December 26: John 1:14 (continued)

John 1:14, continued

“And the Word came to be flesh
and put down (his) tent among us,
and we looked at his splendor,
splendor as of a monogenh/$
alongside the Father,
full of (His) favor and truth.”

In the previous note, we examined the first two lines of verse 14 (and the final unit of the hymn). The Old Testament and Wisdom tradition, depicting God (and His Wisdom) dwelling among His people, i.e., abiding in a tent-dwelling, is applied to the person of Jesus. In his earthly life, Jesus fulfills the type pattern of the Divine Wisdom (and Word) of God, but in a new way: the Logos of God “comes to be flesh”, and so lives and dwells among the people as a flesh-and-blood human being. In theological terms, this is referred to as the Incarnation, and it relates specifically to the birth of Jesus (his “coming to be”, vb. gi/nomai, cf. the related noun ge/nesi$ in Matt 1:18, etc).

kai\ qeasa/meqa th/n do/ca au)tou=
“and we looked at his splendor”

The next two lines describe the people’s response to Jesus, as they “look at” him (vb qea/omai). This verb is one of a several keywords denoting “sight, vision, perception”; it occurs 6 times in the Gospel of John, and another 3 in the Letters (9 out of 22 NT occurrences). It can mean, specifically, looking closely at something, observing it carefully and intently, sometimes implying that one looks with discernment, or gazes with a sense of wonderment (cf. the related noun qau=ma, “wonder”). All of these aspects of meaning apply to the Johannine usage—especially as it relates to how believers view Jesus.

Several of these references are particularly significant. In Jn 1:32, we have the Baptist’s testimony (cf. verses 6-9, 15 of the Prologue): “I looked at [teqe/amai] the Spirit stepping down as a dove out of heaven, and remaining upon him”. John observes closely the Divine Presence that is upon Jesus, and his seeing is combined with his hearing the voice of God from heaven (verse 33). John the Baptist is the first person who recognizes the truth of who Jesus is (v. 34): “and I have seen and have given witness that this is the Son of God”. This makes John the first of the believers in Christ, part of the “we” subject in verse 14.

In the previous note, I mentioned how the “us” of v. 14 (“…put down his tent among us”) has several different layers of meaning; however, the primary (and ultimate) point of reference, in the Johannine context, is to believers. And that is certainly the primary significance in these couplets as well: “and we looked at…”. The opening words of 1 John (1:1) identify the collective “we” even more precisely with the first generation of believers in Christ:

“Th(at) which was from the beginning–th(at) which we have heard, th(at) which we have seen with our eyes, th(at) which have looked upon [e)qeasa/meqa], and (which) our hands have felt–about the Word [lo/go$] of Life…”

The parallels in thought and wording with the Gospel Prologue are obvious. The uniqueness of the manifestation of God in the incarnate, flesh-and-blood person of Jesus is also emphasized in 1 Jn 4:12-14:

“No one has looked at [teqe/atai] God at any (time); (but) if we love each other, (then) God remains [i.e. dwells/abides in us…
In this we know that we remain in Him, and he in us…
And we have looked at [teqea/meqa] (him) and give witness that the Father has se(n)t forth His Son, (as the) Savior of the world.”

We see the God the Father through the person of Jesus  the Son, when we trust in him.

In the statement here in verse 14, it is made clear that what we “see” as believers is the do/ca of God. The noun do/ca (dóxa) can be rather difficult to translate in English. It essentially refers to what we think about something (or someone), how we consider or regard it. When applied to persons, it often denotes the esteem we have for them—i.e., the “(high) regard”, such as the case may be. When dealing with superiors or important persons, in particular, the meaning of the word is heightened, carrying the sense of “honor, respect,” etc.

In a religious context, this sense is taken even further when applied to God, being extended specifically to cover that which makes Him worthy of our honor and esteem—His divine nature and character, His holiness, power, majesty, etc. When speaking of God, the word do/ca can serve as a shorthand, summary term for everything that distinguishes God from created (human) beings. In such a context, do/ca is typically translated as “glory”, though I have rendered it as “splendor” above. It is often conceived visually through light imagery (cf. verses 4-9).

The main point is that the Logos—specifically, the incarnate Word/Wisdom of God—possesses the do/ca (the honor, splendor, glory) of God Himself (cf. on 1 Jn 4:12-14 above). When believers “look at” the incarnate Logos (Jesus) with the eyes of faith, we see and recognize that he is the very Son, the pre-existent Word/Wisdom of God. This will be discussed further in the next daily note.

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