Friday, January 6, 2012

An Interesting Greek Variant in John 1:18

I don't generally spend much time looking at NT Greek variants, but one I recently stumbled across in John 1:18 intrigues me. In this verse some versions use "Son" while others use "God."

A few that use "Son":

"No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." (KJV)

"No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." (NKJV)

"No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son - the One who is at the Father’s side - He has revealed Him." (HCSB)

"God no one hath ever seen; the only begotten Son, who is on the bosom of the Father - he did declare." (YLT)

A few that use "God":

"No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known." (ESV)

"No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." (NASB)

"No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us." (NLT)

One that tries to use both (even though the original does not support this):

"No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known." (NIV)

What, then, is going on in John 1:18? It is clearly an important verse, sitting at the conclusion of John's prologue. Why the discrepancy?

The English translations stem, of course, directly from much older Greek manuscripts, some of which use "Son" and others that use "God." There is a good amount of fairly technical, yet important, information about this. I encourage you to look at it if interested (the NET Bible online has good textual notes on this variant), but I'm not going to get into that here.

The great part about this particular issue is that Jesus is both "Son" and "God". John has shown us this in other locations. In John 1:1 the author settles Jesus' divinity for us by making it clear that Jesus is God. John 1:14 shows us that this is obviously who John is referring to in 1:1.

As for Jesus being the Son of God, the author provides us with the eyewitness testimony of John the Baptist in 1:34, "And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."

We see, then, that regardless of the reading of 1:18, Jesus is both fully God and the Son of God. These truths point us to the beautiful wonder of the Trinity, something which we will never fully comprehend with our limited, fallen minds.

Variants like what we read in 1:18 should not cause us to doubt scripture. Rather, they show us that the bible is a real book of history written and copied by real people. None of the significant truths of scripture are lost or even called into question by variants.

John 1:18 tells us wonderful truths regardless of which word John originally wrote. We can be confident that Jesus is both the Son of God and God himself.

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