God’s “Only Begotten” Son- John 3:16

In the King James translation of the Bible, this verse is rendered as: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. There has been much controversy over the use of the term “only begotten” over the years, for some contend that God could not ever be “begotten”, that one who is uncreated could never really be begotten. Modern translations address this issue by translating as the NIV does, rendering the term “only begotten” as “one and only”. The Greek term at issue here is monogenes, and we will attempt to determine just what John meant in using this term in reference to Jesus. The term monogenes is a compound word in the Greek, two smaller words combined in order to combine the thoughts of the two separate words into one thought. The understanding in the KJV translation is that the Greek words combined here are monos (only) and gennao (to beget), hence the translation “only begotten”. It has subsequently been learned that this Greek term is the combination of monos (only) and genos (kind), not gennao. The thought expressed by this term is not “only begotten” but “only one of his kind”, and it is meant to tell us that Jesus was the Son of God in a unique way, in a way no other son ever was or will be. The question at hand then is, exactly how was Jesus the Son of God in a way no one else ever has been? It has generally been asserted that Jesus was the Son in a unique way because of His nature and His attributes, and while this is certainly true, it may not be all that John wants us to understand about the unique nature of Jesus’ sonship. I believe the key to our understanding of this is not in the term monogenes, but in the term “son”. We have commonly understood son as it is used in our day (referred to as a diachronic understanding), and so attempt to interpret son through our modern understanding of the term, which is primarily as “offspring” or “physical descendant”. We contend that we should understand son as it was used in John’s time by John himself (referred to as a synchronic understanding). We find this usage clearly expressed in three other passages in John’s gospel. The first is John 5:19, in which Jesus tells us :”the Son can do nothing by Himself; he can do only what he sees his father doing, because whatever the father does the son does also”. The second is John 8:39, which reads :”If you were Abraham’s children, said Jesus, you would do the things Abraham did”. The third is John 8:44, in which Jesus says “You belong to your father the devil. and you want to carry out your father’s desire”. The common thread which we find in all three of these instances is the use of “son” not as physical descendant or offspring, but as one who does what his father does. The “son” is the one who is about the father’s business, who does what the father does, and this is the key to a complete understanding of Jesus as the “one and only” Son. Jesus is the Son in a unique way because He is the only one who was always about His Father’s business, who always did what the Father did, who always was about building His Father’s kingdom and always did His Father’s will and not His own. John uses son here in a way common in his day, but foreign in ours, and it is our trying to understand his use of this word according to our modern understanding, rather than as it was used in John’s day, that causes the problem, causing us to miss much of what John intended to tell us. May we also follow the example set by our Lord by being sons and daughters who are always “about our Father’s business”.

No Comments Christianity  //  Conformed to the Image of Christ  //  Jesus Christ

Leave a Reply

Pure Spiritual Milk

SEO Copy... Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse nunc turpis, cursus et interdum sed, lobortis vitae nunc. Integer placerat tellus odio, non sodales arcu fermentum id. Mauris vitae eleifend leo, et rhoncus odio. Ut et arcu eu ex tempus ultricies eu vel lorem. Curabitur eu consectetur neque. Suspendisse volutpat nibh urna, sit amet aliquet augue imperdiet in. Etiam eget felis pellentesque, dapibus dolor ut, sodales justo. Mauris eu arcu lectus. Suspendisse odio ex, dignissim sit amet ornare eget, elementum at odio.