What does the Bible mean when it says Jesus is the only begotten Son?
The expression “only begotten” is a poorly translated Greek word. This word actually means “unique,” “only,” or “only one of its’ kind.” This expression is found in the familiar passage,
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (NASB) John 3:16
The Greek word for “only begotten” is MONOGENES. It is a compound word made of two other Greek words MONOS meaning “only” and GENOS meaning “kind or race.” If we combine the words we get “only kind” or “unique.”
Most of us are familiar with Abraham and his eight sons: Ishmael (Gen. 16:15), Issac (Gen. 21:3) and six other sons by Keturah (Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah, Gen. 25:1-2). Issac was not Abraham’s first born son, but he was Abraham’s special son (Gen. 17:19), being the promised one from God. Now turn to Hebrews 11:17,
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” (NASB) Hebrews 11:17-18
Notice that Isaac is called “only begotten.” Was Isaac Abraham’s only son? No! He had eight sons. The Greek word has been misunderstood and poorly translated. It does not mean he was born. The Greek word means “unique” or “one and only.” Some of the newer Bible translations such as the New Century Version, New International Version, and the New Living Translation are now using the correct wording. Here is the NIV’s wording,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV) John 3:16
Jesus is the one and only Son of God – not created and not made. And since the expression “Son of God” was an ancient expression meaning that Jesus was and is God, Jesus is the one and only God. He is the eternal One!
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