John 3:16 is one of the most often quoted verses of the Bible. The interpretation of John 3:16 in the King James Version of the Bible is rendered as follows:
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.
But is that a correct rendition?
Allow me to offer my interpretation of the part which Muslims find most objectionable about John 3:16 of the Bible, i.e. the phrase most often translated as ‘His only begotten Son’.
To proceed, the oldest existing Christian scriptures were written in Greek. There are about three hundred copies in existence today, all in varying states of deterioration and, most interestingly, no two versions are the same. That the oldest existing versions, of what is known today as the Bible, are indeed written in Greek, is a testament in itself to the fact that none of those manuscripts is the original Gospel of Jesus, because he was a Jew and Aramaic was his first language.
Nevertheless, in order to best come to a correct understanding of the meaning of John 3:16, we need to go back to the oldest versions in existence, i.e. the Greek.
Below is the Greek version of John 3:16, with the phrase that has been mostly translated as ‘His only begotten Son’, underlined:
I’ll break it right down in order to facilitate a better understanding:
‘τὸν’ means ‘the’
‘Υἱὸν’ means ‘Son’
As we all know, many English words are derived from Greek words, so, to get a good understanding of the word ‘μονογενη’, and its closest English equivalent, I will transliterate each letter and thereby provide the key which should dispel any myths as to its meaning:
The Greek letter ‘μ’ is transliterated as ‘m’, ‘o’ is transliterated as ‘o’, ‘ν’ is transliterated as ‘n’, ‘γ’ is transliterated as ‘g’, ‘ε’ is transliterated as ‘e’, ‘η’ is transliterated as ‘i’ and ‘σ’ is transliterated as ‘s’.
Put it all together and we get ‘monogeni’. The word ‘mono’ (μονο), as most people already know, means ‘only one’, and the word ‘geni’ (γενη) means ‘genders’. We all know that, under normal circumstances, it takes both genders to produce a child, by the Will of God, so it follows that a child born asexually from just one gender, i.e. without the fusion of both male and female gametes, can only occur miraculously, by the Will of God. Moreover, the Greek word ‘genesi’ (γένεση), which in English means ‘genesis’, is derived from the word ‘geni’. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that the word ‘monogenesis’ means ‘asexual reproduction’.
So, when translated most accurately, the underlined phrase above, which is most commonly mistranslated as meaning ‘His only begotten Son’, should actually read as meaning, ‘the Son (of) only one (of) the genders’.
Hence, when referring specifically to Jesus, as it does in John 3:16, the word ‘monogeni’ can only be taken as meaning his birth from his virgin Mother, Mary, one of the greatest, most beloved and revered women to have ever lived [may God bestow His Peace and Blessings upon her and her son].
As to the other two verses that refer to Jesus as being the ‘Son of God’, those who are familiar with the Bible would attest to the fact that many people are, in fact, described as such therein. If we look at the verses listed below, we could be forgiven for asking how Jesus could have been God’s only Son when others share the same description.
Exodus 4:22; 2 Samuel 7:13-14; Jeremiah 31:9; Luke 3:38; Deuteronomy 14:1; Romans 8:14; John 1:12; Philippians 2:15; 1 John 3:1-2; Job 38:7; Job 2:1; Job 1:6; Genesis 6:4; Genesis 6:2; Psalms 2:7
This apparent discrepancy or contradiction, in the Bible, can not be attributed to God but, rather, in the way that John 3:16 has been consistently mistranslated.
The word ‘Υἱὸν’, in certain contexts, does means ‘Son’ but it can also mean ‘Servant’, ‘Prophet’, ‘Messenger’ and a host of other meanings. Indeed, if the word ‘Υἱὸν’ is consistently translated throughout the Bible, as meaning ‘Son’, then it can be safely said that we are all ‘Sons of God’. But, God is unique and our relationship to Him is that He created us, so it is not fitting for us to attribute to Him human qualities such as father/child. When God decrees a matter to be, He need only say ‘Be’ and it is.
Allah (SWT) tells us in the Qur’an that He could have, if He so wished, sent Angels or other beings to convey His Messages but chose, instead, to send men from among us, partly in order to demonstrate that it is humanly possible to adhere to all the obligations that He has set for us, and also to serve as perfect human examples for all mankind to emulate and follow…and Allah (SWT) Knows Best.
To say that Jesus is the Son of God is to infer that he is of like nature to God which, in turn, leads those who hold that view to associate him as a partner with God. Common sense dictates that such a view is a slap in the face of monotheism and a direct contradiction to the First Commandment.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him. Surah: 112