In 325 A.D. there was a Church council held at Antioch, not long before the Nicene Creed was written. The purpose of the Council was to fill the vacant see of Antioch, but while they were there they also condemned the Arian heresy by writing this statement, now informally called the Antiochan Council’s creed. Kelly mentions that “possibly they were aware of Constantine’s determination himself to settle a controversy which was becoming a festering sore in the Church’s body [the Pelagian controversy], and wanted to anticipate by a fait accompli any chance there might be of the imperial decision going the wrong way."
Around the turn of the 20th century E. Schwartz discovered the manuscript containing the creedal document, which was written in Syriac. He translated it back into the original Greek, and the following is a translation of the Greek retroversion into English. The applicable portion that contains the mention of begotten reads:
…And in one Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten Son, begotten not from that which is not but from the Father, not as made but as properly an offspring, but begotten in an ineffable, indescribable manner, because only the Father Who begot and the Son Who was begotten know (for ‘no one knows the Father but the Son, nor the Son but the Father’), …in a way which passes all understanding or conception or reasoning we confess Him to have been begotten of the unbegotten Father, the divine Logos, true light, righteousness, Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour of all.
When I bought my copy of Early Christian Creeds quite a few years ago the book was out of print, and I paid a lot of money for it. Mine is a discard from the Houston Public Library. Apparently the good people of Houston weren’t all that interested in doctrinal details. Fortunately the book is now back in print, and you can buy the paperback version for a mere $42.70 at Amazon. Pretty pricey for a paperback, although it’s 656 pages long.
For your edification I’ve typed out the entire Antiochan creed, found on pages 209-210 of Early Christian Creeds:
“The faith is”, say the writers, “as follows: to believe in one God, Father, almighty, incomprehensible, immutable and unchangeable, protector and ruler of the universe, just, good, maker of heaven and earth and of all the things in them, Lord of the law and of the prophets and of the new covenant; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten Son, begotten not from that which is not but from the Father, not as made but as properly an offspring, but begotten in an ineffable, indescribable manner, because only the Father Who begot and the Son Who was begotten know (for ‘no one knows the Father but the Son, nor the Son but the Father’), Who exists everlastingly and did not at one time not exist. For we have learned from the Holy Scriptures that He alone is the express image, not (plainly) as if He might have remained unbegotten from the Farther, nor by adoption (for it is impious and blasphemous to say this); but the Scriptures describe Him as validly and truly begotten as Son, so that we believe Him to be immutable and unchangeable, and that He was not begotten and did not come to be by volition or by adoption, so as to appear to be from that which is not, but as it befits Him to be begotten; not (a thing which it is not lawful to think) according to likeness or nature or commixture with any of the things which came to be through Him, but in a way which passes all understanding or conception or reasoning we confess Him to have been begotten of the unbegotten Father, the divine Logos, true light, righteousness, Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour of all. For He is the express image, not of the will or of anything else, but of His Father’s very substance (ύποστάσεως). This Son, the divine Logos, having been born in flesh from Mary the Mother of God and made incarnate, having suffered and died, rose again from the dead and was taken up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Majesty most high, and will come to judge the living and the dead. Furthermore, as in our Saviour, the holy Scriptures teach us to believe also in one Spirit, one Catholic Church, the resurrection of the dead and a judgment of requital according to whether a man has done well or badly in the flesh. And we anathematize those who say or think or preach that the Son of God is a creature or has come into being or has been made and is not truly begotten, or that there was when He was not. For we believe that He was and is and that he is light. Furthermore, we anathematize those who suppose that He is immutable by His own act of will, just as those who derive His birth from that which is not, and deny that He is immutable in the way the Father is. For just as our Saviour is the image of the Father in all things, so in this respect particularly He has been proclaimed the Father’s image.
photo credit: Leo Reynolds