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12/30/2016

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Kevin Giles

Dear Lee, thank you for your latest post. I can see we will need to be very careful that we do not pass like ships in the night. I of course do not deny that monogenes implies the idea of begetting. All children are begotten, whether or not they are monogenes. And of course I note that the Greek church fathers connected the words gennao and monogenes when used of the Son of God. For them, the Son is monogenes because he alone is eternally begotten.
What you have set yourself to prove in opposition to me is that 1. John the evangelists and the early Greek fathers who spoke Greek thought the PRIMARY meaning of monogenes is “only begotten” and 2. That for the early Greek fathers the word monogenes and the Johannine texts in which it is found are the PRIMARY basis for their doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. Is this what you are trying to prove? If not explain to me again what you are trying to prove.
I will make my reply to you unambiguously and clearly. You have chosen to engage me in debate, and you honor me in doing this, but you must prove your case. Making stark assertions that your opponent rebuts proves absolutely nothing. I am open to change my mind if the evidence demands this but if I consider your arguments faulty, mistaken or unconvincing I am bound to say so in the cause of truth. I hope in writing in reply unambiguously and clearly I do not cause offence. It is not personal in any way.
Now to the points you make. In paragraph one you seem to miss my point. I must have worded myself poorly. My argument is that what the early Greek fathers, as native Greek speakers, took as the primary meaning of the word monogenes is to be accepted. Whatever they thought it meant we should agree this is what it meant for them. I read Grudem to be saying in his 2002 denial of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son that the early Greek fathers were mistaken in their understanding of this word – which to me sounds an absurd idea.
Also in paragraph one you mention several modern studies on monogenes. Much more than what you mention has been written and I see no one dissenting from the view that the primary meaning of monogenes is unique, one of a kind. This is the overwhelming scholarly consensus. I have some pretty strong support for my view.
Yes, some argue that in John more is implied and some argue in the Greek fathers we see some development and still later it must be noted that in the Latin translations monogenes was rendered unigenitus – only begotten. This is of little consequence to me. I agree the idea of begetting cannot be excluded from the word monogenes – all children are begotten whether or not they are only children. And I agree the Greek church fathers argued that what made the Son monogenes was that he alone is eternally begotten. To say this is however not to concede that the primary meaning of monogenes is “only begotten” or that this word and the texts in which it is found is the primary biblical basis for their doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son.
You begin your appeal to the Greek fathers with a text dated about 360 by Basil which I discuss in my book, The Eternal Generation of the Son, page 132. You claim that this text proves that Eunomius and Basil are agreed the –genes stem means “begotten”. This is an assertion that your evidence does not support. I simply cannot see this in the text. For me, what they agree on is that monogenes refers to something one off – something that sets the one designated “monogenes” apart.
In your next paragraph you say the church fathers understood the word monogenes to involve the notions of begetting, procreation, off spring. We are agreed. When this word is used of the Son he must be begotten, procreated and an off spring. This is not to say the word means “only begotten”. Your next words “It [monogenes] didn’t just mean “unique” but “only child”, is a non sequitur. Surely an only child is a one off – a unique child?
Next you claim the Greek church fathers thought the monogenes carried the implication of not having any siblings, YES, YES, YES. You have them right. The divine Son has no brothers by birth. He is uniquely the eternally begotten Son. Again we agree. What is the debate?
Then you claim the word monogenes stands in contradiction to the term prototokos. What are you arguing? To claim “you can’t be both “only begotten” and “First born” makes no sense at all to me. Surely Jesus can be the monogenes Son - however you understand this word - AND the prototokos Son. You should also note that the scholarly consensus is that in speaking of the Son as prototokos in Colossians 1:15 Paul is primarily alluding not to chronological birth order but to the Son’s pre-eminence.
The quotes you then give to prove your point do not. Again they are just assertions. In fact they exclude your argument. Athanasius and Gregory of Nyssa are not arguing that the Son cannot be both monogenes and protokos – they certainly do not think the Bible contradicts itself!!! For Athanasius Jesus is called the monogenes Son because he has no brethren - ie because his is uniquely Son by eternal generation. In contrast, he is called protokos because he is first in honor and status among those who can be called his brothers by grace.
Gregory in his own words makes the same argument.
Your paragraph beginning “Of course” seems to me just to put your confused and mistaken argument again that the church fathers were struggling to deal with a contradiction in Scripture. What can I say?
Sorry, Lee, you have not convinced me I am wrong on anything I have said in my book, The Eternal Generation of the Son. I hope you put forward some weightier evidence and better arguments in your next blog to refute me on whatever you are trying to refute me on.
Kevin Giles 1.1.2017.

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