Apparently there are several variations of the verse from John 1:18, but the main difference between the different renderings is the μονογενὴς θεός (monogenes theos, "the only God") versus ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (ho monogenes huios, "the only son") part.

If we assumed for a moment that the variation with 'theos' is the right one, and monogenes means one of a kind, only or unique, the Greek says:

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

Word-by-word translation without punctuation would be something like:

god no one has seen at anytime a unique god the [one] being in the bosom of the father he has made known

What I'd like to know is if this sentence can't be (grammatically restructured or be framed in a different way and) read something like this (with a change in punctuation, and from the idea that monogenes means one of a kind, only or unique):

“No one has ever seen God; the only (one) God. The one (being) in the bosom of the Father (OR sitting at his Fathers side) he has made Him known.”

And if we would assume that huios is the right one:

“No one has ever seen God. The only son; the one (being) in the bosom of the Father (OR sitting at his Fathers side), he has made Him known.”

Note: I'm not asking if these are options theologically, but if they could be grammatically if you look at the original Greek texts and consider that they don't contain any real punctuation marks.

  • 1
    Your profile led me to this answer which I think answers your own question here. I can’t stress this enough, there is no other than G-d, only one G-d there is, and although He may present Himself to us in many ways or manners He will remain the same, always and ever..
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 18:26
  • @Nigel J I’m not asking anything theological. I just want to know if there’s room to translate John 1:18 the ways I did grammar wise: if one could change the PUNCTUATION. If not I just want to understand how the Greek works in this sentence.
    – user4762
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 21:23
  • And If it is indeed a duplicate I’m sorry
    – user4762
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 21:26
  • I edited my answer to address your question more directly based on you comment to Tony.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 22:51
  • I deleted the yes because I think it answered your question wrong compared to the rest of my answerr.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 0:12

3 Answers 3


The word μονογενὴς whether it's with θεὸς, υἱός, or by itself (see text commentary at end) refers to the Son, not the Father. Where that is obvious is among the textual critics. The textual critics on the committee for the NA28 decides based on objective textual evidence, as seen in the commentary at the end. However, some textual critics who claim to see theological development in the New Testament claim that μονογενὴς θεὸς is impossible because it is too advanced a theology for John to see Jesus as God. (The last paragraph of the textual commentary set off in [], meaning a minority opinion) So, yes this textual variation does see Jesus as divine at the very least, and even without the article, μονογενὴς θεὸς sure looks like a claim for Jesus to be God, the cause of that particular textual critic's objection.

The problem with:

“No one has ever seen God [accusative]; the only (one) God [nominative]. The one (being) [nominative] in the bosom of the Father (OR sitting at his Fathers side) he has made Him known.”

the accusative is the direct object of the sentence and the nominative cannot be in apposition with the accusative, but is the subject of the next sentence, in other words is in apposition with "the one." Thus, that punctuation is misleading in English as far as the meaning of the Greek grammar. The next translation is OK:

“No one has ever seen God. The only son; the one (being) in the bosom of the Father (OR sitting at his Fathers side), he has made Him known.”

While the etymology (separating the compound word) of μονογενής is only begotten, the word actually means unique, one of a kind. See the following verse in which Isaac was not the only begotten son. He was one of a kind.

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 [τὸν μονογενῆ], 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” (Heb. 11:17–18, ESV)


As lexicographers have long noted, the root meaning of a word is not necessarily an accurate guide to the meaning of the word in later literature. The same is true of morpho-syntactic categories: One ought not look for some kind of invariant meaning that is always present with the preposition. The meaning of words changes in time. Further, a word has a field of meaning rather than a point. Such is no less true for prepositions than for other words. -- Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 363). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Some grammars still seem to embrace a root meaning for each preposition. E.g., Porter, Idioms, 142, argues that “most prepositions have a fundamental sense related to being situated in, moving toward[,] or moving away from a location.” This leads him to the conclusion that μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρός in John 1:18 means “[the] only begotten [sic] God who is directed toward the bosom of the father” (ibid., 153). -- Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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.) -- Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament)

58.52 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. -- Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 590). New York: United Bible Societies.

μονογενής, ές (Hes.+; LXX; Joseph.; loanw. in rabb.) only (so mostly, incl. Judg 11:34; Tob 3:15; 8:17) of children: of Isaac, Abraham’s only son (Jos., Ant. 1, 222)Hb 11:17. Of an only son (Plut., Lycurgus 31, 8; Jos., Ant. 20, 20)Lk 7:12; 9:38. Of the daughter (Diod. S. 4, 73, 2) of Jairus 8:42.—Also unique (in kind) of someth. that is the only example of its category (Cornutus 27 p, 49, 13 εἷς κ. μονογενὴς ὁ κόσμος ἐστί. μονογενῆ κ. μόνα ἐστίν=‘unique and alone’; Pla., Timaeus 92C). Of the mysterious bird, the Phoenix 1 Cl 25:2.—In the Johannine lit. μ. is used only of Jesus. The mngs. only, unique may be quite adequate for all its occurrences here (so M-M., RSV et al.; DMoody, JBL 72, ’53, 213-19; FCGrant, ATR 36, ’54, 284-87). But some (e.g. WBauer, Hdb.) prefer to regard μ. as somewhat heightened in mng. in J and 1 J to only-begotten or begotten of the Only One, in view of the emphasis on γεννᾶσθαι ἐκ θεοῦ (J 1:13 al.); in this case it would be analogous to πρωτότοκος (Ro 8:29; Col 1:15 al.). τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μ. ἔδωκεν J 3:16 (Philo Bybl. [100 AD] in Euseb., Pr. Ev. 1, 10, 33: Cronus offers up his μονογενὴς υἱός). ὁ μ. υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ vs. 18; cf. J 1:34 v.l. τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μ. ἀπέσταλκεν ὁ θεός 1J 4:9; cf. Dg 10:2. On the expr. δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός J 1:14 s. Hdb. ad loc. and PWinter, Zeitschrift für Rel. u. Geistesgeschichte 5, ’53, 335-65 (Engl.). Cf. also Hdb. on vs. 18 where, beside the rdg. μονογενὴς θεός (considered by many the orig.) an only-begotten one, God (acc. to his real being), or a God begotten of the Only One, another rdg. ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός is found. MPol 20:2 in the doxology διὰ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ τοῦ μονογενοῦς Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.—On the mng. of μονογενής in history of religion cf. the material in Hdb.3 25f on J 1:14 (also Plut., Mor. 423A Πλάτων. . . αὐτῷ δή φησι δοκεῖν ἕνα τοῦτον [sc. τὸν κόσμον] εἶναι μονογενῆ τῷ θεῷ καὶ ἀγαπητόν; Wsd 7:22 of σοφία: ἔστι ἐν αὐτῇ πνεῦμα νοερὸν ἅγιον μονογενές.—Vett. Val. 11, 32) as well as the lit. given there, also HLeisegang, Der Bruder des Erlösers: Αγγελος I ’25, 24-33; RBultmann J, 47, 2; 55f; FBüchsel, TW IV 745-50. -- Arndt, W., Gingrich, F. W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (1979). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature : a translation and adaption of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schrift en des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur (p. 527). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Here is Bruce Metzger's comments from A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition

1:18 μονογενὴς θεός {B}

With the acquisition of 𝔓66 and 𝔓75, both of which read θεός, the external support of this reading has been notably strengthened. A majority of the Committee regarded the reading μονογενὴς υἱός, which undoubtedly is easier than μονογενὴς θεός, to be the result of scribal assimilation to Jn 3:16, 18; 1 Jn 4:9. The anarthrous use of θεός (cf. 1:1) appears to be more primitive. There is no reason why the article should have been deleted, and when υἱός supplanted θεός it would certainly have been added. The shortest reading, ὁ μονογενής, while attractive because of internal considerations, is too poorly attested for acceptance as the text. Some modern commentators4 take μονογενής as a noun and punctuate so as to have three distinct designations of him who makes God known (μονογενής, θεός, ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς …).

[It is doubtful that the author would have written μονογενὴς θεός, which may be a primitive, transcriptional error in the Alexandrian tradition (Υς/Θς). At least a {D} decision would be preferable. A.W.]


ἐξηγέομαι occurs once in Luke (24:35) and 4 times in Acts (10:8; 15:12,14; 21:19) outside this verse. In the verses outside John, it is people doing the disclosing which involves giving account of experiences in which the details were unknown to the listeners.

  • I’m probably gonna ask you the most stupid thing; but how does one know that ‘theos/huios’ is nominative?
    – user4762
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 5:24
  • I mean in the ancient Greek ofcourse, not in the English translation.
    – user4762
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 6:12
  • By the case ending in Greek. Greek lexicons list a noun in it's nominative case form plus the genitive case ending, then the gender. For those who know Greek, this enough of identify what the other cases look like including plural. However, whatever software you use to access the Greek may tell you the case and number.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 9:02
  • Maybe my extensive answer to your initial question told you how to build a watch when all you were asking for was the time.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 12:54
  • Actually I liked your answer. But just to be sure how would you translate this verse and how would you use punctuation; I’m curious.
    – user4762
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 12:58

The answer is trivially obvious from the Greek text itself, and there is no need for any so-called "textual criticism" (which is not objective by the way). John 1:18 is:

θεον ουδεις εωρακεν πωποτε μονογενης θεος ο ων εις τον κολπον του πατρος εκεινος εξηγησατο

[The] god no one has ever seen. [The] only-begotten/unique god who is in the bosom of the father, that [one] declared [him].

(Capitalization and punctuation are not in the original. When referring to the one true God, the definite article is often used, but when it is clear from the context it is sometimes omitted.)

Your question is trivially answered by basic Greek grammar; the "θεον" is accusative but the "μονογενης θεος" is nominative, so unambiguously they cannot be in apposition. The end.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 12:41

The original text did not have punctuation or spaces, so it would be wriiten like this:

  • θεὸνοὐδεὶςἑώρακενπώποτεμονογενὴςθεὸςὁὢνεἰςτὸνκόλποντοῦπατρὸςἐκεῖνοςἐξηγήσατο

The center is ὢν and the sequence θεὸςὁὢν when read as θεὸς-ὁ-ὢν recalls how the Greek Old Testament records YHVH identifying Himself to Moses:

And God said to Moyses, "I am the One Who Is." And he said, "Thus shall you say to the sons of Israel, 'The One Who Is has sent me to you.'" (LXX-Exodus 3:14)

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν καὶ εἶπεν οὕτως ἐρεῗς τοῗς υἱοῗς Ισραηλ ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέν με πρὸς ὑμᾶς

Therefore when ὁ ὢν is read as The One Who Is, the author used two different terms to call μονογενὴς God: θεὸς and ὁ ὤν.

As Robert G. Hall writes, John 1:18 could be translated as:

No one has ever seen God; μονογενὴς θεὸς, The One Who Is, has Himself led out into the bosom of the Father.1

1. Robert G. Hall, "The Reader as Apocalyptist", John's Gospel and Intimations of the Apocalyptic, Edited by Catrin H. Williams and Christopher Rowland, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013, p. 268. [Note: Hall also discusses how ἐξηγήσατο means both to be a leader and to make known.]

  • Your reading ("The One Who Is, at the Father's side") is grammatically impossible. Please learn about how Greek prepositional phrases work.
    – David
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 5:55
  • @David Thank you. Adjusted accordingly...nevertheless, in the LXX, ὁ ὤν is the Name YHVH used of Himself when speaking to Moses Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 6:14
  • Your new reading ("The One Who Is, has Himself led out into the bosom of the Father") is nonsense, for semantic reasons.
    – David
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 8:24
  • Do you know that finding a citation to 'prove' your ideology is a common cognitive bias, and proves nothing at all? Anyway, you can find what you want. I'm not interested in findings but in truth.
    – David
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 15:54
  • @David It is not my ideology or cognitive bias. I recognize ὁ ὢν is the name the LXX used when Moses asks YHVH. It bias to acknowledge ὁ ὢν is how pre-Christian Hebrew scholars understood YHVH's response to Moses. It is a simple matter to recognize what John introduced in the Prologue and then expounds in detail. Commented Jun 3, 2022 at 14:35

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