JOHN 1:18 REVISITED… AGAIN!

By Sam Shamoun | Go to Source

In this post I am going to share how English versions render John 1:18 depending on which reading they adopt.

MONOGENES HYIOS

By far this happens to be the majority reading. It has both very early and widespread geographical attestation, as well as support from ancient translations in various languages. 

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. AKJV    

No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he declared him. ABU

No man has ever seen God. The only begotten Son, being in the bosom of the Father, that man reported him. ACV

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him. Anderson

No man has seen God at any time; the only Son, who is on the breast of the Father, he has made clear what God is. BBE 

No man hath seen God at any time: The only begotten son which is in the bosom of the father, he hath declared him. Bishops

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. BRG

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, He who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. CAB

No man hath seen God at any time. The only begotten son which is in the bosom of the father, he hath declared the same unto us. Coverdale

No one has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, *he* hath declared [him]. DARBY

God no one has seen ever; the only-begotten son, that being in the bosom of the Father, he has made known. Diaglott

No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. DRA          

No one has seen Elohim – not ever, the only birthed Son being in the bosom of the Father, he declares. ECB 

No one has ever seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is close to the Father’s side, has made him known. EHV

No one has ever seen God. The only Son is the one who has shown us what God is like. He is himself God and is very close to the Father. ERV           

No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son, the one being in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared him. Godbey

No man hath seen God at any time: that only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. GNV     

No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the one who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known. GW       

No man hath seen God at any time. The only begotten son, which is in the bosom of the father, he hath declared him. Great

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath thoroughly described him. Haweis

No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son— the One who is at the Father’s side— He has revealed Him. HCSB

No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. JPS_ASV_Byz

No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. JUB

None has seen God at any time; the only born Son, he being in the bosom of the Father, he has declared. Julia Smith

No man has ever seen God; but the firstborn of God, who is in the bosom of his Father, he has declared him. Lamsa 

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, that One reveals Him. LITV 

No one has ever actually seen God, but, of course, his only Son has, for he is the companion of the Father and has told us all about him. TLB  

No one ever saw God; it is the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, who has made him known. Living_Oracles

no man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten son, who is intimate with the father, hath made him known. Mace

No one has seen God at any time. The only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known. MEV

No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the one who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known. NOG     

No one has seen God at any time. The only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. NHEB

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. NKJV

The much-loved Son is beside the Father. No man has ever seen God. But Christ has made God known to us. NLV        

No man has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. NMB           

No one has ever gazed upon the fullness of God’s splendor except the uniquely beloved Son, who is cherished by the Father and held close to his heart. Now he has unfolded to us the full explanation of who God truly is! TPT    

No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. RSV           

No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he declared [him]. Sawyer

No one hath ever seen God. This only begotten son, who is in the bosom of the father, even he hath made him known. Thomson

No man hath seen God at any time. The only begotten son which is in the bosom of the father he hath declared him. Tyndale

God, unseen until now, is revealed in the Voice, God’s only Son, straight from the Father’s heart. VOICE          

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. Webster

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. Wesley

No human eye has ever seen God: the only Son, who is in the Father’s bosom–He has made Him known. WNT

No one has ever seen God. The Only-begotten Son, who exists in the bosom of the Father, He has interpreted Him. WPNT

No one has seen God at any time. The one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has declared him. WEB      

No one has ever seen God. But his only Son is very near to his Father’s heart. He has told us plainly about God. WE      

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He declared Him. Worrell 

No one hath Seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him]. Whiston

and though no one hath ever seen God, or can see Him: yet the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, hath made Him known. Worsley

No man saw ever God [No man ever saw God], but the one begotten Son, that is in the bosom of the Father, he hath told out. WYC     

God no one hath ever seen; the only begotten Son, who is on the bosom of the Father — he did declare. YLT      

With the exception of Lamsa, all of these versions consistently render monogenes as an adjective describing what kind of Son Jesus happens to be. I.e., Christ is the one and only, uniquely beloved, only birthed or begotten Son.

MONOGENES THEOS

No one has ever seen God [i.e., His full splendor], but God, the only conceived [and eventually born Son], who is at the Father’s side, has shown us who He is. AUV

No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him. CSB    

No one has ever seen God. God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made God known. CEB     

No one has ever seen God; but the only and unique Son, who is identical with God and is at the Father’s side — he has made him known. CJB

God no one has ever seen. The only-begotten God, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He unfolds Him. CLV

No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like. CEV     

No one has ever seen God; the only-born God, the One being in the bosom of the Father— that One expounded Him. DLNT

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. ESV        

ALOHA no man hath ever seen: the one-begotten God, he who is in the bosom of his Father, he hath declared him. Etheridge

No one has ever seen God [C God the Father, who is pure spirit; 4:24]. But ·God the only Son [God the one and only; the only Son who is himself God; T God the only begotten] is ·very close to [by the side of; close to the heart of; T in the bosom of] the Father, and he has ·shown us what God is like [made him known]. EXB        

No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. GNT      

No one has ever seen God; it is the divine Only Son, who leans upon his Father’s breast, that has made him known. Goodspeed

No one has ever seen God. The uniquely existing God, who is close to the Father’s side, has revealed him. ISV  

No one at any time has seen God. The only-begotten (uniquely-born) God [other MSS: Son], the One continuously existing, [moving, directed and leading] into the Father’s place of safety and intimacy (bosom; breast; chest; folds of a garment; inlet or bay), that One interprets and explains by unfolding and bringing [Him] out. JMNT

Yet the divine and only Son, who lives in the closest intimacy with the Father, has made him known. PHILLIPS

Nobody has ever seen God, but God has been unfolded by the divine One, the only Son, who lies upon the Father’s breast. Moffatt

No man has ever seen God; God, only begotten, who is in the bosom of the Father—he has interpreted him. MNT

No one has ever seen God. The only Son, himself God, the one who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. MOUNCE

No man hath ever seen God; the only begotten God, he who is in the bosom of his Father, he hath declared him. Murdock

No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him. NABRE     

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. NASB       

No one has ever seen God. But God the only Son is very close to the Father, and he has shown us what God is like. NCV          

No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known. NET           

No one has ever seen God. But the One and Only is God and is at the Father’s side. The one at the Father’s side has shown us what God is like. NIRV 

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. NIV           

No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. NLT       

No man has ever seen God. The only begotten God-like one who is closest to the Father (in the bosom of the Father) tells us about him. (Psalm 8:5). NSB

Nobody has ever seen God. The only-begotten God, who is intimately close to the father – he has brought him to light. NTE    

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. NRSV 

No one has seen God at any time; the one and only, God, the one who is in the bosom of the Father—that one has made him known. LEB       

No one has ever seen Hashem [Ex 33:20]. It is Elohim the Ben Yachid [who shares the nature of Hashem, the Chochman Ben Elohim at his side, see very importantly Mishle 8:30; 30:4)], it is he, the one being in the kheyk (bosom) of HaAv, this one is Hashem’s definitive midrash (exegesis). OJB

No one has ever seen God; God the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has interpreted him. Riverside

No one, hath seen, God, at any time: An Only Begotten God, The One existing within the bosom of the Father, He, hath interpreted [him]. Rotherham 

No man has ever yet seen God; God the Only Son, who is ever with the Father–He has revealed him. Twentieth_Century 

No one has ever seen God; the only son, Deity Himself, who lies upon His Father’s breast, has made him known. Williams 

The foregoing versions can be found in the following links:

https://classic.biblegateway.com/verse/en/John%201:18

https://studybible.info/compare/John%201:18

Unlike what we saw in the case of monogenes hyios, translators are all over the place when it comes to the proper rendering of monogenes theos.

Some of the translations view monogenes as an adjective that modifies theos, telling us the kind of God Jesus happens to be, namely, Christ is the only, only begotten, uniquely existing or born God.

A couple of translations treat theos as the adjective, telling us the type of Son Jesus happens to be, namely, Christ is the divine (and) only Son.

Other versions take monogenes theos as two substantival or descriptive nouns, providing two descriptions of Christ. I.e., Jesus is both monogenes and theos, with monogenes being rendered as only, only begotten, one and only, only Son, only begotten Son, unique One etc.   

James E. Snapp’s highlights some of the problems with the reading monogenes theos:

● John 1:18 – Although “only-begotten God” (misrendered “the only God” in the ESV) has achieved wide acceptance, especially after it was found in Papyrus 66, there may be something to the suspicion that the adoption of this reading was a sort of theological trade-off in the shift from the Textus Receptus to the text of Westcott & Hort, and then to the Nestle-Aland compilation(s):  theologians who were reluctant to say good-bye to proof-texts such as the Comma Johanneum and First Timothy 3:16 could say hello to new affirmations of Christ’s deity via the acceptance of the Granville Sharp rule in Second Peter 1:1 (as long as the text of Codex Sinaiticus was avoided) and Titus 2:13 – and via the acceptance of the reading Θεός in John 1:18. 

However, not only is μονογενὴς Θεός an entirely non-Johannine term (unless one accepts it as genuine, of course), but some translators of major English versions that are based on the Nestle-Aland compilation seem reluctant to translate it accurately. The CSB, for example, renders John 1:18 as follows: “No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side – he has revealed him.” Just what is the CSB’s textual justification for including both the word “Son” and the phrase “who is himself God” in this verse??? 

The NIV is equally bad: “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.” The reading ὁ μονογενὴς Θεός, which is supported by Papyrus 75,  demands a rendering like what is in the NASB: “the only begotten God.” But what if the article (ὁ) disappears, as it does in P66, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and the Nestle-Aland compilation? The annotator of the NET has argued for the article-free reading, on the grounds that “θεός without the article is a much harder reading.” The NET also states that “Although υἱός fits the immediate context more readily, θεός is much more difficult.” That is true, no doubt, but is it likely that John would produce such a difficult term, and never mention it again? The NET resorts to an inventive rendering to circumvent what would otherwise seem to be a reference to a god: “The only one, himself God.”

A purely theological case against the reading μονογενὴς Θεός might be proposed in light of the various ways in which several of the translations have mangled its meaning and thus confused their readers, on the grounds that God is not the author of confusion. A more scientific case against μονογενὴς Θεός might be put together via (a) careful consideration of the immense span of the patristic support for ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός, and (b) the observation that the case for Θεός, with or without ὁ, involves the admission that Byzantine scribes declined to adopt a reading which, according to some apologists for the Alexandrian Text, would have been theologically enormously helpful.

It is not impossible that a third reading, ὁ μονογενὴς, despite being poorly attested – it is supported by Ephrem Syrus (citing the Diatessaron), by the Palestinian Syriac version, by two Vulgate manuscripts, and by Pseudo-Vigilius – might be considered by some future editors to be the variant which best explains its rivals. Charles Burney also offered a conjecture: μονογενὴς θεοῦ (“only-begotten of God”).

In any event, it would not be surprising if future editors and translators alter their treatment of this passage, perhaps by returning to the very widespread reading ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (the only-begotten Son) in John 1:18 on the basis of the theory that the introduction of Θεός – rather than being the effect of Valentinian tampering, as some have suspected – was due to the early accidental confusion of one sacred-name contraction for another, and that the loss of the article was just one of many such losses typical of the Alexandrian Text. (Nestle-Aland, Edition 28: Cracks in the Text)

The fact that the versions which adopt the reading theos are all over the map when it comes to its proper rendering is a clear indication of the struggles that the translators had in understanding what exactly does it mean for Christ to be monogenes theos.

This is in stark contrast with the translations that went with monogenes hyios.   

Even More Problems

The two oldest witnesses to the reading monogenees Theos are papyri 66 and 75, which are dated around 2nd to 3rd centuries. And yet even these two witnesses are not entirely uniform since they differ from each other. 

Papyrus 66 (p66)

Theon oudeis heoraken popote m[o]nogenes Theos ho on eis ton kolpon t[ou] patros ekeinos exegesato

Papyrus 75 (p75)

Theon oudeis popote heoraken ho monogenes Theos ho on eis ton kolpon tou patros ekeinos exegesato

P75 has the definite article ho before monogenes, which makes it more likely that monogenes is an adjective modifying theos, much like we find in the following cases where monogenes is used to modify the noun hyios:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (ton Hyion ton monogene), that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life… 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 (tou monogenous Hyiou tou Theou).” John 3:16, 18 NIV

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son (ton Hyion autou ton monogene) into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9 NIV

As such, this particular variant is describing the kind of God Jesus is, e.g., Jesus is the monogenes God. Therefore, the definition one gives to monogenes will directly impact the meaning and translation of ho monogenes Theos. I.e., is Christ the only-begotten God, the only-born God or the only God?

I will be posting an excerpt from Christian scholar and theologian Wayne Grudem’s massive tome on systematic theology where he sums up the evidence that caused him to change his mind and accept the fact that monogenes does mean only-begotten, and not just unique or one and only.

FURTHER READING

John 1:18 – What Does Μονογενὴς Mean?

John 1:18 – Some Patristic Evidence

The Only Begotten Son: A Defense of the King James’ Rendering of John 1:18

Monogenes Theos: A Gnostic Corruption?

The Gnostic & Arian Corruption of John 1:18

James White and the NA/UBS Compilation

John 1:18 – Sinaiticus: The Devil in the Details

John 1:18 the only begotten Son

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