Re: My concluding thoughts on MONOGENES

Date: Tue Mar 18 1997 - 00:04:05 EST wrote:

<<After a few weeks of prayer and study, I have made some conclusions
concerning the Johannine use of the word "MONOGENES." I thank those who have
contibuted to my understanding of this term and I am most assuredly not
closing off further insight. I realize that I am rejecting both the older and
the newer translations of the term, but that cannot be helped. >>

I have studied the use of MONOGENES, also, and while I find it can mean,
"only," unique," and "only-begotten," I cannot conclude on the basis of your
material that the meaning "only-begotten" is not permissible in the Fourth
Gospel. Here's why:

<<Here is what I find:

1) "Only begotten" in a context of many other "birthings" simply makes no
logical sense. While I would not rely solely on "reason" in comprehension
of such a term, I see nothing to be gained by thrusting away common sense. >>

I acknowledge missing a good part of the dialogue on MONOGENES, but where is
it used "in a context of many other `birthings'"? Of course, if the context
involves some sort of "unique" generation, whereby God generated one being in
a manner different than any other (whether this be an "eternal generation" or
sole, direct offspring [not through a medium--i.e., the Logos himself]), then
we must allow such a connotation of MONOGENES to exist, regardless of whether
or not others (angels) are said to be His "sons." (Job 38:7) But if "beloved"
is the connotation one should associate with MONOGENES, then why should we
find this term restricted to offspring, and not to the parents, or the
child's brothers or sisters? Why is the phrase MONOGENES ADELPHOS never
found? Yet, we do find ADELPHOS AGAPETOS. (1 Cor. 15:58; Eph 6:21; Php 4:1;

<<2) The LXX translators seem to have approved the sense of "beloved". The
terms "MONOGENES" and "AGAPETOUS" appear to be nearly synonymous. This is
especially enlightening when comparing LXX renderings of the status of
Isaac in Genesis 22 with that employed in the Hebrews verse. >>

How does the LXX demonstrate synonymy between MONOGENES and AGAPETOS? Surely
not in Gen 22. How does referring to Isaac as "beloved" (AGAPETOS) three
times in this chapter constitute synonymy between MONOGENES and AGAPETOS?

<<3) The Old Latin rendering of "unicus" seems to contradict Jerome's
understandable use of the cognate "unigenitus". >>

The question here is, What is an accurate representation of the OL? Codex
Vercellensis? Then what are we to make of Hilary's use of UNIGENITUS when
quoting John 1:1-14, 18? Dahms ("The Johannine Use of Monogenes
Reconsidered," NTS 29 [1983], 226) reasons: "It is hardly conceivable that he
[Hilary] could have made such a comment without more ado unless his readers
were familiar with UNIGENITUS in their Latin New Testaments."

<<4) The Father's "begetting" of the Son of an eternally co-existent Trinity
is self-defeating argumentation to Trinitarians.>>

Well, I would ask that you explain just how this is self-defeating, but also
what of the possibility that it simply means "only-begotten" in a temporal
sense? Is this, too, "self-defeating"?

<<5) Matthew, Mark, and Luke use the phrase "beloved Son" (Strong's <27> +
<5207>), whereas John does not. >>

The point here would be? Does the fact that only John uses THEOS of Jesus
mean it must share a semantic equivalence with a term in the Synoptics? Also,
Matthew uses AGAPETOS three times (3:17; 12:18; 17:5), Mark uses it three
times (1:11; 9:7; 12:6) and Luke only twice (3:22; 20:13 [three times if you
count Acts 15:25]), while John uses MONOGENES five times (Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16,
18; 1 Jn 4:9). None of the Synoptic or Johannine texts are of the same
account, with the Synoptics using AGAPETOS and John using MONOGENES. If that
were the case, then you might have a point. But as it is, you do not. Also,
it must not be forgotten that Luke uses MONOGENES three times. (7:12; 8:42;
9:38) How do you account for this? Why did he not simply use AGAPETOS?

<<6) Isaac is, in fact, not "only begotten" but is singularly "beloved". >>

Of course, that is the very point you must prove. If, from a human
standpoint, a child must have two parents, then how is it that Isaac could
not be the "only-begotten" of Abraham and Sarah?

<<7) The "MONOGENES" use of "MONO" as a prefix is a most uncommon formation
in the New Testament. While MONOPHTHALMOS, "one-eyed" clearly retains the
sense of "only", the concept of the "single eye" in context is obviously
broader than the hyperbolic context of eye-plucking. This implies that a
similar idiomatic use is likely in the case of "MONOGENES".>>

No, it implies no such thing. I would hardly attempt to argue etymologically
from MONOPHTHALMOS for a similar "idiomatic use" in MONOGENES in filial
contexts! If an argument from etymology is to be found, it is from those
words ending in -GENES, but you will not find any help there either, as there
are words ending in -GENES that imply uniqueness _and_ generation; however,
none will be found with the connotation of "beloved."

<<Therefore, if there is any thought of "onliness" or "begetting" in the
term, it should be seen as secondary and connotative rather than

Not from the evidence you have given. I appreciate your study, and thank you
for your presentation, but I am not convinced, for the aforementioned
reasons. If anything, "beloved" is secondary in its relation to MONOGENES
used in filial contexts, as the "only-begotten" child is beloved because it
is the sole child of the parents.

<<Surely Jesus as the Son of God is singularly beloved of the Father. I am
not entirely pleased with a rendering of "beloved" because it seems to
underplay the connotative possibilities. But I would disgree with the
translations of both "only" and "only begotten". >>

It is not an easy question to answer. But I believe the meaning of MONOGENES
must come from a careful study of the context in which it is used, and when
that is done I believe the two meanings that emerge, especially in filial
contexts, are "only" and "only-begotten."


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