Does the Bible say "Begotten"?

One of the most emotional reactions from Muslims are received when the term "begotten" is mentioned, particularly in the phrase "only begotten Son" (of God). However, most of these verses as they refer to Jesus are actually a mistranslation of the Greek word monogenes (), which is therefore no longer found in the newer translations.

In The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia in Five Volumes, 1975, Vol A-C, p. 510, we find:

BEGOTTEN (BEGETTING) Various forms of the roots and "beget," are frequent in the OT both in the literal sense (Deut 23:8) and the metaphorical (Job 38:28; of the deposit of dew). Psalm 2:7 uses the word of God's relationship to the Messianic king. Perhaps, in its application to a Davidic king, this was originally divine "adoption" to sonship; if so cf. Galatians 4:5. When understood prophetically of Christ, the word passes far beyond the adoptionist sense. In the NT, the literal sense is still common (e.g. Matt 1:1-16) but the metaphorical use is greatly extended. For instance, in I Corinthians 4:15 an evangelist may be said to have "begotten" his converts to new spiritual life. Corresponding to this "begotten" is the usual word to describe the relation of the believers to God (John 1:13, 1 Pet 1:3, etc.) This means that Christians are , "children" of God (John 1:12).

Christ, by contrast is , "son" of God, to John, but this verb is not used in the NT to describe God's relationship to Him. "Only-begotten" (1:14, etc.) is a mistranslation in older VSS of "only," "unique" prob. corresponding to Heb. , of which "beloved" is another NT tr. See also SON OF GOD.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. G. Abbot-Smith, Manual Greek Lexicon of the NT (1937); W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon of the NT (1957). [R. A. COLE]

This means in particular that the term "only begotten" found in some translations of John 1:14,18, John 3:16, 1 John 4:9, Hebrews 11:17, etc. is a mistranslation and needs to be better translated as "one and only" or "unique".

Further articles of interest on this topic are:

  • Psalm 2:7 "You are my Son, today I have begotten you."
  • Jesus as the Son of God
  • Jesus, the ‘Only Begotten’ Son of God
  • Jesus THE Unique Son of God
  • An article about the genealogies of Jesus that also gives some further helpful background information about the term "begotten".
  • Recommended reading:

    The most detailed scholarly discussion of "monogenes" I have seen is found in "Jesus as God" by Murray J. Harris, pages 84-87, giving a very thorough examination of the linguistic data and references to various journal articles. It is today the scholarly consensus that the word has nothing to do with "begotten", the "genes" part is not even derived from "gennasthai", but from "ginesthai". Also, D.A. Carson's note on John 1:14 is helpful and less technical than Murray.

    Murray J. Harris
    Jesus as God
    The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus
    Baker Book House, 1992, ISBN 0-8010-4370-0, pages 84-87

    D.A. Carson
    The Gospel According To John
    Eerdmans, 1991, ISBN 0-8028-3683-6, page 128

    Dictionary of Christian terms and concepts
    Answering Islam Home Page