IS JESUS CHRIST GOD’S “ONE AND ONLY SON” OR “ONLY BEGOTTEN SON?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
One of the disadvantages of modern English Bibles is that they tremendously alter the way English-speaking Christians think and converse. Phrases that have been associated with Christianity for decades or centuries have been dropped because they have been reworded. Consequently, many Christians use new Bible terms and employ new phrases because they are using new “bibles.” They are saying things differently than the standard way Christians have stated biblical teachings for centuries (this allows for intentional, and even deliberate, doctrinal modifications). With modern English versions now competing with the 405-year-old King James Bible, there is no longer a common Christian voice. Every church member is now quoting from his or her own “preferred” Bible translation. Remember, to obtain a copyright, translators of all modern English versions must make substantial word changes to the Bible text. With every new translation comes a further weakening of the one Christian voice God intended. Just listen to Christian people as they all read the same verse from their favorite version—it is nothing but convolution and confusion!
Take the issue of calling Jesus Christ “God’s one and only Son” (modern versions) versus “God’s only begotten Son” (King James Bible). You used to hear and read “God’s only begotten Son” in Christian preaching and literature. Now, you usually hear and read “God’s only and one Son.” On the surface, this seems insignificant. However, it is a serious problem. Firstly, some Bible readers are calling Jesus one thing and other Bible readers are calling Him something else. Secondly… well… let us just say it communicates a major doctrinal error we must skillfully expose and swiftly correct!
The expression “only begotten” is the Greek word monogenes, which literally means, “only generated.” It appears six times in the King James Bible—John 1:14, John 1:18, John 3:16, John 3:18, Hebrews 11:17, and 1 John 4:9. The one in Hebrews is about Isaac; the other five refer to Jesus Christ. We will look briefly at those verses now:
- John 1:14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
- John 1:18: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
- John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
- John 3:18: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
- Hebrews 11:17: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,”
- 1 John 4:9: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
The New International Version (NIV), which is perhaps the most popular modern English “bible” today, completely eliminates “begotten” from the above verses. Rather than reading “God’s only begotten Son,” it says “God’s one and only Son.” The same is true of other popular modern translations—English Standard Version (ESV), Contemporary English Version (CEV), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), The Message (MSG), New Living Translation (NLT), Revised Standard Version (RSV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and New American (Catholic) Bible (NAB). In all fairness, it should be pointed out that the New American Standard Bible (NASB), New King James Version (NKJV), and American Standard Version (ASV), keep the phrase “only begotten” in all five verses (agreeing with the King James Bible). Although, in John 1:18, the NASB has the phrase “only begotten God” rather than “only begotten Son,” thereby supporting the ancient Arian heresy that Jesus was some “created God!”
So, friend, I bet you are wondering why we could not call the Lord Jesus merely “God’s one and only Son?” It is technically incorrect—especially for a so-called “bible”—to call Jesus “God’s one and only Son.” God has many sons according to the Bible (no matter what version you use!). For example, angels are called “the sons of God” (Job 38:7). Adam, the first man, being a direct creation of God, is called “the son of God” (Luke 3:38). In John 1:12, we read about believing Jews who became “the sons of God.” We members of the Church the Body of Christ are called “the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). See, friend, God has millions of “sons.” It is therefore foolish when so-called “educated” Bible translators call the Lord Jesus “God’s one and only Son.” They are outright contradicting these verses—even in their own translations! Moreover, they are demonstrating their Bible ignorance in yet another manner.
Why is the term “begotten” so important? Why should we use the King James Bible expression “the only begotten Son of God?” “Begotten” is a unique title; thus, to eliminate it is to diminish the Lord Jesus Christ’s special status as “begotten.” Why is “begotten” so important when referring to Him? “Begat” means “to give life to.” The first 16 verses of Matthew chapter 1 easily demonstrate this. You can read about numerous men fathering sons. For example, verse 2 says: “Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren….” This verb “begat” is related to the adjective “begotten.”
When the King James Bible calls Jesus Christ “God’s only begotten Son” in the Book of John and in the Book of 1 John, it links back to an Old Testament concept found in the Book of Psalms. If we remove “begotten,” as the modern English versions have done, then we lose the connection to Psalm 2:7, which says: “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”
Now, when did Jesus Christ become the “only begotten Son of God?” When was Psalm 2:7 fulfilled? The common assumption is when He was born in Bethlehem of Judaea. However, the Bible teaches something else. Acts 13:33-34 makes the truth quite plain: “ God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.  And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.” According to the Apostle Paul, led by the Holy Spirit to preach Acts 13:33-34, Psalm 2:7 is properly interpreted as being fulfilled at Jesus Christ’s resurrection. It was at the resurrection that Father God gave Jesus life—He became God’s “only begotten Son” at His resurrection in the tomb. For reinforcement, we look at some auxiliary verses.
- Hebrews 5:5: “So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten” (According to the writer of the Book of Hebrews, Father God resurrected Jesus in order to ordain Him as Israel’s high priest.)
- Revelation 1:5: “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood….” (The expression “first begotten of the dead” again tells us that “begotten” is connected to resurrection. “First begotten” is defined even further in Colossians 1:18, which we appeal to next.)
- Colossians 1:18: “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (God the Son, Christ Jesus, is called “the firstborn from the dead” because His resurrection is the first of many subsequent resurrections.)
Father God has many sons, but He has one “only begotten Son.” It is therefore incorrect to call Jesus “God’s one and only Son” as some modern English versions do. The Lord Jesus Christ is rightly called in the King James Bible, “the only begotten Son of God.” Furthermore, the word “begotten” refers to His resurrection, actually, not His birth in Bethlehem as often supposed (cf. Acts 13:33-34). Jesus Christ is the first son that Father God has raised from the dead: He is the “firstborn from the dead” and “first begotten of the dead” in the sense that there are more sons to follow Him in resurrection. (This is why Christ is called “the firstfruits” of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:23. Firstfruits are the few plants that ripen before the main harvest matures.) Father God resurrected Jesus Christ. He will resurrect Israel’s believing remnant one day. He will also resurrect us the Church the Body of Christ one day. All of these sons of God are one giant line of resurrected beings in Father God’s purpose and plan. As of right now though, Jesus Christ is “the only begotten Son of God.” Leave the King James Bible text alone and just believe it and rejoice in its simple truths!
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