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John 1:18 according to ESV translation:

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

John 1:18 according to translation proposal:

No man has ever seen God, unless the only begotten Son, who is at the Father’s side, reveals him.

The Greek seems to be saying that Son of God is the one who reveals God the Father. The Son is himself a divine god begotten by the Father and subordinate in headship to him (according to John 1:1c and Philippians 2:6).

Does this rendering make more sense given the surrounding context and historical weight, matching what the original author intended to convey in his writing?

(How this question is different from previous ones is that this proposes the rendering "only begotten god" instead of "only begotten God")

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  • This is a point of known controversy, debated for one hundred and fifty years. It is a matter of Textual Criticism between the Textus Receptus and the Critical Text. This has been raised repeatedly on this site, so this is a duplicate. See Should John 1:18 be translated differently ?.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 26 at 10:42
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? Should John 1:18 be translated differently?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 26 at 10:42
  • 2
    I am quite torn between whether to answer or not - it reads like a "gotcha" question which I do not like.
    – Dottard
    Feb 26 at 10:57

4 Answers 4

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Some translations do translate it similar to what you have asked, such as:

American Standard Version

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

English Revised Version

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

Young's Literal Translation

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

These are the words of interest that are in the verse:

[but the] one and only Son, μονογενὴς (monogenēs) Adjective - Nominative Masculine Singular Strong's Greek 3439: Only, only-begotten; unique. From monos and ginomai; only-born, i.e. Sole.

[ who is Himself ] God Θεὸς (Theos) Noun - Nominative Masculine Singular Strong's Greek 2316: A deity, especially the supreme Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate; by Hebraism, very.

has made [Him] known. ἐξηγήσατο (exēgēsato) Verb - Aorist Indicative Middle - 3rd Person Singular Strong's Greek 1834: To lead, show the way; met: I unfold, narrate, declare. From ek and hegeomai; to consider out, i.e. Rehearse, unfold.


From this, I think that "only begotten God" is viable. "Revealed" conveys a similar meaning, however, the NASB Translation uses the word in this way: explained (2), relate (2), related (1), relating (1).

The billmounce greek-dictionary defines exegeomai:

Definition: to be a leader; to detail, to set forth in language; to tell, narrate, recount, Lk. 24:35; Acts 10:8; to make known, reveal, Jn. 1:18; Acts 15:12, 14; 21:19*

A different word for revealed may have been:

(See Matthew 10:26)

will not be uncovered, ἀποκαλυφθήσεται (apokalyphthēsetai) Verb - Future Indicative Passive - 3rd Person Singular Strong's Greek 601: To uncover, bring to light, reveal. From apo and kalupto; to take off the cover, i.e. Disclose.

601 apokalýptō (from 575 /apó, "away from" and 2572 /kalýptō, "to cover") – properly, uncover, revealing what is hidden (veiled, obstructed), especially its inner make-up; (figuratively) to make plain (manifest), particularly what is immaterial (invisible).

(See also John 17:6)

I have revealed Ἐφανέρωσά (Ephanerōsa) Verb - Aorist Indicative Active - 1st Person Singular Strong's Greek 5319: To make clear (visible, manifest), make known. From phaneros; to render apparent.

5319 phaneróō (from 5457 /phṓs, "light") – properly, illumine, make manifest (visible); (figuratively) make plain, in open view; to become apparent ("graspable").

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  • Jesus said, "Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father." Therefore I think that "revealed" is best.
    – Joshua B
    Feb 26 at 9:18
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    You answer is refreshingly clear and honest; I'm marking it as the answer. Other than the nonsensical trinitarian bias of capitalizing the "G" to make Jesus be equal with the Father God, I'm also not comfortable with the NASB's choice of "explained" or "made Him known" as other translations render it. Jesus didn't just "explain" his Father or "made Him known", he literally REVEALED him via his own manifestations through biblical history as the only begotten Son of God and thereby God's VICEROY, the MEDIATOR between God and man. God bless you brother.
    – Joshua B
    Feb 26 at 20:54
  • Where you have parenthesis that say, "See Matthew 10:26", you may also want to throw in John 17:6, which says, "I have REVEALED Your Name to those You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word". It's totally conclusive to me!
    – Joshua B
    Feb 27 at 4:54
  • Fantastic exegetical work. This brings relief to my soul, and a smile on my face. God bless you. Is it forbidden here for me to ask if you are a trinitarian or a unitarian? (I have no shame in declaring myself a unitarian, for the record)
    – Joshua B
    Feb 27 at 5:39
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John 1:18 (ESV)

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

a. Or the only One, who is God; some manuscripts the only Son
b. Greek in the bosom of the Father

As the ESV footnote shows, the Greek is in the bosom of the Father. A rendering of at the Father's side makes two changes to the Greek.

  1. Understand the preposition εἰς to mean "by" rather than "in."
  2. Understand the noun κόλπον to mean "side" rather than "bosom."

In addition, the Fourth Gospel makes extensive use of words which have dual meanings, and when the word is considered in the context of the entire Gospel, both meanings are correct.

John 1:5

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Overcome is κατέλαβεν which also means "to seize" and "to comprehend." All are correct. Given the frequency with which this literary technique occurs it should be accepted as a purposeful use of language to make a single statement which conveys more than one truth.

In the case of verse 18, ἐξηγήσατο means either to "make known" or "to lead to". John's Gospel presents Jesus as doing both.

The difficulty in translation flows directly from the Greek text which can support more than one meaning. The demand an English translator has is to "pick just one" when both the Gospel as a whole and the language of verse 1:18 support more than one correct meanings.

That the text was purposefully composed in this way is even more apparent when the entire Gospel is read and two important ideas are considered.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (1:12)
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (20:31)

The name is essential to becoming a child of God and having life.

John 1:18 mGNT:

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

John composed the phrase μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν. Anyone who examines the Greek translation of the Old Testament will recognize ὁ ὢν is the name the Lord gave Moses at the burning bush. As a result a first-century reader would recognize a meaning which is obscured by the English

No one has ever seen God, the only-begotten God, THE ONE WHO IS in the bosom of the Father makes Him known and/or leads them

A Greek speaking audience knowing the OT in the Greek language will understand the Lord who sent Moses to lead His people out of Egypt is "THE ONE WHO IS" who became flesh to lead the children of God out of sin and into the bosom of the Father. Likewise, as Moses did signs to show Pharaoh who the Lord is; John describes signs to show the world who Jesus is.

Similar to the first verse of the Gospel, the Prologue ends with a statement which can easily be understood as stating equality with God, or may be rejected as stating something else, if one believes the writer was careless with the written word.

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This is a matter of textual variation, not difference in translation. Here is Metzger's textual commentary on the variation.

  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 commentators 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.] -- Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (pp. 169–170). United Bible Societies.

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    I'm so glad that Metzger is not the gatekeeper of Scripture! The article before theos in John 1:1c is absolutely relevant, and it was not written into the text for a significant reason! The entire Bible confirms that Jesus is not God, and we must not violate Scripture!
    – Joshua B
    Feb 26 at 11:15
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    If you base the text of the Bible on your theology rather than textual evidence, aren't you violating Scripture.
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 27 at 0:10
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I'm sorry to hear that your not satisfied with the NASB understanding of John 1:18. Notice vs16 which means the "fulness" of God as stated could not be known through any ordinary man. It must come through One who possesses the nature of God.

At vs18, the word "God" is stated first and is without the definite article. This indicates first, that the emphasis is on the word "God," and second, the nature of God should be the object of our attention. What you did get right was when you said, "the Son literally "revealed" the Father."

There is an old saying, based on Matthew 11:27 that, "Only God reveals God." "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son WILLS to reveal Him." And John 4:6, "I am the way and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but through Me."

And since were in John 14 note vs9. "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, "Show us the Father?" Of course this does not mean that Jesus Christ is God the Father.

What it does mean it the fact that the Father has no separate manifestation from the Son. The Son is the only manifestation and revelation of the Father. What is know of the Father is "REVEALED" through the Son. To see the Son is to see the "essence/nature" of the Father. Please read (John 1:1,18; John 10:30; John 12:45; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).

Regarding John 10:30, "I and the Father We are one." It's already a given that the Father and Son are one in unity because Jesus had said that the sheep are equally safe in His hand and in His Father's hand. The power of the Son is equal to that of the Father.

Jesus asserted the essential unity of the Father and the Son in the word "one" (hen). It is a neuter number to indicate equality of essence, attributes, design, will, and work. "One" (meaning "one thing."

Jesus distinguishes the "I" from the "Father" and uses the plural verb "are" denoting "we are." Thus asserts their unity of essence or nature as identical. In verse 24 the Jews asked Jesus to tell them plainly who He was. John 10:30 is as plain as you can get. Notice Jesus does not say, "I am Christ," but "I and my Father are one"--God!

This is why at vs31,"The Jews took up stones again to stone Him." What for? It certainly wan not because Jesus and the Father were in unity. At vs33 the Jews said, For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out God." So much for you Joshua B always claiming that "Jesus is not God." If the Jews knew Jesus was claiming to be God, you can't know that Jesus was not claiming to be God!

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    I believe that the Father and the Son are one in unity, but certainly not one in equality. For, "the Father is greater than I", and, "Why do you call me good? Nobody is good except God alone", and, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of the Him who sent me".
    – Joshua B
    Feb 27 at 5:15
  • Of course the Father and the Son are one in unity, that's a given. What you do not get, (and I'm referring to John 10:30) is that the context dictates that the Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy not for being one in unity, but for Jesus making Himself out God at vs33. In fact, it was Jesus Himself that brought up Psalm 82:6 in which the subject is "gods," not unity in purpose. So how do you reconcile this with your unity claim? You also always bring up "the Father is greater etc. This does not mean the Son is inferior to the Father. This is explained at Philippians 2:6 when Jesus became a man.
    – Mr. Bond
    Feb 27 at 18:42
  • What in trying to tell you, is that I think the Jews were not accusing Jesus of being God, but if Jesus claiming to be a god. But difference. He was claiming to be God, or claiming to be the Son of God (a god). That's why Jesus responds in the following verse that "you are gods, sons of the Most High" to validate his claim to deity as a god, not as the capital "G" God.
    – Joshua B
    Feb 27 at 19:00
  • @Yes Joshua brother, Jesus and the Father are one in unity but not in equality, true ad on point.
    – Dong Li
    Apr 9 at 0:23

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