The Creed of Chalcedon
Begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead
There is a very important word that the Fathers at Chalcedon and Nicaea insisted upon which comes right out of the favorite passage of many evangelicals. That word in Greek is μονογενης—monogenes—when transliterated into English, and meaning, “only-begotten.” Many contemporary English translations are moving away from this word which fills me with consternation. “Only-begotten” carries meaning that directly affects Christology, that is, the doctrine of Christ.
The word you hear in “only-begotten” is the word, “beget.” You read that word in several places in Scripture where some man begot some son. The meaning is that a man fathered a son. Women birth, men beget. It’s a word that has fallen out of usage today but a very important word in theology. The reason for its importance has to do with nature itself—which God Himself created. A man can only beget a human being. This is because a man is a human being. He cannot beget a dog or a cat. He can make a robot but he cannot make a human being. If a man will have a son or daughter which is of his own nature, he will have to beget a son or daughter. There is no other way. And such is true with all of nature. Dogs beget dogs and cats beget cats and so with the rest of the animal kingdom. I am aware that there may be defects or mutations—usually manmade—but none of this lessens the truth we are discussing: a man can only beget that which he is.
And now we apply this to God—or better see how God has applied this rule to Himself. God can make any number of things—an infinite number of things. But if God will have a son, even He cannot “make” him, according to His own rule. God has set it down that having a son is through “begetting” one, and He has, moreover, decided that this rule should apply to Himself, which is, of course, His decision to make. In other words, if God will have a son, even He must beget that son. And if God begets a son, then what is the nature of that son? I mean, if dogs beget dogs and cats cats, then what does God beget when He begets? And the only possible answer is: God.
And this is why monogenes is so important: It tells us that the Son is what the Father is, that being God. And as God has no beginning or ending but is eternal, then this begetting happened “before all ages,” which is to say, in eternity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2).