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:
- 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.
- That ‘only-begotten’ throws too much emphasis on ‘begotten’ in a way that is misleading for the word’s signification.
- 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:
- That those statistics are misleading because very often the verse is referenced but not to draw upon the word monogenes.
- That some of those instances are in fact not the authors under which they are listed.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.