Xenophilus Lovegood, editor of The Quibbler in the Harry Potter films. Disciplehood Dude Rob Petkau is also apparently a bit of a quibbler himself.

Xenophilus Lovegood (Rhys Ifans), editor of The Quibbler in the Harry Potter films. I’m also apparently a bit of a quibbler myself.

The keen and observant of my regular reader(s) might have noticed something unusual in my last post: when I quoted John 3:16, it was from the New King James Version, and I’m normally a New International Version (NIV) man.

And readers with very good memories might recall that  in a Disciplehood post a few years ago, I quibbled about a pastor who leapfrogged from Bible translation to translation in order to adapt Scripture to fit his theology, rather than the other way around.


Well, today, readers, I’m the pot calling the kettle black. (Neither the first time, nor the last, I assure you.)


The John

When it comes to John 3:16, I think the NIV misses the mark a little. (Better than missing the John, I suppose, but still…)

You see, in the NIV, John says God gave His ‘one and only’ son, where the NKJV says ‘only begotten’ son. Not a very big difference on the surface, but stay with me.

If Jesus is God’s one and only son, what does that say about the rest of humanity? Aren’t we also sons and daughters of God? It’s confusing, and it opens the door to downgrading humanity’s position relative to God in a way that I think neither Jesus, nor John, intended.

Begotten, though, is a different matter.

We see other versions of this word in the important but dry sections of the NKJV Bible known colloquially as The Begats (Genesis 5 and Matthew 1, for examples). We also see it in the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.

As C.S. Lewis explains in Mere Christianity, this is a critical distinction. If God the Son were made, rather than begotten, He would ipso-facto be one rung on the ladder lower than the Father. But in the same way that the begat relationship of Seth and Enosh in Genesis 5 implies that they’re of the same stuff, the begat relationship of Father and Son says the same thing – of one Being with the Father, as the Creed says.

We humans, however, are clearly made. Few facts in the Bible are more clear than that. We’re made in God’s image, but it’s clear we’re made of entirely different stuff than God.

So like Jesus, we’re sons of God. But He’s begotten and we’re made. No question about who ranks higher; our made sonship doesn’t downgrade His begotten sonship – and His begotten sonship doesn’t inadvertently elevate our made sonship. We’re in completely different categories.

Or are we?

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” – Romans 8:16-17


That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? As I said above, Jesus’ begotten sonship doesn’t inadvertently elevate our made sonship. He elevates us deliberately – not by default or by association, but by His wounds. (Isaiah 53:5)

Or as the NKJV puts it, by His stripes.

Hmm. I think I’ll stick to the NIV on that verse.

Peace be with you.

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About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church, Insight, Mercy of God, New Testament, Sin, Substitution, The Trinity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Quibbling

  1. Manoj Ebenezer says:

    Robpetkau, I think you’re missing the point of the NIV somewhat too: ‘one and only’ means ‘unique’ and, while I’m no Greek expert, I see that F W Gingrich’s ‘Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament’ defines the original Greek word, ‘monogenes’ as ‘Only, unique’. Apparently Greek NT scholars are convinced that ‘begetting’ is not in view here. Jesus obviously is Son of God in a unique sense, in his very being, while we become sons of God by adoption. Isn’t that the point you were making, he’s ‘begotten’, we’re ‘made’? So what seems to be the problem?

    • robpetkau says:

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting, Manoj — and for setting me straight on the translation and its proper interpretation. I don’t think the word ‘problem’ is necessarily applicable here, though. Merely ‘preference’. 😉

      God bless!

  2. Pingback: Four Years | Disciplehood

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