μονογενής monogenēs; from 3441 and 1085; only begotten:—only(3), only begotten(6).—Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).
μονογενής (monogenēs), ές (es): adj.; ≡ Str 3439; TDNT 4.737—LN 58.52 unique, only, one and only, i.e., one of a kind: (many versions) only begotten (Lk 7:12; 8:42; 9:38; Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Heb 11:17; 1Jn 4:9+; Jn 1:34 v.r.)—James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
Lexicographers define the Greek word (μονογενής monogenēs) as “unique, only, one and only,” that is “one of a kind.” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek) Monogenēs is used to characterize the relationship between sons and daughters to their parents.
The Scriptures speak of “the only-begotten son” of a widow who lived in the city of Nain, of Jairus’ “only-begotten daughter,” and of a man’s “only-begotten” son whom Jesus cured of a demon. (Lu 7:11, 12; 8:41, 42; 9:38) The Greek Septuagint uses (μονογενής monogenēs) when speaking of the daughter of Jephthah, concerning whom it is written: “Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter.”—Jg 11:34.
The apostle John repeatedly describes the Lord Jesus Christ as the only-begotten Son of God. (John 1:14; 3:16, 18; 1Jo 4:9) Jesus is also referred to as the “only begotten God.” (John 1:18) This is not about his human birth or to him as just the man Jesus, for he is the divine Son of God. As the Logos or Word, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This one was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1-2; 17:5, 24) Even when Jesus is in his prehuman existence, John says, “God sent his only begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”—1 John 4:9.
 The original words were μονογενὴς θεός or ο μονογενης θεος “only-begotten God” or “the only-begotten God” (P66 P75 א B C* L 33 syrhmp 33 copbo) A variant reading is ο μονογενης υιος “the only begotten Son” A C3 (Ws) Θ Ψ f1, Maj syrc).
 John is not saying that “the Word” was God the Father.
Jesus is described as having a “glory as of the only begotten one from the Father,” the one “who is in the bosom of the Father.” (John 1:14, 18) “The word “bosom” is used in reference to both God and humankind, male and female. The bosom in its metaphorical and literal usages is the location of both intimacy and vulnerability. In the OT and NT the bosom is foremost an intimate place. It is a source of nurture for a suckling child (Ruth 4:16), of comfort (Luke 16:22, Abraham’s bosom), protection (Isa. 40:11, the bosom of God like that of a shepherd, carrying the lambs of Zion), honor (49:22), and physical warmth (1 Kgs. 1:2, Abishag in the bosom of David). It is where the grieving widow of Zarephath holds her dead son (1 Kgs. 17:19) as God holds a living One: Jesus in the bosom of God the Father (John 1:18). The bosom is also a sign of intimate relationship. Thus “the wife of your bosom” or “the husband of your bosom” (Deut. 28:54, 56) or a ewe lamb in the poor man’s bosom (2 Sam. 12:3) or a bosom friend (Ps. 41:9 [MT 10]) implies the most intense connections and communion.—Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner, “Bosom,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 197.
We cannot read the Gospel of John or his three letters and not come away with the view that the Son is subordinate to the Father. Subordinationism is a view of the Trinity, where the Son is subordinate to the Father. Subordinationism is defined as hierarchical rankings of the persons of the Trinity, implying ontological subordination of the Son and the Holy Spirit. While contemporary Evangelicals believe the historically agreed fundamentals of the Christian faith, including the Trinity, among the New Calvinist formula, the Trinity is one God in three equal persons, among whom there is “economic subordination” (as, for example, when the Son obeys the Father). As recently as 1977, the concept of economic subordinationism has been advanced in New Calvinist circles.
 Giles, Kevin (2012-05-07). The Eternal Generation of the Son: Maintaining Orthodoxy in Trinitarian Theology. InterVarsity Press.
 Piper & Grudem, John & Wayne (1991). Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Wheaton, Ill: Crossways. pp. 104, 130, 163, 257, 394.
 Grudem, Wayne (1994). Systematic Theology. Leicester: IVP. pp. 230–257.
 Kovach, Stephen D., and Peter R. Schemm Jr. “A Defense of the Doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42.3 (1999): 461.
Literal translation philosophy versus interpretive translation philosophy plays a role here too. I submit that rendering monogenēs as “only begotten” is the literal rendering. In translating the Updated American Standard Version (UASV), our primary purpose is to give the Bible readers what God said by way of his human authors, not what a translator thinks God meant in its place.—Truth Matters! Our primary goal is to be accurate and faithful to the original text. The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., reader), not the translator.—Translating Truth!
Let’s compare monogenēs with another Greek word (ἐπίγνωσις epignōsis) that is not rendered correctly in almost all Bible translations. Epignosis, an intensified form of gnosis (epiʹ, meaning “additional”), can often be seen from the context to mean “exact, accurate, or full knowledge.” (Col. 1:9; 3:10; Eph. 1:15-17; Php 1:9; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:6-7; 2 pet. 1:2) The apostle Paul uses epignōsis almost twenty times while only Peter uses it four times, and no other writer uses it. John uses monogenēs nine times, while Luke uses it three times and Paul once. I believe John uses it to show the intimacy between the Father and the Son and the subordination of the Son to the Father. It should be rendered literally, and then the reader can decide for themselves if it has the sense of uniqueness: distinct without equal in category.
His only-begotten Son—This term is never applied by John to any but Jesus Christ. He applies it five times to the Savior, John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9. It means literally an only child. Then, as an only child is especially dear to a parent, it means one that is especially beloved. Compare Gen. 22:2, 12, 16; Jer. 6:26; Zech. 12:10. On both these accounts, it is bestowed on the Savior.
1. As he was eminently the Son of God, sustaining a special relation to Him in His divine nature, exalted above all human beings and angels, and thus worthy to be called, by way of eminence, His only Son. Holy ones are called His “sons” or children because they are born of His Spirit or are like Him, but the Lord Jesus is exalted far above all and deserves to be called His only-begotten Son eminently.
2. He was especially dear to God; therefore, this appellation, implying tender affection, is bestowed upon him. This is the highest expression of love that we can conceive. A parent who should give up his only son to die for others who are guilty if this could or might be done—would show higher love than could be manifested in any other way. So, it shows the depth of the love of God, that he was willing. to give his only Son into the hands of sinful men that he might be slain and thus redeem them from eternal sorrow.
What About Hebrews 11:17?
μονογενής, ές: pertaining to what is unique in the sense of being the only one of the same kind or class—‘unique, only.’ τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν ‘he gave his only Son’ Jn 3:16; τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ ἀπέσταλκεν ὁ θεός ‘God sent his only Son’ 1 Jn 4:9; τὸν μονογενῆ προσέφερεν ὁ τὰς ἐπαγγελίας ἀναδεξάμενος ‘he who had received the promises presented his only son’ or ‘… was ready to offer his only son’ He 11:17. Abraham, of course, did have another son, Ishmael, and later sons by Keturah, but Isaac was a unique son in that he was a son born as the result of certain promises made by God. Accordingly, he could be called a μονογενής son, since he was the only one of his kind.—Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 590.
English Standard Version
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,
Lexham English Bible
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered Isaac, and the one who received the promises was ready to offer his one and only son,
Christian Standard Bible
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and yet he was offering his one and only son,
New American Standard Bible
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and the one who had received the promises was offering up his only son;
New American Standard Bible 1995
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;
American Standard Version
17 By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac: yea, he that had gladly received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;
|Hebrews 11:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son,
 An interpretive translation could read, “as good as offered up Isaac.” The Greek verb here (prosenenochen) translated “offered up” is in the perfect tense, where the writer describes “a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present ‘state of affairs’ resulting from the past action.” (GMSDT) Dods and Moffatt take the perfect tense to refer only to a past act with no emphasis being suggested by the author. (Dods, “Hebrews,” 358; Moffatt, Hebrews, 176.)
 The Greek verb here (prosepheren) translated “was offering up” is in the imperfect tense, “where the writer portrays an action in process or a state of being that is occurring in the past with no assessment of the action’s completion.” (GMSDT) Therefore, this rendering is in harmony with what actually happened.
Initially, this information from the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament sounds logical until you dig deeper. The lexicon is partially correct. It is best to translate literally instead of interpretively, rendering it as Abraham’s “only-begotten son.” This should be the case, even though Abraham was also the father of Ishmael by Hagar and several sons by Keturah. (Ge 16:15; 25:1, 2; 1Ch 1:28, 32) As the lexicon rightly pointed out, the covenant that God made with Abraham was established through Isaac alone, Abraham’s one and only son (LEB) by God’s promise, as well as the only son of Sarah. (Gen. 17:16-19) Also, when Abraham offered up Isaac, he was the one and only son in his father’s household. No sons were yet born to Keturah, and Ishmael had been sent away about 20 years earlier when he was a teenager. So, clearly, he was already married and was the head of his own house.—Gen. 22:2.
Therefore, from several perspectives concerning the covenant promise, the subject matter that the apostle Paul was discussing when writing to the Hebrews, Isaac was Abraham’s only-begotten son or the one and only son. Hence, Paul parallels “the promises” and the “only-begotten son” with “‘in Isaac your seed.’” (Heb 11:17-18) The First-century Jewish historian Josephus had a similar view as he also spoke of Isaac as Abraham’s “only son.”—Jewish Antiquities, I, 222 (xiii, 1).
Digging Deeper Into Monogenēs
The AV translation of Gk (μονογενής monogenēs) in six NT passages (Jn. 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; He. 11:17; 1 Jn. 4:9), usually in the phrase “only begotten Son” (all the references except that in He. 11:17 are to Jesus’ relationship to God). The RSV and NEB render monogené̄s by “only”—a translation supported by the use of monogené̄s in the LXX. In each of its four occurrences in the LXX OT, monogenḗs translates Heb yāḥîḏ (lit “only one,” “solitary,” “beloved”): Jgs. 11:34 (AV, RSV, “only child”); Ps. 22:20(MT 21; LXX 21:20; AV “darling,” mg “dear life”; RSV “life,” mg “only one”); 25:16 (LXX 24:16; AV “desolate”; RSV “lonely”); 35:17 (LXX 34:17; AV “darling,” mg “dear life”; RSV “life”); cf. also the use of monogené̄s in Tob. 3:15; 6:11; 8:17. Elsewhere the LXX renders Heb yāḥîḏ by Gk agapētós (lit “[only] beloved”; see Gen. 22:2, 12, 16; Jer. 6:26; Am. 8:10; Zec. 12:10).
Scholars are divided over the legitimacy of the AV rendering “only begotten” in the six passages mentioned above. The position against the AV translation was stated clearly by D. Moody, who insisted that monogenḗs means “one,” “only,” or “unique” rather than “only begotten.” Moody’s major arguments include the following. (1) The standard lexicons support this meaning (e.g., see MM, pp. 416f; Bauer, rev, p. 527). [μονογενής, ές, Ep. and Ion. μουνογενής, (γένος) the only member of a kin or kind: hence, generally, only, single, παῖς Hes.Op.376, Hdt.7.221, cf. Ev.Jo.1.14, Ant.Lib.32.1; of Hecate, Hes.Th.426. – Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 1144.] (2) The Old Latin MSS rendered monogené̄s by Lat unicus (“only”) rather than unigenitus (“only begotten”). In the Vulgate Jerome changed unicus to unigenitus (“only begotten”) for theological reasons, i.e., to ensure the doctrine that Jesus was “begotten, not made.” (In passages that lack this theological interest [Lk. 7:12; 8:42; 9:38] he kept unicus as the translation of Gk monogené̄s.) The Vulgate exercised a formidable influence on the AV and subsequent English translations. (3) The LXX use of monogené̄s for Heb yāḥîḏ and NT usage of the term in Lk. 7:12; 8:42; 9:38; He. 11:17 clearly support the meaning “only.” (4) The reference in 1 Clem. 25:2 to the phoenix bird (which was neither born nor begotten) as monogené̄s demands the meaning “only one of its kind.” (5) John’s emphasis on Jesus’ uniqueness as monogené̄s is underscored by his reservation of the term huiós to Jesus alone; believers he calls tékna, “children.”
JOHN 1:18 2019 Greek-English New Testament Interlinear (GENTI) [CE]
18 θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς
John 1:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
WH NU: μονογενὴς θεὸς
variant 1: ὁ μονογενης θεος
Variant 2 TR: ὁ μονογενὴς υἱὸς
ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 1:18 1550 Stephanus New Testament (TR TGNT)
18 θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· ὁ μονογενὴς υἱὸς
John 1:18 King James Version (KJV)
18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
There is convincing evidence for the preferred reading of John 1:18, as “only begotten God” (μονογενὴς θεὸς), as it is supported by the earliest and best manuscripts (P75 P66 א B C*), as well as L and 33. [CE] above stands for Convincing Evidence, which indicates that the evidence is an even higher-level proof that the reading “only begotten God” (μονογενὴς θεὸς) surely was the original in that the evidence is enough to accept it as substantially certain unless proven otherwise. The two earliest papyri (P75 P66) and the earliest uncials (א B C*), some early versions (Syriac and Coptic), as well as many early church fathers (Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Eusebius, Serapion, Basil, Didymus, Gregory-Nyssa, Epiphanius, Valentinians), read “only begotten God” (μονογενὴς θεὸς).
Later manuscripts A C3 [9th cent.] (Ws) [7th cent.] K Γ Δ Θ Ψ ƒ1.13 and Maj read “only begotten Son” (μονογενὴς υἱὸς). Variant 2 reading “only begotten Son” (μονογενὴς υἱὸς) was known by some early church fathers (Irenaeus, Clement, Hippolytus, Alexander, Eusebius,, Eustathius, Serapion, Julian, Basil, Gregory-Nazianus), as well as being translated by some early versions (Old Latin and Syriac).
It was the discovery of the second-century papyri P75 [175-225 C.E.] and P66 [150-200 C.E.] in the 1950s and 1960s that tipped the scales, strengthening the preferred reading of “only begotten God” (μονογενὴς θεὸς). The (μονογενὴς θεὸς) reading gave rise to variant 2 (υἱὸς), making (μονογενὴς θεὸς) likely the original. The more difficult reading is often preferable. The reading μονογενὴς θεὸς seems to be more difficult to understand, but after further investigation, we realize that a scribe deliberately changed the text from (θεὸς) to the easier reading (υἱὸς), which was an effort at scribal assimilation to John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9. The definite article of variant 1 before θεος (ὁ μονογενης θεος) “the only begotten God” is likely a scribal change to the μονογενὴς θεὸς “only begotten God” because θεός without the article is the harder reading.
The reading that the other reading(s) most likely came from is likely the original. This is the fundamental principle of textual criticism. What reading then explains the rise of the others? It seems that the original reading of “only begotten God” (μονογενὴς θεὸς) being the more difficult reading caused a misunderstanding. Thus, the definite article was added and we got a limited case of (ὁ μονογενης θεος) “the only begotten God” (𝔓75 א1 33; copbo Clpt ClexThd pt Orpt). However, this did not mitigate anything and was in conflict with John’s writing and the rest of the New Testament. Therefore, some scribes changed from (θεὸς) to the easier reading (υἱὸς), giving us (ὁ μονογενὴς υἱὸς) “the only begotten Son” in the vast majority of later manuscripts, never reverting back in the later manuscripts. When all of the internal and external evidence is considered, “only begotten God” (μονογενὴς θεὸς) is the preferred reading.
Andreas J. Köstenberger,
There is a question as to whether the original reading here is μονογενὴς υἱός (monogenēs huios, one-of-a-kind Son) or μονογενὴς θεός (monogenēs theos, one-of-a-kind [Son, himself] God). With the acquisition of P66 and P75, both of which read μονογενὴς θεός, the preponderance of the evidence now leans in the direction of the latter reading. M. Harris (1992: 78–80) expresses a “strong preference” for μονογενὴς θεός, for at least four reasons: (1) it has superior MS support; (2) it represents the more difficult reading; (3) it serves as a more proper climax to the entire prologue, attributing deity to the Son by way of inclusio with 1:1 and 1:14; (4) it seems to account best for the other variants. Most likely, then, μονογενῆς υἱός represents a scribal assimilation to 3:16 and 3:18. – Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 50.
Section by Edward D. Andrews
[It should be added that the Luke 7:12 says, “As he drew near to the gate of the town, look, a man who had died was being carried out, the only begotten son [μονογενής monogenēs] of his mother, and she was a widow, and a sizeable crowd from the town was with her.” Luke 8:41-42 reds, “And he [Jairus] fell down at the feet of Jesus and began imploring him to come to his house, for he had an only begotten [μονογενής monogenēs] daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. Now as he was going, the crowds were pressing against him.” Luke 9:38 reads, “And look, a man from the crowd cried out, saying, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my only begotten [μονογενής monogenēs] son, because he is my only son!’” The Greek Septuagint at Judges 11:34 reads, “And Jephthah went to Mizpah to his house; and behold, his daughter was going out to meet him with drums and dancing. She was his only begotten [μονογενής monogenēs]; there was not another son or daughter to him.”] – Edward D. Andrews
Other scholars who have taken this position include J. H. Bernard, R. E. Brown, C. H. Dodd, L. Morris, B. F. Westcott, and D. G. Vanderlip. Brown, e.g., stated: “Literally the Greek means ‘of a single [monos] kind [genos].’ Although genos is distantly related to gennan, ‘to beget,’ there is little Greek justification for the translation of monogenēs as ‘only begotten.’” The word describes Jesus’ uniqueness, “not what is called in Trinitarian theology his ‘procession’” (p. 13).
A contrary position has been argued by C. K. Barrett, J. B. Bauer, F. Büchsel, R. H. Lightfoot, B. Lindars, and R. Schnackenburg. While admitting the linguistic strength of the preceding view, these scholars have argued that in the Johannine passages monogené̄s denotes Jesus’ origin in addition to His uniqueness. Jesus is not only the “only” Son of the Father: He is the “begotten” Son because He derives His being from the Father. Barrett, e.g., insisted that the Son proceeds from the Father in personal though never independent existence (p. 166). J. B. Bauer held that in John huiós designates Jesus’ origin and contains the idea of His eternal begetting by God (p. 868).
The interpretation of monogené̄s is further complicated by the textual problem in Jn. 1:18. Whereas some witnesses (including later Greek MSS versions, and some church fathers) read the monogené̄s huiós, the earliest Greek MSS p66 א B C) have monogenḗs theós. Textual critics and exegetes are divided over the proper reading of the text. Exegetes preferring monogené̄s huiós include C. K. Barrett, F. Büchsel, R. Bultmann, M. Dods, and R. Schnackenburg; those preferring monogené̄s theós include J. H. Bernard, R. E. Brown, and L. Morris. While those who translate monogené̄s by “only begotten” can make sense of monogené̄s huiós (“only begotten Son”; cf. Jn. 3:16, 18: 1 Jn. 4:9), they run into enormous theological difficulties with monogené̄s theós (“only begotten God”).
In conclusion, an assessment of the linguistic evidence seems to indicate that “only” or “unique” may be an adequate translation for all occurrences of monogené̄s in the Johannine literature (see Bauer, rev, p. 527). Discussions about the origin or derivation of the Son in relationship to the Father should be conducted along theological rather than linguistic lines.
Andrews would disagree with Hoch, a literal translation is a preferred translation. THe primary purpose is to give the Bible readers what God said by way of his human authors, not what a translator thinks God meant in its place. The primary goal is to be accurate and faithful to the original text. The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., reader), not the translator. Therefore render monogené̄s as “only begotten” in the main text and then add a footnote with the alternative renderings: “one,” “only,” or “unique,” and let the reader determine what the author meant by the words that he used.
By C. B. Hoch Jr. and Edward D. Andrews
Bibliography.—C. K. Barrett, comm on John (2nd ed. 1978); J. B. Bauer, Encyclopedia of Biblical Theology (1981); Bauer, rev, p. 527; J. H. Bernard, comm on John, I (ICC, 1928); R. E. Brown, Gospel According to John, I (AB, 1966); R. Bultmann, Gospel of John (Eng. tr. 1971); DNTT, II, 725; C. H. Dodd, Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (repr 1968); M. Dods, ExposGT, I (1961); F. C. Grant, ATR, 36 (1954), 284–87; R. H. Lightfoot, St. John’s Gospel (1956); B. Lindars, Gospel of John (NCBC, repr 1981); D. Moody, JBL, 72 (1953), 213–19; L. Morris, Gospel According to John (NICNT, 1971); R. Schnackenburg, comm on John, I (Eng. tr. 1968); TDNT, IV, s.v. μονογενεήζ (F. Büchsel); B. F. Westcott, Epistles of St. John (repr 1966); comm on John (1908); M. F. Wiles, The Spiritual Gospel (1960); D. G. Vanderlip, Christianity According to John (1975).
 Rick Brannan et al., eds., The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Jdg 11:34.
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