After studying the term begotten as used in the New Testament, it is interesting to see the different contexts in which it is used, and how a new life in Christ is related, by use of this word, to a new literal, physical birth. Over and over throughout the Bible, the word begotten is used to describe a natural parental relationship, such as someone being pregnant, and that which she is pregnant with is begotten, and someone having a child, which is their begotten child. The term is also used in some other interesting ways, though, such as when God accepts someone as his child, or someone accepts Jesus as their savior. The use of the same word, usually referring to a new birth and the relationship between the parent and child, shows how a new life in Christ is also like a new birth, and we truly are the children of God.
Most often you see the term begotten referring to a father and child. The child that came from said father would be their begotten child. You can see these types of uses of the word all throughout scripture, both Old Testament and New. Consider Matthew 1:16 “and Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was begotten Jesus, who is named Christ.” (Matthew 1:16 YLT). This comes from a genealogy similar to some that you would find in the Old Testament, especially that of Genesis. You see a form of the word in the beginning with “Jacob begat Joseph”, then you see the form which we are discussing with “the husband of Mary, whom was begotten Jesus, who is named Christ.”. In this, you see the most natural use of the word as both examples in this verse use a form of it to relate a father and son. Jacob is the father of Joseph, hence Joseph is his begotten son. Likewise, Jesus is the son of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and is his begotten son.
One of the other ways this term can be used is in an example where the need to illustrate the conditions in which a person is born is necessary. Rather than it having paternal connotation, it can be used to describe a person’s natural birth into this world into sin, since we are all born with sin nature, as well as being used to describe a second birth in God through the putting of one’s faith in Jesus Christ. The writings of the Apostle John probably include the most uses of the word in this way, and a perfect example can be shown in John 9:34, “”You,” they replied, “were wholly begotten and born in sin, and do *you* teach *us*?” And they put him out of the synagogue” (John 9:34 WEY). Here, the father is not mentioned, and a paternal link is not established, but rather, the term is only used to describe the situation and conditions that the subject was born into. The Pharisees who are speaking, who consider themselves more righteous than the blind man they are speaking to, are doubting the validity of the blind man’s statements about his healing by Jesus by referring to the fact that he was born in sin in a derogatory way. John, who fully understood that accepting Jesus creates a new birth, or causes the recipient of Jesus to be “born again”, hence changing the conditions in which a person is born in, wrote in this manner many times. Consider 1 John 3:9 where he writes, “Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God.” (1 John 3:9). This verse uses the term begotten in a similar way as the verse from the Gospel of John previously mentioned, in that it uses it to describe the conditions in which the person is being born. The first referring to a natural birth where the blind man was being born in sin, as we all are, and the second verse from 1 John referring to the new birth when a person is born again in the Spirit, as described in John 3:3-7, and becomes a child of God.
Most notably, the term begotten is used referring to Jesus as the son of God. Previously I mentioned a verse that refers to Jesus as the begotten son of Joseph, which is true in that he was his earthly son, but Jesus was also the son of God in that he was conceived of the Holy Spirit. This causes the term to be used in new ways, as well as using it in common ways with paternal connotation, but with that connotation referring to God the father, rather than a human father. In Acts 13:33, in reference to Psalm 2:7, it is written, “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” (Acts 13:33 KJV), and the New International Version translates the last part in this way “You are my son; today I have become your Father.”. This obviously does not refer to a natural birth, like how it is usually used, but rather, emphasizes that God the Father chooses for himself a son. When someone is born in the Spirit, they become a child of God, hence, the same term “begotten” can be used to describe, not sonship to an earthly father as in a natural birth, but sonship to God.
Begotten can be used in a situation in which someone is pregnant in the same way that it is when a person is born, because the unborn child is begotten of the father in the same way. Likewise, just as the paternal use of the word can be used to describe sonship to God, the word is also used during Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus to show his sonship to God. Like mentioned above, Joseph was the earthly father of Jesus, and as such Jesus was his begotten son, but also Jesus was the son of God. This is described before his birth in Matthew when it is said, “but while he pondered on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, fear not to take to thee Mary, thy wife, for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20 YLT). So not only does sonship to God happen during a new birth in the Spirit, but for Jesus, who was conceived of the Spirit, the paternal connotation goes to God, in the form of the Spirit, before he is even born his natural birth as a baby. This, however, is a very exclusive use and reserved only for Jesus. We are all born naturally in sin, and can be born again as a child of God through the Spirit, but only Jesus was born sinless and conceived of the Spirit.
In every sense of the word, begotten refers to the relationship between parent and child, and in the Bible it is usually referring to father and son, whether born or unborn. A study of the word as used in the New Testament, however, shows how it can be used in different ways to illustrate a new birth in Christ, when one becomes a child of God. It is very interesting to note the ways in which the word is used, and helps us to more appropriately understand the relationship between God and his son Jesus, the relationship that God desires to have with us, and how we can be reconciled to him as our Father when we are born again in Christ.