Begotten and Adopted Sons of God—Before and After Nicea

Michael Peppard

in The Son of God in the Roman World

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199753703
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199914432 | DOI:
Begotten and Adopted Sons of God—Before and After Nicea

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Chapter 5 synthesizes a broad range of texts in order to show the shifting relationship between begotten and adoptive metaphors during the first four centuries of Christianity. These texts show how the resonance of “son of God” changed over time. Many authors of the first and second centuries, when describing the divine sonship of Christ and Christians, mixed the begotten and adoptive metaphors. But by the fourth century, adoption was no longer a crucial, visible component of imperial ideology and thus lost some (but not all) of its appeal as a metaphor of power and exaltation. The chapter offers a view of several interweaving themes on the road to Nicea: begotten and adoptive metaphors of divine sonship; the sonship of Christ and the sonship of Christians; Christ as unique and Christ as exemplar; philosophy and narrative; theological doctrine and liturgical practice.

Keywords: Son of God; divine sonship; begotten; adopted; Jesus; Paul; Gospel of John; Shepherd of Hermas; Clement of Alexandria; Irenaeus; Origen; Arius; Athanasius; Baptism; Nicea; Christology

Chapter.  21674 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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