March 3: 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:6

[This is the final note in the series on 2 Corinthians 3, supplemental to the current exegetical study series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”; the previous note concluded our discussion on 4:3-6; for an overview of the passage, cf. the main article.]

CONCLUSION (2 Cor 3:18; 4:6)

Following our discussion in the previous note, we shall now consider how Paul understands the seeing of God by believers. The focus will remain on the statements in 3:18 and 4:6 in light of Paul’s line of argument and exposition throughout the passage (2:14-4:6). Mention was made of the juxtaposition of the seeing/image motif with the fundamental idea of the believer’s encounter with God taking place spiritually, at the level of the Spirit. How, indeed, does one ‘see’ God in the Spirit?

In answering this question, we must begin with the overall context of the passage—namely, a description (and defense) of the apostolic ministry by Paul, with specific emphasis on the mission of proclaiming the Gospel. This is very much the focus in 2:14-17, and Paul returns to this point of reference at the conclusion of the passage (4:1-3); note, in particular, how 4:3 reflects the earlier wording in 2:15, as an example of the way that Paul deftly blends together the thematic strands of his discussion.

Thus, we may say that the process of ‘seeing’ God, begins with the believer receiving the Gospel of Christ. The ‘blindness’ of the world is defined specifically in terms of being unwilling (or unable) to accept the Gospel and to recognize its truth (4:3, par 3:14-15). The missionary/minister plays a vital role in bringing the light of the Gospel, at first, to the believer. Note, again, the parallel expressions used by Paul in 4:4 and 6:

    • the good message [eu)agge/lion] of the splendor of Christ //
      the knowledge [gnw=si$] of the splendor of God

The Gospel leads to the knowledge of God’s glory; for more on this parallelism, cf. the previous notes on vv. 3-6.

Once a person has received the Gospel, trusting in Jesus Christ, then he/she receives the Spirit. The locus of the Spirit’s presence within the person is usually referenced as the “heart” (kardi/a), as here in 4:6. Traditionally, the giving/sending of the Spirit by God is expressed in terms of liquid (water or oil) being poured. This would have been reinforced by the symbolism of the baptism-ritual. Paul fully embraces this imagery, referring repeatedly to believers receiving the Spirit in their hearts (Rom 5:5; 2 Cor 1:22; Gal 4:6; cf. also the context of Rom 2:29; 8:27; and here in 2 Cor 3:3ff). He does not often describe the presence and activity of the Spirit through light-imagery, but there can be little doubt that here in 4:6 the light that shines in the heart is the same as the Spirit that is poured, etc, into the heart (Rom 5:5). For a similar reference to light shining in the heart, cf. 1 Cor 4:5.

In a number of passages in his letters, Paul describes various aspects of the Spirit’s activity, in and among believers. Some of the key points may be summarized as follows:

Thus, according to Paul, the Spirit’s role within the believer covers the full range of religious experience. However, it is important to remember that the specific references to the Spirit here in 3:17-18 are fundamentally Christological—particularly in terms of our ‘seeing’ God through the Spirit. Indeed, the ‘image’ (ei)kw/n) which we see in the Spirit is Christ’s image. Paul makes explicit in 4:4 what is implied in 3:18, essentially explaining that “the same image” (th\n au)to/n ei)ko/na) which we behold—and into which we are transformed—is that of Christ as “the image of God” (ei)kw\n tou= qeou=, cf. also Col 1:15 and Rom 8:29).

What is specifically involved in this transformative beholding of the image of Christ? There are several key aspects which should be emphasized:

    • Noetic—i.e., the mind of the believer is transformed, to become like that of Christ himself. In this regard, Paul follows Philo’s application of the Moses traditions in Exod 34, even so far as his use of the mirror (ka/toptron) motif and the rare verb katoptri/zomai; cf. the discussion in the prior note. By allowing ourselves to be guiding by the Spirit within, the way we think is changed, and this leads to fundamental (ethical/moral) changes in the way we act. Cf. Rom 8:5-7; 12:2; 1 Cor 2:16; Phil 2:5; and note the context of Gal :16-25. See also the recent study in this series on 1 Cor 2:10-16.
    • Mimetic—along with the ethical transformation that comes from the renewal of our minds and allowing ourselves to be guided by the Spirit, there is the specific idea of following the example of Christ. The conscious imitation of Jesus should be viewed as a specific aspect of ‘walking in the Spirit’ (Gal 5:16, 25). Cf. Phil 2:5ff. Often Paul frames this in terms of following his own example, as he himself imitates Christ—1 Thess 1:6; 2:14; 1 Cor 11:1; 4:16; Phil 3:17.
    • Mystical Union—Paul defines the believer’s union with Christ in a very distinctive way, in terms of participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The key passage is Romans 6:3-4, but the idea is expressed all throughout his letters; most notably, cf. Rom 7:6; 8:2ff, 10-11ff; Gal 2:20; 5:24-25; 1 Cor 15:20-24ff, 49; 2 Cor 4:10-11; 5:14-21; Phil 1:21; 3:10-11. Paul’s association of this concept with the symbolism of the baptism ritual is quite clear; in addition to Rom 6:1-11, cf. Gal 3:26-27; Col 2:12. However, this union is realized through the presence and power of the Spirit.
    • Spiritual Union—Paul also hints at a union of the believer with God, realized through our union with Christ, in the Spirit. Cf. 1 Cor 6:17, and various allusions throughout his letters; typically, the idea is couched in terms of the future glory that awaits believers (with the resurrection).

The knowledge (gnw=si$) of God that begins with receiving the Gospel, culminates in the union of believers with God Himself (theosis). To ‘see’ God in this respect entails a conscious awareness, and a volitional (willing) exercise of our heart/mind. The greatest form of knowledge is union, illustrated by the idea of knowing fire. One can know something about fire by hearing it described; then, one can know it better by actually seeing it and feeling its warmth; it can be known even further once a person is burnt by it; however, one cannot fully know fire until one is united with it, being completed consumed by fire.

It is through Christ’s presence that we are able to ‘see’ God’s image in this way; and his presence is realized through the Spirit. Our ‘seeing’ does not take place through the eyes (or any of the senses), but is spiritual. So also our union with Christ (the Son), and so ultimately with God (the Father), is realized through the Spirit. This Christological and mystical dimension of Paul’s spiritualism is well expressed here, at the climax of his expository discourse, in 3:17-18. First, he emphasizes that “the Lord is the Spirit,” meaning that God can only be experienced through the Spirit—which is also the Spirit of His Son Jesus (Gal 4:6). This is clarified through the declaration in verse 18, which concludes emphasizing that our transformation (vb metamorfo/w) into the image of God (in Christ), takes place through the same Spirit of God— “…just as from (the) Lord (the) Spirit.”

February 22: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (cont.)

[These notes are part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”; the previous note began the discussion on 4:3-6; for an overview of the passage, cf. the main article.]

2 Corinthians 4:3-6, continued

As part of our discussion in the previous note, we considered how Paul’s concluding statements in 4:4 and 6 help us understand the famous declaration in 3:18. In particular, he makes use of two parallel constructions, involving complex genitive-chains:

    • V. 4: “unto the…shining [vb au)ga/zw] (of)
      • the enlightenment [fwtismo/$]
        • of the good message
          • of the splendor [do/ca]
            • of the Anointed
              • who is (the) image of God
    • V. 6: “He shone [vb la/mpw] in our hearts
      • the enlightenment [fwtismo/$]
        • of the knowledge
          • of the splendor [do/ca]
            • of God
              • in (the) face of (the) Anointed

At the end of each genitival chain, a clause or phrase is added emphasizing that Jesus Christ reflects the glory of God. In the first instance, Jesus is called the “image” (ei)kw/n) of God, as in Col 1:15; Rom 8:29. In the context of the mirror (ka/toptron) motif in 3:18, this image certainly should be understood as a reflection of God’s own image. In the second instance, Paul again has the Moses tradition of Exod 34:29-35 in mind, the episode in which the glory of God was reflected (by way of a shining light/aura) on Moses’ face.

Like Moses, believers encounter God with faces uncovered, beholding in a mirror (katoptrizo/menoi) the glory of the Lord (3:18). This “mirror” is to be identified with the presence of Christ in the heart of the believer (“in our hearts,” 4:6). In our heart, we are able to behold directly the glory of God reflected, with perfect clarity, in the person of Christ. And, as we see, we are at the same time being transformed (metamorfou/meqa) into the same image.

This motif of light is more suitable for the experience of ‘seeing’ at the level of the Spirit. It is visible, but in a diffuse and essentially formless manner. The more abstract nature of light as an image (ei)kw/n) suggests that a deeper kind of ‘seeing’ is involved, properly represented by Paul’s use of the term gnw=si$ (“knowledge”) in 4:6. The parallel idiom of seeing/knowing is made especially convenient in Greek, since the verb ei&dw can mean both “see” and “know” almost interchangeably. The Gospel of John, in particular, makes considerable use of this dual-meaning, applying it, in a theological and Christological context, throughout the narrative. Paul is doing much the same here in our passage.

There can be little doubt that Paul has been influenced heavily by certain lines of Jewish tradition, including strands of mystical-philosophical thought and expression in Hellenistic Judaism, best seen in the writings of Philo of Alexandria and the deutero-canonical Book of Wisdom. In prior notes, I have discussed Philo’s use of the same Moses tradition (from Exod 33-34) that Paul has utilized here in 2 Cor 3:7-4:6, including use of the same rare verb katoptri/zomai and similar application of the mirror (ka/toptron) motif. Perhaps even closer to the language and thought of 3:18/4:6 is the declaration in Wisdom 7:25-26, where it is stated that Wisdom is:

“…an emanation of the splendor of the Almighty shining pure…
For it is a shining forth [a)pau/gasma] of eternal light [fw=$],
and a spotless mirror [e&soptron] of the working of God,
and (the) image [ei)kw/n] of His goodness”

The noun e&soptron refers to a glass that one “looks in(to)”, with virtually the same meaning as ka/toptron (‘looking-glass, mirror’).

All of these things stated above regarding the Divine Wisdom personified, Paul applies to the person of Christ. Just as important, the same Hellenistic Jewish traditions would identify Wisdom (and/or the Logos) with the Spirit of God (cf. Wisd 1:7; 7:7, 22; 9:17; 12:1). Philo, in particular, utilizes Moses as the paradigm for the mystical-philosophical experience of God filling the purified and enlightened soul with His Spirit. I will be discussing this further in an upcoming article in the “Ancient Parallels” feature on this site.

For Paul, of course, his understanding of the indwelling Spirit is fundamentally (and radically) different, in two respects: (1) its Christological orientation, and (2) it applies to all believers equally, regardless of one’s adeptness for mystical philosophy. To this, one may add the communal component, with Paul’s unique manner of expressing the idea of believers, collectively and united, as the “body of Christ”.

This brings us to the interpretive (and theological) question that we have slowly been addressing in these past few notes. How do believers “see” God (His glory), when the encounter takes place inwardly, and invisibly, through the Spirit? The answer to this question will go a long way, I think, toward elucidating the nature of Paul’s spiritualism. I have begun to answer the question, inductively, through the exegesis of 3:16-18 and 4:4-6 (consult the recent notes on these verses). This allows us to draw some further conclusions, and to gain a relatively clear picture of what Paul has in mind. However, in order to fill out the portrait, it will be necessary to draw upon several other passages in his letters. This we will do, in the next daily note, our final note in this series on 2 Corinthians 3.

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.


Sola Scriptura: John 5:39-40

Sola Scriptura

In bringing this series of studies on the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura (“Scripture Alone”) to a close, we are considering two major challenges to this principle, found in the New Testament itself. The first, which we examined in the previous study, was rooted in the idea of a continuing Apostolic Tradition—that is, one which did not come to an end in the first-century, to be replaced completely by a written record of the Tradition, in the New Testament Scriptures.

The second is even more significant (and serious)—namely, the role of the Spirit as the primary source of guidance and authority for believers. In a later study, I will explore the phenomenon of Spiritualism in the Protestant Reformation, as there were certain Reformers (part of the so-called ‘Radical Reformation’) who took this idea of the primacy of the Spirit quite seriously, and may well have affirmed a principle of Solus Spiritus, rather than Sola Scriptura—emphasizing the authoritative guidance of the Spirit over that of the Scriptures. The early Spiritualist Reformer Hans Denck expresses the matter quite clearly in this regard:

“I hold the Scriptures dear above all of man’s treasures, but not as high as the Word of God which is living, strong, eternal and free of all elements of this world, inasmuch as it is God Himself, it is Spirit and not letter, written without pen or paper so that it can never be erased. Consequently, salvation is not bound to Scripture, even though Scripture may be conducive to salvation.” (from his Recantation [1528], translation by Edward J. Furcha & Ford Lewis Battles)


It may be questioned whether, or to what extent, the New Testament supports the Spiritualist position; this will be discussed during an upcoming series (“Spiritualism and the New Testament”), as well as in a special study (forthcoming) in this Reformation Fridays feature. For now, I wish to focus on three passages which allow for establishing the Spirit, rather than Scripture (or the Apostolic Tradition as presented in the Scriptures), as the primary source of guidance and authority for believers in Christ. The idea rests upon several points that are intrinsic (and central) to the early Christian view of the Holy Spirit, especially as presented in the Johannine and Pauline writings. These may be summarized as follows:

    • The Holy Spirit is the manifestation of presence and power of God Himself, which comes upon his people (believers) in a new and abiding way, in the New Age of the New Covenant. It is the exalted Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God, who communicates the Spirit, from his position at God’s right hand.
    • The Holy Spirit also came to be identified with the person of Jesus Christ himself (the resurrected and exalted Jesus). Through the presence of the Spirit, believers are united with the person of Christ; in this regard, the Holy Spirit can be referred to, almost interchangeably, as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ (or Spirit of Jesus). This Christological focus is prominent in Paul’s letters, and, even more so, in the Johannine Gospel and First Letter.
    • God communicates to believers through the Spirit, and empowers them/us for the Christian ministry and mission; moreover, as the manifest presence of Jesus himself, the Spirit continues the work of Jesus in and among his disciples. This is an especially important emphasis in the Johannine writings.

If believers are united with Christ (and God the Father) through the Spirit, and are being directly empowered and guided by the Spirit, one may well ask: why rely so completely on the witness of the Scriptures, or on the Apostolic Tradition, rather than the indwelling witness of the Spirit?

I begin this study with a famous verse from the Gospel of John than contrasts the authority of Scripture (the Old Testament Scriptures) with the authority of the person of Jesus.

John 5:39-40

“You search the Writings [i.e. Scriptures], (in) that [i.e. because] you consider (yourselves) to hold Life of the Age [i.e. eternal life] in them, and those are the (writing)s witnessing about me, and (yet) you do not wish to come toward me, (so) that you might hold Life” (vv. 39-40)

The Greek of the verse is secure—in particular, the first word (e)rauna=te), a form of the verb e)reuna/w, “seek, search” (in the sense of “search out”, “search for”, “search after”). There is ambiguity, however, in that the form e)rauna=te can be read as either (a) an indicative (“you [do] search”) or (b) an imperative (“you [must] search”, “search!”). Many commentators have understood it as the latter (an imperative), and those who cite the verse out of context invariably read it this way: i.e., “Search the Scriptures…”. Protestants have been especially prone toward referring to the verse (out of context) this way, as a kind of proof-text demonstrating the view held by Jesus on the authority of Scripture (and supporting the Sola Scriptura principle). When quoted outside of its context in chapter 5, the verse gives the impression of being an exhortation by Jesus, to his disciples, on the importance of studying Scripture.

While this is a noble and true sentiment, it would appear to be off the mark in terms of what Jesus is actually saying in this passage. In order to gain a proper understanding, it is necessary, as always, to look carefully at the place of the verse in the passage as a whole.

Chapter 5 is an extended discourse—one of the great discourses of Jesus that make up the core of Gospel (especially the ministry period spanning chapters 3 through 10). There is a major discourse in each of chapters 3-6, each of which is based upon a central historical tradition—in chs. 3 and 4 it is an encounter episode (Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman), while in chs. 5 and 6 a miracle story is involved, similar to ones we see narrated in the Synoptic Gospels. The miracle story in chapter 5 functions as part of the narrative introduction (vv. 1-16), which may be divided as follows:

    • Narrative setting (vv. 1-3)
    • Healing miracle by Jesus (vv. 5-9b)
    • Reaction to the miracle (vv. 9b-16)

Central to this narrative, though introduced only in v. 9b, is the fact that this healing occurred on a Sabbath. In terms of the Gospel Tradition, this marks the episode as a “Sabbath Controversy” scene, similar to a number of such scenes in the Synoptic Gospels—note especially the block of episodes in Mark 2:1-3:6 par, all involving negative reaction to Jesus’ ministry (and/or debate with him) by religious authorities—that is, the experts on Scripture, the Law (Torah) and related matters of religion, typically identified as those among the Pharisees (i.e. “Scribes and Pharisees”). In Mk 3:1-6 (par Matt 12:9-14; Lk 6:6-11) the Sabbath controversy is centered on a healing miracle, as in Jn 5:1-16, though in some ways in the miracle narrated in Mk 2:1-12 is closer to John’s account. Luke records two other Sabbath miracle scenes (13:10-17; 14:1-6), which are similar in tone and structure.

In all of these “Sabbath Controversy” episodes there is a negative (even hostile) reaction to Jesus. This is implied already in v. 10, but is not made explicit until the end of the narrative in v. 16: “And through [i.e. because of] this, the Yehudeans {Jews} pursued [i.e. persecuted] Yeshua, (in) that [i.e. because] he did these (thing)s on a Shabbat (day)”. This is the setting for all that follows in verses 17-47, which means that Jesus is not addressing his disciples, but his opponents. In all of the Synoptic Sabbath controversies, the negative reaction comes from religious authorities (“Scribes and Pharisees”, etc). While this is not stated specifically in chapter 5, it may be assumed fairly from the overall context; and it is more or less confirmed by the close points of similarity between chap. 5 and the episode in chap. 9, where the opponents of Jesus are identified as Pharisees (vv. 13-16, 40).

The negative reaction to Jesus (by his opponents) sets the stage for the central saying of the discourse (5:17): “My Father works (even) until now—and I also (do this) work!”. It draws upon the ancient Sabbath theme of God’s work and life-giving power in creation. Jesus identifies his own working of healing miracles—i.e. giving (new) life to those suffering from illness and disease—with this same creative power exercised by the Father. The implications of this were not lost on Jesus’ opponents—indeed, it only increased their hostile reaction, according to the statement by the Gospel writer in verse 18. A lengthy exposition by Jesus follows in vv. 19-47 covering the remainder of the chapter. This exposition has two main divisions:

    • Verses 19-29: Jesus (the Son) does the work of the Father, exemplified by the ability to raise the dead (the ultimate work of giving new life). This section also may be divided into two parts:
      (1) Resurrection (i.e. new life) in the present for believers—”realized” eschatology (vv. 19-24)
      (2) Resurrection at the end time for those who believe—traditional (future) eschatology (vv. 25-29)
    • Verses 30-47: Testimony that Jesus comes from the Father and does the Father’s work

It is the second division that supplies the immediate context for verse 39. The interpretive key lies in the opening verses (30-32), in which Jesus expounds the principle that a person who gives witness about himself cannot be considered reliable (v. 31). On this point, see, Deut 19:15, where the testimony of more than one witness, in a legal/judicial setting, is necessary to secure valid evidence (Num 35:30; Deut 17:6; Matt 18:16, etc). Jesus makes precisely this point later on in the Gospel (8:14-18). Verse 32 is vital for an interpretation of what follows:

“There is another [a&llo$] th(at is) witnessing about me, and I have seen that the witness which he witnesses about me is true.”

The Greek word a&llo$, “(someone) different, another”, is in an emphatic position at the start of the verse. Who is this “other”? There are two possibilities:

    1. It simply means “another” in the general sense—i.e. someone different from Jesus, or
    2. It refers primarily (and fundamentally) to God the Father as the one who gives witness about Jesus

The initial context of vv. 30-32 suggests #1, but the overall context of the passage makes it likely that #2 is intended—i.e., God the Father is the ultimate source of this testimony. Actually, there are four different witnesses, or sources of testimony, referenced by Jesus in this section:

    • John the Baptist (vv. 33-35)
    • Jesus himself—specifically the works (miracles) which he does (v. 36)
    • God the Father—his Word (vv. 37-38)
    • The Scriptures (vv. 39-40)

Each of these is connected in important ways; note the chain of relation:

    • John the Baptist
      • Jesus himself (greater than John)—does the Father’s work
        • The Father who sent Jesus—His Word abiding in believers
          • (His Word) manifest in the Scriptures

The Scriptures come at a climactic point in this chain of testimony. Verses 39-40 also serve as a transition into the declaration of judgment against Jesus’ opponents in vv. 41-47. Clearly, verse 39 is not an exhortation to study the Scriptures, but rather a strong rebuke against those who fail to accept Jesus. The reference to the Scriptures, in this regard, is especially significant if, as the context suggests, Jesus is addressing the supposed experts (Scribes/Pharisees) in Scripture and the Law. Almost certainly, the initial word of verse 39 (e)rauna=te) should be read as an indicative, as in my translation above:

“You search the Writings [i.e. Scriptures], (in) that [i.e. because] you consider (yourselves) to hold Life of the Age [i.e. eternal life] in them…”

The force of the contrast (and rebuke) is largely lost if e)rauna=te is read as an imperative. Indeed, the context would seem to demand the indicative:

    • “You (do) search [e)rauna=te] the Scriptures…(which witness about me)
    • and (yet) you do not wish [qe/lete] to come toward me”

The idea that a person might gain (eternal) life from the Scriptures (and a study of them) was not uncommon in Judaism, especially in the Rabbinic tradition, with its strong emphasis on a detailed study of the Torah. Consider the following statements from the Rabbinic collection “Sayings of the Fathers” (Pirqe Abot):

“He who has acquired the words of the Law has acquired for himself the life of the world to come” (2:8)
“Great is the Law for it gives to those who practice it life in this world and the world to come” (6:7)
(Translation by R. E. Brown in The Gospel According to John, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 29, p. 225)

Paul declares virtually the opposite in Gal 3:21b:

“For if (the) Law was given being able to make alive [i.e. give life], (then indeed) justice/righteousness would (have) been out of [i.e. from] the Law”

Note also Romans 7:10: “and it was found with/in me (that) the (commandment) laid on me (which was to be) unto life, this (turned out to be) unto death”.

The Scriptures are not the source or means of Life; this is only found in the person of Jesus—the Son who makes God the Father known to us. He possesses the Father’s Life in himself (Jn 5:26), and gives that same Life to those who trust in him (the Elect/Believers). Yet the Scriptures bear witness to Jesus, and to his identity as the Son sent by the Father. One might conceivably apply Jesus’ rebuke toward Protestant Christians who have, at times, perhaps been guilty of placing too much emphasis on the Scriptures (the Bible), and too little on the person of Christ, and his presence in and among us through the Spirit.

Even so, while the superiority of Jesus’ presence (in the Spirit) may be affirmed in relation to the Old Testament Scriptures, what about the place of the Apostolic Tradition, and the canonical form of that Tradition as enshrined in the New Testament Scriptures? Does the guidance of the indwelling Spirit take precedence over the Tradition, or is the Tradition (the New Testament record of it) to be regarded as primary? I wish to explore two passages—one from Paul’s letters, and the other from the Johannine writings (1 John)—which may be adduced as supporting the primacy of the indwelling Spirit as a source of religious authority. This I will do in next Friday’s study.


Sola Scriptura: Romans 16:25; Hebrews 1:1-2

Sola Scriptura

In our studies thus far, we have seen how the Scriptures (that is, the Old Testament) continued to be authoritative for early Christians, but only in a secondary (and supplemental) sense. The primary source of authority was what we may broadly call the Apostolic Tradition. This may seem to contradict the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura; however, to make such an unqualified conclusion would be quite misleading. In point of fact, the Apostolic Tradition was the basis for the development of the inspired writings of the New Testament—and the greater revelation that was contained in those writings, ultimately to be regarded as sacred Scripture by every Christian.

With the passing of the first generation (or two) of apostles, by the end of the 1st century (and into the 2nd), the authoritative Apostolic Tradition had come to be preserved in written form (i.e., the New Testament Scriptures), gradually taking the place of the communication of that Tradition in the person of the apostles themselves (and their representatives). It seems clear, for example, that the publication of the Gospel of John was stimulated by the death of the ‘Beloved Disciple’, the leading apostolic figure of the Johannine Community (Jn 21:20-24). The authority of the apostles was based on their personal connection to Jesus himself.

The very word a)po/stolo$ (apostolos) derives its significance from the fundamental meaning of the verb a)poste/llw (“set [out] from, send forth”). An apostle is someone “sent forth from” Jesus, as his representative, an idea rooted in the early Gospel tradition and the ministry-work of Jesus in Galilee (Mark 3:14-15ff par; 6:7-13 par; Luke 10:1ff). Commissioned and sent out by Jesus, they were given (and possessed) his own divine (and inspired) authority, to preach (the Gospel) and work healing miracles. This formed the pattern for the broader apostolic mission of early Christians (Acts 1:8, 21-22, etc). The earliest congregations were founded by missionary work that was an extension of this apostolic mission, and thus the principal source of religious authority for these 1st-century congregations was the authority of the Apostolic Tradition.

The Apostolic Tradition has three fundamental components:

    1. The proclamation (kerygma) of the Gospel
    2. The words of Jesus—sayings, teachings, parables—along with his example (of what he said and did), preserved and transmitted by the apostles to the early congregations (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-4)
    3. The authoritative teaching by the apostles

A study will be devoted to each of these components; we begin with the first of these.

1. The Proclamation (Kerygma) of the Gospel

The “good message” (or “good news”), the eu)agge/lion, or Gospel, has its origins in the preaching of Jesus (Mark 1:14-15 par, et al), being carried on, even during his lifetime, by his disciples, acting as his representatives (i.e., as apostles) (Luke 9:6, etc). However, following the resurrection (and ascension) of Jesus, the “good message” gradually came to take on a distinctive form—as a thumbnail narrative of Jesus’ life and work. The sermon-speeches in Acts preserve examples of this early Gospel proclamation (kerygma). In these speeches, the Gospel narrative is extremely simple, focusing on the death and resurrection (and exaltation) of Jesus, and only slowly incorporating certain details or aspects of his earthly ministry. Noteworthy examples, representative of the earliest preaching, are: Acts 2:22-24, 29ff, 36; 3:13-15; 4:27ff; 5:30-32; 10:37-42; 13:26-32. It is easy to see how these simple narrative statements, over time (c. 35-60 A.D.), would develop into the larger narratives of the Gospels.

It must be emphasized that, from the very beginning, this Gospel proclamation held primary authority for early Christians, taking precedence over the Old Testament Scriptures. This can be seen already in the way that the Scriptures supplement (and support) the kerygma in the sermon-speeches (on this, cf. the earlier study, and throughout the series “The Speeches of Acts”). The revelation of the inspired Old Testament Scriptures (i.e., of the old covenant) are thus subordinate to the Gospel; they continue to hold authority for Christians, primarily, insofar as they point the way to the greater revelation of Christ (in the new covenant).

There are a number of New Testament passages, many of which were written when the composition and development of Gospels was still in its very early stages, which indicate that the proclamation of the Gospel (with its seminal narrative) was being compared with the Scriptures—being on a par with them, and even altogether surpassing them in many important ways. I wish to examine a couple of these passages briefly.

Romans 16:25-26

“And to Him having the power to set you firm(ly), according to my good message [eu)agge/lion] and the proclamation [kh/rugma] of Yeshua (the) Anointed, according to the uncovering of (the) secret [musth/rion] having been kept silent in (the) times (of) ages (past), but now (hav)ing been made to shine (forth) even through (the) writings of (the) Foretellers, according to (the) arrangement of (the) God of the Ages, unto hearing under trust, unto all the nations, having been made known…”

The authenticity of the doxology in Rom 16:25-27 continues to be debated, with many commentators convinced that it was neither originally part of Romans, nor written by Paul. Even if this were granted, the wording reflects genuine Pauline thought (and style), as well as the thought-world of Christians in the mid-to-late 1st century. Three key nouns are used which are largely synonymous in context: (1) eu)agge/lion (“good message,” i.e., Gospel), (2) kh/rugma (“proclamation,” transliterated as a technical term, kerygma), and (3) musth/rion (“secret,” i.e., mystery). All three are important early Christian terms, and they all refer to the seminal message (and narrative) of the Gospel. The expressions and phrases that contain these words are also closely related:

    • “my good message” —i.e., the good news of Christ that is preached by apostles like Paul
    • “the proclamation of Yeshua (the) Anointed” —the genitive can be understood in either a subjective sense (Jesus’ preaching) or objective sense (preaching about Jesus), or both.
    • “the uncovering of the secret kept silent…” —the noun a)poka/luyi$ (“removal of the cover from, uncovering”) emphasizes that the Gospel is a divine (and inspired) revelation, akin to the prophetic revelations (by God) during the time of the old covenant (cf. below).

The use of the term musth/rion (“secret”) in this respect is authentically Pauline (1 Cor 2:1, 7; 4:1; 13:2; 14:2; 15:51; cf. also 2 Thess 2:7), though it is perhaps more prominent in the disputed letters of Colossians (1:26-27; 2:2; 4:3) and Ephesians (1:9; 3:3-4, 9; 5:32; 6:19). For more on the meaning, background, and use of the term, see my earlier word study. Indeed, of the three terms, musth/rion has the greatest theological significance. Here, it relates to a distinction between the two ages or dispensations—the old and new covenants, respectively—that is fundamental to early Christian thought:

    • Old Covenant (periods of time/ages past): the Gospel-secret has been “kept silent/hidden” (verb siga/w)
    • New Covenant (“now”): it has been “made to shine forth” (vb fanero/w), i.e., has been made manifest, revealed, and has at last “been made known” (vb gnwri/zw).

The Gospel proclamation is expounded out of the Old Testament Scriptures (“writings of the Prophets”), which is fully in accord with the earliest Christian preaching and teaching, even going back to the teaching of Jesus himself. The Scriptures (especially the Psalms and the books of the Prophets) contained, in a secret and hidden way, the seeds of the Gospel (e.g., Gal 3:8); but it required the new inspired revelation of the apostles in order to “uncover” and make known this secret. On this basis alone, the Gospel represents a superior kind of revelation, however it is rooted in the Scriptures and supported by them. Indeed, without the New Covenant revelation, people remain blind to the true meaning of the Scriptures (2 Cor 3:14-16, etc).

Hebrews 1:1-2

“(In) many parts and many ways (in times) of old, God (was) speaking to the Fathers by the Foretellers, (but) upon (the) end of these days He spoke to us by a Son, whom He set (as one) to receive the lot of all (thing)s, through whom also He made the Ages…”

The same dispensational contrast—between the old and new covenants—serves as a key theme that runs throughout Hebrews, and it is established at the very beginning of the introduction (exordium, 1:1-4). It marks the current time—i.e., of the first generation(s) of believers—as a turning point, marking the beginning of a New Age (= new covenant), and presenting  a clear dividing line between the time now and all that has gone before:

    • Old Covenant: “(in times) of old [pa/lai]” —God spoke through the Prophets
    • New Covenant: “at the end [e)p’ e)sxa/tou] of these days,” that is, in the eschatological present time—God has spoken through His Son

There is a clear contrastive parallel here between the Prophets and Jesus (the Son of God), as the source of divine-inspired revelation (communicating the word of God) in each dispensation (and covenant), respectively. The superiority of the revelation in the person of Jesus is obvious, and the author develops the point systematically throughout his work. Here, this superiority is expressed by contrasting the singular revelation in Jesus with the multifaceted way that God spoke through the many different Prophets. For Jews and Christians in the first-century, of course, the revelation through the Prophets (in the old covenant) was known only through its preservation in the Scriptures (the Prophetic writings, including the Psalms). The Torah (Pentateuch) doubtless would also be included, but emphasis is given on the Prophetic oracles as the vehicle for God’s revelation.

The comparison between Jesus and the Prophets, as well as the idea of God speaking (vb lale/w), might suggest that it is the words of Jesus that are primarily in view here. The preserved words and teachings of Jesus are certainly a key component of the authoritative Apostolic Tradition (cf. above), and will be discussed in the next study; however, I believe that a much more comprehensive and holistic view of the Tradition is being expressed here. This can be affirmed by what follows in vv. 2-4, beginning with the statement that God “set” (vb ti/qhmi) Jesus (His Son) to be the “heir of all things”. This phrase reflects the fundamental Gospel tenet of the exaltation of Jesus (to the right hand of God in heaven) following his resurrection (Acts 2:33-34; 5:31; 7:55-56 [cf. Mk 14:62 par]; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1, etc). The earliest Christology was unquestionably an exaltation-Christology, focusing almost entirely on Jesus’ deity, and identity as the Son of God, in terms of his resurrection (and exaltation) by God the Father. However, by the time Hebrews was written (c. 70 A.D.?), early Christians had begun to evince a pre-existence-Christology as well, and Hebrews combines both of these Christologies (e.g., the ‘Christ-hymn’ in vv. 2-4, on which cf. my earlier study; cp. also the study on Philippians 2:6-11.

In any case, the point is that the declaration in v. 2b is a key component of the Gospel kerygma; thus, the contrast between the Prophets and Jesus can also be understood as a contrast between the Prophets and the Gospel. And, from the standpoint of our study, it is important to note that the written record of the Gospel (taking shape during the years c. 35-90 A.D.) forms a close parallel to the written record of the Prophets (in the Old Testament Scriptures).

Statements such as those in Rom 16:25-26 and Heb 1:2 thus are seminal (and foundational) for establishing the authority of the New Testament Scriptures. And, the authority of these new Scriptures (of the new covenant), while being on a par with the old Scriptures—in terms of their divine/prophetic inspiration and revelatory content—far surpasses that of the old. This is a vital principle that must be maintained—for believers, the new covenant in Christ (manifest through the presence of the Spirit) has entirely eclipsed the authority of the old covenant (cf. 2 Corinthians 3).

January 19: John 1:34 (continued)

John 1:34, continued

In order to gain a better understanding of the declaration by John the Baptist in verse 34 (and the important text-critical question in the verse, cf. the previous note), it is necessary to examine the narrative context of vv. 19-51. As previously discussed, verses 29-34 make up one of four sections in the narrative, which are joined together using the literary device of setting the four episodes on four successive days. This may be outlined, again, as follows:

    • Day 1—The testimony of John the Baptist regarding his own identity (1:19-28)
    • Day 2—The testimony of John regarding the identity of Jesus (1:29-34)
    • Day 3—Disciples follow/encounter Jesus as the result of John’s witness (1:35-42)
    • Day 4—Disciples follow/encounter Jesus as the result of his (and other disciples’) witness (1:43-51)

The first “Day” involves the question of John the Baptist’s identity. He specifically denies any identification with three figures or titles— “the Anointed One” (i.e. Messiah), “Elijah”, and “the Prophet”. The last two relate to a Messianic Prophet figure-type, drawn from the Old Testament figures of Elijah and Moses (Deut 18:15-20); this subject is discussed further in the series “Yeshua the Anointed” (Part 3). It is not entirely clear whether “the Anointed One” refers to a Messiah generally, a Messianic Prophet, or the traditional Messianic ruler from the line of David; based on the overall context of vv. 29-51, the latter is more likely.

The second and third “Days” follow a similar pattern; each begin with John the Baptist’s identification of Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (vv. 29, 36). Each ends with a distinct declaration regarding Jesus’ identity. The declaration of the second day is that of verse 34; that of the third day again involves the title Messiah— “We have found the Messiah!” (v. 41), where the Hebrew word j^yv!m* is transliterated as Messi/a$ (before being translated, “Anointed One” [Xristo/$]).

This common Messianic theme, running through the narrative episodes, would perhaps suggest that the reading “Chosen/Elect One” is to be preferred, since this title (presumably derived from Isa 42:1) is more directly Messianic than is “Son of God”. This is certainly the case with its use in Lk 9:35 and 23:35, the only other occurrences in the New Testament where the title is applied to Jesus.

However, a careful examination of the fourth “Day” (vv. 43-51) points in the opposite direction. Here the declaration regarding Jesus’ identity, made by Nathanael (v. 49), is two-fold:

“You are the the Son of God, you are the King of Israel

The thematic and narrative structure suggests that these two titles are parallel to those in the declarations of the 2nd and 3rd days:

    • “Son of God” = “<Chosen | Son> of God” (v. 34)
    • “King of Israel” = “Messiah” (v. 41)

The parallelism would tend to favor “Son” in v. 34, if only slightly. This, along with the overwhelming external manuscript evidence (in favor of “Son”), makes it the preferred reading. Still, the matter is far from decisive, and it is worth keeping the variant “Elect/Chosen One” well in mind whenever you read this passage. Consider how the two titles (and concepts) are closely intertwined in Luke’s version of the Transfiguration scene, in which the voice from Heaven declares (according to the best manuscripts):

“This is my Son, the Elect/Chosen One [o( e)klelegme/no$]…” (9:35)

The title “Elect/Chosen (One)” here takes the form of a substantive (perfect) participle of the verb e)kle/gomai (“gather out”), from which the adjective e)klekto/$ is derived. Literally, it would be translated “the (one) having been gathered out” (o( e)klelegme/no$), but it is essentially identical in meaning to o( e)klekto/$. The latter occurs as a title of Jesus, albeit delivered mockingly to him, in Lk 23:35, and is clearly used in a Messianic sense (“the Anointed [One], the Elect/Chosen [One] of God”). There can be no real doubt that the same significance is to be found in its usage in the Lukan Transfiguration scene.

The Transfiguration scene, of course, parallels the earlier Baptism scene in the Synoptic Gospels, in which the voice from Heaven makes a similar declaration (in Matthew they are identical). Now, the Gospel of John only narrates the Baptism indirectly (vv. 29-34), through the testimony of John the Baptist, who witnesses the visionary phenomena. His declaration is in the same climactic position as the Divine/Heavenly voice in the Synoptics:

Yet consider, too, a comparison with the variant reading from John—

    • “You are My Son…” / “This is My Son…”
    • “This is the Chosen One of God” (Jn 1:34 v.l.)

which matches the words of the heavenly voice in Lk 9:35:

“You are my Son, the Chosen One”

This declaration, in turn, is an echo of Isaiah 42:1, where God speaks of “My Servant [db#u#]…my Chosen (One) [ryj!B^]…”. In Greek, db#u# is translated by pai=$, which can also mean “child” — “my Child” is obviously close in meaning to “my Son“. At the same time, ryj!B^ is translated by  e)klekto/$, the same word used in Jn 1:34 v.l. (and related to that in Lk 9:35).

It may be helpful at this point to summarize three important aspects of the Johannine tradition in vv. 19-51:

    • The narrative, despite its adapation of the early Gospel tradition into the Johannine idiom, preserves authentic historical tradition. For more on this, cf. the articles dealing with Jn 1:19-51 in my earlier series “Jesus and the Gospel Tradition” (The Baptism of Jesus).
    • This early tradition specifically relates to the identity of Jesus as the “Anointed One” (Messiah), and particularly so in terms of the Messianic Prophet figure-type(s). It is the Anointed herald of the (Deutero-)Isaian oracles (e.g., 42:1ff; 61:1ff) that is most clearly in view, and is the figure with which Jesus was identified in the earliest strands of the Tradition. Cf. Parts 2 and 3 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”.
    • Again, in the earliest tradition, the title “Son of God” was fundamentally Messianic in significance. Even though the Gospel of John clearly understands the title in terms of a pre-existence Christology, it still retains the older, traditional meaning as well.

None of this is sufficient to decide the text-critical question of which title— “Son of God” or “Elect/Chosen One of God” —was the original reading. Both titles are appropriate to the Messianic context of vv. 19-51, and, in a sense, can be seen as interchangeable (or, at least, complementary). As noted above, the overwhelming manuscript support, as well as the Johannine usage, favors the reading “Son of God” (o( ui(o\$ tou= qeou=), and I am inclined to adopt it, by a narrow margin. The Baptist’s declaration would then read:

“And I have seen and have witnessed that this (one) is the Son of God

In so doing, John is the first to give witness to Jesus’ identity as God’s Son. In the context of the Gospel Prologue, this refers to his identity as the pre-existent Son; however, in the immediate context of the narrative (vv. 19-51), and in terms of the early Gospel tradition, the title is to be understood in a Messianic sense (i.e., “Anointed One” = “Elect/Chosen One”). Both aspects are fundamental to the Johannine theology, and must be taken into account when summarizing the Christological portrait in the Gospel. No better summary can be found than the confessional statement by Martha in 11:27:

“I have trusted that you are the Anointed (One), the Son of God…”

This confession holds roughly the same place in the Gospel of John as Peter’s confession does in the Synoptics (Mk 8:29 par). It also is close in form and sense to the Baptist’s declaration in 1:34, especially if we were to combine the two variant readings:

“I have seen…that this (one) is the Elect/Chosen (One), the Son of God”

An even more precise confessional formula is used by the author in his conclusion to the Gospel:

“I have written these (thing)s (so) that you would trust that Yeshua is the Anointed (One), the Son of God…” (20:31)

The uniqueness of the Johannine Gospel lies in the way that the earlier Gospel tradition, which understood the title “Son (of God)” primarily in a Messianic sense, has been adapted and developed to give a deeper theological (and Christological) meaning to the traditional manner of expression. Jesus is still the Anointed One, exalted by God the Father through his death and resurrection; but he is also something more: the incarnation of the pre-existent Logos, who was, even in the very beginning, the Son resting together with God the Father in the bond of His eternal love and power.

January 18: John 1:34

John 1:34

The Johannine account of the Baptism of Jesus concludes with a revelatory declaration by John the Baptist regarding the true identity of Jesus:

“And I have seen and have given witness that this (man) is the <…> of God

The use of the verbs o(ra/w (“see”) and marture/w (“[give] witness”) frame the declaration by the Baptist in decidedly Johannine theological terms. Both verbs have a special significance in the Gospel of John, as do the concepts of seeing (sight/vision) and witnessing. In the Johannine theological context, these verbs carry a deeper meaning than might otherwise be suggested by their use in the narrative. This meaning refers primarily to a recognition of who Jesus is—viz., his identity as the Messiah and Son of God. On the theological aspect of John the Baptist’s witness of the Baptism event here in vv. 31-33, cf. the discussion in the previous note.

The use of the perfect tense (as in the case of both verbs here) typically indicates a past action or condition that continues into the present. John the Baptist’s revelation regarding the identity of Jesus continues to have abiding force—both when the Gospel was written, and for all those who have read the record of his witness in the centuries since.

The portion of verse 34 in bold above represents the unit where an important textual variation occurs, with the point of variance marked by angle brackets. There are two main variant readings for this unit:

    1. “…the (one) gathered out of [i.e. by] God” (o( e)klekto\$ tou= qeou=)—that is, “the Elect/Chosen (one) of God”
    2. “…the Son of God” (o( ui(o\$ tou= qeou=)

The conflated reading “…the Elect/Chosen Son of God”, found in a few witnesses, is clearly secondary and can be disregarded; however, it does show that both readings above were familiar to certain copyists.

These two variants are of true significance, since they cut to the heart of the Baptist’s declaration of who Jesus is. The majority reading has “Son” (ui(o/$); however, in a number of manuscripts and versions (Ë5vid a* 77 218 b e ff2* and Old Syriac versions) it is “elect/chosen (one)” (e)klekto/$ lit. “gathered out”)—i.e. “the Son of God” vs. “the Elect (One) of God”. The reading with ui(o/$ (“son”) is found nearly every Greek manuscript, and, normally, such overwhelming external evidence would decide the question. Moreover, this reading is fully in accordance with the Gospel usage throughout, and the Johannine theology, with the repeated emphasis on Jesus as the Son. This same emphasis is found in the Prologue (see esp. vv. 14, 18), and given the related Prologue references to John the Baptist as a witness (vv. 6-9, 15), it would be most appropriate for the Baptist here to bear witness that Jesus is the “Son of God”.

On the other hand, the reading with e)klekto/$ (“gathered out,” i.e., elect/chosen) is unquestionably more difficult. Based on the principle of difficilior lectio potior (“the more difficult reading is preferred”), and the fact that the minority reading is found in a relative wide range of witnesses, might well lead one to regard it as original. Indeed, as a number of commentators have noted, it is extremely hard to explain how (or why) ui(o/$ would ever have been changed to e)klekto/$, while the reverse would be rather easy to explain, given that:

    • The tendency of copyists was to enhance, rather than reduce, the Christological significance of a passage; and “Son of God” is unquestionably the more exalted title, especially as it came to be understood by Christians in the following centuries.
    • “Son of God” is also by far the more familiar title; even among first-century Christians, to judge by the New Testament evidence, “Elect/Chosen One” was quite rare by comparison.
    • The title “Son” is also fully in keeping with the regular Johannine usage, whereas neither the work e)klekto/$ nor the basic concept of “chosen (one)” is ever applied to Jesus in the Johannine writings.

The evidence thus is evenly divided, making it extremely difficult to decide the textual question. A more detailed consideration of vocabulary and style may give further clarification:

As noted above, the adjective e)klekto/$ does not occur elsewhere in the Gospel of John, but the related verb e)kle/gomai (“gather out,” i.e., “choose”) is used five times, all by Jesus, and always in reference to the disciples, i.e. as those chosen by him (6:70; 13:18; 15:16, 19). Indeed, throughout the New Testament, both the adjective (as a noun) and the verb are typically used of believers (Matt 13:20; 22:14; Lk 6:13; 18:7; Acts 1:2; Rom 8:33; 1 Cor 1:27-28; Eph 1:4; 1 Pet 1:1, etc), and only rarely of Jesus (Lk 9:35; 23:35; cf. below). By contrast, Jesus refers to himself as “the Son” many times in the Gospel of John. The title “Son of God” is less frequent, but still occurs 8 times, declared by others (Jn 1:49; 11:27; 19:7; 20:31) as often as by Jesus himself (3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4). It is also relative common (7 times) in 1 John (3:8; 4:15; 5:5, 10-13, 20). A consideration of style and vocabulary would thus tend to favor the reading “Son of God” in Jn 1:34.

The context of the Gospel Prologue also favors this reading, as mentioned above. However, if one considers the narrative in 1:19-51 on its own, apart from the Prologue, then we find a rather different thematic emphasis, and one which could be said to favor the reading “Elect/Chosen One”. This involves several aspects of the Johannine narrative that are sometimes overlooked by scholars: (1) the distinct manner in which the Gospel preserves authentic tradition, (2) the strong Messianic context of the early Gospel tradition, and (3) the emphasis on Jesus as the Messiah, in relation to his identity as the “Son of God”.

We will examine these points, together, in the next daily note.


January 16: John 1:32

John 1:32

In verse 31 (cf. the previous note), the Baptist states that “I had not known him [that is, Jesus].” On the surface, this would simply mean that John was unfamiliar with Jesus, and did not known him personally, prior to his coming forward to be baptized. However, as I have discussed, the terminology of seeing/knowing (here represented by the verb ei&dw, “see”), in the Johannine writings, has special theological meaning. From the standpoint of the Johaninne theology, the Baptist’s statement means that he had not recognized Jesus’ true identity (as the Son of God) before this moment. This Christological awareness applies even more to the context of verse 26, when the Baptist says, of the religious leaders in Jerusalem, that they “have not seen [i.e. known]” who Jesus is: “in your midst has stood (one) whom you have not seen”. The irony in this statement runs deep, since, as repeatedly documented in the Gospel narrative, the Jewish religious leaders refused (or were unable) to acknowledge who Jesus was—the Anointed One (Messiah) and Son of God. Chapter 9 deals extensively with this special sense of “seeing”.

The tense of the verb in v. 31 is the pluperfect (“I had seen,” h&|dein), used only rarely in the New Testament. The implication is that John had not understood who Jesus was until the present moment. Now he does realize the truth of Jesus’ identity, for it has been revealed to him by God. This is indicated in the remainder of verse 31: “…but (so) that he should be made to shine forth to Israel, through this [i.e. for this purpose] I came dunking in water”. Apparently, John now realizes the purpose of his baptizing ministry: it was to make known the person of Jesus—his identity as the Messiah and Son of God.

In the Gospel Tradition, the baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of his public ministry. The core Tradition says virtually nothing of Jesus’ life prior to the baptism. According to the Synoptic narrative, Jesus’ ministry begins almost immediately after his baptism (Mk 1:9-11 par)—following a short period of time spent in the desert (Mk 1:12-13 par). Being filled with the Spirit of God (cf. Lk 4:1, 14, 18), Jesus begins to teach and perform healing miracles.

The Johannine account of the Baptism is unusual in that it is presented indirectly, as a narration by the Baptist. Whether this difference is intrinsic to the Johannine tradition, or represents a literary development by the Gospel writer, is difficult to say. For more discussion on such critical questions, consult the articles on the Baptism of Jesus in the series “Jesus and the Gospel Tradition” (the Johannine version of the Baptism is treated most extensively in Part 3).

Here is the summary of the Johannine account in verse 32:

“And Yohanan gave witness [e)martu/rhsen], saying that ‘I have looked at [teqe/amai] the Spirit stepping down [katabai=non] as a dove out of heaven, and it remained [e&meinen] upon him’.”

This generally corresponds with the Synoptic narrative, and we can be fairly certain that the Johannine tradition preserved an account of the Baptism that more or less resembled the statement in Mark 1:10 par:

“And, straightaway, stepping up [a)nabai/nwn] out of the water, he saw the heavens being split, and the Spirit as a dove stepping down [katabai=non] <upon> him.”
[The Markan version reads “into/unto [ei)$] him”, while Matthew [3:16] has “upon [e)pi] him”, as in the Johannine account]

The two main differences in John’s version are: (a) the event is reported as witnessed by the Baptist, and (b) the verbs, reflecting the distinctive Johannine (theological) vocabulary, that are used in the narration.

(a) The Baptism witnessed by John the Baptist

While this may be part of the underlying Johannine tradition, and rooted in historical tradition, it takes on added meaning in the Gospel context. Its significance is informed by the references to John the Baptist in the Prologue, where the Baptist is described specifically as a witness (marturi/a, vb marture/w) to the Light (vv. 6-9), by which is meant a witness to Jesus’ identity as the pre-existent Son of God (v. 15). John the Baptist is the first such witness to Jesus’ true identity, an identity that was revealed to John during the Baptism-event. In the Markan account, it is Jesus who sees and hears the Divine phenomena (descent of the Spirit, voice from Heaven), while Matthew seems to present the phenomena as observable by the wider audience.

The Johannine version certainly departs from the Matthean portrait—the public did not see or hear the heavenly phenomena (a point reinforced by the scene at the close of Jesus’ ministry, in 12:27-30ff). The presence of the Spirit and the voice of God from heaven were witnessed only by John, and it is he who reports them (as a witness) to others. This is of vital importance to the thematic structure of the narrative in 1:19-51.

(b) The Johannine Vocabulary

Four verbs are used in v. 32, and they all have special significance as part of the Johannine theological vocabulary:

1. marture/w (“[give] witness”)—John the Baptist as a witness was emphasized above (cf. verses 6-9, 15 of the Prologue); however, these references are only the first of a considerable number throughout the Gospel. The verb marture/w occurs 33 times in the Gospel of John (compared with just 2 in the Synoptic Gospels combined). In addition, it is used 10 times in the Letters of John, and another 4 in the book of Revelation (1:2; 22:16, 18, 20). In comparison with these 47 Johannine occurrences, the verb occurs just 29 times in the remainder of the New Testament.

The theological meaning of the “witness” is three-fold:

    • Jesus gives witness about himself—i.e., who he is, as Son of God the Father—both through his words and deeds
    • People (believers) give witness about Jesus through their trust in him; others, by contrast, give witness that they are not believers
    • The Spirit will bear witness, continuing the witness of Jesus himself, and will continue working in believers (i.e., their trust and love)

2. qea/omai (“look [closely] at”)—this is one of a number of verbs, used in the Gospel, denoting sight/vision, the others being ei&dw, ble/pw, o(ra/w, and qeore/w. To “see” Jesus, in the theological sense, is to trust in him, recognizing his identity as the Son of God. The verb qea/omai occurs first in the Prologue (v. 14), where this meaning is implied. The context of the Prologue-hymn is the incarnation of the pre-existent Logos, by which is meant the birth and life of Jesus on earth. The beginning of his life and ministry is suggested in v. 14, and is certainly indicated in the Baptism scene (cf. above). The verb qea/omai may also allude to the beginning of awareness and understanding (cf. 4:35; 11:45). The full force of the verb, in the context of the Johannine theology, can be seen in 1 Jn 1:1; 4:12, 14.

3. katabai/nw (“step down”)—This is the first occurrence of the verb in the Gospel, which, along with the corresponding a)nabai/nw (“step up”), will be used repeatedly, and almost always with special Christological significance. The verb pair is used in the Synoptic account of the Baptism of Jesus (cf. above), and this important traditional context may well have influenced the Johannine usage. The verbs are used together in 1:51, and then variously, at a number of key points in the Discourses (3:13; 6:33-58, 62, etc). Even when they seem to be used in a simple narrative setting (e.g., of Jesus “going up” to Jerusalem), the theological meaning is doubtless present, at a deeper level, as well. The fundamental significance involves the “descent” (katabai/nw) of the Son from the Father (in heaven), and to his eventual “ascent” (a)nabai/nw) back to Him (20:17).

4. me/nw (“remain”)—The importance of this key verb in the Johannine Gospel can scarcely be overemphasized. It occurs 40 times in the Gospel, and another 27 in the Letters of John—more than half of all NT occurrences (118). It carries a powerful theological meaning, referring at once to the union between God the Father and Jesus (the Son), and between Jesus and believers. Through our trust, we come to “remain” in Jesus, and he “remains” in us—the bond of union being effected (and maintained) through the abiding presence of the Spirit. This idea is expounded by Jesus throughout the Last Discourse, with the verb me/nw occurring 14 times between 14:10 and 15:16, and being especially prominent as part of the Vine illustration in 15:1-3ff.

Here in v. 32, however, there is a difficulty in understanding the precise force of me/nw in the context of the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus, since the significance of the core Gospel tradition in this regard seems to be at odds with the Christological portrait in the Johannine Gospel. This will be discussed further, along with verse 33, in the next daily note.




January 12: John 1:30

John 1:30

These verses build upon the statement in v. 29: “See, the Lamb of God, the (one) taking up the sins of the world”. V. 30 begins “This is (the one) over whom I said…” —then follows the difficult saying:

o)pi/sw mou e&rxetai a)nh\r o^$ e&mprosqe/n mou ge/gonen o%ti prw=to/$ mou h@n “(in) back of me comes a man who has come to be in front of me (in) that [i.e. because] he was first/foremost (over) me”

This is nearly identical to verse 15, which begins “Yoµanan {John} witnessed about him and cried out, relating/saying, ‘This was (the one of) whom I said…”

o( o)pi/sw mou e)rxo/meno$ e&mprosqe/n mou ge/gonen o%ti prw=to/$ mou h@n “the (one) coming (in) back of me has come to be in front of me (in) that [i.e. because] he was first/foremost (over) me”

I recently discussed verse 15 as part of an earlier set of notes on the Gospel Prologue (vv. 1-18). There I mentioned the curious position of the v. 15 saying, which interrupts the poetry of the strophe in vv. 14, 16, and fits rather awkwardly within the Prologue as a whole. I offered a tentative explanation: that the placement of the v. 15 saying, in context, was done with the express intention of explaining the difficult saying of the Baptist in v. 30. In particular, with regard to the second and third phrases of the saying (see below), verse 14 of the Prologue-hymn provides clarification for what otherwise might seem obscure to readers—a reference to the incarnation of the pre-existent Word/Wisdom (Logos) of God in the person of Jesus. This will be discussed further in the exegesis below. There are three phrases in this saying (in v. 30), each of which is governed by a specific verb (and form) which is most significant to observe (the distinctions being generally obscured in translation):

    • “a man comes [e&rxetai]  in back of [o)pi/sw] me”
    • “who has come to be [ge/gonen] in front of [e&mprosqe/n] me”
    • “(he) was [h@n] first/foremost [prw=to/$] (over) me”

These three verbs are used with great care in the Gospel, when applied to Jesus, and especially in the ‘Prologue’ (Jn 1:1-18). Let us consider them in turn (references to verses in the Prologue exclude v. 15 which is largely identical to v. 30):

e&rxomai is a basic verb in narration and description which fundamentally means “come, go”. It is used frequently in the Gospel of John, often with a deeper theological or spiritual nuance than ordinary coming/going—in particular Jesus speaks of coming from the Father and going (back) to the Father; believers also come to Jesus (and to the Father). In the Prologue, the verb occurs three times (outside of v. 15):

    1. John came [h@lqen] as a witness to the (true) Light (v. 7)
    2. The reference is to someone coming [e)rxo/menon] into the world (v. 9). It is not entirely clear whether this relates to “every man” or “the true Light”; the latter is to be preferred, making it a reference to the Word (Christ) coming into the world
    3. The Word (Christ) came [h@lqen] to his own… (v. 11)

These references (discussed in recent notes on the Prologue-hymn) all relate to the appearance/presence of a human being in the world (i.e. among people). The present indicative form [e&rxetai] in verse 30 is closest to the present participle in v. 9 (and 15). In terms of Christ (the incarnate Word), we might speak here of the “historical Jesus” —that is, the man who was born, lived, and ministered in the world, among his own (the people of Israel).

gi/nomai has the primary meaning “come to be, become”, again common in narration and description, and, like e&rxomai, is often used with special significance in the Gospel of John. It can carry the nuance of “come to be born”, and, as such, is very close to the related verb genna/w. This latter verb is used in John for the spiritual “birth” of believers (Jn 1:13; 3:3-8) and gi/nomai also is used frequently to describe coming to faith (i.e. “becoming” believers, Jn 12:36; 13:19; 14:29; 15:8, etc). Gi/nomai occurs 8 times in the Prologue (outside of v. 15):

    1. For the things which came-to-be [e)ge/neto/ge/gonen] through the Word (v. 3 [x 3], 10)
    2. A man (John) came-to-be (born) [e)ge/neto] (v. 6)
    3. The Word came-to-be [e)ge/neto] flesh… (v. 14)
    4. “Grace and truth” came-to-be [e)ge/neto] through Christ (v. 17)—contrast with “the Law was given” through Moses.
    5. Those who received (Christ) are given authority to become [gene/sqai] sons of God (v. 12)

The perfect form [ge/gonen] in verse 30 (and 15) creates a difficulty in interpretation (discussed below), however it would seem to relate to the aorist form [e)ge/neto] in v. 14 (“the Word became flesh”).

ei)mi is the primary (existential) verb of being. In the prologue it occurs 10 times (outside of v. 15):

    1. Three times in v. 1: the Logos was [h@n] (on this, see below); and in v. 2.
    2. Twice in v. 4: In him (the Word) was [h@n] life, and the life was [h@n] the light…; and in v. 9 “the true light was [h@n]…”
    3. John was [h@n] not the (true) light (v. 8)
    4. The Word (Christ) was [h@n] in the world (v. 10)

The three occurrences of h@n in verse 1 form a definite contrast to the three forms of gi/nomai in verse 3:

  • In the beginning the Logos was
  • The Logos was toward [pro/$] God
  • God was the Logos (given in the literal word order, i.e. the Logos was God)
    • All things came to be [e)ge/neto] through him
    • Apart from him came to be [e)ge/neto] not even one (thing)
    • {one (thing)} which has come to be [ge/gonen]

In other words, the things in creation come to be (gi/nomai), but God is (ei)mi). For a similar contrast, see John 8:58: pri\n  )Abraa\m gene/sqai e)gw\ ei)mi/ (“before Abraham came to be, I am“). So the use of ei)mi in verse 30 in context clearly refers to the Divine existence of Jesus. Let us explore a little further how these three verbs—e&rxomai, gi/nomai and ei)mi—may relate here by glossing the terms in each phrase:

1. o)pi/sw mou e&rxetai a)nh\r (“[in] back of me comes a man”):

o)pi/sw mou (“[in] back of me”)—this can mean: (a) Jesus is younger, and has appeared publicly later than, John; or (b) Jesus is/was a follower of John; or even (c) Jesus was unknown or less well known than John. Many critical scholars accept (b) as an authentic historical detail, which can be debated. In terms of Gospel tradition as it has come down to us, and the overall presentation in the Gospel of John here, probably little more than (a), or some combination of (a) and (c), is intended.

e&rxetai (“comes”)—that is, the immediate (historical) presence/appearance of the man Jesus, publicly, in the midst of the people (see above on e&rxomai in 1:7, 9, 11).

a)nh\r (“a man”)—i.e., the “historical Jesus”, a real human being, a man like all the other people around John.

2. o^$ e&mprosqe/n mou ge/gonen (“who has come to be in front of me”):

o^$ (“who/which”)—relative particle qualifying a)nh\r and serving to join the first and second phrases.

e&mprosqe/n mou (“in front of me”)—this is clearly a contrast with o)pi/sw mou (“[in] back of me”), but in what sense? Much depends on the interpretation of ge/gonen, but I see this a typical bit of Johannine wordplay, whereby the immediate (apparent) sense is overshadowed (and may even be contrary) to the deeper (true) meaning. One might think that the Baptist (or the Gospel writer) here is simply saying that Jesus, who was younger than John and relatively unknown, is now coming into greater prominence. The immediate context would certainly suggest this—those who were following John now follow Christ (vv. 35ff, cf. also 3:27-30).

ge/gonen (“has come to be”)—the usage of gi/nomai in the Prologue (see above), and especially in verse 14 (“the Word became [e)ge/neto] flesh”), strongly suggests that the Incarnation be understood here. In other words, Jesus has come to be “in front of” John because he is the eternal Word (Lo/go$) that became flesh. The perfect form here (ge/gonen, parallel to the occurrence in v. 3) may be meant to indicate that something which took place in the (eternal) past, is presently true.

3. o%ti prw=to/$ mou h@n (“[in] that he was first/foremost [over] me”):

o%ti (“[in] that [i.e. because]”)—the reason why Jesus is “in front of” John.

prw=to/$ mou (“first/foremost [over] me”)—the superlative adjective prw=to$ is the climax of a step-parallelism (a favorite Johannine technique) with the earlier prepositions o)pi/sw (“[in] back of”) and e&mprosqen (“in front of”). Not only is Jesus “in front of” John, but he is “first (of all)” or “foremost” over him; indeed, this is the reason for his being “in front”. It is a dense and powerful symbolic chain of argument.

h@n (“was”)—this is the same form of ei)mi used throughout the Prologue (esp. vv. 1-2), and serves to identify Jesus, in no uncertain terms, with the Divine (and pre-existent) Word (Lo/go$) of God.

Many critical scholars have expressed doubts that this remarkable saying could have come from the historical John; it seems rather more like a theological-christological declaration by the Gospel writer. The point certainly can be debated; however, even if it does not preserve the ipsissima verba of the Baptist, the words very likely stem from a genuine saying. Other traditions, more objectively verifiable, are recorded, in all four Gospels, whereby John confesses the (far) greater status of Jesus (Mark 1:7-8 par.; Matt 3:14-15; John 3:27-30). Some of these critical questions will be addressed, along with a discussion of verse 31, in the next daily note.

January 9: John 1:18 (continued)

John 1:18, continued
Verse 18b

monogenh\$ ui(o/$ o( w*n ei)$ to\ ko/lpon tou= patro\$ e)kei=no$ e)chgh/sato
“(the) only Son, the (one) being in the lap of the Father, that (one has) brought Him out (to us)”

If the first half of verse 18 refers to the Old Covenant (cf. the discussion in the previous note), the second half (18b) epitomizes the New Covenant. This continues the contrast in verse 17—of Moses vs. Jesus, the Law vs. the Favor and Truth of God. The focus in verse 18 is on the idea of seeing God, drawing upon the Sinai theophany (Exod 19-20) that marked the establishment and ratification of God’s covenant with Israel.

As I pointed out, within the context of the Johannine theology, “seeing” has the special sense of knowing, playing upon the interchangeability of the Greek verbs ginw/skw (“know”) and ei&dw (“see”), along with verbs such as o(ra/w (used here in v. 18) denoting sight/vision. In this context, knowledge means trust in Jesus—in his identity as the only Son of God. The person who “sees” Jesus in this sense also sees the God the Father.

This is expressed through three distinct phrases in verse 18b; let us examine each of them in turn.

monogenh\$ ui(o/$ (“[the] only Son”)

I have discussed the textual question regarding this phrase at some length in a prior note. In my view, the reading ui(o/$ (“son”) is to be preferred (narrowly) over qeo/$ (“God”), as being more in keeping with the Johannine usage and the context here in the Prologue (see v. 14). The contrast with 18a is not specified grammatically, and would have read into the text here:

“No one has ever yet seen God, (but the) only Son…”

Jesus, as the incarnation of the pre-existent Son (and Logos) of God, is the only one who has truly seen God. This may explain the use of the preposition pro/$ in verse 1. It literally means “toward”, and perhaps should be understood in the sense of “facing toward”; in which case, this would imply that the Logos (= the Son) is seeing God face-to-face.

Also significant is the idea of Jesus as the only Son, which is what the adjective monogenh/$ fundamentally signifies. While the Johannine writings frequently refer to believers as children of God, the word used is always te/knon (pl. te/kna), “offspring”. The term ui(o/$ is reserved for the person of Jesus, who is the only one properly called “Son of God”.

o( w*n ei)$ to\ ko/lpon tou= patro\$ (“the [one] being in the lap of the Father”)

The use of the verb of being ei)mi is surely significant here, and is not accidental. Throughout the Prologue, the verb of being is reserved for God alone, while the verb of becoming (gi/nomai) is used for created beings. The verb gi/nomai is applied to the person of Jesus (in vv. 14, 17) only in the special sense of incarnation—the pre-existent Word/Wisdom (Logos) of God “coming to be” flesh, being born on earth as a human being.

Previously, the verb ei)mi was always expressed in the imperfect active indicative form (h@n, “he was”), but here it as a present active participle (w&n), a substantive verbal noun (with definite article) that characterizes Jesus as the Son: “the (one) being”, i.e. “the one who is…”. In so doing, the final line of the Prologue is connected back with the first line (v. 1), emphasizing again Jesus’ identity as the pre-existent Logos of God. The relationship between God and the Logos, implied in verse 1, is here clarified—as the relationship between Father and Son.

The preposition pro/$ (“toward”) in verse 1 is perhaps best understood in the sense of “facing toward” (cf. above); however, it could also mean “moving toward”, suggesting a more active, dynamic relationship. The same could be said for the preposition ei)$ here in v. 18b. In this context, it is usually translated as “in”, giving us the picture of the Son sitting or resting in his Father’s lap. However, the proper meaning of ei)$ is “into”, which would tend to suggest movement. Perhaps the image of an embrace is intended, which would capture both the static and dynamic aspects of the preposition ei)$.

It is possible that this imagery is echoed in 13:23, part of the ‘Last Supper’ scene (13:1-30) that precedes the great Last Discourse of Jesus (13:31-16:33). The entire scene prepares the groundwork for the departure of the Son (Jesus) back to the Father. An association with the Prologue would be entirely appropriate, in terms of the Johannine theology. The ‘beloved disciple’, representative of all believers (as the offspring of God), rests “in the lap” (e)n tw=| ko/lpw|) of Jesus, even as Jesus (the Son of God) is “in the lap” (ei)$ to\n ko/lpon) of God the Father. The Son is preparing to go back into (ei)$) the eternal embrace with His Father. The picture speaks to the promise of the same sort of unifying embrace for believers, since they/we too are God’s children.

e)kei=no$ e)chgh/sato (“that [one has] brought [Him] out”)

The demonstrative pronoun (e)kei=no$, “that [one]”) refers to the Son (Jesus), in an emphatic sense (i.e., that one). Such use of the demonstrative pronoun (ou!to$ [“this”], along with e)kei=no$ [“that”]) is relatively common in the New Testament, as a specific way of referring to Jesus. The pronoun ou!to$ was used this way earlier in the Prologue (vv. 2, 15), but also in reference to John the Baptist (v. 7), establishing a point of contrast with Jesus—i.e., this one [John] came only as a witness to the Light [Jesus]; he was not the Light himself. The pronoun e)kei=no$ was used of John in verse 8, in this negative sense: “that one [i.e. John] was not the Light”.

The verb here is e)chge/omai, a compound verb which literally means “lead [hgeomai] out [e)k]”, but often in the active (transitive) sense of “bring out”. It can be used figuratively for bringing out information—i.e., reporting, explaining, making something known to others. That is the basic meaning on the other rare occasions when the verb is used in the New Testament (Luke 24:35; Acts 10:8; 15:12, 14; 21:19). Here, however, the emphasis is on seeing God; therefore, the verb in context must refer to ‘bringing out’ God, so He can be seen. Given the interchangeability of the concepts of “seeing” and “knowing” in the Gospel of John, when the Son “brings out” the Father, it is so that He can be known.

This aspect of the relationship between God the Father and Jesus (the Son) is expressed three different ways in the Gospel, and, in turn, three distinct theological (and Christological) points are made:

    • Jesus (the Son) is the only one who has seen/known the Father. As the Prologue makes clear, this is due to the eternal place the Son has in the presence of the Father.
    • The Son makes the Father known to human beings (believers) on earth. Jesus does this primarily by doing and saying what he has seen/heard the Father doing/saying. However, since Jesus is also the incarnate Logos (and Son) of God, the Father is present in the person of Jesus.
    • By seeing/knowing the Son—which means trusting in Jesus as the incarnate Son of God—believers see and know the Father. This is true vision, manifest through the presence of Jesus, realized through our union with him in the Spirit.

For the pertinent references dealing with these themes, outside of the Prologue, cf. 1:34; 3:3, 11, 31ff; 5:19-23ff, 36ff; 6:35-40, 46; 7:16-17ff; 8:14-19, 25-29, 38-39, 54-55; 9:37-41; 10:14-18, 37-38; 11:9, 40; 12:44-50; 14:6-11, 18-24, 31; 15:9-11, 15, 23-24; 16:10ff, 16ff; 17:3, 6-8ff, 20-26.