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Seth Brown GRK 301 Dr.

Crockett 31 March 2010 MonogenhvV MonogenhvV is a compound word from the adjective movnoV (one, only) and a derivation of the copulative verb givnomai. Bchsel states, the mono- does not denote the source but the nature of derivation. Hence monogenhvV means of sole descent, i.e., without brothers or sisters.1 The implications of a word such as this vary due to the wide ranging usage of copulative verbs. The unique nature of Christ is a foundational doctrine in orthodox Christianity. Likely, monogenhvV expresses this idea more clearly than any other in the New Testament. The word occurs several places in the later writings of the New Testament, e.g., Luke, John, and Hebrews. The clearest expressions of the meaning occur in the phrases to;n uiJo;n to;n monogenh: e[dwken (Jn. 3:16), to;n uiJo;n aujtou to;n monogenh: (1 Jn. 4:9), and monogenou:V para; patrovV (Jn. 1:14). These examples refer specifically to Jesus relationship to God, owing to the nominative case oJ qeo;V and patrovV. Given the context of these verses, John is trying to communicate a strong theological idea by the use of this word to describe Jesus relationship with God. The author of Hebrews uses the word in a more casual sense, i.e., not implying divinity, when he speaks of Isaac as Abrahams only son (to;n monogenh:). Rest assured, Abraham begat more than one son, e.g., Ishmael, but monogenh: denotes the unique status of Isaac. Also, Luke speaks of the dead man from Nain as the only son of the mother (monogenh;V uiJo;V th:/ mhtri;). Johns revelatory representation of Jesus unfolds as he builds up his argument in his

Bchsel, monogenhvV, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed. Gerhard Friedrich, vol. IV, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971) 738.


Gospel. In John 1:1, John makes two important points: 1) the Word became flesh, 2) the Word was God. The divine Word becomes the only one of the Father in John 1:14. Thus, John gives a clear exposition of the special nature of Jesus Christ; thereby, cementing monogenhvV into Christian christology. After the penning of Johns Gospel, the meaning of the word comes under much controversy. Nevertheless, the inclusion of the word in its Greek form is not debated. MonogenhvV has taken its place in Christian history as a theological term that cannot be ignored. The meandering translation of this word begins with an Old Latin manuscript written by Eusebius. Unicus is the Latin term used in the Old Latin Codex Vercellensis, which means only. The following history of monogenhvV would have been much simpler had the Latin tradition carried on the use of unicus. Needless to say, this is not the case. In Jeromes revision of the latin, unicus becomes unigenitum. Furthermore, Jerome only revised the translation of monogenhvV in passages that provoked theological interest regarding Jesus deity. These passages are: John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18. It is interesting to note that Walter Bauer suggests that only is a sufficient translation of monogenhvV for Johannine literature, but he prefers only begotten in the aforementioned theological passages due to the high christology of Johannine literature.2 Unlike Bauer, Jeromes revision was out of interest for ecclesiastical dogma.3 Moody goes on to propose that Augustine originally translated monogenhvV as unicum, only later preferring unigenitum due to the influence of creeds. The Nicene Creed uses the word monogenhv as well as gennhqevnta to speak of Christ as the only son of God and as begotten from eternity. This dual

2Walter Bauer, monogenhvV, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Second Edition, rev. F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 527.

Moody, Gods Only Son: The Translation of John 3:16 in the Revised Standard Version, Journal of Biblical Literature, 72/4 (Dec., 1953): 214, Online, (accessed 08 March 2010).



description of Jesus using two words that have similar morphology served to blur the distinction between the words, even among the brightest of scholars. The Vulgate, owing to its massive influence on the Western Church, provided unigenitum as the source of only begotten in the King James Version of 1611, English Revised Version of 1881, and others with a partial exception.4 The partial exception is the great translator William Tyndale. In 1878, Rotherham not only translated the pertinent theological passages with only begotten, but also translated Luke 7:12; 8:42; and 9:38 as well.5 Moody notes the correction in the Twentieth Century New Testament of 1898; however, the error returns in 1900 via the American Standard Version.6 Some translations after 1898 do correct the error, but none so famously controversial as the Revised Standard Version in 1946. As is obvious from its history, monogenhvV creates rich theological meaning when speaking of Jesus. Moody considers the word an epitome of christology.7 As a very technical Greek term, it is precise and clear. Whether the word is used only to denote the unique status of human progeny or whether it designates Jesus as the unique god-man, monogenhvV does a fine job of illustrating the eloquence of the Greek language.


4Ibid., 5Ibid., 6Ibid., 7Ibid.,

215. 216. 215-16. 217.


Bibliography Bauer, Walter. monogenhvV. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Second Edition. Revised and Augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

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Bchsel, F. monogenhvV. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Volume IV. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971. Moody, Dale. Gods Only Son: The Translation of John 3:16 in the Revised Standard Version. Journal of Biblical Literature. 72/4 (Dec., 1953): 213-19. Online. (Accessed 08 March 2010).