This question wants to determine the most accurate translation of μονογενὴς Θεὸς in John 1:18 under the assumption that it is the correct reading.*

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

John 1:18 (Westcott and Hort 1881)

What is the most accurate rendering of μονογενὴς Θεὸς into English?


*Textual variant reads υἱός (son)

  • 1
    Please keep in mind that this is not a Christian site. Be sure to check out what makes us different from other sites that study the Bible. While you will undoubtedly hear Christian perspectives, we don't have any definition of 'orthodoxy' and welcome all perspectives here. If you would like an interpretation from a specific Christian perspective, you might try Christianity.SE.
    – Dan
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 13:28
  • But the reader should know that there can be no absolute certainty that μονογενὴς Θεὸς is the correct reading in John 1:18. The reader will then need to answer based on the assumption that it is the correct reading.
    – user862
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 18:24
  • You chose to revert to the question about Christian theology after Dan removed that aspect of a prior version because it was not within the scope of this site. It is still not within the scope of this site.
    – Susan
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 9:02
  • @Susan, I edited my question. I think it is now way better because it is now within the scope of this site.
    – R. Brown
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 9:20
  • 1
    It means that unlike Almighty God who is unbegotten, Jesus was begotten.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 13:03

11 Answers 11


"Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. . . . No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God [μονογενὴς θεός], who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known" (John 1:14 and 18 NET Bible, my emphasis).

The word begotten, as the NET Bible's translation, above, implies, is perhaps an unfortunate rendering of the Greek word monogenes (μονογενὴς). One of my earliest memories from my upbringing in a conservative Christian denomination is the word begat, a variant of begotten, as in

"And Terah begat Abraham, and Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat . . .," ad infinitum.

Where would genealogies be without a host of begats?!

To beget, of course, means "to become the father of" in the normal way; namely, the husband contributes his seed, the woman contributes her egg, the seed fertilizes the egg, and a human being is created and then "knit, or woven, together" in the womb of the mother-to-be (see Psalm 139:13 ff.). Nine months later, a baby is born.

The "begetting" of Jesus, however, did not proceed in the normal way. As S. Michael Houdmann observed,

"So what does monogenes mean? According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD, 3rd Edition), monogenes has two primary definitions. The first definition is 'pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship.' This is its meaning in Hebrews 11:17 [where] the writer refers to Isaac as Abraham's 'only begotten son' (KJV). Abraham had more than one son, but Isaac was the only son he had by Sarah and the only son of the covenant. Therefore, it is the uniqueness of Isaac among the other sons that allows for the use of monogenes in that context." (Note: my emphasis.)

"The second definition is 'pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind.' This is the meaning that is implied in John 3:16 (see also John 1:14, 18; 3:18; 1 John 4:9). John was primarily concerned with demonstrating that Jesus is the Son of God (John 20:31), and he uses monogenes to highlight Jesus as uniquely God's Son—sharing the same divine nature as God—as opposed to believers who are God's sons and daughters by adoption (Ephesians 1:5). Jesus is God’s 'one and only' Son." (Note: my emphasis.)

From the perspective of John the Evangelist, both definitions (i.e., unique within a specific relationship, and unique in class or kind) applied to Jesus Christ. A Latin phrase which perhaps provides an excellent synonym for monogenes is sui generis, which means one of a kind, unique, singular.

In His relationship to the Father, the Word is utterly unique. Just as Isaac, the child of promise, was utterly unique (though Abraham had other offspring), so also the Word of God was uniquely the child of promise. Countless millions human beings whom God calls his image-bearers have come and gone in human history, but only one person, Jesus Christ, was one essence with the Father.

Regarding the miraculous birth of Isaac, God appeared to Abraham in a vision, promising him a great reward. That reward was an heir,

"one who will come forth from your own body [, Abram]" (Genesis 15:4 ff.).

To ratify this promise, or covenant, God instructed Abram to shed the blood of animals (viz., a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon). While Abram slept the sleep of death, as it were, "a smoking oven and a flaming torch passed between" the animal sacrifices, and God pledged not only innumerable descendants to Abram, but also real estate, a land "from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates" (ibid., vv. 9-21).

Regarding the Word becoming flesh, the promise which God fulfilled was made not in time but in eternity past within the eternal counsels of God, the same God

"who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Ephesians 1:11 KJV).

Contrary to popular belief, God's plan of saving humankind from the penalty and power of sin was not "Plan B." From eternity, God had only "Plan A," and that plan is in the process of being fulfilled, until one day he will save us from the very presence of sin in his eternal kingdom.

The Word who became a flesh-and-blood human being was unique not only in His relationship to His Father, but He was also unique by being both the Son of God and the Son of Man in one person. Theologians call the oneness of the human and the divine in Jesus the hypostatic union. In short, the Word was the God-Man, the One in whom

". . . all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9).


". . . it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him . . . whether things on earth or things in heaven" (Colossians 1:19-20).

That the very essence of God would reside in a human being was made possible because the child of promise (the "seed of the woman" in Genesis 3:15) who was born to the virgin Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18 and 20; Luke 1:35). Being both fully God and fully man, Jesus could then become the perfect sacrifice for the sins of humankind, the One whom John identified as the

"Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world" (1:29 and 36).

The uniqueness of the identity of Jesus of Nazareth comprises the foundation of Christian theology. Conservative Christians down through the centuries have insisted, even at the cost of their lives, that Jesus was and always will be "the one and only" Son of God. The Nicene Creed (with scripture references) states this bedrock confession as follows:

[We believe in ] . . . in ONE Lord Jesus Christ, (Acts 11:17)

the Son of God, (Mathew 14:33; 16:16)

the Only-Begotten, (John 1:18; 3:16)

Begotten of the Father before all ages. (John 1:2)

Light of Light; (Psalm 27:1; John 8:12; Matthew 17:2,5)

True God of True God; (John 17:1-5)

Begotten, not made; (John 1:18)

of one essence with the Father (John 10:30)

by whom all things were made; (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Who for us men and for our salvation (1Timothy 2:4-5)

came down from Heaven, (John 6:33,35)

and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, (Luke 1:35)

and became man. (John 1:14)

In conclusion, the answer to the question "Did Jesus have a beginning?" is both yes and no. As God's "one and only," no, Jesus is eternally God the Son. As Yeshua, the son of the virgin Mary, yes, Jesus "became flesh and took up residence with us" (John 1:14). Moreover, in becoming a human being, Jesus made God known to us. In other words, Jesus was literally the exegesis of the very person of God to a world of fallen humanity, whom God loves dearly (John 3:16).

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/only-begotten-son.html#ixzz318n2PlPo

  • Can you discuss Heb 11:17, where the word μονογενής appears (referring to Isaac), who was NOT the firstborn of Abraham? In other words, are there further nuances of μονογενής related to Covenant Promise (Abrahamic Covenant) when speaking about Jesus, who is μονογενής?
    – Joseph
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 23:14
  • @Joseph: From God's perspective, Isaac WAS Abe's firstborn--the firstborn child of the promise God made to Abe when he was 75 years old. God did not treat "firstborn" (according to the "flesh") Ishmael like chopped liver, however, and made some great promises to him and his descendants (Ge 17:20), even though he was not THE child of promise. Interestingly, God underscored the nature of the unilateral promise He made to Abe by putting him into a deep sleep, rather than walking through the sacrificial animals with Abe in "suzerain treaty" fashion. IOW, God's word alone was sufficient! Commented May 10, 2014 at 0:15
  • @Joseph: As for Jesus, the antitype of Isaac, He too was the "one and only" child of promise, the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). In love, the Father allowed the heel of His μονογενής to be bruised at the cross by the seed of the serpent, so that whoever believed in the Son would not perish but have eternal life through Him (John 3:16). In turn, the head of the serpent's seed was crushed at Calvary when Jesus cried "Accomplished!" Commented May 10, 2014 at 0:33
  • @rhetorician, Your answer is excellent!
    – R. Brown
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 7:52
  • @RadzMatthewCoBrown: Thank you for your encouragement! Don Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 11:43

μονογενης θΣ = only kindred Almighty

The phrase means the Son is the only one of like kind to the Father, having the same nature of shared Almightiness.


Even though now an out moded expression, the most accurate translation of the Greek, here in question in John 1:18, is "Only Begotten" which is adjectival to the second "theos". In the NT it appears 9 times (more often in the Septuagint). It's meaning is archaic (of a child) being the single of it's kind, "only" offspring of it's father. In this case the "Father". In Heb, 11:17 we see that the "OB" is used in respect of the covenantal son Isaac, of Abraham, even though Abraham had previously fathered Ishmael, and later would father several sons through Keturah. God's covenant, however, was established only through Isaac and who was the only son in his father's household at the time Abraham offered him up.

More often than not, when one thinks of the "only begotten", one usually perceives that the person being talked about is the spiritual personage of Jesus (another only begotten covenantal son) and indeed this is the case in John 1:14; 3:16,18 and 1 John 4:9 but possibly not so much in John 1:18. The Greek word for the "OB" is "Monogenes" and the often question is: Are we talking about a Monogenes "theos", or a Monogenes "huios"? (God/god, or, Son), as some "MSS", ancient and more modern, invoke Son rather than God/god in John 1:18. Dan Wallace prefers god (with a small "g"). The "KJV" begs to differ and prefers Son, and the "NASB" prefers God (with a capital G), so it's irresolute. The weightier "MSS" support is towards "theos", rather than "huios", being more for the sake of deity, which is after all more contextual when one really get's down to determining true meaning. So, are we talking "God" here, or, are we really talking in respect of "a god". The word "Monogenes", also expresses "uniqueness" as opposed to mere "sonship". Here we have the son revealing the Father and we are being reminded of the son's covenantal role as the soon to be mediator of salvation. One should note that the declension of the second theos here is declined the same as the second theos in John 1:1c, again we have an anarthrous pre verbal noun , not having an article/determiner, so neither definite or indefinite, although in John 1:1c, an indefinite article is thought to be implied, resulting in an "a god" translation, in non-trinitarian circles at least, but not to the exclusion of deity. It's the quality of Jesus' deity that's in question in both John 1:1 and John 1:18. What's also in question, in respect of both verses, is as to whether we are talking about an indefinite Jesus, or a qualitative Jesus. Is one talking about Jesus as one of a class of others, or are we talking about his essence/nature. Even if either one were to be fact, I don't think, when giving the two context's all due consideration, that we should be equating Jesus with the Almighty.... What we are talking about is the "only begotten" Son of God; the firstborn; the "covenantal" Son; in the bosom position of (with) the Father; occupying a special place of favor with that one; who had to be "begat/created"; whereas the Almighty already "WAS".


The more proper translation of "μονογενὴς Θεὸς" is "the unique god." We see "μονογενὴς" used elsewhere in Scripture in this sense such as in Hebrews 11:17 where we see "μονογενὴς" used in its conjugated form: "By faith Abraham offered up Isaac and he that had received the promises offered up his μονογενῆ." Obviously "only begotten" here is not an adequate translation as those reading this probably know that Abraham had another begotten son by the name of Ishmael. The translation "unique" captures the wider spectrum that "μονογενὴς" is used on. It can mean "unique" in sense of the subject in question being uniquely someone's child as we find in places such as in Luke 9:38 for example or it can mean "unique" in sense of "one of a kind" or something of that nature as we find in Hebrews 11:17 since as the next verse (Heb 1:18) explains "to Isaac shall your [Abraham's] offspring be named" (i.e. Isaac was the one who inherited the promise God made to Abraham therefore making him Abraham's unique child). The context determines which meaning is meant. In regards to interpretation, despite appearances, the variant readings "son" and "god" in John 1:18 doesn't really change the meaning of the text too much. Jesus being the unique god doesn't make him the Almighty God or promote any gnostic ideas as the term "god" in the Hebrew culture and language was used on a much wider spectrum than in English. Thus, we find Jesus in John 10:34 quoting Psalm 82:6 where God's appointed rulers and judges are called "gods" as mighty men with great authority (i.e. ones with power over powers). Jesus being the "unique god" means that he is God's uniquely appointed King and ruler as the one who will usher in the Messianic Age and who will execute God's authority on earth (Isa 11)(Zec 9:9-10). Indeed, no man has been given as much authority and power as Jesus.

  • I question you why you say "Uniquely?" What's the Greek word for uniquely?. Greek Translation μοναδικώς monadikós"-wordhippo.com/what-is/the/…
    – user26950
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 23:07
  • Thank you for correcting me. I'll edit my comment. Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 1:43
  • I still question you on this? "What's the Greek word for unique? Greek Translation μοναδικός monadikós," (www.wordhippo.com) which does not appear in John 1:18. Is this not going beyond the things written?
    – user26950
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 22:25
  • The proper translation of "μονογενὴς" is "unique" (lit. "one of a kind"). The evidence for this has been discussed in another forum: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/14075/… Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 23:07
  • NO, the meaning is "one of a kind" the Translation is "only-begotten god."
    – user26950
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 8:00

I find a real problem with many translators on the verse, John 1:18, when they use a manuscript with the Greek for "son" in this verse they use the word "only-begotten" BUT when the use a manuscript the the Greek word for "god" they use "God the only one" or some phrase like this, examples beloww:-

John 1:18


"No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."-https://afaithfulversion.org/john-1/

"No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."-KJV

"No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him."- 21st Cent. KJV

"No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.-YLT

"No man hath seen God at any time; [a]the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."-ASV


"No one has ever seen God; the only God,[a] who is at the Father's side,[b] he has made him known."-ESV

"No one has ever seen God [God the Father, who is pure spirit; 4:24]. But ·God the only Son[a] [God the one and only; the only Son who is himself God; T God the only begotten] is ·very close to [by the side of; close to the heart of; T in the bosom of] the Father, and he has ·shown us what God is like [made him known]."-EXB

"No one has ever seen God. The uniquely existing God,[a] who is close to the Father’s side, has revealed him."-ISV

"No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like."-CEV

And yet most Bible read

John 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."- KJV

Why not just put what God inspired it to say:-

"μονογενὴς Θεὸς," "only-begotten god"?


The 'Theological Dictionary of the N.T.' page 607 defines "monogenes" as only begotten."

I think here we do not need to expand much on "theos" as it means "god" or God" according to context etc..

Thus from the Greek "0nly-begoteen god"

Example of the meaning in use:-

'The N.T.', A new translation by Richmond Lattimore, "among the most distinguished translators of the Greek classics." John 1:18 "No one has ever seen God; the only-born God who is in the bosom of his father, it is he who told of him."


"begotten [bih-got-n] verb a past participle of beget.

beget [bih-get] verb (used with object), be·got or (Archaic) be·gat; be·got·ten or be·got; be·get·ting. (especially of a male parent) to procreate or generate (offspring). cause; produce as an effect: a belief that power begets power."-https://www.dictionary.com/browse/begotten


John 1:18 - “Only-begotten god”, others read “Only-begotten son.”

(ASV) No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

(>Bishops) No man hath seene God at any tyme: The onely begotten sonne which is in the bosome of the father, he hath declared hym.

(Darby) No one has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him .

(DRB) No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the Bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

(EMTV) No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, He who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

(Geneva) No man hath seene God at any time: that onely begotten Sonne, which is in the bosome of the Father, he hath declared him.

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

J. Strong’s Greek Dictionary No. 3439 μονογενής monogenēs mon-og-en-ace From G3441 and G1096; only born, that is, sole: - only (begotten, child).

(LITV) No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, that One declares Him.

(MKJV) No one has seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

(Murdock) No man hath ever seen God; the only begotten God, he who is in the bosom of his Father, he hath declared [him].

(Webster) No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

(YLT) God no one hath ever seen; the only begotten Son, who is on the bosom of the Father--he did declare.

“ονογενης, ες, (μονος, γενW)Ep. and Ion. only-begotten."-‘The Greek-English Lexicon’ of H.G. Liddell, M.A., and R. Scott, M.A. page 475

I feel that the above show the best rendering of The Greek in John 1:18 which helps to get the right understanding of what John was saying about "The Word" that he was God's first and only direct creation or That God Begat him.

Further to the above we have theses related ideas:-


"THE EPISTLE OF IGNATIUS TO THE EPHESIANS Ch.7 p.105 But our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son. We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For “the Word was made flesh.”"

THE EPISTLE OF IGNATIUS TO THE MAGNESIANS CH.7 p.125 "Do ye all, as one man, run together into the temple of God, as unto one altar, to one Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the unbegotten God."

THE EPISTLE OF IGNATIUS TO THE PHILADELPHIANS Ch.4 p161 "Since, also, there is but one unbegotten Being, God, even the Father; and one only-begotten Son, God, the Word and man. . . ."

THE EPISTLE OF IGNATIUS TO THE ANTIOCHIANS CHAPTER 14 p.217 CONCLUSION "I write this letter to you from Philippi. May He who is alone unbegotten, keep you steadfast both in the spirit and in the flesh, through Him who was begotten before time began! And may I behold you in the kingdom of Christ! I salute him who is to bear rule over you in my stead: may I have joy of him in the Lord! Fare ye well in God, and in Christ, being enlightened by the Holy Spirit."

THE SECOND APOLOGY OF JUSTIN Ch.6 p.353 NAMES OF GOD AND OF CHRIST, THEIR MEANING AND POWER "But to the Father of all, who is unbegotten, . . . And His son, who alone is properly called Son, the Word, who also was with him and was begotten before the works, when at first He created and arranged all things by Him, is called Christ. . ." ibid. Ch.12 p.358 "we have the unbegotten and ineffable God as witness both of our thoughts and deeds." ibid. Ch.13 p.359 "For next to God, we worship and love the Word who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that, becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing."

DIALOGUE OF JUSTIN PHILOSOPHER AND MARTYR WITH TRYPHO, A JEW Ch.5 p.370 "God alone is unbegotten and incorruptible, and therefore He is God, but all other things after Him are created and corruptible."


Answer: μονογενοῦς is a compound of two parts, μονο and γένος, literally, "One Offspring/Kindred/Race ... However, given the contexts, and extant literature, it appears that this term has a specific connotation--a sense of Birthright and Inheritance, not necessarily the "only child."

γένος, Greek: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=ge%2Fnos&la=greek

Flavius Josephus, Isaac the Only Begotten??

book 1, section 222: Ἴσακον δὲ ὁ πατὴρ Ἅβραμος ὑπερηγάπα μονογενῆ ὄντα καὶ ἐπὶ γήρως οὐδῷ κατὰ δωρεὰν αὐτῷ τοῦ

Now Abraham greatly loved Isaac, as being his only begotten and given to him at the borders of old age,

But, Abraham didn't have just one child, from his own loins--if we consider Ishmael.

Answer: Therefore, it must be inferred that there is a Connotation at work here, along with the Denotation--specifically the sense/connotation of the "First Born", or Birthright.

The Connotation of Kingly Birthright Can also be seen in Plato:

From: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/, Plat. Laws 3.691e

Laws, Book 3, [691ε]

.."ἐκ μονογενοῦς, εἰς τὸ μέτριον μᾶλλον συνέστειλε."

Laws, Book 3, [691d-e]

Megillus: "What?"

Athenian: "To begin with, there was a god watching over you; and he, foreseeing the future, restricted within due bounds the royal power by making [691e] your kingly line no longer single but twofold. In the next place, some man, in whom human nature was blended with power divine, observing your government to be still swollen with fever, blended the self-willed force ..."

Other Children being Born γενος of God, in this Context:

In addition, John speaks of other Children of God, those born of the Spirit, inheriting the nature of God--but he distinguishes the first son, as the heir with this specific Greek term.

First, it should be noted that "Theos," or "God," in Greek, is NOT a name, it is a Nature/Genus/Species, properly translated as "divinity." This "God nature," or rather, "Spirit," (for God is Spirit, John 4:24), is a nature handed down to Children, (that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit).

Psalms 82:6 - I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. John 10:34 - Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’? 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

John goes to great lengths to play on this root, to convey this idea :

John 1:12 - Ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ·

NASB: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

John 1:14 - Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο, καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν― καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός― πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.

NASB: And the Word became [was born as] flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 3:5 - Ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ πνεύματος, οὐ δύναται εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

NASB: Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

John 3:6 - Tὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς σάρξ ἐστιν· καὶ τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος πνεῦμά ἐστιν. NASB: That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

John 4:24 - Πνεῦμα ὁ θεός· καὶ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτόν, ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ δεῖ προσκυνεῖν. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”


μονογενὴς Θεὸς

The Greek phrase μονογενὴς Θεὸς is also accurately translated in "only begotten God" (NASB) due to its lexical meaning of "only child" which implies "only begotten". Exegetical analysis shows that this title is used to refer to the Logos, as we can see from John 1:1c, 14a* that the Logos was the main subject of discourse. (The Word was God and the Word became flesh*)

The Greek word μονογενὴς is translated as 'unigenitus' (only begotten) as well as 'unicus' (only) in Old Latin MSS.

The Latin word 'unigenitus' (translation of μονογενὴς ) in John's gospel, is found in Codex Harleianus, a 10th century copy of the 2nd century Old Latin.

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.

In the gospel of Luke, the Greek word μονογενὴς denotes 'only child' in association with sons/daughters (Luke 7:12;8:42;9:38). Latin MSS widely reads unicus (solely, unique, only one).

In Hebrews 11:17, μονογενὴς means "one-of-a-kind" following the LXX in describing Isaac.

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

  1. Adjectival usage. μονογενὴς modifies θεὸς.

adjective + substantive =

only begotten God (NASB)

  1. As Two substantives in apposition.

substantive + substantive [in apposition] =

The only begotten God O.Cullmann (Christology 309)

The only-begotten one, God B. Lindars (John 98)

The only-begotten one, God BAGD (527b s.v.μονογενὴς)

The only begotten, who is God J.H. Bernard (John 1:32)

an only begotten, who is God K. Rhaner (1:137 n. 1)

Origen cites of John 1:18 in Contra Celsum 2.71: "kai monogenês ge ôn theos ...,"the only begotten [One], being God..." This is a clear early witness for the rendering of μονογενὴς Θεὸς as substantives in apposition (source).

Either rendering is valid.


In historic and creedal Trinitarian perspective, the substantival rendering is preferred.

  • In the substantival rendering you have essentially "the unbegotten One = the begotten god". I mean, isn't God by definition unbegotten? Was the Father begotten?
    – Ruminator
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 2:05

One possible way of understanding is to read "monogenus" as "one-of-a-kind" as mentioned. This could be rendered as "incomparable" as with

Isaiah 40:18, To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? an Idol?

Also many scholars argue that the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of John are related in theological positions. Elaine Pagels is famously among them. Largely, Thomas is beginning to be viewed as a source similar to "Q" in the developmental process of the canonical gospels.

Gospel of Thomas seems to center around its "Logion 13" which is the only place outside of the incipit that Thomas is mentioned.

Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to something and tell me what I am like." ... Thomas said to him, "Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like."

For this, Jesus rewards Thomas with private teaching. Here, Thomas also captures an idea of Jesus as incomparable.

There is a deeper connection to the Eden story here as well as Plato. The Eden story contains the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad. This is the tree of Judgment and is contrast to the tree of life.

This same comparison is made just after John 3:16 where monogenus is present. In John 3:17-18, Jesus creates a dichotomy between judgment (κρίνεται) and salvation which is eternal life. This dichotomy in 3:17-18 is identical to that of the tree of judgment (the knowledge of categories of comparison) and the tree of life which is symbolically linked with the cross, and it's fruit, the eucharist.

I believe that the author saw Jesus as the "type for which there is no type." In biology, Genus is a category of life-forms which are comparable. One can imagine an archetypal "dog" in the Genus Canis. One can be a "good dog" or a "bad dog." This is Plato's idea of the ideal forms from which all of reality emanate as corruptions. There is a "Genus" of shape triangle, and every drawn triangle fails (bad) or succeeds (good) to match up to that ideal. All are ultimately corrupted to some degree or the other.

I believe that the Fourth Evangelist rejected ideals and comparisons and saw this in Jesus. The child of God is the one for which there is no comparison. Everyone and everything is actually perfectly unique. This mindset means to be free of judgment (as in John 3:18). If nobody is compared, everyone is seen for exactly who they are, not slaved to a norm. This would be Agape, the love of God, which is to see without enforcing what you think a thing "should be" and appreciating it for what it is, perfect, as is Jesus' declaration of the world on the cross (John 19:30, tetelestai). This is also a natural conclusion of a deterministic cosmology which many scholars read into John (see Wayne Meeks, for example).

This is a moral nihilist position. Rejecting the categories of good and bad in obedience to the first prohibition in the bible, Genesis 2:17. But isn't that the fundamental story at the beginning of the bible, and the template which seems to run throughout the Gospels?

But this is something extremely hard to internalize in a world that people believe is full of moral reality. Desmond Tutu, for example, is in good company as he loves to characterize a child of God as knowing right from wrong speaking of a murderer saying:

"monsters have no moral sense of right and wrong ... [he] remains a child of God with the capacity to become a saint..."

Here, the Bishop of the Episcopal church in south africa is just one of many people who equate the primordial Adam, lacking the sense of right and wrong (literal translation of the forbidden tree), with a monster. Also see the children of the hebrews in Deuteronomy 1:39, and the child of the prophecy from Matthew 1 in Isaiah 7:14-15, not knowing right from wrong. This is the property of a child of God. It seems like children of God, for Tutu and so many others fall into the category of monster, not knowing good from bad, right from wrong.

Seeing someone as "one of a kind" is to see them without comparison. It's to see them without the knowledge of good and bad. It is to reject platonism, the theory of ideals as the ultimate reality and to see what is as the ultimate reality.

"Only begotten" doesn't make any sense when both John (among others, 1:12-13) and Paul (among others, Galatians 3:26) seem to think that we are all or can all become children/sons of God also. But it makes for good control doctrine. If there is only one child of God, then the church can keep control of things. If others can realize this too, then the institutional church looses its normative control tools.

  • This answer 'befuddles' the mind, so I will just focus on one thing. We can all become children/sons of God, yes we can. BUT, there is only 'one' that was 'begat' by God, Himself. I, too, have given an answer to this Q., albeit one year ago and I still stand by that answer. Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 6:42
  • I'm glad you do (stand by it) and that you are being you and sticking with it. That's perfectly monogenous of you! One of a kind! No need to use my response as a template of how you "should" view the world. That would just be more platonism. I'm sure that there is a complete and unique path describing how you got to your perspective and that you are whole. Thanks for your comment. And thanks for the opportunity to demonstrate my interpretation in a response!
    – Gus L.
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 12:08
  • Thank you for commenting on 'my' comment. Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 4:42
  • And to you for commenting on 'my' comment. Peace.
    – Gus L.
    Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 20:20

The first observation to be made is that μονογενής (Strong's G3439 - monogenēs) is an adjective, and its general sense is "only, single" (see also at LSJ).

In John 1:14, μονογενής is used on its own, therefore as a substantival adjective.

In John 1.18, we read the expression μονογενὴς θεὸς, therfore the first question is, is μονογενὴς used as an adjective? Is it an adjective in apposition to the noun θεὸς?

With NET Bible, I discard the variant reading μονογενὴς υἱός of John 1:18, and consider "the only one [himself] God" as "the most accurate rendering of μονογενὴς Θεὸς into English".

  • I don't dispute the fact that "Monogenes" was adjectival to the 'second' theos, (see my answer from a year ago, above), but for 'you' to equate that with 'God', with a capital 'G' astounds me. Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 6:09
  • @OldeEnglish - Instead of a reply, here is a question for you. How do you understand this verse: For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; (Col 2:9)? Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 11:18
  • First off, this is a bad translation of a form of 'the.o'tes', which does not mean 'Godhead', or even 'Deity', it is best translated as 'divinity', or 'divine nature', which is the portrayal of Liddell & Scott's Greek-English Lexicon. Jesus was most definitely divine with a small 'd', having been the only 'begotten' of God (rather than 'made'), but most definitely was not Divine with a capital 'D', that characterization belongs to the 'Almighty' only. Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 12:20
  • @OldeEnglish - Let's cut to the chase: Jesus is divine (small 'd', if you prefer) not only because he was generated by God through His Spirit/רוּחַ/πνεῦμα , but (at least equally important) because he is the incarnated Word/דָּבָר/λόγος of God. God's Spirit and Word, are not persons, but eternal, essential powers of God. Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 16:15
  • I'm sorry but 'The Word' was/is most definitely a person and while not on earth, after being manifested in the flesh, as Jesus, the Christ, a spiritual person at that. It's the spirit/pneuma/breath/active force, that is an eternal, essential, power of both God and His only begotten son. Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 18:23

Yes.....the Greek is "monogenēs Theos" which translates as "only begotten God" . Theos is NEVER EVER translated as "son" as the word "son" is "Huion"....

The New World Translation renders it correctly as "only beggoten son" see it here: https://www.jw.org/en/library/bible/nwt/books/john/1/

  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your answer. Please take the tour to ensure you understand the type of question we like here. This answer needs some references to improve it such as from a good lexicon.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 2:42

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