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Who is the Fountain of Life?

There is an alternative teaching on the Godhead that portrays Jesus as deriving His life from the Father. The Father is said to be the One to whom the ‘Fountain of Life’ title (Ps 36:9) categorically applies.

This is an unfortunate misrepresentation of the truth. While the Father is also God and thus the Creator and Source of all life, Jesus is equally God and Creator of all (Colossians 1:15-18, 2:9-10).

Ellen White, in the book Patriarchs and Prophets, uses the fountain metaphor for the life-giving nature of Jesus most comprehensively on pages 412-3:

The same figure Christ had employed in His conversation with the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14. Christ combines the two types. He is the rock, He is the living water.

The same beautiful and expressive figures are carried throughout the Bible. Centuries before the advent of Christ, Moses pointed to Him as the rock of Israel’s salvation (Deuteronomy 32:15); the psalmist sang of Him as “my Redeemer,” “the rock of my strength,” “the rock that is higher than I,” “a rock of habitation,” “rock of my heart,” “rock of my refuge.” In David’s song His grace is pictured also as the cool, “still waters,” amid green pastures, beside which the heavenly Shepherd leads His flock. Again, “Thou shalt make them,” he says, “drink of the river of Thy pleasures. For with Thee is the fountain of life.” Psalms 19:14; 62:7; 61:2; 71:3 (margin); 73:26 (margin); 94:22; 23:2; 36:8, 9. And the wise man declares, “The wellspring of wisdom [is] as a flowing brook.” Proverbs 18:4. To Jeremiah, Christ is “the fountain of living waters;” to Zechariah, “a fountain opened . . . for sin and for uncleanness.” Jeremiah 2:13; Zechariah 13:1.

This is not an isolated statement. Ellen White consistently and overwhelmingly applies the “fountain of life” motif to Christ throughout the hundreds of times she either quotes or alludes to verses such as Psalm 36:9. Here are just a few more:

“Jesus is the source of power, the fountain of life.”
(AA 478; AG 107; cf. UL 265)

“From Christ is flowing the living stream of salvation. He is the Fountain of life, the Source of all power.”
(8 Test 12; cf. RH, Oct 1, 1903 par. 15)

“Christ is the source of light, the fountain of life”
(HP 61)

“Of Christ it is written: ‘In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.’ John 1:4.  He is the Fountain of life.”
(8 Test 288)

“From Jesus is our life derived.  In Him is life that is original,–unborrowed, underived life.  In us there is a streamlet from the fountain of life. In Him is the fountain of life.” (SpTB19, 23)

“From Jesus is our life derived.  In him is life that is original, –unborrowed, underived life.  In him is the fountain of life.” (RH, Aug 6, 1914 par. 1)

Unsurprisingly, whenever Ellen White applies the related phrase “fountain of living waters” to a member of the Godhead, it is Christ. See, in addition to PP 412-3, the following: ST, December 10, 1885 par. 14; ST, May 19, 1890 par. 7; RH, July 10, 1879 par. 7, 3T 322; and 11MR 299.

Does Ellen White ever apply the “fountain of life” motif to the Father? There are a few occasions when she applies “the fountain of life” to God. These could be understood as referring to the Godhead generally (including the Father) or as references to the Father specifically. E.g.:

“…the Father…. God desires His obedient children to claim His blessing, and to come to Him with praise and thanksgiving.  God is the Fountain of life and power” (6 Test 364; cf. ST, April 14, 1909 par. 6; Ed 197)

While there does not appear to be any direct application of “fountain of life” to the Father specifically in the writings of Ellen White, there is at least one instance where she applies “fountain of life” directly and specifically to the Holy Spirit:

“From age to age the Holy Spirit is an overflowing fountain of life” (ST Nov 14, 1900 par. 3)

This raises a question regarding the possibility and extent of plurality and interchangeability of titles and descriptors within the Godhead, which we will turn to briefly in the next section.

But first let’s briefly sum up this section. The textual evidence of the writings of Ellen White suggest that she was anything but a ‘Fountarian’ (one who believes the “fountain of life” is categorically the Father and that the Father is the originator and source of the life of Jesus). What about the Bible? The next section, through addressing plurality and interchangeability of titles, will show that the Bible also does not support exclusive application of the “fountain of life” title to the Father.

Are Titles Plural or Interchangeable within the Godhead?

It may be asked why there seems to be some interchangeability between the members of the Godhead – e.g., the Father and Son. A related question is: To what extent is there strict plurality or strict singularity designated in any of the names or titles?

It is clear on comparing 1 Cor 10:4 with Deut 32 (vss 3,4,15,18) that the name Jehovah/Yahweh was applied to Jesus, just as it was also clearly applied to the Father (Ps 110:1, Dan 7:13). Let’s quickly see how Jehovah/Yahweh is applied to Jesus Christ:

For the name of YHWH I will proclaim; Ascribe greatness to our God. The Rock–His work is perfect, for all of His ways are just, a faithful God, and without wrong, just and upright is He. (Deut 32:3-4).

This is the song of Moses, recounting God’s leading of the children of Israel through the wilderness. Names ascribed to God include Yahweh (YHWH), Elohim, el and Rock. Paul’s recounting of the story explicitly identifies Christ as the Rock (and thus Yahweh):

…they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ (1 Cor 10:4).

I don’t profess to be an expert on which instances denote the Father or the Son (or potentially both), and/or how much interchangeability there is. I have shown, clearly, however, that there must be some room for plurality in our understanding of Jehovah/Yahweh, in addition to elohim, which is a plural, in contrast to the two singulars, el and eloah.

It is safe and fair to say that there is no room for Jehovah/Yahweh to be understood always strictly as a singular Person – either the Father or the Father/Son as one Person with two or three modes of existence (Sabellianism).

Gen 1:26 & 3:22 give us somewhat of a clue that God is not strictly a singular. The title elohim (im is a plural ending) also suggests plurality (despite different factors being argued with this one). Elohim is actually the most common word for God in the OT, although what is said to be the singular form (eloah) is also used, but only 57 times, and a second singular word for “God” (el) is used about 250 times.

Let’s take the example of Josh 24:19. Hebrew experts tell me that there are two identical singular pronouns translated “he” in this verse. Both relate to “God” and are in phrases that amplify the nature of the Lord/Yahweh. The first “he” relates to elohim that has an adjective (“holy”) in the plural. The second “he” relates to el that has an adjective (“jealous”) in the singular:

“But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the LORD, for he is a holy God [elohim, plural]. He is a jealous God [el, singular]; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins” (NKJV).

There are many more examples that could also be used.

Clearly, the English translation of the Hebrew limits our understanding, not to mention the limits imposed by language per se, let alone our humanness compared to the illimitable God!