Does John 5:26 describe eternal generation and/or a mediatorial giving of the Son to have life in himself?

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Alexander Suarez

Puritan Board Freshman
Does John 5:26 describe eternal generation and/or a mediatorial giving of the Son to have life in himself?

I am particularly curious on how the eternal generation understanding is arrived at over a mediatorial giving understanding of the passage.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Here are a few quotes from historic commentaries and theological works:

The meaning of the words is this: “God did not choose to have life hidden, and, as it were, buried within himself, and therefore he poured it into his Son, that it might flow to us.” Hence we conclude, that this title is strictly applied to Christ, so far as he was manifested in the flesh.
—Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 5:26; bold added.​
But in what sense it is said, that he hath given to the Son to have life in himself, whether as God, by his eternal generation, or as the Messiah and Mediator betwixt God and man, and so the fountain of spiritual life to believers, is more questioned. Those who understand it as to the Divine nature, say, that this phrase, hath life in himself, is expressive of the name Jehovah; and that Christ is proved to be the true Jehovah by what is here said, that he hath life in himself. But they distinguish betwixt having life from or by himself, and having life in himself; the text saith, it is given to Christ to have life in himself. But there are other interpreters, who seem better to understand it of Christ as Mediator, to whom it is given to have life in himself, to communicate to his creatures; and think it is well interpreted by chap. 1:4, In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
—Matthew Poole, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 5:26; italics original, bold added.​
The son has life in himself, essentially, originally, and inderivatively as the father has, being equally the living God, the fountain of life, and donor of it, as he; and therefore this is not a life which he gives, or communicates to him; but eternal life is what the one gives, and the other receives, according to the economy of salvation settled between them​
—John Gill, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 5:26; bold added.​
Finally, the “fulness of the Godhead” is said to dwell in him (i.e., the essence with the attributes, Col. 2:9), and the life of God is attributed to him (Jn. 5:26). Nor if it is said to have been given him by the Father is his dignity therefore lessened, because this marks only order, not inferiority (since he received the same numerically with the Father, not from grace, but from nature; not in time, but from eternity).​
—Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology: First through Tenth Topics, ed. James T. Dennison, trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 1, 3 vols. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1992), 287; bold added.​
As to the passage in John 5:26, where it is said the Father hath given to the Son to have life in Himself, everything depends on the sense in which the word Son is to be taken. That word is sometimes used as a designation of the λόγος, the Second Person of the Trinity, to indicate his eternal relation to the First Person as the Father. It is, however, very often used as a designation of the incarnate λόγος, the Word made flesh. Many things are in Scripture predicated of the Godman, which cannot be predicated of the Second Person of the Trinity as such. If in this passage the Son means the Logos, then it does teach that the First Person of the Trinity communicated life, and therefore the essence in which that life inheres, to the Second Person. But if Son here designates the Theanthropos, then the passage teaches no such doctrine. That it is the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth here spoken of, may be argued not only from the fact that He is elsewhere so frequently called the Son of God, as in the comprehensive confession required of every Christian in the apostolic age, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God;” but also from the context.
—Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (New York, NY: Charles Scribner and Company, 1873), 1:470; bold added.​
Self-existence or “life in himself” is attributed to the incarnate Son (John 5:26). That this is “given” or “communicated” to the Son by the Father does not imply inequality of being. Self-existing life is ipso facto divine. The mode in which it is possessed does not change the nature of the possession. In communicating divine essence to the Son, the Father communicates all its properties.​
—William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, ed. Alan W. Gomes, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2003), 262; italics original.​

Geerhardus Vos is the most direct:

Does not John 5:26 speak of a communication of being?
No, it does not speak about a communication of life from the Father to the Word before His incarnation, but only about a communication of life to the Mediator. Already Calvin correctly explained this passage in the last mentioned sense. One should peruse the context.​
—Geerhardus Vos, Theology Proper, ed. Annemie Godbehere, Roelof van Ijken, and Kim Batteau, trans. Richard B. Gaffin, vol. 1, Reformed Dogmatics (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), 55; italics original, bold added.​
 
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Alexander Suarez

Puritan Board Freshman
Here are a few quotes from historic commentaries and theological works:

The meaning of the words is this: “God did not choose to have life hidden, and, as it were, buried within himself, and therefore he poured it into his Son, that it might flow to us.” Hence we conclude, that this title is strictly applied to Christ, so far as he was manifested in the flesh.
—Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 5:26; bold added.​
But in what sense it is said, that he hath given to the Son to have life in himself, whether as God, by his eternal generation, or as the Messiah and Mediator betwixt God and man, and so the fountain of spiritual life to believers, is more questioned. Those who understand it as to the Divine nature, say, that this phrase, hath life in himself, is expressive of the name Jehovah; and that Christ is proved to be the true Jehovah by what is here said, that he hath life in himself. But they distinguish betwixt having life from or by himself, and having life in himself; the text saith, it is given to Christ to have life in himself. But there are other interpreters, who seem better to understand it of Christ as Mediator, to whom it is given to have life in himself, to communicate to his creatures; and think it is well interpreted by chap. 1:4, In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
—Matthew Poole, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 5:26; italics original, bold added.​
The son has life in himself, essentially, originally, and inderivatively as the father has, being equally the living God, the fountain of life, and donor of it, as he; and therefore this is not a life which he gives, or communicates to him; but eternal life is what the one gives, and the other receives, according to the economy of salvation settled between them​
—John Gill, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 5:26; bold added.​
Finally, the “fulness of the Godhead” is said to dwell in him (i.e., the essence with the attributes, Col. 2:9), and the life of God is attributed to him (Jn. 5:26). Nor if it is said to have been given him by the Father is his dignity therefore lessened, because this marks only order, not inferiority (since he received the same numerically with the Father, not from grace, but from nature; not in time, but from eternity).​
—Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology: First through Tenth Topics, ed. James T. Dennison, trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 1, 3 vols. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1992), 287; bold added.​
As to the passage in John 5:26, where it is said the Father hath given to the Son to have life in Himself, everything depends on the sense in which the word Son is to be taken. That word is sometimes used as a designation of the λόγος, the Second Person of the Trinity, to indicate his eternal relation to the First Person as the Father. It is, however, very often used as a designation of the incarnate λόγος, the Word made flesh. Many things are in Scripture predicated of the Godman, which cannot be predicated of the Second Person of the Trinity as such. If in this passage the Son means the Logos, then it does teach that the First Person of the Trinity communicated life, and therefore the essence in which that life inheres, to the Second Person. But if Son here designates the Theanthropos, then the passage teaches no such doctrine. That it is the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth here spoken of, may be argued not only from the fact that He is elsewhere so frequently called the Son of God, as in the comprehensive confession required of every Christian in the apostolic age, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God;” but also from the context.
—Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (New York, NY: Charles Scribner and Company, 1873), 1:470; bold added.​
Self-existence or “life in himself” is attributed to the incarnate Son (John 5:26). That this is “given” or “communicated” to the Son by the Father does not imply inequality of being. Self-existing life is ipso facto divine. The mode in which it is possessed does not change the nature of the possession. In communicating divine essence to the Son, the Father communicates all its properties.​
—William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, ed. Alan W. Gomes, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2003), 262; italics original.​

Geerhardus Vos is the most direct:

Does not John 5:26 speak of a communication of being?
No, it does not speak about a communication of life from the Father to the Word before His incarnation, but only about a communication of life to the Mediator. Already Calvin correctly explained this passage in the last mentioned sense. One should peruse the context.​
—Geerhardus Vos, Theology Proper, ed. Annemie Godbehere, Roelof van Ijken, and Kim Batteau, trans. Richard B. Gaffin, vol. 1, Reformed Dogmatics (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), 55; italics original, bold added.​

Thanks. It appears there is a division among the commentators.
 
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