Only-begotten Encyclopedia

Only-begotten. The expression "only-begotten" is one word in the Greek; 'monoganes'. It is an expression that confers the thought of uniqueness. A modern English equivalent is “one and only”. Most notably, "only-begotten" is used to convey the special place that the Son has in relation to God the Father.1 It is often coupled with the name "Son" or "Son of God", as in John 1:18, which shows that Sonship is our Lord’s unique identity. 'Monoganes' is used only a few other times in the New Testament. It is used three times in Luke for individuals healed by the Lord who were only children of their parents (Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38). It is used in Hebrews 11:17 with regard to Isaac. The other occurrences refer to Christ as the Son of God; e.g. John 3:16; 1 John 4:9. The usage of this expression in connection with Isaac shows us that the term "only-begotten" does not infer temporal existence; i.e. it does not mean that the Son of God began to exist at a certain time, like how human children begin to exist when they are begotten of their parents. Similar to the term "firstborn", which is also applied to the Son, and has also been falsely used to deny His eternal existence, the term "only-begotten" has a special significance. The use of the term in Hebrews 11:17 and its equivalent in Gen. 22:2 helps us to see this. Abraham had another son, Ishmael. But Isaac was his only-begotten. The term "only-begotten" has the sense of 'one of a kind', and it is used in this way with regard to Isaac. There was only one Isaac. It has to do with the son's place of affection in the heart of the father. In what sense is Christ the "only begotten" or unique One? We do not need to speculate, the scripture says; “the only begotten Son of God”. It is in His eternal identity as the Son of God that He is the Only-Begotten. We can conclude that this term, which has been used to deny the Eternal Sonship, as if He had a beginning in time, in fact it strengthens that truth, because it emphasizes that His Sonship is what makes the Son unique at the most fundamental level!

  1. "First-begotten", used in Hebrews 1, conveys more the thought of preeminence, while "only-begotten" conveys uniqueness in affection.