A typical translation of John 1:14-18 usually reads about like this:

(John 1:14–18, ESV) 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. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Given that the only begotten god is translated as "who is at the Father's side" might it not be best to read verse 14 as "glory as of an only son beside a father rich in grace and truth"?


They both would benefit from some more evocative English.

18 θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.

18 nobody has seen God yet; the only child God (who is in the lap of the father) that one led (the knowledge of him) out.

Italics are my additions.

"Who is at the Father's side" is a pretty weak translation in my opinion. See https://logeion.uchicago.edu/κόλπος for a good sense of how "κόλπος" specifically invokes one's "bosom" or lap, e.g. putting something inside your clothes to carry it around, or even being in the womb, and metaphorically then extended to other kinds of cavities. It implies a much closer and intimate relationship than "beside".

And yes, a translation of verse 14 probably should include "coming from the side of something" since that is the basic cognitive model of παρὰ with a genitive object (rather than "at the side of" for dative or "to (or past) the side of" for accusative):

14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας·

14 and the word became flesh and pitched his tent among us, and we observed his reputation, reputation as only from the side of the father, full of favor and truth;

The meanings of prepositions and cases are a bit more abstract than a meaty noun like κόλπος, but by the same token they map less well from Greek to English, and are more frequently translated to overly-simple glosses.

I wouldn't assume in every case that one English verse affects how another should be translated, but in this case the Greek bears out for both verses.

  • Since you are teaching a language would you mind if I ask if you have experience or training in the language? Thanks. – Ruminator Jun 29 '19 at 16:16
  • 1
    I speak as a fellow-student, but perhaps a well-trained one. Greek was part of my Bible degree, and since then I have translated the entire New Testament and continue to learn Koine as a living language, including extra-biblical sources. Linguistically, I follow Taylor et al in the cognitive functional camp, although there are some areas of computational linguistics that pique my interest. – fumanchu Jun 30 '19 at 14:29

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