Article: John 1:18 the only begotten Son by Will Kinney

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JOHN 1:18

The Codex Vaticanus has μονογενὴς θεός (only begotten God) here in John 1:18 instead of the usual μονογενὴς υἱός (only begotten Son)
The Codex Vaticanus has μονογενὴς θεός (only begotten God) here in John 1:18 instead of the usual μονογενὴς υἱός (only begotten Son)

"No man hath seen God at any time; THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."

John 1:18 presents us with a classical case of confusion caused by the modern Bible correctors. The phrase in question is "the only begotten Son." There are two variants here: one with the Greek text and the other with the translation.

The Greek of the Traditional Text reads, "o monogenes huios" (the only begotten Son). The Greek of the Alexandrian Text reads, "o monogenes theos" (the only begotten God). Additionally, the Greek word "monogenes" is no longer looked upon by some as meaning "only begotten" but is now considered better translated as "unique" or "one and only." However there is much disagreement among today's "scholars" as to which text to adopt and how to translate it.

Notice the total confusion that exists in the multitude of modern bible versions today.

1. "The only begotten Son"- King James Bible, Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, Daniel Mace New Testament 1729, Wesley's N.T. 1755, the Revised Version 1881, American Standard Version 1901, Webster's 1833 translation, Darby 1890, Young's, Douay 1950, Spanish Reina Valera 1909, 1960, 1995, Italian Diodati 1602, Rivudeta 1927, Luther's German Bible 1545, German Schlachter 1951, French Martin 1744, Louis Segond 1910, Ostervald 1996, the NKJV 1982, Third Millenium Bible, and KJV 21.

Even the Revised Version 1881 and American Standard Version1901, which introduced thousands of radical changes in the New Testament based on the Alexandrian texts, did not follow Sinaiticus/Vaticanus here but stuck with the Traditional Text. It wasn't till the NASB appeared on the scene that the false reading of "the only begotten God" was introduced.

2. "The only begotten God" NASB

3. "God the only Son" NIV 1973

4. "God the One and Only" NIV 1984 with a footnote "or only begotten"

5. "but the one and only Son, who is himself God" TNIV 2001 with footnote "some manuscripts - but the only Son".

The 1973 and 1977 NIV's read, "No MAN has ever seen God, but God the only [Son], who is at the Father's side, has made him known". The 1978 and 1984 NIV editions now read, "No ONE has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." Thus, the NIV has been revised and changed " no man" to "no one", altered "only" to "One and Only" and omitted [Son]. Then the TNIV further changes "One and Only" to "one and only" and again adds "Son".

These next three are all related to one another as each is a revision of the last one in line, yet they all three differ from each other. See how consistent modern scholars are.

6. "the only Son" RSV 1952. The liberal RSV was the first major English version to translate monogenes as "only" rather than the traditional and more accurate "only begotten", but yet it retained the word Son rather than God.

7. "God the only Son" NRSV 1989

8. "the only God" English Standard Version 2001

9. "the one and only Son" Hebrew Names Version,

10. "God's only Son" New English Bible 1970

11. "the only conceived Son" World English Bible

12. The Message 2002 - " No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day." A "one of a kind God expression"???

Several of these modern version don't follow any Greek text at all but combine divergent readings from different texts, such as the NIV 1973, TNIV, the NRSV, and the New English Bible.

The King James Bible is the correct reading both as to text and meaning. The Alexandrian texts which read "the only begotten GOD, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" teach that there are TWO GODS and one of them is inferior to the other. Read it any way you wish, but the undeniable fact is you end up with TWO GODS. There is the God whom nobody has seen and then there is the only begotten God who has explained the unseen God. The only other version I know of that reads this way, besides the NASB, is the Jehovah Witness New World Translation, which says: "the only begotten god who is in the bosom position with the Father is the one that has explained him."

One of the newest in the long line of bible revisions, the English Standard Version, reads: "No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known." This is totally absurd. It teaches not only that there are two Gods, the one nobody has ever seen, and the one who has made the unseen God known; but one of them is God and the other is the ONLY God.

Jesus Christ is by nature very God of very God. John 1 says "the Word was God". Notice it does not say the Word was THE God. God is triune yet one. If it had said "the Word was THE God" it would be a theological error. All that God is in the three Persons is not limited to the Word, but the Word (Jesus Christ) is by very nature God.

What the ESV teaches is a confusion of the nature of the Trinity. Jesus Christ is not "THE ONLY GOD" who makes known the God no one has seen. Jesus Christ is God by nature, but He is not the Father nor the Holy Ghost.

We now have two more late$t and greate$t ver$ion$ coming on the scene. The ISV or International Standard Version and the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

The ISV reads: " No one has ever seen God. The UNIQUE God, (Other mss. read Son) who is close to the Father's side, has revealed him." Again, we have two Gods. One nobody has ever seen and then the "unique" God! Does this mean the God no one has seen is just an ordinary, run-of-the- mill, garden variety god, while the other one is totally unique?

But wait, the newest of them all is the 2003 Holman Christian Standard Bible, and it says: "No one has ever seen God. The only Son-- the One who is at the Father's side-- He has revealed Him." Hey, this one went back to the reading of "Son" instead of "God". What gives here? Well, it's the fickle, shifting sands of modern scholarship.

Those versions that teach that Jesus Christ is the "only Son" or "the one and only Son" are also incorrect in that angels are also called sons of God and so are Adam and all of God's other children. In either case, the corrupt and confusing readings found in many modern bible versions diminish the glory of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity is turned on its head.

The Nicene Creed (344 AD) states:

"We believe in one God the Father Almighty, . . . And in His Only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who before all ages was begotten from the Father, God from God, Light from Light, by whom all things were made, in heaven and on the earth, visible and invisible . . ." (as cited from Athanasius: De Synodis, II:26).

The Old Latin manuscripts of John 1:18, which translation preceded anything we have in the remaining Greek copies, read: "deum nemo uidit umquam. unigenitus filius. qui est in sinu patris. ipse narrauit." The word "unigenitus" means, "only begotten, only; of the same parentage." (Dr. John C. Traupman, Latin Dictionary, 323).

In 202 AD, Irenaeus wrote,

"For 'no man,' he says, 'hath seen God at any time,' unless 'the only-begotten Son of God, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared [Him].' For He, the Son who is in His bosom, declares to all the Father who is invisible."(Against Heresies, 3:11:6)

In 324 AD, Alexander of Alexandria wrote:

"Moreover, that the Son of God was not produced out of what did not exist, and that there never was a time when He did not exist, is taught expressly by John the Evangelist, who writes this of Him: 'The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father.' The divine teacher, because he intended to show that the Father and the Son are two and inseparable from each other, does in fact specify that He is in the bosom of the Father." (W.A. Jurgens, The Faith Of The Early Fathers, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, p. 300)

Ambrose (397 AD) writes,

"For this reason also the evangelist says, 'No one has at any time seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him.' 'The bosom of the Father,' then, is to be understood in a spiritual sense, as a kind of innermost dwelling of the Father's love and of His nature, in which the Son always dwells. Even so, the Father's womb is the spiritual womb of an inner sanctuary, from which the Son has proceeded just as from a generative womb."(The Patrarches, 11:51).

Finally, Augustine (430 AD) wrote:

"For Himself hath said: No man hath seen God at any time, but the Only-Begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him. Therefore we know the Father by Him, being they to whom He hath declared Him."(Homilies On The Gospel According To St. John, XLVII:3)

The point is that most of the early Theologians in the Church not only recognized that monogenes means "only begotten," and defined it as such, but that the popular reading was "only begotten Son."

"In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son." Westminster Confession, Chapter III.

In spite of some Greek lexicons, like Thayer's, which insist the meaning of monogenes is "unique" or "one of a kind", there are many others like Kittel's, Liddel and Scott and Vine's that tell us the Greek word monogenes emphatically means "only begotten" and not "one and only". It is significant that Thayer did not believe that Jesus Christ was God.

In Kittel's massive work Volume 4 page 741 the writer says: "In John 1:14,18; 3:16,18; 1 John 4:9 monogenes denotes more than the uniqueness or incomparability of Jesus. In all these verses He is expressly called the Son. (notice he does not accept the false reading of 'God' in 1:18, and he states this on the previous page). In John monogenes denotes the origin of Jesus as the only begotten."

Even the modern Greek language dictionary, which has nothing to do with the Bible, says that monogenes means "only begotten", and not unique. The Greek word for "unique" or "one and only" is a very different and specific word - monodikos - not monogenes.

The translators of the King James Version were not unaware that monogenes can also be translated as "only" for they did so in Luke 7:12; 8:42; and 9:38, all of which refer to an only child and thus they were the only begotten, not an unique child.

Some who criticize the KJB tell us that the word means "unique" and they refer to Hebrews 11:17 where we are told: "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son." They point out that Isaac was not the only son of Abraham at the time, but that Ishmael had already been born of Abraham's union with Hagar. However a look at the text itself in Genesis 22:2,12 and 16 shows that God referred to Isaac as "thine ONLY son Isaac". Ishmael is not even taken into consideration by God since he was not the promised seed with whom God made the covenant of grace. As far as God was concerned, there was only one "only begotten son" of Abraham, and he is the spiritual type of the only begotten Son of God who became the lamb that was sacrificed for the sins of God's people.

The King James Bible is correct as always, and the divergent and contradictory readings in most modern versions are wrong.

NICENE CREED 325 A.D. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, THE ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD, BEGOTTEN OF HIS FATHER BEFORE ALL WORLD, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, BEGOTTEN, NOT MADE, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;

CHALCEDON CREED 451 A.D. Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER BEFORE THE AGES.

ATHANASIA CREED 500 A.D. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, NOT MADE NOR CREATED BUT BEGOTTEN. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten but proceeding. And in this Trinity there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less, but the whole three Persons are coeternal together and coequal.

The right faith therefore is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man. He is God of the substance of the Father, BEGTOTTEN BEFORE THE WORLDS, and He is man of the substance of His mother born in the world; perfect God, perfect man subsisting of a reasoning soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood.

The BELGIC CONFESSION 1561 We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only Son of God-- ETERNALLY BEGOTTEN, NOT MADE NOR CREATED, for then he would be a creature. He is one in essence with the Father; coeternal; the exact image of the person of the Father.

The 39 ARTICLES OF RELIGION 1571 Article II The Son, which is the Word of the Father, BEGOTTEN FROM EVERLASTING OF THE FATHER, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father.

WESTMINSTER CONFESSION 1646 In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; THE SON IS ETERNALLY BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

LONDON BAPTIST CONFESSION 1689 In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; THE SON IS ETERNALLY BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER, the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Will Kinney

For another great article written by Scott Jones dealing with the modern mistranslation of monogenes, please go to this site.

And for Scott's article showing the assault on the Only Begotten Son of God in John 1:18 please go to this site.

Here is a very well done article on John 1:18 and the heretical reading of the NASB, NIV versions done by a man who is not even a KJB onlyist. Tim Warner has written an excellent refutation of the NASB, NIV reading. See it here:

Excellent long article on John 1:18 by Jesse Boyd here

And here is another scholarly article by Michael Marlowe showing how the Greek word monogenes means "only begotten" and not "unique". 1

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NO LXX Part 1 - NO LXX - the Fictitious Use of Septuagint

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The NIV, NASB reject the Hebrew Texts - NIV, NASB reject Hebrew texts Part 2 - How to Destroy Messianic Prophecies

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"The Greek" and Hebrew Games

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Gender Inclusive Versions Dealing with the TNIV

Answering Critics

E mail exchange with Bible Agnostic Doug Kutilek - John MacArthur - Pastor with NO Infallible Bible - A Bible Believer's Response to James Price's book King James Onlyism - a New Sect - A King James Bible Believer's Response to Rick Norris' book 'The Unbound Scriptures' - 17 Parts

Part 1 - The "logical" Premise of Mr. Norris

Part 2 - Those Dreadful Archaic Words

Part 3 - Imperfect men, Perfect Bible

Part 4 - Revision

Part 5 - Printing Errors and Spelling

Part 6 - Inspiration and Inerrancy

Part 7 - Alleged Errors in the King James Bible

Part 8 - Let Me Count The Ways

Part 9 - Beasts or Living Creatures?

Part 10 - Mules or Hot Springs?

Part 11 - "Digged down a wall" or "hamstrung an ox"?

Part 12 - Steel, brass, copper, bronze - Paper or Plastic?

Part 13 - The Usual Suspects

Part 14 - The Preservation of the words of God

Part 15 - KJB Only versus Latin Vulgate Only Argument

Part 16 - Where Was the Word of God Before 1611?

Part 17 - Final Thoughts

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