Re: Monogenes

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Mar 13 1997 - 21:49:26 EST

At 1:38 PM -0600 3/13/97, lakr wrote:
>> At 12:21 PM -0600 3/12/97, lakr wrote:
>> >> Carl W. Conrad (
>> >> Mon, 10 Mar 1997 08:33:41 -0600
>> >> In reply to: Martin A. Childs: "John 3:18 and English article "of""
>> >>
>> >Or, perhaps given the definition in Thayers of alethinos as
>> >
>> > ["alethinos ... that which has not only the name and semblance,
>> > but the real nature corresponding to the name ... in every
>> > respect corresponding to the idea signified by the name, real
>> > and genuine .. a. opp (oposed) to what is fictitious, counterfeit,
>> > imaginary, ... Jn xvii. 3 ... it contrasts realities with
>> > their semblances ... Heb viii. 2; the sanctuary, Heb ix. 24."
>> > Thayer's lexicon, page 27.],
>> >
>> > "the only (one) who is by nature God". ?
>> You are reading MONON as a second adjective; but (I think) the Johannine
>> phrase for the notion you've just expressed is, in fact: hO MONOGENHS QEOS,
>> the conjunction that appears (albeit without the article) in John 1:18.
>> Carl W. Conrad
>Carl, thanks.
>I thought that I was making the MONON substantive, but if I understand
>you correctly, the hO in this translation takes the meaning of 'hON'
>and the MONON is an adjective.

No, apparently I misled you. That MONON in TON MONON ALHQINON QEON is an
adverb qualifying ALHQINON, not an adjective (I guess it's in the lexicon
as an adverb;it's a neuter acc. of the adjective used in an adverbial
sense): so it is "the one (who) alone (is) truly God."

I don't understand what you're doing with hON; that would be an accusative
relative pronoun--why would you bring that in? I think you're wanting to
say that TON MONON ALHQINON QEON is semantically (or "dynamically")
equivalent to something like hOSTIS MONON ALHQINOS ESTIN QEOS = "who alone
is authentic God."

>Even though I did not really understand what I was doing with this
>are you saying that "the only (one) who is by nature God" is at
>least a _possible_ translation of John 17:3 ?

Well, yes, IMPLICITLY; I think there's something a bit fishy about that
term "by nature"--if we hold that nature is created by God; to speak of one
who "by nature" is divine is to speak in a Greek manner, where the gods are
WITHIN the cosmos and evolve within it. My own feeling is that this Greek
sort of theologizing about the metaphysical "nature" of God and Christ is
barely getting under way in the process of the composition of the NT, and
Judaism, except where, as in Philo, it embraced Greek thinking with open
arms, was much more hesitant about getting into precise cosmological
speculation about the "nature" of God; it would use metaphors and analogies
freely but the question is whether even those metaphors about God's Wisdom
openly conceived of Wisdom as something hypostatized. Apologies for the
theological speculation, but it was all in reaction to the question how a
NT text might legitimately be translated. But ALHQINOS could mean GENNAIOS,
"true to one's generation," "not alien to one's inherent selfhood." But
frankly, this sounds much more like the Nicene Creed, which may indeed be
traditional and orthodox Christian theology, but which goes far beyond the
sort of theological language overtly expressed in John's gospel.

>Regarding the comparison of hO MONOGENHS QEOS in John 1:18, the use
>of monogenes in John 1:14 would appear to have the same reference
>as the use in John 1:14 where PARA PATROS is decisive for
>I did a bit of research from some etymological examples in the article
>in New Test. Stud. on monogenes, where it discusses the root -genes
>which means "category" or "kind". The article also gives some
>examples where this root also may carry the idea of derivation,
>as in ghgenes(born of Gaia or earth-born), diogenes (Zeus-descended,
>sprung from Zeus) eugenes(well born) and suggenes(born with).
>Of course this is academic, as etymology does mean much with
>regard to word studies, however even in this case it provides no
>objection to the meaning 'only begotten'.

I think that you will continue to hold to "only-begotten" as the real sense
of MONOGENHS, while I for my part will remain convinced, until satisfied
otherwise, that MONOGENHS means "unique in kind" or simply "unique." I
would not dispute those etymologies, but as you say, it's not the
etymologies that are determinative of the meaning but what can be
demonstrated regarding the usage o the word within its traditional contexts.

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

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