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In the Apostle's creed it states that "I believe in Jesus Christ God's only son our Lord" (ELCA). But many Christians say that we're all God's children, which is contradictory.

What does the Bible have to say about this?

Or are we God's grandchildren and Jesus' children?

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Welcome to the site, by the way. This is a pretty good question for a first-time poster. When you get a chance, you should read How we are different than other sites? Most people mistake the purpose of this site, and that post does a wonderful job of explaining the common misconceptions and clarifying the purpose of this site. – David Jul 4 '13 at 5:01

The Latin text of the Apostle's Creed (Symbolum Apostolicum) states,

Credo in Deum Patrem omnipoténtem, Creatórem cæli et terræ, et in Iesum Christum, Fílium Eius unicum, Dóminum nostrum, qui concéptus est de Spíritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, passus sub Póntio Piláto, crucifixus, mórtuus, et sepúltus, descéndit ad ínferos, tértia die resurréxit a mórtuis, ascéndit ad cælos, sedet ad déxteram Dei Patris omnipoténtis, inde ventúrus est iudicáre vivos et mórtuos.

While the Latin word unicum (lemma unicus) can certainly be translated into English by the word "only,"1 St. Jerome also used it in the Latin Vulgate to translate the Greek word μονογενὴς,2 meaning "only-begotten."

For example, in Luke 7:12, it is written,

ὡς δὲ ἤγγισεν τῇ πύλῃ τῆς πόλεως καὶ ἰδού, ἐξεκομίζετο τεθνηκὼς υἱὸς μονογενὴς τῇ μητρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐτὴ ἦν χήρα καὶ ὄχλος τῆς πόλεως ἱκανὸς σὺν αὐτῇ TR, 1550

cum autem adpropinquaret portae civitatis et ecce defunctus efferebatur filius unicus matri suae et haec vidua erat et turba civitatis multa cum illa Vul

Other times, he translated μονογενὴς by the Latin word unigenitus,3 which is the Latin equivalent of "only-begotten."4

Therefore, we could properly translate the Latin word unicum in the Apostles' Creed as "only-begotten" (rather than "only") without causing a contradiction, since Christians are also children (sons and daughters) of God,5 just as angels are sons of God.6

The important point to emphasize is the Lord Jesus Christ is the only-begotten (or, only-born) son of God the Father, by an eternal generation. The Lord Jesus Christ said, "I came out of God and have arrived."7 This is the only instance where the Lord Jesus Christ says ἐξῆλθον ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ. In the LXX, this phrase (ἐξέρχομαι + ἐκ) is used in reference to the generation of offspring.8

On the other hand, Christians are sons of God by regeneration (παλιγγενεσία).9


1 Lewis & Short, unicus, p. 1932

2 Luke 7:12: unicus; Luke 8:42: unica; Luke 9:38: unicus

3 Jdg. 11:34: unigenita; John 1:14: unigeniti; John 1:18: unigenitus; John 3:16: unigenitum; John 3:18: unigeniti; Heb. 11:17: unigenitum; 1 John 4:9: unigenitum

4 Ibid, unigenitus, p. 1932

5 cp. John 1:12: τέκνα θεοῦ

6 cp. Job 1:6. The LXX translates the Hebrew בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים into Greek as οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ.

7 John 8:42

8 cp. Gen. 15:4, 35:11

9 cp. Tit. 3:5


Lewis, Charlton T.; Short, Charles. A New Latin Dictionary. New York: Harper, 1891.

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That distinction between "only" and "only begotten" makes all the difference in the world. +1. – David Jul 4 '13 at 4:56
It helps to also reference monogenes, which means: 3439 monogenḗs (from 3411 /misthōtós, "one-and-only" and 1085 /génos, "offspring, stock") – properly, one-and-only; "one of a kind" – literally, "one (monos) of a class, genos" (the only of its kind). – RJ Navarrete Jun 15 at 17:43
@RJNavarrete The meaning is debated, thus no point in referencing it. – Simply a Christian Jun 15 at 17:56

The two are not contradictory at all. The common understanding is that Jesus is unique and the only begotten son of God. The rest of us are heirs to God - children of God via adoption.

From Adopted Children of God

The term “Son of God” refers preeminently to Jesus Christ’s deity (Matt. 11:25-27; 16:16-17). He alone is one in substance and glory with God the Father. Believers in Christ, although “adopted” are never on a par with the uncreated, divine Son of God.

Supporting Scripture for each of these points:

That Jesus is the only begotten Son.

1 John 4:9 King James Version (KJV)

9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

John 3:16 King James Version (KJV)

16 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.

That we are adopted heirs:

Romans 8:15

King James Version (KJV)

15 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.

Ephesians 1:4-6

King James Version (KJV)

4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

These passages cover both statements in one clear statement:

John 1:11-13

King James Version (KJV)

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Galatians 4:4-7

King James Version (KJV)

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Some clarification on the distinction - what makes "only begotten" special:

From ICR, in an article that directly addresses your question:

But why was it important for the Holy Spirit who inspired these five great verses to stress that the Lord Jesus was the incarnate only begotten Son of God? Many modern English translations of the New Testament apparently do not consider it important, for they render the phrase merely as "only son." It is so rendered in the Living Bible, the Revised Standard Version, the God's Word translation, the Twentieth Century New Testament, the New Living Translation, the Moffatt, Goodspeed, and Williams translations, and many others. The New International Version renders it "one and only son." There are still a few, however--the best-known being the New American Standard and the New King James--that render it correctly (as in the King James Version) as "only begotten Son."

The Greek word for "only begotten" is monogenes, the very form of which clearly denotes "only generated." As monotheism connotes only one God and monosyllable means a word of only one syllable, so monogenes means only one genesis or only one generated--or, more simply, only begotten. It does not mean "one," or even "one and only." It is worth noting that, although Christ is called the Son, or Son of God, frequently in the New Testament, He is never (in the Greek original) called the "only" son of God.

The fact is, that to call Him the only Son of God would make the Bible contradict itself, for He is not the only Son of God, and certainly not the "one and only" Son of God. Angels are several times called the sons of God (e.g., Job 38:7) since they had no fathers, being directly created by God. Likewise, Adam was called the son of God (Luke 3:38), because he was directly created. The same applies even to fallen angels (Genesis 6:2), and even to Satan (Job 1:6), because they also were created beings. The term is also used in a spiritual sense, of course, for those who have become "new creations" in Christ Jesus by faith (II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; etc.). In this sense, we also are "sons of God" (e.g., I John 3:2) by special creation?not physically but spiritually.

But it is never applied in this sense to Christ, for He is not a created son of God (as the Jehovah's Witnesses and other cultists teach), but a begotten Son of God--in fact, the only begotten Son of God. He never had a beginning, for He was there in the beginning (John 1:1). In His prayer to the Father in the upper room, He spoke of "the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5).

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Good answer.Thanks for adding the references. – Waeshael Jul 5 '13 at 18:13

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