Saturday Series: 1 John 2:18-27

1 John 2:18-27

In the previous two studies, we examined the conflict that is at the heart of 2 John, and how it shaped the author’s treatment of the Johannine theology. In particular the key Johannine theme, of the two-fold duty (entol¢¡) required of every true believer—trust and love—is expounded and applied in relation to the conflict surrounding the “antichrist” opponents (v. 7). A genuine trust in Jesus Christ is defined in terms of the opponents’ Christology (and their false trust, vv. 7-9ff), while love for one’s fellow believers involves protecting them from the opponents’ influence (see vv. 10-11).

The same conflict is present in 1 John. This is clear from the similarity in wording between 2 John 7 and 1 John 4:3. The author of 1 John (if he is not the same person who penned 2 John) provides a more extensive and developed treatment of the conflict involving the opponents, whom he also calls antíchristos (antichrist). The central section, or division, of 1 John is 2:28-3:24. In this section, the author offers a presentation of what it means to be a true believer. By contrast, in the flanking sections (2:18-27 & 4:1-6), the focus is on the false believer. The principal theme of the treatise is the contrast between the true and false believer; the opponents are identified as false believers, while, in the author’s rhetorical strategy, his audience is essentially treated as true believers. This approach serves the purpose of both exhorting and warning Johannine Christians to remain faithful to the truth, in the face of the danger posed by the ‘antichrist’ opponents.

At various points throughout 1 John, we can see how this conflict has shaped the Johannine discourse. Various teachings and traditions, the language and manner of expression, have been adapted or interpreted so as to address the conflict involving the opponents. The first ‘antichrist’ section, 2:18-27, provides a number of examples for consideration. We begin with verse 18:

“Little children, it is the last hour. And, just as you (have) heard that (the one) ‘against the Anointed’ [antíchristos] comes, even now there have come to be many (who are) ‘against the Anointed’ [antíchristoi]—(and) from this we know that it is (the) last hour.”

The chiastic parallelism of this statement demonstrates how the author can use certain literary and grammatical-syntactical means in order to apply Johannine tradition to the situation involving the opponents. Note the structure:

    • “Little children, it is the last hour
      • you have heard that antichrist comes
      • even now many antichrists have come to be
    • (thus) we know that it is the last hour.”

The framing statements regarding “the last hour” relate to the eschatological expectation of Johannine Christians. The author, and doubtless many (if not all) of his addressees, held an imminent eschatology, with a strong belief that he/they were living in the time just before the end of the current Age. Part of this expectation, apparently, was that someone (or something) called “against the Anointed” (antíchristos) would come, just before the end, during the end-time period of distress (see Dan 12:1; Mark 13:19, 24 par; Rev 1:9; 7:14, etc). The author uses the term antíchristos (a)nti/xristo$) without explanation, nor does he offer any additional information regarding this expectation, which suggests that we are dealing with a tradition that was familiar to his audience. It is not at all clear whether the term here refers to an individual human being, a spirit-being, or an impersonal (spiritual) force. Possibly all three are involved; cf. the expectation elucidated by Paul in 2 Thess 2:1-12. For more on this subject, see my three-part article “The Antichrist Tradition” (the Johannine references are discussed in Part 3).

In any case, the author clearly interprets this eschatological expectation in terms of the opponents. They are manifestations of this antíchristos—indeed, through the presence and activity of the opponents, many ‘antichrists’ have come to be. These antíchristoi are human beings, and yet the author also recognizes that a distinct spirit of ‘antichrist’ is at work.

The author does not immediately explain how (or in what way) the opponents are “against the Anointed”. This is because the main point(s) at issue are only expounded progressively, throughout the three sections (2:18-27; 4:1-6; 5:4b-12) that deal most directly with the opponents’ views. What the author initially tells us about these ‘antichrists’ is that they have departed from the Johannine Community—or, at least, what the author regards as the Community of true believers:

“They went out of [ek] us, (in) that they were not of [ek] us; for, if they were of us, they would have remained [vb ménœ] with us—but (this was so) that it would be made to shine forth [i.e., be made apparent] that they are not of us.” (v. 19)

This is an example of how the distinctive Johannine theological language is applied to the situation involving the opponents. Two bits of Johannine vocabulary and style are employed. First, there is the preposition ek (“out of”), used two different ways, with a dual meaning: (a) “out of, [away] from”, in the sense of departing/leaving the group, and (b) “(part) of”, i.e., belonging to, the Community. Even more distinctive is the use of the verb ménœ (“remain, abide”), an important Johannine keyword that is used (with special theological meaning) many times throughout the Gospel and First Letter. The true believer remains—both in Christ and in the bond of Community—while false believers (such as the opponents) do not remain. The opponents, like Judas in the Gospel narrative, depart from the Community of true believers, going out into the darkness of the world (Jn 13:30; 1 Jn 4:1ff). This could simply refer to their departure from the truth (specifically with regard to their view of Jesus), or it may mean that a more tangible separation/division within the Johannine churches has taken place.

In verses 20-21, and again in verse 27, two additional Johannine features are related to the conflict. First, there is the allusion to the Spirit in verse 20:

“And (yet) you hold an anointing from the Holy (One), and have seen [i.e. know] all (thing)s.”

Though the point has been disputed by some commentators, it is best to understand the noun chrísma (“anointing”) here as a reference to the Holy Spirit. Related to this emphasis on the role of the Spirit, is the use of the noun al¢¡theia (“truth”) in verse 21:

“I did not write to you (in) that [i.e. because] you have not seen [i.e. do not know] the truth, but (in) that you have seen [i.e. do know] it, and that every(thing) false is not of [ek] the truth.”

This would seem to reflect a fundamental spiritual (and spiritualistic) principle within the Johannine Community (see the recent article in the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”). The indwelling presence of the Spirit means that every true believer is able to know and recognize the truth, through the internal witness of the Spirit. However, the presence and activity of the opponents has created a challenge to this principle, since there are certain Johannine Christians (the opponents) who, according to the author, are spreading false teachings. Such false teachings can not come from the same Spirit of God. This is a point that the author develops more clearly in 4:1-6.

A key rhetorical strategy of the author, as noted above, is to address his audience as though they are all true believers. Being true believers, who are taught (internally) by the Spirit (who is the truth, 5:6), they will be able to recognize teaching that is false. The implication is that the readers/hearers should be able to recognize the falseness of the opponents’ teachings.

And it is the opponents’ view of Jesus Christ that is most at issue. The author provides his first summary of the matter here in vv. 22-26. The main principle is that the ‘antichrist’, one who is “against the Anointed”, denies that Jesus is the Anointed (Christ/Messiah). This is another way of saying that the opponents deny Jesus as the Anointed. However, the precise meaning of the author in this regard is not entirely clear, and has been much discussed and debated by commentators. For a relatively in-depth treatment of the issue, see my earlier three-part article “1 Jn 2:22 and the Opponents in 1 John”. I will touch on the matter again in an upcoming study within this series.

What is most important is that, for the author, the opponents’ Christology (their view of Jesus) means that they are not true believers. By effectively denying Jesus, they show that they do not possess the bond of union with either the Son of God (Jesus) or God the Father (vv. 22-23). The presence of the Spirit (i.e., the “anointing”), and its internal witness, is the ultimate source of authority for believers (see again the aforementioned article), to the extent that there is no need to be taught (externally) by another human being (v. 27). But how, then, can individual believers be certain that their understanding is true, guided by the Spirit of God, and has not been led astray by false teachings (coming from other spirits)? The author gives an initial answer to this question in verse 24:

“(As for) you, that which you (have) heard from the beginning must remain in you. If it should remain in you, that which you heard from the beginning, (then) you also shall remain in the Son and in the Father.”

The only way for the believer not to be led astray, is to remain in the true teaching (regarding Jesus Christ). The author uses the key expression “from the beginning” (ap’ arch¢¡s) to summarize the true teaching. It echoes his words in the prologue (1:1-4), which, in turn, seem to be inspired by the Gospel Prologue (1:1-18). The implication is that the internal witness/teaching of the Spirit will conform to the established Gospel tradition, regarding the person and work of Jesus. Any teaching which deviates from the truth of the Gospel cannot come from the Spirit of God, but from a different (false/deceiving) spirit. By remaining in the truth of the Gospel tradition, one is sure to remain united (through the Spirit) with the Father and the Son.

It is the Gospel account, rooted in historical tradition, of who Jesus is, and what he said/did during his earthly ministry, that is principally in view. The opponents, in their view of Jesus, have departed from the Gospel tradition. This, at least, is how the author of 1 John understands the matter. Their teaching denies the truth of who Jesus is, and so they are “against the Anointed”. Their teaching is a malevolent reflection of the end-time spirit of Antichrist, capable of leading many believers astray.

Next week, we will continue this study, examining how the author of 1 John further adapts the Johannine tradition and theology to address this vital conflict. We shall turn our attention to the central section of the work (2:28-3:24), isolating a number of key elements that are particularly emphasized and employed by the author.

“The Word Became Flesh…”: New Testament Christology, part 2

John 1:14 and New Testament Christology, continued

This final division of our study (on John 1:14) is presented in three parts:

    • The Sonship of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels (and Acts) [Part 1]
    • The influence of Wisdom tradition on early Christology [Part 2]
    • The specific idea of the Divine pre-existence of Jesus Christ [Part 3]

We turn now to Part 2:

The influence of Wisdom tradition on early Christology

In the earlier exegesis of John 1:14, we examined how the Gospel Prologue, and its underlying Logos-poem, draws heavily on Old Testament and Jewish Wisdom tradition. The main Scriptural passage is Proverbs 8:22-31, in which Wisdom (Heb hm*k=j*) is personified as a Divine entity that was present with God (YHWH) at the beginning of Creation (vv. 22-26), and who worked alongside Him in the creation process (vv. 27-30). The passage concludes with a reference (v. 31) implying Wisdom’s desire to dwell among human beings on earth.

The line of Wisdom-tradition expressed in this famous Scripture passage was developed by subsequent generations of Jewish authors and expositors. Most notable, from a New Testament standpoint, are certain key Hellenistic Jewish authors, writing in Greek, who expressed this Wisdom-theology in the language and idiom of Greek philosophy. The deutero-canonical Book of Wisdom is a prime example, as are the writings of Philo of Alexandria (a contemporary of early Christians in the mid-first century). Philo, in particular, subsumes the Hellenistic Jewish concept of Divine Wisdom (sofi/a) under the philosophical-theological use of the term lo/go$. On Philo’s use of lo/go$, and its parallels with the Johannine Prologue, cf. my recent article (in the “Ancient Parallels” feature).

As I have discussed, there is wide agreement, among commentators on the Johannine writings, that the Gospel Prologue draws upon Hellenistic Jewish Wisdom tradition, under the term lo/go$, much in the manner that Philo does. The emphasis, in the Genesis Creation account, on God creating through the spoken word (1:3ff), also greatly facilitated this development. It is attested by Philo, and also is found in the Book of Wisdom—note, for example, the close (synonymous) parallel, between creation through the Divine Word (lo/go$) and Wisdom (so/fia) in 9:1-2. Thus the Logos/Wisdom connection with creation, expressed in the Prologue (vv. 1-5), was well-established when the Gospel (and the Logos-poem of the Prologue) was composed.

At least as important for the Prologue was the idea of the Divine Wisdom seeking to find a dwelling place among human beings (and especially God’s people Israel) on earth. The key references—esp. Prov 8:31; Wisd 7:27-28; 9:10; Sirach 24:7-8ff; 1 Enoch 42:1-2—have been discussed. In particular, the emphasis in 1 Enoch 42:2, on the failure of Wisdom to find a welcome place among human beings, is close to what we find in vv. 10-11 of the Prologue. The rejection of God’s Wisdom by the majority of people is a familiar motif in Wisdom tradition (cf. Sirach 15:7; Baruch 3:12, etc).

Thus, from the standpoint of the theology of the Prologue, Jesus is to be identified with the pre-existent Word/Wisdom of God—indeed, this Word/Wisdom (Logos) became incarnate in the person of Jesus (1:14), so as to dwell among human beings in an entirely new (and unprecedented) way.

While this Wisdom background of the Johannine Prologue (and Gospel) has long been recognized by commentators, there has come to be an increasing awareness, among New Testament scholars in recent decades, of a similar, and more general, Wisdom influence on early Christology. Here we will examine briefly the evidence for this, to see how the Johannine Christology, identifying Jesus with the pre-existent Wisdom of God, relates to the wider Christology of the New Testament. Our study will focus on two areas: (1) the Synoptic Tradition, particularly the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and (2) the Pauline Letters, especially the references in 1 Corinthians 1-3 and Colossians 1:15-20.

1. The Synoptic Tradition (Matthew-Luke)

It was widely recognized, by the first believers and those who heard Jesus speak, that he possessed great wisdom (sofi/a). This is specifically emphasized in one tradition—the episode in the synagogue at Nazareth (Mk 6:1-6 par)—where the people react with wonder at Jesus’ teaching: “From where (did) these (thing)s (come) to this (man)? and what (is) th(is) wisdom given to this (man)?” (6:2 [par Matt 13:54]; cp. 1:22 par). The implication is that Jesus has been gifted by a special wisdom from God.

The Lukan Infancy narrative also emphasizes the wisdom possessed by Jesus, referencing it, more generally, in the summary narrative statements of 2:40 and 52. Elsewhere in Luke-Acts, wisdom is specifically associated with the Spirit of God, indicating its Divine origin and inspired character (Lk 21:15; Acts 6:3, 10).

Particularly notable are several references in Matthew and Luke (part of the so-called “Q” material). First, at the close of the section Lk 7:18-35 (par Matt 11:1-19), we have the declaration by Jesus:

“And (yet) Wisdom is proven to be right from her offspring.” (v. 35)

The Matthean version (11:19c) differs in reading “her works,” instead of “her offspring”. Verse 35 may represent a separate wisdom-saying by Jesus; however, in the context of vv. 18-35 (esp. vv. 31-34), emphasizing the rejection of both Jesus and John the Baptist by the majority of people, the saying implies that Jesus and the Baptist are both “offspring” of Wisdom—that is, of Divine Wisdom personified (as in Prov 8:22-31, cf. above). The Matthean version implies, specifically, that they are doing the “works” of Wisdom—especially, viz., in their teaching/preaching. The rejection of Wisdom’s “offspring” (Jesus) should be viewed as part of the rejection of Divine Wisdom itself. The motif of the “offspring” of Wisdom relates to the feminine personification of Wisdom (the Hebrew word hm*k=j* and Greek sofi/a both being grammatically feminine)—Wisdom is like a woman who gives birth to children.

This begins to resemble the idea in the Lukan Infancy narrative (1:35), of Jesus coming to be born as a result of the coming of the Spirit of God upon Mary, his mother. In a somewhat similar manner, Jesus is identified as God’s Son when the Spirit comes down upon him at the Baptism (3:21 par; cf. the discussion in Part 1). The Messianic motif of the coming of the Spirit upon the anointed/chosen one of God (Isa 42:1; 61:1), the “child” of God (pai=$, Isa 42:1 LXX), is a vital traditional source for the Baptism scene in the Gospels. In Isa 11:1-2ff, a similar Messianic passage, wisdom and the Spirit of God are closely connected (v. 2), so that one can fairly assume that Jesus, in the Gospel portrait, was fully endued with the wisdom of God when the Spirit came upon him.

Wisdom 7:27-28 suggests the possibility that this Gospel Christology involves, in at least a rudimentary way, the idea that the pre-existent Wisdom of God (vv. 25-26) came to dwell in the person of Jesus. He and John the Baptist both could be identified as among the holy ones, the chosen prophets and “friends of God”, in whom Wisdom came to reside (v. 27f) and work.

A second Q-passage is Luke 11:49-51 (par Matt 23:34-36), which begins:

“For this (reason), the Wisdom of God said: ‘I will send forth to them foretellers [i.e. prophets] and (those) sent forth from (me), and (some) of them they will kill off and pursue…'” (v. 49)

The context of this saying is the lament in vv. 46-48ff, condemning the religious teachers/leaders of the time, identifying them with those in past generations who persecuted and killed the representatives of God, the prophets. The implication is that Jesus is one of these messengers of God, a true teacher who proclaims the word of God to the people. Here, in the Lukan version, which probably reflects the ‘original’ version of the Q tradition, the inspired prophets are “sent forth” by the Wisdom of God—the Divine Wisdom being again personified. Interestingly, in the Matthean version (23:34), by omitting the Wisdom reference, the Gospel writer effectively makes Jesus the speaker of the statement spoken by Wisdom: “For this reason, see, I send forth to you…”. The implication may well be that Jesus himself represents the Divine Wisdom.

In a third Q tradition (Lk 11:29-32, par Matt 12:38-42), Jesus is identified as possessing wisdom far greater than that of Solomon (v. 31), just as his preaching is greater than that of Jonah (v. 32). This Wisdom-reference is connected with a Son of Man saying; in various ways, the title “Son of Man”, as applied by Jesus (to himself) in the Gospel Tradition, identifies Jesus with the exalted/heavenly figure of Daniel 7:13-14. In the Gospel of John, as we have seen, the Son of Man sayings are understood in the special Johannine theological sense of the pre-existent Son’s heavenly origin. Some scholars would see a similar theological significance in the Synoptic Son of Man sayings, but I find little or no evidence for this: some of the Synoptic sayings relate to the exaltation of Jesus, and of the (subsequent) end-time appearance of this exalted figure, but do not particularly indicate pre-existence.

It has been argued that the Gospel of Matthew evinces a Wisdom Christology that identifies Jesus as both the Wisdom and Word (i.e. the Torah) of God, in an incarnate manner that resembles, in certain respects, the view of Jesus in the Gospel of John. I find this line of argument to be overstated, but there are several Matthean passages that are worth mentioning. First, there is 11:25-30, which contains Q material (vv. 25-27, par Lk 10:21-22), to which was added the sayings in vv. 28-30. These verses have a strong Wisdom orientation, utilizing wording that suggests Jesus may be identified himself with the Wisdom of God (personified); note, for example the similar motifs and parallels of wording in Sirach 51:23-26ff. The call for people to come and learn from him resembles the call of Wisdom in, e.g., Prov 1:20ff; 8:1ff, etc.

The citation of Psalm 78:2 by Jesus in Matt 13:35 could be taken as implying that he is to be identified with the pre-existent Wisdom of Prov 8:22-31. See, similarly in this context, the statements in vv. 11 and 16-17; these verses represent traditional material (Synoptic/Markan and “Q”), but the Matthean presentation suggests a theological (and Christological) development of the tradition.

In the Matthean “Sermon on the Mount”, rooted at least partly in Q-material, there is a similar kind of theological development, in which Jesus’ interpretation of the Torah carries an authority which matches that of the Torah itself—cf. the sayings in 5:17-20, and throughout the Antitheses of vv. 21-48. For more on these passages, see the notes and articles in the series “Jesus and the Law”. The implication is (or may be) that Jesus, in his person, embodies the very Word (and Wisdom) of God.

2. The Pauline Letters

Paul refers to wisdom, using the word sofi/a, more often than any other New Testament author. However, these references tend to be concentrated in two main sections: (a) 1 Corinthians 1-3, and (b) in and around the ‘Christ-hymn’ of Colossians 1:15-20.

I have discussed these passages extensively in prior notes and articles (cf. the notes on 1 Cor 1:17-2:16, and the article in the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”, along with the notes on Col 1:15-20), so I will deal with them in only a summary fashion here. The Colossians Christ-hymn will also be touched upon in Part 3.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16, Paul, in expounding the main proposition of 1:17, develops the theme of the fundamental contrast between human/worldly wisdom and the wisdom of God. The Gospel, however foolish it may seem (in its emphasis on the cross), represents the Divine Wisdom, in contrast with the wisdom prized and valued by the world. The statement in verse 24 goes beyond this thought, seemingly identifying Jesus himself with the Divine Wisdom; this, however, can be misleading, since the context of v. 23 clearly indicates that the focus remains on the crucifixion of Jesus:

“But we proclaim (the) Anointed (One) having been put to the stake [i.e. crucified]—for (the) Yehudeans something (that) trips (them) up, and for (the) nations something foolish, but for the (one)s (who are) called, both Yehudeans and Greeks, (it is the) Anointed (One), (the) power of God and (the) wisdom of God” (vv. 23-24)

The further statement in v. 30 seems even to echo the Johannine idea of the incarnation of the pre-existent Wisdom:

“Out of [i.e. from] Him you are in (the) Anointed Yeshua, who was made to become [e)genh/qh] wisdom for us from God, and (also for us) righteousness, (the ability to) be made holy, and (the) loosing from (bondage)”

The same verb of becoming (gi/nomai) is used here as in Jn 1:14, yet the orientation is different: in Jn 1:14, the pre-existent Wisdom becomes a human being (in the person of Jesus), while here it is Jesus who becomes (lit. is made to become) the Wisdom of God. He “becomes” the Divine Wisdom through his death—painful and humiliating—on the cross. Certainly the resurrection (exaltation) of Jesus is also understood here, though the exaltation does not occur without first the experience of the low point of death. This is the profound paradox of Christian faith—exaltation through shameful suffering and death—in which the Wisdom of God is manifest.

Paul’s line of argument shifts in 2:6, as he begins to speak of wisdom that is discussed among those who are “complete”. The precise nature of this wisdom continues to be debated among commentators. Does it refer to something other than (or beyond) the Gospel of the cross of Christ? I have discussed the subject in the aforementioned article (in the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”), focusing on verses 10-15. This Wisdom is clearly related to the presence and activity of the Spirit. Note the relative lack of reference to the Spirit in 1:18-2:5ff (only in 2:4), compared to density of references in vv. 10-16. Believers receive the Spirit through trust in Jesus, and come to participate (spiritually) in the death and resurrection of Jesus, becoming united with him. The Wisdom manifest in his death thus becomes open to us, and, through the Spirit, we are able to delve the depths of the Divine Wisdom.

In my view, this Wisdom emphasis in 1 Corinthians is far removed from the Wisdom Christology of the Gospel of John. Much closer to the Johannine Christology are the references in Colossians, which demonstrate that such a Wisdom Christology was not foreign to Paul. The key reference is in 2:2-3, where we find the identification of Jesus himself with the “secret [musth/rion] of God” —

“in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden away.” (v. 3)

This statement goes beyond what we find in 1 Corinthians 1-3; the emphasis is not on the death of Jesus, but on his very person. The ‘Christ-hymn’ earlier in 1:15-20 is most significant in this regard (cf. my earlier series of notes), beginning with the opening declaration in verse 15, in which it is stated that the Son of God (Jesus) is the one—

“who is (the) image [ei)kw/n] of the unseen God…”

This philosophical-theological use of the term ei)kw/n occurs also in 2 Cor 3:18 and 4:4; the wording in these indisputably Pauline verses is almost certainly influenced by Hellenistic Jewish Wisdom tradition, such as we find in Philo and the Book of Wisdom—note, in particular, the wording of Wisd 7:26:

“For she is a shining forth [a)pau/gasma, i.e. reflection] of eternal light,
a looking-glass [e&soptron, i.e. mirror] of the spotless working of God,
and (the) image [ei)kw/n] of His goodness.”

The phrase in Col 1:15b is clearly drawn from the tradition of the (personified) pre-existent Wisdom (of Prov 8:22-31, etc). What follows in 1:16-20 is a pre-existence Christology that resembles, in many ways that of the Johannine Gospel Prologue. Note the following parallels:

This passage will be discussed a bit further, in connection with the Christ-hymn of Phil 2:6-11, in Part 3.




John 1:14 and the Baptism of Jesus

John 1:14 and the Baptism of Jesus

(This note is supplemental to the article on Jn 1:14 and New Testament Christology [see Part 1].)

“And the Word became flesh…”
kai\ o( lo/go$ sa\rc e)ge/neto

In the exegesis and critical analysis of Jn 1:14, presented thus far in this series, I have discussed how, in my view, the phrase sa\rc e)ge/neto (“came to be flesh”) refers to the birth of the Logos as a human being. Whether this emphasis on a human birth was present in the underlying ‘Logos-poem’ of the Prologue, it would seem be in view for the Gospel writer, particularly given the birth-motif that is in focus in the prior vv. 12-13. Even many commentators who might downplay the birth-aspect of the wording in verse 14, would still include a human birth as part of the incarnation of the Logos—that is, his life and existence as a human being (in the person of Jesus).

However, it should be pointed out, that not all scholars accept this traditional incarnational understanding of the Johannine Christology. While it remains a minority view, there have been, since the beginning of the 20th century (and the Le Quatrième Évangile of A. Loisy, first edition 1903), a small number of commentators and theologians who would maintain that 1:14 refers to the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus during the Baptism event (vv. 29-34). Francis Watson offers a clear, if rather brief, survey of the main lines of evidence in support of this view, in his article “Is John’s Christology Adoptionistic?” (in The Glory of Christ in the New Testament: Studies in Christology in Memory of George Bradford Caird, eds. L. D. Hurst and N. T. Wright [Clarendon Press: 1987], pp. 113-24).

Certainly, the references to John the Baptist in the Prologue (vv. 6-8, 15), surrounding as they do vv. 9-12a, 14, would tend to support an association between the manifestation of the Logos on earth (in the person of Jesus) and the Baptism scene. The addition of these Baptist-verses to the Logos-poem places the Logos Christology of the poem more clearly within the context of the Gospel (chaps. 1-3). With the preceding verses 6-8 in view, verses 9-12a can be read as referring to (or at least foreshadowing) the appearance of the Logos in the person of Jesus:

“The true Light, which gives light to every man, was coming [e)rxo/menon] into the world.” (v. 9)
“He was [h@n] in the world…” (v. 10)
“the Logos came to be [e)ge/neto] flesh and set up tent among us…” (v. 14)

The three verbs emphasized in these verses are the same three featured in the Baptist-saying of verse 15; the repetition of this saying in v. 30 clearly positions it as part of the Baptism scene. The implication could then be that the manifestation of the Logos, in the person of Jesus, occurred at the Baptism—this was the moment when the Logos “came to be flesh”, viz., was manifest as a human being.

Perhaps the strongest evidence in favor of this view of the Baptism is the use of the verb katabai/nw (“step down,” i.e., come down, descend) in vv. 32-33. The use of this verb is part of the broader Gospel tradition regarding the Baptism scene, since it also occurs in the Synoptic account(s):

“And straightaway, stepping up out of the water, he [i.e. Jesus] saw the heavens splitting (open), and the Spirit as a dove stepping down [katabai=non] unto him.” (Mk 1:10 par)

This traditional account contains both the verb katabai/nw and the related a)nabai/nw (“step up,” i.e., go up, ascend). These are common verbs, used frequently in narrative; however, in the Gospel of John, they have special theological (and Christological) significance. Within the theological idiom of the Gospel, the verb a)nabai/nw refers to the exaltation of the Son (Jesus)—a process that entails his death, resurrection, and return to the Father. The verb katabai/nw, correspondingly, refers to the coming of the Son to earth (from heaven), in order to fulfill the mission for which he was sent by God the Father.

These verbs feature in the Discourses of chapters 3 and 6, in connection with the Johannine “Son of Man” sayings by Jesus. The first of these sayings is in 1:51, where the descent-ascent motif in the visionary scene effectively summarizes the entire Johannine theology (and Gospel narrative). The verb-pair occurs again in the Son of Man saying in 3:13:

“…no one has stepped up [a)nabe/bhken] into the heaven, if not [i.e. except] the (one hav)ing stepped down [kataba/$], the Son of Man.”

The heavenly origin of the Son (Jesus) is thus quite clearly implied, as well a foreshadowing of his exaltation (and heavenly return), cf. verse 14. Similarly, in the chapter 6 Bread of Life Discourse, there are repeated references and allusions to Jesus’ (i.e., the Son’s) heavenly origin, having “come down” to earth, using the verb katabai/nw (vv. 33, 38, 41-42, 51, 58); the Father/Son relationship is emphasized throughout the Discourse, while the expression “Son of Man” also occurs in vv. 27 and 53. The corresponding verb a)nabai/nw is used in another Son of Man saying, outside of the Discourse proper (but still clearly related to it in the narrative context), in verse 62. The verb a)nabai/nw is one of several Johannine verbs (e.g., u(yo/w, “lift up high”, doca/zw, “[give] honor to, glorify”) used to express the idea of the Son’s exaltation (and return to the Father)—cf. the Son of Man sayings in 8:28; 12:23 [and 34]; 13:31; and note the further use of a)nabai/nw in 20:17.

Given this important Christological usage of the verb katabai/nw, where the verb specifically refers to the descent of the Son from heaven, it would be plausible to suggest that the same meaning is implied in the Baptism scene as well. That is to say, the use of the verb in 1:32-33, where the Spirit of God is described as coming down upon Jesus, is another way of referring to the Son’s descent. Now, in the Prologue, it is the pre-existent Logos that is manifest as a human being; however, throughout the Gospel, the emphasis is on the manifestation of the pre-existent Son, and, in vv. 14-18 of the Prologue, the Gospel writer clearly transitions from the Logos concept to that of Son. Thus the Gospel writer could affirm that it was the pre-existent Son of God who was manifest in the person of Jesus.

The Son could be seen as coming down upon Jesus, through the presence of the Spirit, at the Baptism, and thus being manifest in the person of Jesus throughout the time of his ministry. This would be in keeping with the wider Gospel tradition, since, even in the Synoptics, the identification of Jesus as God’s Son is connected prominently with the Baptism scene (Mark 1:11 par; cp. Jn 1:34 [MT]). Cf. also the discussion in Part 1 of the main article.

Given the references/allusions to the departure of the Spirit in 19:30, 34, and the Johannine idea of Jesus’ death on the cross as marking the beginning of the Son’s departure (back to the Father), it would also be plausible to infer that the Son departed from Jesus, even in the manner that He came upon him, through the ‘ascending’ of the Divine Spirit. In traditional Christological terminology, such a view of Christ is referred to as a “separationist” Christology. That is to say, the Divine Christ (i.e., the Son) and the man Jesus are regarded two separate entities, who were joined together at the Baptism, and then separated at the moment of Jesus’ death.

Apart from the Prologue, it would be conceivable to read the Johannine Gospel narrative as reflecting a “separationist” Christology—viz., the Son, through the Spirit, descends upon the man Jesus, remaining with him throughout his ministry, then ascends/departs from him at the moment of his death. Regardless of whether the Gospel writer could have had anything like this in mind, there is a strong possibility that at least some Johannine Christians did hold such a view of Jesus. Indeed, it may well be represented by the Christological view of the opponents in 1 and 2 John. A rudimentary separationist Christology is attributed to Cerinthus by Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.26.1); and Cerinthus was connected, according to tradition, with the apostle John (and thus the early Johannine Community [in Ephesus]). In prior notes and articles, I have discussed the possibility that the opponents in 1-2 John held a similar separationist Christology.

“The Word Became Flesh…”: New Testament Christology, part 1

John 1:14 and New Testament Christology

Our final area of study in this series is the relation of John 1:14 to the wider view of Christ, held by early believers, and as expressed in the New Testament. To what extent does the Johannine Christology of the Prologue (and its underlying Logos-poem) reflect the beliefs and thought of first-century Christians? In what ways does this Christology represent a natural development of the early Gospel traditions, or should it be characterized more as a distinctly Johannine creative expression?

Due to the scope of the study, which involves much of the New Testament, I will not be going into the kind of exegetical detail that I did in the first two divisions. Rather, the study will proceed as a survey, looking at the more salient points and citing certain references and phrasing when appropriate. This study will build upon the results from the prior articles, framed in terms of the Johannine Christology found in the Prologue (and particularly verse 14). It is to be divided into three parts, focusing on:

    • The Sonship of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels (and Acts)
    • The influence of Wisdom tradition on early Christology, and
    • The specific idea of the Divine pre-existence of Jesus Christ

Here, in Part 1, we begin with the first of these topics.

The Sonship of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels

John 1:14 speaks of the incarnation (“became flesh”) of the Word/Wisdom (Logos) of God, even though, throughout the remainder of the Gospel (and in the Letters), the principal identification is of Jesus as the Son of God. The word lo/go$ has considerable theological importance in the Johannine writings, but, outside of the Gospel Prologue, the profound Christological use of the term is, at best, only indirectly alluded to or implied. By contrast, the Gospel repeatedly refers to Jesus as the Son (ui(o/$) who was sent (by God the Father) from heaven to earth. This theology implies the idea of the Son’s pre-existence; Jesus’ words in 8:58 and 17:5, 24 state the Christological point even more directly.

In the Prologue, the Gospel writer appears to have taken an existing ‘Logos-poem’, developing and applying it to the context of the Gospel he was composing (or had composed). The Logos-poem itself draws upon Old Testament and Jewish Wisdom tradition, involving the personification of Divine Wisdom (cf. Prov 8:22-31), but expressed through the philosophical/theological use of the term lo/go$, rather than utilizing the term sofi/a (“wisdom”) itself. This usage of the word lo/go$ in the Johannine Logos-poem has much in common with the way the term is used, for example, in the writings of Philo of Alexandria, as we have discussed.

In verses 14-18 of the Prologue, the Gospel writer makes the transition from the term lo/go$ (i.e., the pre-existent Word/Wisdom of God) to the term ui(o/$ (i.e., the Son of God). This transition is enabled through the use of the adjective monogenh/$ (“only [Son]”) in v. 14 (cf. also v. 18; 3:16, 18; 1 Jn 4:9). The idea of Jesus as the incarnate Logos is absent from the Synoptic Gospels; nor does the term monogenh/$ occur (in this theological/Christological sense). However, the idea that Jesus is the unique Son of God is found at various points in the wider Gospel Tradition, going back to the early historical tradition and the earliest expressions of Christian belief.

In this article, we will examine the outlines of this belief in the Divine Sonship of Jesus, considering how it may relate to the Johannine Christology (of the Prologue, etc). I wish to focus on three areas:

    • The early exaltation Christology—viz., the Sonship of Jesus defined by his resurrection and exaltation (to God’s right hand in heaven)
    • The identification of Jesus as God’s Son at the baptism
    • The birth of Jesus (as God’s Son) in the Infancy Narratives
1. The early exaltation Christology

By all accounts, the earliest Christology can be characterized as an exaltation Christology—that is, Jesus’ identity as the Son of God was defined primarily in terms of his resurrection and exaltation to heaven. This exaltation resulted in his obtaining a status and position at the “right hand” of God in heaven (cf. Mk 14:62 par; Acts 2:33-34; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; Eph 1:20; 1 Pet 3:22; Heb 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). The early Gospel proclamation (kerygma), as we find it preserved in the sermon-speeches in the book of Acts (and elsewhere in the New Testament), tends to define the Sonship of Jesus primarily in terms of this exaltation—see, for example, the declaration in Acts 2:36, the citations of Ps 110:1 and 2:7 (in the specific context of the resurrection) in Acts 2:34-35 and 13:33 (cp. Heb 1:5; 5:5), and Paul’s statements in 1 Thes 1:10 and Rom 1:3-4 (the latter perhaps quoting from an early credal statement).

Within the Gospel Tradition itself, the identification of Jesus as the exalted Son tends to be framed by way of the title “(the) Son of Man” (cf. Mk 13:26, 32; 14:61-62 par; Matt 16:27-28; 19:28; 24:36ff pars; 25:1). This Gospel usage of the expression “(the) Son of Man” ([o(] ui(o\$ [tou=] a)nqrw/pou), which unquestionably derives from authentic historical tradition (and Jesus’ own usage), is a complex matter. Four aspects of its use must be recognized:

    • As a self-reference, a circumlocution for the pronoun “I”, so that, when Jesus speaks of “the son of man”, he is simply referring to himself
    • The Son of Man sayings, where Jesus uses the expression to identify with the suffering and mortality of the human condition
    • The Passion statements and predictions, where the human mortality of Jesus (the Son of Man) refers specifically to his own impending death (and resurrection)
    • The eschatological Son of Man sayings, in which Jesus seems to identify himself with a heavenly figure who will appear on earth and usher in the end-time Judgment

All four of these aspects are combined in the famous declaration by Jesus in Mk 14:62 par, which is clearly influenced by Daniel 7:13-14, and thus refers indirectly to the idea of Jesus’ exaltation. For more on the Gospel use of the title “Son of Man”, cf. Part 10 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”, along with my series on the Son of Man sayings; see also my note on Dan 7:13-14.

The Gospel of John preserves this exaltation Christology, but adds to it a highly developed pre-existence Christology. The two aspects of Jesus’ Sonship are thus balanced, much as we see, for example, in the ‘Christ hymn’ of Phil 2:6-11. In the Johannine theological idiom, the exalted status which Jesus receives (following his death and resurrection) is understood as a return—that is, to the glory which he, the Son, possessed in the beginning (17:5). The “Son of Man” references in the Gospel of John are instructive in this regard (1:51; 3:13-14; 5:27; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 9:35; 12:23, 34; 13:31). They refer not only to the exaltation (“lifting high”) of the Son of Man, but to his coming down to earth (from heaven)—i.e., during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The pairing of the related verbs katabai/nw (“step down”) and a)nabai/nw (“step up”) highlight this dual-aspect. In the Johannine Gospel, the emphasis is squarely on the Son’s heavenly origin.

The Son’s heavenly origin is clearly the focus in the Gospel Prologue as well. The emphasis on his pre-existent glory (do/ca) balances the traditional idea of Jesus’ post-resurrection exaltation, as does the specific image of the Logos/Son possessing this glory “alongside” (para/) the Father. One is immediately reminded of the traditional idiom of the exalted Jesus standing “at the right hand” (i.e., alongside) God in heaven (cf. above).

2. The identification of Jesus as God’s Son at the baptism

The Gospel Tradition also expresses the idea of Jesus’ Divine Sonship through the specific tradition(s) surrounding his baptism. In particular, the heavenly voice at the baptism declares, quite unequivocally, that Jesus is God’s Son (Mk 1:11; par Matt 3:17; Lk 3:22), a declaration that is essentially repeated in the Synoptic Transfiguration scene (Mk 9:7 par Matt 17:5 [where the declarations are identical]; Lk 9:35).

In my view, this idea of Jesus’ Sonship should be understood in a Messianic sense. This seems particularly clear by the Lukan version of the declaration in the Transfiguration scene:

“This is my Son, the (one) gathered out [i.e., chosen]…”

The use of the participle e)klelegme/no$ (from the verb e)kle/gomai) unquestionably has Messianic significance, referring to Jesus as the “Chosen (One)”. Indeed, there can be little doubt that the Gospel writer (trad. Luke) has this in mind, given the occurrence of the related adjective e)klekto/$ in 23:35: “…the Anointed [xristo/$] of God, the Chosen (One)”. Interestingly, in some manuscripts, the Johannine version of the heavenly declaration at the baptism (Jn 1:34) also uses the substantive adjective e)klekto/$ rather than the noun ui(o/$ (“Son”):

    • “This is the Son [ui(o/$] of God”
      [Majority Text]
    • “This is the Chosen (One) [e)klekto/$] of God”
      [the reading of Ë5vid a* and other versional witnesses]
    • “This is the Chosen Son of God”
      [a conflation of the two readings attested in a number of versional witnesses]

The original Gospel tradition almost certainly alludes to Isaiah 42:1, Jesus’ baptism (marking the beginning of his time of ministry) being seen as a fulfillment of this prophetic passage—the heavenly declaration corresponding to v. 1a, and the descent of the Spirit to v. 1b. For more on this connection, cf. my earlier study in the series “The Old Testament in the Gospel Tradition”. Jesus is thus identified with the Deutero-Isaian Servant figure, and as a Messianic Prophet, chosen by God and anointed by His Spirit. Again, it is Luke’s Gospel that brings out this Messianic identification most clearly, identifying Jesus, in particular, with the anointed herald of Isa 61:1ff (4:18-19, cf. also 7:22 par). Cf. Parts 23 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”.

By the time the Gospels were completed, Jesus’ Messianic identity as the royal/Davidic figure type (cf. Parts 68 of “Yeshua the Anointed”) had completely eclipsed that of the Prophet figure-types. It is thus not surprising that the Sonship emphasized in the baptism scene would come to be understood in terms of the royal/Davidic type as well. The textual tradition of the Lukan version of the heavenly declaration (3:22) contains a variant reading to this effect, whereby the heavenly voice quotes Psalm 2:7. Certainly, in the Lukan and Matthean Infancy Narratives (cf. below), Jesus is identified exclusively as the Davidic Messiah, with his Sonship defined on those terms.

The place of the baptism of Jesus (and the heavenly declaration) within the Johannine Christology is problematic and remains debated by scholars. The main event at the baptism (in all four Gospel accounts) is the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus (Jn 1:32-33). In the Synoptics, the clear implication is that the presence of the Spirit is tied to Jesus’ Messianic identity (Isa 42:1; 61:1), empowering him to fulfill his ministry, working miracles as a Spirit-anointed Messianic Prophet (according to figure-types of Elijah and Moses). Luke’s Gospel particularly emphasizes this role of the Spirit, in relation to Jesus’ identity as a Messianic Prophet (4:1ff, 14, 18-19ff, 24ff [note the Elijah/Elisha references in vv. 25-27]).

However, in the Gospel of John, both Jesus’ Sonship and the role of the Spirit are described very differently, and the traditional material preserved in the baptism scene thus needs to be interpreted and explained accordingly. I am devoting an extensive supplemental note to this subject.

3. The Birth of Jesus (as God’s Son) in the Infancy Narratives

In the detailed exegesis of Jn 1:14 given previously, in the articles of the first two divisions of our study, I discussed the evidence in support of the expression “became flesh” (sa/rc e)ge/neto) as referring to a human birth—viz., of the birth of the Logos as a human being. For many Christians, this would simply be taken for granted, given the tendency to harmonize 1:14 with the Matthean and Lukan Infancy Narratives—thus assuming that 1:14 refers to Jesus’ birth.

There is, however, no real indication that the Gospel of John, in any way, has been influenced by the Matthean and/or Lukan narrative (or any of their underlying traditions). The Gospel writer certainly was aware of the expectation that the royal/Davidic Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (7:42), but there is no evidence that he understood Jesus to have been born there—indeed, the author’s handling of the matter in 7:41-43 could be taken as suggesting the opposite.

More seriously, there are two ways in which the Gospel of John differs markedly from the Infancy Narratives: (1) the lack of emphasis on Jesus as the Davidic Messiah, and (2) the Johannine emphasis on Jesus’ birth as an incarnation. As we conclude Part 1 of this article, let us briefly consider each of these points.

The identification of Jesus as the “Anointed (One)” (xristo/$), that is, the Messiah, is central to the Johannine theology—as, indeed, it was for virtually all early Christians. However, as I have discussed (particularly in the series “Yeshua the Anointed”), there were a number of different Messianic figure-types present in Judaism during the first centuries B.C./A.D., and these should not be reduced to the single (royal/Davidic) type that subsequently came to dominate eschatological and Messianic thought. In 7:40-43 (discussed above), there is a distinction made between “the Prophet” (that is, a Messianic Prophet, patterned after Moses) and “the Anointed One” (the Davidic Messiah). Similar distinctions are made in 1:20-25.

It is not clear whether the title o( xristo/$, throughout the Gospel, refers strictly to Jesus as the Davidic Messiah, or whether it has broader or more general Messianic significance. In any case, Johannine Christians would have identified Jesus with all relevant Messianic figure-types, both “the Prophet” (esp. patterned after Moses) and the Davidic Messiah. The Gospel explicitly identifies Jesus as “the King of Israel” (1:49), and, like the Synoptic tradition, beginning with the ‘triumphal entry’ and throughout the Passion narrative, gives certain emphasis to the theme of Jesus’ kingship (12:13, 15; 18:33ff, 39; 19:3, 12-21). In my view, the title o( xristo/$, in the Gospel of John, entails both Prophet (Moses) and Kingly (Davidic) aspects; overall, however, it is the association with Moses that is specifically established in the Prologue, and which is more dominant which the thematic structure and theology of the Gospel.

This is to be contrasted with the Infancy Narratives, where the Davidic Messiahship of Jesus is unquestionably given emphasis, and which is tied directly to Jesus’ birth—Matt 1:1ff, 20; 2:1-6ff (citing Mic 5:2), 15; Luke 1:27ff, 69; 2:1-4ff, 10-11ff. In the Lukan narrative, the Sonship of Jesus is defined by this particular Messianic paradigm, as the statements in 1:32-33 and 35 make abundantly clear. There is no real sense, in either narrative, that Jesus’ birth represents the incarnation of a pre-existent Divine being; to be sure, the Lukan and Matthean accounts are typically read that way, but this largely under the harmonizing influence of Jn 1:14.

The Johannine confessional statements (cf. especially in 11:27 and 20:31) effectively summarize the Johannine theology: Jesus is the Anointed One (Messiah) and the Son of God. He is, indeed, the Messiah (both Prophet and King), but also something more—the eternal and pre-existent Son of God. In Parts 2 and 3, we will consider the New Testament parallels to this pre-existence Christology, focusing (in Part 2) on the influence of Wisdom tradition on early Christology, and evidence for this outside of the Johannine writings.

“The Word Became Flesh…”: The Johannine Gospel, part 5

“…the splendor as of an only-born (Son) alongside (the) Father, full of favor and truth”
do/can w($ monogenou=$ para\ patro/$ plh/rh$ xa/rito$ kai\ a)lhqei/a$

We now turn to an examination of the final two phrases of 1:14 in the light of the Johannine Gospel (and First Letter) as a whole, just as was done for the three main phrases (in parts 1, 2, 3, and 4). These last two phrases qualify the third main phrase: “and we looked upon his splendor” (discussed in part 4), describing the nature of this Divine splendor (do/ca) that is manifest in the person of the incarnate Logos (Jesus). I wish to examine briefly three aspects of these two phrases, in the context of the Johannine theology:

    • The identity of Jesus as the “only Son” of God
    • His relation to God the Father, and
    • The (Divine) attributes and characteristics that are manifested in him
1. Jesus as the “only Son” of God

In verse 14, this identification is made using the adjective monogenh/$, which literally means something like “(the) only one who has come to be”, preserving the full etymological force of the components mo/no$ (“only, alone, sole”) and ge/no$, the latter derived from the verb gi/nomai (“come to be, become”). This verb of becoming can refer specifically to birth (i.e., coming to be born), and, in this regard, the noun ge/no$ typically has a familial aspect to its meaning—viz., referring to a person’s offspring, a family or ethnic line, etc.

Sometimes this idea of a “family” can be understood in a more general or abstract sense—as a group with common members (class, kind, sort, etc). Thus, monogenh/$ can simply mean “only one of its kind” (i.e., unique); however, in the New Testament, the adjective is always used in the context of someone who has been born—that is, an “only child”. Outside of the Johannine writings, monogenh/$ refers generally to an “only” child, either adding the specification of a “son” (Luke 7:12; 9:38), “daughter” (Lk 8:42), or using the adjective by itself to designate an “only son” (Heb 11:17). Only in the Johannine writings, is the adjective applied to Jesus, in a theological sense, identifying him as the “only Son” of God: 1:18; 3:16-18; 1 Jn 4:9.

The Divine Sonship of Jesus is, of course, a central tenet of early Christian belief, whether expressed by the specific title “(the) Son of God” ([o(] ui(o\$ [tou=] qeou=), the shorter “(the) Son” ([o(] ui(o/$), or indirectly. In the Synoptic Gospels, the title “(the) Son”, when spoken by Jesus himself, can also represent an abbreviated version of the title “(the) Son of Man”. The Gospel of John follows the early Christian usage, employing all three of these titles: “Son,” “Son of God,” and “Son of Man”.

The full title “Son of God” is relatively infrequent in the Johannine Gospel, at least within the traditional material itself (1:49; 19:7); it occurs four times in the Discourses, spoken by Jesus (3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4). Elsewhere, it functions as part of Johannine confessional statements (1:34 [also v. 49]; 11:27; 20:31)—a point that becomes even clearer when we consider the usage in 1 John (3:8; 4:15; 5:5, 10, 12-13, 20). Central to the Johannine tradition was the confession of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God (though, as the Letters attest, Johannine Christians could be in disagreement over precisely what this entailed).

More commonly, in the Gospel Discourses, Jesus refers to himself either as “(the) Son of Man”, or (more frequently) “(the) Son”. The title “Son of Man” tends to be reserved for statements dealing with either the heavenly origin of the Son, or, more fully, the idea of the Son’s descent from heaven (and his ascent back to heaven [beginning with his death on the cross])—1:51; 3:13-14; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 12:34; 13:31. When referring to his relationship to God the Father, Jesus refers to himself simply as “(the) Son”, a usage that pervades the Discourses—3:16-17f, 35-36; 5:19-27; 6:40; 8:35-36; 14:13; 17:1. Even when the noun ui(o/$ (“son”) is not explicitly used, and Jesus speaks of God as (his) Father, the same relationship is clearly intended.

It is noteworthy that, while the idea of believers as the children of God is central to the Johannine theology, the noun ui(o/$ is never used in this context. The relationship between believers and God (as their/our Father) is expressed through the plural of the noun te/knon (te/kna, “offspring”). By contrast, the noun ui(o/$ is consciously reserved for Jesus (as the Son). This differs, for example, from Paul’s usage, since he is willing to apply the sonship motif to believers, calling them “sons [ui(oi/] of God” (Rom 8:14, 19; Gal 3:26); though he is careful to frame such references either in terms of adoption (ui(oqesi/a, “placement as a son”, Rom 8:15, 23; Gal 4:5), or in relation to the Sonship of Jesus (e.g., Rom 8:29; cf. Eph 1:5). Within the Johannine theology, however, Jesus is quite literally the only Son.

2. The Son’s relation to God the Father

In 1:14, the glory of the incarnate Logos (Jesus) is said to be that of an only Son “alongside [para/]” the Father. Early Christians were quite clear on the Divine status/position of Jesus as God’s Son. Within the early exaltation Christology, after the resurrection, Jesus was exalted to heaven, where he (now) stands at the “right hand” of God the Father (Mk 14:62 par; Acts 2:33-34; 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; 1 Pet 3:22, etc). In the subsequent pre-existence Christology that developed, this same relational idea was applied to the Son’s pre-existence—viz., even in the beginning, he stood alongside the Father, sharing in His glory and splendor.

Though this theological view is only suggested or indicated briefly elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g., Phil 2:6; Heb 1:2-3), it stated more fully and directly in the Gospel of John. The heavenly origin of the Son (implying Divine pre-existence) is repeatedly mentioned throughout the Gospel (see the “Son” and “Son of Man” references, above), along with the idea of his impending return (back to the Father). Outside of the Prologue, an emphasis on the pre-existent glory (do/ca), which the Son shares with the Father, is most clear in chapter 17 (see esp. verses 5, 22, 24).

At least as important, for the Johannine theology, is the Son’s relationship to the Father, which is expressed in various ways; two themes are particularly notable: (1) the Father gives all things (that are His) to the Son, and (2) like a dutiful Son, Jesus follows his Father’s example and instruction, saying and doing all that he hears and sees his Father saying/doing. For the first theme, the key references are: 3:34-35; 5:21-22ff, 26-27, 36; 6:32-33, 37ff, 57; 10:28-29; 17:2, 8-12, 22-24; what the Father gives to the Son, the Son, in turn, gives to believers. For the second theme, cf. 5:19-20, 30, 36; 6:46; 8:26, 28-29, 38ff; 12:49-50; 15:15; 17:8, 14.

3. The Divine attributes and characteristics manifested in the Son

The incarnate Logos, and God’s “only Son”, with his splendor/glory (do/ca), is said to be “full of favor and truth”. There are three terms contained in this qualifying phrase; let us briefly consider each of them.

a. plh/rh$ (“full, filled”)

The adjective plh/rh$ occurs only here in the Gospel of John, nor does it tend to be used in a theological context, the way it is here, elsewhere in the New Testament. It is most commonly used in Luke-Acts, occasionally in the context of believers being filled with the Spirit (Acts 6:3ff; 7:55; 11:24); in Lk 4:1, the same is said of Jesus himself. It is possible that a similar association, between Jesus and the Spirit of God, is intended here. One is reminded of the statements in 3:34-35:

    • V. 34—Jesus receives the fullness of the Spirit (“it is not out of a measure that He [i.e. the Father] gives the Spirit”)
    • V. 35— “The Father loves the Son and has given all (thing)s into his hand.”
b. xa/ri$ (“favor”)

One of the things, of which the incarnate Logos’ splendor is “full”, is xa/ri$, “favor” —that is, the favor given/shown by God. The noun xa/ri$ is by no means a Johannine term; outside of the Prologue (vv. 16-17), it does not occur in the rest of the Gospel, and only once in the Letters (2 John 3). This may be compared, by contrast, with the extensive use of the word in Luke-Acts and the Pauline writings.

Translated into the Johannine idiom, xa/ri$ should probably be understood here in terms of the love (a)ga/ph) that the Father has for the Son, expressed principally by what the Father gives to him (3:35, etc, cf. above). It has been suggested (cf. Brown, p. 14) that xa/ri$ is related here to the Hebrew ds#j# (“kindness, goodness”), specifically in the latter’s connotation of faithfulness, loyalty, and devotion. In this regard, xa/ri$ is, indeed, an important aspect of the Son’s do/ca—that is, the honor shown/given to him by the Father. The following term a)lh/qeia (cf. below) could similarly be associated with Hebrew tm#a# (rel. hn`Wma$), which connotes faithfulness (lit. “firmness”).

c. a)lh/qeia (“truth”)

Unlike xa/ri$, which virtually is never used elsewhere in the Johannine writings, the noun a)lh/qeia (“truth”) is an important Johannine keyword. It occurs 25 times in the Gospel (compared with 7 in the Synoptic combined) and 20 more times in the Letters (9 in 1 Jn, 5 in 2 Jn, 6 in 3 Jn). The related adjectives a)lhqh/$ and a)lhqino/$ (“true”) also occur rather frequently. In the Johannine theological idiom, “truth” (a)lh/qeia) is a fundamental Divine attribute which the Son possesses (from the Father), and which he communicates to believers in the world. In so doing, the Son makes the Father known (in His fundamental nature as Truth). This Divine truth is specifically associated with the Spirit (4:23-24; 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 Jn 4:6; 5:6).

A comparative study of the use of xa/ri$ and a)lh/qeia, along with the usage of the adjective plh/rh$ elsewhere in the New Testament (Luke-Acts), strongly suggests that this final phrase of v. 14 refers to the incarnate Logos’ possession of the Spirit of God, and of the Father’s giving the Spirit to him. The following verses of the Prologue (vv. 16-18) emphasize how this “favor and truth” is given by the Son, in turn, to believers; again, in the context of the Gospel (and the Johannine theology), this would be understood primarily in terms of his giving the Spirit to believers, by which they/we come to be born as the children of God.

References above marked “Brown” are to Raymond E. Brown, S.S., The Gospel According to John I-XII, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 29 (1966).

“The Word Became Flesh…”: The Johannine Gospel, part 4

“…and set up (his) tent among us, and we looked upon his splendor”
kai\ e)skh/nwsen e)n h(mi=n kai\ e)qeasa/meqa th\n do/can au)tou=

Having examined the main statement of 1:14 in the light of the Johannine Gospel (and First Letter) as a whole (parts 1, 2, 3), we will now proceed to do the same with the remaining phrases.

The use of the verb skhno/w is distinctive to the context of the Prologue, and does not occur elsewhere in the Gospel or Letters. The verb, derived from skh/no$ (also skhnh/), “tent”, means either “set up a tent” or “live/dwell in a tent”; these two meanings are attested in the LXX, though the verb occurs only rarely (cf. Gen 13:12; Judg 5:17 B; 8:11). In the New Testament, outside of our verse, skhno/w occurs only in the book of Revelation (which could be considered Johannine), 7:15; 12:12; 13:6; 21:3. This usage in Revelation is significant, since it refers exclusively to the dwelling place of God. The verb can be applied with the general meaning of “dwell”, and, indeed, in Revelation, only the first occurrence (7:15) specifically preserves the idea of dwelling in a tent. However, we can assume that the underlying imagery is of a glorious, heavenly Tent-dwelling.

Almost certainly, both the Prologue and the book of Revelation have the tradition of the Tent-shrine (or ‘Tabernacle’) in mind, drawing upon the Moses/Exodus traditions, in which the Tent-shrine is specifically called by the term /K*v=m! (literally, “dwelling place”). Thus, the Tent is the place where God, and His glory, resides, in the midst of His people. The use of the noun do/ca, along with the references to Moses and the related traditions (vv. 17-18), indicates rather clearly that the Gospel writer had these associations in mind.

As for the noun do/ca and the verb qea/omai, these are more common Johannine terms. The noun do/ca (“recognition, esteem, honor,” and, when used of God, “splendor, glory”) is particularly important for the theology of the Gospel, occurring 19 times, while the related verb doca/zw occurs 23 times; somewhat surprisingly, neither the noun nor verb occurs in the Letters. As for the verb qea/omai (“look with wonder [at]”), it occurs 6 times in the Gospel and 3 times in 1 John (1:1; 4:12, 14); however, it has even greater prominence when considered as one among a group of verbs used to express the idea of sight/seeing in the Johannine writings.

In studying these two phrases of verse 14 (14bc), there are three aspects which need to be examined:

    • The do/ca possessed by the incarnate Logos (Jesus)
    • The idea of the Divine do/ca dwelling/abiding among human beings
    • The idea of seeing the Divine do/ca in the person of Jesus.

All three of these represent key themes in the Gospel, and are established here in the Prologue, expressed in terms of certain Moses/Exodus traditions—two in particular: (1) the Tent-shrine as God’s dwelling-place among His people (Exod 40), and (2) the theophany episodes of Exod 19-20, 24 and 33-34.

1. The do/ca of the incarnate Logos (Jesus)

The frequent use of the noun do/ca and verb doca/zw in the Gospel shows that the author is purposefully emphasizing the belief that Jesus possesses the Divine splendor, and is worthy of the honor accorded to God (YHWH). However, elsewhere in the Gospel, this Christological view is expressed, not in terms of Jesus as the incarnate Logos of God, but as the Son, sent to earth (from heaven) by God the Father. The transition of usage, from lo/go$ (“word”) to ui(o/$ (“son”), was established in the final verses of the Prologue (vv. 14-18).

There are two main ways that do/ca is used, in this theological/Christological sense, in the Gospel: (1) the Son (Jesus) manifests the Divine do/ca in the things that he does and says, during his earthly mission; and (2) by completing his mission, for which he was sent by the Father, he is given do/ca.

The second thematic emphasis is expressed more properly by the verb doca/zw (“show/give honor”), and occurs frequently in this context: 8:54; 11:4, etc. The usage of the verb is focused on the culmination of Jesus’ mission, in his sacrificial death; by this, the Son gives honor to the Father, and the Father, in turn, gives honor to the Son. The bulk of references occur in chapters 13-17 (13:31-32; 14:13; 15:8; 16:14; 17:1, 4-5, 10) and in the preceding passages (12:23, 28). The Gospel writer uses the same verb to reference the Son’s exaltation—entailing his death, resurrection, and return to the Father (cf. 7:39; 12:16).

In the earlier chapters, the noun do/ca plays an important role in the narration of the “signs” performed by Jesus, and throughout the accompanying discourses. Both in the miracles and the discourse-teachings, Jesus manifests his do/ca—his identity as the Son sent from heaven by the Father. Cf. the varying usage in 2:11; 5:41, 44; 7:18; 8:50, 54; 9:24; 11:4, 40; 12:41, 43. The three occurrences of do/ca in chapter 17 provide perhaps the closest parallel to the context of the Prologue, since Jesus, in verses 5 and 24—statements that frame the the chapter—refers to the do/ca which he possessed alongside the Father before the creation of the world. Divine pre-existence is clearly indicated, even if Jesus does not refer to himself here as the Logos. This same do/ca is manifested to human beings (believers), and is communicated to them (vv. 22, 24)—a theme that is also found in the Prologue (vv. 14-18, also implicit in vv. 12-13).

2. The dwelling of the Divine do/ca among God’s people

This theme from the Prologue (and the underlying Logos-poem) is expressed more subtly and indirectly elsewhere in the Gospel. There is, for example, in connection with the Temple-saying by Jesus (2:19ff), the Christological idea that the meaning and importance of the Temple is transferred to, and fulfilled in, the person of Jesus. If the Temple, like the earlier Tent-shrine, represented the dwelling place of God, then this is now fulfilled in the person of Jesus—with the implication that God is dwelling in him. This could further be interpreted in relation to the coming of the Spirit upon Jesus at the baptism, in light of the application of the Temple-motif by Paul (1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; cf. also Eph 2:21), whereby God dwells in the ‘Temple’ of the believer through the presence of the Spirit.

This dwelling-theme is expressed in the Johannine writings principally through use of the verb me/nw (“remain, abide”). This verb is one of the most distinctive and prominent Johannine keywords; it occurs more frequently in the Johannine writings (67) than in the rest of the New Testament combined (51). It occurs in the Gospel of John 40 times, compared with just 12 in the Synoptic combined; and, for good measure, the verb occurs 24 times in the five short chapters of 1 John (and 3 more times in 2 John).

In virtually every occurrence of me/nw, the author(s) of the Gospel and Letters use this verb in a special theological (and Christological) sense. It refers to the abiding union which the believer has with God, and God with the believer. This union with God the Father is realized through the Son (Jesus), and, in turn, the union with the Son is realized through the presence of the Spirit (cf. 14:17; 1 Jn 3:24; 4:13). While the verb is used throughout the Gospel, it is especially emphasized in the Last Discourse (13:31-16:33), as Jesus instructs his disciples on the importance of “remaining in him”. This is the principal theme of the Vine-illustration section (15:1-17), in which me/nw occurs 11 times (in vv. 4-7, 9-10, 16). The key Christological statement, utilizing me/nw, is in 14:10:

“Do you not trust that I (am) in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words which I say to you, I do not speak from myself; but the Father, (who is) remaining [me/nwn] in me, does His works.”

This statement, that the Father is abiding in the Son (Jesus), is central to the Johannine theology. The specific imagery of a dwelling-place (such as a house or tent, cf. above) is only implied by this language; however, at several points in the gospel, the motif becomes more explicit, such as in 8:35 (cf. the context of vv. 31-38). Even more notable, is the use of the noun monh/ (“abode,” related to me/nw) in 14:2-3, where the image of a great house with dwelling-units is utilized by Jesus. The same noun occurs in 14:23 (these are the only occurrences in the New Testament), where it used in an important summary of the Johannine theology and spirituality:

“If one should love me, he will keep watch (over) my word; and my Father will love him, and we [i.e. Father and Son] will come to him and will make our abode [monh/] alongside him.”

This statement functions almost as an expository interpretation of the phrase in 1:14.

3. Seeing the Divine do/ca (in the person of Jesus)

Perhaps even more prominent in the Johannine writings, as a Christological theme, is the idea of seeing God in the person of Jesus (i.e., in the Son). The specific verb qea/omai occurs five other times in the Gospel (1:32, 38; 4:35; 6:5; 11:45), and three times in 1 John (1:1; 4:12, 14). However, as mentioned above, it is just one of a group of verbs (ei&dw, ble/pw, o(ra/w, etc) which, in some way, express the idea of sight/seeing.

As with the verb me/nw (discussed above), these sight-verbs have special theological significance in the Gospel, and can take on a double-meaning in the narratives and discourses. For example, in the episode of the healing of the blind man (chap. 9), at the beginning of the episode (vv. 1-7ff), ordinary physical sight (with the eyes) is being referenced; however, by the end of the episode (vv. 35-41), sight (and blindness) refer, in the theological sense, to trust in Jesus—that is, recognizing and acknowledging his identity as the Son sent from heaven by the Father.

Indeed, this theological meaning dominates the sight/seeing language throughout the Gospel. There are two primary aspects to this theological usage: (1) trust—by “seeing” Jesus, one trusts in him; and (2) revelation—when one sees the Son, one sees the Father. Both of these aspects can be found all through the Gospel, as a survey of the relevant sight/seeing references will attest; cf. my earlier article on “Knowledge and Revelation” in the Johannine writings. The specific verb qea/omai means “look with wonder”, but it can be used with a range of related or more general meanings—such as: look closely at (something), consider (carefully), contemplate.

In several references, the emphasis is on witnessing the events surrounding the Son’s earthly mission, those which manifest his Divine identity (and glory), and which will lead to trust for those (elect/believers) who belong to God—cf. 1:32, 38; 11:45; 1 Jn 4:14. This is the principal aspect of meaning in 1:14 as well; the usage in 1 Jn 1:1 almost certainly is an intentional echo of the Gospel Prologue (and/or the underlying Logos-poem). The author of 1 John also seems to draws upon verse 18 of the Prologue in 4:12, with the declaration that:

“no one has looked on [teqe/atai] God at any time…”
(Jn 1:18a is virtually identical, except for the use of the seeing-verb o(ra/w instead of qea/omai)

This theological principle, drawn from the Moses/Exodus traditions in Exod 33-34 (esp. 33:20, 23; cf. Deut 4:12, 15), related to the theophany in chaps. 19-20, was clearly of important to the Gospel writer, since it is referenced several other times in the Gospel—5:37; 6:46, and a probable allusion in 3:3. No human being has ever seen God (the Father), nor is it even possible for a mortal creature to see Him directly, in all of His splendor (do/ca); He can only be seen in the person of His Son (Jesus). This is a fundamental component of the Johannine theology, shared by the Gospel writer and the author of 1 John (5:37ff; 11:40; 12:45; 14:6-7, 9ff; 1 Jn 1:1ff; 4:12ff).

In the final part (5) of this article, we will look at the remaining phrases of verse 14, in relation to the wider Johannine context.




“The Word Became Flesh…”: Supplemental note on Jn 1:14 and 1 Jn 4:2; 5:6

On John 1:14 and 1 Jn 4:2; 5:6

This note is supplemental to Part 3 of the current study article on John 1:14, looking, in particular, at the use of the verb gi/nomai in the statement “the Word became [e)ge/neto] flesh”, within the overall context of the Johannine writings (Gospel and Letters). Two references will specifically be examined here: the saying by the Baptist in John 1:15, and the Christological confession in 1 John 4:2 par.

Beginning with the Baptist’s declaration in Jn 1:15 (par 30), it is clear that the verb e&rxomai (“come”) refers to the earthly career and ministry of the incarnate Logos; in English idiom, we might say, “when he came upon the scene”. The phrase is “the (one) coming [o( e)rxo/meno$] in back of me [o)pi/sw mou]”.

Only in terms of his public ministry, can Jesus (as the Logos) be said to come “in back of” (i.e. after, following) John the Baptist. At the time of his first appearance (the baptism), Jesus was virtually unknown, while the Baptist had already been on the scene for some time and had developed a reputation. Conceivably, Jesus may have been (for a time) a disciple of the Baptist; commentators are far from being in agreement on this point, but, if it were historically accurate, then it would provide a clearer meaning for the expression “in back of me” (cp. the use of o)pi/sw in Mk 1:17, 20 par, etc). John 1:15/30 likely represents a Johannine version of an historical tradition, otherwise preserved in the Synoptic Gospels (Mk 1:7 par). On the background and Messianic significance of this saying, cf. my earlier note in the series “Yeshua the Anointed”.

But, if e&rxomai in 1:15 refers to Jesus’ public ministry, what of the verb gi/nomai? There would seem to be two possibilities: (a) it refers to the human life of Jesus generally, or (b) it refers specifically to his birth. If we build out the statement in v. 15, it reads:

“the (one) coming in back of me, has come to be [ge/gonen] in front of me [e&mprosqe/n mou]”

In what sense has Jesus come to be “in front of” the Baptist? In light of verse 14, the answer can only be: it is because he is the Logos who became a human being. The connection with verse 14 (and the prior vv. 12-13) provides, in my view, conclusive evidence that gi/nomai here refers to primarily (if not exclusively) to Jesus’ birth—that is, the birth of the Logos as a human being.

This brings us to the confessional statement in 1 John 4:2. The author essentially asserts that every true believer will acknowledge and affirm that Jesus Christ has come “in (the) flesh” (e)n sarki/). The actual wording is “Yeshua (the) Anointed having come [e)lhluqo/ta] in (the) flesh”, utilizing the verb e&rxomai (“come”). There is a formal similarity with Jn 1:14, involving the conjunction of the verb gi/nomai (“come to be”) and sa/rc (“flesh”).

In the Baptist’s declaration of Jn 1:15 (cf. above), the verbs e&rxomai and gi/nomai are connected. As I have interpreted this verse, e&rxomai refers to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry (i.e., his “coming” on the scene), while gi/nomai, in light of the prior v. 14 (and vv. 12-13), refers to Jesus’ birth (i.e., the birth of the Logos as a human being). But how does 1 Jn 4:2 (par 2 Jn 7) understand the verb e&rxomai? Elsewhere in 1 John (2:18; 4:3), the verb, used of the figure/spirit of “antichrist”, has the basic meaning of “coming on the scene” here on earth, i.e., being present and active among human beings. This generally parallels the references in Jn 1:7, 11, 27, 29-31, referring to the public appearance (and ministry) of John the Baptist and Jesus, respectively.

On the other hand, Jn 1:9 has the wider revelatory context of the Divine Logos (the Word/Wisdom of God) being manifest in Creation (and on earth). In certain respects, this would parallel the usage in 1 John of “antichrist” as an evil spirit, that is opposed to God (and His Spirit), and gives a false/deceiving revelation. In this regard, the use of the verb e&rxomai is closer in meaning to how gi/nomai is used in the Prologue, since the incarnation of the Logos represents the climactic manifestation of it within Creation. Other references in the Gospel support this cosmic orientation, utilizing e&rxomai to refer to the Son coming to earth from heaven, and then, having completed his mission, going back to his heavenly origin (i.e., coming [back] to the Father)—cf. 3:19, 31; 5:43; 7:28; 8:14, 21f, 42, etc.

We may thus isolate three Christological uses of the verb e&rxomai:

    • A person appearing, coming on the scene, to begin his public ministry/career
    • The coming to earth (from heaven) of a Divine/heavenly being
      to which a third, intermediate usage may be added:
    • The (eschatological) appearance of the Messiah (cf. 1:27; 4:25; 7:31, 41-42, and also my earlier note in the series “Yeshua the Anointed”).

These differing emphases in the Johannine use of e&rxomai are of significance for determining the opponents’ view of Christ, in light of the confessional statements in 1 Jn 4:2 par and 5:6. The two statements are clearly related:

    • “…having come [e)lhluqo/ta] in (the) flesh [e)n sarki/]” (4:2)
    • “…(hav)ing come [e)lqw/n] in the water and the blood” (5:6)

In the latter statement, there are two forms of the phrase in bold: (a) “through [dia/] water and blood”, (b) “in [e)n] the water and in [e)n] the blood”. I have essentially combined these in the quotation above, in order to bring out more clearly the parallel. Given this parallel, almost certainly the phrase “in the water and (in) the blood” is an elucidation of what is meant by “in (the) flesh”. To say that Jesus Christ came “in the flesh” means (according to the author) that he came “in the water” and “in the blood”.

If “in the flesh” refers to Jesus’ life and existence as a human being, then the expressions “in the water” and “in the blood” must relate to this. Most commentators understand “in/through the water” as a reference to the baptism of Jesus, while “in/through the blood” certainly refers to his death. By this interpretation, the two expressions would designate, respectively, the beginning and end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. It is also possible that “in the water” refers to the birth of Jesus, given the use of the water-motif in John 3:3-8, in relation to the idea of believers coming to be born as offspring of God (an idea very prevalent in 1 John). The pair of expressions, then, would designate the beginning and end of Jesus’ human life—that is, the boundaries and the span of it.

The author’s argument in 5:6, as it is worded, suggests that the opponents accepted that Jesus came “in/through the water”, but not “in/through the blood”. This would mean that they accepted the reality and/or significance of either—his human birth, or his baptism. If it is the latter, then this would strengthen the hypothesis that the opponents held an early “separationist” view of Jesus, akin to that which is attributed to Cerinthus (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.26.1). In a “separationist” Christology, it is held that the Divine Christ (= Son) came upon the man Jesus during the baptism, the two joining, only to separate again at the moment of Jesus’ death. A simpler version, drawn from the Johannine Gospel narrative, would affirm that the Spirit descended upon Jesus at the baptism, and then departed from him at his death (19:30). The opponents would have affirmed the importance of the baptism, since that was when Jesus received the Spirit, but not his death (since that is when the Spirit departed).

If “in/through the water” refers to the birth of Jesus, then the opponents would have affirmed the reality of Jesus human life, and its importance. What they denied was the death of the Son (Jesus). If their main objection was to the idea that the incarnate Son/Logos could die, then they would have something in common with those who held an early docetic view of Christ (such as that of the opponents combated by Ignatius of Antioch in his letters). Alternately, they may have denied the importance or significance of Jesus’ death.

Commentators remain divided on the precise nature of the opponents’ Christology; I have discussed the matter in more historical and exegetical detail in earlier notes and studies.

“The Word Became Flesh…”: The Johannine Gospel, part 1

John 1:14 in the context of the Johannine Gospel

Having examined John 1:14 in the context of the Gospel Prologue (the first division of our study), we shall now consider the verse in relation to the Gospel of John as a whole. It is actually the overall Johannine context that we will be considering, including the Johannine Letters (esp. 1 John) in addition to the Gospel.

“And the Word became flesh and set up (his) tent among us, and we looked on his splendor, (the) splendor as of an only-born (Son) alongside (the) Father, full of favor and truth.”

We begin, as in the first division of our study, with the key words in the first main phrase (v. 14a):

“the word became flesh”
o( lo/go$ sa\rc e)ge/neto

There are three components to this statement: (1) the articular noun lo/go$ (o( lo/go$), (2) the noun sa/rc, and (3) the verb of becoming (gi/nomai). We must examine the Johannine usage of these terms outside of the Gospel Prologue.

1. lo/go$

Outside of the four occurrences in the Prologue (3 in v. 1, and once in v. 14), the noun lo/go$ occurs 37 times in the Gospel of John. As lo/go$ is a common word with a wide range of meaning, this relatively extensive usage is not unusual, nor does it necessarily tell us anything about the relation of the Prologue to the rest of the Gospel. By comparison, the word occurs nearly as often in the Gospels of Matthew (33) and Luke (32).

In the Gospel of John, the noun lo/go$ is used predominantly in reference to the words spoken by Jesus (to his disciples, etc) during his earthly ministry. In this regard, lo/go$ is synonymous in meaning with r(h=ma (“utterance”). Indeed, when occurring in the plural (lo/goi), it is virtually identical with r(h/mata—both essentially meaning “words” (i.e., things said). The plural occurs in 7:40; 10:19; 14:24; cf. also 19:13.

The singular of lo/go$ tends to be used in much the same way, referring to Jesus’ words in a general or collective sense; occasionally a specific (individual) saying is being referenced (e.g., 2:22; 4:50; 7:36). The Gospel writer gives to this use of lo/go$ a very distinctive theological (and Christological) meaning. Frequently, it is used in the context of trusting (vb pisteu/w) in Jesus; this means, principally, trusting in the message (i.e., the word[s]) about who Jesus is. We see this connection, between lo/go$ and pisteu/w, clearly enough (for example) in 2:22; 4:39, 41, 50; 5:24. However, we find this lo/go$-theme developed most extensively in the great Discourses of chapters 5-10, and again in chapters 14-17. We must examine this usage, in at least a summary fashion, comparing it with the usage in the Prologue.

With regard to this Johannine theological usage of lo/go$, the fundamental idea is that of the “word” of Jesus being in a person. The concept is expressed a number of ways, such as by the use of the verb e&xw (“hold”), in 5:38. The believer “holds” Jesus’ word, meaning that the one who does not hold his word is not a believer; indeed, those who do not (or will not) trust, have no space (i.e., room) for Jesus’ word in them (8:37).

This relationship, between a person and Jesus’ word (lo/go$), defines the true believer. The Gospel expresses this two ways: (a) through the use of the verb me/nw (“remain, abide”), and (b) with the verb thre/w (“keep watch [over]”). Jesus’ word remains in the true believer (8:31; cf. also 15:7; 1 Jn 2:15), and that person guards it, keeping watch over it (8:51-52, 55; 14:23-24; 15:10, 20; 17:6; 1 Jn 2:5).

But what is this word? One could understand lo/go$ here as referring to Jesus’ teaching. Certainly, a disciple will possess and hold firmly to the teachings of his/her master. However, in the Johannine context, the emphasis is particularly on the message regarding who Jesus is. Throughout the Gospel Discourses, Jesus’ teaching relates primarily to his identity as the Son (of God) sent from heaven (by God the Father). The true believer remains in this message, keeping watch over it.

The author of 1 John certainly has this Christological emphasis in mind; and, it is just here that the Johannine use of the term lo/go$ (in the Gospel and in 1 John) most closely approaches the use of it in the Prologue. In 1 John, the noun lo/go$ occurs six times—1:1, 10; 2:5, 7, 14; 3:18—and in these references we find an interesting alternation, between an emphasis on the words of Jesus, and on the person of Jesus himself. The author, however, defines this largely in terms of the word of God—which is manifest in and through Jesus His Son.

In 1:10 and 2:5, 7, it is the word (lo/go$) of God, as communicated through the teaching of Jesus, that is in view—in particular, the great command/duty to show love to fellow believers (cf. also 3:18). However, in 2:14, “the word [o( lo/go$]” would seem to refer to the person of Jesus (the Son), in a way that echoes the Gospel Prologue (Jn 1:1):

“I have written to you, fathers,
(in) that you have known the (one who is) from (the) beginning [a)p’ a)rxh=$];
I have written to you, young men,
(in) that you are strong, and the Word [o( lo/go$] of God remains in you…”

1 John 1:1f also seems, rather clearly, to echo the Gospel Prologue, including in its use of the term lo/go$:

“That which was [h@n] from (the) beginning [a)p’ a)rxh=$], which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked at and (which) our hands touched, about the word of Life [o( lo/go$ th=$ zwh=$]—and th(is) Life was made to shine forth, and we have seen (it)…”

There definitely appears to be a double-meaning to this use of lo/go$. One the one hand, it refers to the message about [peri/] Jesus (“the Life”); but, on the other hand, it refers to Jesus himself, who is “the Word (of Life)”. The disciples, the first believers, were able to see and touch this Word, much as the Prologue declares in Jn 1:14ff. This is an important point of emphasis for the author of 1 John, who is combating a view of Jesus which, from his standpoint, has departed from the historical tradition and witness (preserved from the first believers), and yet would claim to be an inspired account of the truth.

For the author of 1 John, then, the use of the verb me/nw (“remain”) has a special significance. The true believer remains in the truth, and does not depart from it. This truth comes from the Spirit, but does not (and cannot) contradict the witness of the Gospel tradition. This usage in 1 John generally corresponds with that of the Gospel Discourses, whereby the true believer, by “remaining” in Jesus’ word (lo/go$) also “remains” in Jesus himself (cf. the 10 occurrences of me/nw in 15:4-10). The believer remains in the Son, just as the Son remains in the Father (14:10); and the Son remains in the believer (and the believer in the Son) through the Spirit (14:17; 1 Jn 3:24; 4:13). For the author of 1 John, this use of me/nw defines the true believer in Christ, as one who has “come to be (born) of God”; cf. the key references in 2:6, 24, 27-28; 3:6, 9, 14ff, 24; 4:12-16; also 2 Jn 2, 9.

In particular, the wording in 2:14 and 24 makes clear that there is fundamentally no real difference between the idea of the Son’s word (lo/go$), and the Son himself (who is the Lo/go$), remaining in believers. The things said by Jesus (his word[s]) represent one main component of his abiding presence in the believer. How this is represented in the Gospel, with regard to the use of the verb me/nw, I have illustrated by the following diagram:

This study demonstrates, I think, that, even if the Johannine writings, apart from the Gospel Prologue, do not contain anything quite like the Logos-doctrine of Jn 1:14, they still evince an understanding of the term lo/go$ that is fundamentally Christological in nature, and which relates primarily to an understanding of who Jesus is—the eternal Son and Word of God, who was with the Father “from the beginning” (a)p’ a)rxh=$).

In the next part of this article, we will examine the two remaining components—the noun sa/rc and the verb gi/nomai—of v. 14a.




“The Word Became Flesh…”: The Johannine Prologue, part 6

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

The final phrase of John 1:14 further modifies the third main phrase (“and we looked upon his splendor”), building upon the prior modifying phrase qualifying the “splendor” (do/ca) of the Logos, discussed in part 5: “(the) splendor as of an only-born (Son) alongside (the) Father”. This final phrase clarifies the nature of this do/ca, as being “full of favor and truth”.

The adjective plh/rh$ means “full, filled”. Here, it is in the masculine gender, which suggests that it does not directly modify do/ca (which is feminine)*, but either the original subject-noun lo/go$ or the substantive adjective monogenh/$ (“only[-born]”). The form plh/rh$ can be read either as being in the nominative or genitive case; the latter would agree with the case of monogenh/$ (monogenou=$). Thus, it is not merely the “splendor” of the Logos that is filled, but the Logos itself, in its character as an only Son of God.

* It has been noted (Blass-Debrunner-Funk [BDF] §1371) that this adjective can be treated as indeclinable, so it conceivably could be understood as modifying do/ca; cf. Brown, p. 14.

But with what is the Logos said to be “filled”? This is explained by a pair of nouns in the genitive (“of…”), indicating what the Logos, as God’s Son, is full of. The first noun is xa/ri$, which is often translated “grace”, but properly means “favor”. In the context of the image of the Logos as God’s Son, this certainly refers to favor shown to him by the Father, just as a human father tends to show great favor to an only (and much beloved, cf. 3:16) son.

In earlier portions of this study, it was discussed how the “splendor” (do/ca) of the Logos relates to its Divine nature and position in the presence of God. In vv. 1-2, this nearness to God is expressed by the preposition pro/$ (“toward”), while here in v. 14 the preposition para/ (“alongside”) is used. In verse 18, a more colorful idiom is used, referring to the Logos as an only Son (again, the adjective monogenh/$) who resides “in the lap [or ‘bosom’]” (ei)$ to\n ko/lpon) of the Father; cp. the same basic image of intimacy in 13:23.

Thus, the Logos shares God’s own splendor, having possessed it “in the beginning” (v. 1); cf. the same idea in 17:5. Yet the relationship between God and the Logos, compared to that between a Father and an only/beloved Son, also contains the idea that God the Father gives from Himself (and His own) to the Logos/Son, an idea that is developed throughout the Gospel (and which we will examine in the next division of our study); cf. especially 3:34-35. This giving by the Father, to the Son (the Logos), is covered here by the noun xa/ri$ (“favor”).

The fullness of the Logos, and the nature of his splendor, is also defined by the second noun of the pair—a)lh/qeia (“truth”). This is a major Johannine keyword; the noun, along with the related adjectives a)lhqh/$ and a)lhqino/$, occurs with great frequency in the Gospel and Letters of John (the noun itself occurs 25 times in the Gospel), and is of considerable theological importance. It is a fundamental attribute of God, one which ties back to the use of the verb of being (ei)mi) in the Prologue, emphasizing the ultimate being and reality of God (the adjective a)lhqino/$ can be translated “real”).

There is also a religious-ethical aspect to God’s truth (a)lh/qeia), as it applies to human beings. The ontological and religious-ethical aspects of truth can be combined in the motif of light (fw=$), introduced earlier in the Prologue (vv. 4-5ff). Light is a sign (and source) of life, but it also represents the truth—in its clarity and purity, etc—especially the truth of God which is conveyed to human beings by the light of revelation.

That which God (the Father) gives to the Logos (the Son), is meant to be given, in turn, to human beings. This intermediary role of the Logos was established earlier in the Prologue, with the reference to the Logos’ role in Creation (vv. 3ff), but particularly its role as the source of life and light (enlightenment) for humankind (vv. 4-5, 9). The closing words of the Prologue’s underlying Logos-poem emphasize again the role of the Logos in communicating the Divine light, etc, to human beings:

“…and of his fullness [plh/rwma] we all (have) received, even favor upon favor.” (v. 16)

The noun plh/rwma means “fullness”, and is obviously related to the adjective plh/rh$ in v. 14. Earlier in the Prologue, the first person plural (“we / us”) carried multiple levels of meaning: all rational human beings, the people of Israel, and believers in Christ. However, following the reference to the incarnation of the Logos in v. 14, this “we” now refers unquestionably to believers. All people who encountered the incarnate Logos (in the person of Jesus) “looked on” his splendor, but only the believers truly saw it and comprehended its significance. This also means that they truly “received” his splendor, and, in so doing (through trust in Jesus), they also received from his fullness—that fullness of favor (xa/ri$) which God gave to the Logos, like a Father to His only Son.

The precise meaning of the expression xa/ri$ a)nti\ xa/rito$, in v. 16, is not immediately clear. The preposition a)nti/ means “against”, but sometimes in the sense of “in place of, instead of”, and so it has been explained here by some commentators. Anticipating the contrast in vv. 17-18, the expression has been interpreted as referring to the xa/ri$ of Christ (in the New Covenant) replacing the xa/ri$ of Moses (i.e., the Torah of the Old Covenant). Commentators uncomfortable with a replacement emphasis may prefer to explain a)nti/ in the sense of “added to” —i.e., the grace that comes through Christ being in addition to the grace that came through the Torah, etc.

The sense of “addition” for the preposition a)nti/ in v. 16 is doubtless correct, though the more concrete translation “upon” better preserves the fundamental meaning (“against”)—i.e., one thing laid against another, as we might image objects being piled up upon one another. This is almost certainly the proper meaning of the expression in v. 16—viz., a ‘piling up’ of favor, following along the motif of fullness. Believers receive an abundance of favor (from God) through the Logos (the Son, Jesus).

Verses 17-18 continue this theme; it is here that the contrast, between Jesus and Moses, is specifically introduced. Recognizing the likelihood that vv. 17-18 represent expository comments (by the Gospel writer), added to the end of the adapted Logos-poem (and commenting specifically upon v. 16), we can see the Moses theme—which the author develops throughout the Gospel—being introduced here.

However, there were earlier allusions to this theme in the Prologue (and the Logos-poem). Most notably, as was discussed in previous portions of our study, the motif of seeing God—and, specifically, of “looking upon” His glory (do/ca)—likely draw upon the Moses traditions in Exodus 19-20ff, 33-34 (see esp. Moses’ famous request in 33:18). The Gospel writer doubtless recognized this, and was inspired by it to include the expository comments of vv. 17-18. The contrast in v. 17, in particular, builds upon the wording of our phrase in v. 14:

“(For it is) that the law was given through Moshe, but the favor and the truth came to be through Yeshua the Anointed.”

The same pair of nouns—favor (xa/ri$) and truth (a)lh/qeia)—is used, being juxtaposed (in contrast) to the law (no/mo$, i.e., the Torah, or Law of Moses). Another key point of the contrast involves the two verbs that are used:

    • di/dwmi (“give”)—the law was given (e)do/qh) through Moses
    • gi/nomai (“come to be”)—the favor and truth came to be (e)ge/neto) through Jesus

The use of the same aorist form (e)ge/neto) of the verb of becoming as that in v. 14 almost certainly entails an allusion to the incarnation of the Logos (“came to be flesh”), being now explicitly identified with the person of Jesus. Moses and Jesus are both mediators, through (dia/) whom God’s revelatory truth and presence is communicated. But they are very different in kind, with Jesus far surpassing (and replacing) Moses as a mediator for God’s people (and all humankind).

Jesus is the incarnate Logos, the only/beloved Son of God, himself sharing in God’s glory, possessing the fullness of Divine favor and truth. As the Son of God, he manifests not only God’s splendor (do/ca), but God Himself. This is clear from the climactic words of the Prologue in v. 18:

“No one has looked at God (with their eyes) at any time; (but) the only-born Son, the (one) being in the lap of the Father, this (one has) led (Him) out (to us).”

Having examined verse 14 in the context of the Gospel Prologue, it is now time to consider it in the wider context of the Johannine Gospel itself. This we will do, beginning with Part 1 of the next (second) division of our study. Within this context, we will be looking again at each word and phrase in the verse, but also the central idea of the incarnation of the Logos, to see how this specific Christological concept (of the underlying Logos-poem) relates to the overall theology of the Gospel.

References above marked “Brown” are to Raymond E. Brown, S.S., The Gospel According to John I-XII, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 29 (1966).

“The Word Became Flesh…”: The Johannine Prologue, part 5

“…(the) splendor as of an only-born (Son) alongside (the) Father”
do/can w($ monogenou=$ para\ patro/$

This phrase modifies the third of the three main phrases of verse 14, “and we looked on his splendor” (discussed in part 4). In particular, it modifies the expression “his splendor”, and the noun do/ca (“splendor, glory”). The modifying phrase, w($ monogenou=$ para\ patro/$ introduces the idea of sonship, and of Jesus as the Son of God. This is of tremendous significance for the relationship of the Prologue to the Gospel as a whole (a point that will be discussed in the second division of this study). The identification of Jesus with the Logos of God is largely absent from the remainder of the Gospel, being (at best) only alluded to at several points by the use of the word lo/go$; in particular, the idea of the incarnation of the pre-existent Logos, the central point of verse 14, is not to be found. This is one of the strongest arguments in favor of the view that the Prologue has adapted earlier material (a ‘Logos-poem’). By contrast, throughout the Gospel we see Jesus repeatedly identified as the Son of God.

A bit of caution needs to be taken in reading the Sonship theme of the Gospel here in verse 14, since the specific term ui(o/$ (“son”) does not occur until verse 18, and even there its presence is questionable (as a large number of witnesses read qeo/$ [“God”] rather than ui(o/$). Still, the use of the adjective monogenh/$ would seem to imply a reference to the Logos as a son. Moreover, a Son is obviously implied by the reference to God as “Father” (path/r).

There are three points of difficulty in this phrase which complicate any interpretation regarding its theological (and Christological) force. First we have the use of the comparative particle w($ (“as”), which means that the Logos is being compared to a son (qualitatively), rather than being directly equated to the son. The second difficulty involves the precise meaning here of the adjective monogenh/$ (to be discussed below). Third, we have the meaning of the prepositional expression para\ patro/$ (“alongside [the] Father”). Let us deal with the second of these first.

The adjective monogenh/$ is derived from two components: the adjective mo/no$ (“only, alone”) and the noun ge/no$, the latter being derived from gi/nomai, the very verb of becoming used here in v. 14 (and elsewhere in the Prologue). The neuter noun ge/no$ properly denotes something that comes to be, in a general or even abstract sense. It can be applied to a family-line, ethnic group, or people/nation, or even (in the case of animals and plants more broadly) to a species. When used more abstractly, it can mean “kind, sort, order, group,” or the like. The question, then, is whether the ge/no$ element (-genh$) of the adjective monogenh/$ is being used in a concrete or abstract sense. That is, does the substantive use of monogenh/$ here mean “only one (who has) come to be” or “only one of (its) kind”?

Apart from the five occurrences in the Johannine writings, in the rest of the New Testament the adjective clearly means “only child” —that is, the only child (son or daughter) of a parent. In Luke 7:12 and 8:42, a specifying noun ui(o/$ (or quga/thr, “daughter”) is included; however, in Lk 9:38 and Heb 11:17, the same meaning applies to the use of the adjective alone. The Johannine usage is identical: in Jn 3:16, 18 and (probably) also 1:18, the adjective is used with the noun ui(o/$, while in 1 Jn 4:19 the adjective has same meaning when used alone. A comparison with the general usage in Greek confirms that monogenh/$ often carries the general meaning “only, unique”. In the LXX, the general/abstract meaning applies in Psalm 22:20 [21:21], 25:15 [24:16], 35[34]:17, and also in Wisdom 7:22; while the regular meaning of “only child” occurs in Judg 11:34 and also Tobit 3:15; 6:11 [BA], 15 [S], and Baruch 4:16 [v.l.].

Even so, the fact that monogenh/$ typically refers to an only child clearly preserves the idea of coming to be born, and thus maintaining, however implicitly, the association with the verb of becoming (gi/nomai, cp. genna/w which more properly connotes being born). Here in verse 14, the Logos is being compared to an only son.

What of the prepositional expression para\ patro/$? The preposition para/ means “alongside”, but sometimes it can indicate origin—in terms of source, place, or position, i.e., “(from) alongside”. This is how the preposition is used in verse 6 of the Prologue, as well as at certain other points in the Gospel (e.g., 10:18). More commonly, it indicates a nearness of place/position—that is, “alongside,” in a spatial or relational sense. This usage in 17:5 is particularly relevant to our verse, and will be discussed further in the second division of our study.

The idea of the Son being sent from God the Father is certainly prominent in the Gospel, but the Prologue seems very much to be emphasizing his eternal (pre-existing) position in proximity/relation to the Father. In this case, the usage in 17:5 would seem to provide a close parallel, capturing the sense of what the author has in mind here—viz., the Divine splendor/glory (do/ca) which the Logos shared with God in the beginning.

If this particular phrase, or the specific use of the comparative particle w($, represents part of the Gospel writer’s adaptation of the Logos-poem, then the intention may be to avoid confusing the Divine Logos with the Son. They are not identical or equivalent concepts, but how they are understood in relation to one another would have important implications for Johannine Christology. For example, is it only after the incarnation that one can properly speak of Jesus as the Son, or does this Sonship apply equally to the eternal/pre-existent Logos? This will be discussed at a later point in our study.

How does this phrase in v. 14 fit within the context of the Prologue (and its underlying Logos-poem) as a whole? Three points need to be discussed:

    • The relation of the Logos to God described in verse 1
    • The concept of the Word/Wisdom (i.e., Logos) of God as the offspring (Son) of God, as attested at several points in the writings of Philo of Alexandria
    • The conclusion of the Prologue in vv. 16-18 (esp. verse 18)

As previously discussed, in verse 1 there is a triad of predicative statements regarding the Logos:

    • “In the beginning, the Word was [h@n]”
    • “the Word was [h@n] toward God”
    • “the Word was [h@n] God”

The Divine nature of the Logos is indicated by the very use of the verb of being (imperfect tense, h@n), but this essential deity is emphasized particularly in the first and third statements. However, in the second statement a distinction is maintained, between God and the Logos of God. The Logos is not identical with God; this is also indicated (it would seem) by the syntax of the third statement, with the use of qeo/$ without the definite article. Here, in the second statement, the Logos is said to be toward (pro/$) God. As I have discussed, this could either mean facing toward God or moving toward Him; the parallel with the use of para/ in v. 14 and 17:5 suggests that the spatial-relational aspect is intended, at least primarily.

In any case, the implication is that there is a close relationship between God and the Logos, a kind of intimate nearness and proximity that is being expressed, much like that between a parent and a child (cf. below on verse 18).

If the author of the Gospel (and/or the Logos-poem) was at all aware of Philo of Alexandria’s writings, then he may have known of Philo’s references to the Logos as the “firstborn” (prwto/gono$) Son of God (On Dreams I.215). Indeed, in On the Confusion of Tongues §§146-7, Philo actually uses the expression “firstborn word” (prwto/gono$ lo/go$). Such language certainly could have led a Johannine Christian author unreservedly to make the connection between the Logos and Jesus as the Son of God. For more of Philo’s use of the term lo/go$ and the philosophical-theological Logos concept, cf. the recent supplemental article.

Given the importance of the Sonship theme in the remainder of the Gospel, it would be natural, that, having introduced it in the Prologue here at verse 14, the author would develop or reiterate it in the concluding verses (vv. 16-18). For many commentators, verse 16 marks the end of the Logos-poem, with verses 17-18 representing expository comments by the Gospel writer.

Almost certainly, verse 15 (like the earlier vv. 6-8) represents an added comment by the author. Thus, presumably, verse 16 would have followed upon v. 14 in the original Logos-poem. With regard to verse 14 and the Logos-poem, I think it possible that the phrase do/can w($ monogenou=$ para\ patro/$ may also represent an addition by the author, in his adaptation of the material. Omission this phrase does seem to yield a clearer poetic unit for vv. 14 + 16:

“And the Word became flesh and set (his) tent among us,
and we looked on his splendor, full of favor and truth;
and of his fullness we all received, and favor upon favor.”

If the phrase “splendor as of an only (Son) alongside (the) Father” is part of the Gospel writer’s adaptation of the poem, then the concluding verses 17-18 are even more clearly expository—expounding, in particular, the phrase “and favor upon favor” (kai\ xa/rin a)nti\ xa/rito$). This will be discussed in part 6. We are focusing here on how the idea of the “splendor as of an only (Son) alongside (the) Father” is expounded in vv. 17-18.

First, v. 17 makes clear that it is through the incarnate Logos that the Divine favor (xa/ri$) and truth (a)lh/qeia), coming from God, is communicated (dia/, “through”) to human beings. For the first time in the Prologue, the Logos—that is, the incarnate Logos—is explicitly identified with the person of Jesus. Thus, the do/ca of God is manifest in and through the person of Jesus Christ; this is a fundamental theme that is developed throughout the Gospel.

Secondly, in vv. 17-18, the mention of Moses, along with the reiteration of the motif of seeing God, alludes to the Exodus traditions regarding the theophany at Sinai (Exod 19-20ff, 24), and of Moses’ encounter with YHWH (chaps. 33-34) following the Golden Calf incident. God’s manifestation to Moses is in response to his request in 33:18: “Let me, I ask, see your dobK*!”. The word dobK* is roughly the Hebrew equivalent of Greek do/ca; in reference to God, both terms may be translated “splendor, glory”. In the LXX, the request is translated, “May you show to me your (own) splendor [do/ca]!”.

Along with this tradition, the Gospel writer alludes to Deut 4:11-15, and to the fact that no one (not even God’s people Israel) has ever seen God (with their eyes). Moses beheld God’s do/ca, but even there God Himself could be seen only in a partial and indirect way; as for the people at large, they could only observe this glory as reflected on Moses’ face (Exod 34:29-35; cf. 2 Corinthians 3:7-18).

In contrasting Moses with Jesus, the Gospel writer is emphasizing that all people are now able to look upon God’s glory in the person of the incarnate Logos (Jesus); moreover, they/we are able to see God Himself, in a more complete and direct way, in the person of his Son. The final words of verse 18 do, I think, indicate that it is not only God’s glory, but God Himself, that is manifest in Jesus:

“…(but the) only-born [monogenh/$] Son, the (one) being [w&n] in the lap of the Father, that (one) has led (Him) out (to us)”

Whether or not the adjective monogenh/$ was present in v. 14 in the original Logos-poem, its use here in v. 18 unquestionably represents a further explication of it by the Gospel writer. In particular, this verse explains how the Divine glory can be manifest through the Logos. The reason is that the Logos has the character of an only Son (monogenh\$ ui(o/$), one who possesses, both naturally and by right of birth, everything that belongs to the Father. Since the Son is an image/reflection of the Father, when one looks at the Son, one also sees the Father (14:9).

In the use of the adjective monogenh/$ in verse 18, the component mo/no$ (mono-) means “only” (i.e., God’s only Son), but it also connotes “beloved, most loved”; this is clear both from the imagery and wording of the verse, but also by the parallel in 3:16. There is also a parallel in 13:23, where the ‘beloved disciple’ (“the [one] whom Yeshua loved”) is reclining on the lap (ko/lpo$) of Jesus, just as the Son is said to reside in the lap (ko/lpo$) of the Father here in v. 18. It is an image of intimacy and love. The Son is able to show (lit. “lead out”) the Father to us. The specific verb is e)chge/omai (“lead out, bring out”), which clearly indicates an act of revealing, but also suggests the use of speech (i.e., declaring), which brings us back to the idea of Jesus as the incarnate Word (lo/go$) of God. In his words (lo/goi), but also by his actions (and specifically his death/exaltation), Jesus makes God the Father known to us.

In the next part (6) of this study, we will examine the final phrase of verse 14: “full of favor and truth” (plh/rh$ xa/rito$ kai\ a)lhqei/a$).

Textual Note: In discussing John 1:18 above, I adopt the reading monogenh/$ ui(o/$ (“only[-born] Son”), rather than monogenh/$ qe/o$ (“only[-bon] God”). The evidence is rather evenly divided between these two readings, but being a bit stronger in favor of the latter, which many commentators accept by virtue of it being, clearly, the more difficult reading. In spite of this textual evidence, I believe that the reading with ui(o/$ (“son”) is unquestionably correct, and should be accepted as original (though by a narrow margin) in light of the overall evidence. For more on this topic, see my earlier detailed note on verse 18.