God’s Only Begotten Son

The Nicene Creed is the earliest “symbol” adopted by the universal church at the Council of Nicea in 325. Even today, most Protestant believers accept the Nicene Creed as theologically valid. In the 1970s, the American bishops adopted an English version of the Creed that used “plain language.”

In November of 2009, the American bishops approved modifications that reflect more literal translations of the prayers used in the English language liturgy. Beginning in 2011 or so, we will use the new translation of the Creed at Mass. The new translation would win approval from biblical Greek scholars, however it will be new to the rest of us. Here is a principle section of the Creed that has been re-translated:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.

OK, so what does this have to do with Scripture? Does the Creed have its origins in Scripture? Of course. We say that Jesus is “begotten not made” because the Church confesses that both Jesus and the Father are God – and of the same substance. But since Holy Scripture does not tell us that God made Jesus, we needed another term. So how did the English translators come up with “begotten”?

“Begotten” is the term the translators of the Catholic Douay and the Anglican King James version of the bible selected, 400 years ago, to translate monogenes. The Greek monogenes can be found in the Gospel of John, in verses 1:16, 1:18 and 3:16. In verse 1:14, Jesus is os monogenous para patros, “the only begotten of the Father.” At verse 3:16, Jesus is ton uion autou ton monogene – “the only begotten Son.”

So there you have it. The bible says Jesus is “begotten,” never made.

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