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What is the Meaning of "Begotten" in the Bible? 

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What is the meaning of begotten?

Contributing Writer
Updated Nov 08, 2023
What is the Meaning of "Begotten" in the Bible? 

Begotten is a word that is used throughout the Bible in different contexts and with different implications. In the King James Bible, the word "begotten" actually occurs 24 times from Genesis to Revelation.

The expression "only begotten Son" appears in John 3:16, where it is written in the King James Version as follows: "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."

Monogenes - Begotten Definition

Begotten is the English translation of the Greek word "Monogenes," meaning "single of its kind, only." This word is variously translated into English as "only," "one and only," and "only begotten."

"It’s this last phrase ("only begotten" used in the KJV, NASB, and NKJV) that causes problems. False teachers have latched onto this phrase to try to prove their false teaching that Jesus Christ isn’t God; i.e., that Jesus isn’t equal in essence to God as the Second Person of the Trinity. They see the word "begotten" and say that Jesus is a created being because only someone who had a beginning in time can be "begotten." What this fails to note is that "begotten" is an English translation of a Greek word. As such, we have to look at the original meaning of the Greek word, not transfer English meanings into the text," writes GotQuestions.org

According to the New Testament Greek Lexicon, Monogenes can be used in two contexts:

  1. used of only sons or daughters (viewed in relation to their parents)
  2. used of Christ, denotes the only begotten son of God

The Greek word "monogenes" comes from the terms "Monos," meaning "alone (without a companion), only, merely," and "Ginomai," meaning "to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being."

That is, Jesus is the only begotten Son. It should be understood that monogenes is not referring to being created or conceived as if Jesus wasn’t eternal, for Jesus always has and will always be God eternal.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)

"Begotten" in the Bible

The word "begotten" is used in the Bible to describe the unique relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ, His Son. This term is used to clarify the special nature of Jesus's relationship with God as part of the Holy Trinity and to distinguish Him from created beings.

In the Bible, the phrase "only begotten Son of God" is only used to refer to Jesus Christ. This phrase is used to emphasize that Jesus is the only Son of God who is both fully God and fully human. He is not simply a human being who is somehow special or divine, but he is both God and man in one person. This unique relationship is central to the Christian understanding of God and salvation.

The English translation of "begotten" is also used in a more general sense in the Bible to refer to the creation of all things by God. In this context, it means to bring something into existence or to create it from nothing. God is said to have "begotten" all things, as He is the only eternal being.

Here are some examples of how the word "begotten" is used in the Bible when referring to created beings:

  • Genesis 1:1: "The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the congregation of the LORD in their third generation."
  • Psalm 111:3: "Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?"
  • Hebrews 11:17: "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, his only begotten son..."

In summary, the word "begotten" is used in the Bible to describe the unique relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ, as well as to refer to the creation of all things by God. It is a word that is rich in theological meaning, and it is important to understand its different usages in order to fully grasp the teachings of the Bible.

Jesus, the Word of God, the Only Son of God

Jesus was begotten as the only Son of God the Father. John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus was the Word. He has always existed with the Father. However, Jesus became a human by Mary, the virgin, when the Holy Spirit conceived his human form in her womb. Jesus was the Son of the Living God.

John 1:14 reads, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [“monogenes”] Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus, God incarnate, came to us in the flesh. Scripture makes it clear that The Word, Jesus, is that one and only, or begotten, Son who came from the Father. One of the most beautifully written creeds is called the Apostles Creed. It was written around 300 years after Jesus was born, and it shares the foundational beliefs of a Christ-follower. A specific portion reads:

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,

John 1:15-18 goes on to say, “John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, This is the one I spoke about when I said, He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only [“monogenes”] Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

Verse 18 makes this abundantly clear to us, that no one has seen God, but they have seen Jesus, His only Son. Jesus is himself God and makes the Father known. When we neglect a word like begotten, we miss the message of the gospel that God the Father sent His only Son to die on our behalf and He raised Himself to life to save us from our sins.

Colossians 2:9 says, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

Jesus said in John 10:30 says, “I and the Father are one.”

When the angel tells Mary that she will conceive Jesus by the Holy Spirit, he tells her that His name will be called Immanuel, meaning God with us. (Matthew 1:23) Begotten merely means that Jesus was physically born into human form. The Lord is clear that He was and is and is to come. God was never created, The Trinity has always existed. However, Jesus came down in the flesh and was born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 1:8 I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Another interesting fact that points to Jesus’ eternality is that He appeared in the Old Testament too. Glen Scrivener from Desiring God shares, “Its surprising how explicit the New Testament authors are about Jesuss presence in the Old Testament:

The I Am” in whom Abraham rejoiced was Jesus (John 8:56-58)
The Lord who motivated Moses was Christ (Hebrews 11:26).
The Redeemer who brought them out of Egypt was Jesus (Jude 5).
The Rock in the wilderness was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4).
The King of Isaiahs temple vision was the Son (John 12:40-41)."

So, Jesus was not created by God. He was God, He is God, He always will be God.

Why Does This Matter?

You might be thinking, “Why does this matter to me?” This is a great question. The Christian faith is founded on the fact that we are all sinners. Jesus came and lived, died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven. If we waiver on the truth of Scripture, we miss the significance and deny who Jesus is. To deny Jesus’ true identity as God, as the Son of the Father, is a big deal. The concept of the Trinity really causes some to struggle. However, in the wrestling of realizing that we do not get to define God how we want to define Him, He has defined Himself in Scripture. He has said that He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three in one.

1 Corinthians 8:6 says, “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”

2 Corinthians 13:14 says, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

As we look to the truth of Scripture and gain more understanding of the original meaning, we can find great peace in knowing that our Savior Jesus is our God. He has had a plan of redemption from the beginning. Jesus is the only begotten Son, He is God, He is one of the Members of the Trinity. We can worship Him in awe and wonder, knowing that He is Who He says that He is. God says in Exodus 3:14, I AM WHO I AM.” Whenever we are tempted to define the Lord by our standards, may we remember that He is God and He defines Himself. He invites us to know Him and yes, there is a mystery to Him, but part of the journey and joy is that we have a lifetime to explore and learn about His sacrifice for us that will lead us to eternity reunited with our Savior.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Robyn Hodgson / EyeEm

Emma DanzeyEmma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew and mom to Graham. Emma serves alongside her husband in ministry, she focuses most of her time in the home, but loves to provide articles on the Bible, life questions, and Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 on Crosswalk in 2021. Most recently, Emma released Treasures for Tots, (Scripture memory songs) for young children. During her ministry career, Emma has released Wildflower: Blooming Through Singleness, two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, and ran the Refined Magazine. You can view her articles on her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com and check out her Instagram @Emmadanzey.

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