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The One and Only Issue in John 1:14

A Greek word monogenes is at the cross-hairs of doctrine in John 1:14. It has been stretched by everyone in two different directions. Its true constituent parts are mono = one (like mono-logue) and genos ("kind"). It was once thought its second constituent part was from gennao “to beget, father, procreate" = thus supposedly intended here to refer to a generated being, typically a son or daughter.

But Thayer says monogenes means simply "single of its kind." However, Thayer points out its known use was "only of sons and daughters."  (Thayer, "monogenes.") Even if true, that would not make adding "begotten" appropriate.

Incidentally, Thayer's claim is not true, for in John 1:18, in the Greek mss from Alexandria which the NIV relies upon today, "monogenes" refers to the "one and only God (theos )." (See Study Notes on John 1:18 at end of this article.) So monogenes is used not only in reference to sons or daughters, but to God "theos" Himself. Hence, Ehrman is correct that monogenes "outside the New Testament, means 'one of a kind,' or 'unique,'" and nothing more.”  (Bart Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 1993) at 81.)  

Again, as we said, even if Thayer were correct and such usage were limited to sons and daughters (which is not true), this does not allow us to translate monogenes as an "only son" or "only begotten son." Rather, it only signifies we can say of a son or daughter that this is "the only one of its kind." The genes is referencing kind, not begotten. It does not imply begotten at all. Erhman again notes that those who try to say the use of monogenes with "sons" intends to imply "sons" or "begottenness" have planted a seed for the refutation of that very same claim. For then it presents an "unusual kind of redundancy" -- saying "begotten" and "son" when one implies the other. This exposes the argument as obvious "special pleading." Id.

Likewise Laurence M. Vance, Ph.D. in his More About The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) The Southern Baptist Bible (accessed 10/9/2010) points out that the notion of 'begetting' is not expressly involved. Vance recognizes that monogenes is a compound word of  monos, "only," and gevno" (genos), "kind, stock, nation."  It is not from gennavw (gennao), "beget."

In accord with the quote of Thayer above, there is a clear contemporary understanding that this word monogenes means uniqueone of a kind, or simply onlyMany of the current handbooks on Greek syntax state that monogenes should not be translated as only begotten. Instead, they take the word to mean only or unique. See Newman and Nida, A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of John (New York: United Bible Societies, 1980) at 24; Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdman's, 1930) at 416-417.

The KJV thus incorrectly renders monogenes as "begotten." The KJV has it as -- "the only begotten who came from the Father...."

The pre-2010 NIV of John 1:14 fixed this and eliminated begotten and rendered it properly as one and only:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,[a] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

[However, the 2010 version of the NIV now reverts backwards, and replaces this with One and Only SON even though huiou, Son, is not present. Incongruently, the NIV knows better for when monogenuous huiou appears in John 3:18 (see Greek tab), the NIV renders that correctly as "one and only Son," so how does it justify adding "Son" when huiou is not present in John 1:14? For the Greek in John 1:14 lacking huiou, see this "Greek" tab at Biblios.]

In a footnote, the pre-2010 NIV points to an alternative translation possibility for (a) as: Or the Only Begotten.

As proof of the accuracy of the pre-2010 version -- the "one and only," Hebrews 11:17 says Isaac was the monogenes of Abraham. But he was not indeed the only son of Abraham. There was also Judah. And Ishmael was the first born. So monogenes is not to be understood as "only begotten son." Rather, it means "only one" of Abraham, as the pre-2010 NIV rendered it, signifying a unique status other than sonship. (His other son Ishmael had left, so "only" Isaac was still with Abraham, and was monogenes -- one of a kind -- in that sense.) That is, monogenes could not mean there Abraham's "one and only Son" or "only begotten son" because Ishmael was Abraham's other son. Instead, the term references some unique quality and status other than a begotten sonhood.

Why Do Some Think This Is Important?

Because many think John 1:14 is talking about Jesus instead of the Word. But the sentence structure makes clear that the Word is the monogenes. To make it sound trinitarian, this can be accomplished by changing "one and only" into "begotten" rather than allow it to simply say the Word was the "one and only."

But, if "begotten" were true, then "begotten" applies to the Word which would have flaws because then John says the Word is God. If "begotten" applies to the Word, then the Word could not be "eternal" as it was "begotten" at a distinct time by the Father. How can the Word be God if it is begotten at a specific time? It could not be God as God is eternal, without beginning or end.

The solution is to let the Greek speak to us, and get rid of the 'begotten' error from the KJV. The expression "one and only" in John 1:14 refers to the Word, that is God, the One-and-Only God---and "became flesh," i.e., entered Jesus. This Word (Logos) is not synonymous with Jesus, but instead indwells Jesus. As Jesus says "the Logos/Word is not mine, but the Father's who sent Me." John 14:24. So how did the Word/Logos become flesh? Jesus answers by repeatedly saying the Father dwells in Himself. (John 14:10-11.)

Hence, the verse John 1:14 speaks of an INDWELLING presence of the Word (the One and Only) in Jesus rather than Jesus Himself being pre-existent apart from the Father, constituting the Logos, and Himself as Logos becoming flesh. The verse is clear -- the "WORD" became flesh, and that flesh was Jesus. It is not that Jesus was begotten as the Word at some distinct time in the past, and then the Word became Jesus in the flesh. No, it is the Word became flesh -- the flesh of Jesus. A very different meaning than normally assumed due to KJV error.

Some of the Argument Over Monogenes

Begotten Is Used To Give Jesus Pre-Existence as "Begotten Son" in 1:14

The author of the Other Bible believes instead the primary meaning of monogenes is begotten and lacks any sense of only.  (This is an error.) This commentator says:

You will note that John 1:14 is translated as the "only begotten", but the word "only" there is an addition to the text. It should read "the begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He (the Father) hath declared." (Commentary on Throckmorton, Gospel Parallels .)

This is certainly an error. "Mono" means only. This commentator erases what clearly is the first part of the meaning -- "only." Then this commentator wrongly insists monogenes only means "begotten Son." But if so, the Other Bible erases this says Jesus was "begotten" by God, and hence implicitly could not be God because Jesus would then be a created being -- the "begotten son." Hence, this manipulation of meaning gives Jesus pre-existence, but it does not permit Jesus to be God as the author intends because a 'begotten' being is not eternal and thus cannot be God. A wrong avenue for what these commentators seek to establish.

Monogenes Does Not Mean 'Begotten' or Imply Son-ship

Others point out that the assumed etymology of monogenes as partly from genao is wrong, and rather comes from genus, meaning kind. I quoted Thayer above agreeing it means one and only (of its kind) with no implication of begotten. Its usage in Hebrews 11:17 proves this, for it says Isaac was the monogenes of Abraham. But he was not indeed the only son of Abraham. There was also Ishmael. He was of the seed of Abraham through Hagar. (Gen. 21:9-13.) So it is not to be understood as "only begotten son." Rather, it means "only one," as the pre-2010 NIV rendered it, and thus means this Word is special and unique, but not necessarily is an offspring created by God, i.e., a begotten being. This is also obvious again when "monogenes" is used in John 1:18, which is discussed below.

Why is there any dispute?

The word begotten in the KJV led many to think Apostle John is referring to Jesus in John 1:14. (I claim monogenes refers to the Word.) But then if applied to Jesus, these commentators destroy their goal of claiming Jesus was God because then this means Jesus was a created ("begotten") being and hence not God.

But then they may respond that this was 'solved' at Nicea and later by claiming Jesus is "the eternal Son." This formula was first discussed at Nicea in 325 AD and made credal in the 9th Century. But this succeeds only by indoctrination into the self-contradictory notion of 'begotten not made." Rather, once these defenders of 'begotten' admit Jesus would be a 'begotten' 'god' in John 1:14, then it is simply indoctrination to make us affix the label 'eternal Son' to somehow erase the polytheistic implication that there can be a creator God and a begotten God too.

To erase this impact from the term monogenes, some have moved in the right direction, and found the meaning is just "only" and eliminated "begotten," as we saw above. (It is truly "one and only" and not 'begotten' at all.) To them, this avoids the embarassing interpretation that Jesus is the "begotten" monogenes. He would be a created-being, assuming "the one and only begotten" (as the KJV renders it) is a reference in John 1:14 to Jesus. (To repeat, I say it is a reference to the Word indwelling Jesus; and the Word is called simply "the one and only".)

Right Direction

The Twentieth Century New Testament, one of the earliest translations into "modern English," was one of the first (if not the first) modern version to correctly shorten "only begotten" to "only" (or "one and only.") (John 1:14, 18, 3:16, 18; Heb. 11:17; 1 John 4:9). This change was followed by the Weymouth New Testament (1903), the Moffatt New Testament (1913), and the Goodspeed New Testament (1923). (Laurence M. Vance, Ph.D. More About The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) The Southern Baptist Bible (accessed 10/9/2010).

Now we see it in the pre-2010 NIV as well.

(The 2010 NIV changes this back to the KJV translation of "only begotten." )

Vance explains how this finally came to anyone's attention, as the KJV "only begotten" translation had previously been well circulated:

Because these versions were never very popular, it was not until the publication of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) New Testament in 1946 that the reading "only" was really noticed. The New Testament of the New American Standard Bible (NASB) of 1963, like the New Testament of its predecessor the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901, did not follow this trend. However, the publication of the New International Version (NIV) New Testament in 1973 rekindled the debate since it replaced "only begotten" with "one and only." Recent modern versions, like the New Living Translation (1996) and the English Standard Version (2001) follow the RSV. The International Standard Version (1998) replaces "only begotten" with "unique" in all six passages. The New Evangelical Translation (1988) replaces "only begotten" with "only" in Hebrews 11:17 and "one-and-only" in the other five passages. Id.

My View On Its Meaning In Context

In actuality the issue is not about Jesus but the WORD. Monogenes is a reference to the WORD.

The Word became flesh and made [his or its] dwelling among us and we have seen [his or its] glory, the glory of the one and only [cfr. KJV begotten], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

It is clearly a reference to the WORD BECAME FLESH -- dwelling in Jesus. The Word is separate and apart from Jesus' being and becomes flesh, i.e., comes to dwell in Jesus.

Who also says so? Jesus. To repeat, Jesus explains that the "Logos is not of myself...the Logos (Word) is not mine, but the Father's who sent me." John 14:1024.)

Thus, John says we saw the GLORY of the LOGOS which belonged to the Father. Then when this verse John 1:14 speaks of the glory of the "only one," it is the glory of the LOGOS, which John later says is God.

Why does John still call the Word God?

The answer is simple: because the Word is inseparable from God, and thus it is impossible to distinguish the Word as a being distinct from God. It is God's mind, thoughts, etc., which eternally pre-existed. See John 1:1 NIV.

Dr Colin Brown, systematic theologian at Fuller Theological Seminary, similarly observes in Ex Auditu (7, 1991):

It is a common but patent misreading of the opening of John’s Gospel to read it as if it said: ‘In the beginning was the Son and the Son was with God and the Son was God’ (John 1:1). What has happened here is the substitution of the Son for Word (Greek logos), and thereby the Son is made a member of the Godhead which existed from the beginning. Following carefully the thought of John’s prologue, it is the Word that pre-existed eternally with God and is God.

From verses 1-13, we have a personification of the Word until 1:14 when it becomes flesh, and is embodied in Jesus.

As James Dunn says in Christology in the Making (1980) at 243:

The conclusion which seems to emerge from our analysis thus far is that it is only with verse 14 that we can begin to speak of the personal logos. The poem uses rather impersonal language (“became flesh”), but no Christian would fail to recognize here a reference to Jesus – the word became not flesh in general but Jesus the Christ.

Prior to verse 14 we are in the same realm as pre-Christian talk of wisdom and logos, the same language that we find in the wisdom tradition and in Philo, where as we have seen we are dealing with personifications rather than persons, personified actions of God rather than an individual divine being as such. The point is obscured by the fact that we have to translate the masculine "logos" as "He" throughout the poem.

But if we translated "logos" as "God's utterance" instead, it would become clearer that the poem did not necessarily intend the "logos" in verses 1-13 to be thought of as a personal divine being. In other words the revolutionary significance of verse 14 may well be that it marks . . . the transition from impersonal personification to actual person.

This transition tells us something happens when the Word becomes flesh - the personification up to that point culminates in a full indwelling presence of the Word in Jesus.

The Arian Controversy Caused by Paul Is Different

This is not the same controversy as Arius brought up about the 'first-begotten' term used by Paul in Col. 1:15 where Paul clearly is referring to Jesus. (For full discussion, see our article "Paul's Flawed Christology"). The term "first-begotten" is Prototokos in the Greek of Col. 1:15. It is not at all like monogenes in John 1:14. Arius argued that Paul meant Jesus was a created being, and therefore Paul implied that Jesus could not be God. (Everyone kept missing the point; Jesus was indwelled by God the Father, and this was done by God's unique and only Word dwelling in Jesus.)

But Paul subtly makes one think that the first-begotten Jesus existed in heaven prior to His birth and came to reside in the flesh of what appeared to be a man. Instead, John 1:14 says the Word -- the One and Only pre-existed Jesus and came to dwell in Jesus in John 1:14.

Did Paul Misunderstand John 1:14?

In my view, Paul was confused in Col. 1:15. Paul heard about the personification of Logos prior to Jesus's birth, and thought this was Jesus somehow existing prior to His birth. This mistake is perpetuated today by many as they read John 1:14. Instead, the WORD was the one and only (monogenes) of God which came to DWELL in Jesus.

Study Notes on John 1:18 - A Modern Trinitarian Push For A Closer Verse

Another issue is how John 1:18 is read one way trinitarian today based upon a few manuscripts, but the traditional way, supported by most manuscripts, it does not.

The traditional version is non-trinitarian, which includes the King James which renders this as follows:

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him]. (John 1:18, KJV)  [Note this is "monogenes" Son meaning "unique / one and only" Son.]

This does not say Jesus is God. It says Jesus, the Son, has "declared" the Father to us.

This form is dominant -- ASV, YLT, etc.

However, then there is a modern change that implies Jesus is the one and only God. Listen to how the NIV changes this in its 1984 edition:

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only [monogenes], who is at the Father's side, has made him known. (John 1:18, NIV)

This gets monogenes correct, but uses "God" not "Son" in the second part of the verse. This is now followed in the New American Standard but it renders 'monogenes' as 'only begotten':

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

Thus, Chrisitan Courier claims this proves Jesus is God:

In addition to the above, John refers to Christ himself as “the only-begotten God, who is at the Father’s side” (Jn. 1:18), as the language reads according to the best Greek texts (see Merrill Tenney, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank Gaebelein, ed, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983, Vol. 9, p. 34) ("Does John 17:3 Negate the Deity of Christ?")

This has been snuck in almost unnoticed by anyone as a new and modern direct proclamation that Jesus is God in the NT. Why is this happening?

The "only begotten [sic: monogenes = unique, one of a kimd] Son" appears in by far the most manuscripts: // Ò :@<@(,<¬H LÊ`H [monogenes son] A C3 Wsupp ) 1 Q 0141 f 1 f 13 28 157 180 205 565 579 597 700 892 1006 1010 1071 1241 1243 1292 1342 1424 1505 Byz [E F G H] Lect ita,aur,b,c,e,f,ff2,l vg syrc,h,pal arm eth geo1 slav.

See www.heraldmag.org/rvic/nt/28_NT_Appendix_1.doc

The "only begotten [monogenes =unique] God" appears in far fewer: is :@<@(,<¬H 2,`H [an only-begotten god] p66 À* B C* L syrp,hmg geo2... // Ò :@<@(,<¬H 2,`H [the only-begotten god] p75 À2 33 copbo

See www.heraldmag.org/rvic/nt/28_NT_Appendix_1.doc

Bart Ehrman in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 1993) at 78-79 discusses this particular issue. Ehrman supports that the majority of texts has this correct. It does not support Jesus is God. Why the change?

The variant reading of the Alexandrian tradition which substitutes "God" for the "Son" represents an orthodox corruption of the text in which the complete deity of Christ is affirmed...Outside the Alexandrian tradition, the reading...theos [God] has not fared well. Virtually every other representative of every other textual grouping--Western, Caesarean, Byzantine--attests to [Son]. Id., at 78-79.

Thus, because the "God" reading appears in only one geographical area / strain, and all other manuscripts, and quotation by Irenaeus, Clement and Tertullian say it is son, Erhman says it is overwhelmingly obvious that "God" is a corruption of the original verse. Id., at 79. Erhman also says the Alexandrian "God" texts are implausible textually because it is an "insurmountable difficulty" to accept John called Jesus the "unique God." Id., at 80. The word monogenes "itself embodies the notion of exclusivity conveyed by the use of the article" with it. Id., at 80. This would mean Jesus is the ONLY God. Would John eject the Father? As Erhman puts it:

The problem, of course, is that Jesus can be the unique God only if there is no other God. Id., at 80.

John 1:18 Is Mistranslated Anyway

In actuality, if "theos" is correct, because it says monogenes theos, I would translate this verse differently than the NAS and NIV. This is because it does not say "one and only begotten God," but instead "one and only God," as we explained above the meaning of monogenes is exclusively 'one of its kind.'

Let's first start with a word-for-word translation of 1:18 if we assume theos is the true term: "God not  yet has one see as? when? the one and only God the one being in the bosom of the father one who leads out." Cf www.heraldmag.org/rvic/nt/28_NT_Appendix_1.doc

So I would translate it this way:

No one has seen God -- the one and only God -- as the one in the bosom of the Father has revealed.

Thus, if Herald Magazine is correct -- it defends "theos" over "son" because it says the manuscripts with theos are superior although less in number -- it erroneously assumed monogenes means "only begotten" instead of "one and only of its kind." This makes a big difference to what theos (if valid) refers in the second part of John 1:18.

Why 'One and Only God' in 1:18: Manuscript Evidence

The oldest surviving Greek manuscripts -- P66 and P75 -- of John 1:18 read monogenes theos (one and only God but often interpreted today as 'only begotten God'), not only begotten Son.

This is what obviously is the main reason to resurrect 'theos' as the true term in John 1:18b.

Of some significance, these two fragments from the 200s were found in Alexandria, Egypt which causes some to suspect a gnostic heresy influenced this version of John 1:18b.

It is hard to reconcile "begotten God" with the orthodox church writings of that era except two sources in Alexandria -- one belonging clearly to a heretic.

First, the early church sources both differed and were very varied. The oldest apparent source is Ignatius, from the 100s, who in Latin says "the only-begotten Son," saith [the Scripture], "who is in the bosom of the Father."(Ignatius, Epistle to the Philippians, II.)

This Epistle is not considered authentic by some scholars.

The next oldest is Irenaeus (early 100s) who says: "For "no man," he says, "hath 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." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, XI.)

Next is Tatian of 165 AD who is typically orthodox and from Syria. He had both "God" and "Son" (instead of one or the other); Tatian also had "only", but not begotten. In Tatian's Diatessaron IV:1 -- his version of John 1:18 -- it reads according to Schaff as: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only Son, God, which is in the bosom of his Father, he hath told of him." See this link.

Incidentally, this could also be translated "No man has ever seen God, the only God. The Son who is in the bosom of the Father told of Him." Thus, this has "God" and "Son" in the same text, but lacks "begotten." As I translate it, it says very much what the KJV says unlike the Trinitarian reading preferred by the NIV of 2010.

Next, the first step toward "begotten God" appears in the writings of the heretic Valentinus (second century) who has "begotten God." In fact, he is suspected as the source of the P75 manuscript as a deliberate fabrication. (Burgon (1896).) Burgon revived attention to a passage in Theodotus (400s) quoting Valentinus from the 2nd century as a corrupting heretic. R. P. Casey (1934) translates Theodotus as follows:

The verse, "in the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God," the Valentinians understand thus, for 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 explains that he is God, for it says, "The Only-Begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him." (69)

So here we see a heretic added the word "begotten God" and made this refer to Jesus as God. It precisely is the same as the phrase in P75. Bear in mind a scribal error could also be involved, because the difference between "Son" (heios) and "God" (theos) in Greek is a single letter.

Next is Clement of Alexandria (215 AD). He reads identical to that of Valentinus. See Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book I, ch. III.

But Tertullian ca. 220 AD has the same reading as Ignatius: "the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, and has Himself declared Him." Tertullian, Against Praxeas, XV. So too Origen in the 200s; Hippolytus in the 200s and then from that point on it always reads "begotten Son" in Latin texts.

So there are only 2 writers who agree with "only begotten God" and these are the heretic Valentinus of Alexandria and Clement of Alexandria. Tatian's version is not compatible with either. And it appears no coincidence P75 and P66 were found in Alexandria from the same period. It is evident that this was a local corruption -- either doctrinally or by misreading 'heios" as "theos" - a one letter difference.

Consequence of Accepting P75/P66 And Keeping 'Begotten" Reading of Monogenes

If we reject this translation of monogenes, and accept the NIV and NAS versions which render "monogenes" as "only begotten," and theos is the correct manuscript version, we end up in a terrible polytheistic heresy that goes beyond trinitarianism.

Dr. Holland who wishes to defend monogenes means "only begotten" laments if theos were the valid manuscript that this would lead to a gross heresy of polytheism. Dr. Holland comments in Crowned with Glory (2000):

It is also interesting to note that the New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses also uses the phrase only begotten god. This is, of course, in line with their teaching that Christ is a created god. Once we accept the reading only begotten god, we have opened the door to reinterpret all other verses concerning the deity of Jesus Christ. (Fn. 3, excerpted here.)

Another source correctly analyzes the NASB's use of "begotten" God found also in the NWT. The author says that this would necessitate there is one visible God and one invisible God - polytheism:

The error here is with the idea of multiple "gods.".... John 1:18 makes no sense in the NASB unless it refers to multiple, separate "gods." In fact, the verse contradicts itself. In the NASB, it is clear from the language that two individual beings are described here, the invisible "God" and the visible "God." Both are called "God." "No man has seen God" refers to the unseen God. But, the words, "the only begotten God" refer to the one who has been seen by men. Literally understood, the NASB is speaking of two distinct "Gods," one visible and one invisible. Furthermore, the use of "only begotten" (mono-genes) with "God" (theos) implies birth or reproduction of the second "God" by the first "God." The NASB's rendering here is absolutely ridiculous and completely heterodoxical. (Study to Answer.)

In other words, why aren't we all created gods? Polytheism becomes implicit in any notion that God can be begotten. Thus, Dr. Holland argues that theos was likely a scribe who wished to insert an heretical notion that God could be begotten as God, which would support the gnostic heresy of the 2d-3d centuries. But I contend that even if theos were in the original manuscript, it still does not mean begotten and can be read properly that Jesus revealed "the one and only God" to us.

Once John 1:14 Is Fixed, John 1:1 No Longer Holds Trinitarian Implication

In John 1:1, we read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This does not say Jesus is God unless one equates Jesus with the Word -- the Greek word LOGOS. But many insist the Logos is Jesus, and thus John 1:1 supposedly proves Jesus is God. For example, we read under "Jesus is Called God" in this article that: 

"John 1:1 'the Word' (logos-context shows this to refer to Jesus) was God (theos)"

What context has driven the notion that the Word -- the Logos -- is Jesus?

It is John 1:14, depending on how you translate monogenes, as either "only begotten" or as "one and only." For if monogenes is "only begotten" in 1:14, this makes the "God" --- the Logos of 1:1 -- become Jesus, the begotten Son of God. But if monogenes is "one and only," then the Word is simply God indwelling Jesus, as 1:14 otherwise would simply state.

The true meaning of monogenes is virtually self-evident. Without knowing Greek, we know God is eternal and could not be referred to as a begotten being. That is the first and most obvious reason monogenes is not to be understood as "only begotten" in 1:14. But further, its word meaning in Greek is simply "one and only" or "unique." The only reason that Christians identified Jesus as the Logos (Word) -- and thus having a pre-existence as God -- was the erroneous translation in 1:14 that the Word was "begotten" instead of was the "one and only" -- meaning the Word was the one true God. When that is cleared away, God is indeed the LOGOS ... the Word, and is the "one and only" God. There is no pre-existence intended for Jesus, but rather a pre-existence was intended for the LOGOS -- God who in 1:14 we learn dwells in Jesus. Nothing more in the "context" is implied. 

Study Notes

Also, please note Jesus is "called" the Word of God in Revelation 19:13. This is not the same as saying that Jesus IS the Word of God. In Hebrew names, if read literally, Yah is part of their name and would signify the person is God. This is how you know a name in Hebrew is symbolic, and not actual. Jesus embodies and symbolizes the Word of God. This is not the same as saying Jesus IS the Word of God.


Only Son

At one point, when God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (as a test of his willingness to obey), God refers to Isaac as Abraham's "only son." (Gen. 22:2.) (This is a Hebrew term, so it has no relevance to how the Greek monogenes was used in Hebrews 11:17.)

Is this inconsistent with Ishmael also being a son? Yes, unless this meant his "only son" by Sarah, as some interpret it.

For Ishmael was actually the first son of Abraham. This happened 16 years prior to the command to sacrifice Isaac, Ishmael was born to Abraham's maidservant, Hagar. (Gen. 16:1-4.)

Thus, the Pulpit Commentary resolves the issue by saying "only son" in Gen. 22:2 means "only" legitimate son, or "only son" still with him, as Ishmael went away with Hagar:

thine only son - not [only begotten in Greek (LXX.), butunigenitum (Vulgate), meaning the only son of Sarah, the only legitimate offspring he possessed, the only heir of the promise, the only child that remained to him after Ishmael's departure. (See Gen. 22:2 - Pulpit Commentary.)

Liddell Scott defined monogenous as 

the only member of a kin or kind: hence, generally, only, single, “????” Hes.Op.376Hdt.7.221, cf. Ev.Jo.1.14,Ant.Lib.32.1; of Hecate, Hes. Th.426.
2. [select] unique, of ?? ??Parm. 8.4; “??? ??? ???????? ???????” Pl.Ti.31b, cf. Procl.Inst.22; “???? ? ?.Sammelb.4324.15.
3. [select] ????? one and the same blood, dub. l. in E. Hel.1685.
4. [select] Gramm., having one form for all gendersA.D.Adv. 145.18.
5. [select] name of the foot___^Heph.3.3

 John 1:15.  Correct translation is Jesus comes ahead in first rank over John, not that Jesus 'came before' John. The latter mistranslation is used to support pre-existence of Jesus. See video John 1:15 - What does it mean? Also, when the Baptist in 1:30 says "After me comes a man who has a higher rank then I" - recognizes Jesus is a man. But even this is all wrong.  It is "ho opiso erchomenos emprosthen mou" - meaning "He who was behind me is coming in front of me." Then the trinitarian spin continues to mistranslate the next part of the sentence: "gregonen [become] hoti protos mou en" as "he existed before me" (NASB), but that is wrong and omits "because" for hoti. This part means "he has become ahead of me."

So in full, it should read: "He who was behind me is coming in front of me because he has BECOME first over me." So Jesus is a "Man" who was born after John, but has "become" first in rank over John.

Also Biblical Unitarian did a two part series on John 1:14 worth listening to. See part one and part two.