The Deity of Jesus Affirmed
by Bill Muehlenberg
There are various ways heretical and cultic groups seek to deny the doctrine of the deity of Christ. To cover all of them here would require quite a few articles. So I wish to look at just two English phrases which are latched on to by some to “prove” that Jesus is not God, but simply a created being.
As is always the case, such terms need to be examined carefully, and each text must be studied in terms of the context it is found in. When we do this we discover that neither phrase demeans who Jesus us, and neither demonstrates that he is just a created being.
Only begotten son
The first phrase is “only begotten.” It is used in reference to Jesus being God’s only begotten son, as some of the older versions such as the KJV put it. This translation leads some to think of Jesus as just a created being, not the eternal Second Person of the Trinity.
It is worth looking at the Greek term monogenes which lies behind it. It is used nine times in the Greek New Testament, with John using it five times:
-John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
-John 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
-John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
-John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
-1 John 4:9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
Note how the NIV (used above) renders the word. A number of modern translations have used “only” (ESV), or “one and only” (NIV, HCSB, etc.) instead of “only begotten”. This may be the preferred translation of the term (although debate on this continues).
The term can mean only begotten in the sense of being the only child born to a parent, as in Luke 7:12, 8:42, and 9:38. The only other time it is used it refers to one child (Isaac) among many (Hebrews 11:17). When John uses the term, it always refers to Christ, and it always refers to him being one of a kind, or unique.
What is being said by John is not that Jesus the eternal Son was born, but that he is the only one of his class. He is the only one of his kind. When Scripture speaks of Jesus as being the Son of God, it does not mean he is a created being, but is eternally one with God…
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