I was reading my New King James version of the Bible and found a footnote for this verse:

John 1:18 (NKJV)
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son,[a] who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

The footnote (found on the online version as well) says that another translation of this verse is "the only begotten God."

It seems that "son" and "god" are two very different words. Why was this footnote added? Was the original language showing "son" or "god"?


11 Answers 11


The footnote exists because textual variants exist (different manuscripts have different words). Although "son" and "god" seem different, μονογενὴς θεός (the only God) and ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (the only son) are actually not far off. In fact, in some of the manuscripts, they are contracted such that only one letter distinguishes them. We cannot be certain which was original, which is why the translators added the footnote.

  • 6
    monogenes theos appears to be the best reading (due to a lectio difficilior potior), though, it would be more likely to take 'God' appositionally, to render something like "the unique and beloved one, [himself] God"
    – Ray
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 23:29
  • 2
    The NET has much more thorough notes on this one: classic.net.bible.org/bible.php?book=John&chapter=1#n45
    – Soldarnal
    Commented Oct 10, 2011 at 21:58
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    You need to explain that the word μονογενὴς is mono-produced. So μονογενὴς θεός does not mean the "only god" but "the only produced god", "the only created god", or "the only begotten god". It can't be denied that this passage describes an entity that is produced/reproduced/created. So that the possibility exists that the passage says "the only reproduced/created god".
    – Cynthia
    Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 20:30
  • 2
    @BlessedGeek, The μονογενὴς is best translated as 'only-begotten' (NKJV, NASB) than 'only produced' to cohere with the scope of parent-to-offspring relationship in which the word is used (cf: John 1:18, 1 John 4:9). To beget means to make someone have one's nature.Thus, the word μονογενὴς encapsulates the idea of 'only child' not 'only created' as its primary semantic locus.
    – R. Brown
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 12:23
  • 2
    We shouldn't willy-nilly change the meaning of a word, or restrict its spectrum, just because we feel it is "best translated" that way.
    – Cynthia
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 0:02

According to Dan Wallace:

Turning now to the Church Fathers, Ehrman emphasizes the early date of υἱός by listing three specific Church Fathers “who were writing before our earliest surviving manuscripts were produced” (Irenaeus, Clement, and Tertullian). Regrettably, he does this without acknowledging any Church Father supporting θεός around the same period (or P66). I, therefore, will equally list three here: Irenaeus, Clement, and Eusebius. One may quickly notice that the same names appear on both sides of the debate. This redundancy, though, reveals the fact that many Fathers (both Greek and Latin) use υἱός as well as θεός in their writings at John 1.18. My point is that their are many names that could be used to support either reading.

(Wallace, Jesus as Θεὸς, Textual Examination, John 1:18)

The following are the four textual variants (in transliterated Greek) of John 1:18b:

1.  ho monogenês  (The Only-begotten One)

2.  ho monogenês huios (the only-begotten Son)

3.  monogenês theos (only begotten, God)

4.  ho monogenês theos (the only begotten God)

The following manuscripts support huios (all include the article):

  • Greek witnesses
    • Codex A - Alexandrinus (5th C.)
    • Codex C3 - "corrector" of Eprhraemi Rescriptus
    • Codex Θ - Tiflis (9th C.)
    • Codex Ψ - Athos (8/9 C.)
    • 063 = 9th C. Greek uncial
    • f1, 13 - "families" of 18 Greek minuscle mss
    • 𝔐 = majority Byzantine text
  • Versions
    • Old Latin
    • Curetonian Syriac (5th C.)
    • Heraclean Syriac (18th C. edition)

However, the following supports μονογενὴς Θεὸς as the correct reading :


The copyist has more likely to change "theos" to "huios" than vise versa.In fact, μονογενὴς Θεὸς is a so-called hapax legomenon - a rare one-time occurrence in the NT. Even if it were a simple scribal error, the sudden appearance of a "difficult reading" in the manuscript tradition would likely be corrected back to the normative text.


Some say that it's a gnostic corruption of the text but if that were so then why do we find the Old Testament and Jesus' ancestry in the very MSS?


μονογενὴς Θεὸς is represented in a great number of the earliest MSS, is prominent in the MSS that are considered to contain accurate texts, and is most probably what John actually wrote.

The following manuscripts support theos. This list conflates the evidence of those MSS which have an article (ho) and those without it (the latter is the text of Nestle-Aland):

  • Greek witnesses
    • Papyrus 66 [Papyrus Bodmer II] A.D. c. 200 (Martin), A.D. 100-150 (Hunger)
    • Papyrus 75 (A.D. 175-225)
    • Codex א - Sinaiticus (c. 330–360)
    • Codex B - Vaticanus (c. 325–350)
    • Codex C* - Eprhraemi Rescriptus (5th C.)
    • Apostolic Constitutions (A.D. 375 -380)
    • Codex L - Regius (A.D 701-800)
  • non-Greek witnesses
    • Bohairic Coptic [Codex Bodmer III] (A.D. 300)
    • Diatessaron ("Out of Four") of Titan the Syrian [Arabic version] (c. 160-175)
    • Syriac Peshitta (A.D 150)
    • A revision of the Georgian (10th century)
    • Opiza manuscript (A.D 913)
    • Tbet’ manuscript (A.D 995)
  • Late Greek
    • Minuscule 423 (A.D 1556)

Irenaeus' (A.D. 130-202) 'unigenitus deus' in his Against Heresies IV, 20, 11 is probably a John 1:18 quotation from an Old Latin MSS.

The Coptic versions is one of the earliest versions of the NT where huios is completely absent.

Wallace again:

... At the risk of sounding repetitive, θεός shows up again outside the Alexandrian tradition (e.g., early Latin Fathers in the Gospels are Western witnesses)76 with relatively strong textual weight (per Ehrman’s argument). (ibid.)

In sum, externally, both readings enjoy wide geographical distribution, even though υἱός is relatively stronger in non-Alexandrian forms of text. Both readings co-existed in the second century, although weightier MSS support θεός. As a whole, then, I believe θεός is more probable due to the quality, antiquity, and transmissional history of the witnesses listed above. (ibid.)

In retrospect, I conclude that μονογενὴς θεός is the best reading given all the evidence we have internally and externally. As a result, it is highly probable that the text of John 1.18 calls Jesus θεός. (ibid.)


Irenaeus, Clement ,Eusebius, Basil, Cyril, and Origen, Didymus, Epiphanius, Eusebius, Gregory-Nyssa, Heracleon, Hilary, Jerome, Origen, Ps-Ignatius, Ptolemy, Serapion, Synesius, Tatian, Theodotus, Valentinius, and Arius.


John 1:1 - pros ton theon / theos

John 1:1 - pros to theon

John 1:14 - monogenes

John 1:18 - monogenes / theos

John 20:28 - theos

You'll notice how coherent the prologue is when Θεὸς is the reading.This is an internal argument for the authenticity of the reading Θεὸς.

Stylistically, θεός closes the inclusio begun in 1.1c; also possibly providing a parallel with 20.28 (the Gospel as a whole). (ibid.)


There are two possible ways to translate the Greek phrase μονογενὴς Θεὸς:

adjective + substantive = only begotten God

substantive + substantive = only begotten , who is God or God only begotten

The μονογενὴς is best translated as 'only-begotten' (NKJV, NASB) cohering with the scope of parent-to-offspring relationship in which the word is used (cf: John 1:18, 1 John 4:9). To beget means to make someone have one's nature. Thus, the word μονογενὴς encapsulates the idea of 'only child' as its primary semantic locus.

  • @Davïd Aren't the quotes all from the source in the first quote?
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 18:10
  • What Koine lexicon says that monogenes means "to beget" let alone that "To beget means to make someone have one's nature"? That's "preacher Greek" - ie: ad hoc.
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 21:21
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    The word begat is always used in reference to children of parents scripturally. It is easy enough to do a simple word search to prove this out. Then when it comes to the son of god it means something different? To say begotten god means that this god is lesser that the unbegotten god he came from and in effect simply making him a son which is the whole purpose of the entire gospel of John - to say Jesus is the son of god.
    – JLB
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 15:33
  • @JLB, Unitarians will rejoice at this revelation.
    – Joshua B
    Commented Feb 24 at 3:07
  • 1
    @Joshua B, all should rejoice over the truth that the scriptures present. Why wouldn’t you rejoice at this revelation?
    – JLB
    Commented Feb 29 at 2:15

I too have pondered about the original version of John 1:18. In my mind there is one possibility that could explain the variations.

The advent of the versions can be reasonably attributed to understandable scribal interventions from the passing of time. If the original reading was as follows, it would support the criticism that later editors merely tried to clarify the passage:

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared Him.

My suggestion is to remove any qualifier of "only begotten"-(monogenes), which I am suggesting were all later additions. This would rationalize the existence of the textual variations.

Furthermore, removing the qualifiers would accord with John 1:14 leaving the matter up for later discovery.


Points to ponder:


If so then referring to Jesus as "only begotten" refers to his incarnation and virgin birth and not to some mythical and nonsensical "eternal begetting" that has been made up whole cloth to support Trinitarianism. * the concept of "only begotten son" is appears often in John and appears elsewhere in the NT including 1 John whereas "only begotten God" appears nowhere else in scripture explicitly or in concept:

Joh_1:14  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Joh_1:18  No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

Joh_3:16  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.

Joh_3:18  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Heb_11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

1Jn_4:9  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. * textual variants in a Trinitarian bent are found in scriptural manuscripts with significant frequency that were found in the KJV but now considered so specious that they do not appear in modern English translations so yet another is not without precedent

The manuscript evidence is ambivalent but the scriptural precedent is not that "only begotten God (capital "G")" is a Binitarian corruption. I say "Binitarian" since the corruption appears centuries before the Trinity had been invented.


The scriptures are protected from error by the presence of multiple repetitions of its message in various places throughout the scriptures themselves. It is an intrinsic application of "in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established". Because there are multiple repetitions of "only begotten son of God" but nothing else to corroborate "only begotten God" it is, scripturally speaking, established that the correct translation is "only begotten son".

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    While I agree with your statement about it being conflicting in terms of sense(i.e. putting the cart before the horse as it were), I find your statements about 'the Trinity' to be likely 'off-topic'.
    – user21676
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 3:42
  • Wait...what? I read through this several times, but it doesn't seem to answer the question at hand. In fact, the entire post seems incohesive and lacking a central idea. What are you trying to say with this? Should it be "son" or should it be "god"? Or are you trying to answer a different question that wasn't even asked?
    – Richard
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 12:30
  • @Richard I mistakenly put "punctuation" when I meant "capitalization" - fixed. I added a clarifying update.
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 12:40

No, it should not. Where there is apparent ambiguity about different MSS renditions of John 1:18 and which should be used, another way of settling the matter lies in examining the context and what the New Testament states about Jesus Christ as prototokos and monogenēs.

John 1:18 uses the word monogenēs to tell us about the divine relationship of Father and Son, in one Holy Spirit. It does not tell us anything about birth. Nor does it tell us anything about the one called 'monogenēs' being God. There are some modern translations that change the text to μονογενὴς θεὸς = 'monogenēs Theos', making the translation read 'only-begotten God'. This is due to a different Greek variant (root text) of this verse which is often preferred by modern translators.

Its introduction goes back to the late 1800s when Dr Hort influenced a translation committee to go by a variant manuscript so as to make this change, and it undermines the unique, divine, relationship of the Father and Son, in one Holy Spirit. It is only several modern translations that make this change, based on that variant text. Few people even notice this, but God the Father was never 'only-begotten', only the Son holds this unique, relational position in the Godhead.

Intricate rules of Greek grammar apply that would rule out claiming that the Son is "the only begotten God", if only those rules were applied. See the Stack link below for that as some answers delve into those intricacies.

John 1:18 never says this only-begotten Son was born, nor does it say he is God. He was in the bosom position with God the Father, then had human nature (via Mary) added to his divine nature (via the operation of the Holy Spirit). That accounts for the uniqueness of this Holy One! The prototokos was brought forth of Mary. He was The Son of her. And Joseph, as commanded by an angel, called his name Jesus. And this One alone could walk amongst us and declare and reveal the Father to us, because of their unique relationship in one Holy Spirit. Awesome!

Most of the above formed part of my answer to a similar Stack question asked on 12/10/2021, here:
Uniquely divine begotten/born one


I appreciate all that is said here, but I think the slight emphasis and attention paid to the 2nd century (ANF Vol 1 and 2) of the Early Church Greek Fathers, is why so many sit on the fence. Some posted comments above point out that some use both "only begotten God" and "only begotten Son", but I think many fail to recognize that: Soooooo many early church writers in the 10 volume ANF set, called the Father, the UNBEGOTTEN GOD and this CLEARLY implies that they have and believe John 1:18 which says "the only begotten God in the bosom of the Father) coming forth, infers Psalm 2:7 the Father that has the Word (Λογος) come forth from him, begotten not made, as the Nicene Creed says, and is therefore, being the begotten God, the Father is the UNBEGOTTEN God, and the begotten God, is the begotten Son of the Unbegotten God. Head spinning yet? This is how they all spoke that I have read. Relying on 2000 year removed Sherlock Holmes approach to textual criticism, and ignoring the ANF witness near the fountain head, or paying little heed, is why we cannot see it.

Again, as the gentleman pointed out above in Ignatius of Antioch's epistle to the Philippians, he called the Christ the "only begotten Son", well how do you know he was not uniting in doctrine John 3:16 with John 1:18? This is how Ignatius letters (longer versions) read in my view.

Irenaeus quotes John 1:18 as "only begotten God" in Against Heresies, Book 4, and also begotten Son, but as I explained above, it is reasonable to unite John 1:18 and 3:16 based on Proverbs 8 and Psalm 2:7 quoted in Hebrews, etc.

The Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed read as they do, because of this unified position seen in the ANF.

Bless y'all. Brett Hancock

  • Hello Brett and welcome to the site. Rather than just mentioning your sources can you please quote them? Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 19:55

Let us suppose that the manuscript evidence alone cannot decide the issue. If we assume that the original reading was ΟΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΗCYC(YC being a nomen sacrum abbreviation for YIOC/SON), we would see that this fits very well with John’s description elsewhere of Jesus as “the only/unique/only-begotten Son”. If we then envisage an erroneous copying as OMONOΓΕΝΗCΘC (ΘC being a nomen sacrum abbreviation for ΘΕΟC/GOD), we would then be faced with the problematic phrase of “the only/unique/only-begotten God” - problematic in that it would appear to imply (if not indeed state) that no other person, eg the Father, could be such God. So, we can easily see that an “orthodox” corrector would assume that the definite article was an error, and that he would omit it - thus giving rise to the (apparently) preferred reading of ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΗCΘC. If it is claimed that this last reading was the original, we have to suppose a deliberate alteration or two to that original reading - adding the definite article to get the middle reading, and changing that reading to get to the majority reading.

  • And how does one claim that ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΗCΘC means “THE only/etc God”, when that is precisely what is meant by ΟΜΟΝΟΓΕΝHCΘC? If MONOΓΕΝΗCΘC is translatable, it can mean only “AN only/etc god”. Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 3:37
  • It seems to me that the discarding of the majority reading complicates and confuses both the transmissional and the translational problems. Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 3:38
  • The initial cause of the confusion in the reading appears to be the wretched scribal practice of the nomina sacra/sacred names - wretched, precisely because the practice led to confusion and various readings in places! Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 13:45
  • Then do you suppose John 1:18 should read “...the only begotten God”? Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 21:01
  • Thanks for your comment! No, I believe the true reading is HO MONOGENÉS HYIOS / the unique Son. (The Old Latin preference seems to be UNICUS FILIUS rather than the later (Vulgate) UNIGENITUS FILIUS : as the Latin speakers knew that unicus could not mean only-begotten, theological dogma had to change it to unigenitus.) Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 22:30

I'll give one textual argument, one scholarly argument that flows with the textual argument, and one historical argument for why "only-begotten God" has been recognized as the right translation.

From the text, do you note how in John 1:1-18, God isn't called Father until Monogenes is used? And how in v14 Monogenes even seems to be its own Name (such that it's possible that Monogenes originally stood alone and the "God" vs "Son" debate may have become necessary due to Arianism)? This only makes sense if God needs to be distinguished from Monogenes because Monogenes is also YHWH. At which point they're clarifying which YHWH is which. The "Son" translation offers no such necessity but the "God" translation does. Note: the Jews already had a conception of the Trinity: when John says "the Word", for example, we now know thanks to the discovery of the Targums that he's saying "the Memra" — ergo, the angel of YHWH — and not "the Logos", as was so often presumed before the Targums were found. It's precisely because of the discovery of the Memra that scholars no longer give weight to alternate translations of "the Word" into translations like "the Logic". It's because the use of "Logos" is a Greek translation of "Memra".

Now, the argument proposed against this has been that "Son" is more consistent with the other times that John says "only-begotten Son", whereas "only-begotten God" only appears once. However, this rebuttal can be disproved by pointing out that John didn't write John 1:1-18 to begin with. It is a pre-Pauline oral tradition — one of many in the NT — that represents what the Apostles were teaching from as early as 1-7 years after Yeshua's resurrection. So whichever Apostle settled on the final language of the hymn wasn't John, to begin with.

Another example of such a tradition is Phillipians 2:6-11. Note how in v11, God again is called Father only in relation to Yeshua being called Lord. These two hymns/creeds are coming from the same mind. Moreover, the reason why "God" becomes "Father" is the same as with Monogenes: it's happening due to the fact that when the Apostles called Yeshua "Lord", they were calling him YHWH and/or ha-Adon (a YHWH term, just like ha-Elohim, which is "God"). That they were calling him YHWH can be seen from Romans 10:9-13, where Paul roots his teaching about confessing that Yeshua is Lord in Joel, showing that "Lord" is "YHWH". That they were calling him "ha-Adon" can be seen when Malachi 3 is quoted, such as in Mark 2:2, to show that John the Baptist was the messenger who prepared the way for Yeshua, who is the Lord who returned to his temple. To further cement this, I'd also note that while Unitarians read "God" as an ontological term in the NT, evidence shows that the Apostles were using it as a replacement for the name YHWH. One example of this is when Hebrews quotes from Isaiah 8:18. So "God" vs "Lord" in the NT are both YHWH substitute terms that are being used to distinguish one YHWH from the other YHWH.

So, we can see now the necessity of "God" becoming "Father" in relation to "Monogenes" and "Lord". It was yet another manner of distinguishing. So even when John says "only-begotten Son" he's still using a YHWH term. This can be seen by his explanation that Yeshua was claiming equality with God when he called God his Father (John 5:18). The Unitarian comments are quite bankrupt, you can start to see.

But the big point here is to note that John didn't write 1:1-18, which is why the language is different, so objection on the basis of the different language is illogical. Further, we can see that the language of the hymn is consistent with itself: it starts by establishing that the Memra is eternal and uncreated, that the Memra is YHWH, and ends by explaining which YHWH the Memra is. This consistency in language beats out the supposed consistency with the language of John because (again) John didn't write c1:v1-18.

Now, for the historical argument, I always see Unitarians making a big deal that so many of the Only-Begotten God manuscripts come from Egypt. What they don't tell you is that Egypt was the last refuge of Trinitarianism after Arianism almost completely took over. From Egypt, Athanasius, if I'm remembering right, argued for the sake of the Trinity from the text and Arianism lost. It makes sense therefore that Egypt, which remained faithful to the Trinity, would have the Only-Begotten God manuscripts. That's whether Monogenes originally stood alone and then the Trinitarianism vs Arianism debate produced the competing translations or whether (as the consistency of the pre-Pauline oral tradition texts of John 1:1-18 and Phillipians 2:6-11 evidence, via how they consistently refer to God as Father only as a qualifier that for some reason becomes necessary for distinction) Monogenes God was the original.


"only begotten God" is supported by P66, P75, Alef, B, C, 33; all from Egypt; all poor, dead-end manuscripts.

"only begotten Son" is supported by: A Cc Q 1 10 13 35 47 60 69 83 118 157 263 382 480 489 544 700 703 726 788 825 927 943 1005 1006 1023 1113 1190 1195 1200 1201 1217 1232 1242 1247 1251 1313 1319 1322 1341 1342 1355 1476 1478 1492 1582 2322vid 2372 2382 f-1 f-13 MT TR a b c e f ff2 q + E07 F09 G011 H013 K017 L019 M021 S U Y D L P Y W 2 21 28 178 229 399 461 475 565 579 669 944 1071 1191 1203 1220 1222 1235 1346 1424 1470 1514 2358 Wsuppsup + many more that aren't listed in the cntts database.

NT textual critics such as Aland, Metzger, Hort and others base their art on faulty assumptions, bias against the majority text, and principles that necessarily mean they will select the deviant texts rather than the mainstream. They overlook the fact the the New Testament was written in the midst of the Christian Community and propagated by that community. The Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit relegated the preferred texts of the critics to oblivion. --At least until people began digging through the rubbish dumps of Egypt.

John 1:18 is good enough reason to not use bibles based on the Nestle/Aland/UBS text. No where else in the Bible does the phrase "only begotten God" appear, but John often uses the phase "only begotten Son". To a normal student of the Bible that would indicate, together with the manuscript evidence that "only begotten Son" is the correct reading. But no, not to the 'scholars'! The errant (difficult) reading is to be preferred over the sensible one! (one of their faulty principles).

  • 3
    Please justify calling them "poor, dead-end manuscripts"! P66 and P76 are two of the most significant papyrus manuscripts we have, and Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are both very well preserved. Honestly you seem to be the one who is biased here. You have two substantial lists for both variants, but you dismiss one out of hand. And don't forget that Vaticanus was in, you know, the Vatican! I say all of that even though on this particular verse I think it's very possible that 'son' might be authentic. What I object to is your out of hand rejection of so many important manuscripts.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 10:23

The OP asked:

Was the original language showing "son" or "god"?

The original language of John 1:18 is unknown. Even some of the church fathers disagreed as to its likely wording. For example:

  • Alexander (d. IV CE) in his Epistles on the Arian Heresy wrote the phrase "the only-begotten Son" (9, 49). Note: Alexander died during the time that codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were written (see below).
  • Earlier, Clement of Alexandria (d. 210-219 CE) penned "The only-begotten God" (Stromata V-153).
  • Even earlier, Ignatius (d. 107 CE) alluded that the text he used read "the only-begotten Son" (Epistle to the Philippians 12).

Moreover, the different text types (both western and eastern) underlying John 1:18 do little to indicate the original wording of this verse. Extant mss. P66 and P75 (ca. 175-225 CE) both show ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΗCΘC (μονογενης θεος|only begotten Deity = a Hebraism) at John 1:18, as do codices B/03/Vaticanus (c. 325-375 CE) and ℵ/01/Sinaiticus (c. 375-425 CE).

But by the time of codex A/02/Alexandrinus (c. 450-499 CE), the wording was altered to read ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΗCΥC (μονογενης υιος|only begotten Son = the orthodox, pro-Trinitarian, Christian spin).

What was the original wording of John 1:18? The answer seems to depend on which manuscript text one prefers.

  • P66 and P75 are given early dates...How much older was the source they used to make those copies? Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 22:41

The preceding answers contribute enough information on the different sources but little comment on the source of those differences.

There are two options, speaking for either possibility:

In favour of "Son":

All scriptures agree that Jesus is the son of the Holy Spirit. Taking from the contribution of @TheWayist, Logos= Memra, the passage is undisputed. Assuming that the author of the Gospel is John the Apostle or someone referring to him, this is the only option.

In favour of "God":

From the same argument, it is possible that the text had been changed. The original text would then disclose a polytheistic author who did not see the problem. This must lead to the conclusion that the Gospel of John is apocryphal, and the corrections were made in the spirit that it can't be what mustn't be.

I don't know which option is right.

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