Should John 1:18 have “Son” or “God”?



I've been studying with Jehovah's Witnesses hoping to be a light and share the truth.  As I am sure you know, the biggest obstacle is the deity of Christ.  One thing in my research is John 1:18 - the Greek that I have references to the word translated as son is theos, not huios as you had mentioned in "The New World Translation."  Can you tell me which Greek reference would be the best one for me to choose from?  I've been using as I can easily switch between Greek, Hebrew, and English as needed and where applicable. (Especially an online source if possible.)

Thanks so much!  Keep up the great work!


The problem with many parallel texts, whether printed or online, is that they don't note the textual variations.

  • The Byzantine family of texts plus manuscripts noted as 02A, 04C-corrected, 017K, 032W, 036, 037, 038, 1, and 13, plus Greek texts done by Lachmann (1842-1850), Tischendorf (1865-1895), and Von Soden (1902-1910) all have huios (son) in John 1:18. So they basically read "the only begotten son."
  • Texts p66, p75, 01א, 03B, 04C-original, and 019L, plus the Bohairic Tregelles (1857-1872), and the Greek texts Westcott and Hort (1881-1886), Weiss (1894-1900), and the United Bible Society all have theos (God) in John 1:18. So they basically read "the only begotten God."

Rather than argue which variation is correct, let us note that the phrase clearly refers to Jesus. The New King James Version, which tends to follow the Byzantine family texts, renders the verse: "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him" (John 1:18). The passage still says that no man has seen God, but Jesus, who is the only begotten Son, has seen God and declares Him to mankind. This rendering still puts Jesus in a unique class separate from all of mankind. The emphasis is that he is the Son of God, which makes him deity.

The New American Standard tends to follow the United Bible Society text. It renders the verse: "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:18). Notice that it is consistent in rendering both references to God with a capital letter, unlike the New World Translation. But notice that this doesn't buy the Jehovah's Witnesses anything. Jesus is declared to be the only begotten God. He is declared more directly to be deity as in "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us" " (Matthew 1:23).

It is the use of a lowercase "god" that I find objectionable. The only reason it is written in this form is that the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus was the first created being. They wish to say that Jesus was a god created by God. Yet, it should be noted that Jesus is called God, unique and different from all mankind. It cannot be a case of men being called "gods" because they represent God because this verse saying Jesus is not like any man -- he knew God before his birth on earth. And as God said, "I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me" (Isaiah 45:5).

But to me, this is a minor point. The number of verses that demonstrate that Jesus is one of the Godhead and is God is huge. See Jesus Is God for more details.

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