John 1:18 - Ehrman and Wallace ultra-modern competitive confusions

Steven Avery

John 1:18 (AV)
No man hath seen God at any time;
the only begotten Son,
which is in the bosom of the Father,
he hath declared him.

sister threads

John 1:18 - Ehrman and Wallace ultra-modern competitive confusions

John 1:18 - only begotten Son - resources and discussion[/COLOR][/URL]

My Feb, 2018 post on CARM is below, it covers a lot of turf.

Wallace's novel translation of [a disputed expression] at John 1:18

On the textualcriticism forum, (urls can be added to books, etc)

(later posted on CARM)

I did write a bit about the Ehrman and Wallace competitive textual and translational confusions on the verse. Placed below.. My sense is that Barry H. Is likely right in saying that Daniel is the furthest out in left field in this one.

It should be realized that this verse has an unusual group of complexities.

1) a major variant between Son and God

2) a major translation "modernization" that tried to change only-begotten to only, unique, etc.

3) additional ultra-modernizations that tried to morph the text even more to fit the doctrinal mold,, working with the ultra-minority "God" corruption, as is the style of modern cornfuseniks

4) various doctrinal battlegrounds, from gnostic corruption, to Arian battlecry to some Orthodox liking the only-begotten God. to the more recent absurdities

5) no real way to tell to what degree there were doctrinal motivations in how the competitive lines developed, and to what degree the scribes were simply copying the text, which, after the initial piddle corruption, could read either way (or perhaps choosing to have one variant or the other, the scribes may at times have good motivations but simply the puzzle of two alternatives to choose)

So already you have at least four variations from 2x2 in (1) and (2). This can lead to an Alice's Restaurant Syndrome. Then you get pseudo-moderns like Ehrman and Wallace adding even more alternatives and theories.

The bottom line is simple:

a) the textual support for Son over God is actually rather overwhelming, "God" is simply a piddle corruption

b) the translational support for "only begotten" is totally compelling - this has been nicely confirmed by a Greek writer on b-greek and by the research done by Michael Marlowe.

Historically, even Ezra Abbot is very helpful on the verse, writing with far more insight than the moderns being discussed. This was true even with his reputation as being in the Unitarian camp.

Even John William Burgon was a bit too quick and aggressive in declaring "only begotten god" a gnostic corruption. It is an interesting theory, and he gave it some support, but it is only one of many theories about what happened from 50 AD to 300 AD. None of which can be easily proven. Ehrman is a bit absurd in that regard.


[textualcriticism] John 1:18 - translation errors --> rewriting church history --> textual theory (Bart Ehrman presentation) - May 4, 2011

Bart Ehrman's comments
"... one reading found almost exclusively in the Alexandrian tradition and another found sporadically there and virtually everywhere else. O MONOGENHS UIOS ... predominance in the Greek, Latin, and Syriac traditions, not to mention its occurrence in fathers such as Irenaeus, Clement, and Tertullian ... Thus, both readings are ancient; one is fairly localized, the other is almost ubiquitous." (p. 79)
The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture:
The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (1995)
Bart Ehrman

monogenhV uios - Begotten Son - Affirming the Majority Text

Question: Is Bart Ehrman consistent in rejecting localized Alexandrian-support readings, or is this verse, John 1:18, a special case in that regard ? Or is just a matter of a measured higher degree ?

And isn't the above essentially the John William Burgon argument for many variants against the Revision and the Westcott-Hort Greek text in Revision Revised ? Anyway, may I applaud the new and unusual Bart Ehrman insight, and hope that it is not simply a case of special pleading to match doctrinal-textual purposes !

However it is important to point out that the rest of Bart Ehrman's analysis is very dubious.

> Then Ehrman begins his discussion of intrinsic probabilities: "It is on internal
> grounds that the real superiority of O MONOGENHS UIOS shines forth. . . ." (p. 79)

This is an involved section, with strengths and weaknesses, beyond my current scope.
However let us first look at the basic underlying argument.


Ehrman's basic argument- ...
"The variant reading of the Alexandrian tradition, which substitutes "God" for "Son," represents an orthodox corruption of the text in which the complete deity of Christ is affirmed" (p. 78)

This is a very strange theory on multiple counts.
The first two are simple.

1) The original corruption had to be early, likely by the early 2nd century, so an early Orthodox corruption of this nature goes against what I understand as Bart's own ideas that the high Christology doctrines developed late.

Note: personally, I believe the high Christology is imbued in the NT text, such as "God was manifest in the flesh..", which is rejected by Bart Ehrman. However I am looking at this in the classical ad hominem sense, asking if Bart Ehrman's analysis is consistent.

And is an Orthodox corruption creedal ? The only creed in the 2nd century was the simply-stated in Biblical-language Apostle's Creed. The Nicean and Athanasian and Chalcedon statements were far in the future, often using quasi-philosophical and neo-Platonist language that was very different than the Bible

2) Alexandria was a gnostic center (discussed by Aland, The Text of the New Testament p. 59) .. so why would a gnostic center institute anti-gnostic corruptions ? This simply makes no sense and is history and doctrine stood on its head.


Beyond these two we have (3) .. the rest of Bart Ehrman's understanding is in translation ..

"the unique God (o monogenhV qeoV ).. who is in the bosom of the Father, that one has made him known."

and falters on a major unstated premise, the denial of MONOGENES as only-begotten (at least in this verse) the historic verse understanding. And well-affirmed in the early church writings.

Many in fact consider the only-begotten God as the literal translation of the critical text. As in the NASV, Emphasized and NWT. This is seen as a gnostic and Arian favored reading, totally non-orthodox. Early example .. John Burgon, Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text, p. 215-218. So what we have is the ultra-dubious translational substitution of unique for the historic understanding... based on highly questionable modernist translation attempts. To add to the confusion Daniel Wallace has even changed the modernist retranslation once again to "The only one, himself God", more on this at bottom).

And thus Ehrman is building first a historical construct, and then a textual argument, on shifting sand.

For those who want to research this further, I strongly suggest as a starting point the superb article by Michael Marlowe that reviews the scholarship :

The Only Begotten Son - o monogenhV uios
Michael Marlowe
... Dahms concludes, "the external evidence, especially from Philo, Justin, and Tertullian, and the internal evidence from the context of its occurrences, makes clear that 'only begotten' is the most accurate translation after all." ...

A very solid article with scholarship references and analysis.
This includes separate sub-articles, only the Berkhof one is essentially doctrinal:

Büchsel on monogenhV - (1967)

John R. Wilson, "Parmenides, B 8. 4," The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 20, No. 1. (May, 1970), pp. 32-34.

Berkhof on the Eternal Generation of the Son - (1949)

There are other resources as well, such as the 2009 b-greek discussion where an Athens resident offered some thoughts on this very issue that were well-received. And the earlier article by Scott Jones. However, for the scholarship overview, Marlowe is superb.

Developing textual theories and texts on dubious translation and historical constructs is hardly a sound methodology !



Notice that Bart Ehrman actually uses an only-begotten translation, from Harry Bettenson of monogenes from the Council of Chalcedon.

"one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten "
"one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ"

And of Irenaeus:

thus wander from the truth, because their doctrine departs from Him who is truly God, being ignorant that his only-begotten Word ...
had a different name and function (e.g., Logos, Only-Begotten, Truth, Life, Christ).


Ehrman's only direct reference to this translation issue that I have found is a small footnote about Dale Moody, whom he accepts without interacting with the scholarship refutations pointed out by Marlowe.

Dale Moody, "'God's Only Son." ... argues convincingly against the rendering "only-begotten," on the grounds of etymology and usage.

Michael Marlowe interacts with Dale Moody's article "The Translation of John 3:16 in the Revised Standard Version" in his articles above. Perhaps Bart Ehrman would like to show what he considers the flaws in the careful and well-researched article by Michael Marlowe.


Ironically, Ehrman and Wallace (The Text and Grammar of John 1.18. 2004) duke it out in a modernist pot and kettle match of the two translation rewrite attempts. All these attempts started in the 20th century (!) and I believe are largely doctrinally motivated, looking to change historic Greek-->English understandings to match preferred doctrines and history. And were spurred by the awkwardness of "only begotten God" and the desire to have a more comfortable doctrinal phrase in the English modern version New Testaments, based on the Critical Text.

In this context Ehrman says "monogenhv ...Outside of the New Testament the term simply means ‘one of a kind’ or ‘unique,’ " and writes against the Wallace attempt (see above), which he puts as .. “the unique one, who is also God, who is in the bosom of the Father.”

However, the scholarship carefully given by Michael Marlowe shows that both attempts are simply errors, and that the proper translation of monogenes in John 1:18 is the historic one of the early church writers, the Reformation believers and the translations to other languages (e.g. unigenitus ) ... "only begotten"

Even if one disagrees with that simple declaration, the scholarship should be properly and carefully addressed.

And, either way, the Bart Ehrman attempt to develop convoluted textual and historical theories on dubious translation and erroneous church history should be noted and rejected.


> Regading external vs. internal evidences, internal evidence is not such that it should only be applied when external evidence is indecisive, for it is precisely internal evidence applied consistently on variations *in sequence* throughout the entire NT that gives weight to manuscripts of a certain class and diminishes the weight of manuscripts of all other classes. It is for this reason that I have come to support the increased weight of the manuscripts of the Byzantine class of manuscripts, for their inherent superiority on internal grounds when applied to variations on a sequential basis on portions of text throughout the NT. See, e.g., Maurice A. Robinson, "The Rich Man and Lazarus -- Luke 16:19-31: Text-Critical Notes," in Stanley E. Porter and Mark J. Boda, Translating the New Testament: Text, Translation, Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 111-116; and my own experimental textual commentary on Matthew chapters 1-4:

This is an excellent point, but I have to pass on it for now !

================================================== =====

John 1:18
No man hath seen God at any time;
the only begotten Son,
which is in the bosom of the Father,
he hath declared him.

First, I want to note that James Snapp touched on one aspect of this Bart Ehrman - John 1:18 doctrinal issue years ago.

Misquoting Jesus - Some Notes About Chapter 6 01-2006
"Bart Ehrman ..variants which the author claims are doctrinally motivated alterations ... Are these ten variants definitely cases of doctrinally motivated changes? ... John 1:18 - A nomina sacra -related change. One ends up with a high Christology whichever variant is original."

While I do not specifically agree with James (since I do not consider "only-begotten God" a "high Christology", it appears to be most in tune with an Arian Christology, which is hardly a high Christology, and posits a lesser begotten "God". Or it can alternatively be gnostic, which is even more unusual).

However, I understand the point of James. Which is basically that on John 1:18 especially , it is very easy to special plead virtually any doctrinal case, Alice's Restaurant style. This could be documented with a review of articles in the last decade.

And this is true especially as you have the full matrix of textual and translational variants (4 or 5 or 6 or possibly more radically different alternatives). And by the time you throw in the differing examiners own presuppositions and biases or simply analysis, virtually every claim should start as possibly suspect (even John William Burgon!) and has to be examined carefully.

Now, when reading Bart Ehrman's piece, I just thought that his claims on this verse were far more incredulous and impossible than most, as I described on my last post. With Bart Ehrman positing an ultra-early Alexandrian "orthodox " (!) corruption. And that absurdity, as I see it, simply highlights with more specificity the boomerang point of James.


Now the egg-face part.
On the post I put in a few days ago, May-04-2011

John 1:18 - translation errors --> rewriting church history --> textual theory (Bart Ehrman presentation)

One correction is needed.
Emphasis added.

> Ironically, Ehrman and Wallace (The Text and Grammar of John 1.18.2004) duke it out in a modernist pot and kettle match of the two translation rewrite attempts. All these attempts started in the 20th century (!) and I believe are largely doctrinally motivated, looking to change historic Greek-->English understandings to match preferred doctrines and history. And were spurred by the awkwardness of "only begotten God" and the desire to have a more comfortable doctrinal phrase in the English modern version New Testaments, based on the Critical Text.

All these attempts
can only refer to the new Wallace translation. The other side .. "only Son" (or "only God") idea has historical precedent, it was argued e.g. by Westcott looking at the ECW and the unicus-unigenitus Latin translations. (Westcott seems a bit self-contradictory on these issues, however he is an example of a scholar arguing that specific point in one spot, even though he then moves to unigenitus deus). All this is without getting into the distinction between only and unique, which is a qualitative discussion beyond any current post.

Anyway, I wanted to get this correction in for the record, before it gets stale. While I fully believe that "only begotten" is the right translation, and "Son" the right text, I do want to acknowledge that the "only" idea has a real history, without going into all the details, and giving Westcott as an example of a discussion on that point, giving his view of the early church writings and translations.

Thanks !
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Steven Avery

four posts on textualcriticism forum - emphasis on Ezra Abbot

Four Posts on NT Textual Criticism
March, 2015

Does James have a cobbled together article?


John 1:18 (AV)
No man hath seen God at any time;
the only begotten Son,
which is in the bosom of the Father,
he hath declared him.

With Irenaeus, Origen and Tertullian and Hippolytus, and other Ante-Nicene references, supporting the traditional text (allowing that some witnesses are mixed) it is only the hortian fog that would place a few localized, wild and errant alexandrian mss as having any particular weight in this question. Their proper weight should be == to maybe one ECW and far, far less than the mass of Greek mss. In fact, the Greek and Latin ms traditions speak in powerful harmony here, with the Syriac evidences somewhat obscure, despite being sided with the corruption.
Hort is quite obtuse and obscure in his paper, even by hortian standards, and, if I remember, Ezra Abbot (one of his papers given by James above) took him to the woodshed. And this likely splains why even the decrepit revision rejected the hortian corruption.
It is true that there is, today, a an unnecessary complexity added to the earlier discussions by those mistranslating monogenes. There is also a history of modern version smoothing and mistranslation (e.g. NIV) where the NAS and the Emphasized and the NWT were willing to translate the corruption "faithfully".
Thus the discussion can have an unusual interplay of doctrinal, historical, textual and translational and creedal components, all topped by Ehrmanian and Wallacian counterpointing and counterpunching errors.


For completeness, Ezra Abbot has three major articles:.

1.) 1856 section in Norton's book (emphasizes Tregelles errors)
2) 1861 - expands 1856 greatly into overall overview
3) 1875 Unitarian Review article that is reprinted in 1888 Authorship
(the 1875 online has one page messed up, so we use 1888)
There are a number of real gems in the articles, even beyond the masterful ECW work, which was truly Burgon-style. Correction to what I said above, Hort is only noted briefly in the 1875 article, and his 1876 article was not yet published. (Poke through it for typical Hortian turgidity, obscurity and error.)
Burgon did not discuss this much because the committee working on the decrepit revision did not follow the hortian corruption, and it seems clear that the Abbot analysis was one major reason why. There is a section in:
Causes of the Corruption p. 215-218

Edward Miller notes the Burgon labours here as incomplete, although conceptually the Valentinian-gnostic issues are rather significant, and often a flashpoint for debate.
Along with the simple explanations from Abbot of how the Arians strongly preferred only-begotten God and the orthodox who had the eternal generation doctrine (the word absurd is used by Abbot around this context) also found it satisfactory. See especially 1861 p. 868 and 1888 p. 267 and 283
(Note, Abbot remained generally weak in overemphasizing the ultra-minority ms evidences, but at least he was able to see clearly beyond that point.)
Oh, let us note that his analogy argument talking "God the Son" and other phrases is important, Abbot correctly states that simply because a writer refers to "only begotten God" does not, by itself, supply any tangible evidence that this is from John 1:18, especially once the phrase had come into general use.

Another gem from Abbot can be seen in discussions of distribution in 1861 p. 869 (see also the table and the antiquity discussion) ... very nicely written in 1888 p. 281.
Similarly significant are the references to the harshness and confusion of the corruption reading. 1861 p. 871 and 1888 p. 283-284. This latter also goes into the ludicrous attempts of Lightfoot and Tregelles to place the corruption as a tit for tat doctrinal gain to replace their rejection of the pure Bible "God was manifest in the flesh". This effectively shows the doctrinal and textual blindnesses of the Tregelles and Hort et al approach. Ironically, the bogus tit for tat idea was broached earlier in the attempts to justify the Granville Sharp mistranslations.
Also significant is that even the scholars of the 1800s almost uniformly rejected the corruption, (1888 p. 273) .. it took the bias and ignorance and animus against the pure Bible of men like Metzger and Aland and Wallace to lead the duped seminarians into the current conundrum in textual circles. Plus the fact that the veil of the hortian fog actually increased in density in the 20th century, while the minds of the textual writers dulled in synchronicity with the fogs density.

Here is the James Drummond (1835-1918) article from 1871..

THE READING μονογενὴς θεὸς "THE ONLY BEGOTTEN GOD." in John i. 18.

This is referenced by the 1875 Abbot article. Very good on the ECW, taking more space for each one, although bypassing the later ones. And also the summary conclusions make some good points. Drummond had collected his material before the 1861 Abbot article, so the two authors provide complementary counterpoint, with occasional technical disagreement in ECW interpretation.
Abbot and Drummond demonstrated the incompetent pseudo-scholarship of Wettstein and Tregelles for the corruption. They contributed to the large-scale rejection of the corruption even among scholars who saw themselves as bible correctors. And even among those who wanted to put out competing personal pride Greek New Testament editions.

The μονογενὴς θεὸς corruption only became popular later, through the back door of the Hort --> Nestle --> Aland and Metzger lineage, when the scholars who knew the evidence were gone and when the seminaries were teaching the joke of Metzger as a neutral textual savant. Thus the RSV with NA-26 and NA-27 became the major fulcrum for bringing in the corruption.

(Allowing a few streams like Rotherdam and the New World Translation that were also following the Nestle-Aland corruptions in the 1900s. To their credit these two at least they were honest with the translation of the corruption, unlike the editions today. The NAS is the only other one that did not mangle the translation to avoid the doctrinal mess.)
The pseudo-consensus for the corruption today is really only based on the pablum corruption agitprop claptrap of Aland and Metzger, unto the parrots. It has no real historical or scholarship base at all, and lacks sense and cogent analysis.

Here is the Hort article:


Two Dissertations

You will find the common circularity. Alexandrinus is "inferior" in the Gospels. Why? (You know the drill, it is too Byzantine and disagrees with Vaticanus.)

Ignore or hand-wave dismiss the mass of mss and evidences. Who cares about thousands of Greek and Latin mss (the hidden and now defunct Syrian/Lucian recension is required here.)

Also in the ECW Hort treads far more carefully than the earlier scholastic fakers Wetstein and Tregelles. So much of his tinge is laborious interpretative.
And you will find his standard "transcriptional probability" mishegas throughout. He makes the bogus claim that

"The always questionable suggestion of dogmatic alteration is peculiarly out of place here".
p 12-16 is the mind-reading of John, trying to defend the harshness and confusion pointed out by Abbot by justifying the unique oddball reading of the corruption.
The Arian aspect of a non-eternal lesser God is ignored, although the doctrinal perspectives are referenced, e.g. μονογενὴς θεὸς "was not avoided by Arius or his successor in the next generation, Eunomius, though neither of them inserted it in his own shorter Creed".
And on p. 18, Hort tries translational redaction, either adding in from left field "one who is..." or giving the "resolved rendering" .. ; "An Only-begotten who is God, even He who &c.':".
The most interesting point from Hort is on p. 25 where he acknowledges that Alexandria was gnostic till deep into the third century (see Aland on this as well.).

"... there is not a trace of theological activity at Alexandria, except that of the 'Gnostic' chiefs, till the Catechetical School of the Church (Athenagoras, Pantamus, Clement) arose in the last third of the century ... if such existed, some record of it must have been preserved by Eusebius, who had a special interest in Alexandria, and has given us a tolerable roll of contemporary writers from other parts of the East."
And this gnostic realm is the central land of the handful of support of μονογενὴς θεὸς .
Hort spends a lot of time showing that μονογενὴς θεὸς was not derived from the creeds. Since everyone agrees that the split was established in the 2nd century, this looks like filler.
The conclusion has a touch of irony. Hort acknowledges the centrality of "the Only-begotten Son of God" to John, but he wants us to accept this "other language in the single instance when he is led". This he feels will :

"join two attributes in unwonted union, that he may for a moment open a glimpse into the Divine depths out of which his historical Gospel proceeds."
Oh, what a web.

While Ellicott:

hoped that this article would "turn the current of theological opinion" .. there is little note or review of this article historically, understandably. Although Harnack apparently lavished praise on the Hort dissertation, also Milligan and Moulton (noted in the London Quarterly Review, 1881, p. 174.)
Westcott is curious, especially where he claims that, compared to the Bible tenet of "only-begotten Son":

"one who is God only-begotten... makes no difference in the the sense of the passage... does not seriously affect the form in which it is sent to us:"

Showing that he is a doctrinal ignoramus, perhaps caused by too much time spent in "communion" with the deceased saints.
He then gives a an ultra-Hortian absurd claim that the four mss, Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and CL "represent three great types".

Here we are even able to match the level of confusion and deception we originally saw from Wettstein and Tregelles.


(Note: James acknowledged that an AV position can be principled, integrity.)

Compliments to James for "getting it". Holding ** and defending ** a principled position on any Christian, Bible or spiritual matter is not by nature circular or a priori. However those with a contrary position will often want to do that paint job (not a reference to this forum,simply a general ref.).

First, let me point out that critical text variants differ greatly in the level of evidentiary support. An example: the omission of the Mark ending is a CT variant with 'approaching zero' support. On the other hand, the losing of "God was manifest in the flesh" in the CT at least has substantial non-Greek support. And if it wasn't for the fact that the Critical Text has a solecism creating gibberish there would be an actual textual argument that at least would have to be respected. And I consider the John 1:18 "begotten God" to be on the weaker side of the corruption continuum. ie. Very little evidence. With massive evidence all around for the "only-begotten Son". (I do not consider the various modern alternate translations as accurate or even relevant, however I am not going to go into that on this post.)

John 1:18 is unusual because of the interplay of translational and textual issues. Historically there really were only two possibilities, and within those two there was a doctrinal nexus.

Doctrinally, first you have the charged gnostic-Valentinian (Valentinus is given as c. 100-160 AD) issue, asserted by Burgon:

And denied by Hort. This would have been the only way that the corruption could have been deliberate, since Arianism was not yet an issue in the 2nd century and gnosticism was strong in Alexandrian lands. However, from Burgon this is simply a theory of origin, lacking any real proof. Plus, the line of demarcation between deliberate and accidental corruptions is often a pale gray, since doctrinal perspectives affect viability of a variant.
Variation without viability is like inspiration without preservation, a non-entity. Thus, as a variation without viability the women afraid ending of Mark should not even be on the radar of textual navigators.
WIth John 1:18, with both variants in existence, one widely, one locally, you begin to have the preferences. Clearly, Arians embrace "only begotten God". Clearly, modern Trinitarians do not, and thus they smooth by a new mistranslation sophistry. Many historic Trinitarians did embrace "only begotten God", and Ezra Abbot explains the simple reason. They have a strange doctrine of eternal generation of the Son, which may allow for this phrase.

Abbot's section is here:

"The Arians, who laid great stress on the fact that the Father was "unbegotten" and "without beginning," ... were fond of calling the Son the only-begotten God " because, while the term expressed his high dignity, it brought into view his derived existence. Begotten by an act of God's will, he could not, they argued, be eternal.

(SA note: one hallmark of modern JW-Arian doctrine.)

"The Orthodox, on the other hand, who saw no absurdity in the idea of eternal generation, were fond of the expression, because they regarded it as indicating his derivation from the substance of the Father... "
In an understated manner, Abbot, non-Trinitarian, is saying that he sees absurdity in "eternal generation". Many professed Trinitarians would agree, and in fact the origin of this doctrine is closely linked to Origen, a writer with many doctrinal difficulties.
Thus the honest Trinitarian who is not an eternal generationist would be doctrinally perplexed by the corruption. And this is the fundamental problem .. Arian doctrine is rejected, by a wide array of Christians, yet "the only-begotten God" is not even recognized as Arian! Amazing.
Today, we have a new breed of Trinitarian doctrinalists whose first sympathy, as hirelings and publicists, is to their modern version text and masters. Thus, James White might vapidly claim that "only-begotten God" is an affirmation of the deity of Christ. However, he surely is hoping that the actual belief will not be examined, and he will quickly jump to another topic. This type of illogic from the popular American Christian-dumb of James White may be behind the question above. Such individuals may try to find a "third way" to defend vapidly "only begotten God". Even as a Trinitarian who does not espouse eternal generation. However, I have never seen it done with any sense or pizazz.
The bottom line is simple. There is an ultra-minority (Greek and Latin) corruption with very little support anywhere. The few localized 1% manuscripts that give support are known to be tinged with scribal errors, omissions and conflicting corruptions. And thus are of little to no value. The evidence overall is overwhelming for this historic and sensible text: And the ECW give powerful support, century by century, for the sensible ultra-majority scripture text.

John 1:18 (AV)
No man hath seen God at any time;
the only begotten Son,
which is in the bosom of the Father,
he hath declared him.
Not surprisingly, the corruption leads to authorship style problems, contextual problems, confusion and harshness of sense,. inconsistency .... AND a major doctrinal morass.
(And even a little cottage industry of "new, improved" mistranslations away from the historical Greek-->English understanding.)
Beyond dividing the body of believers by offering an alternate uninspired text that is questionably called the Bible.
We should not be surprised that a corruption of the word of God causes problems.

Steven Avery
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Steven Avery

From the Yahoogroups KJBD defense forum, April, 2011

Hi Folks,

This was posted earlier today on WhichVersion and is expanded here.


After a convoluted discussion of some folks on CARM who were totally perplexed about one beautiful Bible verse, spinning wildly in the Greek, I placed this post, that is designed to help with the basics.

CARM - John 1:18 (now purged)


Hi Folks,

The Reformation Bible reading (most all versions in all languages and from the Received Text) was the verse understanding uniformly received in the Greek and Latin churches until the late 1800s textual confusions. This can be seen in the AV.

John 1:18
No man hath seen God at any time;
the only begotten Son,
which is in the bosom of the Father,
he hath declared him.

In fact, even the 1881 revision left the pure text intact, resisting the Westcott-Hort Alexandrian corruption.

Historically, like most corruptions, the textual corruption to
"begotten God" was early, and this phrase is found in some early church writers. The most interesting question about this ultra-minority corruption is whether it was a deliberate gnostic corruption, or, even if accidental, was maintained in the textline because of Alexandrian gnosticism.

This was the informed view of Dean John Burgon Causes of the Corruption, p. 215-218
and was recently discussed, with new material, on the TC-Alternate thread by James Snapp.2

However, we do not have to know whether the source and purpose of a corruption was doctrinal and negatively purposeful to recognize the corruption itself.

When the QEOS reading became popular, leading to the literal translation being: only begotten God as in the NAS (similar in the NWT and the literal Emphasized) this was quite discomfiting to many who understandably saw this as an Arian reading. (e.g. The JW perspective is strongly for this corruption.) And modern version proponents began to prefer alternative translations, leading to various alternatives like
"only God", "unique God" and the latest translation tampering of Daniel Wallace. New theories of the usage of monogenes were developed, along with new translation ideas.

However, any real, careful study shows that
monogenes is "only begotten". This can be seen in modern scholarship discussions (the alternative idea of "unique" is quite new so it was not even addressed by those like Dean John Burgon.

Although Burgon did show the overwhelming early church writer support for "Son".
reviewed in the superb and highly recommended article on the Michael Marlowe site 4
Also recommended is the b-greek discussion of Novr 2009 where native Greek Vasileios Tsialas helped informed the forum
and also the earlier Scott Jones article 6.

Thus, the alternatives are very simple.

only begotten Son - Received Text, Majority, also Old Latin, Vulgate
only begotten God - Westcott-Hort, eclectic, also Syriac Peshitta

Good info in the Laparola apparatus
- 7

John Hurt 8
qeon oudeiV ewraken pwpote o monogenhV uios o wn eiV ton kolpon tou patroV ekeinoV exhghsato

"only begotten God" - NAS
"only begotten-god" - NWT
"An Only Begotten God". - Emphasized

All the other attempts (other than - only begotten Son and only begotten God) fail due to the simple truth of the definition of monogenes as "only begotten". The attempt to use the Daniel Wallace translation rigging to a "Deity identity" verse is about of the same overall quality as claiming that because the Living Bible reads in John 1:1-2

"Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is Himself God. He created everything there is nothing exists that He did not make" (John 1:1-2).

We therefore declare the Deity of Messiah. In the case of John 1:18 and Daniel Wallace you have an inferior, corrupt Greek text mistranslated to try to make doctrinal points. In John 1:1-2 and the Living Bible you simply have paraphrase mistranslation, the result is the same, worthless.

Now, it is very fine if a verse like 1 Timothy 3:16
"God was manifest in the flesh ..." is used to declare Jesus Christ.

However it is a textual and translational abomination to use a corrupt text mistranslated to try to make doctrinal points, as done by those like Daniel Wallace with the NETBible and apologist James White.

Ironically, modern version textus corruptus proponents like James White will use such mistranslations from corrupt texts to attack the pure and consistent and accurate Reformation Bible and AV text ! Or to give a type of counterpoint against verses missing and other corruptions, cherry-picking a translation that seems more acceptable and saying ... look, here, our text declares the Deity of the Lord Jesus ! ... And they try to make doctrinal points against islamists and others using the mistranslation.

So much better to simply use the pure Bible, which has the verse totally consistent with New Testament doctrine and understanding, beautiful and majestic :

John 1:18
No man hath seen God at any time;
the only begotten Son,
which is in the bosom of the Father,
he hath declared him.

Quoting the verse with the confidence and sureness of the word of God in your hands.

Psalm 119:140
Thy word is very pure :
therefore thy servant loveth it.

Steven Avery



Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text (p. 215-218) 1896
Dean John Burgon

John 1:18 - QS - Finally, A Solid Reference!
James Snapp - Mon Apr 25, 2011
Auxentius of Milan's Letter

More on this might be found by looking carefully at:

The search for the Christian doctrine of God: the Arian controversy 318-381
Richard Hanson, Richard Patrick Crosland Hanson

Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels (p. 113-114) 1896
Dean John Burgon

The Only Begotten Son
o monogenhV uios
Michael Marlowe
... Dahms concludes,
"the external evidence, especially from Philo, Justin, and Tertullian, and the internal evidence from the context of its occurrences, makes clear that 'only begotten' is the most accurate translation after all." ...

A very solid article with scholarship references and analysis.

Büchsel on monogenhV

[W-V] John 1:18 - only begotten - Michael Marlowe
Steven Avery - Oct, 29, 2009

The irony here is that "only begotten" is supported by:

Ancient Greek usage
New Testament usage
Early church writers
Early church councils
Greek dictionaries and usage
Sound scholarship of a wide variety of writers.

Which Version - Nov 5, 2009

Vasileios Tsialas - Athens Greece
I believe the context makes it claim that MONOGENHS does not really refer to the uniqueness of Logos' divinity but to the uniqueness of Logos' sonship to God, his unique, unparalleled filial status (1:14). For God has many children (1:12, 13), but no one shares the filial status Logos has. As regards the root GEN, I would like to ask the list members how would cases as GHGENHS (earthborn), DIOGENHS (child of Zeus) GENEQLIOS (belonging to one's birth), GONEUS (begetter), GENESIS (birth in Matt 1:18) may be judged and if they can give us any clues for the meaning of MONOGENHS.

Carl Conrad - Nov 6, 2009
... I have to say that I find this argument compelling and find I must reverse the stance I have taken hitherto regarding the sense of MONOGENHS as "unique."

Scott Jones
The Assault on the Only Begotten Son
Definition of Monogenes

Laparola apparatus

John Hurt Greek New Testament



Notice that the positions for the pure Bible have been given by a wide variety of
authors, AV, TR and simply writers who smelled the John 1:18 coffee properly.



John 1:18 - "only begotten Son" - Crowned with Glory (2000)
Thomas Holland

John 1:18
Will Kinney

The Gnostic & Arian Corruption of John 1:18
Tim Warner

Gnostic Corruptions in the Critical Texts
A Case Study On the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, 21st Edition
Timothy Dunkin

The Glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father - A Defense of John 1:18 As Found in the Authorized King James Bible (1998)
Jesse Boyd

John 1:18 - In defense of the KJV reading
T.L. Hubeart Jr.

While Men Slept. .. A Biblical and Historical Account of the New Universal Christianity (2002)
Kirby F. Fannin

And I may try to place a separate post with many ECW references (quotations) in one spot.
Have not checked who is the best on this so far.



Metzger on John 1:18

Pot and Kettle Competition

Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why - A Summary Critique (2006)
Daniel B. Wallace

Ehrman and Wallace.
Ehrman actually supports "Son", and gets all the other stuff wrong.


HISTORICAL - 1800s (Dean Burgon above)

On the reading only-begotten God in John 1:18 With Particular Reference to the Statements of Dr. Tregelles (1861)
Ezra Abbot

Ezra Abbot, who worked on the revision and sparred with Dean Burgon on some issues, had many weaknesses, however he was also a sharp cookie. And here he took the proper position, perhaps surprisingly. This may be why the Revision rejected the Hortian corruption attempt. There were I think three articles in total by Abbot on the verse.

On the Words Monogenes Qeos in Scripture and Tradition (1876)
Fenton Hort

Hort's attempt to shore up the corruption, especially as Abbot had already supported the pure Bible on the verse.

Homiletic Magazine (1882)
Describes the Revision flip-flops in text and voting and margins



No man has seen God at any time;
the only-begotten god who is in the bosom [position]
with the Father is the one that has explained him.

Emphasized (literal to W-H)
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 .

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


This study archived at:

[KJBD] John 1:18 - the only begotten Son
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Steven Avery

All above and the new thread.

Needed is

Modern history (1700s etc)

Early Church Writers

Review of Snapp evidences with my improvements (bring over summary to PBF)
More of an Abbot review

Emphasis on Marlowe,
Lee Irons
Denny Burk (Colin Pearson)
Roderick L. Ross
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Steven Avery

Testing the Conspiracy Theory: "Orthodox" vs. "Non-Orthodox" Variants in Jude (2022)
Paul Aaron Himes
Hi Paul,

"It's also deliciously ironic to compare Ehrman vs. the KJV-onlyists on John 1:18, since they both agree that deliberate theological change has occurred, and they both blame the Gnostics, and they both agree on the same reading!"


John 1:18 (AV)
No man hath seen God at any time;
the only begotten Son,
which is in the bosom of the Father,
he hath declared him.

The evidence is vastly in favor of only begotten Son.

The change to only-begotten God/god (as in the NAS and Emphasized and NWT literal translations) was partly Gnostic and partly pseudo-Orthodox, which you can see by looking at the ECW, early church writers. Burgon did emphasize the Gnostic element, there was some truth but also a bit of an over-emphasis.

Ehrman wrongly thinks that the Arian corruption is
"high Christology" and
"the complete deity of Christ is affirmed"
- and Ehrman works both variants with a nouveau-modern mistranslation.
"monogenhv ...Outside of the New Testament the term simply means ‘one of a kind’ or ‘unique,’ "

The fact that Ehrman ends up with the right Greek text is a "stopped clock syndrome", right twice a day. His logic is wrong, he falsely thinks the Arian corruption is high Christology, and the root problem is that his translation is wrong. Better to understand his errors than be concerned about an irony of no substance.

Since this verse has various textual and translational corruptions, virtually anything goes from the modern textual cornfuseniks. Wallace vs. Ehrman on this verse is classic pot and kettle.

Pure Bible Forum
John 1:18 - Ehrman and Wallace ultra-modern competitive confusions

Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY, USA
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