According to Coptic tradition, the most well-known usage of the term μονογενής is in the spiritually admired hymn Omonogenyc Uioc ke Logoc tw :ew - O Only begotten Son, the Word of God, which is solemnly chanted during Good Friday prayers and during the ordination/enthronement of the patriarch. The term μονογενής is also mentioned in the most frequently used clergy blessing, ‘f’cmarwout ‘nje pefmonogenyc ‘nsyri - Blessed is Your Only Begotten Son …’1
. The latter shows the absolute significance of the meaning of the term μονογενής in Coptic liturgical services. Therefore, the accurate meaning of the term μονογενής should be known, adhered to, and taught at different levels, from clerical schools to Sunday school.
μονογενής is a Greek word, the exact meaning of which is the only begotten, or, as said in non-literary language, “the only offspring”. It is one of the many Greek words that have been preserved by the Coptic church and that are frequently used because of their meticulous and unique meanings, such as agioc, kurie eleycon, …, etc. Unfortunately, it has been noticed that in many of the liturgical books that have been written in Arabic, μονογενής is often translated as ‘the only race
وحيد الجنس, which does not reflect the essence of the term μονογενής. In the Arabic language, race does not apply to individuals and refers to a group of nations. Therefore, a sole individual ‘Lord Jesus’ should not be described as being of one sole or unique race. The term μονογενής is derived from the verb γεννάω, which means beget or engender. Γεννάω—Ghen-nah’-o, or beget is a variation of procreate, and literally means of the father but by extension of the mother and figuratively means to regenerate or to bear. Beget means to be born or to bring forth as well as to conceive, deliver, or to create offspring2
. A clear biblical example of the use of the Greek and English forms of μονογενης is:
Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren. Matthew, 1:2-16
O Aβραάμ εγέννησε τον Ισαάκ, ο Ισαάκ εγέννησε τον Ιακώβ, ο Ιακώβ εγέννησε τον Ιούδα και τους αδερφούς αυτού.
It seems that those who take this word to mean “sole kind” or “the one and only” have considered the word μονογενής to consist of two words, μονο, which means one, and γένος, which means race, and have overlooked the fact that the word γένος is derived from the verb γεννάω, which means to give birth to or to beget.
Biblical references about The Lord Jesus Christ as the only begotten, μονογενους
1. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
Και ο Λόγος σάρξ εγένετο και εσκήνωσεν εν ημίν, και εθεασάμεθα την δόξαν αυτού, δόξαν ως μονογενούς παρά πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος και αληθείας.
2. No man 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
Θεόν ουδείς εώρακεν πώποτε, μονογενής θεός ο ών εις τον κόλπον του πατρός εκείνος εξηγήσατο.
3. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
Oύτως γαρ ηγάπησεν ο θεός τον κόσμον ώστε τον υιό αυτού τον μονογενή έδωκεν, ίνα πας ο πιστεύων εις αυτόν μη απολήται αλλά έχη ζωήν αιώνιον.
4. He who believes in Him is not condemned: but he who believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18
O πιστεύων εις αυτόν ου κρίνεται, ο δε μη πιστεύων ήδη κέκριται ότι μη πεπιστεύκεν εις το όνομα του μονογενούς υιού του θεού.
5. In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 1 John 4:9
Εν τούτω εφανερώθη η αγάπη του θεού εν ημίν ότι τον υιόν αυτού τον μονογενή απεστάλκεν ο θεός εις τον κόσμον ίνα ζήσωμεν δι αυτού.
μονογενής in the New Testament
1. Only son of his mother
Now when He came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and many people of the city were with her. Luke 7:12
Ως δε ήγγισεν την πύλη της πόλεως και ιδού εξεκομίζετο τεθνηκώς υιός μονογενής τη μητρί αυτού και αυτή την χήρα και όχλος της πόλεως ικανός συν αυτή.
2. One only daughter
For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him. Luke 8:42
Oτι θυγατήρ μονογενής ην αυτώ ως ετών δώδεκα και αυτή απέθνησκεν εν δε τω υπάγειν αυτόν οι όχλοι συνέπνιγον αυτόν.
3. For he is my only child
Suddenly, a man from the multitude cried out, saying, Teacher, I implore You, look on my son: for he is my only child. Luke 9:38
Και ιδού ανήρ από του όχλου ανεβόησε λέγων, διδάσκαλε, δέομαί σου, επίβλεψον επί τον υιό μου, ότι μονογενής μοί έστι.
μονογενής in The Old Testament (The old Greek Septuagint Translation)
1. Your son, Your only. (Isaac, Abraham’s only son)
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, he offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son. Hebrews 11:17
Πίστει προσενήνοχεν Aβραάμ τον Ισαάκ πειραζόμενος, και τον μονογενή προσέφερεν ό τάς επαγγελίας αναδεξάμενος.
Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you’. Genesis 22:2
Και είπε, Λάβε τώρα τον υιόν σου τον μονογενή, τον οποίον ηγάπησας, τον Ισαάκ, και ύπαγε εις τον τόπον Μόρια και πρόσφερε αυτόν εκεί εις ολοκαύτωμα, επί ενός των ορέων, το οποίον θέλω σοι ειπεί.
The Lord called out to him from the heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ Genesis 22:12
διότι τώρα εγνώρισα ότι συ φοβείσαι τον Θεόν, επειδή δεν ελυπήθης τον υιόν σου τον μονογενή δι’ εμέ.
2. Only child, beside her he had neither son nor daughter (Jephthah’s daughter)
And Jephthah came to Mizpah unto his house, and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances; and she was an only child, beside her he had neither son nor daughter. Judges 11:34
Και ήλθεν ο Ιεφθάε εις Μισπά προς τον οίκον αυτού και ιδού, η θυγάτηρ αυτού εξήρχετο εις συνάντησιν αυτού μετά τυμπάνων και χορών, και αυτή ήτο μονογενής, εκτός αυτής δεν είχε ούτε υιόν ούτε θυγατέρα.
3. My darling (From the Book of Psalms)
Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of dogs. Psalm 22:20
Ελευθέρωσον από ρομφαίας την ψυχήν μου την μεμονωμένην μου από δυνάμεως κυνός.
How long, Lord will you look on. Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. Psalm 35:17
Κύριε, πότε θέλεις ιδεί. Ελευθέρωσον την ψυχήν μου από του ολέθρου αυτών, την μεμονωμένην μου εκ των λεόντων.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Psalm 25:16
Επίβλεψον επ’ εμέ και ελέησόν με, ότι μονογενής και πτωχός ειμί εγώ
Note: It is noteworthy that the chanter did not say ‘For I am from a sole race.’
From the Book of Acts: ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.”’ Acts 17:28
Here, it is noticeable that this verse was translated into Coptic as anon pefgenoc. ‘We are his offspring”, instead of ‘we are his own nature.’
μονογενής in the official prayers of the Orthodox Church
1. The Orthodox Creed
: ‘We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten.’3
2. Thanksgiving prayer
: ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, by the grace, compassion, and love of humankind, of Your Only Begotten Son.’4
3. Agpeya Prayers:
‘Through the grace, the compassion, and the love of humankind, of Your Only Begotten Son.’5
The Great Gloria:
‘God the Father, the Almighty; O Lord, the one and Only Begotten Son.’6
The Sixth Hour Absolution
: ‘You have made the times of the passion of Your Only Begotten Son’ as well as ‘we may stand before the fearful and just throne of Your Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ.’7
The Nineth Hour:
‘So that when we leave this body today, we will be counted with the worthy worshipers of the sufferings of Your Only Begotten Son.’8
The Twelevth Hour:
‘By the grace, compassion, and love of humankind, of Your Only Begotten Son.’9
4. μονογενής in the Holy Euchologion
O Lord who sent His true light, His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ the True Word.10
O Master, Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son God.11
O Master Lord and God, the Father who sent His only Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.12
The love of God, and the grace of His Only Begotten Son.13
O Lord, this is the command of Your Only Begotten Son.14
This is the life-giving Flesh that Your Only Begotten Son.15