February 21: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

[These notes are part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”; the previous note continued the discussion on verse 18; for an overview of the passage, cf. the main article.]

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Returning from the discourse in 3:7-18 to his main line of argument, Paul picks up at 4:1-2 from where he left off (in 3:6a). He returns to his primary discussion of the apostolic ministry, and of his relationship (as an apostle) to the Corinthian believers. He defends the boldness with which he speaks, and of his personal integrity as a minister. Unlike some of his apostolic rivals (so it is implied), Paul claims to preach the Gospel openly and honestly, not promoting himself (and his own interests), but rather working always in the service of God and for the good of those to whom he ministers (v. 5).

In verse 3, however, he folds back into the discussion some of the key themes and motifs introduced in the discourse. He utilizes again the motif of the “covering” (ka/lumma, vb kalu/ptw) from the Moses tradition (Exod 34:29-35); previously, it was applied to the Israelite/Jewish people, those who remained self-bound under the old covenant, not realizing that the old covenant has come to an end in the person of Christ. Now, he extends the metaphor to all people, adapting it to the earlier language of 2:15:

“But if, indeed, our good message is covered [kekalumme/non], it is covered in/among the (one)s perishing [a)pollume/noi$]” (4:3)

The “covering” motif is thus applied now to everyone who is unwilling (or unable) to accept the Gospel of Christ. All of humankind is under bondage to the power of sin (and death)—a point Paul expounds in some detail in Romans—and, thus, they are perishing. Only through acceptance of the Gospel and trusting in Jesus Christ, are people saved from perishing. This bondage is implied by Paul’s reference in verse 4 to “the god of this age” (o( qeo\$ tou= ai)w=no$)—cf. also 1 Cor 2:6ff; Gal 1:4; cp. John 12:31; 14:30; 1 Jn 5:19. The language reflects the eschatological dualism of early Christians, which was typical of the period and similar, in many respects, to what we find in the Qumran texts.

Unbelievers are literally those “without trust” (a&pisto$); God has allowed them to remain “blinded” by the world’s covering, the purpose of which is:

“…(so) as not to beam (forth) the (en)lightenment of the good message of the splendor of the Anointed…”

This simply means that the covering (that blinds the unbelievers) does not allow them to see the shining light of the Gospel. Three different words are used here related to the specific idiom of seeing (cf. the discussion on 3:18 in the previous two notes):

    • au)ga/zw—this verb denotes rays of (sun)light (sing. au)gh/) beaming forth, sometimes referring specifically to the sunrise at dawn (i.e., light shining through the darkness); the verb au)ge/w refers more simply to the shining of light, while au)ga/zw includes the idea of the illumination that comes from the radiating light, allowing people to see clearly.
    • fwtismo/$—derived from fw=$ (“light”) and the verb fwti/zw (“give light”), this noun refers specifically to the “illumination” that comes from the light; the translation “enlightenment” is accurate enough, and conveys the important noetic aspect of the light/seeing motif.
    • do/ca—in the context of the Sinai theophany and the Moses tradition, this noun (properly, “esteem, honor”) is best rendered “splendor,” or (more commonly) “glory,” as also in 3:18 (cp. its use in vv. 7-11); the Divine splendor is often understood (and visualized) in terms of a shining aura of brilliant light.

Paul uses a chain of genitives, but the main expression is “the (en)lightenment of the good message” (to\ fwtismo\$ tou= eu)agge/liou)—that is to say, the Gospel brings light (vb au)ga/zw) and enlightenment (fwtismo/$) to the person who receives it. The qualifying genitives that follow (“of the splendor of the Anointed”) can be understood two ways: (1) as a simple objective genitive (or genitive of content), referring to the content of the Gospel; or (2) as what we might call a genitive of destination. In the first instance, the Gospel message is fundamentally about the splendor of Christ—his death and resurrection, exaltation, and divine status/position as Son of God, etc. In the second instance, the Gospel leads the believer to the splendor of Christ (cp. the expression “way of salvation,” etc).

Both ways of reading the expression are valid; however, the idea of removing the covering, along with the tradition of Moses entering the Tent of Meeting (or the rock on mount Sinai) to encounter God, strongly suggests that, upon receiving the Gospel, believers are led/brought into an encounter with the “splendor of God,” which we experience through the “splendor of Christ.”

Indeed, Paul goes on to declare that the Anointed (Christ) is “(the) image [ei)kw/n] of God”, much as he does in Colossians 1:15 (cf. also Romans 8:29). This helps to explain what he means by the expression “the same image” in 3:18 (cf. the previous notes). As the very “image” of God, it stands to reason that Christ would display the same glory. This is expounded in more detail, further developing the light motif (and its association with Jesus), in verse 6:

“For (it is) God, the (One hav)ing said ‘Out of (the) darkness light shall shine,’ who shone (light) in our hearts toward (the en)lightenment of the knowledge of the splendor of God in (the) face of [Yeshua] (the) Anointed.”

To the three light-terms listed above, Paul here adds the verb la/mpw (“shine”), which has more or less the same meaning as au)ga/zw above. Indeed, the two constructions are similar, with comparable chains of genitives. Here in verse 6, the noun gnw=si$ (“knowledge”) holds the same place as eu)agge/lion (“good message,” Gospel) in v. 4. Because of this, many commentators would treat gnw=si$ here as synonymous with eu)agge/lion. In my view, this is incorrect. The parallelism in v. 6 is meant to convey a deeper level of meaning, which may be illustrated as follows:

    • Through the minister (as God’s) servant
      • the Gospel shines forth [vb au)ga/zw] light
        • which leads the believer =>
          • to the splendor of Christ
    • Through the action of God Himself
      • the Knowledge shines forth [la/mpw] light
        • which leads the believer =>
          • to the splendor of God

This Knowledge (gnw=si$) goes beyond the Gospel message, to the believer’s encounter with the image/face of Christ within, in the ‘heart’, at the level of the Spirit. This relates to the question posed in the previous note: how do believers “see” God, when the encounter takes place spiritually, inwardly and invisibly, through Spirit? A key to the answer is found in two details Paul introduces here at the conclusion of the passage: (1) the word gnw=si$ (“knowledge”), and (2) the motif of the “face” (pro/swpon). I will discuss the significance of these in the next daily note.

February 20: 2 Corinthians 3:18 (concluded)

[These notes are part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”; the previous note continued the discussion on verse 18; for an overview of the passage, cf. the main article.]

2 Corinthians 3:18, continued

“And we all, with uncovered face, the splendor of (the) Lord (behold)ing in a looking-glass, are transformed (into) the same image, from splendor to splendor, even as from (the) Lord (the) Spirit.”

An important question, touched on briefly in the previous note, is exactly what it means for believers to “see” the glory of God. This is important for an understanding of Paul’s spiritualism, at least as it is expressed in the current passage. If our encounter with God is spiritual, taking place at the level of the Spirit, what is the significance of the motifs of “image” (ei)kw/n) and “form” (morfh/) that Paul uses, implying a visible or physical/material shape? Before addressing this in more detail, let us proceed with an examination of the final phrases of the verse.

“from splendor to splendor”
(a)po\ do/ch$ ei)$ do/can)

This compound prepositional phrase qualifies the main statement “we are transformed (into) the same image” (cf. the discussion in the previous note). This transformation (vb metamorfo/w) takes place “from” (a)po/) glory and “into/unto” (ei)$) glory. How should we understand the two occurrences of “glory” (do/ca) as they relate to each other?

1. One possibility is that Paul is furthering the contrast between the lesser glory of the old covenant and the far greater glory of the new covenant. This is certainly the context for how the word do/ca is used in verses 7-11, and follows the overall theme of the discourse. If the preposition a)po/ is used here in the sense of “away from”, then there would be little question that the fundamental idea was of believers moving away from the fading glory of the old covenant, and into the new glory found in Christ.

2. Another option is that the phrase emphasizes the continual (and progressive) process of transformation that takes place for believers in Christ. The verbal forms katoptrizo/menoi (“[behold]ing in a looking-glass”) and metamorphou/meqa (“we are [being] transformed”) are present forms, meaning they refer to actions (or conditions) that are currently taking place, and/or are ongoing.

3. A third possibility relates to both the concept of looking into a mirror and of being transformed. As we (believers) are transformed into the image reflected in the mirror, we shift from God’s glory (that we are beholding) to our glory (into which we are transformed). There are a number of places where Paul specifically refers to the glory of believers, though usually in relation to the promise of our future resurrectionRom 5:2; 8:18-25; 1 Cor 15:40-43; 2 Cor 4:17; Col 1:27; 3:4; cf. also 1 Cor 2:7. The image that we behold, and into which we are transformed, is, of course, Christ’s image—it is his glory that allows for us to partake in God’s glory; cf. Rom 8:29; 2 Thess 2:14.

4. Finally, one may understand the phrase primarily in a Christological sense. That is to say, we first encounter God’s glory through the glory of Christ, who is the image and reflection (as Son) of God the Father (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15; Rom 8:29). Thus, we proceed from the glory of Christ to the glory of God.

“even as from (the) Lord (the) Spirit”
(kaqa/per a)po\ kuri/ou pneu/mato$)

In my view, this final phrase is epexegetical; that is to say, it further explains the prior phrase. This is indicated by the use of the comparative particle kaqa/per, “very (much) as, just as, even as”. It also would seem to be confirmed by the parallel with the preposition a)po/:

    • “from splendor…” (a)po\ do/ch$…)
      “from (the) Lord…” (a)po\ kuri/ou…)

The double genitive expression kuri/ou pneu/mato$ is itself problematic. Does it represent a genitival chain, or are the nouns kur/io$ (“Lord”) and pneu=ma (“Spirit”) in apposition, both being governed by the same preposition (a)po/)? In the first instance, the phrase would be “from (the) Lord of (the) Spirit,” or “from (the) Spirit of (the) Lord,” which would match the expression in v. 17b. In the second instance, the phrase could be filled out two ways:

    • “from (the) Lord, (the) Spirit” or
    • “from (the) Lord (who is the) Spirit”

This corresponds with the statement in v. 17a, and it is to be preferred, I think. However, in my translation above, I have rendered the phrase quite literally (and flatly) as “from (the) Lord (the) Spirit”. Paul, indeed, may be attempting to combine both expressions of verse 17, relating (and identifying) “the Lord” with “the Spirit”.

In any case, the juxtaposition of the two prepositional phrases makes clear that our transformation “into glory” occurs through the Spirit. If Paul primarily has the future resurrection in mind (cf. above), then Romans 8:11 may provide a suitable parallel to his thought here:

“And if the Spirit of the (One hav)ing raised Yeshua out of the dead dwells in you, the (One hav)ing raised (the) Anointed out of the dead also will make alive your dying bodies through His Spirit dwelling in you.”

However, I do not think that the spiritual transformation described in 2 Cor 3:18 can be limited to the future resurrection. Indeed, it is possible that the two occurrences of do/ca in the prior phrase (cf. above) could be understood as a contrast between the present glory and our future glory. Both are realized through the Spirit, but the present glory is experienced inwardly, in an invisible and immaterial manner within the body. Only with the future glory (of the resurrection) will our visible/material bodies finally be transformed by the Spirit.

This brings us to the question posed at the beginning of this note: what is the manner of our “seeing” God’s glory that brings about our transformation? In what way do we “see” that which invisible, when our encounter with God takes place in and through the invisible Spirit?

To begin with, as partial answer, it is to be emphasized that the “image” (ei)kw/n) that we behold in the mirror is the image of Jesus Christ, who, as mentioned above, is the image of God. Paul states this explicitly further on at 4:4 (cp. Col 1:15). The noun ei)kw/n occurs seven other times in Paul’s letters. In Rom 1:23, there is a negative (religious) contrast between the glory (do/ca) of God and idolatrous images made by human beings (cp. Wisd 13:16; 14:15ff; 15:5). The other six references are more relevant to our passage, where the word ei)kw/n is used in two specific contexts:

Based on Col 3:10, Paul seems to understand the Gen 1:26-27 tradition primarily in a noetic sense, in terms of the mind—knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. This line of interpretation is typical of the philosophical strands of Hellenistic Judaism, represented most notably in the writings of Philo of Alexandria and the deutero-canonical Book of Wisdom (e.g., 2:23; 7:26). Elsewhere, in Old Testament and Jewish tradition, the Divine Wisdom is identified specifically with the Spirit, as the source of our human reasoning and wisdom (cf. especially Job 32:8; Wisdom 7:7, 22; 9:17).

As previously noted, the only other use of the verb metamorfo/w by Paul is in Romans 12:2, where the transformation of believers takes place through “the renewing [a)nakai/nwsi$] of the mind [nou=$]”. This suggests that our ‘seeing’ in 2 Cor 3:18 should be understood in terms of knowledge (knowing), the way we think and perceive things internally. This aspect of Paul’s spiritualism corresponds with the noetic spiritualism of Philo, for example. But what is it that we come to know, and how does it relate to our experience of God through the Spirit? We will pick up this discussion in the next daily note, as we extend our exegetical study, beyond the discourse of vv. 7-18, to the continuation of Paul’s argument in 4:1-6.

February 17: 2 Corinthians 3:18 (continued)

[These notes are part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”; the previous note continued the discussion on verse 18; for an overview of the passage, cf. the main article.]

2 Corinthians 3:18, continued

“And we all, with uncovered face, the splendor of (the) Lord (behold)ing in a looking-glass, are transformed (into) the same image, from splendor to splendor, even as from (the) Lord (the) Spirit.”

In dealing with Paul’s use of the rare verb katoptri/zw (discussed in the previous note), I mentioned how the verb is typically used (as it is here) in the reflexive middle voice (katoptri/zomai), where it would mean “behold oneself in a mirror”. Thus, the implication is that we, as believers, see ourselves in the mirror. Paul may, indeed, have something of this in mind, in terms of the transformation of believers (cf. below)—that is, we see ourselves being transformed. At the same time, both the syntax of the verse, and the context of the Moses tradition (Exod 34), clearly indicate that Paul is primarily referring to believers seeing God.

It is possible to explain—and essentially harmonize—both aspects of the mirror-motif, once we understand that the mirror (ka/toptron) here is to be identified with the person of Jesus Christ. To see how Paul expresses and develops this idea, let us continue our exegesis of the verse.

“the same image”
(th\n au)th\n ei)ko/na)

Syntactically, the expression “the same image” is the predicate object of the verb that follows (metamorfo/w, discussed below), preceding it in the clause. However, it also relates to the prior verb (katoptri/zomai), indicating what it is that believers see in the mirror. Given the basic idea of looking into a mirror, we might well assume that this “self(-same)” (au)to/$) image refers, indeed, to the reflected image of ourselves—i.e., our own reflection. But, again, in light of the theological context of beholding God—His glory—the situation is clearly more complicated. Paul here only implies what he states more explicitly further on at 4:4—that Christ “is the image [ei)kw/n] of God” (cf. also Col 1:15). Thus, it is Christ’s image that we see, and it only corresponds to our own reflection as we are transformed into his image.

There is no doubt that “the same image” that we are transformed into, is parallel—and essentially synonymous—with the earlier predicate “the splendor [do/ca] of the Lord”. If Christ is the image of God, then it stands to reason that he reflects God’s glory. Again, Paul makes this more explicit at the close of the section, speaking of the “splendor [do/ca] of Christ” in 4:4, and of the “splendor of God” being present “in the face of [Jesus] Christ” (4:6). Cf. also 8:23; 2 Thess 2:14; 1 Cor 2:8; Col 1:27.

“we are (being) transformed”

This is the main verb of the verse, with the central clause thus being: “we are transformed (into) the same image”. The verb is metamorfo/w, a compound of the base verb morfo/w (“form, shape,” derived from morfh/), with a prefixed preposition (meta/, in the sense of “after, across”) implying a change or shift from one form/shape to another. The English word “transform” is a concise and accurate translation.

There are only three other occurrences of the verb in the New Testament, two of which are in the Synoptic Transfiguration episode (Mark 9:2; par Matt 17:2). In that instance, it is a change to the visible/physical appearance and form (morfh/) that is involved. However, as with the verb “transform” in English, metamorfo/w can be used in a more abstract and figurative sense, referring to a change that takes place within a person, that is not visible. One can speak of a moral/ethical transformation, for example, and so philosophers might utilize metamorfo/w (or the related noun metamo/rfwsi$) in this way. This is essentially how Paul uses the verb in Rom 12:2, locating transformation in the mind (nou=$). Interestingly, even though Philo shares with Paul the idea of personal transformation through seeing/beholding God, he does not use the verb metamorfo/w in this noetic and ethical-religious sense (cp. Life of Moses I.57; On the Special Laws IV.147, etc).

Elsewhere in his writings, Paul makes use of the comparable verb summorfo/w (or summorfi/zw), meaning “conform”, to have or share a similar form with another. In Phil 3:10, Paul refers specifically to believers “being conformed” to the death of Jesus, one of several key passages where he expresses the idea of our participation in the death (and resurrection) of Christ. The related adjective su/mmorfo$ is used in Phil 3:21, and also in Rom 8:29; the latter reference is particularly relevant for an understanding of Paul’s thought here in 2 Cor 3:18:

“…for, th(ose) whom He knew beforehand, He also marked out beforehand, (to be) conformed [summo/rfou$] (to) the image of His Son”

The destiny of believers in Christ is to share the same form (morfh/) and image (ei)kw/n) with him, which requires a transformation. The verb metamorfo/w emphasizes the change, while summorfo/w focuses on our likeness to the image (into which we are changed).

An interesting point here is that, though Paul is clearly stressing the spiritual nature of our encounter with God—in this new covenant of the Spirit—he also utilizes the terms morfh/ and ei)kw/n, implying a visible/physical shape, as well as the specific idiom of seeing. We may thus ask what it means for believers to ‘see’ the glory of God through the mirror of Christ. This we will explore in the next daily note, the concluding note on 2 Cor 3:18.


December 28: John 1:14 (continued)

John 1:14, continued

Today’s note will focus specifically on the use of the adjective monogenh/$ in the second couplet of verse 14 (cf. the previous note):

“and we looked at his splendor,
splendor as of a monogenh/$

Since this adjective describes the nature of the do/ca (honor/splendor/glory) possessed by the Logos, and its relation to the do/ca of God Himself, it is important to define its meaning here as precisely as possible. I have left the word untranslated above, pending the study that follows below.

The adjective monogenh/$ is a compound, of the adjective mo/no$ (“one, single, alone, only”) and the noun ge/no$. The latter word is derived from the verb of becoming (gi/nomai, “come to be”), used a number of times in the Prologue, including here in verse 14: “the Word came to be [e)ge/neto] flesh”. As previously noted, the verb gi/nomai can connote a birth (i.e., coming to be born), though often the intended meaning is more general; the related verb genna/w is more precise in meaning “come to be born”.

A literal translation of monogenh/$ would be somthing like “(the) only (one who) comes to be”. It is often used to refer to an “only child“, emphasizing the birth aspect (cf. above). That is the meaning, for example, in the other New Testament occurrences (outside of the Gospel and Letters of John)—Lk 7:12; 8:42; 9:38; Heb 11:17; cf. also Judg 11:34 in the LXX (where it occurs 14 times). However, it can also carry the more general meaning of “only (one of its) kind”, “one of a kind”, i.e., unique.

Since, in the other Johannine occurrences (1:18 [v.l.]; 3:16, 18; 1 Jn 4:9), monogenh/$ always modifies the noun “son” (ui(o/$), we can be fairly certain of the same point of reference here—that is, the adjective serves as a shorthand for “only Son” (monogenh\$ ui(o/$). With this context in mind, we may thus translate accordingly:

“and we looked at his splendor,
splendor as of an only (Son)

The idea of Sonship is still only implied, since the specific word ui(o/$ (“son”) does not occur until verse 18 (and even there the text is disputed). However, it is clear that the emphasis in the Prologue is shifting from the concept of the Logos (the Word/Wisdom) of God to that of the Son.

Let us now add to this portrait the remainder of verse 14:

“and we looked at his splendor,
splendor as of an only (Son)
(from) alongside the Father,
full of (His) favor and truth.”

In terms of the rhythm of the Greek, it may be better to include the words para\ patro/$ (“alongside [the] Father”) with the prior line:

“and we looked at his splendor,
splendor as of an only (Son) alongside (the) Father,
full of (His) favor and truth.”
kai\ e)qeasa/meqa th\n doca/n au)tou=
do/can w($ monogenh\$ para\ patro/$
plh/rh$ xa/rito$ kai\ a)lhqei/a$

The Logos is thus depicted as the “only Son” of God, who is present “alongside” (para/) the Father. In verse 1, this sense of closeness to God (and the Divine Presence) was expressed by the preposition pro/$ (“toward”); however, elsewhere in the Gospel of John, para/ is used (by Jesus) for this purpose (6:46; 7:29; 8:26, 38, 40; 10:18; 15:15). In those references, para/ also carries the specific meaning of coming from God (15:26; 16:27-28, etc).

Most notably, we have the majestic statement of Jesus in 17:5, where his exaltation (following his death and resurrection) is anticipated, an exaltation (vb doca/zw, “give honor”) that involves the Son’s return to the exalted place he held at God’s side in the beginning. This honor/splendor (do/ca) is specifically said to be “alongside” (para/) God. We find comparable wording in 5:44.

Thus the pre-existent Son of God has an exalted place alongside God the Father, and shares in the do/ca of God. This is the same place held by the pre-existent Logos (vv. 1-2), the Son and Logos essentially referring to the same Divine figure. Ultimately, the dual designation is identified with the person of Jesus—as the incarnate Son and Logos. The participation of the Son in the splendor of God is further explained by the concluding line of verse 14:

plh/rh$ xa/rito$ kai\ a)lhqei/a$
“full of (His) favor and truth”

The Greek reads simply “full of favor and truth”; however, the clear implication is that it is God’s favor, and the Divine truth (the truth of God) that is in view. From the standpoint of the Johannine theology, we may safely interpret the line as a reference to the Spirit of God—that is, His own life-giving Spirit that the Father gives to the Son (3:34-35), thus showing favor (xa/ri$) to him. On the identification of the Spirit with the truth (a)lh/qeia) of God, cf. 4:23-24; 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 Jn 4:6, and (especially) 5:6: “the Spirit is the Truth”. Because the Son is filled with the Spirit, he is able to communicate and give it to others (1:33; 6:63; 7:37-39; 15:26, etc; 19:30; 20:22).

December 27: John 1:14 (continued)

John 1:14, continued

“and we looked at his splendor,
splendor as of a monogenh/$

At the close of the previous note, the point was made that the do/ca (“honor, splendor, glory”) of the incarnate Logos, which believers behold (“look at,” vb qea/omai), is the very do/ca of God Himself. Yet it is clearly something which the Logos possesses, and thus may also be referred to as the “glory of the Logos” or the “glory of Christ”. To gain a better sense of this dynamic, from the standpoint of the Johannine theology (and Christology), it is worth surveying the usage of the noun do/ca elsewhere in the Johannine writings.

As it happens, the noun occurs 18 times in the Gospel, but not at all in the Letters, which is curious. There are also 17 occurrences in the book of Revelation, but even when including these, it becomes clear that do/ca is not an especially distinctive Johannine term, in comparison with the overall usage in the New Testament (165 occurrences). However, the occurrences in the Johannine Discourses (of Jesus) are significant. They are nearly all found in the first half of the Gospel, the so-called ‘Book of Signs’, and the first instance in 2:11 establishes the point of reference, in terms of the meaning and theological significance of do/ca:

“This Yeshua did in Kânâ of the Galîl (as the) beginning of the signs, and made his splendor [do/ca] shine forth, and his learners [i.e. disciples] trusted in him.”

Through the miracles, and other signs, performed by Jesus (of which the miracle at Cana was the first), he made the Divine do/ca “shine forth”. It was the first clear indication that God was manifest in the person of Jesus, and his followers began to trust in him. In the final, climactic miracle of his ministry (the raising of Lazarus), the do/ca of God again shines forth, and the people behold it (11:4, 40).

In 5:44, we see the opposite illustrated—a lack of trust by people who had witnessed a sign (the healing miracle in chapter 5). This lack of trust is revealed in terms of active opposition, for which Jesus has harsh words of rebuke:

“I have come in the name of my Father, and (yet) you do not receive me [cf. 1:10ff], but if another (person) should come in his own name, that (one) you will receive. How can you (ever) be able to trust, receiving (the) honor [do/ca] (that comes from) alongside others, and (yet) you do not seek (the) honor [do/ca] (that comes from) alongside God?” (vv. 43-44)

Much the same point is made by Jesus in 7:18. By way of contrast with the unbelieving populace, Jesus stresses how he does seek the honor/splendor of God; as the faithful Son, Jesus honors the Father. Note how he states this in 8:50ff:

“I do not seek my own honor [do/ca]…
if I honor [vb doca/zw] myself, my honor is nothing; my Father is the (One) honoring me, of whom you say that ‘He is our God,’ and (yet) you have not known Him—but I have known Him” (vv. 51, 54-55a)

At the close of the ‘Book of Signs’, the Gospel writer summarizes the lack of faith among the populace in wording similar to 5:44 (cf. above): “they loved the honor of men much over [i.e. more than] the honor of God” (12:43). And it is clear from the reference in 12:41 (the allusion to Isa 6:1ff) that the do/ca manifest in the person of Jesus is the do/ca of God Himself.

The noun do/ca occurs again three times in the great Prayer-Discourse of chapter 17. The first instance is in the opening section of the prayer, v. 5, expressed with a Christological emphasis that could almost have come from the Prologue-hymn:

“And, now, may you honor [vb doca/zw] me, Father, with the honor [do/ca] (from) alongside your (own) self, which I held, before the being [i.e. creation] of the world, alongside you.”

This statement reflects the pre-existence theme of the Christ hymns (cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; Heb 1:2b-4), whereby the exaltation of Jesus, following his death and resurrection, effectively mirrors the exalted state he had (as the pre-existent Son of God) at the beginning. Here, however, within the more developed Johannine Christology, this aspect is even more pronounced. The pre-existent Deity of Jesus, as the Son and the Word/Wisdom (Logos) of God, is given special emphasis.

The final two occurrences of the noun do/ca are distinctively Johannine. At the close of the Prayer-Discourse, Jesus returns to the do/ca-theme of verse 5, only now believers are included in the promise of exaltation and glorification (cf. verses 12-13 of the Prologue):

“And I have given to the them the honor/splendor [do/ca] which you have given to me, (so) that they should be one, even as we (are) one. ….
Father, (for) that which you have given to me, I wish that, where(ever) I am, they also would be with me, (so) that they might look at my splendor [do/ca] which you have given to me, (in) that you loved me before the casting down [i.e. foundation/creation] of the world.” (vv. 22, 24)

This brief survey should, I think, give us some added insight regarding the meaning and significance of the word do/ca as it occurs in verse 14 of the Prologue. It is the do/ca (honor/splendor/glory) of God the Father, manifest in the person of Jesus, the incarnate Logos. The next line in v. 14, however, provides a clearer picture as to the nature of this relationship, and how it is that Jesus and God the Father share the same do/ca. It hinges on an accurate interpretation of the adjective monogenh/$. Because of the difficulty and sensitivity involved in explaining (and translating) this term, it is best to devote a separate note (the next daily note) for this task.

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.

December 2: Hebrews 1:3 (3a)

Hebrews 1:3

Verse 3 contains the third (and most complex) of the three relative clauses in vv. 2b-3 (cf. the discussion in the previous note), and represents what may be considered the start of the ‘hymn’ proper. Syntactically, the initial relative pronoun (o%$) in v. 3 governs the entirety of vv. 3-4, a complex sequence of four participial clauses:

    • o%$ (“who”)
      • w&n a)pau/gasma… (“being [the] beam [shining] forth…”) [3a]
      • fe/rwn ta\ pa/nta… (“bearing all [thing]s…”) [3b]
      • kaqarismo/n poihsa/meno$… (“[hav]ing made cleansing…”) [3c]
      • tosou/tw| krei/ttwn geno/meno$(“[hav]ing come to be so much stronger…”) [4]

The first two participles are present-tense, the last two are aorist (past-tense). There is a definite (and multifaceted) parallelism to this structure, with the outer clauses emphasizing being (who the Son is), and the inner clauses doing (what the Son has done). Moreover, the first two clauses attest to a pre-existence Christology, while the last two clauses highlight the more traditional exaltation aspect. The complexity of this structure, strongly suggests that, if an earlier hymnic statement was used by the author, it was heavily adapted, shaped according to the distinctive language and thematic emphasis characteristic of Hebrews.

Today’s note (and the following) will focus on the first two participial clauses (v. 3ab) and the pre-existence aspect of the hymn.

    • (the Son) “who” (o%$)
      • being…” (w&n) [3a]
        • “…a beam (shining) forth of the splendor (of God)”
          a)pau/gasma th=$ do/ch$
        • “…an engraving of th(at which) stands under Him”
          xarakth\r th=$ u(posta/sew$ au)tou=
      • “and bearing all (thing)s by the word of his power” (fe/rwn te ta\ pa/nta tw=| r(h/mati th=$ duna/mew$ au)tou=) [3b]
Verse 3a

w&n a)pau/gasma th=$ do/ch$ kai\ xarakth\r th=$ u(posta/sew$ au)tou=
“being a beam (shining) forth of the splendor (of God), and an engraving of th(at which) stands under Him”

The wording of this clause draws heavily upon Hellenistic Jewish philosophical language and Wisdom tradition. This may indicate that v. 3 is only patterned after a 1st-century hymnic statement, and not a quotation of an actual hymn-fragment, the traditional confessional/kerygmatic phrasing (cf. Rom 1:3-4) being reformulated in more sophisticated terms.

The predicate of the statement in v. 3a consists of a pair of genitival phrases, which need to be examined in some detail.

1. a)pau/gasma th=$ do/ch$—The noun a)pau/gasma (occurring only here in the New Testament) literally refers to a beam or ray [of light] (au&gasma) coming out from (a)po/) a source. Here is another indication that the author is drawing upon Wisdom traditions, since in Wis 7:26 the Divine Wisdom (Sofi/a) is said to be an a)pau/gasma “of the splendor of the All-mighty” (cf. also Philo of Alexandria, On the Creation §146; cp. On the Work of Planting §50; On Dreams 1.72; On the Special Laws IV.123b, etc). As is typically the case, the word do/ca (“esteem”), when used of God, refers to that which makes Him worthy of our esteem and honor, expressed in a visual manner as an overriding greatness or splendor. It can also refer to the divine/heavenly state, in which God Himself dwells. To say that the Son is an a)pau/gasma means that he (himself) is a manifestation of the very glory of God, and that the ray of light he possesses, or embodies, comes from the same Divine source.

2. xarakth\r th=$ u(posta/sew$ au)tou=—The noun xarakth/r, here parallel with a)pau/gasma, literally means “engraving” or “imprint”, something cut or stamped into a surface. Sometimes the related motif of a seal (sfra/gi$) is employed, to express the idea of a Divine image (ei)kw/n) being imprinted. Again, this reflects Wisdom traditions, and Philo uses this imagery a number of times (On the Creation §25; The Worse Attacks the Better §§83, 86; On Flight and Finding §12; The Work of Planting §18). The Logos is the Divine Image, which is then imprinted upon creation, and, in a special sense, upon the human mind. Like a)pau/gasma, the noun xarakth/r occurs only here in the New Testament; however, Paul uses the common noun ei)kw/n (“image”), in a similar Christological sense, in 2 Cor 4:4 and Col 1:15 (cf. the earlier note), the latter being closer to the thought and wording of Hebrews.

The noun u(po/stasi$ (occurring 5 times in the New Testament, including 3 in Hebrews [3:14; 11:1]) literally means that which “stands under” (u(po/ + the verbal root i%sthmi), and is a technical philosophical and scientific term for the “substance” or “essence” of something, or that which underlies a particular phenomenon. Thus, the Son is an imprint of God’s essential nature and identity, which is very much built into the idea of the Son as reflection of the Father. Eventually, the term took on a special theological significance, within the developing Christology of the 3rd and 4th centuries (cf. Origen, Against Celsus 8:12 for an early example of this trend), and came to be used to denote the distinct ‘persons’ of the (Trinitarian) Godhead. It would be quite anachronistic (and a mistake) to read this developed and specialized meaning of the term back into a first-century passage; however, it cannot be denied that the use of u(po/stasi$ here in Hebrews contributed to the Christological development of its meaning. Cf. Attridge, pp. 42-5.

There are highlighted in verse 3 two distinctive aspects of the early pre-existence Christology that came to prominence in the second half of the 1st-century, and are reflected in the ‘Christ hymns’ we have studied:

    • That the pre-existent Jesus, in some way, represents the “image” of God the Father, and shares in the divine honor and splendor (do/ca)
    • That he functioned as God’s agent, as the means by which God the Father created the universe

The first of these is emphasized in the 3a clause, the second in the 3b clause that follows, and which we will examine in the next daily note.

October 29: Philippians 2:11 (conclusion)

Philippians 2:11 (conclusion)

ei)$ do/can qeou= patro/$
“…unto (the) honor of God (the) Father”

These closing words are perhaps the most neglected of the entire hymn. Given the tendency to focus on the Christological issues, involving the person of Christhis deity and humanity, and the relationship between the twoit is perhaps not surprising that this final phrase is treated by readers and commentators almost as an afterthought. However, the phrase represents the climax of the entire hymn, and declares the ultimate purpose of the exaltation of Jesusit is not to give honor to Jesus, but to God the Father. This is clear from the preposition (ei)$, “into, unto”) that governs the phrase. In its own way, this climactic phrase has at least as much Christological significance as the other, more-often discussed portions of the hymn. It raises the fundamental question of the relationship between Jesus and God the Father, which was perhaps the most important question addressed by the early Christology.

Let us consider again the overall scenario of verses 9-11 (the second half of the hymn). It describes the exaltation of Jesus following his deathhis resurrection and elevation to a position “at the right hand” of God in heaven. All of this is fully in accord with the earliest Gospel preaching (kerygma) and the earliest Christology (of the period c. 35-60 A.D.). Early Christian tradition also proclaimed the exalted Jesus’ divine status as “Lord” (ku/rio$), recognizing that he shared the same position of rule and authority in heaven as God Himself. From this exalted position, Jesus would soon come again to earth, as God’s heavenly representative, to usher in the end-time Judgment. This traditional Christology informs the overall scenario in vv. 9-11 of the hymn; what is especially unique is the way that the hymn portrays the Judgment-scene, depicting all created beings submitting to the authority and rule of the exalted Jesus. This submission involves both gesture (‘bending the knee’) and speech (confessing with the “tongue”), by which homage and worship is given to Jesus.

How is it, then, that this homage/worship given to the exalted Jesus is “unto the honor of God the Father”? There are a number of ways this may be understood; I highlight here four particular lines of interpretation:

    1. Christocentric—God is to be honored because he has honored Jesus; the honor given to Jesus reflects the character and nature of God.
    2. The “right hand” motif—The traditional idea of Jesus standing at the “right hand” of God implies that the exalted Jesus shares the ruling position with God on His throne in heaven. This means that any honor given to Jesus goes to God the Father as well, since the two share the same divine/heavenly position (and the title “Lord”, etc).
    3. Divine hierarchy—This may be summarized simply as: Jesus receives honor, and, in turn, gives it to God the Father.
    4. Eschatological/Messianic—According to eschatological tradition, Jesus the Anointed One (Messiah), serves as the heavenly/divine representative of God the Father in the end-time Judgment, which he oversees, functioning as Judge and Ruler. As God’s representative, the honor given to Jesus, in actuality, goes to God.

There is merit in each of these lines of interpretation; however, if we are to consider both the hymn itself, and the Pauline use of it (whether or not Paul composed it himself), options 2 and 3 would seem to be the most relevant. Paul gives us a clear and succinct example of the hierarchical view (#3) in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28: following his resurrection/exaltation, Jesus receives the Kingdom (its rule and authority), and then ultimately gives it over to God. This passages contains the same idea, found in the hymn, of “all things” submitting to Jesus’ authority, even wicked beings and those otherwise hostile to God. Given this parallelism of thought, it seems likely that Paul has a similar scenario in view here in vv. 9-11 of the hymn.

On the other hand, the joint-rule option (#2) is a better fit within the hymn overall. The emphasis is on the position that the exalted Jesus has alongside God, both in his existence prior to his earthly life (v. 6) and following the resurrection (vv. 10-11). Traditionally, this position of shared or joint rule was expressed through the motif of Jesus standing “at the right hand” of God in heaven. That motif is not present in the hymn, at least not directly. Instead, we find a more sophisticated (and poetic) description of the exalted Jesus sharing God’s place in the divine/heavenly realm. There are four expressions and idioms which serve this descriptiontwo of which relate to Jesus’ pre-existence (v. 6), and two which relate to his exaltation after his death and resurrection; there is a certain conceptual symmetry to these, which may be presented chiastically:

    • “the form [morfh/] of God” (6a)
      • “the being equal [ei@nai i&sa] with God” (6b)
      • “the name th(at is) over every name”, i.e., the name/title of God (“Lord, ku/rio$)
    • “the honor/splendor [do/ca] of God”

According to this line of interpretation, the expressions morfh\ qeou= (“form of God”) and do/ca qeou= (“honor/splendor of God”) are parallel. As I pointed out in the earlier note on verse 6a, the noun morfh/ denotes the visible form or appearance of something. Thus, here the expression “morfh/ of God” does not refer to the ‘nature’ of God as such, but to a visible distinction of the Divine, best understood in terms of the traditional splendor that surrounds God when He appears (in visions and theophanies) to human beings. The Greek noun do/ca properly designates how someone (or something) is regarded, particularly in terms of the honor and esteem in which that person (or thing) is held. In a religious and theological context, when applied to God, do/ca can connote that which makes the Divine worthy of honor and esteemi.e., the nature and character of God that is distinct and separate from other (created) beings. In this specialized sense, the noun is often translated as “splendor, glory”; the same applies to the corresponding Hebrew noun dobK*, which has a somewhat different fundamental meaning (“weight, worth, value”), closer to the word timh/ in Greek.

In any case, the phrase e)n morfh=| qeou= (“in [the] form of God”), as it is used in context, implies that Jesus shared the divine gloryi.e., he was in the same visible splendor which marks God as distinct and separate from all created beings (and thus worthy of their honor). The same applies to the situation after the resurrection. Jesus is exalted to a divine position where he shares the splendor and honor (do/ca) of God, even as he shares the same name (ku/rio$, “Lord”). As previously discussed, this “name” given to the exalted Jesus indicates an “equality” that Jesus shares the same position of rule and authority as God Himself, and is thus worthy of the same honor. The very thing that he was willing to give up (v. 6b) is given to Jesus following his death on the cross. This image of equality, of the joint rule of God the Father and Jesus, and the honor/worship that is given to them (equally), is a central feature of the visions in the book of Revelation, especially the throne-visions in chapters 4-5 (cf. also 6:16; 7:9-17; 12:5; 14:1-3; 22:1-5).

We should consider the possibility of a broader formal parallelism between the phrase “in (the) form of God” and “into (the) honor/splendor of God”, as between the two prepositions e)n (“en”) and ei)$ (“into, unto”). The first prepositional phrase refers to the situation at the beginning (vb u(pa/rxw), while the second has in view the end goal and purpose. It is surely no coincidence that the two prepositional phrases, following the initial relative pronoun, represent the first and last words of the hymn, respectively. They bracket the hymn precisely, and establish the theological boundary points. Does the final preposition ei)$ indicate simply a return to glory, to the situation that prevailed in the beginning, or does it imply something even greater? The careful, if ambiguous, way the phrase “being equal with God” is handled in v. 6b, compared with the climactic treatment of Jesus being given the “name that is over every name” (vv. 9-10), suggests that the final exaltation of Jesus transcends, in some way, his divine position the beginning; however, we can only speculate as to how this might best be explained (cp. 1 Cor 15:24-28).

The use of the expression “God (the) Father” here in verse 11 would seem to imply the status of the exalted Jesus as God’s Son, even though the specific title “Son of God” is not used in the hymn. Early Christians would have recognized a good deal of conceptual overlap between the idea of Jesus as “Lord” and as the “Son of God”. For Paul, the two titles appear to have been of equal importance, and there are more than a dozen passages in his letters where he refers to Jesus as God’s “Son”. For the most part, he follows the early Christology that understood this Sonship in terms of the resurrection/exaltation (cf. 1 Thess 1:10; Rom 1:3-4; 1 Cor 15:28); however, in several places (Gal 4:4; Rom 5:10; 8:3, 32), Paul seems to have a rudimentary pre-existence Christology in view, though he does not express the matter clearly. The references in Galatians and Romans were likely written only a few years (at most) before the Christ hymn of Philippians, and may reflect the same essential Christology.

The Sonship and eternal pre-existence of Jesus are much more prominent in the Gospel of John, both in the prologue and the Discourses, where Jesus frequently makes use of descent/ascent imagery to express the same kind of lowering/elevating juxtaposition we see here in the hymn. In the Last Discourse (13:31-16:33), he makes repeated mention of how he (the Son) is about to return to the Father; and, in the great Prayer-Discourse of chap. 17, he specifically states that he is returning to the same splendor/glory (do/ca) he held with the Father in his eternal pre-existence (v. 5). As in the Philippians hymn, the return to glory involves Jesus’ faithful completion of his mission on earth, his sacrificial death (vv. 1-4). In addition, we find the emphasis on Jesus’ special connection to the “name” of God (vv. 6ff, 12ff, 26). There is thus an important combination of themes in the Prayer-Discourse that are common to the Christ hymn.

In the next daily note, I will begin exploring Colossians 1:15-20, which is recognized as another ‘Christ hymn’, and one which may be said to represent an even more highly developed expression of Christology within the New Testament.

April 20: John 17:24 (continued)

John 17:24, continued

i%na qewrw=sin th\n do/can th\n e)mh\n h^n de/dwka/$ moi
“that they would look upon my honor/splendor that you have given to me”

This is the second of the three i%na/o%ti clauses that make up verse 24. The first (i%na) clause, discussed in the previous note, states the primary wish or request that Jesus makes to the Father (“I wish that [i%na]…”). It is parallel to the i%na-clause in the first line of the two stanzas of vv. 21-23 (discussed in prior notes), in which he requests that [i%na] all believers would be one. This unity is based on the union we have with Jesus (the Son)—and this union is reflected in the initial wish-clause of v. 24:

“that [i%na] wherever I am, they also would be with me”

This raises the question of how we should understand the force of the second i%na-clause here. Is it epexegetical, further explaining and building upon the first clause? or, does it reflect the goal/purpose and result of that clause? According to the latter view, believers are to be with Jesus so that they/we can see his do/ca. I tend toward the first view, in which case the second i%na-clause builds upon (and explains) the first—i.e., that believers would be with Jesus and that they/we would behold his do/ca. The implication is that wherever Jesus is, believers will see the honor/splendor given to him by the Father, since this is based on his identity as the Son.

There can be no doubt, however, that a heavenly setting is in mind. The context (cp. 14:1-7) is Jesus’ departure (return) to the Father, to be alongside of Him just as he (the Son) was in the beginning (1:1-2ff). While believers can see him now, in the present, through the Spirit, a different sort of vision will be possible in heaven, being present with Jesus alongside the Father. An eschatological/afterlife context is certainly implied, marked, in terms of the traditional early Christian eschatology, by the end-time appearance of the exalted Jesus on earth. It is at this moment that all believers will be gathered to him, and taken up with him into heaven (Mk 13:26-27 par; 1 Thess 4:14-17, etc), even as Jesus indicates in 14:3.

There is a powerful reference to this in 1 John 2:28-3:3, as the author presents his instruction with an eschatological framework (a common feature of ethical-religious instruction in the New Testament). The nearness (i.e. imminence) of his coming (v. 28, cf. verse 18) makes it all the more important that believers remain faithful, continuing in union with Christ (and each other). As believers, we are already the offspring of God—His children, even as Jesus is the Son—but, in the end, with the appearance of Jesus, the full nature of this identity will be revealed (cp. Rom 8:18-25). This revelation comes by way of a direct vision of God (“we will see Him just as He is”), and the vision transforms believers so that they/we will also be just as God is. Some commentators understand 1 Jn 3:2-3 as referring to the vision of Jesus, rather than of God the Father; this does not seem to be correct, though it could just as easily apply, and it certainly is what is being referenced in Jn 17:24.

The verb used here in v. 24 is qewre/w, which is sometimes translated blandly as “see”, but more properly signifies an intense or careful observation of something—i.e., “look (closely) at, look upon, behold” —sometimes with the sense of “perceive”. It is used frequently in the Gospel of John (28 out of the 58 NT occurrences), including 7 times in the Last Discourse (14:17, 19 [twice]; 16:10, 16, 17, 19). In those references, the emphasis is on the world (including the disciples) not being able to look upon Jesus—because he is going away to the Father. However, at a deeper level, this also refers to an inability to see the truth about Jesus. At the moment, in the narrative context of the Discourse, the disciples have only a limited awareness of this as well; but, following the resurrection, and with the coming of the Spirit, they will truly know and understand who Jesus is, as the Son sent by the Father. This visionary knowledge finds its completion, and fulfillment, when they are united with the Father and Son in heaven.

The key term in this regard is do/ca, typically translated “glory”, but more properly rendered as “esteem, honor”. It corresponds (loosely) to the Hebrew dobK* (“weight, worth, value”), which, when applied to God, may connote that which makes him worthy of our honor and esteem. For lack of a better term in English, this quality may be referred to as “splendor”, a shorthand honorific for the nature and character of God Himself. It is sometimes conceived of visually, through various light- and color-imagery, and so forth; however, according to the traditional Israelite theology, no human being can truly see God (visually) in this life.

A central theme of the Johannine theology (and Christology) is that Jesus, as the Son sent by God the Father, makes this do/cathe nature and character of the Father—known to his disciples (believers). This is because Jesus (as the Son) shares the same do/ca, given to him by the Father. The point is made specifically by Jesus here in v. 24, as also earlier in the Prayer-Discourse (v. 5). What is most important about this do/ca, is that it was given to the Son (Jesus) by the Father. This follows the guiding theological principle of the Johannine Gospel, that the Father gives “all things” to the Son (3:35). This will be discussed further in the next daily note.

April 16: John 17:22a, 23d

John 17:20-23, continued

Line 5: John 17:22a, 23d

This is the fifth (and final) line of the stanzas in John 17:21-23 (cf. the prior note on the stanza-outline). For some reason, R. E. Brown in his Commentary on John (pp. 769ff) does not include this line with the four prior as part of the parallelism in vv. 21-23. Indeed, many commentators and translators would treat the fifth line of the first stanza (v. 22a) as a separate sentence; however, the parallel in the second stanza (v. 23d) makes clear that the line is integral to the stanza as a whole, and should be included in any treatment of it.

    • “and I—the honor that you have given to me, I have given to them” (v. 22a)
      ka)gw\ th\n do/can h^n de/dwka/$ moi de/dwka au)toi=$
    • “and you loved them just as you loved me” (v. 23d)
      kai\ h)ga/phsa$ au)tou\$ kaqw\$ e)me\ h)ga/phsa$

In this concluding line, the chain of relationshipFather-Son-Believers—is restated as the basis for unity. The basic point is the same, though it is expressed rather differently in each stanza.

Verse 22a

“and I—the honor that you have given to me, I have given to them”

A simpler translation would be “and the honor that you have given to me, I have given to them”; however, this glosses over the emphatic pronoun at the beginning of the line ka)gw/ (“and I…”). Jesus emphasizes that he, as the dutiful Son, is the one who has given from the Father to his disciples (believers). This stresses again the terminology from line 4 (cf. the previous note), that Jesus was sent from the Father, as His messenger and representative. Being also God’s Son means that he is a special kind of representative—one who embodies the very nature and character of God Himself. This is part of the overall theology of the Gospel, and takes on particular significance in the Prayer-Discourse.

The key term in the line here is do/ca (“esteem, honor”, but often translated “glory”)—it is the word that summarizes the relationship between Father and Son. It is especially important within the context of the Passion narrative, as it (or the related verb doca/zw) is used to describe the death and resurrection (exaltation) of Jesus, as the moment when the Son faithfully completes the mission given to him by the Father—12:23, 28; 13:31-32; 17:1, 4-5. The request by Jesus at the start of the Prayer-Discourse (v. 1), closely follows the earlier statement in 13:31 and the sense of the similar request in 12:27-28.

Equally important in the Last Discourse is the emphasis that this same honor (or ‘glory’) is established in the person of Jesus’ disciples, (believers) following his departure back to the Father. Their continued faithfulness and unity of purpose is said to bring honor to Father and Son both (14:13). The emphasis on unity is especially clear in the Vine illustration (15:8)—as believers “remain” (united) in Jesus, through the Spirit, the “fruit” they/we bear brings honor to God. The realization of this honor/glory through the Spirit, as the continuing presence of Jesus uniting all believers, is specifically indicated in 16:14. Indeed, the Spirit fills the very role of Jesus as described here in v. 22a: the Spirit receives from the Father, and gives it, in turn, to believers.

Verse 23d

“and you loved them just as you loved me”

If the key term in the first stanza was do/ca (“honor”), in line 5 of the second stanza it is love (a)ga/ph). Anyone with even a casual knowledge of the Gospel and Letters realizes the importance of love within the Johannine theological vocabulary. Drawing upon the historical (and early Gospel) tradition, love represents the one great command or duty (e)ntolh/) that believers in Christ are obligated to fulfill. In early Christian thought, the ‘love-command’ came to be seen as a fulfillment of the entire Old Testament Law (Torah). This goes back to Jesus’ own teaching (Mark 12:30-33 par; Matt 5:43-48 par), but was expressed more precisely by the New Testament authors (Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:13-14; James 2:8ff; cf. also Rom 12:9-10; 14:15; 1 Cor 13:1-14:1; 16:14; 2 Cor 5:14; Gal 5:6; Col 2:2; 3:14, etc).

In the Gospel of John, the historical tradition is expressed in 13:34-35, at the beginning of the Last Discourse, throughout which the theme of love remains central (14:15, 21-24, 28, 31; 15:9-13, 17-19; 16:27). Love serves to embody (and represent) the unity believers share with God the Father and Jesus the Son. This unity is described by reciprocity—a reciprocal relationship of shared, mutual love, such as exists, naturally enough, between Father and Son. But believers, equally as the offspring (or children) of God, share in this same relationship, and the same love. For more on this, see the previous note on line 3.

In 13:34-35, Jesus genuinely presents love as an e)ntolh/. This Greek word is typically translated as “command(ment)”, but more properly refers to a duty—i.e., something given (placed on) a person to complete. Jesus’ entire mission on earth was just such an e)ntolh/, and now he gives his disciples (believers) an e)ntolh/ as well. This idea was preserved and developed in the Johannine tradition, eventually taking the form of a definitive two-fold e)ntolh/—the only ‘command’ that is binding on believers. It is stated clearly in 1 John 3:23-24, as (1) trust in Jesus (as the Messiah and Son of God), and (2) love between fellow believers, according to Jesus’ own example. The love and the Spirit of God are closely connected, to the point of being virtually identified with each other (cf. Jn 3:34-35). It is in 1 John, especially, that the correspondence between love and the Spirit, as the binding/unifying power between God and believers, is rather clearly expressed—3:23-24; 4:13ff; 5:1-5ff.

Given the parallel line in the first stanza, we might expect Jesus here to say “…and I loved them, just as you loved me”. Indeed, this is the reading of some manuscripts, but is likely secondary, and may be a modification influenced by the wording in 15:9, which more properly follows the chain of relationship Father-Son-Believers: “Just as the Father loved me, (so) I also loved you”. The Son’s role as binding intermediary (between the Father and believers) is certainly to be understood here as well, even if not stated explicitly. However, what the best reading of the text indicates is that, ultimately, the emphasis is not on the union of the believers with Jesus (the Son), but on their/our union with the Father. Jesus’ role is to establish and facilitate this relationship, as the “way” to the Father (14:4-6), and the role is continued through the presence of the Spirit.

Implicit in the wording of v. 23d is the identification of believers as the offspring/children (tekna/) of God. The Father loves us (his children), just as (kaqw/$, cf. the note on line 2) he loves Jesus (his Son). Apart from the term “son” (ui(o/$) being reserved for Jesus, there is no other distinction (i.e. ‘natural’ vs. ‘adopted’ sonship) indicated in the Johannine writings. We, as believers, along with Jesus, share in the same identity (and status) as offspring/children of God.

In the next few daily notes, I will be continuing on to the end of the Prayer-Discourse, discussing the remaining verses 24-26. This, I feel, is necessary in order to complete a proper study of vv. 20-23.