December 23: John 1:11-12a

John 1:11

“He came unto (his) own (thing)s,
and his own (people) did not take him along.”

This couplet follows the tricolon of verse 10 (discussed in the previous note). It continues the framework of that triad: “he was in the world…the world did not know him”, but with the concept of the “world” (ko/smo$) now narrowed to the land and people of Israel. Let us consider the parallel:

    • “he was in the world” (v. 10)
      e)n tw=| ko/smw| h@n
    • “he came unto (his) own” (v. 11)
      ei)$ ta\ i&dia h@lqen

The structure of each statement is identical: a locative prepositional phrase followed by the verb. The prepositional expressions are comparable in meaning, and suggest a development, a narrowing of focus: being “in the world” => coming “into his own (place)”. The use of the personal adjective i&dio$, pertaining to self, has a dual meaning in context: (1) it refers to the place of God’s own people (i.e., Israel as the people of God), and (2) it refers to the place of Jesus’ people (i.e., the place where he lived and worked). The plural adjective is neuter (ta\ i&dia), lit. “(his) own (thing)s”; however, as a reference to a person’s belongings, the expression can signify a “household” or “home” —i.e., the place/area where a person lives. This same sort of wording occurs in the famous saying of the boy Jesus in Luke 2:49, referring to “the (thing)s of my Father” (i.e., God’s household, the things belonging to Him).

In the next line, the adjective is repeated, but as a masculine plural, indicating that it refers to “men” (i.e. people)—oi( i&dioi, “(his) own (one)s,” “(his) own (people)”. Again, there is a sense of progression: the Logos come into his own place (homeland), and proceeds to encounter his own people (those who live there). On the motif of the divine Wisdom seeking to find a dwelling place on earth among human beings (and the people Israel), cf. the discussion in the previous note. 1 Enoch 42:2 describes how Wisdom failed to find a suitable dwelling among the people, reflecting the traditional idea of humankind (the majority of the population) rejecting the Wisdom of God. The verb used here in v. 11 is paralamba/nw, “take/receive along(side)”, in the sense of welcoming a traveler or neighbor, involving the traditional custom and ideal of hospitality. In the Gospel context, of course, this has the deeper meaning of accepting Jesus, and trusting in him as the Son of God. The progression in vv. 10-11 is leading toward the specific idea of the Logos coming to be born as a human being (v. 14).

John 1:12a

“But, as many (people) as did receive him,
he gave them (the) ability to become (the) offspring of God.”

This couplet builds upon the one prior (v. 11), and probably should be read as a related compound clause in the poetic context:

“He came unto (his) own (thing)s,
and his own (people) did not take him along;
but, as many (people) as did take him (along),
he gave them (the) ability to become (the) offspring of God.”

Clearly, the idea of Israel as the people of God is implicit here, including the specific motif of being “sons [i.e. children] of God”. Of the Old Testament passages referring (or alluding) to Israel as God’s “son”, cf. Exod 4:22-23; Deut 32:6, 19; Hos 1:10 [2:1]; 11:1; Isa 43:6; Jer 31:9. In Wisdom literature, this is given a more pronounced ethical and religious emphasis, referring to the righteous, i.e., those who are wise and embrace the Wisdom of God, as being His true children (cf. Wisd 2:16-18; Sirach 4:10, etc). This provides further confirmation for the influence of Wisdom tradition on the Prologue-hymn, especially the Hellenistic Jewish line of tradition that has blended the personified Wisdom with the Logos-concept from Greek philosophy and theology. Those in Israel who accept the Logos are those very same people who accept the Divine Wisdom. Needless to say, from the early Christian perspective, this also means that they would come to trust in Jesus, accepting his identity as the Son and Word/Wisdom of God. It is likely that the Gospel writer would consider anyone who refused to accept Jesus as having rejected Wisdom, in the true sense, as well.

The verb lamba/nw (“take, receive”) is the same root verb as in the compound paralamba/nw (“take/receive alongside,” v. 11), and has precisely the same meaning in context—i.e., it refers to the people who did take/receive the Logos alongside. The correlative pronoun o%so$ confirms the point made in v. 11, that many people refused/rejected the Logos; however, the promise that follows in v. 12 applies to everyone who did accept him. The basic meaning of the pronoun is “as (many) as”, i.e., “every(one) who…” . And the promise refers to that which is described in the developed Wisdom tradition (cf. above)—viz., that they will be regarded as the children of God.

The specific expression here in the Prologue is “(the) offspring of God” (te/kna qeou=), with the noun te/kna being a plural of the neuter te/knon, which signifies something that is produced or “brought forth” (vb ti/ktw). It is often used specifically for the birth of a child (i.e., “brought forth” from the mother’s womb). Interestingly, the Johannine writings always use te/knon when speaking of believers (as children of God), reserving the noun ui(o/$ (“son”) for the person of Jesus; by comparison, other New Testament writings occasionally refer to believers as “sons [ui(oi/] of God”.

Because of the importance of this concept within the Johannine theology, we shall devote a more detailed discussion for the next daily note (Christmas Eve), where v. 12a will be studied in the context of the expository statement that follows in vv. 12b-13.

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