[B-Greek] John 1:18

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Fri Mar 17 05:41:36 EST 2006

Our standard BG transliteration scheme is set forth clearly in the  
FAQ: http://metalab.unc.edu/bgreek/faq.txt -- and neatly diagrammed  
on the Home Page itself.

MONOGENHS in the phrase MONOGENHS QEOS in John 1:18 means "unique" or  
"one of a kind." We've discussed the precise meaning of MONOGENHS  
several times, once within the last month. But the phrase in John  
1:18 does present difficulties both textual and interpretative, for  
which you ought to consult commentaries. NET Bible translates 1:18 as  
"The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the  
Father, has made God known," and offers the following note on  

"The textual problem MONOGENHS QEOS (monogenēs theos, “the only  
God”) versus hO MONOGENHS QEOS (ho monogenēs huios, “the only  
son”) is a notoriously difficult one. Only one letter would have  
differentiated the readings in the mss, since both words would have  
been contracted as nomina sacra: thus QS or US. Externally, there are  
several variants, but they can be grouped essentially by whether they  
read QEOS or hUIOS. The majority of mss, especially the later ones (A  
C3 Theta Psi ƒ1, 13 M lat), read hO MONOGENHS QEOS. P75 Aleph1 33 pc  
have hO MONOGENHS QEOS, while the anarthrous MONOGENHS QEOS is found  
in P66 Aleph* B C* L pc. The articular QEOS is almost certainly a  
scribal emendation to the anarthrous QEOS, for QEOS without the  
article is a much harder reading. The external evidence thus strongly  
supports MONOGENHS QEOS. Internally, although hUIOS fits the  
immediate context more readily, QEOS is much more difficult. As well,  
θεός also explains the origin of the other reading (hUIOS),  
because it is difficult to see why a scribe who found υἱός in  
the text he was copying would alter it to QEOS. Scribes would  
naturally change the wording to hUIOS however, since MONOENHS hUIOS  
is a uniquely Johannine christological title (cf. John 3:16, 18; 1  
John 4:9). But QEOS as the older and more difficult reading is  
preferred. As for translation, it makes the most sense to see the  
word QEOS as in apposition to MONOGENHS, and the participle hO WN  
(ho ōn) as in apposition to QEOS, giving in effect three  
descriptions of Jesus rather than only two. (B. D. Ehrman, The  
Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 81, suggests that it is nearly  
impossible and completely unattested in the NT for an adjective  
followed immediately by a noun that agrees in gender, number, and  
case, to be a substantival adjective: “when is an adjective ever  
used substantivally when it immediately precedes a noun of the same  
inflection?” This, however, is an overstatement. First, as Ehrman  
admits, MONOGENHS in John 1:14 is substantival. And since it is an  
established usage for the adjective in this context, one might well  
expect that the author would continue to use the adjective  
substantivally four verses later. Indeed, MONOGENHS is already moving  
toward a crystallized substantival adjective in the NT [cf. Luke  
9:38; Heb 11:17]; in patristic Greek, the process continued [cf. PGL  
881 s.v. 7]. Second, there are several instances in the NT in which a  
substantival adjective is followed by a noun with which it has  
complete concord: cf., e.g., Rom 1:30; Gal 3:9; 1 Tim 1:9; 2 Pet  
2:5.) The modern translations which best express this are the NEB  
(margin) and TEV. Several things should be noted: MONOGENHS alone,  
without hUIOS, can mean “only son,” “unique son,” “unique  
one,” etc. (see 1:14). Furthermore, QEOS is anarthrous. As such it  
carries qualitative force much like it does in 1:1c, where QEOS HN hO  
LOGOS (theos ēn ho logos) means “the Word was fully God” or  
“the Word was fully of the essence of deity.” Finally, hO WN  
occurs in Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8, 11:17; and 16:5, but even more  
significantly in the LXX of Exod 3:14. Putting all of this together  
leads to the translation given in the text."

On Mar 16, 2006, at 11:45 PM, Todd Self wrote:

> What is the best translation of "monogenas theos" in John 1:18?
> Todd Self
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Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

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