What does the phrase "today have I begotton thee" (Psalm 2) mean?

What is the true sense of Psalm 2:7?

There is no verse quoted so often as referring to the Incarnation by deniers of the Eternal Sonship of our Lord. Have they sufficient ground for this?

No, for to do so merely begs the question; it is exactly what has to be proved. The Psalm begins prophetically much later than the Incarnation, namely, with the rejection of Christ, for the apostles by the Spirit quote verse i, as fulfilled in His rejection by “both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel” (Acts 4:27). The Psalm is divided into four sections:

(1) Verses 1-3—the language of the rebels against Jehovah;

(2) Verses 4-6—Jehovah’s answer of derision and wrath. So sure is His purpose, that it is as if already executed: “Yet have I set My King upon My Holy hill of Zion,” though naturally this purpose did not begin then;

(3) Verses 7-9—the King Himself speaks: “I will declare the decree.” What decree? Would the Lord refer at such a juncture to His incarnation, which to the eyes of men has proved a failure by His rejection? No, it was the Eternal Decree, on which all God’s purposes rest, concerning the Eternal generation of the Son. “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee”;

(4) Verses 10-12 words of the Holy Ghost through David to living kings and judges of the earth, to be wise and serve the Lord NOW, and rejoice before Him. “Kiss the Son* lest He be angry and ye perish from the way when His wrath is kindled but a little, blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” The word “NOW” shows that this closing section is not prophetic at all, but was, we might say, a lesson drawn by David to his fellow-kings. In the language of to-day, he is turning the occasion to profit to lead them to repentance and reconciliation to the Divine Son. In “NOW” the sense is adversative, in contrast with what has gone before, and with the future reign, when it will be too late to turn. David warns his brother rulers of their present duty. Surely such an appeal, addressed in about 1030 B.C., to kings living at that date, to “kiss the Son,” (evidently a Divine Person, the equal of Jehovah), does bear witness to the Eternal Sonship of Him who was at once the progenitor of David, and later “made of his seed, according to the flesh.” How shallow then are the thoughts of those who deny the relation of the Son to our Lord in the Divine Trinity, on the ground that such a relation is not recognised in the Old Testament Scriptures! How soon, alas, the Scriptures become so far a closed book to those who close their eyes to its teachings!

Now, let us return to the immediate object of our consideration, namely, the words, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,” and enquire whether these words do indeed refer to the Incarnation. If so, we should expect to find them addressed to the Lord in the manger, or at any rate that some allusion to them would be found in the herald angels’ annoucement, but we search in vain for any reference to such a thing. All they say is, “Unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord,” but there is no hint that in that birth, a Divine Person, hitherto unknown, had become the Son of God. Not even do the words of Gabriel to Mary bear this meaning. In answer to Mary’s legitimate question, he makes a double statement:

(1) “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee,” that is, “the Holy Ghost will become to thee the Divine Agent of thy conception,” or in the words of Matthew i, “Thou shalt be found with child of the Holy Ghost.” But that conception, unlike any other human birth, was to be of One who had already existed in another form, and who, by the fact of human birth, would enter into manhood. Hence we read:

(2) “The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee,” that is, a Divine Person shall, at the moment of the human conception by the Spirit, become flesh, or in other words, the Eternal Son will take to Himself perfect human nature in the womb of the Virgin. Hence the words of the Angel Gabriel:
“Therefore that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” To assert that Christ only became “the mighty God” at the Incarnation would be to deny His Deity; to assert that He only then became the Son of God is to deny His person. If the Babe were only Son of God by human birth, then the Incarnation was an exaltation, not a humbling, and must be the predominant truth of the New Testament, though we know that neither our Lord nor His disciples ever grounded their testimony to His Sonship on it. The Lord in the words of Jehovah’s decree, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,” goes back to the Eternal truth of Him as the Son. This He was “declared to be with power by the resurrection,” which, as Alford shows, is not less the subject of Romans z, because foreshadowed by resurrections on a lower plane. It does not mean that the Lord became Son at the resurrection, any more than at the Holy Mount, or at the Jordan, but that He was then “declared to be the Son of God with power.” Recognition of His Divine Sonship is repeated again and again, but the relation was Eternal.

Now, in considering the three-fold quotation of the words in the New Testament, if the Incarnation be ruled out in one case, it must be in all. Acts 13:33 must refer to resurrection. In verse 23, certainly incarnation is in view, and the word in the best texts is agö= “to lead, to bring.” “God hath raised unto Israel a Saviour.” in verse 30, a general word is used for “raised” (egeiro), the same verb as in verse 22 of David’s appointment as king, but in verses 33 and 34 we have another verb altogether (anistmi), which is found eleven times in the Acts, of resurrection, while the substantive “anastasis” is translated “resurrection” thirty-nine times, out of its forty-one occurrences. As Alford says, “The meaning, ‘raised from the dead,’ in verses 33 and 34 is absolutely required by the context, both because the word is repeated with, ‘from among the dead,’ verse 34, and because the emphasis throughout is on the resurrection.”
In Hebrews 1:5 the reference is not only to resurrection, but to that eternal past, when He, the Risen, Glorified One, had received a name, that of Son, more excellent than angels, by inheritance. He was Son, before He was “appointed Heir of all things,” and before He created all things.
In Hebrews 5:5 the subject is Christ’s call to priesthood. This could not be by the fact of incarnation, seeing He was not of the priestly tribe of Aaron. He must first ascend, where another order reigns—that of Melchizedek, “made like unto the Son of God”—the chief point of which likeness, if not the only point, consisting in the fact that His eternity in the past as Son goes equally with His eternity in the future.

Some have attempted to divide the decree into two: “Thou art My Son,” referring to the Eternal Sonship; and “This day have I begotten Thee,” to the Incarnation. To our mind, this seems forced and unjustified by the context. It arises from a fear of applying the word,”begetting,” to the eternal past, but this was Anus’ objection, and can only be justified by applying laws of time to eternal truths. When we can fathom the mystery of the Divine Being without beginning, then we may be able to solve the eternal begetting without beginning. To what “day,” then, does the Spirit of God refer in Psalm 2:7? We have been reminded so often of the varied meanings of “day” in Scripture that we hardly need insist on this—indeed it is sometimes used so broadly that the question of time hardly enters into it. This, we believe, is the case here:
“The use of smeron (the Greek word which here in the LXX, as also in the New Testament, is translated ‘to-day’ and ‘this day’) in the sense of ‘eternally’ or ‘in eternity’ is well established (it is found in Philo). Consequently an orthodox reader would understand it:
‘Thou art My Son, I have eternally begotten Thee’ “ (cf. Hebrews 1:5) This fits in with the New Testament quotations—a testimony in time to a fact beyond time, in the eternal NOW of a past eternity.

W.H.

* That the word here is “Bar” not “Ben” does not invalidate the argument, for as Gesenius notes, Bar is Son in Psalm 2:12 , in the sense of one begotten, and is applied to Jehovah, the King, and Tregelles adds, “that is Christ.” Gesenius goes on to compare the word here, with the more usual word, Ben, in Isa. o. 6. Indeed, here again we must note that the Son was not born at Bethlehem—but given (“A child was born”), that is, the Lord did not become Son by His human birth. He was bom a true human child. The Word became flesh.