What Does “MONOGENES” Mean?
In the Bible, Jesus is referred to as the “only begotten Son of God, several times. The term, only begotten is translated from the Greek word, Monogenes. Alhough several modern authorities claim that the word “monogenes” should be translated as, “unique” or “one of a kind,” neither the word itself nor the roots from which the word is derived lend any credence to that definition. Look at the meanings of the word, “monogenes” and the words from which it is derived and you will see what I mean. These definitions are taken from The Strongs Hebrew-Greek dictionary.
monogenes :- only-born, i.e. sole:—only (begotten, child).
(The word Monogenes is derived from the two greek words, Monos and Genos the meanings of which are given below.)
monos :- remaining, i.e. sole or single; by impl. mere:—alone, only, by themselves.
genos :- ”kin” (abstr. or concr., lit. or fig., indiv. or coll.):—born, country (-man), diversity, generation, kind (-red), nation, offspring, stock.
It is clear that the word literally signifies the only one of a certain “kindred” (family stock) or of a person’s generation. The word genos is of the same root from which we get words such as “genes,” “genealogy,” “generation,” etc.
Since the word monogenes appears in the New Testament only nine times and those nine usages are the basis upon which we must form our conclusion as to what the word really means, then we need to ask the question, does the word mean a ”unique” son or child in the sense of one who is an offspring by some process other than birth? The Grace Theological Journal says,
“The word translated “only begotten,” (monogenes) is used nine times in the New Testament. It is used in reference to a certain widow’s son (Luke 7:2), to Jairus’ only daughter (Luke 8:42), and to another only child (Luke 9:38). It is used five times in reference to Christ (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18 ; 1 John 4:9), and once in referring back to an Old Testament character (Heb 11:17).
The Greek translations of the Old Testament (Septuagint, Aquila, Symmachus) also employ the word nine times, each time translating a form of the Hebrew word ‘yahid.’ Each one of these occurrences refers to an only child, seven of them to an only child in the ordinary sense. But twice the term is used of Isaac the son of Abraham (Gen 22:2, Aquila; 22:12, Symmachus) . . . . “
The fact is that in every single usage of the word, monogenes, in both the Old Testament (the Septuagint Greek version) and the New Testament, the word refers to a child who was literally born of the parents. It always signified a filial relationship. It never referred to an adopted or designated child. Also, in almost every case it had reference to the only child of the parents. The only exception to this is where it refers to Isaac who was actually not the only child of Abraham. The theologians make much of this and use this only case as the definitive one by which they decide on the meaning of the word, “monogenes” (because it fits with their ideas). In doing this they ignore the great majority of cases. And yet, even in the case of Isaac it is not difficult to see why Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s monogenes. He was the only legitimate one as far as both God and Abraham were concerned. God’s words to Abraham when He instructed him to sacrifice Abraham were, “take now thy son, thine only son whom thou lovest . . . .”
Of course, we also need to remember that Isaac was the literal son of Abraham. In every single case in the Bible the term monogenes has reference to a truly begotten child.
While Allen Stump and I (David Clayton) were in Tasmania last year we had the pleasure of spending a few days with Brother Paul Borg and his lovely family. His wife Helen is of Greek descent and is from a family where Greek is the language naturally spoken. It was of interest to us to hear her say that she had always understood the word “monogenes” to mean “begotten” or “born of,” and that this was how the word had always been understood by her people. The following excerpt from an article by Scott Jones (found on the internet) is interesting in light of this. It is interesting to note that in spite of this defense, Mr. Jones is a Trinitarian (!!)
DEFENSE OF MONOGENES – http://textus-receptus.com/wiki/Article:_Definition_of_Monogenes_by_Scott_Jones
by Scott Jones
It is well-known among native Greeks that modern Greek morphology is virtually identical to Koine/Biblical morphology. That means the language has been relatively stable for the past two thousand years and thus the definitions have undergone virtually no change as well.
…. Native Greeks have been reading the scriptures in GREEK – their own mother tongue – for the past two thousand years. They understand their own language better than Anglo-bible scholars and modern version translators who can’t speak Greek, even though these Anglo-bible scholars and modern version translators who can’t speak Greek continue to darken counsel by words without knowledge in their perennial boasts of understanding a language they can’t even speak.
Following their own vain imaginations down the corrupt path of their own inner delusions in their never-ending and systematic attempt to devalue the Eternal Son of God, even the Lord Jesus Christ, the modern Anglo-Sanhedrin states that monogenes means unique. Of course, only a non-Greek speaker or someone with a huge theological bent would make such an uninformed statement, as the Greek language has had a different word for unique for more than two thousand years.
That word is monadikos and it antedates Christianity, having been employed by Aristotle, Philo, and others. The Greek word monadikos means unique or one of a kind and nothing else, as native Greeks know. Its morphology hasn’t changed in over two thousand years. Monadikos is the word that Greek speakers have been using for unique for more than two thousand years, and it is the word native Greeks still use today when they want to say unique or one of a kind.
Neither has the morphology of monogenes changed in over two thousand years, and monogenes has always meant only begotten or its equivalent.
Just as only begotten is not equivalent to unique, so monogenes is not equivalent to monadikos. The Greek word monogenes does not mean unique, nor has it ever. The Greek word monadikos means unique. It has always meant unique.
Had the writers of the New Testament wanted to say unique, they would have used the Greek word which means unique – monadikos.
The reason the writers of the New Testament didn’t employ monadikos when they penned the New Testament is simple – because the writers of the New Testament didn’t mean unique. The writers of the New Testament meant only begotten or its equivalent. That’s why they used the word monogenes instead of monadikos.
According to both history and native Greeks themselves, the Greek word monogenes means only begotten or its equivalent, and it has always been so, notwithstanding the delusions of Anglo-bible scholars and modern version translators who can’t speak Greek.
Any bible version which translates monogenes as unique or one and only or one of a kind – in short, any bible version which forces generational descent out of the semantic domain of monogenes – has grossly blundered, especially in those passages relating to the eternally begotten Son of God, even the Lord Jesus Christ, since the eternal generation of the Son – that is, the only-begotteness of the Son, ergo, the eternal begetting of the Son – the very action of begetting, and begetting eternally – thus establishing consubstantial identity – a begetting, as the Scripture so plainly reveals to the truly born again, which happens to be the cardinal revelation undergirding the Trinity, thereby fixing the Godhead of Jesus Christ immutably, a fixing which only begetting can achieve – which begetting alone can achieve, this begetting thereby defining the Trinity and giving it form – that is, this begetting revealing the doctrine of the Trinity itself, a doctrine that would be forever hidden and withheld from men and angels alike were it not revealed by the Holy Ghost that the Eternal Son of God was begotten, and begotten eternally from the same substance as the Father and the Holy Ghost. But alas, the Trinity is nevertheless a doctrine that modern bibles and modern theologians habitually assail with unrelenting malice – one example being their iniquitous attempt to redefine monogenes, as shown here (but only one example of many) – even though these same theologians and scholars protest and claim otherwise – some of them even claiming to believe in the Trinity – yet never realizing that their own syntax and verbiage betrays them (blind leaders of the blind) and warns the truly born again that these false teachers are themselves unregenerate.