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But to those who received him, he gave them power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe that believe in his name, who were begotten, neither of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ


in order to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we may receive the adoption of sons.

ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον ἐξαγοράσῃ ἵνα τὴν υἱοθεσίαν ἀπολάβωμεν

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migrated from hermeneutics.stackexchange.com Dec 15 '13 at 5:29

This question came from our site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts.

What translation is that? Here are twenty translations, none of which say begotten! biblehub.com/john/1-13.htm –  curiousdannii Dec 15 '13 at 23:18
Is it okay to interpret your question as asking why the Bible says Christians are both born and adopted? –  curiousdannii Dec 15 '13 at 23:19
Hmm, you're right it is the same Greek word. I may give a longer proper answer, but in short, the images of new birth and adoption are two metaphors for two things that God does when he saves us. I don't see any problem. –  curiousdannii Dec 16 '13 at 5:07
@curiousdannii: We're only metaphorically begotten again? Wow...so Jesus told Nikodemos that he had to be begotten (born) again in order to see the kingdom of God...but Jesus was only speaking metaphorically? That just doesn't suit the context. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Dec 16 '13 at 6:48
(Or perhaps to be precise, birth and adoption are the shadows of the reality which God does for us... that's how Hebrews likes to talk. Adoption on earth points to the reality of adoption by God, which is more than a mere metahpor.) –  curiousdannii Dec 16 '13 at 9:06

5 Answers 5

In the verse you quoted, John 1:12-13, the Greek words for "children of God" is "tekna Theou." (Notice that "tekna" is always referring to "little children.")

Contrast this with John 3:16 which uses "monogene huion" or "only Son." The term "monogene" being the one containing the notion of "the only offspring" or "the only begotten one."

(Also, anywhere else in the New Testament, "huion" always refers to a "mature" children, not little ones)

Based on this, I believe that the translation that use the word "begotten" should not be used to ascribe the concept of "begotten" into these verses. In fact in ESV translation (and some others), there is no "begotten" in both John 1:12-13 and John 3:16.

I also believe that the only "begotten" Son is the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone. Believers are adopted sons (and daughters) of God. There is no notion of "begotten" ever applied to believers.

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Did you read 1 Pet. 1:3? –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Dec 15 '13 at 19:31
Are you referring to the word "annagenesis" which is translated as "born again"? I imagine Peter is relaying what the Lord teaches in John 3:5, which is consistent with the promise of the indwelling by the Holy Spirit in every believers. –  Will Dec 16 '13 at 3:30

George MacDonald confronted the same dilemma in his Unspoken Sermons (Abba, Father!).

When a heart hears — and believes, or half-believes — that it is not the child of God by origin, from the first of its being, but may possibly be adopted into his family, its love sinks at once in a cold faint: where is its own father, and who is this that would adopt it? ...
The refusal to look up to God as our Father is the one central wrong in the whole human affair; the inability, the one central misery... 'Is God then not my Father,' cries the heart of the child, 'that I need to be adopted by him? Adoption! That can never satisfy me. Who is my father? Am I not his to begin with? Is God not my very own Father? Is he my Father only in a sort or fashion — by a legal contrivance? Truly, much love may lie in adoption, but if I accept it from any one, I allow myself the child of another! The adoption of God would indeed be a blessed thing if another than he had given me being! but if he gave me being, then it means no reception, but a repudiation. — "O Father, am I not your child?"'

MacDonald argues that the fact we are created in God's image is evidence that we are truly born as His children:

'Alas!' cries the child, 'if he be not my father, he cannot become my father. A father is a father from the beginning... the very origin of my being — alas, if he be only a maker and not a father! Then am I only a machine, and not a child — not a man! It is false to say I was created in his image!'

He then attempts to repudiate the position that we lost our birthright in the fall, saying that we are still "creature[s] of God," though we are evil. Anything else would mean that God turned his back and repudiated us, but we know this to be false because of the love He has shown in Jesus.

MacDonald believed that if we were not God's children, adoption would in fact be impossible:

'I could not even be adopted if I were not such as the adoption could reach — that is, of the nature of God. Much as he may love him, can a man adopt a dog?'

MacDonald considers the word generally translated as "adoption" (niothesia) in the Scriptures to be a mistranslation (or at least, a bad translation). Paul is not speaking of adoption, but a change in status; it would be more accurate to say that we have "graduated" into a sonship.

'Our English presentation of his [Paul's] teaching is in this point very misleading... In the New Testament the word is used only by the apostle Paul. Liddell and Scott give the meaning — "Adoption as a son," which is a mere submission to popular theology: they give no reference except to the New Testament. The relation of the word niothesia to the form thetos, which means "taken," or rather, "placed as one's child," is, I presume, the sole ground for the so translating of it: usage plentiful and invariable could not justify that translation here, in the face of what St. Paul elsewhere shows he means by the word. The Greek word might be variously meant — though I can find no use of it earlier than St. Paul; the English can mean but one thing, and that is not what St. Paul means. "The spirit of adoption" Luther translated "the spirit of a child;" adoption he translates kindschaff, or childship.'
Of two things I am sure — first, that by niothesia St. Paul did not intend adoption; and second, that if the Revisers [that is, translators] had gone through what I have gone through because of the word, if they had felt it come between God and their hearts as I have felt it, they could not have allowed it to remain in their version.

He concludes:

Once more I say, the word used by St. Paul does not imply that God adopts children that are not his own, but rather that a second time he fathers his own; that a second time they are born — this time from above; that he will make himself tenfold, yea, infinitely their father: he will have them back into the very bosom whence they issued, issued that they might learn they could live nowhere else; he will have them one with himself. It was for the sake of this that, in his Son, he died for them.

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It's a good answer, and I will upvote it. But, I will note that MacDonald isn't right by saying that Liddell and Scott just "submitted to popular theology." Polybius wrote about a certain “Publius Scipio” (Πόπλιος Σκιπίων) whom he described as a son according to nature (κατὰ φύσιν υἱός) of a certain “Aemilius” (Αἰμίλιος), but the adopted son (κατὰ θέσιν υἱωνός) of one called “Publius the Great” (Ποπλίος ὁ μέγας). θέσιν is from the same root. An adopted son is Greek literature was commonly referred to as υἱος θετός. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Dec 17 '13 at 0:04

Yeshua is he only begotten son of God. Christians are called "begotten" sons when the only begotten son dwells in them. Paul said:

For those who have been baptized in the name of Christ have been clothed with Christ. (Galatians 3.27)

And John said:

Whoever is born of God does not commit sin because God's Seed is in him; and he cannot sin because he is born of God. (1Jhn. 3.9)

I think here John refers to the only begotten son as the Seed of God. And in that way Christians are called "begotten" sons; because God's Seed is inside of them. They have been clothed with Christ the Son.

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This answer is good, but it would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. On this site, we're not looking for personal interpretation, but rather focusing on what various Christian groups teach. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Feb 19 at 16:48

In order to answer your question we must first determine what Sons of God refers to. The answer to that goes back to Genesis chapter 6.

Genesis Chapter 6:1 through 7 KJV

1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,

2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Here we see that the sons of God refers to a state of Holiness, or if you will a companionship with God. This was lost in the cross breeding between the descendants of Seth and those of Cain.

That was the reason God caused the flood of Noah's time. But God found Noah and his sons to still be in that state of holiness, and therefore saved them as sons of God.

Gen 6:8 KJV

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

So there were still some sons of God still on the Earth.

Job 1:6 KJV

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

We know that this happened on the Earth because:

Revelation 12:9 KJV

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Luke 10:18 KJV

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

But man still had the capacity to sin and break that fellowship with God, and would no longer be sons of God.

When Jesus came and died on the cross then rose again on the third day, he provided the path for salvation, in other words man could no longer be a son of God, once he sinned, but through Salvation man could be adopted back into the fellowship with God. Since man was no longer a natural son of God due to his sin, he now became an adopted son of God.

The following references are from the King James version of the Bible and describe the process of adoption through Salvation.

John 1:12 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:

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Romans 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

Philippians 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

1st John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

1st John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Hope this answers your question.

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I love this question!!! I admit, when I first read your question, my immediate thought was that they are two separate metaphors. But I was checked immediately--we really are born spiritually into God's family. We really are adopted as his sons. Having thought about it some more, I offer this solution:

Luke 3:38 reads, "the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God."

Adam was created a son of God. All who were born after him were born as sons of man. (except Jesus who was the Son of God (came down from God) born of a woman thus also the son of man). To become sons of God everyone else must be born spiritually which equals adoption as a son of God (which we were not originally). Below is my work:

All references to "sons of God" in the OT have been believed to be references to angels (also created directly by God as Adam was and who do not reproduce) I have included one from the NT referring to the angels as sons of God.*

Genesis 6:2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.

Genesis 6:4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.

Job 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.

Job 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Luke 20:36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

Hosea 1:10 is an exception not referring to angels; It, however, speaks of the future when Isreal will be called "sons of God."

Then we hit the New Testament and read a promise that the peacemakers will be called sons of God:

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Then, after the death and resurrection we find people being "Sons of God."

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Romans 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.

Galatians 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

So, we are born naturally as sons of man. In order to become sons of God we must believe in Christ Jesus. This is being born again spiritually. Thus while we are re-born spiritually as Sons of God, we were not originally born as sons of God. Thus, through faith in Christ we are adopted as sons:

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father."

Romans 8:23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

Romans 9:4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;

Galatians 4:5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Ephesians 1:5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

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