Church  Fathers

How can the “Only-begotten” Son

also be the “First-born of All Creation”?

By Athanasius the Great

Source: From the “2nd Homily Against Arians”, pp.62-64,

in the Complete Works of Athanasius the Great, Vol.B,

published by “TO BYZANTION” Publications. Also in PG Vol.26.


Albeit also mentioned as “Firstborn of All Creation” (Coloss.1:15) – but not as an equal to the other creations and time-wise precedent to them Christ is also mentioned as “First-born” (how can this be, since He is also “Only-begotten?), on account of the Logos’ condescension towards creations, inasmuch as He had also become a brother to many.

For: an “only-begotten” where there are no siblings is naturally an “only-begotten”; but: where there are siblings, the term “first-born” is appropriate.

It is for this reason therefore, that nowhere in the Scriptures is He mentioned as “First-born of God”, or as a “Creation of God”, but instead, as the “Only-begotten”, and “Son” and “Logos” and “Wisdom” (Sophia) - having the Father as His reference and His characteristic:

“For we beheld His glory – the glory as an Only-begotten by a Father (John 1:14) and:

“God sent forth His Only-begotten Son, (1 John 4:8) and:

Your Logos, o Lord, remains eternally” (Psalm 118 [119]:89) and:

“In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God (John 1:1) and:

Christ is the power of God and the Wisdom of God (1 Cor.1:24) and:

“This is My beloved Son (Matth.3:17, 17:5) and:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matth.16:16).

As for (the term) “First-born”, it is indicative of a condescension towards Creation, which is why He was mentioned as “First-born”; and as for (the term) “created”, it is in reference to the Grace given to the creations, for He was created among them ( as a material body ).

Thus, if He is “Only-begotten” – as He indeed is – then it is necessary to explain the (term) “First-born”; but if He is “First-born”, then He cannot be “Only-begotten”.

Because that same “Only-begotten” one cannot also be “First-born” – UNLESS He is the “Only-begotten” in regard to His begetting by the Father (as it has been said), and “First-born” in regard to His condescension towards (material) Creation and His becoming a brother to many (humans).

Hence, if these two terms conflicted with each other, it would be just, if one were to keep the characteristic of “Only-begotten” for the Logos, inasmuch as there is no other Logos, or other Wisdom, but that He is the only true Son of the Father.

As mentioned earlier, it was not on account of any connecting cause, but it was said independently of Him: “The Only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18).

As for the (term) “First-born”, it is again connected to the cause of Creation as mentioned by Paul saying:“for by Him, all things were created” (Coloss.1:16).

Thus, if all the creations were created by Him, then He is someone other than those creations, and as such, He is not a creation, but their Creator.

Therefore He was not called “First-born” for Him being of the Father, but for having begotten Creation within Him. And just as the Son existed before Creation – through Whom Creation came into being – likewise, before being called “the First-born of all (ensuing) Creation”, He was the Logos Who was with God, and the Logos was God.

But because the irreverent did not comprehend this either, they went about, declaring:  “If He is the firstborn of all creation, it is obvious that He too is one who belongs to Creation."


If He was wholly the firstborn of Creation, then someone else must have been "of all Creation". Hence He did not say that He was the firstborn of the other creations, lest He be regarded as one of those creations, but instead, as is written, to specify that He is someone other than the creations.

Similarly, Reuben was not referred to as “the first-born of all Jacob’s children”, but of Jacob and his brothers only, lest he be regarded as someone else, and not as belonging to the children of Jacob. (Gen.35:23).

But even about the very Lord, the Apostle did not mention Him as the first-born of all Creation -lest it be thought that He took on a body other than ours- but instead, mentioned Him as the “first-born among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29), because of the similarity of their flesh.

Now, if the Logos was in fact one of the creations, the Scripture would have written of Him that He is the “first-born among the other creations”. But now that the Saints have said that He is the First-born of all Creation, the opposite is indicated: that someone else is the First-born of all Creation, and that the Son of God is not a creation. For, if He is a creation, then He would also be the first-born of Himself.

How therefore is it possible, o Arians, for Him to be both the first (=before Himself) and the second (=after Himself)?  Because, if He is a creation – and all of Creation was created by Him and was composed by Him - how is it possible to have created Creation, and to also be one of those that He had created?

Given that such a contrivance of theirs was exposed as groundless, they (=Arians) are checked by the truth: that He was mentioned as the First-born among the many brethren due to their fleshly affinity, as well as the First-born of the deceased, on account of their resurrection that took place by Him and after His own Resurrection;

Also, as the First-born of all Creation on account of the Father’s philanthropy, through which, not only was everything created by His Logos, but also because that very Creation about which the Apostle had said: “In expectation of the revelation by the sons of God, it will one day be liberated from servitude unto deterioration, unto the freedom of the glory of God’s children”. (Rom.8:21).

In this manner, after Creation's liberation, the Lord will be the First-born of both Creation and of those who have become adopted, so that by mentioning Him as First, those who will follow will continue to be connected to the Logos, as if to an authority.



Translation :  A.N.

Article published in English on: 04-09-2023.

Last update: 04-09-2023.