Nazarene Space

In the Greek New Testament the term μονογενης monogenes, often translated as "only begotten (son)", is applied to Yeshua. Perhaps the most popularized occurrence of this term is the famous John 3:16 passage that states,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son {μονογενη monogene}, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)

What is not so popular among the laity is that μονογενης monogenes also refers to other persons in the NT besides Yeshua. More specifically, it is applied to a patriarch:

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten {μονογενη monogene}. (Heb 11:17)

Because these two sons are both referred to as a μονογενης monogenes, the terminology in Heb 11:17 indicates that Isaac's sonship to Abraham is akin to Yeshua's sonship to God. In the pericope known as the עְַקֵדָה ‘aqeidah, where Abraham is told to take and slay Isaac, God referred to Isaac using a special term:

And he said, Take now your son, your only {יְחִידְךָ yechidekha} Isaac, whom you love... (Gn 22:2)

And, again, when God stops Abraham from doing the unthinkable, He shouts,

You fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only {יְחִידְךָ yechidekha} from me. (Gn 22:12)

Isaac is called a יָחִיד yachid meaning an "only" son three times in the aqeidah pericope.[i]But to the careful reader there is a problem: technically, Isaac wasn't the only son of Abraham but had an estranged older brother named Ishmael. Ishmael had been conceived through a faithless act in lieu of waiting for God's promise of a child. Subsequently, Ishmael was sent away after Isaac was born.

Therefore, while the term יָחִיד yachid does denote an only one, it may also denote a special or unique one. The writer of Hebrews, undoubtedly familiar with the binding of Isaac, knew this and rendered the term μονογενης monogenes in the Greek text where the term יָחִיד yachid would occur in the Hebrew. Written in Syriac script, the Aramaic Peshitta's rendition of Heb 11:17 also confirms the foregoing:

By faith, when Abraham was tested, he sacrificed Isaac, he raised upon the altar his only son {וליחידה = ܘܠܝܚܝܕܼܗ} even that one who had received the promise.

As I've highlighted, the Aramaic cognate of the Hebrew term יָחִיד yachid is used in place of the Greek term μονογενης monogenes. Further, Heb 11:19 draws a parallel between the aqeidah and the crucifixion referring to the former as a παραβολη parabole meaning "allegory" or "parable":

Accounting that God was able to raise him (Isaac) up, even from the dead; from which also he received him in a parable {παραβολη parabole}.

The author of Hebrews clearly sees a typological blueprint in Abraham's willingness to offer his יָחִיד yachid who then returned alive. This type points to God's willingness to offer his own μονογενης monogenes who also returned alive. The theological meaning of Yeshua's sonship to The Almighty is enriched when one realizes that μονογενης monogenes and יָחִיד yachid are synonymous, because Yeshua was not merely an only son but a unique son. Like Isaac, he was the son of promise.

[i] Confer Gn 22:2, 12, 16.

Views: 204


You need to be a member of Nazarene Space to add comments!

Join Nazarene Space












© 2019   Created by James Trimm.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service