be established by any copies worthy of credit, what results but that we suppose both voices to have been heard from heaven, in one or other verbal order?


The full Latin and English translation of this quote comes from Wieland Willker, A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels Vol. 3 Luke (Bremen: 2015) at Luke 3:22. Willker made the entire PDF available free online.


This actual quote from Augustine dashes claims such as by Wasserman who tries to criticize Ehrman, saying "Ehrman does not mention the important remark by Augustine that the most ancient Greek MSS do not attest to the second reading," i.e., "this day I have begotten thee." (Tommy Wasserman, Ph.D., “Misquoting Manuscripts? – The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture Revisited,” The Making of Christianity: Conflicts, Contacts, and Constructions. (Ed. Magnus Zetterholm och Samuel Byrskog) (ConBNTS 47. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2012) pp. 325-50, at 335.)


But Wasserman clearly overstates what Augustine said. Rather, Augustine's actual words say that supposedly even "some" Greek codices are "said" to lack the language -- but certainly it had not been verified by Augustine despite his abundant access to those earlier codices.


Thus, Augustine's actual language strengthens the case that "this Day I have begotten thee" is original. Wasserman's exaggeration tries to provide the missing assertion that would be a strong enough rebuttal. 


At the same time, Augustine was strongly motivated to destroy the anti-Trinitarian position of Festus who exploited this verse being still present in Matthew and Luke in a respected edition in the late 300s. So Augustine obviously had researched the earlier codices, and he could not affirm any had omitted "This day I have begotten thee." The best he could do is make a non-descript claim that some say it is omitted in some earlier Greek codices. This confirms that the respected text  as of Augustine's day, upon which Festus relied, said in Luke as well as Matthew "This Day I have begotten thee."


At least Wasserman is wrong that Augustine says that "most ancient Greek MSS do not attest" to the "this day I have begotten thee." That is clearly an incorrect synopsis of Augustine's actual words.


The truth is that Augustine was routed by Festus. Augustine resorted to bottom-of-the barrell proof, ineffectually trying to conjure doubt without any proof when it was certainly available to him had there been any such earlier codex that lacked "this Day I have begotten thee." 

E. Comparable "This is My Son in whom pleased"


Throckmorton in Gospel Parallels (1992) explains that the different yet somewhat similar "son, in whom I am well pleased" is present in P4 from the "third century" (the Paris Papyrus, pg. x, xviii), S, meaning Sinaiticus, “middle fourth century” (id., xiv, 14); A B, Codex Alexandrinus, “5th century” and Codex Vaticanus, “4th Century” (id., x, 14), and W Manuscript (5th century).


F. Ehrman's Weighing of NT Manuscripts


Ehrman in Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (Oxford U.

Press, 1996) at 62-63) says even though "this day I have

begotten thee" is not in P4 from the third century, the evidence

before and through the D manuscript supports strongly that this

is the correct original of Luke, saying "This Day I have

begotten thee."


In the same manner, in 2003 Ehrman commented again on this

variant in Lost Christianities (2003) at 222, pointing out that

this alteration proved “remarkably successful,” even though

“the text is found in virtually all our oldest witnesses....”


Others list for Luke 3:22's reading "This day have I begotten thee" the following:


Bezae Cantabrigiensis, some Italic, Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho ch.88 p.244; Hilary, Methodius ("Early Manuscripts of Luke," Biblequery.com.) 


The Codex Bezae dates to the 400s, and it has "this day I have begotten thee." See George Huntston Williams, Radical Reformation (3d Edition.) (Truman State University, 1995) at 452 fn. 42 (“Thou art my son, this day I have begotten thee,’ a wording that survives in the Codex Bezae for Lk. 3:22.”)


Ehrman says it is also in [1] the Didaschalia; [2] Tyconius, and [3] Augustine -- all also have "this day I have begotten thee." Ehrman says the only earlier exception is the P4 manuscript. This is insufficient, he says, to prevail over the overwhelming weight of sources prior to P4 and the many after P4. (Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption, supra, at 62-63.)


Interestingly, Matthew’s version of the baptism at Matthew 3:17 in the same Codex D reads differently than it does today. It mentions the Holy Spirit descending as a dove upon Jesus. It is interesting that Epiphanius says the Hebrew version of Matthew of the Ebionites had that language too. This reading is also present in the DuTillet Hebrew Matthew.


Hence, Codex D which contains Luke's 'begotten thee' language also contains other language in Matthew that matches the Hebrew Matthew, i.e., the mention of the dove.


D. The Epistle to the Hebrews


The original baptism language of "this day I have begotten thee" is quoted in the NT in the Epistle to the Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5. Each quote refers to the Father speaking these words, rather than the Psalmist being directly quoted:


For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? (Heb. 1:5, KJV)

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee. (Heb. 5:5, KJV)


Each says the Father said this to Jesus, not the Psalmist, evidently aware of the original reading.


How are these passages handled today?


These passages in Hebrews are sometimes said to convey the "adoptionist" view of Jesus. By such a label, they are dismissed as invalid in one stroke even though adoption is not even implied. Rather, it is an express creation of the son by a birth!


However, orthodoxy about an "eternal son" appears to have won out even though it means we leave Matthew and Luke in disrepair, and just dismiss the significance of the very same words in Hebrews which it says the Father spoke to Jesus. That means the Hebrews' writer is talking about these passages in Matthew and Luke, rather than the writer quoting the Psalm itself.


Most importantly, Psalm 2 is crucial to understanding who is Jesus.


It is one of the only two references to Messiah in the Original Covenant writings. One is in Daniel 9:25, and the other is Psalm 2.


The psalm talks about an "anointed one" (Messiah) who is a begotten  Son of God. Is this Jesus? Obviously so. Psalm 2 talks about a unique Son of God whom will serve as the judge of humankind. The Psalm requires we kiss the hand of this "son of God," lest he be angry. This passage and the Daniel passage is why John said it s important that Jesus is "Messiah and Son of God." (John 21:21.) Both titles appear in Psalm 2 of the same person, which is obviously a prophecy about Jesus.


Finally, in the book of Acts, a reference is made to the Psalmist saying these same words: “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.” (Acts 13:33 KJV.)


E. Patristic Sources 95-325 AD Repititiously Quote 'this day I have begotten thee'


There is no doubt how the original baptism-of-Jesus once read to include the quote from Psalm 2:7. As quoted at length below, the original version is quoted numerous times in the following early ‘patristic’ writings between 96 A.D. and 325 A.D.:

  • First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians;
  • Dialogue of Justin with Tryphon, A Jew;
  • The Instructor;
  • The Banquet of the Ten Virgins; and
  • Concerning Chastity; and
  • Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.


The Luke version is specifically quoted in the 300s by the heretic Faustus but without dispute on the validity of the Lucan quote when Augustine does a point-by-point rebuttal to Faustus. Faustus also insisted it was in Matthew's Greek account. And we know already from Epiphanius above that indeed it was clearly in the Hebrew Matthew.


Let's review these proofs, and provide a link to the online versions of the original sources.

160 AD, Clement

First, the original baptism-of-Jesus account is quoted in Book One, Chapter VI of The Instructor, a work of 160 A.D. by Clement of Alexandria: “For at the moment of the Lord’s baptism there sounded a voice from heaven, as a testimony to the Beloved, ‘Thou art My beloved Son, to-day have I begotten Thee.’” “Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume II/CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA/The Instructor/Book I/Chapter VI,” at wikisource Alternatively see also, Clement of A., Christ, the Educator, Fathers of the Church (CUA 2010) Vol. 23 at page 25 ("When the Lord was baptized, a voice loudly sounded from heaven, as a witness to him who was beloved, 'Thou art my beloved son, this Day I have begotten thee.")

300 AD, Methodius

Methodius (A.D. 260-312), in Part 9, chapter IX in his work, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins; or, Concerning Chastity, is similarly quoting the original baptism-of-Jesus account when we read: “Now, in perfect agreement and correspondence with what has been said, seems to be this which was spoken by the Father from above to Christ when He came to be baptized in the water of the Jordan, ‘Thou art my son: this day have I begotten thee.’” “Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VI/Methodius/Banquet of the Ten Virgins/Thekla/Part 9,” wikisource (Schaff)

300 AD, Lactantius

Again, in the words of Lactantius (A.D. 260-330), in his The Divine Institutes, book IV, chapter XV, he quotes the original uncorrupted version of the baptism-of-Jesus account: “Then a voice from heaven was heard: ‘Thou art my Son, today have I begotten Thee.’ Which voice is found to have been foretold by David. And the Spirit of God descended upon Him, formed after the appearance of a white dove.” .“Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VII/Lactantius/The Divine Institutes/Book IV/Chap. XV,” wikisource (from Schaff).

234 AD, Acts of...Peter and Paul

In the Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (234 A.D.), it says: “Him therefore to whom the Father said, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee, the chief priests through envy crucified.” .“Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VIII/Apocrypha of the New Testament/Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul/Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul,” wikisource


230 AD (est.), Origen


In Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, section 32, Origen (died 254) writes: “None of these testimonies, however, sets forth distinctly the Savior’s exalted birth; but when the words are addressed to Him, ‘Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,’ this is spoken to Him by God.” (Early Christian Writings)


96 AD, Clement


In the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, XXXVI from 96 A.D., written by Clement—a man who was a direct disciple of the Apostle Peter—it says: “But concerning His Son the Lord spoke thus: ‘Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten Thee.’”  (Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1 at 15.)


165 AD, Justin


Lastly, in a writing by Justin (died 165 A.D.) known as the Dialogue of Justin with Tryphon, A Jew, in chapter LXXXVIII, Justin writes about Jesus, clearly referencing the Gospels’ baptism accounts:


He was in the habit of working as a carpenter when among men, making ploughs and yokes; by which He taught the symbols of righteousness and an active life; but then the Holy Ghost, and for man’s sake, as I formerly stated, lighted on Him in the form of a dove, and there came at the same instant from the heavens a voice, which was uttered also by David when he spoke, personating Christ, what the Father would say to Him: ‘Thou art My Son: this day have I begotten Thee.’ (Justin, Trypho)


Justin then goes on to explain to Trypho the Jew—once more obviously quoting the original form of Matthew 3:17 and Luke 3:22:


For this devil, when [Jesus] went up from the river Jordan, at the time when the voice spake to Him, “Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten Thee,” is recorded in the memoirs of the apostles to have come to Him and tempted Him, even so far as to say to Him, “Worship me;” and Christ answered him, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” Id., ch. CII.


Other Christian writers predating 400AD who found the same passage in Matthew are

[1] Juvencus, Evangeliorum Libri Quattor, I 360-64; and

[2] Hilary, De Trinitate, VIII, 25, Tyconius, Reg. 1


F. Christians Quote Matthew and Luke Against Church Orthodox Views But Quote Accepted As Fact From Luke


Similarly, the phrase ‘this day I have begotten thee’ was quoted by Faustus ca. 400 AD from both Matthew and Luke’s Gospel as having been uttered at Jesus’ baptism. Faustus was made later to appear unorthodox as this verse would  be removed from Matthew's Gospel post Nicea. Yet, Faustus held on to the view that Jesus was not born Son of God but became Son of God at his baptism.


This original truth also ran afoul of the late doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church that Jesus was the 'eternal' Son of God, which doctrine emerged at Nicea in 325 AD under Emperor Constantine's influence. (His goal was to alter Jesus to match Constantine's favored deity - Sol Invictus. See our article "Council of Nicea.")


Augustine in his point-by-point rebuttal in 400 A.D. does not dispute this is how Luke read. In 400 AD approximately, Augustine disputes only how Matthew may have read in some earlier codex, but not attesting this was the case. (Remember, however, the Hebrew Matthew originally had the 'This day I have begotten thee" at Jesus' baptism. See above.)


We find this Faustus-Augustine exchange in Schaff’s Augustin: The Writings Against the Manicheans and Against the Donatists, in Book XXIII (1890) at 313. Schaff recounts Faustus’ points about the Matthew passage when read in light of Luke:


Faustus recurs to the genealogical difficulty and insists that even according to Matthew Jesus was not Son of God until His baptism. Augustin sets forth the Catholic view of the relation of the divine and the human in the person of Christ. So this quote begins with Faustus citing how Matthew and Luke read in 400 AD -- at least in the Greek versions Faustus had access to:

[Faustus wrote]

2. I will, for the present, suppose that this person was right in saying that the son of David was born of Mary. It still remains true, that in this whole passage of the generation no mention is made of the Son of God till we come to the baptism; so that it is an injurious misrepresentation on your part to speak of this writer as making the Son of God the inmate of a womb. The writer, indeed, seems to cry out against such an idea, and in the very title of his book to clear himself of such blasphemy, asserting that the person whose birth he describes is the son of David, not the Son of God. And if you attend to the writer’s meaning [i.e., Matthew's meaning] and purpose, you will see that what he wishes us to believe of Jesus the Son of God is not so much that He was born of Mary, as that He became the Son of God by baptism at the river Jordan. He [i.e., Matthew] tells us that the person of whom he spoke at the outset as the son of David was baptized by John, and became the Son of God on this particular occasion, when about thirty years old, according to Luke, when also the voice was heard saying to Him, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee.”


Schaff provides Augustine’s complete reply. Id., at 318 et seq. Augustine disputes only how Matthew apparently read (as of that time in the church-approved Latin Vulgate). Augustine did not dispute how Luke read, as apparently that had not yet been altered. Augustine quotes only Matthew back at Faustus, apparently a Latin version: “when He was baptized by John, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” Augustine does not say the words at issue are missing but intimates that as possible. Instead, Augustine focuses upon these words about a "beloved son" and says they do not “imply that He was not the Son of God before.” Id., at 315. True enough. But that is not a real answer, is it? Are these different words Festus relies upon missing?  Augustine is silent.


Augustine then completely ignores the quote from Luke which equally made Faustus’ case despite what we can now see was possibly a deliberate change in Matthew that Augustine was contemplating as necessary to defeat  the late 'eternal son' doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.


(For further discussion of this portion of Faustus, see Barbara Aland, Joël Delobel, New Testament textual criticism, exegesis, and early church history (Peeters, 1994) at 121.)


Based on Epiphanius and Jerome's account of the Hebrew Matthew, Matthew's Gospel may have been altered in Latin instead of Luke's Gospel by that time if we assume Augustine was intimating that the key words were missing in Matthew. Only after Augustine did not want to cope with Faustus's argument any longer, Catholic authorities clearly erased the Luke 3:22 version and, if not already removed, the Matthew version that had these words. And thus the Latin Vulgate of the early 400s equally omits 'this day I have begotten thee' unlike the version of Luke evidently circulating around 400 AD.


G. When And Why Did This Change Happen?


It takes no genius to figure out why this text was deleted about "this day I have begotten thee." It conflicted with a doctrine first adopted in 325 AD at Nicea that Jesus was the 'eternal son of God.' While no verse expressly supports that idea, it became fixed dogma. Hence, it is no coincidence that all the texts prior to that era have 'this day I have begotten thee' in the baptism account -- proven by numerous quotations-- and all those surviving today after 325 AD are missing it.


This is demonstrable simply by examining Charles Hodge's SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY (1871) Vol. 1. He addresses what would be the problem if this verse were in Scripture. He says if this language from Psalm 2:7 could be applied to Jesus, it is a "more plausible" objection to the 'eternal son' doctrine. He says:


More plausible objections are founded on certain passages of the Scriptures. In Psalm 2:7, it is said, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” From this it is argued that Christ or the Messiah was constituted or made the Son of God in time, and therefore was not the Son of God from eternity. (Vol. 1 section 6 at ccel.org.)


Initially, notice that Hodges only has to address that it exists in a Psalm. He does not have to cope with the fact that the authentic version of Matthew's Gospel ascribed this to the voice of Yahweh from heaven at Jesus' baptism.


Hence, certainly this verse once was present in Matthew, and most certainly it was deliberately removed.


But this is not an isolated incident.


Professor Bart D. Ehrman (Christian background; professor on Christianity) catalogs a whole series of similar alterations (some small, but some big) to the New Testament in his book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 1993). There he warns us that:

“...theological disputes, specifically disputes over Christology, prompted Christian scribes to alter the words of scripture in order to make them more serviceable for the polemical task. Scribes modified their manuscripts to make them more patently ‘orthodox’ and less susceptible to ‘abuse’ by the opponents of orthodoxy.” Id., at 4.


The Fourth Century church became embarassed that Jesus's sonship took place at his baptism. Proof of this embarassment comes from Jerome. Even though he is aware of the variant 'this day I have begotten thee,' Jerome appears to believe it is the valid version, but then in Enchiridion 49 Jerome

"explains that Jesus did not really become God's 'Son' on that day; the 'today' is instead an eternal day." (Barbara Aland, Joël Delobel, New Testament textual criticism, exegesis, and early church history (Peeters, 1994) at 121 n. 14 (quoting Jerome.)


Thus, from some misapprehension of what it meant to say Jesus was begotten by God as His Son at Jesus’ baptism, pious Fourth Century Christians rewrote Luke 3:22. They also removed the original ‘begotten’ language from the baptism account in Matthew. (Our oldest complete versions of Luke and Matthew date to the Fourth Century.)


The fact this verse was originally present is too well-attested from too many sources, including the Epistle to the Hebrews in our very own NT of today, to deny it once was what it originally said.


Accordingly, it matters little that some of the oldest surviving manuscripts ... all after 325 AD...do not agree. All of the original texts pre-existing the Fourth Century have been lost (or were deliberately destroyed). Only fragments survive. We thus can recover the original and older text by resort to the much earlier sources such as the Epistle to the Hebrews and the ‘patristic’ writings, as well as older fragments than 325 AD and the lines thereafter that continued that language into the mid 300s all the way to the Codex Bezae. (The King James Bible ordinarily followed that Codex, but here did not, perhaps for doctrinal reasons.)


What can we say of those church leaders in the early 300s who did not think it wrong to change the text? They were forgerers and hence sadly willing to use guile. They deserve our censure. As the orthodox church leader Tertullian said about Marcion in 200 AD and his followers who changed the earlier gospel accounts:


[W]e take up arms against heretics for the faith of the gospel, maintaining... that a late date is the mark of forgers, and...truth must needs precede the forgery, and proceed straight from those by whom it has been handed on. (Tertullian, Against Marcion, Bk. 4, ch. 5.)


Yet we know that Jerome came to the state of mind that as translators and copyists they must alter texts to fit the new trinity doctrine, condemning Rufinus for resisting adding even ideas never imagined in the texts they were preserving.  Shocked? Please take a look at Rufinus's reply to Jerome discussed on our site at this link.


H. Arian Controversy and Council Of Nicea Explains Alterations


It was only post 325 A.D. that the standard texts of Matthew and Luke were revised to omit "today I have begotten thee" from Jesus' baptism by John-the-Baptist. You will not find it any longer in the KJV, ASV, NIV, etc.


This was obviously because of the controversy with Arius in 306 A.D. who claimed the 'begotten' passages meant Jesus was not the "Eternal Son of God."


However, the Roman Catholic church by 325 A.D. felt it was imperative to assert this about Jesus even though no verse in the NT ever calls Jesus the 'eternal Son of God.' For background, see Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (Zondervan, 1994) at 243.


Hence, words from the original account were let slip in many reproductions (except was kept in the Western text tradition which means it should haven used in the King James Bible but was not for some unspecified reason) to the point we do not any longer see them in our NT.


But it never made any sense. To say Jesus was the "Eternal Son" begotten of God, as was developed in the 300s and beyond, was a contradiction in terms. As Adam Clarke, a Methodist, explained in his commentary:


"…it is demonstrated that the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ is absolutely irreconcilable to reason, and contradictory to itself. ETERNITY is that which has had no beginning, nor stands in any reference to time: SON supposes time, generation, and father; and time also antecedent to such generation: therefore the rational conjunction of these two terms, Son and eternity, is absolutely impossible, as they imply essentially different and opposite ideas" (Adam Clarke Commentary).


Hence, at Jesus's water baptism, God-the-Father gave Jesus a new birth as Son of God (a unique status), declaring from heaven "This day I have begotten thee." This was an example of how baptism would have similar effects on ourselves although obviously we would not become Divine as Jesus uniquely was indwelled by the Father/Word. (John 1:1, 14:10.)


Incidentally, the Talmud post-Christ -- a work of Jewish scribes -- preserved that Jewish scholars pre-Christ always said this would be how God Yahweh would address Messiah:

"Our Rabbis taught, The Holy One, Blessed be He, will say to
the Messiah, the Son of David (may he reveal himself speedily in our
day), 'Ask of me anything, and I will give it thee,' as it is said, 'I will
tell of the decree,' erc., 'this day have I begotten thee, ask of me and I
will give the nations for thy inheritance.''' (Talmud, Sukkah 52)

(quoted in Problems of Bible Translation (1954) at page 145 (PDF link)

I. Bart Ehrman's Lost Christianities


Bart Ehrman's book Lost Christianities (N.Y. 2003) explained Luke was edited in three places.


First, Luke 2:33 and Luke 2:48 both contain verses that state that Joseph was Jesus' father. At least, that is what is said in the oldest manuscripts. Verses such as Luke 2:33 supported Ebionite Christians' belief in so-called adoptionism, i.e., God spoke "this day I have begotten thee" over Jesus.


Strangely, in some later manuscripts Luke 2:33 and Luke 2:48 both had the word 'father' edited out although over half of our bibles today have thankfully reverted to the original version. Luke 3:22 is where God clearly says that he is giving birth to Jesus as Son of God. It was edited so that it did not say so.


Bart Ehrman at page 222 explains:


 "This is one proto-orthodox alteration that proved remarkably successful. Even though the potentially dangerous ("heretical") form of the text is found in virtually all our oldest witnesses [...] it is the altered form of the text that is found in the majority of surviving manuscripts and reproduced in most of our English translations." 



Email On This Topic


Amy wrote me on November 3, 2010 as follows:

The original gospel of Matthew clearly had Jesus being told by YHWH "this day I have begotten thee" and the holy spirit in the form of a dove descended, and entered Jesus. At that point, Jesus became the Son of God indwelled in a unique SHekinah sense by God Himself. Jesus was a man, and continued to be a man despite that experience. Every word or act he saw heard from the Father, he repeated / acted out, as Jesus says in John's Gospel. God knew our feebleness and used a man whom we can see in person, hear in person, who would uniquely be filled by God whom we would listen to....Daniel in Daniel 7 speaks of the Son of Man (a human) coming to earth in time of judgment on clouds of glory, holding God's power in his hands.....but his title and the passage makes it clear this is a MAN -- a man on "clouds of glory" (a synonymn for God's presence).



Jerome has a more lengthy quote, and his own translation of "only begotten" when it was a Hebraism meaning "beloved," not "only begotten." Regardless, here is Jerome's full quote from the Ebionite Gospel of Matthew.


By way of proof why Jerome omits "this day I have begotten thee" in his Vulgate text.  Jerome comments on when God refers to Jesus as his "first-begotten Son." Jerome is going back to the Hebrew Matthew but unlike Epiphanius does nto include what Epiphanius says was present -- "This day I have begotten thee" - nor does Jerome deny his presence. But you see likely the intent not to preserve what he did not doctrinally agree upon -- that Jesus was "begotten" as "Son of God" at Jesus' baptism:


In the Gospel written in the Hebrew script that the Nazarenes read, the whole fount of the Holy Spirit descends upon Him, for God is Spirit and where the Spirit resides, there is freedom. Further in the Gospel which we have just mentioned we find the following written: “When the Lord came up out of the water the whole fount of the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and rested on Him saying, ‘My Son, in all the prophets was I waiting for You that You should come and I might rest in You. For You are My rest. You are My first begotten Son that prevails forever.’ ” (Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 4) [Wikipedia]