What does the term “only begotten Son” really mean?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The Greek translation of the phrase “only begotten” is monogenes. The word monogenes that is based on the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD, 3rd Edition), has two basic meanings:

The first meaning is “pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship” which appears in Hebrews 11:17 and refers to the relationship between Isaac, Abraham’s “only begotten son” (KJV). Although Abraham had two sons, Isaac was the only son as far as God’s covenant with Abraham is concerned.

The second meaning is “pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind” which appears in John 3:16 and refers to Jesus being the unique Son of God (John 20:31) in comparison to God’s other sons and daughters (Ephesians 1:5).

The terms “Father” and “Son” explain the relationship between them in the Godhead.  Jesus is the only begotten of the Father (John 1:14) and the Father proclaims Jesus as His Son (Hebrews 1:8). How Jesus is begotten is not the same as humans (Hebrews 7:3).  God is a Spirit (John 4:24) and His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). We cannot explain the how Jesus is begotten, as we only can speak of what God has given us in Scripture (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims greatly err when they teach that Jesus was “begotten” in the sense that He is merely a created being by God the Father. This false teaching contradicts the Scriptures which teach:

-Jesus is divine (John 1:1, 14, 8:58, 10:30; 1 John 5:7; John 20:28; Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 9:6; John 10:30)

-Jesus is eternal (Micah 5:2; John 8:58)

-Jesus is omnipresent (Matthew 18:20; 28:20; I John 5:7)

-Jesus is omniscient (Mark 11:2-6; Matt. 12:40)

-Jesus is omnipotent (Revelation 19:6; Matt. 28:18)

-Jesus is the Creator (John 1-3, Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 1:2) Jesus is sinless (Romans 3:23; 2 Cor. 5:21)

-Jesus is worshiped, which is forbidden unless He is God (Revelation 22:9; John 9:38; Matthew 14:33; Luke 24:52)

-Jesus forgives sins, which only God can do (Mark 2:5-7)

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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