These are excerpts from his studies No. 7 “Studies in the Usage of the Greek Word Monogenes”. Enjoy
Scripture warns us that in the last days some Christians will depart from the Faith, and one of the biggest departures from the Historic Christian Faith is being caused by a small group of modern Christian teachers who are altering this important revelatory word of Jesus regarding his relationship to God the Father. They are telling Christians, (in books and in new translations of Scripture), that “monogenes” was misunderstood by the Greek speaking population of the early Church. They are saying that Christian ministers of the first three centuries of the Church did not understand their own mother tongue, and as such, misled generation after generation of Christians for almost 1900 years regarding this important aspect of the Faith.
What they are really claiming is that because they are now on the scene, the “true” Faith is being clarified because they have deciphered the true meaning of “monogenes.” Men, who for the most part, have English for their mother tongue are now telling us that men, whose mother tongue was Greek, did not understand their own language. Christian teachers of long ago, who grew up speaking the Greek language, who learned Greek from the time they were little children, are accused of misunderstanding their own native language. They are saying that for almost two thousand years the true Faith was withheld from the Church and that the Holy Spirit had to wait for the modern teachers to be born in order to reveal to Christians the “true” Faith.
They are in reality saying that for almost two thousand years the Church was teaching error regarding the revelatory word “monogenes,” and for two thousand years the Church did not correctly understand the true Faith! Their assertions really mean there have been no godly ministers for the last 1900 years to correctly teach the Church the truth about the Faith, but now that the new teachers are here, they are able to do so.
This betrays nothing but pride and a separation from those who have gone before. It betrays their belief that the Faith has been obscured for two thousand years and they alone are now teaching the true Faith. And it betrays their belief that our ancient brothers misunderstood the Greek word monogenes, thereby producing a false belief that our Lord was begotten of the Father before all time.
Dear brethren, do not be carried away by this new thinking. Hold fast to the Faith that the Holy Spirit has affirmed through untold godly men throughout all of Church History. There is overwhelming historical and linguistic evidence that “monogenes” was used by the apostle John, indeed, by our Lord Himself, to mean “only-begotten” or “only born.” They claim otherwise, but the evidence contradicts their assertion.
Nevertheless, the new teachers continue to alter the historic definition of “monogenes,” knowing that if they successfully obscure the true meaning of this word they will be successful in obscuring the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son from the Father. (Or, perhaps, they are doing it unknowingly, nevertheless, such a view is a departure from the Faith).
I am afraid the real reason behind this attempt by modern teachers to alter the true meaning of this word is because they have already altered the definition of the Historic Christian Faith in their own minds from an orthodox viewpoint to a heterodox viewpoint.
Or, let’s turn it around; if we look at it another way – if, and that is a big if, if John understood monogenes to mean the same thing as monos, (i.e. one and only), he would have then used monogenes in John 5:44 and 17:3 and not chosen a different word – monos
So, the question must be asked, “If monogenes means one and only, why did he not use monogenes in these latter verses? If he used monogenes in John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18, why not continue to use it in 5:44 and 17:3? Would he not have been consistent in his terminology if he did?” The reason he did not do so is because monogenes does not mean one and only, but rather means only- begotten! And because those later verses refer to the Father, and not to the Son, and because God the Father is unbegotten, it would have been incorrect to say the Father was monogenes (only-begotten), although it would be fine to say that God the Father was monos (one and only). Why? Because, indeed, he is the one and only Father who is unbegotten. The Son is not unbegotten, nor is the Holy Spirit unbegotten, only the Father is unbegotten and so can be called “monos” “one and only.” In this sense, monos, which carries no connotation of kind, simply means unique, or one and only and refers to his subsistence, not to his substance, which is perfectly orthodox.
You see, there is no problem using monos to refer to God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit, because in those usages it refers to the Personhood (subsistence), and, indeed, there is only one and only God the Father, only one and only God the Son, and only one and only God the Holy Spirit. However, one can only use monogenes of the Son.
Because there are only Three distinct Persons in the Blessed Trinity, monos can be used of any one of the Three Persons. But, because there is only “one substance” in the Blessed Trinity, monogenes could not be used for a Person if it meant one of a kind. It could never be used for a Person for that would destroy the oneness of substance – homoousios, and make the other Persons to be of a different kind or substance – homoiousios.
However, monogenes, meaning only-begotten, can and is used of one of the Three Persons – the Son, for while the Father is an unbegotten and is God, and the Holy Spirit is spirated and is God, the Son is, indeed, only-begotten and is God. All Three are God, not three Gods, meaning three Divine Beings, for there is only One Divine Being, but Three who are called God because they all possess the one and the same substance – one Divine Being in whom subsists God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. The Father being of none, thus unbegotten, the Son being eternally begotten of the Father, thus only-begotten, and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father through the Son, thus spirated.
Now, some other modern day translations, trying to get around their theological problem, are even more creative in masking the Neo-Trinitarian’s heretical concept of the word in John 1:18. Some introduce the reflexive pronoun “himself” into the text in order to extricate themselves from their theological dilemma; they say something like “the one and only Son, who is himself God.” By reading it in that way they are using the adjective as a substantive to take the emphasis off substance and put it back on Personhood; but, dear reader, that is adding to God’s Word. The Holy Spirit never inspired the reflexive pronoun himself in the text.
Misconceptions and Misunderstandings
Regarding the Greek Word Monogenes as found in Dale Moody’s Paper, “God’s Only Son: The Translation of John 3:16 in the Revised Standard Version”
We would first like to look at some false assertions made by Dale Moody in his paper, God’s Only Son: The Translation of John 3:16 in the Revised Standard Version. He was a Professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
This paper is repeatedly referenced by Neo-Trinitarians and others when discussing this issue. Unfortunately, however, (for those who read the various claims made by Neo-Trinitarians in regard to this paper), they do not know that many of the facts presented in this paper are not facts at all, but rather are half-truths and, in some cases, out and out errors.
We will now look at some of these common misconceptions and misunderstandings, trying to give the reader all the facts, and not just the facts that support our particular view. We will attempt to give all the facts so the reader can decide for themselves.
It should first be noted that the whole purpose of Dale Moody’s paper was to defend the RSV’s choice of “only” as a meaning of “monogenes” rather than the traditional “only-begotten.” And in defending this choice he first states that he is attempting to show that “…the translators have simply corrected an error repeated for fifteen centuries…”
Dear reader, what audacity and arrogance! Yes, arrogance! Now, I would never make such a charge against someone who interpreted a passage of Scripture differently than I might, if it was dealing with a doctrine that was not essential to our Faith. On non-essential doctrines of the Faith we must forbear with each other in love, and sometimes admit we may be wrong, but when it comes to the essential doctrines of the Faith we must never let our love for someone take precedence over our love for the Lord and for the truth.
As has been mentioned before regarding the modern Neo-Trinitarian:
“I know many of the modern teachers are true Christians. They love the Lord. I am sure they are very affable. Indeed, they more than likely wax eloquent on other doctrines and have been a great help to many Christians. I’m sure they are beloved by their students and by those in their churches. As such, I am sure they will be defended by such, because love produces loyalty and commitment. However, we must remember our loyalty and commitment must be first to the Lord and to His revelation. Why? Because love does, indeed, produce loyalty and commitment, and if the Lord Jesus is to be our first love, our loyalty and commitment must be first to Him.” Remember the warning of Rev. 2:4.”
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Rev. 2:4 “Consequently, we must first be faithful to Him and to the Faith that was delivered to the Church. We must put our respect for the Lord and His Faith before any respect we might have for our Christian leaders and teachers.”
“It is never pleasant to confront error. In fact, it is very difficult. No one loves contention, but we must realize the Church is under an obligation from the Scripture to remain faithful to the Lord as our first love and to “earnestly contend for the Faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3).”
“Remember the warning of the Holy Spirit. In the last day’s men would depart from the Faith. This is the time when such contending is necessary. However, may we pray to the Lord that it ever be done with humility, forbearance, and most importantly with love, so that those who are in error may realize their mistake and realize that human pride is fleeting and guarded reputations are futile. May they repent of their departure.”
Therefore, sometimes niceties must be set aside when dealing with such issues of the Faith. When necessary our Saviour set aside such niceties, calling some of the Pharisees hypocrites and blind guides! If our Saviour, who was sinless, sometimes deemed it necessary to sometimes speak with such candidness, how much more should we, following his example, do so when confronting one who seeks to change the meaning of the most basic revelatory title given to us by the Lord Himself, a title that has been confirmed by the godly witness of untold millions of Christians for almost two thousand years of Church History?
Dale Moody asserts in his paper that thousands upon thousands of godly Christians, including teachers, pastors and other translators, have been mistaken for fifteen centuries, (most of church history!), and that he and others like him in the 19th and 20th century have now discovered the true meaning of monogenes!
Imagine it, for most of Church History untold millions of Christians like have been misled in regard to an integral aspect of the True Faith. Imagine, the Historic Christian Faith has been wrong in its declarations regarding the true nature of Christ and now that modern teachers are on the scene, the Holy Spirit can correct the Church. Again, what audacity! What they are really saying is that the Holy Spirit has left the Church bereft of the true Faith until they arrived on the scene – the Holy Spirit had to wait fifteen centuries for them to appear.
Now I am the first to admit that certain truths of Scripture have been lost over the centuries. Who can deny that false doctrines have crept into the Church?
And yes, who can deny that the Holy Spirit has raised up certain individuals, for instance, a man like Martin Luther, to recover certain truths that have been lost or nullified over the centuries by different teachings and traditions of men (Mk. 7: 8-13 ). But dear reader this has never happened in regard to the Faith!
The Faith has never been lost. It has been the special treasure of the Church for all her history. Every time heretics and apostates have tried to rob her of those precious truths, the Church has stood strong, “contending for the Faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). It has clung to that which was delivered to it from the beginning (I Jn. 2:24).
The Faith has never been lost, and for Dale Moody or anyone else to now arise and claim the true meaning of monogenes has been lost and the Church has followed an error for fifteen centuries shows that they themselves are misled, and have departed themselves from the Faith in regard to this precious truth.
A good friend has addressed this important issue. Let me include his insight regarding those who affirm that monogenes does not mean only-begotten, and those who insist that such denial does no harm to the Historic Christian Faith.
- “If you throw out the word monogenes, (as do this class of Neo-Trinitarians) or marginalize the word, saying that it doesn’t really matter what monogenes means, in that we can still hold to the Historic Faith regarding the eternal generation of the Son without it, what you have done in effect is to say you can hold to an orthodox doctrine regardless of any biblical support for the meaning of words. It’s ok in that there are other biblical texts that can be cited to defend the doctrine of eternal sonship. No it’s not ok. To do otherwise, is not according to the apostolic admonition to hold fast to that what has been delivered to the saints (2 Thess. 2:15), not to mention the words of our Lord who commanded His disciples to teach according to what He had commanded them ( 28:20). Now does Jn. 3:16 ring a bell? We do not get to pick and choose what words to use when speaking of God’s self revelation, as though they are negotiable, without severe and dire consequences. Do not add – Do not take away – is the divine edict and standard! God used words to reveal Who He is, and the criteria for using certain words is not whether or not we can still maintain a doctrine with or without out specific words such as monogenes. Should not the criteria be – we use such words because God so chose to use them in revealing Himself? God chooses the vocabulary for revealing Himself to His people – it is not the people who choose. And to ignore God’s chosen words, is to ignore God. God doesn’t give us the option to choose or not to choose, to use or discard at will revelatory inspired words according to our whim, simply on the basis that they may or may not be helpful to defend or set forth a particular doctrine. He is the One who sets the parameters and the language for us to use… period.
- “Furthermore, God did not have to give us the word monogenes in describing His Son. He could have just used the term monos, “only,” and left it th However, as biblical and solid the word monos is in Scripture, it still doesn’t approach nor convey the depth and beauty of the word monogenes. Monos tells us little to nothing regarding the eternal derivation of the Son from the Father. Nor does it give any insight into the Son’s nature, his personal subsistence or absolute equality with the Father. As a matter of fact, as with the term son, the term monos, only lets us know that God, in some sense, has an “only” Son, but falls short in revealing exactly HOW the Son is God’s “only” Son, let alone how His Son is His in the first place? Is it by creation? Is the Son unique in some special way as contrasted with angelic nature or human nature or some other living creature? Is the Son “only” because He is uniquely equal with God, yet without derivation? So even though the word monos is a good and revelatory word in Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit and used by Christians to describe Christ as the Son of God, nevertheless, it still lacks the clarity, precision and fullness that the –genes, in the word monogenes, affords by revealing the Son’s unique relationship with His Father.
- “The following summaries are given to help clarify the distinctions of terms.
- “Summary A – The term ‘Son,’ in and of itself, may or may not indicate that Christ is God’s Son by nature. Men and angels are also referred to as sons. It would depend on the context.
- “Summary B – The Christian’s use of the term “only Son of God” gives us further clarification; it indicates that his nature must be different and, in some way, unique. But how, and in what way would he be different and unique? Could not Adam also be considered an “only son of God,” albeit, for different reasons?
- “Summary C – The term “only-begotten Son of God” outright declares and defines precisely how the nature of God’s Son is different from human and angelic natures and how he subsists within the Divine Being. While Adam might be considered an “only son of God,” he never could be considered the “only-begotten Son of God. The term only-begotten erases any lingering doubt as to HOW the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God
- “The term monogenes is in truth a gift from God who loves and desires His people to know Him. Such an explicit word as monogenes offers further proof that God is truly a revelatory God as evidenced by a term that discloses so much direct and concrete insight into the intra- Trinitarian relations. God offers us a glimpse of Himself and of His divine nature by the word monogenes. He wants us to know Him and be able to identify with Him, so He gives a term that we human beings can relate to at the most fundamental core of our own being… our own fecundity. The word greatly aids our understanding of the divine relations between the Father and Son, that otherwise would pose unimaginable difficulties in comprehension, as well as the practical benefits associated with the word. Monogenes, understood with its meaning of “only-begotten,” gives a tangible and clear means for understanding divine Personhood, consubstantiality, equality, fecundity, not to mention the benefit it affords for understanding other revealed truths. So why would anyone want to discard such a heavenly gift?
- “In the world that the apostle John grew up in and later wrote to fellow believers in our Lord Jesus Christ in, he spoke of Jesus as being the “only-begotten” Son. He said that Jesus was not merely God’s Son (which in itself can suggest derivation), but that Jesus was God’s only-begotten (born) Son. Now let’s think about this for a momen Here’s John, writing to Christians living in a world of widespread polytheistic pagan idolatry with the commonly held belief that the gods mate with other gods producing sons and daughters, who in turn are considered to be gods. Now I have one little question for the apostle John given the state of such a worldwide religious environment, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” “John, don’t you know that polytheism is rampant. The common perception is that the god’s produce offspring. What were you thinking?” “Do you not realize that by saying Jesus is the “’only- begotten” Son of God you are playing right into the pagan mythology of gods producing gods?” “Why then would you use such a word as monogenes (so graphic, so utterly human) to describe the Son’s eternal relationship with His Father?” The apostle, wise and tolerant as time, answers by a small still voice, like that of the evening breeze, “Because, my brother, it is the Truth and I bear witness to the Truth – Jesus is the Son of God, the very monogenes from His Father before all ages, and no pagan mythology can ever change or obscure that fact. He is begotten, not created nor formed nor made. He is very God of Very God. He is consubstantial, with His Father’s very own Substance. He is equal to His Father in every possible conceivable way. His derivation from His Father is eternal and knows no end. He is the Lord God who created the world and made all things therein; who walked in the cool of the day with Adam; who spoke with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the Lord God who gave the Law to Moses lovingly inscribed with His own hand; and He shall sit upon the throne of David whose kingdom shall have no end. He is the Great I AM, for He alone is, The ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON OF THE LIVING GOD.”
- “Our Lord’s Sonship is indeed unique, not because that’s what the word monogenes means, but because He is the monogenes Son. God has many who are called His son, but only the Lord Jesus Christ is His only-begotten. And the word monogenes clarifies and defines, beyond all doubt, the Son’s uniqueness. It provides the only true and definitive answer to the question of the ages: “Who is Chris.. Whose Son is He” – by the eternal response of, “He is The Only-Begotten Son of God.”
- “To toss out or minimize the importance of the true meaning of the word monogenes, either for the sake of appeasement or pseudo scholarship, only invites the continued accusation that the Historic Christian Faith, regarding the eternal Sonship, though it “may be” true, nevertheless, doesn’t have any real substantial biblical support in so far that monogenes doesn’t mean only-begotten. Thus, the whole doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son comes into question from a biblical perspectiv Its authority, they claim, lies vested in human tradition and not revealed Scriptures. It becomes clouded with doubt and suspicion as a legitimate biblical doctrine. And this is precisely where the enemy wants it to be: clouded, obscured, and marginalized, knowing full well that given enough time and persistence, human nature, being what it is, will eventual come to ignore and reject the doctrine altogether. Remember the vile words from the serpent mouth; “Hath God said?” These three words were the words that brought down the universe and all therein.”
Indeed, words are so important and when we look closely at Dale Moody’s paper we see that, even though he makes the assertion that Christians have been repeated an “error” for fifteen centuries, it is actually he who repeatedly makes statements that mislead and in some cases are outright errors! How sad it is that his paper is appealed to over and over, and no one checks his facts. He makes some statements and assertions that simply are not true, as we will now demonstrate. I make this charge not by my judgment alone, but by the judgment of history and the judgment of two thousand years of Christian witness!”
This is interesting, amazing stuff.
This is not to boast but state the fact, non-trinitarians are sincere even when they meet something from a trinitarian which makes sense, not all trinitarians reciprocate the same to non-trinitarians. I posted this study from a trinitarian in his understanding of the word Monogenes. We have many articles from non-trinitarians that say the same thing but it would be good to hear from the trinitarian. Forget about his mentioning of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and by the way while he is using those phrases, he is not conveying what the orthodox trinitarianism teach for he says
- The Father is unbegotten
- The Son is begotten of the substance of the Father and
- The Holy Spirit is spirated by the Father and Son and God worthy of worship [intriguing]
Nonetheless he is so sound to the word monogenes that I said Amen to almost everything, winking at his mistakes in some points.