Thursday, January 31, 2019

John 1:18 - The Only Begotten Son

John 1:18 in Codex Macedonianus (Y, 034)
            In the preceding three posts about John 1:18, we have considered (1) the case for rendering μονογενὴς as “only begotten,” (2) some patristic evidence for rival readings in John 1:18, and (3) the probable background of Codex Sinaiticus’ exemplar for this verse. 
            Today, we consider the basic question of which reading in John 1:18 was the original text: 
(a)    ὁ μονογενὴς θεός (the only begotten God) or
(b)   μονογενὴς θεός (only begotten God) or
(c)    ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (the only begotten Son).
            None of these options seems to have been regarded as distinctly unorthodox in the early church:  “only begotten Son” was used by orthodox writers such as Hippolytus, Hilary, Ambrose, Augustine, and Chrysostom; meanwhile “only begotten God” was used by orthodox writers such as Basil, Epiphanius, and Cyril of Alexandria; other writers appear to have used both readings.  However, “only begotten God” appears to have been especially favored by the non-orthodox – specifically, by Valentinian Gnostics. 
            The case that the text of John 1:18 was altered, whether by intent or by accident, in the 100s, and that Valentinian Gnostics favored the text with θεός, begins with evidence that doctrinally driven changes to the text were made by heretics in the second century.  In Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History Book 5:28, one finds excerpts from a composition known as the Little Labyrinth, composed (or at least attributed to) Caius, a presbyter in Rome, written when Zephyrinus was bishop of Rome (in 180-217).  Its author makes the following charges against the Valentinians:
            “They have boldly falsified the sacred Scriptures, and they have rejected the canons of the ancient faith, and they have ignored Christ, not inquiring what the sacred Scriptures say, but laboriously seeing to discover what form of syllogism might be contrived to establish their impiety.”  And a little further on:  “Regarding those men who abuse the arts of the unbelievers to establish their own heretical doctrine, and by the craft of the impious adulterate the simple faith of the divine Scriptures, what need is there to say that these are not near the faith? 
            Because of this they have boldly laid their hands upon the divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them.  And that I do not state this against them falsely, anyone who pleases may ascertain.  For if anyone should choose to collect and compare all their copies together, he would find many discrepancies among them.  The copies of Asclepiades [this was probably intended to refer to “Asclepiodotus,” an individual mentioned earlier in the composition], at any rate, will be found at variance with those of Theodotus. 
            And many such copies are to be had, for their disciples were very zealous in inserting the corrections, as they call them, that is, the corruptions that each of them made. . . . .  Either they do not believe that the divine Scriptures were spoken by the Holy Spirit, and thus are unbelievers, or else they think themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and in that case what else are they than demoniacs?  For they cannot deny the commission of the crime, since they copies have been written by their own hands.  For they did not receive such Scriptures from their instructors, nor can they produce any copies from which they were transcribed.”    
            Theodotus, to whom Caius refers, was a leader of the Valentinians.  Samples of his writings are found in Extracts from Theodotus.  (The person who preserved these excerpts, and commented on them, is unknown; some have suggested that it was Clement of Alexandria.)  In Parts 6-8 of the Extracts from Theodotus, we find the following (notice the use of two different forms of John 1:18, in bold print): 

            “The Valentinians understand the verse, ‘In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God” like this:  they say that “the Beginning” is the “only Begotten,” and that he is also called God, as also in the verses which immediately follow, it is explained that he is God, for it says, ‘The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.’  Now they say that the Logos – in the beginning (that is to say, in the Only Begotten, in the Mind and the Truth – indicates the Christ, the Logos and the Life.  Wherefore he also appropriately called him God who is in God, the Mind.   ‘That which came into being in Him’ – the Logos – ‘was Life,’ the Companion.  Therefore the Lord also says, ‘I am the Life.’” 
            Therefore the Father, being unknown, wished to be known to the Aeons, and through his own thought, as if he had known himself, he put forth the Only Begotten, the spirit of Knowledge which is in Knowledge.  So he, too, who came forth from Knowledge, that is, from the Father’s Thought, became Knowledge, that is, the Son, because ‘through the Son the Father was known.  But the Spirit of Love has been mingled with the Spirit of Knowledge, as the Father with the Son, and Thought with Truth, having proceeded from Truth as Knowledge from Thought.  And he who remained ‘Only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father’ explains Thought to the Aeons through Knowledge, just as if he also had been put forth from his bosom; but him who appeared here, the Apostle no longer calls ‘Only begotten,’ but, ‘as Only begotten,’ ‘Glory as of an Only Begotten.’  This is because, being one and the same, Jesus is the ‘Firstborn’ in creation, but in the Pleroma is ‘Only begotten.’  But he is the same being to each place such as can be contained [in it]. 
            The author (ceasing to quote his Gnostic source) then says in Part 8:  “But we maintain that the essential Logos is God in God, who is also said to be ‘in the bosom of the Father,’ continuous, undivided, one God.”

            There are quite a few Gnostic concepts that need to be unpacked here; for some idea of what was meant by the references to “Aeons,” “Knowledge,” “Mind,” “Truth,” and “Logos,” see Robert Grant’s introductory description of Gnostic cosmology in his book Irenaeus of Lyons.  The things to see, for our present purpose, is that as the Valentinians assigned fantastical meanings to terms used in the opening chapter of John (especially John 1:1-18), they referred to “the Only Begotten” as a supernatural emanation of God.  They considered “Christ” to be another emanation, dependent on Knowledge.  Irenaeus was justified in his concern that these false teachers attempted to turn “Jesus” and “Christ” into two entities. 
            (Such a concern ought to raise a red flag when we see, in À* in John 1:17, that the word “Christ” is missing.  Perhaps concern should also be felt when we see the editors of the Nestle-Aland compilation (27th ed.) avoid mentioning this in their apparatus.  Did I say that out loud?)     
            Irenaeus primarily countered Gnostic teachings that were spread at Rome.  As I proposed earlier, it seems probable (as much as one can gauge probabilities from such limited evidence) that the Valentinians in Rome, such as Heracleon, used a text of John 1:18 which referred to “the Only Begotten,” followed by neither “God” nor “Son.”  But Caius attests that the Valentinians’ copies disagreed among themselves, and nothing precludes the idea that the Valentinians corrupted John 1:18 by putting their phrase “only begotten God” into John’s text. 
            There is no clear evidence that Heracleon, in the West, supported such a corruption.  But what about Basilides and the Gnostics in Egypt in the second and third centuries? 
            There is not much to go on – although it is clear that Clement of Alexandria was well-acquainted with Basilides’ writings known as the Exegetica, because he (Clement) quoted from the 23rd book of this 24-book presentation of Basilides’ teachings, in Stromateis, Book 4, chapter 12.  Some insight, though, may be gained by considering the contents of the sixteen-page Gnostic composition known as the Trimorphic Protennoia (or, the First Thought in Three Forms), one of the texts among the Nag Hammadi papyri – in Codex XIII.     
            In Trimorphic Protennoia (which resembles in some points another Gnostic composition, the Apocryphon of John), as the author depicts the pre-existent Word as the emanator of celestial entities called Aeons, he writes as follows: 
            “Then the Perfect Son revealed himself to his Aeons, who originated through him, and he revealed them and glorified them, and gave them thrones, and stood in the glory with which he glorified himself. They blessed the Perfect Son, the Christ, the only-begotten God.  And they gave glory, saying, ‘He is!  He is!  The Son of God!  The Son of God!  It is he who is! The Aeon of Aeons, beholding the Aeons which he begot.” 
            A little further along, after the names of the Aeons are listed, the author writes:   “Now those Aeons were begotten by the God who was begotten – the Christ – and these Aeons received as well as gave glory. They were the first to appear, exalted in their thought, and each Aeon gave myriads of glories within great untraceable lights, and they all together blessed the perfect Son, the God who was begotten.”
            If Hort had been aware of the existence of the Trimorphic Protennoia in 1876, he might not have claimed (as he did on p. 9 of his Dissertation), “Neither in the Valentinian nor in any other known Gnostical system could there have been any temptation to invent such a combination as μονογενὴς θεός.”

            I submit that μονογενὴς θεός entered the text of John 1:18 in a manuscript used by Gnostics – a manuscript in which the text of this verse had already been altered (via a mild harmonization to 1:14) so as to contain no explicit reference to the only begotten Son, but only to the Only-Begotten.  A Valentinian scribe added θεός to reinforce Gnostic doctrine about the pre-existent Word as a celestial persona consisting of God’s first thought. 
            This reading became popular in Egypt not only among Gnostics, but also among the orthodox, who gave it an altogether different significance, affirming the deity of Christ.  It may be worth mentioning that Ambrose – not Ambrose of Milan, but Ambrose the Alexandrian who financed Origen – was formerly a Valentinian before being led out of that belief-system by Origen, and Ambrose’s copies of the Gospel of John may have been among the first to have this reading; if so, they were well-situated to have their contents be recopied in Egypt and later in Caesarea, alongside Origen’s copy of Heracleon’s commentary on John.  
In the hands of orthodox fourth-century writers such as Gregory of Nyssa and the well-traveled Basil of Caesarea (not the same Caesarea where Eusebius was bishop in the early 300s, but the Caesarea in what is now central Turkey), ὁ μονογενὴς θεός was not considered intrinsically supportive of Gnosticism.  The translators of the Peshitta must have viewed it as an orthodox statement.  Similarly in modern times, the term is often considered a useful affirmation of the deity of Christ, as if although Westcott and Hort’s revision of the New Testament effectively removed Romans 9:5, and Acts 20:28, and Ephesians 3:9, and Colossians 2:2, and First Timothy 3:16 from the Trinitarian arsenal, compensation was given via the deposit of John 1:18 therein.       
This scenario – in which ὁ μονογενὴς θεός originated in Valentinian manuscripts, in Egypt (or perhaps first in Rome, and then Egypt) – fits the evidence rather snugly.  In addition, despite the use of the phrase by Basil, Eusebius, and the Peshitta, resistance to this reading – expressed by its non-inclusion in the Byzantine Text – may be succinctly accounted for by scribes’ awareness of its association with Egyptian Gnosticism; also notable is Athanasius’ persistent use of ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός.  Although an adept theologian such as Basil could use John 1:18b with θεός in the cause of orthodoxy, forms of John 1:18b with θεός are practically unheard of in Latin antiquity; the Alexandrian reading is not shared by the Western Text, nor the Caesarean Text, nor the Byzantine Text, whether we consult the earliest or youngest Greek representatives. 
There is one piece of the puzzle, however, which does not seem to fit this theory:  Irenaeus’ use of ὁ μονογενὴς θεός in Against Heresies Book 4:11.  It is hard to account for this, especially since Irenaeus quoted John 1:18 with “only begotten Son” at the end of Against Heresies 4:6, introducing the verse with “as is written in the Gospel.”  While I do not want to multiply speculations, I would rather say something instead of nothing when facing this puzzle, so:
I suspect that Irenaeus had encountered a corrupted form of John 1:18 in Valentinian writings, and, while focused on anecdotes in the books of Daniel and Revelation (which he proceeded to investigate), added this quotation somewhat casually and parenthetically, introducing it not with “As it is written in the Gospel of John,” but with the phrase, “of whom also the Lord said.”  Irenaeus quoted from memory at this point, and his memory was influenced by the Valentinian compositions which he had been studying  not unlike the way in which a Christian apologist, after spending days reading the Watchtower Society’s New World Translation, might absentmindedly make a parenthetical quote from it, rather than from his own Bible.  Of course it is impossible to prove this, but the theory wraps up this loose end.       

Just two more things:
(1)  It is sometimes proposed (by Allen Wikgren, for instance, in a brief note added in Metzger’s Textual Commentary) that one reading or the other originated as a transcriptional error; Wilkgren proposed that the reading with θεός originated in the Alexandrian Text when a scribe, using nomina sacra contractions, wrote ΘΣ instead of ΥΣ, a difference of a single letter. 
By itself, this theory does not seem likely, inasmuch as the letters Θ (theta) and Υ (upsilon) do not resemble one another.  But if one introduces a scenario – one I have proposed previously – in which one scribe wrote the main text, leaving overlines with blank space below them, and a proof-reader added the nomina sacra contractions as he proof-read – well, the chance that the proof-reader could write the wrong nomina sacra is higher than the chance that any copyist could mistake  Θ for Υ or Υ for Θ.  (There are many textual contests between competing nomina sacra, or between the presence and absence of a nomen sacrum; I doubt that there are more than a few variant-units anywhere that constitute a contest between Θ and Υ.)  In which case, ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός wins the contest as the reading favored by much more diverse support from early patristic and versional witnesses, besides the enormous manuscript-evidence in its favor; as Ezra Abbot stated in his detailed essay on this subject, the witnesses for ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός “represent every important division of the Christian world.”
(2)  It is sometimes proposed that internal evidence favors “God,” on the grounds that copyists would tend to harmonize it to the more familiar phrase “only begotten Son” that appears elsewhere in the Gospel of John.  But against this theory, no such harmonization was made to 1:14, although the wording there is not found again.  Plus, a consideration of authorial style favors “only begotten Son,” a phrase which is used by John several times, while μονογενὴς θεός is non-Johannine.  Metzger depends on precisely this sort of argument quite often elsewhere; yet here it is abandoned when it weighs in against an Alexandrian reading.

Readers are invited to explore the embedded links to additional resources.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

John 1:18 - Sinaiticus: The Devil in the Details

John 1:18 in Codex Sinaiticus

           In the two previous posts, I examined (a) the meaning of the term μονογενὴς, concluding that “only begotten” is an entirely proper rendering, and (b) some early patristic and versional evidence for rival forms of John 1:18, especially the contest between “only begotten Son” and “only begotten God.”  Although a simple count of manuscripts overwhelmingly favors “only begotten Son,” (1,630 versus 7) the patristic evidence indicates that in the early centuries of the church, things were not so lopsided.  My findings generally align with the observation made by Paul McReynolds:  ““There are eleven writers, with thirty-nine citations, who support μονογενὴς θεός,” and “There are 20+ Fathers, with 40+ citations, who support the ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός reading.”  In addition, McReynolds listed 14 Latin authors, with 41 citations, who support υἱός; only Hilary of Poitiers is listed as conceivable (but highly unlikely) Latin support for θεός,
            Today, I want to pause the general discussion orbiting the textual contest in John 1:18 in order to focus on the contents and character of the text in Codex Sinaiticus, one of the manuscripts that favor μονογενὴς θεός (without ὁ). 

            Although Sinaiticus is usually considered to be a flagship manuscript of the Alexandrian Text, in John 1:1-8:38, its text is not Alexandrian; it is Western.  This was shown by Gordon Fee (in Codex Sinaiticus in the Gospel of John: A Contribution to Methodology in Establishing Textual Relationships, in New Testament Studies 15, 1968-69).  This elicits a question:  if  ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός is the Western reading of John 1:18 – as Hort emphatically asserted – then why is something else (μονογενὴς θεός) found in Sinaiticus?  (Here is the relevant quote from Hort:  “It comes out with perfect clearness that υἱός is one of the numerous Ante-nicene readings of a ‘Western’ type (in the technical not the strictly geographical sense of the word).”)  Finding θεός in John 1:18 in the Western portion of À is a bit like finding a lemon growing on an orange tree. 
            The answer has something to do with the background of Codex Sinaiticus – but before we investigate that, let’s take a look at some anomalous readings of À in John 1.  Based on data accumulated by Reuben Swanson, here are some of À’s unusual readings:
            v. 4 – εστιν instead of ην  
            v. 6 – ην after θεου
            v. 17 – non-inclusion of Χριστου
            v. 18 – non-inclusion of ο ων before εις τον κολπον
            v. 19 – does not include και ωμολογησεν
            v. 20 – non-inclusion of αυτον
            v. 20 – includes παλιν
            v. 21 – reads επηρωτησαν
            v. 21 – non-inclusion of και before λεγει
            v. 21 – non-inclusion of ὁ before προφητης 
            v. 28 – reads ποταμου after Ιορδανου
            v. 32 – reads ως περιστεραν καταβαινον εκ του ουρανου και μενον after πνευμα
            v. 34 – reads εκλεκτος του Θεου instead of υιος του Θεου
            Sinaiticus very often has no Greek allies in the first chapter of John.  Why?  Partly because Codex D is not extant for John 1:16-3:26, but there is more to it than that.  I deduce that the text of John 1 in Sinaiticus is not merely Western; the copyist used a Western exemplar but freely drifted from its text.  Although in theory this could occur almost anywhere in the text’s ancestry, it seems likely that this array of readings originated as À’s text of John 1:1-8:38 was transcribed.  Sinaiticus’ copyist was obligated by a lacuna in his main exemplar to resort to a secondary exemplar, but he did not trust the secondary exemplar and felt free to take some liberties with its contents.   
            What is the basis for this deduction?  What would make a scribe reluctant to trust an exemplar, even a secondary one? 
            Enter Heracleon.  Heracleon was a Valentinian Gnostic writer in the second century, generally regarded as one who taught in Italy, possibly in the city of Rome.  Bart Ehrman has presented some data that suggests a special relationship between the text of Sinaiticus in John 1:1-8:38 and the text used by Heracleon (see the essays Heracleon, Origen, and the Text of the Fourth Gospel and Heracleon and the ‘Western’ Textual Tradition, chapters 14 and 15 of Studies in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Vol. 33 of New Testament Tools & Studies, 2006).   À* agrees with several readings in the text of Heracleon, as cited by Origen.  One particularly impressive example involves the text of John 1:21:  Heracleon claimed (according to Origen) that John had denied being a prophet (instead of denying that he was the prophet); this indicates that Heracleon’s text of John 1:21 lacked the article ὁ before προφήτης – and this is the extremely rare reading of À*.  We see in John 1:21 in À* the same kind of unusual reading – the omission of an article – that we also see in 1:18.  Another reading in À that corresponds to a reading which can plausibly be deduced to have been in the text used by Heracleon is the presence of εστιν (“is”) in John 1:4 instead of ην (“was”).
            Now take a close look at how Origen cites John 1:18 in his Commentary on John, Book Six, paragraph 2:  as Origen contests Heracleon’s view that John 1:18 is a statement from John the author of the Gospel – Origen considered it a statement by John the Baptist – Origen cites the text with “only begotten God” without the article.  A little later, Origen cites John 1:18 again, this time without any noun after “only begotten” – that is, as Origen cites most of 1:18 in two segments, the first segment is “No one has seen God at any time,” and the second segment is, “The only-begotten who is in the bosom of the Father.” You may recall from the previous post that this was probably the reading of the Diatessaron.  
            This form of the text – without either “Son” or “God” after μονογενὴς – is probably the form that Heracleon used, and the form that the scribe of À encountered in his exemplar, but rejected.  (In Book 6, paragraph 7, Origen appears to use John 1:18 in a way that refers to simply “the Only Begotten.” probably using Heracleon’s text, but his quotation with "only begotten God" is more prominent.) 
            In conclusion:  a comparison between the text of Heracleon (as represented by Origen) to the text of John 1:1-8:38 in À indicates that Sinaiticus’ text of John 1:1-8:38 was influenced by an exemplar which frequently agreed with the text of Heracleon.
            If the scribe of À recognized that his secondary exemplar was a manuscript used by Heracleon, the scribe would very probably consider it right to harbor suspicions about its accuracy, and to filter its unusual readings via comparisons to the quotations embedded in Origen’s commentary.

             Now let’s consider the circumstances in which Codex Sinaiticus was made, as fully as they can be deduced.  Researchers such as J. Rendel Harris and T. C. Skeat have made a strong case, based on the accumulation of small pieces of evidence, that À was made in Caesarea.  (Skeat proposed that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were both among the 50 codices prepared by Eusebius of Caesarea for emperor Constantine; however his theory is rather complicated and requires a “Goldilocks” scenario to account for the differences between Vaticanus and Sinaiticus – and it simply does not account for the many differences between the text used by Eusebius and the contents of B and À, or for major differences between B and À, such as their differing forms of Tobit, and the inclusion in À of the books of Barnabas and Hermas, and the inept treatment of the Eusebian Canons and Sections in À.) 
            Who was in charge of the scriptorium in Caesarea in the mid-300s?  Jerome informs us (in Lives of Illustrious Men and elsewhere) that at Caesarea in the mid-300’s, bishop Acacius, followed by bishop Euzoius – both of whom subscribed to Arianism – improved the library’s holdings by transferring to parchment various texts which were in danger of being damaged or lost, having been written on papyrus. 
            Although Jerome does not explicitly state that Biblical texts on papyrus were among the materials that Acacius and Euzoius transferred onto parchment, it seems reasonable to think that Biblical texts would be prioritized in such a project.  And if Acacius oversaw the production of Sinaiticus at Caesarea, this would account for (a) his access to the text of John used by Heracleon – reckoning that Origen must have taken a copy of Heracleon’s work to Caesarea, inasmuch as he cited it in his Commentary on John – and (b) his willingness to replace readings in his exemplar with readings that he could recollect or harvest from the writings of Origen, and (c) the generally Alexandrian character of the text of À in the rest of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, echoing Egyptian exemplars either taken to Caesarea by Origen in the 200s, or acquired later in the 200s.      
            (Among the small points supportive of the theory that Acacius oversaw the production of Codex Sinaiticus, one that should not be overlooked is the size of the writing in the codex; it is the ancient equivalent of a giant-print Bible, a format that would be especially useful to Acacius, who, Jerome reports, had only one eye.)      
            The implication of all this is that although John 1:1-8:38 is essentially Western, it also contains non-Western readings where the copyist abandoned his exemplar.  The reading μονογενὴς θεός is one such non-Western reading.  Rather than show that μονογενὴς θεός was ever a Western reading, À shows its scribe’s willingness to abandon his secondary exemplar – likely an exemplar associated with Heracleon.   
             In conclusion, À’s reading μονογενὴς θεός, although found in the Western section of À, is unlikely to be representative of À’s Western exemplar, and is more likely a reading introduced by the scribe of À on the basis of his personal familiarity with the reading θεός after μονογενὴς as it is found in Origen’s Commentary on John.      

Readers are invited to check the data in this post, and to explore the embedded links to additional resources.

Monday, January 21, 2019

John 1:18 - Some Patristic Evidence

John 1:17b-18 in Codex Alexandrinus.
             John 1:18 contains one of the most significant textual variants in the New Testament:  did John write ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός – “the only-begotten Son” – as the vast majority of Greek manuscripts read, or ὁ μονογενης θεος” – “the only begotten God – as a few Alexandrian manuscripts read?  Or did John write μονογενης θεος (without the Greek article ὁ)?  Or did John write something else?
            If mere quantities of witnesses were decisive, the question would be settled in a moment:  about 1,610 Greek manuscripts read ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός.  Seventeen Greek manuscripts read υἱός accompanied by a minor variation.  (Details from Text und Textwurk:  225, 352*, 581, 1126, 1171, 1651, 2311 and 2462 read ὁ μονογεννὴς υἱός and 2546 reads ὁ μονογενὴς ὁ υἱός and 2479 and 2528 read μονογενὴς υἱός, and 2192 reads ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός του θεου and 1116 reads ὁ μονογενὴς γαρ υἱός; the other variants are trivial.)  Seven Greek manuscripts read θεός, of which only five – P66, À*, B, C*, and L – do not have the article ὁ before μονογενὴς. 
            The reading adopted in NA27 is attested in .3% of the extant Greek manuscripts.  Here, as elsewhere, one may sense the inconsistency of those who speak about “an embarrassment of riches” in the church’s textual treasury and then proceed to adopt readings which imply that 99.7% of the coins are counterfeit.
            Rather than observe such an overwhelming wave of evidence and call it a day, we should consider ancient evidence – and when we do, this contest becomes less lopsided. 
            Data that pertains to this textual contest can be harvested from the textual apparatus of the United Bible Society’s Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition, from Ezra Abbot’s 1861 article, On the Reading ‘Only-begotten God’ in John 1:18, from Hort’s 1876 dissertation On the Words Μονογενὴς Θεός, and from Paul McReynolds’ essay John 1:18 in Textual Variation and Translation (on pages 105-118 of New Testament Textual Criticism:  Its Significance for Exegesis, 1981).
            That data needs to be carefully processed.  The first thing that needs to be done is to realize that there are more than two horses in the race, so to speak.  ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (The only begotten Son) is the majority reading; μονογενης θεος (only begotten God) is the reading supported by Papyrus 66, Codex Sinaiticus, and Codex Vaticanus; ὁ μονογενὴς θεος is supported by Papyrus 75, by an early corrector of Codex Sinaiticus, and by minuscule 33.  Codex W, in a supplemental section, has a slightly different reading:  εἱ μὴ ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (“except the only begotten Son”).  And, as we shall see, some patristic witness support ὁ μονογενὴς, with neither “Son” nor “God.”   
            A word of caution may be in order regarding an online essay by Brian J. Wright, Jesus as Θεος (God):  A Textual Examination.  Though described by Daniel Wallace as “outstanding,” and certainly more thorough than most commentaries, the essay contains so many errors that readers are well-advised to avoid relying on Wright’s work without double-checking it.  A few examples of the errors in Wright’s essay may convey why it should be considered thin ice:  (1) Wright listed S* among the witnesses for μονογενὴς θεός; however, this is surely because Wright used a source in which the letter “S” was used in place of “À” and Wright simply failed to realize this, and misreported À’s testimony twice.  (2)  Wright listed Codex D as a witness for ὁ μονογενὴς θεός; however, Codex D – that is, Codex Bezae – is not extant for John 1:18.  (3) Wright listed Hilary among the witnesses for μονογενὴς θεός. (The term is used by Hilary in On the Councils, chapter 36).  However, as Ezra Abbot observed over 150 years ago, although the term “unigenitus Deus” is often used by Hilary, that does not mean that the phrase was in Hilary’s manuscripts of John.  Abbot observed that Hilary “has never quoted the passage with this reading” (i.e., with μονογενὴς θεός) “but has, on the contrary, expressly quoted it seven times with the reading filius; and not only so, but has commented upon it in such a way (De Trin. Lib. VI. c. 39) as to demonstrate beyond question that he thus read the passage.”  (4) His use of Apostolic Constitutions as a witness for “only begotten God” as a reading in John 1:18 does not appear to be based on Scripture-quotations, but merely on the use of the phrase “only begotten God” in Apostolic Constitutions 3:17, 5:20, 8:7 and 8:35. 
            Dispensing with such foggy goggles, let’s look at some patristic evidence in more detail (as well as evidence from three early versions), beginning with the composition Against Heresies, written in the late 170s and early 180s by Irenaeus, the famous apologist and bishop of Lyons.  (Beside most of the following witnesses I have placed a dot:  a red dot = support for “Son,” a blue dot = support for “God,” a green dot = support for both readings, a grey dot = support for something else, and unclear evidence receives no dot.)
John 1:15-19 in Papyrus 66.
            Irenaeus (c. 180).  The testimony of Irenaeus supports both “Son” and “God.”  In Book 3, 11:5-6, Irenaeus states, “The God who made the earth, and commanded it to bring forth fruit, who established the waters, and brought forth the fountains, was He who in these last times bestowed upon mankind, by His Son, the blessing of food and the favor of drink: the Incomprehensible [acting thus] by means of the comprehensible, and the Invisible by the visible; since there is none beyond Him, but He exists in the bosom of the Father.  For ‘No man,’ he says, ‘has seen God at any time,’ unless ‘the only-begotten Son of God, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared [Him].’  For He, the Son who is in His bosom, declares to all the Father who is invisible. Wherefore they know Him to whom the Son reveals Him; and again, the Father, by means of the Son, gives knowledge of His Son to those who love Him.”
            In this use of John 1:18, even with the addition of the words “of God,” it is clear that Irenaeus was using a text that read υἱός and not θεός; not only is υἱός in the quotation but it is also in Irenaeus’ comment which immediately follows (“For He, the Son who is in His bosom,” etc.). 
            In Book 4, 20:6-7, Irenaeus writes, “He [i.e., God] is by no means unknown: for all things learn through His Word that there is one God the Father, who contains all things, and who grants existence to all, as is written in the Gospel:  ‘No man has seen God at any time, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; He has declared [Him].’  Therefore the Son of the Father declares [Him] from the beginning, inasmuch as He was with the Father from the beginning.”   
            Irenaeus may have used a text of John in which εἱ μὴ preceded ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός in 1:18, as in Codex Wsupp, but regardless, υἱός is clearly favored in this quotation and in the subsequent comment (“Therefore the Son of the Father,” etc.).  Hort’s attempt (in his 1876 work Two Dissertations) to spin away from this conclusion is not plausible, despite his confident tone.
            Only shortly later in Book 4, in 20:11, Irenaeus uses a different reading of John 1:18, stating, “It is manifest that the Father is indeed invisible, of whom also the Lord said, ‘No man has seen God at any time.’  But His Word, as He Himself willed it, and for the benefit of those who beheld, did show the Father’s brightness, and explained His purposes, as also the Lord said:  ‘The only-begotten God, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared [Him].’”  This quotation in 4:20:11, while not accompanied by confirmatory exposition, clearly supports the reading θεός.  While it may seem unlikely that Irenaeus would cite two different forms of John 1:18, or that he would fail to point out that they were verbally different, that seems to be what has occurred. 
            While on the subject of Irenaeus’ writings, it should be noted that there is an issue regarding Irenaeus’ statement that Irenaeus stated that the Valentinians described the Arche-emanation as μονογενὴς θεός; Paul McReynolds states that Irenaeus claimed that the Valentinians describe the Αρχη as Son and Only-begotten and God (that is, υἱόν και μονογενὴ και θεόν).  However, Hort preferred to follow the text of Epiphanius’ extract from Irenaeus as it appears “in the Venice MS” [Venice MS II. 483, I think] with και υἱόν και μονογενὴ θεόν which, Hort said, agrees with the properly compiled Latin text, “et Filium et Unigenitum Deum” and disagrees with “the common text.”  Following Hort’s approach, it appears that the Valentinians in Irenaeus’ time used the term “only begotten God.”     
The Diatessaron (172).  The Diatessaron appears to support neither major contender.  The Arabic Diatessaron, although it echoes the arrangement in which Tatian ordered the text of the Gospels in the second century, is not a safe stand-alone guide to Tatian’s text where details are concerned, and regarding the text of John 1:18 almost certainly only echoes the Peshitta, in a form extant in 873 (when the Arabic Diatessaron’s Syriac ancestor-manuscript was made).  Are there other relevant Diatessaronic witnesses?  Yes.  Ephrem Syrus, writing a commentary on the Diatessaron around 360, used John 1:18 in a form which favored neither “only begotten Son” nor “only begotten God” but which read simply “the only Begotten,” treating the Syriac equivalent of μονογενὴς as a noun.  Similarly, in about 345, Aphrahat, another Syriac writer who used the Diatessaron, wrote in part 6 of Demonstration Six (On Monks), “The Only Begotten who is from the bosom of His Father shall cause all the solitaries to rejoice.”  

            Hippolytus (190s).  In Contra Noetum 5 Hippolytus specifically quotes John 1:18:  “For John also says, ‘No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”  

            Tertullian (very early 200s).  In Against Praxeus 15:6, Tertullian utilizes John 1:18 with clear support for “only-begotten Son”:  “It is of course the Father, with whom was the Word, the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, and has Himself declared Him.”

            Clement of Alexandria (150-215).  In Stromateis 5:12. Clement clearly uses John 1:18 with θεός:  “John the apostle says, ‘No man has seen God at any time.  The only-begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.’”  Yet in Who Is the Rich Man Who Shall Be Saved, part 37, we read as follows:  “For what further need has God of the mysteries of love?  And then you shall look into the bosom of the Father, whom God the only-begotten Son alone has declared.”  And in Stromateis 1:26, we read:  “The expounder of the laws is the same one by whom the law was given; the first expounder of the divine commands, who unveiled the bosom of the Father, the only-begotten Son.”  McReynolds provided the Greek text of the final phrase:  – ο τον κόλπον του Πατρος εξηγούμενος υιος μονογενής.  Unless Clement’s compositions’ text has been thoroughly altered by scribes, it would appear that Clement knew of forms of John 1:18 with “only begotten God” and with “only begotten Son.”  

            Origen (184-253).  In his Commentary on John, 2:29, Origen makes a clear utilization of John 1:18 with ὁ μονογενὴς θεός:  “Accordingly John came to bear witness of the light, and in his witness-bearing he cried, saying, ‘He that comes after me exists before me; for He was before me; for of His fullness we have all received and grace for grace, for the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has seen God at any time; the only-begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.’ This whole speech is from the mouth of the Baptist bearing witness to the Christ.  Some take it otherwise, and consider that the words from ‘for of His fullness’ to ‘He has declared Him’ are from the writer, John the Apostle.”
            In Contra Celsum 2:71, Origen supports θεός in some copies of this composition, but two copies of it read υιος:  “Jesus taught us who it was that sent Him, in the words, ‘None knows the Father but the Son,’ and in these, ‘No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”  Very probably the copies with υιος represent scribal conformations to the Gospels-text known to later copyists of the composition, as Hort explains in Note A in his dissertation.

            The Sahidic version (late 200s or 300s).  Although most Sahidic copies of John are relatively late, the situation changed with the publication in 1981 of P. Palau Ribes 183, part of a Sahidic Gospels-manuscript which has been assigned to the 400s.  (This production-date is not secure, due to the consistency of Coptic scripts in the 400s-700s, but even a production-date in the 700s would be relatively early, as Sahidic manuscripts go.)  The manuscript known as P. Palau Ribes 183 reads as follows, according to Coptic specialist Alin Suciu:  “No one has ever seen God.  God, the only Son, the one who is in the bosom of his Father, that one is he about whom he spoke.”        

            The Epistle of Hymenaeus (270).  Also known as The Epistle of Six Bishops, or, The Epistle to Paul of Samosata, this letter was written and signed by Hymenaeus the bishop of Jerusalem, who presided at the Council of Antioch in 264/268.  It was also signed by five other bishops (Theophilus, Theotecnus, Maximus, Proclus, and Bolanus) to express their opposition against the teachings of Paul of Samosata.  It was mentioned and summarized by Eusebius of Caesarea.  Its text supports ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός.          
            Hegemonius (late 200s/300s).  According to an obscure writer named Heraclianus of Chalcedon, Hegemonius was the person who wrote down the contents of Archelaus’ Dispute with Manes, but Epiphanius and Jerome claim that the author was Archelaus himself, which would place its composition-date in 277.  It does not seem impossible that Archelaus wrote this composition in Syriac and Hegemonius made a definitive translation.  The latest possible date for the Greek text of this work is the 370’s, since Epiphanius used extracts from it.  In part 32, Archelaus makes a clear utilization of John 1:18 with “only-begotten Son” – “No man has seen God at any time, save the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father.”  (Notice that here we have another witness that agrees with Codex W.)   

            Eustathius of Antioch (d. 337).  This writer, in the 18th chapter of his work, De Engastrimytho Contra Origenem, utilized John 1:18 with ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός, and commented on the verse.  (The citation is in Volume 18 of Migne’s Patrologia Graece, in column 652, digital page #333.) 

            Eusebius of Caesarea (early 300s).  The testimony of Eusebius, who is cited in UBS4 as if he utilized ὁ μονογενὴς θεός three times out of seven utilizations, was tested by Abbot, who (in citation-references on page 859 of his article, in a footnote) observed that Eusebius repeatedly used John 1:18 with υἱός.  As evidence, Abbot mentioned De Ecclesiastica Theologia, Book 1, chapter 20, in paragraphs 4, 5, and 7, and Book 2, chapter 23, and a comment on Psalm 73:11, and a comment on Isaiah 6:1, where the entire phrase, “the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father,” is found. 
            Abbot countered the claim (previously advanced by Tregelles) that Eusebius utilized John 1:18 with θεός in De Ecclesiastica Theologia, Book 1, chapter 9, by succinctly showing that the passage supports υἱός more than it supports θεός.  Abbot noticed that in De Ecclesiastica Theologia, Book 3, chapter 7, Eusebius states that the Father alone may be called “the One God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; but the Son [may be called] only-begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father,” – (in the Greek text here, there is no article) – “and the Paraclete, Spirit, but neither God nor Son.”  Abbot minimized this statement as something less than a direct quotation, but to me, it looks like a utilization of John 1:18 with no article before μονογενὴς, followed by θεός.    

            Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373).  The bishop of Alexandria in the early 300s might be expected to promote the Alexandrian reading of John 1:18 – but that is not what we find.  Instead, in Defense of Nicea 5:7, Athanasius uses John 1:18 with “the only-begotten Son” as one of the proof-texts that Christ is begotten, not created.  And in Discourse 2, Athanasius quoted John 1:18 with ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός in the midst of a theological discussion. 
            In the composition Contra Sabellians, which is sometimes attributed to Athanasius, all of John 1:18 is cited with “ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός.”  If this is not the work of Athanasius then it is the work of another, slightly later, Greek writer.   
John 1:18 in Codex L.

            Arius of Alexandria (250-336) and Auxentius of Milan (d. 374).  Arius is the infamous heretic; Auxentius is an Arian bishop who held the office of bishop in Milan in the 300s before Ambrose.  Auxentius, in his creedal statement of Arian beliefs, said that Wulfilas (translator of the Gothic version, and regarded as an Arian late in his career) taught that God the Father “did create and beget, make, and establish an only-begotten God (unigenitum deum).”  Auxentius used the term “only-begotten God” three more times:
            (1)  Auxentius stated that Wulfilas handed down the argument that “If the inexhaustible power of the only-begotten God (unigeniti dei)  is reliably said to be capable of having made all things celestial and terrestrial, invisible and visible, and is believed rightly and faithfully by us Christians, why is it not credited that the passionless power of God the Father might create His only-begotten Son?”
            (2)  Auxentius stated that Wulfilas “spread abroad, by his words and tractates, that the Father and the Son were different in their divinity, unbegotten God and only-begotten God (dei ingeniti et dei unigeniti).  
            (3)  Auxentius stated, “An unbegotten God being in existence, and one Lord only-begotten existing by God, the Holy Spirit Advocate can be said to be neither God nor Lord.” 

            Although Auxentius never cites John 1:18, it is at least clear from his statements that Arians in the 300s had no objection to the phrase “only begotten God.”  This phrase does not appear in John 1:18 in any Old Latin manuscripts; yet the Arians in the West were entirely comfortable using it.  The notion that the reading in John 1:18 with θεός was a particularly powerful weapon in defense of Trinitarian orthodoxy rings hollow in light of this; it is rather baffling to find modern apologists treating the reading “only-begotten God” as if it is a bulwark against Arianism.  (See, for example, Bob Utley’s claim that John 1:18 with “only-begotten God” is “a strong affirmation of the full and complete deity of Jesus!”)          

            De Sanctissima Trinitate Confessio (300s).  This Latin text is usually attributed to Eusebius Vercellensis, although this attribution is not secure; the composition in any event is from no later than the late 300’s.  According to McReynolds, in 4:16 the author quotes John 1:18 with “only-begotten Son” (unigenitus filius) in its fourth chapter. 

            Hilary of Poitiers (310-367). In chapter 39 of Book Six of On the Trinity, Hilary specifically quotes John 1:18 and interprets it:  “Let him speak to us in his own familiar voice:  No one has seen God at any time, except the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father.  It seemed to him that the name of Son did not set forth with sufficient distinctness His true divinity, unless he gave an external support to the peculiar majesty of Christ by indicating the difference between Him and all others.  Hence he not only calls Him the ‘Son,’ but adds the further designation of the Only-begotten,’ and so cuts away the last prop from under this imaginary adoption. For the fact that He is Only-begotten is proof positive of His right to the name of Son.”  (Notice the “except,” as if Hilary’s text is an ally of Codex Wsupp.)
            Hilary rather frequently uses the phrase “only begotten God” in his writings, but when he makes citations of John 1:18, he shows plainly that his Gospels-text supports “the only begotten Son.”

            Phoebadius of Agen (mid-300s).  This Latin-writing bishop in northeast Italy was in the thick of theological controversies; he wrote Against the Arians (Contra Arianos) in 358.  In chapter 12, part 4, as Phoebadius confronts Arian teachings, he quotes from the Gospel of John:  “For John says, ‘No one has ever seen God except the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father.’”  This composition is plausibly as old as Codex Sinaiticus; yet Phoebadius’ name seldom appears in commentaries.  (Notice again the agreement with Wsupp.)
            Gregory Nazianzus (329-390).  Gregory Nazianzus provides a clear citation of John 1:18 in his Third Theological Oration (also titled Oration 29), chapter 17, using John 1:18 as a proof-text for the deity of Christ:  “Then the Son is only-begotten:  ‘The only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father,’ it says, ‘He has declared Him.’”

            Basil (330-379).  In De Spiritu Sancto 8, 15, and 27, in 375, Basil used a series of proof-texts.  In chapter 15, as Basil demonstrated that the exaltation of Christ as divine is Scriptural, he wrote:  “We ask them to listen to the Lord Himself, distinctly setting forth the equal dignity of His glory with the Father, in His words, ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father,’ and again, ‘When the Son comes in the glory of His Father,’ ‘that they should honor the Son even as they honor the Father, and, ‘We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,’ and, ‘The only-begotten God which is in the bosom of the Father.  Of all these passages they take no account, and then assign to the Son the place set apart for His foes.  A father’s bosom is a fit and becoming seat for a son, but the place of the footstool is for them that have to be forced to fall.” 
            In chapter 8 of De Spiritu Sancto, Basil writes that the Scripture “uses terms descriptive of His nature, for it recognizes the name which is above every name, the name of Son, and speaks of true Son, and only-begotten God, and power of God, and Wisdom, and Word.” 
            At the end of chapter 11 of De Spiritu Sancto, Basil clearly shows that his text of John 1:18 read θεός:  following a quotation of First Corinthians 12:3, he states, “And, ‘No man has seen God at any time, but the only begotten God which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.’”

            Gregory of Elvira (mid/late 300s).  This opponent of Arianism quoted John 1:18 in Latin in the composition-collection known as Tractatus Origenis (Tractate 16, part 25), preceded by a quotation of Exodus 33:20:  “Non poteris faciem meam videre, nemo enim vidit Deum et vixit?  Salvator quoque in evangelio:  Deum, inquit, nemo vidit umquam nisi unicus filius, qui est in sinu Patris.”  This supports “only begotten Son.”

            The Peshitta (late 300s).  The standard Syriac translation supports “only begotten God.”  There is some inconsistency in how the Peshitta’s text of John 1:18 has been translated; to settle this question I consulted Dr. Jeff Childers, who provided the following information: 
            “The expression ihidaya Alaha is pretty straightforward grammatically.  The noun Alaha (“God”) is being modified by the adjectival ihidaya.  It cannot mean “ihidaya of God” – that would be quite a different construction.  It literally means, the “ihidaya God.”  
            Again:  the Peshitta supports ὁ μονογενὴς θεός.  

            Didymus the Blind (313-398) (maybe).  The testimony of Didymus should be viewed through the lens of the suspicion that someone other than Didymus is the author of De Trinitate.  Whoever the author of De Trinitate was, he utilized John 1:18 with θεός in 1:15, 1:26 and 2:5.  According to Hort, Didymus used the same text in a comment on Psalm 76:14.  McReynolds lists Didymus’ Commentary on Zachariah 5:33 and Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12:5 as additional utilizations of John 1:18 with θεός.

            Epiphanius (late 300s).  According to Hort, in Ancoratus 2:5, 3:9 and in Panarion 612, 817, Epiphanius utilizes John 1:18 with θεός; unfortunately Hort did not specify whether the article was present or not.   

            Serapion of Thmuis (300s) and Titus of Bostra (d. 378) have been confused with one another in earlier editions of the UBS Greek New Testament; both authors wrote compositions titled “Against the Manichaeans.”  Without going into detail about the causes of the confusion (See Robert P. Casey’s 1928 article in Harvard Theological Review for details), it should be sufficient to note that John 1:18 with ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός is utilized in Adversus Manichaeos 3:6 – the text is in Volume 18 of Migne’s Patrologia Graecae, col. 1224 (digital page #631) – and in the same composition, further along (in column 1240, on digital page #639), the author quotes John 1:18 with the reading “ὁ Μονογενὴς Υἱός Θεός,” and the author describes this as a statement from the Gospel.  (A Syriac version of Titus of Bostra’s Against the Manichaeans is extant in a manuscript dated to 411.)
            Ambrose of Milan (340-397).  This famous bishop quotes John 1:18 with “only-begotten Son” several times, such as in his work De Ioseph, 14:84 (composed in 388) and in his Exposition on Luke, 1:25 – “Et addidit quod ultra caelestis est potestates:  unigenitus filius, qui est in sinu patris, ipse enarravit.”

            John Chrysostom (349-407).  This famous writer quoted John 1:18 seven times, and every quotation supports ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός.  A definitive example is Chrysostom’s Homily 15 on John; another is in his composition On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, 4:3 and 5:1 (found in Vol. 48 of Migne’s Patrologia Graece, columns 731 and 736; digital page #211 and #215).
            Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444).   Cyril of Alexandria might naturally be expected to strongly support μονογενὴς θεός – and he does.  In his Commentary on John, chapter 10, in the course of commenting on John 1:10, the text which forms the heading of the chapter contains μονογενὴς θεός.  In the commentary, Cyril restates the verse slightly loosely:  No man has seen God at any time; for the Only-Begotten, Himself being God, which is in the bosom of God the Father, made this declaration to us.”  In the same paragraph, Cyril repeatedly uses the phrase “only-begotten God” and attributed it to John’s Gospel.  Cyril also quotes John 1:18 with “The only begotten God” in his Five Tomes Against Nestorius.  (In one instance in his work against Nestorius, and once in the extant text of Cyril’s Thesaurus de Sancta Substantiali Trinitate, in part 35, John’s Gospel is specifically cited and the full contents of John 1:18 are quoted with ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός; these are almost certainly scribal conformations by the copyist of Cyril’s works; in his Thesaurus, Cyril refers to the contents of John 1:18 a few sentences later in the composition, using the expression, “The only-begotten God the Word.”  The scribes who made these conformations were strangely inconsistent, altering some quotations, but not others which were nearby.)
            Adimantus (mid/late 300s).  This Manichaean heretic wrote a book and Augustine wrote a response to Adimantus’ book.  Usually when Augustine quotes John 1:18, he uses unigenitus to represent “only-begotten,” but in Contra Adimantum 9, a quotation of John 1:18 appears in which unicus is used instead:  deum nemo vidit umquam nisi unicus filius qui est in sinu patris ille adnuntiavit vobis de eo.  (See pages 144-145 of Hugh Houghton’s Augustine’s Text of John, © 2008 H. A. G. Houghton, Oxford University Press.)  Repeatedly in Contra Adimantus, Augustine’s quotations from John depart from the form that he usually employs, suggesting that in these particular quotations, Augustine is quoting passages of John as they were presented in Adimantus’ composition. 

            Augustine (354-430).  Augustine utilized John 1:18 without a noun after “only-begotten” in Tractate on the Gospel of John, 3:17 (similar to the Diatesaronic reading used by Ephrem and Aphrahat).  In Tractate 31:3, however, he quotes the verse with “only-begotten Son,” (with the Latin equivalent of ει μη) and in Tractate 35:5 he quotes the verse more precisely, and again in Tractate 47:3:  “He Himself has said, ‘No one has seen God at any time; but the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
            Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428).  In Theodore’s commentary on John (composed probably in 404-408), John 1:18 is utilized twice, once with “God the only-begotten,” (as he introduces the verse) and once (in his comment on John 1:29) with “Only Son.”  (See pages 18 and 20 of the English translation of Theodore’s Commentary on John by Marco Conti, edited by Joel C. Elowsky, published by InterVarsity Press, 2010.)  In a comment on Psalm 34:13, Theodore quotes John 1:18 twice, using ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός.  (For details see pages 368-369 of Robert C. Hill’s 2006 Theodore of Mopsuestia – Commentary on Psalms 1-81, Translation with Introduction and Notes, published by the Society for Biblical Literature.)  (It is tempting to conclude that some copyist who was influenced by the Peshitta is responsible for the one instance of “God the only-begotten.”)  

            The Ethiopic Version (300s or 400s).  Hort, in Note C of his 1876 dissertation, described 19 Ethiopic manuscripts of John:  two at Cambridge and 19 at the British Museum (all of which are very late).  Hort seems to have concluded that two Ethiopic manuscripts support “the only-begotten God,” one supports “the only-begotten of God” (a reading which aligns with a paraphrastic form of the verse used by Eusebius, ὁ μονογενὴς του θεου, in a comment on Psalm 67:2-4), and the remaining 13 support “only-begotten one Son.           
            An edition of the Ethiopic text made in 1862 by Solomon Caesar Malan gave the impression that the Ethiopic Version favors “the only Son” in John 1:18, with “unto us” at the end of the verse.  (Notice that Cyril of Alexandria also supports a form of John 1:18 with “unto us” at the end.)
            More recently, it has been ascertained (via carbon-dating) that the Ethiopic Garima Gospels were produced in or about the 400s-500s, a date far earlier than any other Ethiopic Gospels-manuscript has been ascertained to have.  A consultation with Michael Wechsler, who edited the Ethiopic text of John (Evangelium Iohannis Aethiopicum) as Volume 617/109 in the series Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium in 2005, revealed that the Garima Gospels supports “the one [or, unique, wahed] God,” which constitutes support for ὁ μονογενης θεος or μονογενης θεος.

            This evidence shows that a simple numerical count of medieval manuscripts does not tell the whole story about this text-critical contest.  At the same time, it also demonstrates that both readings are very ancient, and that both were used by orthodox writers and by heretics. 

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