Like the story of the exodus, "Christ crucified" and "Jesus is Lord" called people to center their lives in God rather than living under the pharaohs of this world. And like the exodus story, its meaning was both personal and political.
~Marcus Borg & John Dominic Crossan

#1 – Most Overlooked Passages in John’s Gospel: Only Son of God?

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This is the first in a series of undetermined length where I’ll be looking at passages that I feel often get “skipped over” when considering the gospel according to John.  Today we consider two:

John 1:12 – But to all who received him [the Word or LOGOS / Light], who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.

John 14:12 – Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

Go to the bottom for more passages to be considered in the future!


What was the first Bible verse you memorized?  For many of us, it was John 3:16 – usually in the King James Version.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If we were lucky, we got to learn it in a slight modernized English without the “-eth:”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (NRSV)

As we consider the idea we find in John 1:12, that the Word (or LOGOS) or Light from God gives us the power to become children of God, how in the world can we be God’s children if Jesus is somehow God’s ONLY son?  “Only” precludes the rest of us from being included, right?

Translation, translation, translation!  When the gospel of John (originally written in Greek) was translated into Latin, John 3:16 (see also John 1:14) was mis-translated, and the King James Version followed the Latin, not the original Greek.  “Only begotten” or “only” is a mis-translation of the Greek word MONOGENES, which means “unique” or “the only one of its kind.” 1

So who cares?  What difference does it make?

I think this is a hugely important distinction on many levels, but let me focus only on two.  First, by realizing that we also are children of God, we realize the value and abilities each of us truly has as unique creations of God.  We aren’t less than; rather, we are brothers and sisters of Jesus!  WOW!

Second, if we think Jesus was God’s only son, we think he can do things that we cannot.  We may even go so far as to say that Jesus does things (like sacrificing himself) so we don’t have to.  Yet, we see Jesus saying in John 14:12 that if we believe (i.e. trust him), we WILL DO the SAME things and GREATER things than him!  When we realize that we, too, are God’s children, like Jesus, we can acknowledge that God is calling us to live a life like Jesus.  Since we are given the power to be God’s children, we are given the power to live like Jesus if we are willing.  Since Jesus was willing to sacrifice himself, we need to be willing to do likewise:

John 15:   12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

All too often, I think we think of the gospel according to John as being all about Jesus.  What I hope to do in this ongoing series is to show that what John is doing is showing us the example of Jesus for us to follow.  It isn’t only about Jesus; it’s about all God’s unique sons and daughters.

Click here to read the next installment:
Born Again?


Here are other verses I plan to cover in this series (though not necessarily in this order):

  • John 1:38-39, 14:20, 23, & 17:20-23
  • John 3:2-8, 31-36
  • John 4:34 & 10:9
  • John 5:19-20, 14:12, & 15:12-17
  • John 10:38-39, 1:12, 14:12, & 17:20-23
  • John 14:15, 12:49-50, & 13:34
  • John 17:3 & 12:49-50

1.  For more on the translation of MONOGENES as “unique” instead of only, see:

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