In Christianity, there are a few scriptures in the New Testament that refer to God’s “only son,” sometimes translated “only begotten.”
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth… 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.-John 1:14, 18
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.-John 3:16
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.-1 John 4:9
The Greek word translated here “only son” or “only begotten” is monogenēs, which has a couple roots of mono, meaning one, single, only, and gene (ginomai), referring to being made, become, receive being, birth. Thus monogenēs has been interpreted as the only one of its kind, the only son, the only one made, the sole offspring.
Most Christians consider Jesus to be this “Only Begotten” Son of the Father God. But is Jesus the only one? Was Jesus exclusively God’s only “Son” or offspring, the only thing to receive being from God?
No, I don’t think God’s only “Son” or offspring was Jesus, a Jewish man who lived 2000 years ago. Jesus was a Son of God, but he did not limit this divine sonship or offspring or begottenness to himself alone in a dualistic sense. And, in fact, I think he tried to teach that we are all that One so begotten by God who he called the “Father.” He prayed that we would realize this oneness (John 17:11, 21-23). Notice how he says “that they may all be one,” not just him alone.
But doesn’t mono mean only, alone, one? Doesn’t that mean only one (1) in number, and that there is no other? Yes, but I think this is referring to oneness in the sense of nonduality, of a union of being that is mystically deeper than the duality we typically perceive from our everyday state of consciousness which tends to differentiate and separate all things into pieces and parts.
God manifested its Self in the world, the Word (Logos) took on flesh or materiality, matter, shape, form, and since God is undivided and wholly unified within its Self, that manifestation is also One in a spiritual sense. Seen another way, the whole of creation we consider the uni-verse, or “one song,” is a single expression of reality, which seems to have flowed out of an initial gravitational singularity in the Big Bang, and all beings and things and people and creatures and planets are a part of that single unitive outflowing expression of the Divine. All of creation was “born” out of this God, and is the only thing that was born from it, the whole of it, as one creation.
I think we might understand monogenes perhaps more like Plato expressed in Timaeus, where he called whole visible creation the “only begotten heaven” or monogenes ouranos:
(If you enjoy this writing and content, please consider giving a Gift. If every reader gave just $1, it would be sufficient for my family's needs. I am deeply grateful to you for your kindness and generosity. 🙏 —Bryce)
In order then that [the world] might be solitary, like the perfect animal, [the creator] made not two worlds (cosmos) or an infinite number of them; but there is and ever will be one only-begotten heaven (monogenes ouranos) created.-Plato, Timaeus 31b
There is only one creation, one cosmos, one “begotten” reality from the Source of all things. God sent us all into the world, every creature of creation, and we are each that “only begotten” of God, each and every One in our deepest being, because we are God’s own Incarnation, God manifesting in reality, or Reality’s manifestation, and that Reality is undivided in its deepest nature. It is perfect Love or union. All of us, as Paul taught in the “Body of Christ,” are this unique expression of the Absolute, of Ultimate Reality, and we are all part of that One. A Mormon scripture notes:
For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.D&C 76:23-24
But as the scriptures in John say, how do we live through this “only son”? God loves us as God’s Self, and we live through God, because of God, being One in God, in whom “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). As Richard Rohr has said, God loves things by becoming them. God has become us, and we live through this incarnation of the Divine that is this particular physical body-mind and all other beings and things around us in the Earth, the water, the air, the food, the sun’s energy, etc. It is One Great Whole.
The life and energy and breath that flows through us right now is God’s own, but the psychological construction of our individual ego-self in our mind often obscures this reality, thinking it is its own, that it owns this life and energy as a separate independent entity from the rest of the whole cosmos, apart from it, distinct from it. This is humanity’s “Fall.” But as Eckhart Tolle says, you (ego) don’t have a life, you are Life. We are this Life, this energy, this breath, this animation of the material realm, this consciousness of the cosmos reflecting on itself and becoming aware of itself through the medium of a body-mind, and every body-mind.
The life that is living itself in you and me is God’s Life, not the ego’s, it is the Cosmos becoming conscious in us, and when we realize this, then we realize the Love of God for us, in us, one and all, in perfect union, that we are God’s offspring, God’s manifestation, Reality’s unfolding, the One’s emanation, the Singularity’s Big Bang, that we are the One and Only Begotten of God.
It’s not a particular person, but all of us together, and the whole of the cosmos, as One.