Which phrase “only Son” or “only begotten Son” is used in the original Apostles Creed?

I received a great question about the original Latin and Greek word for only begotten Son. The questions is as follows:

"Hello. Most English versions of the Old Roman Creed and the Apostles Creed state in part "Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord," but some translations of this clause have "only begotten" instead of "only." Is the original language Greek, and is the word here "monogenes?" Do Latin versions of these creeds use "unicus" or "unigenitis" here? I’m trying to learn how the ancient Church understood the word "monogenes." Thank you for your website."

It is difficult to say what the original language of the Apostles Creed was. I believe the earliest Greek version we have available is from Epiphanius of Salamis who lived between c.310 to 403 A.D. The earliest Latin version we have available is from Eusebius of Caesarea c.260 to 365 A.D. There could be older copies out there somewhere. Throughout history different variations of the Apostles Creed say "His only Son our Lord" and some say "His only begotten Son our Lord." Even though they are worded differently, they are conveying the same meaning.

Note: The words in question are in bold so you can identify them in the quotes.

The Old Roman Creed

The below versions of the Old Roman Creed were taken from the Early Church Texts website with the exception of the English text. The English text was produced by Google Translate and Yandex Translate.

Old Roman Creed
English Greek Latin
I believe in God the Father almighty;
Jesus Christ and his only son, our Lord,
who was born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
the third day he rose from the dead,
ascended into heaven,
he sits at the father’s right hand,
hence he was coming to judge the living and the dead;
and in The Holy Spirit,
holy church,
forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection.
Πιστεύω οὖν εἰς θεὸν παντοκράτορα
καὶ εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ, τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν,
τὸν γεννηθέντα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου,
τὸν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου σταυρωθέντα καὶ ταφέντα
καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἀναστάντα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν,
ἀναβάντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς καὶ καθήμενον ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ πατρός,
ὅθεν ἔρχεται κρίνειν ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς·
καὶ εἰς τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα,
ἁγίαν ἐκκλησίαν,
ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν,
σαρκὸς ἀνάστασιν,
ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
Credo in deum patrem omnipotentem;
et in Christum Iesum filium eius unicum, dominum nostrum,
qui natus est de Spiritu sancto et Maria virgine,
qui sub Pontio Pilato crucifixus est et sepultus,
tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,
ascendit in caelos,
sedet ad dexteram patris,
unde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos;
et in Spiritum sanctum,
sanctam ecclesiam,
remissionem peccatorum,
carnis resurrectionem.

The Greek and Latin are from earlychurchtexts.com
The Greek text is from Jacques-Paul Migne 1863, PG, Vol. 42, Col. 384 (Epiphanius, Panarion (Adversus Haereses) 7. 2. 2).
The Latin text is based on Jacques-Paul Mign, PL, Vol 21 Col. 335 and following (Rufinus, Commentatius in Symbolum Apostolorum).

These versions show the Greek word μονογενῆ (monogenes) and the Latin word unicum (a conjugated form of unicus) as the original words. We can look further at the early church fathers, the Greek Textus Receptus, and the Latin Vulgate Bible translation to come to determine how the words were originally used.

The Bible

The following table shows a comparison between the English NASB, Greek Textus Receptus, and Latin Vulgate.

New American Standard Textus Receptus Greek Latin Vulgate
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NAS καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας

John 1:14 Textus receptus Greek, logosapostolic.org
et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis et vidimus gloriam eius gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiae et veritatis
John 1:14 VUL Latin Vulgate, vulgate.org

The Greek

The word used in the Greek Textus Receptus is μονογενής (monogenes) defined by the Strong’s Concordanc as "only begotten" or "unique, only one of His kind."

<3439> μονογενής (monogenes)
Meaning: only begotten
Origin: from 3441 and 1096
Usage: only(3), only begotten(6).


1 )Or, in our case
2 )Or, unique, only one of His kind
a )John 9:3; 1 John 4:16
b )John 3:16f.; 1 John 4:10; 1 John 5:11
Bible hub – 3439. monogenés "only begotten"

Another Greek word for "only" is μόνος (monos)." For example in Jude where he wrote,

to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:25 NAS)

Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word μόνος (monos) as "alone" or "only."

<3441> μόνος (monos)
Meaning: alone
Origin: a prim. word
Usage: alone(31), by themselves*(1), even(1), just(2), mere(1), merely(2), only(18), only one(1), only thing(1), private(m)(1).

1 )Lit., I and Barnabas
a )Acts 4:36
Bible hub – 3441. monos "only" or "alone"

It is important to note that the word "μονογενής (monogenes)" refering to the sole origin as apposed to the word "μόνος (monos)" which is being without another.

The Latin

The Latin Vulgate version of the Bible is a revision of old Latin manuscripts.

"The Vulgate is a Latin version of the Holy Bible, and largely the result of the labors of St Jerome (Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus), who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 A.D. to make a revision of the old Latin translations." (Vulgate.org)

The original Apostle’s Creed would be an older Latin translation different than Jerome’s Bible translation in 382. The Nicene Creed also predates the Latin Vulgate translation being written in 325 A.D. In John 1:14 of the Latin Vulgate translation, Jerome uses the word "unigeniti." Unigeniti simply means "only child" or "only" meaning one of a kind.

Jerome only used the word "unigeniti" in Amos 8:10, Jeremiah 6:26, John 1:14, and John 3:18. Jerome uses the word "unigenitum" in Genesis 22:2, Zechariah 12:10, 4 Esdras, John 3:16, Hebrews 11:17, and 1 John 4:9. He also uses the word "unigenitus" Proverbs 4:3 and John 1:18. All these words have the same meaning. The difference between them is whether they are singular or plural or if they are a specific grammatical case. Jerome also uses the word "unicus" in Tobit 6:15, Psalm 24:16, Wisdom 7:22, Luke 7:12, 9:38.

Note: For more information on the Latin case for "unicus" click here and for "unigenitis" click here.

In each case, whether the word unigeniti, unigenitum, unigenitus or unicus was used for the New Testament Greek word μονογενής (monogenes) which is translated for "only" or "only begotten." The only difference between "unicus" or "unigenitis" is that the first means "only" and the latter is "only child."

In Jude 1:25, comparing the Latin Vulgate Bible translation to the English the word "soli" is used for "alone" or "only."

soli Deo salvatori nostro per Iesum Christum (Jude 1:25 VUL)

to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, (Jud 1:25 NAS)

This is translated as "to God alone, our savior through Jesus Christ." Similarly in the Latin word "solum" in Jude 1:4.

et solum Dominatorem et Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum negantes (Jude 1:4 VUL)

deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 1:4 NAS)

“Solum” is used in 1 Timothy 6:15, "solus" is used for the word “only.”

quem suis temporibus ostendet beatus et solus potens rex regum et Dominus dominantium (1 Timothy 6:15 VUL))

which He will bring about at the proper time– He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15 NAS)

The words "unicus" (Luke 9:38 Latin Vulgate) or "unigeniti" (John 1:14 Latin Vulgate) refer to the sole origin as apposed to "soli" which is without another.

The Nicene Creed

Looking at the Nicene Creed we see the Greek word "Μονογενῆ" and the Latin word "unicum."

English Greek Latin
the only begotten Son of God
Nicene Creed in English
τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν Μονογενῆ
Nicene Creed in Greek
Filium Dei unicum
Nicene Creed in Latin

The use of "unicum" instead of "unigenitis" is used for the Greek word "Μονογενῆ (monogenes)." The Early Church Fathers did make the distinction between Christ as being begotten of a woman and Christ as the Word of God begotten from the Father from eternity "before all ages." Either way, the words convey the same meaning.

The early church fathers

The Greek usage of the word μονογενής (monogenes) can be seen in the writings of Cyril of Jerusalem.

Cyril of Jerusalem

In his Catechetical Lectures, Cyril of Jerusalem references the Nicene Creed when he teaches of Christ as the "only begotten Son of God." The English Translation states the following.

On the Words, the Only-Begotten Son of God, Begotten of the Father Very God Before All Ages, by Whom All Things Were Made. Cyril of Jerusalem, The Catechetical Lectures, Lecture XI

In the original writing of Cyril, he uses the word "ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΗ."

ΚΑΤΗΧΗΣΙΣ ΙΑʹ ΦΩΤΙΖΟΜΕΝΩΝ, Ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις σχεδιασθεῖσα εἰς τό: ΤΟΝ ὙΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΤΟΝ ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΗ, ΤΟΝ ΕΚ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΤΡΟΣ ΓΕΝΝΗΘΕΝΤΑ ΘΕΟΝ ΑΛΗΘΙΝΟΝ ΠΡΟ ΠΑΝΤΩΝ ΤΩΝ ΑΙΩΝΩΝ, ΔΙ’ ὉΥ ΤΑ ΠΑΝΤΑ ΕΓΕΝΕΤΟ. Cyril of Jerusalem, The Catechetical Lectures, Lecture XI Original Language.

The word "ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΗ" is Cyrillic "Greek" and translates to English as "monogenes" which is defined as "Having a single common origin." This is the same word as Μονογενῆ (monogenes)."

The Latin usage of the word unicum can be seen in the writings of Augustine of Hippo.

Augustine of Hippo

Augustine clearly referenced the Apostles Creed and not the Nicene Creed when he says "His Only Son, our Lord," "Born of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary," and "Suffered under Pontius Pilate… was crucified, dead, and buried." In his writing on "On the Creed," Augustine of Hippo wrote,

Ye know, that when I pronounced to you the Creed, so I said, and so ye are bounden to believe; that we “believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ His Only Son.” Augustine of Hippo, On the Creed, 3 Caput II

Augustine uses the word "unicum" in his original Latin writing most likely because he is referencing the original Apostle’s Creed text and not the Latin Vulgate text.

Scitis quoniam cum vobis pronuntiarem Symbolum sic dixi, et sic credere debetis: quia credimus in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, et in Jesum Christum Filium ejus unicum. Augustine of Hippo, On the Creed, Caput II Latin text

If you compare Augustine to the Latin Vulgate, the word “unicus” and “unigenitis” was used to translate the Greek word "μονογενής (monogenes)." Looking at the usage of the phrase "only begotten from the Father" in John 1:14 where the apostle wrote,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,14 NAS)

in principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum
et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis et vidimus gloriam eius gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiae et veritatis (John 1:1,14 VUL)

It is clear that the Word of God existed before becoming flesh, even from the beginning, therefore, Christ is the Father’s Son from the beginning. It would be equally true to say that Christ is the only Son and the only begotten Son of the Father.

In a broader context

"His only begotten Son" can be used to differentiate Christ as the only true son of God from the adopted children of God. All who believe in Christ are adopted as sons and are children of God.

Beloved, now we are children of God (1 John 3:2 NAS)

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
(John 1:12-13 NAS)

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, (Ephesians 1:5 NAS)

Because the Early church fathers were combating false doctrines frequently, they belabored the point that Christ is the "one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made." Whether you say "only begotten Son" or "only Son" either way, Christ is the one and only true Son of God from eternity that became flesh by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary.