God’s Only Begotten

John 3:16 says, “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.”

This passage describes Jesus as the only begotten Son of God. This wording ‘only begotten’ is the translation used in the King James Version for the Greek word (transliterated) monogenes. This word, like many Greek words, is two other concepts joined to form a single idea. In this case it is monos, the word meaning ‘only’ joined with the word ginomai (genes in its parsed form) which is the verb meaning ‘to be born’.

I notice that modern translations have begun to translate the phrase as ‘one and only’. While I need to leave room for the translators to be more educated in translation than I am, I doubt this is a wise move.

The Greek word is a wonderful picture of who Jesus is, the eternal Son of God, who left His thrown to take on human flesh (See John 1:14) in order to demonstrate God’s love (See Romans 5:8) and become our redeemer.

Using the words ‘one and only’ emphasize Jesus’ singularity and uniqueness. That is to say it makes it clear that He is different from all other men, and that He is the only man having this unique relationship with God. But this translation misses the opportunity to express the aspect of incarnation which is also reflected in the word monogenes.

Incarnation is the word theologians use to describe Jesus, who is by eternal nature divine, pouring Himself into a human form and becoming both, human and divine simultaneously. (see Philippians 2:5-7)

Something spectacular was done for us in the sacrificial act of incarnation, long before the sacrifice of the cross. God was fulfilling His love for us when, God the Son, who already was God’s only Son, became born of woman and thereby became God’s only begotten Son.

I think this treasure is hidden by translating monogenes as ‘one and only.’


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