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Archive for February, 2016

Was Jesus a created being?  Some Christians are confused by the Greek word in John 3:16, translated “begotten.”  It certainly can seem like the word refers to something or someone being “created.”

A good friend of mine just brought this up and wanted advice on how to explain this to someone who is ardently claiming Jesus was a created being, thus falling into perhaps the most dangerous heresy of all in the history of Christianity: Arianism — after a man named “Arius,” a church leader in Alexandria, Egypt, in the early fourth century.

Here is what I wrote in response to his question, via email.  I hope this is a clear explanation of “begotten” in its original Greek context, from the gospel of John.  Please let me know if what I write helps you!

Hello my friend!

The English word “begotten” comes from the Greek word monogenes, which would be much better translated “the only unique one.”

A great example of this comes from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament for Greek-speaking Jews, living in Alexandria, Egypt) of Gen. 22:2, 12 (repeated twice, for emphasis), where God said to Abraham, “take now your son, your monogenes…

And yet, Isaac was not Abraham’s “only” son, since Ishmael had been born before Isaac! But of course, Isaac was the “son of promise,” and therefore, the “only unique one.”

Moreover, context is everything in interpretation.  The technical meaning of monogenes speaks for itself and can stand on its own in describing Jesus, (John 3:16), but in the entire context of John’s gospel, John has already made it clear that Jesus is God and has existed from all eternity (John 1:1-3).

In addition, there are two primary Greek words that are translated “was”: One means continuous, timeless existence (the Greek is hen, and pronounced something like “heyn”); this is the word used for “was” in John 1:1-3.

The other word is egeneto (pronounced “egenetah”), and refers to a one-time event, which John brilliantly uses to describe John the Baptist (in John 1:6), where egeneto is translated “came” (one time).

These two words stand in marked, dramatic contrast for John’s readers, who would have immediately understood from what John writes that Jesus existed from all eternity, whereas John the Baptist was born, like any other man.

In fact, the Baptist himself testifies to this (as was his mission) when he declared, “After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed (hen) before me” (again, continuous, timeless existence: John 1:30).

And John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus!

There is still so much more in John’s gospel, coming from the lips of Jesus Himself with His “I AM” statements (cf. Ex. 3:14-15: I’ve counted 26 of them in John), a direct, unmistakable claim to deity.

Even the Pharisees understood Jesus’ deity, when they vigorously protested that by calling God His Father, Jesus blasphemed, making Himself equal with God (John 5:18).

To this, Jesus immediately responded by calling Himself “the Son” (v.19), and then having the audacity to tell the Pharisees that “the Son gives life to whom He wishes” (v.20).

furthermore, He authoritatively declared that He, Jesus, will stand as judge over all men (v.22). And then even more, He also claims that the only way to salvation is to believe in Him (v.24)!

As C.S. Lewis so eloquently stated, only a liar or a lunatic would make these kinds of claims.  And thus, the only true conclusion is that Jesus is God the Son, from all eternity (cf. Rev. 1:17; cf. Is. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 22:13; cf. 1:8).

I hope this helps!!!

Brad

 

 

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