The Only Begotten Son Of God

Posted in: 2004
By Tom L. Ballinger
Mar 6, 2008 - 5:05:54 PM

December 15, 2004


Part I


This past week, December 8, 2004, Dr. Anthony Flew, the 81 year old English professor of philosophy, announced that he now believes that the creation was the result of Intelligent Design. He had been a leading advocate for atheism for 50 years. He concluded that the science of DNA has proved to him that God was, indeed, the Author of creation. This announcement brought the wrath of the scientific community down on him.

As his defense, he said he always followed Plato’s Socrates axiom; “Follow the evidence wherever it leads.”

Would we, as Christians, be so bold? However meager and humble my efforts may be, I have tried to follow the Scriptural evidence wherever it leads. With that said, we will consider Scriptural evidence as to truth concerning Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

In the ancient Hebrew culture of sonship, one became a child by birth, but the child became a son by investiture. A careful consideration of Isaiah 9:6 will yield this truth.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”

That is to say, that unto Israel, a child was to be born (by means of birth), and, then, they were to be given a Son (by means of investiture). The child was Jesus of Nazareth, and the Son was Jesus Christ.

The word “investiture” comes from the word “invest.” It means “a formal investing of a person with an office, dignity, power, and right.”

The title, “the Son of God,” has nothing to do with Jesus’ birth. It has everything to do with Him being formally invested with the office, dignity, power, and right as the official representative of God, as the Father.

Notice the rest of Isaiah 9:6-7, and you will see the formal investing in the Person of Jesus Christ of the highest office, dignity, power, and right, not only in Israel, but in the universe.

“. . . and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” NIV

It was at the resurrection of Jesus Christ that God declared the decree: “Thou art My Son, this day have I brought Thee forth.” As Paul said in Romans 1:4; “Declared to be the Son of God . . . by the resurrection from among the dead.”

The title, or office, as the Son of God had nothing to do with Jesus being God’s little boy. It had everything to do with Jesus Christ becoming God’s Son as the official representative in all matters that relate to God’s authority, power, dignity, and right. Sonship, to the ancient Hebrew’s way of thinking, constituted rulership. Even while the father was still alive, his “son” was equal to the father. When the son spoke, it was as if the father had spoken. In the Hebrew concept, the “son” was the representative of the father. The Lord Jesus Christ certainly confirms this many times when He says such things as; “And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak: (John 12:50).

Tom L. Ballinger


This study will be rather lengthy, so I plan to send it to you in a short series. Perhaps every day or every other day until it is time for another study. So the format will be changed just to see if the change will make for easier reading. I receive some material on a regular basis, and I catch myself skimming it so fast that I may not get out of it what I should. Sometimes I read part of it, then save it with the intention of coming back to it later when I have more time. But, I find I never have the time I need because when I go back to it, I find even more mail waiting to be read. So the format change will be tried and evaluated.

December 16, 2004


Part II

This Hebrew concept of sonship was carried over into the Greek of the New Testament. As we have pointed out, the inspired Jewish writers of the New Testament wrote from a Hebrew mind-set. By the time the New Testament was being translated into other languages, some of the significance of the idiomatic meanings of Hebrew were lost or not recognized.

A very poignant example would be the Greek word monogenes and its’ translation in the Authorized King James Version. As pointed out, “sonship” was based upon investiture, not upon the begetting, or birth, of a male child. The Greek word monogenes is used nine times in the New Testament. Six times, it was translated “only begotten,” and three times, it was translated “only.” What if “only begotten” was a spurious translation? Could it cause a misunderstanding of the thought the Holy Spirit intended to convey? I think so.

The occurrences of monogenes in the NT are as follows. The words within quotation marks are the translation of this word in each excerpt.

Luke 7:12 ─ the “only” son of his mother
Luke 8:42 ─ for he had one “only” daughter
Luke 9:38 ─ for he is my “only “child
John 1:14 ─ as the “only begotten” of the Father
John 1:18 ─ the “only begotten” Son which is in
John 3:16 ─ He gave His “only begotten” Son
John 3:18 ─ of “the only begotten” Son of God
Heb. 11:17─ offered up his “only begotten” (son)
1 John 4:9 ─ God sent His “only begotten” Son

Tragically, many folks have been ensnared in grievous error by insisting that our Lord Jesus, since He was begotten of God, must be given a subservient place to God. This has long been used as an argument against the Deity of Jesus Christ and His equality with the Father. Around 330 A.D. some men of the “church” insisted that God was separate from every created being, and that Jesus Christ was created as a secondary God and should be worshipped as such. Therefore, our Lord Jesus, as a created being, could not be God in the fullest sense.

In view of this erroneous conclusion, we need to understand what is the meaning of the word; monogenes. Monogenes is a compound word. Mono is a prefix meaning sole, single, without another, alone, or only. Genos (from ginomai) which means, become or kind. Applying the prefix to ginomai, you get the word MONOGENES. Moulton and Milligan, the etymologists, have pointed out: “Monogenes is literally ‘one of a kind,’ ‘only,’ ‘unique:’ not ‘only begotten’ which would be monogennetos.” They go on to state that where monogenes applies to Christ, “the emphasis is on the thought that, as the ‘only’ Son of God, He has no equal and is able to fully reveal the Father.”

The late Howard White pointed out that Dwight L. Moody insisted that monogenes means “one,” “only,” or “unique” rather than the “only begotten.” Mr. White, in his booklet “God the One and Only,” also quoted from The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, page 606, “Literally the Greek means of a single [monos] kind [genos]. Although genos is distantly related to gennan, ‘to beget,’ there is little Greek justification for the translation of monogenes as ‘only begotten.’ The word describes Jesus’ uniqueness, not what is called in Trinitarian theology His ‘procession.’”

No word in English fully expresses the word monogenes since it can mean “only,” or “sole,” or “alone,” or “unique.” If the word is translated “only,” it will come very close to its’ true meaning and doesn’t lay a fog over what the Spirit of Truth is conveying to us.

In Luke 7:12, the translators did not glaze-over the meaning. Luke 7:12; “Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only (monogenes) son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.” Here, the “only” son of his mother was appropriate, since he was the only one of his kind. There could not be another son, because his mother was a widow.

In Luke 8:42, the word “only” is also appropriate since nothing worthwhile would be added by putting in the word “begotten.” The Centurion was not trying to explain to Jesus how the twelve-year-old became his daughter by being begotten; “For he had one only (monogenes) daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. . .” The daughter was his one and only daughter.

Now, notice Luke 9:38; “And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only (monogenes) child.” The translation “only,” is correct since the man told Jesus that his son was his one and only child.

Now “the rub” is in the six verses that follow, which we’ll point in the next paper.

Tom L. Ballinger

December 17, 2004


Part III

Here comes “the rub” in the next six verses.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten (monogenes) of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) KJV.

For this to be correctly translated “only begotten,” the Greek word would have to have been monogennetos, but this word was not in the Greek text. The Interlinear Bible shows the Greek word translated “only begotten” was monogenes (Strong’s Concordance word No. 3439). Hence, a wrong translation—the evidence is clear.
Look at the NIV translation of John 1:14; “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only (monogenes), who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The NIV didn’t fall into the trap of letting their theological views dictate the translation of monogenes. The NIV’s “One and Only” translation, based on my understanding, would be true to the Greek and true to the truth which the Spirit is imparting.

The Revised Standard Version, also, seems to be true to the truth; “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son (monogenes) from the Father.”

Next, we will consider John 1:18. When this verse was first seriously considered, it “blew me away.” All I could say was, “Good night, nurse!” So, let’s roll up our breeches-legs and wade into the deeper water.

“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten (monogenes) Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). KJV

If we were to be consistent in translating monogenes as the “only,” or the “one and only,” the verse would read; “No man hath seen God at any time; the Only Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Or; “No man hath seen God at any time; the One and Only Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

Now, the water gets a little deeper. If you look at The Interlinear Bible, you will notice that the word “Son”(Huios) does not appear in the text. “What?” You may say. The Greek word for Son is Huios, and it does not appear in the Greek text. The text reads: monogenes Theos. “Theos” is the Greek word for “God.” With this being true, the verse would read, thusly, “No man hath seen God at any time, the ONLY GOD, which is in the bosom of the Father.”

In checking a number of various translations of John 1:18, the following is noted:

“No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (New American Standard-Updated: NASU).

The NASU inserted the word “begotten” without any textual authority. “Only” is monogenes; for the NASU to translate it as “only begotten,” the Greek word monogennetos would have to have been in the Greek text, and it is missing, “It ain’t there!” The NASU does, however, express the Greek word Theos as God.

The new American Standard Version does the same as the NASU. However, the New International Version’s translation is true to The Interlinear Bible.

“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known” (NIV). [ i ]

What is seen, so far, is that the phrase “only begotten” is spurious when translated from the monogenes. For “only begotten” to be a genuine translation, it must be from the word monogennetos, and I can’t find where this word is used in the Bible. Gennetos, or gennaoo, which is Strong’s No. 1080. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon shows it properly means “men begetting children.” This was not what the Spirit of Truth meant when He inspired the use of the word monogenes. The Spirit was not pointing us to the begetting or the birth of Christ, but rather to the fact that He was one of a kind, the ONE and ONLY Son of God. The ONE and ONLY, Who was sent from the Father, the only One Who knew the Father. He was uniquely the only One Who spoke for the Father. He was the only Son Who represented the Father. Without knowing the One and Only Son, no one can comprehend God.

Tom L. Ballinger


[ i ] More will be considered on “God the One and Only” in a later study.

December 19, 2004


Part IV

In continuing our examination of the word “monogenes,” we now come to the sixth usage of the word in the New Testament. It is one of the most familiar verses in the Bible—John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten (monogenes) Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV).

Monogenes does not mean “only begotten.”

Mr. Otis Sellers had pointed out that the word ginomai is the basic word of the “gen” family of words, and that it originally meant “to come into being.” Not in the sense of the beginning of something’s existence. He said it is found 677 times in the New Testament, and, not once, is it ever translated by any word related to birth, such as begat, or begotten, or born. “In view of this fact, there is no logical reason for anyone to think that when this word is linked up with monos, that it suddenly has to do with ‘birth,’ and the compounded word should be translated: only begotten.”

Looking at the NIV translation of John 3:16, we note:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his ONE and ONLY (monogenes) Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV).

The RSV renders it; “His only (monogenes) Son.” Jesus Christ is uniquely the One and Only Son of the Father. He, only, gives expression of the Father. Christ’s Sonship also entails that He was sent to execute a special mission. Therefore, the Father would say of Him; “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased, Hear ye Him” (Matt. 17:5).

The seventh use of monogenes is in John 3:18.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's ONE and ONLY (monogenes) Son” (NIV).

Again, the RSV does not use the phrase “the only begotten” Son but rather, “the only Son of God.”

In Hebrews 11:17, the eighth use of the word monogenes is found. The KJV reads as follows:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten (monogenes) son.”

Why did the translators translate monogenes as “only begotten”? I don’t know why. Evidently, the so-called church fathers had a misunderstanding of the Greek word. The “Why” is not important? The fact is that the translation, “only begotten Son of God,” has been used to refute the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 11:17 is a reference to Genesis 22:2 in which the LORD told Abraham; “Take now thy son, thine ONLY SON Isaac . . .and offer him as burnt offering . . .”

Of course, Isaac was not Abraham’s only son. He had a son by Hagar, and sons by his concubines (Gen.25:6). But, the LORD designated Isaac as Abraham’s only son; thus, establishing the right of sonship among the Hebrews. One might observe that in Genesis 22:2, the LORD called Isaac “thine only son,” even though Abraham had other sons. So, it clearly did not mean Abraham’s “only begotten son” as it is worded in Hebrews 11:17.

The NIV correctly translates Hebrews 11:17; “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his ONE and ONLY (monogenes) son,”

When monogenes is used, it has nothing to do with begetting or birth. It has to do with one of a kind, or only, or uniquely a son who is formally invested in office and dignity of the father.

The ninth occurrence of monogenes is found in 1 John 4:9; “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his ONE and ONLY (monogenes) Son into the world that we might live through him” (NIV).

In the ancient custom of sonship, one became a child by birth, but the child became a son by investiture. It was by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that God declared Jesus Christ to be the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Psalm 2:7 also affirms this in that the Psalmist is speaking of the resurrection of Christ (see the notes in the CB and cf. Acts 13:33).

In considering Psalm 2:7, what does “begotten” mean in the English language? It means; to procreate as the father (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary).

“I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (KJV)

“This day have I begotten thee,” does not refer to the day that Mary conceived supernaturally. Common sense would dictate that the LORD did not say this to Jesus in the womb, upon conception, “This day have I begotten thee.” Psalm 2:7 is a prophecy of Jesus Christ being raised from the dead, and becoming certified as the One and Only Son of God.

Not only, that but our Lord Jesus Christ, is the One and Only True God.

“But the LORD (Yahweh) is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation” (Jer.10:10) KJV

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness . . .” (I Tim. 3:6). The Apostle John sums up the matter, in that he, under inspiration, he declares that Jesus Christ is the true God.

“And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:20) KJV

I don’t know about you, but as for me, I choose believe the Beloved Apostle.

Tom L. Ballinger