One supremely disconcerting challenge revolves around the word, monogenes.
This is the only word in the ancient Greek biblical texts which bears the translation “only
begotten.”66 This term occurs nine times in the New Testament, and the translation of this
term in the Gospel and First Epistle of John form the foundation of the “begotten, not
made” doctrine. Of the nine occurrences of this term, monogenes occurs three times in
Luke (7:12, 8:42, and 9:38), but always in reference to individuals other than Jesus, and
in none of these cases is it translated “only begotten.” That alone is curious. A person
would rationally expect an unbiased translation to render the same Greek word into
equivalent English in all instances. Clearly that is not the case, but again, one would
Only John applies monogenes to Jesus. 67 The term is found in five of the six
remaining New Testament occurrences, namely John 1:14, 1:18, 3:16, 3:18, and the First
Epistle of John 4:9. John 3:16 reads, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only
begotten son …” Such a crucial element of church doctrine, and the other three gospel
authors neglected to record it? The Gospel of John alone does not exactly exorcise the
ghost of doubt when the other three gospels are conspicuously silent on this matter. By
way of comparison, all four gospel authors agree that Jesus rode a donkey (Matthew 21:7, Mark 11:7, Luke 19:35, and John 12:14), which is relatively high on the “who cares?”
list. But three of the gospel authors fail to support the critical “begotten, not made” tenet
of faith? Hardly a sensible balance of priorities, one would think.
Should the doctrine be true, that is.
So three of the nine New Testament occurrences of the term monogenes are in the
Gospel of Luke, refer to someone other than Jesus, and are selectively mistranslated.
Occurrences four through eight are encountered in the Gospel and First Epistle of John,
and are held to describe Jesus. But it’s the ninth occurrence that’s the troublemaker, for
“Isaac is monogenes in Heb. 11:17.”
We are led to question biblical accuracy at this point, for Isaac was never the only
begotten son of Abraham. How could he have been, when Ishmael was born fourteen
years prior? Comparison of Genesis 16:16—“Abram [i.e., Abraham] was eightysix years
old when Hagar bore him Ishmael”—with Genesis 21:5—“Abraham was a hundred years
old when his son Isaac was born to him”—reveals the age difference. This is confirmed
in Genesis 17:25, which tells us Ishmael was circumcised at the age of thirteen, one year
prior to the birth of Isaac. Furthermore, Ishmael and Isaac both outlived their father,
Abraham, as documented in Genesis 25:89. So how could Isaac ever, at any moment in
time, have been Abraham’s “only begotten son”?
A lay defense is the assertion that Ishmael was the product of illicit union between
Abraham and Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant. Therefore he was illegitimate and doesn’t