John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 1:18, God the Son

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

//Today’s verse is a sticky one, very difficult to translate … but incredibly important.  At the crux of this interpretation may be a question that Christians have argued about for two millennia: Is Jesus God?

The ESV translation highlights the difficulty in this passage with a straightforward interpretation: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Huh? Only God has ever seen God?

All translations agree from the verse’s context that John is talking about Jesus. The KJV, shown above, renders Jesus as the “only begotten Son.” But let’s look at some other translations, which are admittedly evangelical. The NLT reads, “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” The NIV reads, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” But have these translations taken extra liberty, reading into the text a divine claim for Jesus that doesn’t belong?

The NRSV edition prides itself on its unbiased translation, including interfaith contributors on its translation committee. Shall we get its opinion? “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”

How often I’ve heard non-Trinitarians preach that the Bible talks about “God the Father,” but never “God the Son.” Perhaps they’re wrong.

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