Monogenes in pro-Nicene exegesis (SBL paper)

As mentioned in my last post, I was in Boston last week for AAR/SBL 2017. More than a few people have expressed interest in my paper, and so I arranged for it to be recorded (My thanks to Charles Meeks!)

You can watch a video of it here.

You can also download an audio of it here. (which may be slightly clearer, as it was recorded separately)

I hope to turn it into an article or two, but those things take time. In summary, my paper argues:

  1. That μονογενής in Greek literature up to the 1st century CE refers to an ‘only-child’ when talking about a person, or very occasionally to an only-son or only-daughter (in contrast to the other gender. i.e. an only daughter when there are many sons). This makes best sense of the use fo the word.
  2. That ‘only-begotten’ throws too much emphasis on ‘begotten’ in a way that is misleading for the word’s signification.
  3. That while reference to the 5 Johannine texts containing monogenes is prevalent throughout the pro-Nicene authors, closer examination reveals a number of interesting, key facts, which are:
  4. That those statistics are misleading because very often the verse is referenced but not to draw upon the word monogenes.
  5. That some of those instances are in fact not the authors under which they are listed.
  6. That pro-Nicenes actually rarely, if ever, base an argument for a doctrine of eternal generation on an exegesis or explanation of one of those Johannine texts.
  7. Rather, pro-Nicenes regularly use monogenes in a denotative or absolute sense to name the second person of the Trinity, in a way similar to the English expression “God the Son”. This does not necessitate reading a strong version of eternal generation into every one of those nominal uses.
  8. pro-Nicenes both understand monogenes to mean ‘only-child’ as above, but understand the implication of the Son’s status as only child to be a part of the evidence that his filiation is both genuine and unique, and this is part of a broader theological argumentation in favour of eternal generaiton
  9. The argument that eternal generation emerges from a misunderstanding of monogenes in the fourth century is itself a misunderstanding both of the word monogenes, and of the weight put upon it (or not) by the fourth century Fathers.

Happy to hear comments/questions/feedback.

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