From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Jan 04 1997 - 08:40:23 EST

At 11:28 PM -0600 1/3/97, Mitchell Andrews wrote:
>Is a different thought supported by a minority of the scholarly community
>welcome even though it may be a minority opinion? Those of us who believe
>that Jesus was the first in time also agree with so much of what has
>already been stated in this thread. In answer to the poster's question of
>the theological ramifications of MONOGENHS is whether or not it deals
>with Jesus having a beginning.

I am not citing the rest of this lengthy post because this is the only
paragraph to which I'd like to respond directly.

First of all, I want to reiterate my understanding that there are no tests
of faith or of orthodoxy for posting to B-Greek; where there have been
flames directed at theological liberals (like myself) or at evangelicals,
charismatics, fundamentalists, or (as not so very long ago) at Jehovah's
Witnesses who have posted to the list, the "community" of the list has
endeavored and generally succeeded in quenching them and reaffirming the
openness of the list to posters of all religious persuasions and even to
those who claim none at all. So I, for one, would certainly not disregard
or reject a post on grounds that the poster doesn't share my theological
convictions (I might all too soon find myself alone,if that were the
case!). What I look for rather is a comment that elucidates or illumines
the Greek text of the NT or LXX or related literature or
an argument that seeks to persuade others regarding that text on the basis
of grammatical analysis, lexicography or essential contemporary background
historical information. In sum, it's the argument or comment and its own
cogency that concerns me, and NOT the religious stance of the poster.

Having said that, however, I have to say that I don't understand how
MONOGENHS, whether it be understood either in the sense of "unique in kind"
or "only-begotten" (the latter in the sense of an only child of a father or
mother) really has any relationship whatsoever to the question of the
chronology of Jesus' origin. But that is what Mitchell seems to seek to
establish in his post:

> . . .In answer to the poster's question of
>the theological ramifications of MONOGENHS is whether or not it deals
>with Jesus having a beginning. . . .
>We agree with the thoughts already posted that one aspect of meaning is
>'unique kind.' We further agree that Jesus is called THEOS. We differ in
>that we also think there is scriptural support to define MONOGENHS as
>including first in time (as in being born) in this context. . . .

The lengthy argument that I have not cited from Mitchell's post seems to me
to endeavor to demonstrate something about the dating of the MONOGENHS
hUIOS relative to creation of the world. Although there's a standard
traditional "orthodox" Christian doctrine regarding that question as well
as more than one "heterodox" doctrine regarding it, I fail to see how the
right sense of MONOGENHS in relation to its usage in any Biblical Greek
text bears upon that question at all. Am I perhaps right in thinking that
an assumption is being made here that MONOGENHS is equated in meaning with
PRWTOTOKOS? I don't think that it should be equated, even if Biblical Greek
texts apply both adjectives to Christ as God's Son. But the two adjectives
are different in meaning. What is objectionable about translating MONOGENHS
as "only begotten" is that it goes beyond the demonstrable sense of "only
of its kind" to insist upon implications about generation, i.e., as if it
were MONOGENNHTOS, and then further, as in Mitchell's post, about the
relative chronology of that generation. I think that is loading the
adjective MONOGENHS with more baggage than it can safely carry.

I would reiterate once more that it is the argument itself here that seems
to me questionable. Whether or not MONOGENHS later came to imply more than
just the "uniqueness" of God's Son goes beyond the questions of usage of
the adjective in Biblical texts and is, it seems to me, a question of
history of doctrine rather than a question of the meaning of the word in
the NT or LXX text.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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