Some translations of the Bible use the phrases, “one and only” or “only”, instead of “only begotten”, when referring to Christ in John 1:14, 1:18, 3:16, 3:18, Hebrews 11:17, and 1 John 4:9. What is the difference you may ask? It is simply this. Jesus is not the one and only Son of God. God has many sons. Jesus is the only one that is born of the actual seed of God. When power of the Highest overshadowed Mary, God miraculously (it was NOT a physical union) placed His own seed (DNA?) into Mary’s ovum causing her to become pregnant with His child. Consequently, the babe Jesus, born to Mary was begotten of God. No other human was born that way. Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God. God’s other sons are either adopted or created. Angels were created. They are referred to as sons of God (Job 1:6 , Job 2:1 , Job 38:7). Christians are the sons (children) of God by adoption. (Rom 8:15 , (Gal 4:4-5). Though the literal Greek translation says Adam was of God, he is called the son of God in most English translations in Luke 3:38. While God has many sons, he has only One Who was begotten of Him and is the Son of God by blood. Therefore, in my opinion, modern translations are missing the essence of Christ’s deity when they call Jesus the One and Only Son of God. Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God. This is not a matter of degrees but a complete change in the concept.
The problem with such a monumental change to the scripture is that it weakens our understanding of the deity of Christ. I do not accuse those translators of the newer versions of deliberately making this change. I say it is because of the subtlety of Satan. These translators have bought into some of the false concepts expressed by the more liberal element in modern textual criticism. Many liberal scholars deny the providence of God in the preservation of His words down through the ages. Many of them simply do not believe the Bible is really the word of God. Unfortunately, some of these liberal views have leaked into mainstream textual criticism. For example, some scholars maintain that the Word of God was inspired in the originals, but they deny He preserved His Words through in the centuries since the originals were written. They accept the idea that when copying the manuscripts, men made changes in order to justify their own ideas. While there are a few examples of such tampering, around 90% of all copies of Greek Bible manuscripts were accurately copied and are virtually in perfect agreement with each other. But many in modern textual criticism dismiss this idea of preservation and accept that quite a bit of tampering with the scriptures has occurred across the millennia. Hence, “one and only” is acceptable to many textual critics, scholars, and translators.
A second concept is that most translations of the Bible use the equivalence (dynamic or formal) method of translation instead of the literal method. In a literal translation, little license is available to inject one’s own bias into the rendering. Unfortunately a truly literal rendition is very difficult to comprehend, which is why most translations use one of the equivalence methods. With the equivalence method, the translator is freer to use an English equivalent of the literal Greek meaning. This method can lead to mistranslation of the originals. It is possible with this method for the translator’s biases to corrupt the translation. For example, a Spanish phrase might say, “El cielo está azul.” The literal translation is, “the sky is blue”. I could use an equivalent to translate this phrase. I could say, “the heavens above are an azure color.” That expresses the thought but not the literal words. I could also say, “the atmosphere is nitrous, making it seem blue to the eye”. The thought is similar but it is not literally what the Spanish says. In fact, that rendering, though similar, is not what the original says or even implies. But this is a legitimate example of an equivalent translation. The simple rendering, “the sky is blue” is the best. These are examples of what can happen in an equivalent translation of the Bible. Virtually all English translations use either the dynamic or formal equivalence method. The problem is that some translations, especially those that use dynamic eqivalence, take a bit too much license and become paraphrases, though they do not claim to be. I believe this is another reason for the use of “one and only” instead of “only begotten.”
When using the phrases, “one and only” or “only” instead of “only begotten”, translators render the Greek word monogene (μονογενη, John 3:16, Hebrews 11:17, 1 John 4:9), monogenes (μονογενης, John 1:18), or monogenous (μονογενους, John 1:14, 3:18), into English. All three spellings, monogene (μονογενη), monogenes (μονογενης), and monogenous (μονογενους), are variations of the same word, monogenes (μονογενης). Taking the word apart, we get monos and gene (genes, genos, genous). Monos (μονος) means solely, single, only, etc. gene (genes, genous) is from the word genos (γενος), “to become offspring” or “to be born.” Literally the word monogen(e,es,ous) means sole born, or only born. In my humble opinion, “only born” or “only begotten” is the best rendering we can arrive at from this word and its etymology. “One and only” is a weak substitution for “Only Begotten,” especially since Jesus is not the One and Only Son of God; there are others. He is the Only Begotten Son of God; there are no others of the direct seed of God.