A response and critique of Charles Lee Irons’ “A lexical defence of the Johannine ‘Only Begotten'”


The Patrologist

Charles Lee Irons, “A lexical defence of the Johannine ‘Only Begotten'” in Retrieving Eternal Generation. Edited by Fred Sanders and Scott R. Swain (Zondervan, 2017), 98-116.

In the course of writing a response and review of this book as a whole, I thought it worthwhile to respond to this chapter individually, as it is a chapter that I’ve thought a great deal about, having read some of Irons’ pre-published work on the topic and engaged with all of the same data.

Irons’ argument is that monogenes in the Johannine texts should be understood as “only-begotten,” not “only” or similar translations that have dominated NT scholarship for the past 60 years (largely thanks to Dale Moody’s 1953 article).

Irons does not provide any explanation of what “only-begotten” means. In my view, this is problematic precisely because “only-begotten” is not contemporary English and has no meaning for most English speakers outside a theological jargon…

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