“Only begotten” does not mean “created”
John 3:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.16 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.17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
”Only begotten” is a translation from the Greek word monogenés (Strong’s 3439) and can hold the meaning of being single of its kind, only one and unique. From 3411/misthōtós ”one-and-only” and 1085/génos ”offspring, stock” – one-and-only; “one of a kind” – literally ”one” (monos), of its “kind” (genos). Jesus is totally unique and the only one of its kind. The KJV translates the word: only begotten (6x), only (2x), only child (1x). (There is also another Greek word that is translated begotten – “gennaō” Strong’s 1080 – see further down below).
Below are the verses where the word monogenés is used (apart from John 3:15-18 above):
Luk 7:12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.
Luk 8:42 For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him.
Luk 9:38 And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child.
Jhn 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.—18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
1Jo 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son
The last verse is particularly interesting considering the fact that Isaac was NOT Abraham’s only son! Ishmael is the most well-known brothers of Isaac (and actually the very first son and thus literally “first-born”), but Abraham also had six other sons together with his second wife Keturah (Gen. 25:2): Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. Still, Isaac was considered his “only begotten son”.
Septuaginta has translated Ps. 25:16 by using the Greek word monogenés with the meaning “alone”:
Ps. 25:16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted. NASB.
Ps. 25:16 Turn Thee unto me, and be gracious unto me; for I am yachid (alone, lonely) and afflicted. Orthodox Jewish Bible
What does it mean to be BORN by God, and that Jesus is BEGOTTEN?
Below we can read God the Father saying to his son “thou art my beloved son”, and we can read Paul referencing to this episode in Acts. 13. “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee”, is a reference from Ps. 2:7. Naturally Jesus was not “born” (or created) when he was over 30 years old and baptized by John. It’s rather about a divine acknowledgement about Jesus having reached the moment in his life (in his mission on earth) where the Holy Ghost could be seen descending upon him, and where the public in a very tangible way could see that Jesus is the promised Messiah that the scriptures talk about. John the Baptist is also referred to in the scriptures, and he emphasized that Jesus was the promised light.
Luke 3:22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
Acts 13:23 Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.—33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten (1033) thee.
Ps. 2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; THIS DAY HAVE I BEGOTTEN THEE.8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
Hebr. 1:5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten (1080) thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten (prōtotokos Strong’s 4416) into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
Hebr. 5:5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten (1080) thee.
The word “begotten” in the verses above is a translation from the Greek word gennaō (Strong’s 1080), and is sometimes translated “born”. KJV translates is: begat (49x), be born (39x), bear (2x),gender (2x), bring forth (1x), be delivered (1x), misc (3x). Examples:
Matt. 2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born (from tiktō Strong’s 5088) King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.—4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born (1080). (+ Luke 1:31)
1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born (1080) of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.—18 We know that whosoever is born (1080) of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten (1080) of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
“Son” can hold a symbolic meaning, like in Mark 3:17, Luke 3:38 and Gal 3:26, and Jesus was not literally the son of Joseph (Mary’s husband) but rather the son of God (the seed came from God). “God” can refer to either the whole trinity, or one of the persons in the trinity. Naturally Jesus can be both God and the son of God, and naturally one pile of sand can become three piles of sand. A man can not literally give birth to a son, but a father has at least contributed with his seed and most often the upbringing of the son. Below the word “begat” is a translation from the Hebrew word yalad (Strong’s 3205), and it can hold the meaning to bring up, bear, bring forth, beget, gender, travail, be born, etc:
Prov. 23:22 Hearken unto thy father that BEGAT thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.
Below we can read a proverb, and proverbs often contain poetic expressions. “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way” is a good picture of the strong connection between the Father and Jesus Christ in the trinity. Jesus was “brought forth” (something that took place before the creation according to this poetic text), but it doesn’t say that he was created. We read further that the son was present during the creation, despite the information in Isaiah where we can read that God was alone when he made the heavens and the earth (which naturally is solved by the trinity). The author seems to write from the perspective of the son, and if you find the son you will also find life and will get mercy from the Lord. He continues to say that if someone sins against him (the son) that person risks his soul. If Jesus wouldn’t be God, it would be confusing to read about the son putting so much focus on himself, and about two separate beings who have power over life and death.
Proverbs 8:22 The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.24 When there were no depths, I was BROUGHT FORTH; when there were no fountains abounding with water.25 Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:26 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.27 When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:28 When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:29 When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:30 Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;31 Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.32 Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.33 Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.34 Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.35 For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
”First-born” does not necessarily mean being the first-born out of all siblings, or the first created being
Col. 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the FIRSTBORN (4416) of every creature:16 For BY HIM were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created BY HIM, and for him:17 And he is BEFORE all things, and by him all things consist.18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn (4416) from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
Col. 1:15-17 mentions ”the first-born of every creature”, but note that it does not say first-created. “First-born” is from the Greek word prōtotokos (Strong’s 4416). Apart from “firstborn” it could mean an heir, a begotten one, first in rank or preeminence, and this means that Christ is first in rank above all creation and heir of all things. He is prior to all creation and superior over it because he is the Lord of Lords. Also King David was ”first-born” (despite being the youngest son of his father Jesse), just like Ephraim – despite that he had an older brother (Manasse).
Rev. 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
Moreover, the book of Romans suggests that we must all be first-born in order to be conformed to the image of the son
Rom. 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Jer 31:9 They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Ps. 89:4 Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah.5 And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.6 For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.8 O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?9 Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.—11 The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.12 The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.—20 I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him:21 With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him.—26 He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.27 Also I will make him MY FIRSTBORN (bĕkowr Strong’s 1060), higher than the kings of the earth.28 My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.29 His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.
John 17:5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee BEFORE the world was.
Revelation 3:14 reveals that the Greek word arché (Strong’s 746) is translated “beginning” and could also mean “the source/origin of God’s creation”. This goes together well with the information we have from Colossians 1:16 and John 1:3, where we are told that all things were made by or had their origin in Jesus Christ. Jesus is then the START and CAUSE of all things (the alpha and omega), and only in that sense is he the beginning of God’s creation.
Rev. 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God Col. 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn (4416) of every creature:—18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn (4416) from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
If John meant to emphasize that ”beginning” means ”first created” through the word Arche, then he would also be saying that God the Father has a beginning as per below verses, which of course would not make sense.
Rev. 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, THE BEGINNING and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. Rev. 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which PIERCED him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.8 I am Alpha and Omega, the BEGINNING and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.—12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.—.17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Rev. 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.13 I am Alpha and Omega, the BEGINNING and the end, the first and the last.14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
Is. 44:8 Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.