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No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[a] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

To give credit where deserved, the phrase was not included in the 1611 King James. https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/John-Chapter-1_Original-1611-KJV/?_gl=1*10cfsxn*_ga*YW1wLTM1WlljUjNZcDhSYzhsWmpMeGd6SHc.

Who then added in “who is himself God” ? Translations suggest it was done within the past 100 years and still nobody knows who exactly did it, nor the names of the group of people.

The question is not about whether or not the translation is the one and only Son or the one and only God.

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    @ReturnOfRoamer I think you have quoted the NIV but you have not put which version. You have not quoted the KJ or shown that the KJ does not have the sense of "who is himself God".
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Jun 13 at 8:34
  • Yes, it’s from a NIV. But the hyperlink you can see the 1611 KJV supposedly. The internet is not the same thing as being at Vatican library with the actual texts so we’re all out luck in that regard. Commented Jun 13 at 8:39
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    Conspiracy is inevitable, self creating, and a fundamental consequence resulting from the nature of reality. That such a conspiracy might be imagined in any given situation does not prove anyone of evil doing. Commented Jun 13 at 8:47

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About 18 months ago I originated an A4 double-sided document dealing with this very matter; a few people have received it. Most of it clearly applies to this question, so I am going to drop most of it in, then tweak necessary bits to conform to your precise question. I hope this is acceptable to everyone.

JOHN 1:18 – Different Translations

Wm Barclay’s Study Bible 1975 edition – No one has ever seen God. It is the unique one, he who is God, he who is in the bosom of the Father, who has told us all about God. (1)

NIV 1987 edition – No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (2)

NIV Gideon’s edition – No-one has ever seen God, but the Only Begotten Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (3)

NIV 2008 edition – No-one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (4)

GNB 1976 edition – No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (5)

NLT 2008 edition – No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. (6)

NWT 1984 edition – No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom [position] with the Father is the one that has explained him. [Square brackets denote a word added to the text by the publisher.] (7)

Authorized (KJV) all editions – No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him]. (8)

Companion Bible 1885 edition – No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared [Him]. (9)

Young’s Literal Translation 1898 edition – God no one hath ever seen; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father – he did declare. (10)

What are the Differences?

The first sentence has no differences. But then there is a whole range of different ways of describing One with regard to His relationship with God the Father. Though some translations state it is a position that is being described, not His relationship with God. (Nos. 2, 3, 5, 7 speak of being at the Father’s side, which is a position. Most modern translations do that, but Nos. 1, 4, 6 do show relationship (‘in the bosom’ or ‘heart’, of the Father).

Most modern translations also speak of Him being unique / one and only / and God. (Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7). Older translations speak of Christ’s relationship, and that He is the only-begotten Son of God.

Why are there Differences?

The differences arise from which of two ‘pedigrees’ of Greek manuscripts are being used for the translation. Modern translations go by what is called “The Critical Text” that was collated and preferred from the late 1800s onward. All older translations go by “The Received Text” that was the only collection the Reformers and later Protestants had.

This is where we can identify who was responsible for such changes to John 1:18 - it began with some scholars in the 1880s who introduced certain manuscripts into the translation committee for the Revised translation at that time, and which put the thin end of a wedge into verses such as this (and various others). Those who went along with the new Greek text of Westcott & Hort began to leave behind the Textus Receptus (used for centuries) and opt for the new, revised Greek text, which is the basis of virtually all modern translations, to this day. Time has proven the thin end of the wedge has now been shoved in so far, that there are many critical differences now between such as the A.V. and most modern translations.

Is there a Problem?

Most people cannot see any problem. Yet, when a few questions are asked, this becomes apparent. How can God be in the bosom of God the Father (1) ? How can the one and only God be at God the Father’s side (2) ? Is it true that God only has one son, who is a singularity (4) ? If the son is “the same as God” does that suggest the Father became the son, as some heretical groups teach (5) ? If ‘the unique One is himself God’, does that imply that the Father might not be unique and thus not the same God (6) ? Is there a Big God and a little god (7) ?

Yet with Nos. 8, 9 & 10 there is no ambiguity. The text states a clear distinction between Father and Son, whilst the integrity of their unique relationship in oneness of Being is maintained. The role of the Son was to become the One who declared the Father so that (as He said to the disciples who asked to see the Father) “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father… I am in the Father, and the Father is in me” John 14:9-10. Relationship is a feature of begetting; position is a feature of office.

Is Anything Being Undermined?

Is the relationship between the Father and Son being undermined? And is there a confusion of gods taking place in modern translations? Further, if there are two pedigrees of texts, one that says ‘Son’ and another that says ‘God’, they both cannot be right because the Greek for Son is ‘uios’ and the Greek for God is ‘theos’. Does the text say that Jesus is the Son, or does it say that Jesus is the God? We know it says that the Word [Jesus] is God in John 1:1 but if the Holy Spirit inspired John to say in verse 18 that Jesus is ‘the only-begotten Son’ and NOT ‘the one and only God’, there will be a critically important reason for that, namely, to stress the relationship of persons. The raft of questions that can be raised against modern translations that stress position makes this clear.

It is significant that both pedigrees of texts are agreed in saying the Son is the ‘mongenes’, the ‘only-begotten’, while modern translation only deal with the first half of that Greek word, ‘mono’, which means ‘one, single’. But they ignore the suffix, ‘genes’! Why? Genesis has to do with origins and the Christian creeds are adamant that the Son was begotten, not created, so that there is no originating point in time when the Son came into existence. He is the eternal Son, but modern translations focus on ‘one, single’, the singularity – only – of the Son, that He is ‘single, of its kind, only, unique’ instead of the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son in the begetting.

In Hebrews 11:17 the literal Greek reads “and the monogene he [Abraham] did offer up” (i.e. Isaac) yet Abraham had begotten a prior child, Ishmael. The text does not read ‘his monogene’ but ‘the monogene’. ‘The’ monogene in Greek scripture specifically refers to the generation of a person. The article in Greek is a matter of identification, and as Isaac prefigured Christ, then, in John’s Gospel THE monogene appears and receives the promises. In John 1:18 it is the perceived relationship of God to the other person concerned that is the key point. But by stressing the singularity of the Son, in modern translations, and speaking of His position at the Father’s side instead of His intimate relationship IN the Father’s bosom, the danger arises of losing sight of the eternal begetting in the Trinity. Monogenes expresses personal relationship, not a solitude.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, reveals God as He truly is: Father and Son in perfect unity, in an eternal begetting, in one Holy Spirit. Thus – and only thus – is God, One. God is Spirit, and only by eternal generation, in one spirit, can God have a Son. That is how the three relate in the One Being of God, as they subsist in the One Being of God. That is why, whenever the Bible uses ‘monogenes’ to speak of the Son, it must be translated ‘only-begotten’ and never ‘one and only’ or ‘single of its kind, unique’, for that is to detract from the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. God is not begotten. The Son is, and uniquely so because of this eternal relationship.

How should all of this impact on readers of John's gospel here, and elsewhere?

Every time the Greek text has ‘monogenes’ with regard to Christ, we should read it as ‘only-begotten’ instead of the truncated ‘only’, or ‘single’ or ‘one’, as if Christ didn’t really have such an incredibly intimate relationship with the Father, as the Greek term uniquely conveys. (That last paragraph of mine may be deemed irrelevant to the actual question, but it forms an important conclusion, whether accepted or not.)

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    @Anne, excellent article! Regarding your conclusion, my brand-new BDAG indicates that monogenes means unique in kind and not indicative of procreation. Apparently Jerome altered the Latin text to fight Arianism, choosing to harm the original text for the sake of strengthening a theological position (just as some people here find fault with the holy Word of God). So, here's a helpful references that I found: journals.uts.edu/volume-xviii-2017/… (yes, this is scholarship from the "Moonies").
    – Dieter
    Commented Jun 13 at 17:24
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    @Dieter. Helpful comments, and appreciated. The trouble is that sometimes monogenes can refer to a single child of a father, but other times it has the unique aspect. A problems in modern translations is them only taking the 'mono' part of the word, translating it as one (correct), but they avoid translating genes! They end up saying 'one' twice, in different ways!
    – Anne
    Commented Jun 13 at 17:32
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    @Dieter You are stating scholastic opinion. But there are other opinions. Studying the word monogenes as used by Luke is essential. The 'firstborn' (Ishmael) was not to be the heir, for good reason. BDAG is not reliable on this, See Question...Nicene Creed for the recovery of the truth of 'eternal generation'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 13 at 22:01
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    @NigelJ - the problem with all the sources you quote is that none are based on sound linguistic analysis but on circular reasoning. BDAG, which you regard as unreliable, bases its conclusions on the way the word is used in the 1st century, not theology.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 13 at 22:28
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    @Anne - some of these statements are unfactual about "monogenes" - see my answer here >> hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/47263/…
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 13 at 22:34
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I will now show that this is often an argument over very little.

The main difference between the two Greek texts which are as follows (with my literal translation following):

NA28/UBS5/W&H etc

Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς Θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ Πατρὸς, ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο. = God no-one has ever seen; [the] unique God, the One being in the bosom of the Father, He has manifested [Him]

This is the text in all the oldest MSS but started to change in the 5th century to -

Byzantine, TR, Majority Text

Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός, ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρός, ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο. = God no-one has ever seen; [the] unique Son, the One being in the bosom of the Father, He has manifested [Him]

The difference between these two is a matter of a few pen strokes. The reality is that both are talking about the Son of God - the first refers to the Son as "God" (as per John 1:1, John 20:28, Heb 1:8, 9, Matt 1:23, etc), while the other refer to Him as "Son". That is, the verse is no different in referring Jesus as the God than in John 1:1 - a few verses earlier!

I really struggle to see what the great fuss is about!! Both versions say the same thing. If people object the Biblical text here, then they must also object to it in many other places as well such as John 1:1, John 20:28, Heb 1:8, 9, Matt 1:23, Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1, Phil 2:5-8, etc.

The "who is himself" is an interpretive translation of the NIV, ESV, BSB, NET, etc. It has little to do with the Greek text.

On the subject of "monogenes" as to whether it should be translated "unique" or "only begotten", see my answer here >> Should the sense of the Greek μονογενής (only-begotten vs unique) in John be understood from Pagan Greek religion or Scripture?

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