Begotten -- Word Study
Almost all Christians say that Jesus is the ‘only begotten Son of God’, but not all actually believe He was begotten in the true sense of the word. They may believe He was begotten of Mary and the Holy Spirit, but not that He was begotten of God the Father at some point in eternity. Many have redefined the word ‘begotten’ to mean ‘unique’ without any reference to being born. Thus the Biblical understanding is lost.
1. The Hebrew word translated ‘begotten’ and ‘bear’ in the verses below is ‘yalad’. It is a primary root. (3205 in Strong’s Concordance)
MEANING OF ‘YALAD’
To be born, to beget young, midwife, child, children, to bear young, birth, born, birthday, show lineage, bring forth, calve, be delivered of a child, declare pedigree, be son of, gendereth, hatch, labour, travail, woman in travail, travail with child, travailing woman, be delivered, bear. (3205 Strong’s)
TEXTS USING ‘YALAD’ (Using other English words)
Genesis 3:16. “in sorrow shalt thou bring forth” (to bear)
Genesis 4:1. “she conceived and bare Cain” (be born)
Genesis 5:4. “after Adam had begotten Seth” (be born)
Genesis 5:6. “Seth begat Enos” – all the begats (to bear)
Genesis 6:10. “sons begotten after the flood” (be born)
Genesis 38:27. “in the time of her travail” (the act of bearing)
Exodus 28:10. “according to their birth” (name given in birth)
Deut. 23:8. “children begotten of them” (be born)
1 Kings 13:2. “a child shall be born” (be born)
2 Sam 21:8. “Rizpah whom she bear” (be born)
1 Chron 14:4. “names of the children” (that which is born)\
Psalm 2:7. “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, ‘Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten (yalad) thee’.”
Psalm 48:6. “pain as a woman in travail” (act of bearing)
Eccles. 7:1. “day of one’s birth” (day of birth)
Isaiah 7:14. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear (yalad) a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel.”
Isaiah 59:4. “conceive mischief, bring forth iniquity” (an illustration compared to bringing forth a child)
The word ‘yalad’ has been translated ‘begotten’ (9 times), ‘bear’ (153 times), ‘beget’ (181 times), ‘be born’ (59 times), ‘bring forth’ (19 times), ‘travail’ (4 times), ‘labour’ (2 times), ‘woman in travail’ (8 times), plus others a small number of times. (These figures are approximate)
Therefore, we can safely say that the meaning of the word ‘yalad’ in both Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 7:14 is that the Messiah was ‘begotten’, or ‘born’. (The words can be interchanged) This cannot be disputed. Isaiah 7:14 clearly refers to Jesus’ birth to Mary.
2. The Hebrew word ‘mowledeth’ (4138) has also been translated ‘begotten’. It is a derivative of ‘yalad’ (3205)
Leviticus 18:11 “begotten of thy father” (be born)
MEANING OF ‘MOWLEDETH’
Nativity [birth place], by implication lineage, native country, off-spring, family, born, issue, kindred, begotten.
TEXTS USING ‘MOWLEDETH’ (Using other English words)
Genesis 12:1 “from thy kindred” (family)
Genesis 31:3 “land of thy fathers and thy kindred” (family)
Genesis 48:6 “thy issue… thou begettest (yalad)” (child born)
Leviticus 15:7 “flesh that hath an issue” (running sore)
Leviticus 15:25 “the issue of her uncleanness” (menstrual)
This Hebrew word ‘mowledeth’ has been translated as ‘begotten’ (1 times), ‘born’ (2 times), ‘kindred’ (11 times), ‘nativity’ (6 times), ‘issue’ (1 time), and others on a few occasions.
3. The Hebrew word ‘yatsa’ (3318) is also translated ‘begotten’. It is a primary root.
Judges 8:30 “ten sons begotten” (out of his body)
MEANING OF ‘YATSA
To break out, bring forth, carry out, fall, get away, proceed, pluck, shoot forth, spring out, take forth, appear, be come forth, begotten, be come out, be departed, be gone forth, be gone out, be laid out, go abroad, bear out, depart, be risen, break out, come, come forth, come out, depart, get (out), go forth, go (out), issue (out), spring (out), bring (out), bring up, carry forth, lead out.
TEXT USING ‘YATSA’ (Using other English words)
Genesis 1:12 “earth brought forth grass” (out of the ground)
Genesis 8:18 “Noah went forth” (out of the ark)
Genesis 8:17 “bring forth… every living thing” (out of the ark)
Genesis 15:4 “come forth out of thine own bowels” (be born)
Genesis 17:6 “kings shall come out of thee” (be born)
Genesis 19:5 “bring them out” (angels from Lot’s house)
Genesis 24:13 “come out to draw water” (from the well)
Genesis 27:30 “yet scarce gone out” (from the house)
Genesis 38:24 “bring her forth” (from house)
Genesis 44:4 “when they were gone out” (of the city)
Lev 8:33 “not go out of the door” (of the tabernacle)
Deut. 8:7 “fountains that spring out” (of the valley)
Judges 1:24 “spies saw a man come forth out” (of the city)
1 Chr 14:15 “God is gone forth before thee” (out in front)
Job 23:10 “come forth as gold” (from trials)
Psalm 37:6 “bring forth thy righteousness” (from redeemed)
Psalm 78:16 “brought streams out” (of the rock)
Ezek 14:22 “a remnant.. brought forth” (from destruction)
‘Yatsa’ has been translated as ‘begotten’ (1 time), ‘go out’ (298 times), ‘go forth’ (147 times), ‘bring forth’ (122 times), ‘come forth’ (108 times), ‘bring out’ (95 times), ‘proceed’ (16 times), ‘bring up’ (5 times), as well as many others.
There is no question ‘yatsa’ has a very clear meaning of coming out in some way, whether leaving, departing, springing, appearing, rising, going, bearing, carrying, leading, bringing, coming, going, issuing, plucking, taking, shooting forth etc. Translated ‘begotten’ and ‘born’ only appropriate when it is obvious, as Judges 8:30.
The most well-known Greek word is ‘monogenes’ (3439). It is from ‘monos’ (3441) meaning ‘sole’ or ‘single’, by implication ‘alone’, ‘only’, ‘by themselves’, couple with ‘gennao’ (1096), a primary verb ‘to be’.
MEANING OF ‘MONOGENES’
Only born, only child, only begotten, single born child.
TEXTS USING ‘MONOGENES’ (Using the word begotten)
John 1:14 “we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”
John 1:18 “no man has seen God, the only begotten Son has declared him”
John 3:16 “God gave His only begotten Son”
John 3:18 “He that believeth… no… because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”
Heb 11:17 “By faith Abraham… offered up his only begotten son”
1 John 4:9 “God sent His only begotten Son”
Clearly the word ‘begotten’ means ‘to be born an only child’. It would also be correct to translate the above verses ‘only born’ Son, or just ‘only’ Son as in other verse below. It is not a special word referring to Christ alone, as it is an everyday word for an ‘only child’, but there is obviously a message in translating it ‘only begotten’ when referring to Christ, or to Isaac as a type of Christ being offered up by his father Abraham.
VERSES USING ‘MONOGENES’ (Using other English words)
Luke 7:12 “the only son of his mother” (widow of Nain)
Luke 8:42 “He had an only daughter” (Jairus)
Luke 9:38 “look upon my son, for he is mine only child”
When we see Jesus as a human being, we are seeing the divine Son of God clothed in humanity. At times His divinity flashed through His humanity. (Example – ‘Desire of Ages’ 81. 130, 158, 162, 421, 686, 700, 731, etc)
2. The second Greek word translated ‘begotten’ is ‘gennao’ (1080). It is from ‘genos’ (1085) meaning kind, genes, kin, born, stock, offspring, nation.
MEANING OF ‘GENNAO’
To procreate, regenerate, bring forth, conceive, bear, beget, be delivered, make, gender, be born, be made. (1080 Strong’s)
VERSES USING ‘GENNAO’ (Using the word begotten)
1 Cor 4:15 “begotten you through… gospel”. (spiritual birth)
Acts 13:33 “This day have I begotten thee” (quoting Ps 2:7)
Philemon 10 “begotten in my bonds” (spiritual birth)
Hebrews 1:5 “This day have I begotten thee” (quoting Ps 2:7)
Hebrews 5:5 “Today have I begotten thee” (quoting Ps 2:7)
Rev 1:5 “from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead…”
1 John 5:1 “believeth Jesus is born of God…… him that begat.. him also that is begotten of God” (spiritual birth for all)
1 John 5:18 “whosoever is born of God…… he that is begotten of God” (spiritual birth for both)
Obviously the meaning of the word is not only a physical birth, but also a spiritual one.
VERSES OF ‘GENNAO’ (Using other English words)
Matthew 1:2 “Abraham begat Isaac” (all begats)
Matthew 1:16 “Mary of whom was born Jesus” (physical birth)
Matthew 1:20 “… is conceived in her” (to be physical birth)
Matthew 19:12 “some eunachs born from mother” (physical)
John 3:3 “except a man is born of…” (spiritual birth)
John 9:2 “he was born blind” (physical birth)
John 1:13 “born not of blood, nor will of man” (spiritual)
Gal 4:24 “Sinai gendereth to bondage” (spiritual – create)
2 Tim 2:23 “they do gender strifes” (begins strife)
1 John 2:29 “do righteousness, born of him” (spiritual)
1 John 3:9 “whosoever is born of God” (spiritual birth)
Obviously ‘gennao’ means to bring into being, whether physical or spiritual.
3. The third Greek word translated ‘begotten’ is ‘prototokos’ (4416). It is from 4413.
First begotten (born), Firstborn (usually as a noun) lit. or fig.
The root word ‘protos’ means ‘chief, first, chief estate, etc.’, making Jesus the most important One raised from the dead. It seems more appropriate to use the proper noun, “the Firstbegotten of the dead”. Some of the verses below could also be the proper noun Firstborn, in fact, more appropriately in four cases.
TEXTS USING ‘PROTOTOKOS’ (as firstborn)
Matt 1:25. “she brought forth her firstborn” (first child)
Luke 2:7. “she brought forth her firstborn” (first child)
Rom 8:29. “firstborn among brethren” (could be proper noun)
Col 1:15. “firstborn of every creature” (could be proper noun)
Col 1:18 “firstborn from the dead” (could be proper noun)
Heb 1:6 “bringing the first begotten into world” (could be proper noun or God’s begotten Son)
Heb 11:28. “destroyed firstborn (of Egypt)” (first child)
Heb 12:23. “church of the firstborn” (could be proper noun)
Rev 1:5 “from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead…” (proper noun)
“The first begotten of God was the only One who could liberate those who by Adam's sin had been brought in subjection to Satan.” Upward Look. p357.
From these verses we can see that ‘begotten’, both in the Old and the New Testament can mean a truly begotten Son. Even using the word ‘unique’ instead of ‘only begotten’ is a denial of His birth in heaven. Jesus was born of Mary on this earth, but He was not God’s Son by the Holy Spirit -- He never called the Spirit His Father. Jesus was God’s true Son from heaven; God the Father is truly a Father, but not from the Incarnation.
According to Ellen G White, Jesus became the Son “in a new sense” when He was born on earth. This shows that His birth on earth was not His first birth. “In His incarnation He (Christ) gained in a new sense the title of the Son of God…. While the Son of a human being, He became the Son of God in a new sense. Thus He stood in our world – the Son of God, yet allied by birth to the human race.” 1 Selected Messages p266. You can only be something ‘in a new sense’ if you are that already in a full sense. (Read also ‘Patriarchs and Prophets’ [first chapter], and ‘The Desire of Ages’ [The Temptation] to confirm His Sonship in your mind)
The Scriptures are consistent and they are backed up by the Spirit of Prophecy.
“A complete offering has been made; for ‘God so loved the world, that he gave His only-begotten Son’ – not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but a Son begotten in the express image of the Father’s person, and in all the brightness of His majesty and glory, one equal with God in authority, dignity, and divine perfection. In Him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Signs of the Times. May 23. 1895.
“The Fatherhood of God is given to us in the gift of Jesus Christ; and as God was one with His only begotten Son, so He would have His earthly children one with Him..” Review and Herald. September 30. 1909.
“O that everyone would realize the great love, the self-sacrifice, the benevolence, and the kindness of our heavenly Father, in giving his Son to die for us that we might, if we believe and do his commandments, have a sweet peace, the Father's joy, the Father's love, and unite with him, heart, soul, mind, and strength, to maintain righteousness and to draw in even lines with Christ. It is not the sacrifice of Christ only; it is the Father's sacrifice also.
The Father, in union and loving sympathy, with His Son, subjected Himself to suffer with His Son. He spared not His only begotten Son but freely delivered Him up for us all. This gift of Christ is the crowning truth of God's love, and this Fatherhood, through all time and through eternity. Here is the love of God in His Fatherhood. Let us drink in this love, that we may know by experience what a real, tender, joyful, experience there is in a realization of the Fatherhood of God.” Spalding and Magan p68.