“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV)
“…only begotten Son…” You do not see many English translations any longer that use terms like begotten or beget. They seem to have smoothed over the language with something like “one and only Son” (NIV) or “only Son” (ESV). Why begotten? Is it simply an old term and sounds like it should be there? Perhaps… But there is something very special about “begotten” that is key to the most famous verse in the Bible. This term single handily summarizes the essence of the entire conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. You may recall the conversation has much to do with being reborn, with being born of the Spirit in addition to being born of water, and the necessity of this rebirth in seeing past the miracles to really be able to see God. Very heavy on “birth”. We generally are not too concerned about the idea of Jesus being the “only” Son; unless you get that one-off critic who attempts to correlate Job 1:6’s “sons of God” (notice the plural). Yet, in the single term “begotten” we get an answer to both how Jesus is a singular “Son” and the significance to the concept of “birth” as Jesus is trying to communicate it. Notice the contrast in how Jesus is “begotten” (John 3:16) verses how mankind (Adam) is “made” (Genesis 1:26) or “created” (Genesis 1:27). Granted, “created man in his own image…” (Genesis 1:27), but creating a statue that looks like you and giving life to it is significantly different than having a son who is born. I think C.S. Lewis got about as close as any to describing this in his book Mere Christianity. “A men begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself.” (Mere Christianity, pp. 157) If you recall C.S. Lewis best illustrated this in his book The Lion, the witch, and the wardrobe by showing the witch’s power was to turn creatures to stone statues and it was Aslan’s power to breathe on them which gave them new life.
Christians are no strangers to the idea of adoption. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15 KJV) Even more than one human parent adopting another human child that is not a biological descendant, yet still similar in their worldly origins; we additionally are brought into a birth that is not of our nature. Hence Paul also reminds us not only of our adoption, but the need to be transformed rather than conformed. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2 KJV) Much like Jesus’ example in John 3:8 of the wind being invisible yet we are able to hear it, an understanding of the nature of something we cannot yet see reveals a whole new nature and the enhanced understanding that comes with it.
“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 KJV)