I would start with Bart’s books, they are simply very basic textual criticism. As I read his books I have not seen any earth shaking revelations about textual criticism.
For example, how would you explain the differences in the bold parts below?
New American Standard Bible (1995)
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
GOD’S WORD® Translation (1995)
No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the one who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known.
King James Bible
No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Bible in Basic English
No man has seen God at any time; the only Son, who is on the breast of the Father, he has made clear what God is.
Weymouth New Testament
No human eye has ever seen God: the only Son, who is in the Father’s bosom–He has made Him known.
World English Bible
No one has seen God at any time. The one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.
First, there are two issues here, one of translation, the other of textual criticism.
The Greek word that is translated as “unique”, “only”, “only begotten”, “one and only” is “monogenēs” (Strong’s G3439)
and it can mean,
Outline of Biblical Usage
- single of its kind, only
a) used of only sons or daughters (viewed in relation to their parents)
b) used of Christ, denotes the only begotten son of God
The textual criticism part that is in dispute is “Son” vs “God”, is he the “only begotten Son” or is he the “only begotten God”?
The Greek word for “Son” is Strong’s Greek for G5207 υἱός Transliteration huios whereas the Greek for “God” is G2316 θεός Transliteration theos.
Bart claims that the reading was a deliberate change from “Son” to “God” by an othodox copist to lend stronger support for the deity of Christ. But, ask yourself in light of “The Logos was God” in John 1:1c was there really a need to produce support for Jesus’ deity? Or is there a simplier reason some texts read “God” when most other texts read “Son”, and as far as I can see all translations like the Latin Vulgate also have “Son”.
What it really boils down too, could a tired monk miscopy υἱός as θεός or misread, huios as theos? Both share the same ending “os” or “ός” Therefore, the two words could sound the same or similar if the reader mis-pronounced a word.
For Bart to make his case, he would have to show us that church father who quotes the mis-copy as a proof for the deity of Christ.
Now here is the catch 22, there are SOME fathers who quoted “Only Begotten God”, but you need to read them in context to see how the text is used, there are also fathers who quoted “Only Begotten Son”. So, some were aware of the variant “only begotten God” while MOST were aware of the reading “only begotten Son”. Do we know those quoting the text as “only begotten Son” were copying scripture from memory or from a text? It is likely, those who used the “only begotten Son” in their quotes were in fact copying from a text in front of them because their quotes were much longer, whereas the others were simply misquoting from memory because they only quoted the phrase, “only begotten God”.
Ask yourself have you ever misquoted scripture from memory? or were having a hard time finding a verse, because you could not think of its exact wording? Did Paul for example praise God for other Christians in his rememberence or did Paul THANK God for other Christians in his memory of them? If you can make a misquote, or not exactly remember the exact reading of a scripture text, then why can’t we give the copyist or church father the same curtiosy of being a falible human being?