The night before He died Jesus prayed to the Father:

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)1

John 17:3: αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωὴ eternal life ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν the only true God καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν. (NA 28)

John wrote a letter with this closing:

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)

1 John 5:20: οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἥκει καὶ δέδωκεν ἡμῖν διάνοιαν, ἵνα γινώσκωμεν τὸν ἀληθινόν, καὶ ἐσμὲν ἐν τῷ ἀληθινῷ, ἐν τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ. οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἀληθινὸς θεὸς the true God καὶ ζωὴ αἰώνιος life eternal. (NA 28)

While both are statements that eternal life is knowledge of the True God, the letter chooses to describe God differently:

Gospel: τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν

Letter: τὸν ἀληθινὸν θεὸν

As both agree there is a single True God, the writer's decision to omit μόνον from the letter strikes me as unusual. 2 Since the Gospel records Jesus saying eternal life was the knowledge of "the μόνον True God," the Letter should make the same statement when addressing the same subject.

This omission calls into question the significance of μόνον in the Gospel which is almost universally translated as "only." 3 However,Thayer's does state when μόνον is used as an adjective it means "alone (without a companion)" [monos, alone] and this is the meaning in John every other time μόνον is used.4 When The Father sent Jesus, their fellowship was temporarily changed. Jesus who was with God from the beginning was, temporarily away from the Father's side.

The Gospel records the writer's personal experiences with Jesus for the purpose of a reader to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing a reader may have life in His name (20:30). The Letter states its purpose is for the readers to have fellowship with the writer, The Father, and His Son Jesus Christ:

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1:3)

Should the use of μόνον in John 17:3 and its lack of use in 1 John 5:20 be better understood on the basis of fellowship? And if so, what is the best way to translate John 17:3?

1. Scripture from the English Standard Version

2. Assuming the Letter was written after the Gospel. If before, then the question becomes why it was included in the Gospel. Regardless of which was first, the use of the word in one and not the other is the issue.

3. The Voice has "the one True God" and Wycliffe states: "...thee very God alone [that they know thee alone very God]...".

4. 8:29, 16:32, and 17:3 are the only places where μόνον is used. Different forms are used elsewhere.

  • If μόνον means "lonely" or "alone", and the third person of the triune god "God the Holy Spirit" wasn't sent until after Yeshua went away, where was he?
    – Cannabijoy
    Aug 7, 2016 at 0:35
  • @anonymouswho 1) μόνον can mean alone. 2) Alone need not mean isolation. It can mean separation from companionship such as Jacob leaving home and being separated from his mother (who is not alone). Or the father in the parable of the prodigal son. The father has the older son and his servants but he still seeks the son who left. However, if you wanted to remove the Holy Spirit too He would be with Jesus as is stated in Acts 10:38. Aug 7, 2016 at 2:15

3 Answers 3


Thayer (from 1889) seems to have gotten mixed up with a cognate, μονόω G3443 which is used of widows "bereaved" as in 1 Tim 5:5. μόνος is never used that way, per BDAG. And even Thayer lists John 17:3 under "only" as does BDAG. This is the adjective in question:

μόνος, η, ον (Pind.+ [as μοῦνος as early as Hom.]) ① pert. to being the only entity in a class, only, alone adj. ⓐ with focus on being the only one α. used w. verbs like εἶναι, εὑρίσκεσθαι, καταλείπειν: μόνος ἦν ἐκεῖ Mt 14:23; cp. J 8:16. Λουκᾶς ἐστιν μόνος μετʼ ἐμοῦ 2 Ti 4:11. εὑρέθη Ἰησοῦς μόνος Lk 9:36. μόνην με κατέλειπεν 10:40 (w. inf. foll.); pass. κατελείφθη μόνος J 8:9; cp. 1 Th 3:1. κἀγὼ ὑπελείφθην μόνος I am the only one left (Theseus Hist. [Roman times]: 453 Fgm. 2 Jac. μόνος περιλειφθείς of the only survivor of a battle) Ro 11:3 (cp. 3 Km 19:10, 14; Job 1:15 al.).—Ac 15:33 [34] v.l. β. used w. a noun (TestJob 10:1 τοῖς ξένοις μόνοις; AssMos Fgm. d p. 64 λόγῳ μόνῳ) τὰ ὀθόνια μόνα Lk 24:12. μόνοι οἱ μαθηταὶ ἀπῆλθον J 6:22. μόνος ὁ ἀρχιερεύς Hb 9:7.—Cp. Mt 12:4 (Jos., Ant. 15, 419 τ. ἱερεῦσιν ἐξὸν ἦν μόνοις). οὗτοι μόνοι συνεργοί Col 4:11. μόνῳ πνεύματι AcPl Ant 13, 18 (μόνον πνεύματι Aa I 237, 3). Papias (3:2) αὐτὸν μόνον τῆς κεφαλῆς ὄγκον.—Used w. pronouns (μόνος αὐτός: Nicol. Dam.: 90 Fgm. 130, 23 p. 407, 21 Jac.; Ps.-Demetr., De Eloc. 97; 2 Macc 7:37; Philo, Agr. 39; Jos., Ant. 8, 405, C. Ap. 1, 49); αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις (Dt 6:13 v.l.; cp. Jos., Ant. 3, 91 τοῦτον μ.) Mt 4:10; Lk 4:8.—Mt 18:15; Mk 6:47; 9:2; J 6:15. εἰς ἑαυτὸν μόνον Gal 6:4. σὺ μόνος … ; (1 Km 21:2; TestZeb 4:12; cp. σὺ μόνος ApcSed 15:1) are you the only one? (Field, Notes 82) Lk 24:18; ἐγὼ μ. (En 6:3; TestJud 3:1; ApcMos 27) Ac 26:14 v.l.; 1 Cor 9:6; GJs 1:3; ὑμεῖς μόνοι 1 Cor 14:36 (cp. Just., D. 19, 2). γ. w. a negative and w. ἀλλά foll.: οὐκ ἐπʼ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ … , ἀλλʼ … (Dt 8:3) Mt 4:4=Lk 4:4. οὐ μόνον τὸ σῶμα … ἀλλὰ πολλοστόν AcPlCor 2:27 οὐκ ἐγὼ μ. … , ἀλλὰ καί … Ro 16:4; 2J 1. οὐκ ἐγράφη δὲ διʼ αὐτὸν μόνον, ἀλλὰ καί Ro 4:23. οὐκ αὐτὸν δὲ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καί Phil 2:27. Pleonast. w. εἰ μή after a neg. not … except … alone (Lydus, Magist. 1, 18 p. 22, 22) Mt 12:4; 17:8; 24:36; Mk 9:8 v.l. (for ἀλλὰ … μόνον); Lk 5:21; 6:4; Phil 4:15; Rv 9:4 v.l. δ. μόνος θεός (cp. Simonides, Fgm. 4, 7 Diehl θεὸς μόνος; Da 3:45; SibOr 3, 629; PGM 13, 983) the only God 1 Ti 1:17; Jd 25 (GDelling, TLZ 77, ’52, 469–76). W. article preceding ὁ μόνος θ. (EpArist 139; Philo, Fuga 71; Just., D. 126, 2 τοῦ μόνου καὶ ἀγεννήτου θεοῦ υἱόν; ὁ θεὸς μόνος 4 Km 19:15, 19; Ps 85:10; Is 37:20. Cp. ENorden, Agn. Theos 1913, 245, 1) J 5:44 (without θεοῦ v.l.). ὁ μ. ἀληθινὸς θεός the only true God 17:3 (Demochares [c. 300 B.C.]: 75 Fgm. 2 Jac. τὸν Δημήτριον οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι ἐδέχοντο … ἐπᾴδοντες ὡς εἴη μόνος θεὸς ἀληθινός, οἱ δʼ ἄλλοι καθεύδουσιν ἢ ἀποδημοῦσιν ἢ οὐκ εἰσίν. γεγονὼς δʼ εἴη ἐκ Ποσειδῶνος καὶ Ἀφροδίτης ‘the Athenians welcomed Demetrius … adulating him with the surmise that he was the only real god, whereas p 659 others were slumbering, or taking a trip, or simply did not exist; and that he was probably a descendant of Poseidon and Aphrodite’). τὸ ὄνομα τ. ἀληθινοῦ καὶ μόνου κυρίου 1 Cl 43:6 (cp. Just., D. 55, 2 κύριος μ.). μ. σοφὸς θεός the only wise God Ro 16:27 (Philo, Fuga 47 ὁ μ. σοφός; Heraclitus, Fgm. 32 ἓν τὸ σοφὸν μοῦνον). ὁ μ. δεσπότης the only one who is master Jd 4 (cp. Jos., Bell. 7, 323; 410). ὁ μακάριος καὶ μόνος δυνάστης 1 Ti 6:15.—Vs. 16; Rv 15:4. ⓑ with focus on being helplessly alone: alone, deserted, helpless (Hom. et al.; BGU 180, 23 [172 A.D.] ἄνθρωπος πρεσβύτης καὶ μόνος τυγχάνων; 385, 4; Wsd 10:1; TestJos 1:6; La 1:1) οὐκ ἀφῆκέν με μόνον J 8:29; 16:32ab (ἀφ. μόν. as Dio Chrys. 46 [63], 2). ⓒ with focus on isolation: isolated, by itself (cp. Bar 4:16; En 28:1; TestJud 5:3; JosAs 2:16; Ar. 11:2) ἐὰν μὴ ὁ κόκκος τ. σίτου … ἀποθάνῃ, αὐτὸς μόνος μένει J 12:24. In Hv 3, 9, 2 μ. refers to selfish Christians who isolate themselves fr. the needs of the hungry. ② a marker of limitation, only, alone, the neut. μόνον being used as an adv. (Aeschyl., Hdt. et al.) ⓐ limiting the action or state to the one designated by the verb (TestAbr A 4 p. 81, 25 [Stone p. 10]; TestJos 16:4; JosAs 24:10) Mt 9:21; 14:36; Mk 5:36; Lk 8:50; 1 Cor 7:39; 15:19; Gal 1:23; Phil 1:27; 2 Th 2:7; Hv 3, 2, 1.—οὐκ ἀλλὰ μ. Mt 8:8. ⓑ w. a noun (Just., A I, 22, 1 μ. ἄνθρωπος) or pron., to separate one pers. or thing fr. others: Mt 5:47; 10:42; Ac 18:25; Ro 3:29; Gal 2:10; Hb 9:10; Hm 12, 4, 7; τοῦτο μ. Gal 3:2. ⓒ used w. negatives α. μ. μή only not, not only (POxy 2153, 22; TestJob 45:1) Gal 5:13. οὐ (μὴ) μ. 4:18; Js 1:22; 2:24 (s. β below). οὐ μ. … ἀλλά (without καί when the second member includes the first. X., Cyr. 1, 6, 16; Diod S 4, 15, 1; Dio Chrys. 1, 22; 62; 64 [14], 7; Just., A I, 2, 1; B-D-F §448, 1) Ac 19:26 (but some mss. add καί); 1 Th 1:8; 1J 5:6. οὐ (or μὴ) μ. … , ἀλλὰ καί not only … , but also (PMich 209, 12 [c. 200 A.D.]; TestJos 10:3; Jos., Bell. 3, 102; Just., A I, 5, 4 al.) Mt 21:21; J 5:18; Ac 21:13; 26:29; 27:10; Ro 1:32; 9:24; 13:5; 2 Cor 8:10, 21; 9:12; Eph 1:21; Phil 1:29; 1 Th 2:8; 2 Ti 2:20; Hb 12:26; 1 Pt 2:18; Qua. οὐ (μὴ) … μ., ἀλλὰ καί J 11:52; 12:9; 13:9; 17:20; Ro 4:12, 16; Phil 2:27; 1 Th 1:5 al. οὐ … μόνον ἀλλὰ καί 1J 2:2. οὐδέπω … , μ. δέ not yet … , but … only Ac 8:16. οὐ μ. δέ, ἀλλὰ καί not only this, but also (ellipsis w. supplementation of what immediately precedes; Mitt-Wilck. II/2, 26, 9=27, 9 [108 B.C.]; cp. Sb 7616 [II A.D.]; Wsd 19:15; TestJob 35:1; Just., A I, 49, 5; B-D-F §479, 1; s. Rob. 1201ff) Ro 5:3, 11; 8:23; 9:10; 2 Cor 8:19. οὐ μόνον δὲ … ἀλλὰ καί (TestZeb 3:7) Ac 19:27; 2 Cor 7:7; 1 Ti 5:13. μὴ μ., ἀλλὰ πολλῷ μᾶλλον not only, … but much more Phil 2:12. οὐδὲν (μηδὲν) … εἰ μὴ … μόνον (TestAbr B 11 p. 116, 3 [Stone p. 80]; TestJob 11:7; Ar 13, 7) Mt 21:9; Mk 6:8. μηδενὶ … εἰ μὴ μ. Ac 11:19. On 1–2c s. KBeyer, Semitische Syntax im NT ’62, 126–29. β. in isolation οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως μόνον not by faith viewed in isolation Js 2:24 (NEB: ‘not by faith in itself’; Goodsp.: ‘not simply by having faith’; sim. Moffatt; s. Athanasius Alexandrinus, De Virginitate PGM 28, 260c; cp. Clem., Strom. 3, 15 οὐ γὰρ μόνον ἡ εὐνουχία δικαιοῖ=being a eunuch does not of itself justify. S. also πίστις 2dδ.) ⓓ ἵνα μόνον solely in order that 12:8; μόνον ἵνα Gal 6:12. ③ κατὰ μόνας (Thu. 1, 32, 5; X., Mem. 3, 7, 4; Menand., Epitr. 988 S. [658 Kö.], Fgm. 146 Kö.; Polyb. 4, 15, 11; Diod S 4, 51, 16; Gen 32:16; Ps 4:9; Jer 15:17; 1 Macc 12:36; TestJos 4:1; Jos., Vi. 326, Ant. 17, 336 al.—Also written καταμόνας; cp. BGU 813, 15 in APF 2, 1903, 97) alone γίνεσθαι κ. μ. be alone (Syntipas p. 9, 16) Mk 4:10.—Lk 9:18; Hm 11:8.—B-D-F §241, 6.—B. 937. DELG. Schmidt, Syn. IV 535–39. M-M. EDNT. Sv.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., pp. 658–659). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

This is the verbal cognate:

μονόω pf. pass. ptc. μεμονωμένος (μόνος; Hom. et al.; Musonius 73, 1 H.) make solitary pass. be left alone (Thu. 2, 81, 5; 5, 58, 2; Nicol. Dam.: 90 Fgm. 130, 30 p. 416, 15 Jac.; JosAs 13 [p.57, 5 Bat.] cod. A; Philo; Jos., Ant. 5, 280, Vi. 95; Tat. 14, 1) of a widow μεμονωμένη is left alone (cp. Anacreontea 37, 13 Preis.) 1 Ti 5:5.—DELG s.v. μόνος 8. M-M.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 659). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The "true God" of 1-John 5 is also the Father.

And divine loneliness is not really something the scriptures are concerned with:

Joh 16:32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

  • I have modified the question. Your answer that Thayer's is "mixed up" is inaccurate: ⓑ with focus on being helplessly alone: alone, deserted, helpless (Hom. et al.; BGU 180, 23 [172 A.D.] ἄνθρωπος πρεσβύτης καὶ μόνος τυγχάνων; 385, 4; Wsd 10:1; TestJos 1:6; La 1:1) οὐκ ἀφῆκέν με μόνον J 8:29; 16:32ab (ἀφ. μόν. as Dio Chrys. 46 [63], 2). Prior to 17:3 the cognate is always used in the context of being separated. Oct 8, 2016 at 22:23

αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωὴ, ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν Θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν

this moreover is the pertaining-to-age life that they should know you the alone true God and whom you have sent Yeshua Messiah

Yes, μόνον can mean alone. Before Yeshua came to earth or ever existed, the psalmist wrote:

All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.

For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.

Teach me thy way, O YHVH; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. Psalm 86:9-11

(Although it's debatable, the KJV puts "art" in italics to indicate this word is not in the original. Maybe he meant that God was lonely.)

The prophet Isaiah said:

"Thus saith YHVH, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am YHVH that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;" Isaiah 44:24

Maybe YHVH had always been lonely (until He began gathering His children into His kingdom). Maybe He alone is God (as in there are no gods beside Him). Either way, YHVH is the Only True God.

So God was lonely before Yeshua came, God was lonely when Yeshua came, and now the man Yeshua sits at the right hand of God, so God isn't lonely anymore.

I do find it interesting that μόνον is used 47 times in the Greek NT, and only two of those occurrences have a definite article before it- John 17:3 and John 5:44. The other instance says:

πῶς δύνασθε ὑμεῖς πιστεῦσαι, δόξαν παρ' ἀλλήλων λαμβάνοντες, καὶ τὴν δόξαν τὴν παρὰ τοῦ μόνου θεοῦ οὐ ζητεῖτε

How are able you to believe glory from one another receiving and the glory that from the only God not you seek

In English, we can replace "alone" with "only" in basically any situation. But we never say "the alone" unless we want to oddly use "alone" as a noun. So it seems that "the only" is the only plausible translation of μόνον in John 17:3. In addition, μόνον is never, ever translated as "lonely" and does not appear anywhere in the story of the prodigal son.


Yes, μόνον can mean "alone". It also means "only", so either is fine. With the definite article, "only" is the only word that makes sense. Either way, they both convey the same idea: that the Father alone is the Only True God.

  • "Although it's debatable, the KJV puts 'art' in italics to indicate this word is not in the original. Maybe he meant that God was lonely." Ermm - what? "Art" is the archaic copula, there because the Hebrew is a nominal clause (no explicit verb), so English verb supplied, and the KJV used the convention you mention. What is debatable about that? And what could it possibly have to do with God being "lonely"?? (And you've cited 86:9-11, btw, not just v. 9.)
    – Dɑvïd
    Aug 7, 2016 at 16:42
  • Hello @Davïd. I said it's debatable because YLT and most other translations do not put "art/are" in italics. I believe "are" should be there, but the KJV put it in italics for a reason (couldn't it technically say "shall be God alone"?) I believe μόνον should mean "only", but I can't prove it so I just wanted to cover all bases. If μόνον means "only" then the Father is the only true God. If μόνον means alone, then either the Father alone is God, or God has always been alone (because He is the only God). My point was, however one wishes to translate μόνον, the Father is the only true God.
    – Cannabijoy
    Aug 7, 2016 at 22:01
  • @Davïd, I fixed the verse citation. Sorry, I always put the first verse number and leave the rest out. I'll keep that in mind next time I quote multiple verses. Thank you.
    – Cannabijoy
    Aug 7, 2016 at 22:03
  • OK, I see: it's the italics that are debatable, not the "art". Well -- it was 400 years ago, and it's a well known convention (still used, I believe, by the New American Standard Bible? Not sure), so kind of a non-issue. I still don't understand what loneliness has to do with it, but maybe I just need more coffee.
    – Dɑvïd
    Aug 8, 2016 at 7:36
  • @Davïd If "the Father being called the alone true God means that God is lonely" makes sense to somebody, then surely YHVH being called "God alone" means the same thing. I'm not saying I agree with all of my answer, but Revelation Lad wants μόνον to mean "alone" so that Yeshua doesn't call the Father "the only true God". So he has reasoned that God is alone since "God the Son" is separated from Him. However, whether it means "only" or "alone", there is no other God besides the Father because He was "alone" before Yeshua ever came to earth (when Yeshua was supposedly being eternally begotten).
    – Cannabijoy
    Aug 8, 2016 at 9:45

The Letter uses the phrase ὁ ἀληθινὸς Θεὸς, the True God. ἀληθινὸν means true, real, genuine. It is derived from ἀληθής and emphasizes the organic connection (authentic unity) between what is true and its source or origin. It connects visible fact to underlying reality. [228 aléthinos] Thus, for the writer of the Letter, the phrase ὁ ἀληθινὸς Θεὸς fully describes their God: adding “one” or “only” is not necessary and would not add any meaning to ἀληθινὸς.

Further, if μόνον were necessary to accurately describe God [τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν Θεὸν, as in John 17:3] then the Letter would fall short of giving correct instruction on the subject of eternal life and the writer would have closed the Letter with what would be a significant error. No commentator notes that error; rather the question in the ending is over who οὗτός ἐστιν (He is) refers to in the phrase οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἀληθινὸς θεὸς.1 Therefore, ὁ ἀληθινὸς Θεὸς desctibes The True God.

The Letter begins with a statement of purpose, that a reader may have a special type of fellowship:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us... (1:1-3) 2

The writer was an original disciple and there were others who like the writer had first-hand physical experiences with Jesus; they want a reader to have fellowship with them. Their fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ which is ultimate joy:

…and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1:3-4)

The writer references the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the Letter:

  1. Jesus Christ is the Son of God whom the Father sent into the world to save it

    • The Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world (4:14)
    • God sent His only Son into the world to be the propitiation for our sins (4:9-10)
    • Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (4:2)
  2. Jesus returned to the Father

    • Jesus Christ is now their advocate with the Father. (2:1)
  3. Jesus Christ will return

    • When He appears (2:28 and 3:2)

The essence of the Gospel is that Jesus and the Father were together from the beginning and Jesus was sent into the world to save it. Jesus returned to the Father. Jesus will return to the world again. Being sent into the world required coming in the flesh. Coming in the flesh required leaving His Father’s house to take on human form. This separation from the Father was temporary as Jesus returned to His Father. The Son will return again. This sequence is used to begin the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (1:1-2)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (1:14)

No one has ever seen God; the only (μονογενὴς) God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. (1:18)

enter image description here In John 17, when Jesus is praying He adds μόνον to the phrase ἀληθινὸν θεὸν: “…this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God (τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν), and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3) At the time He is praying, Jesus is still in the period when He has “come in the flesh” and is separated from His Father.

μόνον when used as an adjective means "alone (without a companion)" or "solitary" [3441 monos] which is how the word is always used elsewhere in the Gospel of John:

And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone (μόνον), for I always do the things that are pleasing to him. (8:29)

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone (μόνον). Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. (16:32)

This is a comparision of how μόνον is used in the Gospel the Letter: enter image description here

When Jesus is praying His Father is still in that period of separation as a result of having sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world. Therefore eternal life is the knowledge of two things:

  1. The μόνον True God who is at that moment still separated from Jesus Christ whom He sent into the world.
  2. Jesus Christ whom the Father sent into the world.

When writing the Letter, John correctly omits μόνον stating eternal life is the knowledge of the True God because the fellowship between The Father and His Son Jesus Christ is once again as it was in the beginning. The separation, which was real, was not permanent. It was temporary. Knowledge of eternal life which had been knowledge of τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν Θεὸν and Jesus Christ whom was sent, is now knowledge of ὁ ἀληθινὸς Θεὸς.

The better translation of John 17:3 is:

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the solitary true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

1. This verse was one cited by the Arians as proof Jesus was a created entity. They understood οὗτος as "of God" where the orthodox view is οὗτος refers to the Son. For the purposes of examining the meaning of the omission of μόνον, it is significant that the Arians also understood ὁ ἀληθινὸς Θεὸς as a complete description of God.

2. All Scripture from English Standard Version.

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