|Only Begotten and
the Deity of Christ
A Review of Hugo McCord's paper
I. History of
"Only Begotten" Translations
[Hugo McCord's paper is in the smaller print.]
I. HISTORY OF THE "ONLY BEGOTTEN" TRANSLATIONS
The first known translation of the Greek NT into another language, the Syriac (170 a.d), did not
refer to Jesus as the "only begotten," but as yechidaya, "only." Likewise it is absent from the
Coptic (c. 200 AD.) both the Sahidic dialect, owot, and in the Bohairic dialect, mawaas, both
meaning "alone" or "single." (Cited by R L. Roberts, RESTORATION QUARTERLY, "The
Rendering 'Only Begotten' in John 3:16," 1973, p. 3)
The phrase was not in the Old Latin (before the end of the second century), which used unicus,
meaning "only," "alone of its kind," "unique," or "singular." But Jerome, in his Latin Vulgate
(380-385) translation, changed unicus to unigenitus, "only begotten," in all references to Jesus
and to Isaac (John 1:14,18; 3:16,18; I John 4:9; Hebrews 11:17), but not in reference to three
children mentioned by Luke (7:12; 8:42; 9:38). B. F. Westcott called his double renderings
But Jerome's translation became the Bible for western Europe for a thousand years. The King
James (1611) and the American Standard (1901) copied Jerome's double renderings, as has
the NASV [sic] (1960). More recent translations, the RSV (1946), the NEB (1961), and the NIV
(1973) have removed "only begotten."
If the Greek word monogenes does not include the concept of "begotten" (See
pages 1-2), and if the Syriac did not refer to Jesus as "only begotten," and if the
Coptic Sahidic and the Coptic Bohairic did not refer to Jesus as "only begotten,"
and if the Old Latin did not refer to Jesus as "only begotten," how did the Arian
controversy begin (if it is based on ("only begotten") since it antedated "Jerome's
jumble?" It would seem that there is no reference to "only begotten" prior to
Jerome's translation into the Latin, according to brother McCord. If Jerome's
translation is the source of "only begotten," and if "only begotten" is responsible
for promoting the Arian heresy, how did the controversy begin with Arius over a
century before Jerome's translation (and more properly, it began with Origen in the
early third century, 182-251 a.d.)? The answer is threefold: 1) monogenes did,
does and always will mean "only begotten;" 2) translations did translate
monogenes "only begotten;" and, 3) neither monogenes or "only begotten,"
correctly interpreted and understood, indicate the Arian heresy.
The Syriac Peshitta, the official Syriac translation and the earliest translation of the
New Testament (approximately 125 a.d.), did refer to Jesus as the "only begotten."
The Holy Bible From Ancient Manuscripts Containing the Old and New
Testaments Translated From the Peshitta, The Authorized Bible of the
Church of the East, by George M. Lamsa (A. J. Holman Co: Philadelphia; 1957),
records "only begotten" in John 3:16,18; Hebrews 11:17; and I John 4:9; although
"first-born" is found in John 14:14,18.
As to the Latin translation of monogenes, Thayer notes that Cicero (who died
December 7, 43 a.d.) translated it unigena, while the Vulgate and in ecclesiastical
writings it is translated unigenitus. Both terms carry the idea of "only begotten."
Brother McCord notes that the more conservative translations, which made a claim
to translate the words rather than the thoughts of the scriptures, the King James
Version, the American Standard Version and the New American Standard Bible, all
translate mongenes as "only begotten." To this list may also be added the New
King James Version.
It is also important to note which of the translations brother McCord cites as
translating monogenes as other than "only begotten:" the Revised Standard
Version, which the head of the Old Testament Translating Committee called the
Bible of the liberal Protestant community [liberal here is used as a synonym for
modernistic: a denial of the supernatural; including a denial of Jesus as the
fulfillment of prophecy]; the New English Bible, which one has but to read to note
the modem-ism which its advocates admit is even less than literal in its renderings.
For those who know the character of translations and the propensity of modem
translations to promote error, the appeal for vindication of the translation of a
particular word to these three translations does not inspire confidence: it sets off
red lights, sirens and alarms. [The reader is referred for further studies in
translations to: Introduction to the Translation Controversy, a special edition of
Speak As the Oracles, October 1987; UNITY/VERSIONS/CROSSROADS: The
First Annual Michigan Church Leaders Lectureship, edited by R. L. Ross
(this book also includes a Resource List for further study in the version issue); A
Review of the New Versions, by Foy E. Wallace, Jr.; and, Challenging
Dangers of Modern Versions, by Robert R. Taylor, Jr.]