John 3:16

Not open for further replies.


Puritan Board Sophomore
"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 3:16 (KJV)

I'm beginning a study on Christology and have a question concerning the meaning of 'begotten'.

I was reading that the Greek word for begotten is monogenes, which is a compound word derived from mono, meaning 'alone' or 'one', and 'genes' meaning 'class' or 'kind'. So an accurate translation here in this passage would be "one and only Son", "unique Son" or "one of a kind Son".

The English term "begotten" here in this particular passage does not indicate a point in time in which Christ was created or had a beginning, for if that's what this particlar passage meant to convey, the Greek term "gennao", which means to give birth or to indicate a point in time of origin, would have been used.

So monogenes is a relational term. Is this a correct understanding of the Greek here as well as what Scripture means when it says that Christ was begotten of the Father?

Not long ago I was having a discussion with a oneness Penetacostal and he pulled out John 3:16 to support his view that the Son, as a person within the Triune Godhead, is not eternal but had his beginning with His human birth.
For some reason, the Greek-speaking church of the post-apostolic period thought the compound was formed of μόνος (monos) and γεννάω (gennao), meaning "to generate", rather than "genes" as favored by many in more recent times.

The Greek patristics' understanding may have had something to do with the idea of FATHER and SON (?). Crazy, I know...

There has never been any time or eternity when Jesus is not Son to his Father. He is eternally "begotten," and so we avoid the trap of subordinationism

Go to John 1 (Prologue) to address the eternality and distinct identity of the Word/Son, distinguished from the Father.
John 8

57Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

58Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter II
Of God, and of the Holy Trinity

I. There is but one only,[1] living, and true God,[2] who is infinite in being and perfection,[3] a most pure spirit,[4] invisible,[5] without body, parts,[6] or passions;[7] immutable,[8] immense,[9] eternal,[10] incomprehensible,[11] almighty,[12] most wise,[13] most holy,[14] most free,[15] most absolute;[16] working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will,[17] for His own glory;[18] most loving,[19] gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin;[20] the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him;[21] and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments,[22] hating all sin,[23] and who will by no means clear the guilty.[24]

II. God has all life,[25] glory,[26] goodness,[27] blessedness,[28] in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He has made,[29] nor deriving any glory from them,[30] but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things;[31] and has most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleases.[32] In His sight all things are open and manifest,[33] His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature,[34] so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain.[35] He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands.[36] To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them.[37]

III. In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.[38] The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; [39] the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. [40]

Because the term "Trinity" is not explicitly stated in Scripture, but is implicit and necessarily derived from Scripture, it may be helpful to take the time to review the Scripture proofs here. They will give your friend a solid basis for Jesus being co-equal and eternal.
For some reason, the Greek-speaking church of the post-apostolic period thought the compound was formed of μόνος (monos) and γεννάω (gennao), meaning "to generate", rather than "genes" as favored by many in more recent times.

Thanks Rev. Buchanan. Correct me if I'm misunderstanding what you posted, are you saying that 'monogenes' is not the Greek word used in the oldest manuscripts but rather 'monogennao'?
No, I'm saying that they treated the compound word as a derivative of mono and the verbal for "generating", γεννάω (gennao), rather than the nominative for "kind", γένος (genos), and got to μονογενης. My point being: they lived closer to the writing of the NT, and might be expected to have a decent idea of what was the original intent.

I hope this is clearer.
Last edited:
Not open for further replies.