Spirit in the Qumran Texts: 1QH 6:19-33

1QH 6

(Unless otherwise noted, the translations of 1QH are my own.)

It is possible that the hymn beginning at line 12 of column V (cf. the previous notes) continues on into column VI. It has been suggested that the hymn extends through 6:18, or even through line 33 (cf. the discussion by the editors in DJD XL, pp. 77-8, 88-90); however, it may be better to treat 6:19-33 as a separate hymn. In any case, many of the themes in column V continue in column VI; the poems certainly share a number of features and aspects in common.

The difficulty in determining the division of the hymns stems, in large part, from the missing lines (1-11) at the beginning of column VI. Lines 12-18 emphasize once again that those righteous persons, who are able to obtain wisdom and understanding, do so through the mercy and favor of God. There is a strong predestinarian orientation to the Qumran Community, which is expressed here in the Hodayot, in a number of the hymns.

Those who receive the inspired revelation from God are described as “men of truth and the chosen (one)s of righteousness” (line 13); they are characterized by virtues that reflect the fundamental attributes of God Himself, being enabled to pursue wisdom and understanding by God’s spirits: “[(those) searching for insight and seeking understanding […] (the one)s loving compassion and (those) lowly [i.e. humble] of spirit…” (lines 13-14). Through God’s favor—His guidance and protection, given through His spirits—the chosen ones are able to remain faithful to the end, even in the face of affliction and persecution (lines 15-18).

The section (or separate hymn, cf. above) that begins at line 19, opens with a blessing (to God) which makes clear, again, that the ability possessed by the righteous/faithful ones is given to them by God:

“[Blessed are you,] my Lord, the (One) giving [i.e. placing] understanding in (the) heart of your servant, (for him) to gain insight in(to) all these (thing)s, and to have under[standing of…], and to hold himself (firm) against (wicked) deeds, and to bless with rightness all (those) choosing (what is) pleasing to you, [to choose all th]at you love and to abhor all that [you hate]…” (lines 19-21f)

As we have seen, elsewhere in these hymns the same wording from line 9 is used with a Divine spirit (j^Wr) as the object of God’s giving (4:29; 5:36) . The virtue or attribute (here “understanding”, hn`yB!), defined abstractly, can also be personified dynamically as an active spirit. The hymnist could just as well have used the expression “spirit of understanding” (cp. “spirit of knowledge” in line 36). It is thus a gift from God that enables the chosen one to have wisdom and understanding, and to resist the evil influences that lead humans to wickedness. Human begins must choose (vb rh^B*) between what is pleasing to God and what He despises/abhors, but only through the favor and guidance of God is one able to make the right choice (on a regular basis).

The deterministic emphasis, in this regard, is expressed quite clearly in line 22f:

“You have given your servant insight in(to) [… (the) lo]ts of humankind, for (according) to (the) mouth of (the) spirits you made (the lot) fall for them between good and evil, [and] you have established…”

In the expression “mouth of (the) spirits” (twjwr yp), the noun hP# (“mouth”) is presumably used in the abstract sense of “measure, portion”. The idea seems to be that the spirits have been measured/portioned out to different people (cp. the similar wording, applied to Jesus, in John 3:34), so that they will incline toward either the good or the evil. As we have seen, according to the thought-world of the Qumran hymns, there are both good and evil spirits that influence human beings, with people being trapped between the two forces. By nature, the spirit/nature of a human being (“spirit of flesh”) is corrupt, being ruled by a perverting spirit (“spirit of crookedness”). It requires a special gift/favor by God in order to enable a human being to be faithful and righteous. The protagonist of the hymn describes this very dynamic:

“And I (indeed) know, from your understanding, that through your favor to a m[a]n you make [abundant his inheritance] in (the) spirit of your holiness, and so you bring him near to your understanding…” (lines 23b-24)

Here, again, we find the expression “spirit of (God’s) holiness” (vd#oq j^Wr), as representing the principal spirit that God gives to His chosen one, reflecting the fundamental Divine attribute of holiness. God gives His holy spirit to all of His chosen ones, but gives to some a greater portion (i.e., a more abundant “inheritance” [hl*j&n~]). This spirit draws the person toward God’s understanding, bringing him/her near to it (vb vg~n`). Significantly, the protagonist states that it is from God’s own understanding, gifted to him by God’s spirit, that he has obtained his knowledge.

The possession of this spirit, and the inspired wisdom/understanding that it brings, enables a person to remain faithful and righteous in all things. This ethical-religious principle is developed in lines 25-33. It is according to the measure/portion of the person’s “nearness” (being near, brwq) to God’s understanding, that he/she will be faithful. The same expression as in line 22, with the noun hP# (“mouth”) in the abstract sense of “measure/portion”, is used. A person will act righteously, and remain faithful to God, to the extent that God’s holy spirit is present, drawing the person ever closer to God’s own wisdom and understanding.

The final line (32-33) makes clear that this faithfulness is defined in traditional terms, according to loyalty to the covenant (i.e., observance of the Torah precepts and regulations): “I will not bring into the council of [your] tr[uth any] (one) turning (away) [from] your [b]inding agreement [tyr!B=, i.e. covenant]”. It was expected that every member of the Community would be meticulously loyal and devoted to the Torah.

In the next note, we will at the remaining lines (34-41) of column VI.

DJD XL = Discoveries in the Judean Desert, Vol. XL: 1QHodayota, with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f, by Hartmut Stegemann with Eileen Schuller, translations of texts by Carol Newsom (Clarendon Press: 2009).

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

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

2 Corinthians 4:3-6, continued

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 20: 1 Corinthians 2:16 (cont.)

[This series of notes, on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15, is part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. See the initial note with links to earlier notes covering 1:18-2:6; cf. also the main article.]

1 Corinthians 2:16

In yesterday’s note, I looked at the first part of this verse, the citation from Isa 40:13 (LXX); today I will examine the second part, with Paul’s concluding declaration:

“…and (yet) we hold the mind of (the) Anointed {Christ}”

There are four components to this statement, beginning with the (emphatic) pronoun h(mei=$ (“we”), to be discussed below. The remaining three elements are:

    • de/ (“and/but”)—a conjunctive particle with an adversative sense, establishing a contrast with what is stated in the quotation of Isa 40:13. There the rhetorical question (“who knows/knew the mind of God?”) carries the obvious (implied) answer of “no one”. For the relation of the context of Isa 40:12-13 with 1 Cor 2:10ff, cf. my discussion in the previous note. Paul’s declaration may be (re)formulated as: “Of course, no one knows (or can have known) the mind of the Lord (God) Himself, and yet we do hold the mind of the Lord (Christ)!”
    • nou=$ xristou= (“[the] mind of [the] Anointed”)—as I indicated in the prior note, many witnesses read “mind of [the] Lord [kuri/ou]”; if original, then Paul is certainly making use of the wordplay involving ku/rio$, which can be understood as “the Lord (YHWH)” or “the Lord (Jesus Christ)”, interchangeably, by early Christians. The expression “mind of Christ” does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament (nor “mind of Jesus”, or anything similar). Perhaps the closest we come is in Philippians 2:5:
      “This (work)ing of (the) mind must (be) in you which also (was) in (the) Anointed Yeshua {Jesus Christ}”;
      though here Paul uses the verb frone/w rather than the noun nou=$. For more on this verse, cf. below. There are a number of points of contact between 1 Cor 1:18-2:16 and Romans 7-8, especially 8:26-27, which has the parallel expression “mind [fro/nhma] of the Spirit”.
    • e&xomen (“we hold”)—the verb e&xw is often translated more generally as “have”, i.e. “hold (in one’s possession)”; however, here it seems useful to retain the more concrete and fundamental sense of holding something. This preserves contact with the basic context of Isa 40:12-13, with its concept of measuring—it is impossible to contain the Spirit/Mind of the Lord in a measuring-vessel, etc, and yet we hold the mind of the Lord (Christ) within (and among) us. That this occurs through the presence and work of the Spirit is confirmed both by the overall context of 1 Cor 2:10ff as well as the parallel expressions mentioned above:
      • “the mind [nou=$] of Christ” (v. 16)
      • “the working of (the) mind [frone/w]…which was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5)
      • “the mind [fro/nhma] of the Spirit” (Rom 8:27)

Paul’s argument in Phil 2:1-5ff is similar to 1 Cor 1:18-2:16, in several important respects:

Finally, something must be said regarding the use of the pronoun “we” (h(mei=$) in v. 16. Often there is a certain ambiguity regarding Paul’s use of the 1st person plural in his letters; it can be understood three ways:

    • As a (rhetorical) reference to Paul himself, essentially = “I”
    • As a (collective) reference to Paul and his fellow ministers
    • Collectively, and generally, of (all) believers

So, when Paul says “we have the mind of Christ”, he could be saying:

    • I have the mind of Christ” (cf. 7:40, etc), in which case it brings us back to the start of his argument and the autobiographical aspect of 1:14-17; 2:1-5
    • “We (the inspired apostles, etc) have the mind of Christ”, which generally fits the context of 2:1-7 and 3:4ff
    • “We (all believers) have the mind of Christ”

The overall emphasis of 1:18-4:21, in my view, decisively favors the latter interpretation. Recall that the initial emphasis in the narratio (1:11-17) was that believers should not be relying on the status and gifts/abilities of prominent ministers (such as Paul and Apollos, etc), but should rather be trusting in (a) Christ and the message of the Gospel, and (b) the presence and work of the Spirit—these two being closely connected. What follows in 3:1 only confirms this view, as Paul laments the fact that is not able to speak to the Corinthians as ones who are “complete” (2:6)—they are not thinking and acting according to their true identity (in Christ), as those who are “spiritual” (i.e. who have the Spirit).

However, it is possible that there is a progression or development in 2:1-16, which I would chart as follows:

    • “I came to you” (vv. 1-5)—Paul himself, as the founding apostle, proclaiming the Gospel message (“the secret of God”)
    • “We speak…” (vv. 6-9)—Paul and his fellow ministers, those who first preached the Gospel among the Corinthians and worked to establish congregations, etc
    • “To us…revealed…” (vv. 10-12)—transitional, emphasizing the work of God and the giving of the Spirit to believers
    • “We speak these things…” (vv. 13-15)—Believers as ministers, those gifted to speak and interpret the “deep things of God”, especially apostles, prophets and teachers, etc
    • “We hold the mind of God” (v. 16)—All believers, united with Christ, who have received the Spirit of God (and Christ)

The progression is from the (initial) proclamation of the Gospel of Christ (vv. 1-2) to the unity of believers in Christ (v. 16). This point will be touched on further in the next daily note.

January 19: 1 Corinthians 2:16

[This series of notes, on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15, is part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. The previous note discussed verses 14-15, and see the initial note with links to earlier notes covering 1:18-2:6; cf. also the main article.]

1 Corinthians 2:16

Today’s note examines the concluding verse of the section, which brings together the strands of the contrastive argument into a rhetorically charged Scripture citation followed by a decisive (positive) declaration. The first part of the verse contains a quotation from Isaiah 40:13, an abridgment of the LXX version:

“Who knew the mind of the Lord, th(e one) who will bring (things) together (to instruct) him?”

The verb sumbiba/zw means “bring (or put) together” sometimes in the (logical) sense of bringing things together for the purpose of instruction. The LXX also uses the related noun su/mboulo$, which typically refers to a person who gives instruction (or counsel, advice, etc). Conventionally, the LXX would be translated:

Who knew the mind of the Lord, and who became His instructor/advisor that will instruct/advise Him?”
ti/$ e&gnw nou=n kuri/ou kai\ ti/$ au)tou= su/mboulo$ e)ge/neto o^$ sumbiba=| au)to/n;

The portion cited by Paul (with only slight variation) is indicated by italics and bold above. The taunting rhetorical question is centered in the idea of the greatness of God (YHWH the Creator) and the insignificance of (created) human beings by comparison. Paul retains the thrust of this rhetoric and applies the question to his own line of argument comparing worldy/human wisdom with the wisdom of God. The ‘abridged’ citation is, in certain formal respects, closer to the tone and feel of the original Hebrew; the Masoretic text (MT) reads:

“Who has measured the spirit of YHWH and (is) a man of his counsel/plan [i.e. his counselor] (who) causes him to know?”

An English translation tends to obscure the relatively simple, 3:3 poetic rhythm of the Hebrew:

hwhy j^WrÁta# /K@T!Áym!
WDu#yd!oy otx*u& vya!w+

Each line involves a related concept:

(a) “measuring” the spirit of YHWH—on the meaning and context of the verb /kt, cf. below.
(b) functioning as a counsellor/advisor (lit. “man of his counsel”) who instructs/advises YHWH (“causes him to know”)

The first (a) essentially implies probing and estimating the depths of God’s own “spirit” (j^Wr rûaµ), much as Paul describes the Spirit (pneu=ma) doing in 1 Cor 2:10. No human being is capable of comprehending the depths (“deep things”) of God. The second (b) touches on the idea that a human being might serve as God’s counselor or advisor; but, of course, God, who knows all things, cannot be informed about anything by a mortal being. The LXX renders Hebrew j^Wr (“spirit/breath”) with nou=$ (“mind”). More often, it is translated by pneu=ma, which corresponds closely to the Hebrew term; however, the use of nou=$ in Greek offers a distinctive interpretation of the verse. It is useful to consider the basic meaning of this word.

Greek nou=$ (or no/o$) fundamentally refers to sensual perception or recognition (i.e. by the senses), but eventually the act of perception came to dominate the meaning, along with the inner/inward faculties of a human being to enable recognition of something—primarily as intellectual faculty (i.e. “mind”), though often there may be an emotional or (deeper) “spiritual” component involved. In addition to an internal faculty (or ability), nou=$ also came to refer to an attitude (or disposition, etc), as well as the result of one’s ability (knowledge, understanding, insight, etc). Generally, this corresponds to the English word “mind”, which can be used, more or less accurately (and consistently) to translate nou=$. It is the third of three primary Greek terms used to describe the invisible, inner aspect of the human person—yuxh/ (“soul”), pneu=ma (“spirit”), nou=$ (“mind”). The first two have already been used by Paul in 1 Cor 1:18-2:16 (cf. the prior notes), and now he introduces the third. Actually, the word was already used in the main proposition (propositio) of the letter in 1:10, a verse that is worth citing here:

“And (so) I call you alongside, brothers, through the name of our Lord Yeshua (the) Anointed, that you should all give the same account and (that) there should not be (any) tears [i.e. divisions] in you, but (that) you should be joined (completely) in the same mind and in the same (way of) knowing.”

The emphasis is clear: in contrast to the divisions among the Corinthians, there should be a unity of mind for believers in Christ. Paul uses a dual formula to express this:

    • “in the self(same) mind” (e)n tw=| au)tw=| noi+/)
    • “in the self(same) knowing” (e)n th=| au)th=| gnw/mh|)

The word gnw/mh (related to the verb ginw/skw, “[to] know”) more properly refers to a way or manner of knowing; there is no English word which corresponds precisely, and it is translated variously as “opinion, judgment, decision”, etc. As will become even more clear when one looks at what follows in 3:1ff, the divisions (“rips/tears”) in Corinth are the result of believers thinking and acting in a human manner (i.e. through worldly/human ‘wisdom’) rather than according to the “mind” (wisdom) of God and Christ. This is the very point Paul makes in the second half of verse 16:

“…and (yet) we (do) hold the mind of (the) Anointed [i.e. of Christ]”

The reading xristou= (“of [the] Anointed”) is found in a number of key MSS (Ë46 a A C Y al), and probably should be considered original; however, many other witnesses read kuri/ou (“of [the] Lord”), matching the earlier citation of Isa 40:13. For early Christians, of course, the word ku/rio$ (“lord”, i.e. “the Lord”) had a double-meaning—it can refer to God the Father (YHWH) or to Jesus Christ, almost interchangeably:

“the mind of Christ” –>
“the mind of the Lord (Jesus)” –>
“the mind of the Lord (YHWH)”

The pronoun “we” (h(mei=$) is in emphatic position— “and (yet) we (do) hold the mind of Christ”. As often in Paul’s letters, there is some ambiguity as to just whom “we” refers. This is rather important for a correct interpretation of this verse (and the passage as a whole), and will be discussed briefly in the next daily note.

The two rhetorical questions of Isa 40:12-13:

Verses 12 and 13 each pose a question beginning with the interrogative particle ym! (“who”). The first (v. 12) asks who has “measured” out the various elements and aspects of the created world. The answer is as obvious as it is unstated: God (YHWH) alone—no other being, let alone a mere human being. The question itself is asked by way of a series of verbal phrases, governed by four verbs, each of which indicates some form of measuring:

    • dd^m*—stretching (a line, etc) to measure out—the waters (<y]m^) in the hollow (lu^v)) of His hand
    • /k^T*—regulating or fitting (according to a standard [measure])—the heavens (<y]m^v*) with the spread/span (tr#z#) of His hand
    • lWK—containing (i.e. filling/fitting a measuring-vessel)—the dust of the earth in a mere vyl!v* (“third part”?), a (small) unit of measure
    • lq^v*—weighing out—the mountains and the hills in a pair of scales or balances (cl#P#//z@am))

The second question (v. 13) asks who, besides YHWH, could know even how any of this is done, let alone offer YHWH any advice or instruction in such matters. The verb /k^T* is repeated, indicating the impossibility of “measuring” the Spirit (j^Wr) of YHWH, in the basic sense, it would seem, of “fitting” or “setting” a standard of measure. There is no way of doing this when one is dealing with the Spirit/Wisdom/Mind of God. The LXX understands the verb in intellectual terms—of a (human) being’s ability (or rather, inability) to comprehend (“know”) the Mind (nou=$) of God—which is quite appropriate for Paul’s theme of wisdom in 1 Corinthians.

January 16: 1 Corinthians 2:13

[This series of notes, on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15, is part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. The previous note discussed verse 12, and see the initial note with links to earlier notes covering 1:18-2:6; cf. also the main article.]

1 Corinthians 2:13

“…which we also speak not in words taught of [i.e. by] (hu)man wisdom, but in (words) taught of [i.e. by] (the) Spirit, judging spiritual (thing)s together with/by spiritual (word)s.”

It must be emphasized that this verse, along with much that follows in vv. 14-15, is difficult to translate accurately into English, for a variety of reasons. Here, especially, translation and interpretation go hand-in-hand.

To begin with, verse 13 builds upon (and concludes) the declaration in v. 12 (cf. the prior note). The relative pronoun form a% (“which”) refers back to the concluding expression of v. 12: “the (thing)s under God given as a favor to us”. In the note on v. 12, I pointed out the parallel between this expression and “the deep (thing)s of God”, and connected both to the “wisdom of God” mentioned previously—and especially at the beginning of verse 6. This is confirmed by Paul’s language here at the start of v. 13:

    • “we speak (the) wisdom [of God]” (vv. 6-7)
    • “which (thing)s we also [kai/] speak” (v. 13)

The particle kai/ should be regarded as significant here, since it may be intended to draw a distinction between what it is that “we” speak in vv. 6-7 and 13, respectively. There are two ways to place the emphasis:

    • “these things also we speak” —as it is have been given to us to know them, so also we speak/declare them
    • “these things also we speak” —not only the Gospel do we proclaim, but all the deep things of God given to us by the Spirit

Most commentators opt for the first reading, according to the immediate context of vv. 12-13; however, the overall flow and structure of Paul’s argument in vv. 6-16 perhaps favors the second.

More important to the meaning of the verse is the continuation of the comparison/contrast between worldly/human wisdom and the wisdom of God. Here Paul formulates this with a specific expression: “in words of… [e)nlo/goi$]”. I have regularly been translating lo/go$ as “account” (i.e. oral, in speech); but here it is perhaps better to revert to a more conventional translation which emphasizes the elements or components of the account (i.e. the words). Earlier, in 1:17 and 2:1ff, Paul uses lo/go$ in the sense of the manner or style of speech used (in proclaiming the Gospel); here he seems to be referring to the actual content (the words) that a person speaks.

The contrast he establishes is as follows:

    • “in words taught of [i.e. by] (hu)man wisdom” (e)n didaktoi=$ a)nqrwpi/nh$ sofi/a$ lo/goi$)
    • “in (word)s taught of [i.e. by] (the) Spirit” (e)n didaktoi=$ pneu/mato$ [lo/goi$])
      Note: I include lo/goi$ in square brackets as implied, to fill out the comparison, though it is not in the text

The contrast is explicit— “not [ou)k] in… but (rather) [a)ll’] in…” Especially significant too is the use of the adjective didakto/$ (“[being] taught”, sometimes in the sense “able to be taught”, “teachable”), rare in both the New Testament and the LXX. The only other NT occurrence is in the discourse of Jesus in John 6:45, citing Isa 54:13, part of an eschatological prophecy where it is stated that the descendants of God’s people (“your sons/children”) “…will all (be) taught [didaktou\$] by God”. This same reference is certainly in the background in 1 Thess 4:9, where Paul uses the unique compound form qeodi/dakto$ (“taught by God”). This passage is helpful for an understanding of Paul’s thought here:

“And about the fondness for (the) brother(s) [i.e. fellow believers] you hold no occasion [i.e. there is no need] (for me) to write to you, for you (your)selves are taught by God [qeodi/daktoi] unto the loving of (each) other [i.e. to love one another].”

If we ask how believers are “taught by God”, apart from Paul’s written instruction, there are several possibilities:

    • The common preaching and tradition(s) which have been received (including the sayings/teachings of Jesus, etc)
    • The common witness and teaching of the believers together, in community
    • The (internal) testimony and guidance of the Spirit

Probably it is the last of these that Paul has primarily in mind, though not necessarily to the exclusion of the others. This would certainly be an indication of spiritualism in Paul’s thought. For a similar mode of thinking expressed in Johannine tradition, cf. 1 John 2:7-8, 21, 24; 3:10ff; 4:7-8ff, and the important passages in the discourses of Jesus in the Gospel. We will be considering these passages in upcoming articles and notes in this series.

Here, in 1 Cor 2:13, we may simply note that Paul is, rather clearly enough, referring to the work of the Spirit. That the Spirit would give (“teach”) believers (and, especially, Christian ministers/missionaries) the words to say was already a prominent feature of the sayings of Jesus in Gospel tradition (Mark 13:11 par, etc), depicted as being fulfilled with the first preachers of the Gospel in the book of Acts (2:4ff; 4:8, 29ff; 6:10, etc). However, the underlying thought should not be limited to the (uniquely) inspired preaching of the apostles, but to all believers. Paul’s use of “we” in this regard will be discussed in more detail in an upcoming note (on 1 Cor 2:16).

Particularly difficult to translate is the verb sugkri/nw in the last phrase of verse 13. A standard literal rendering would be “judge together” or “judge [i.e. compare] (one thing) with (another)”. However, in the case of this verb, it is sometimes better to retain the more primitive meaning of selecting and bringing/joining (things) together. Paul’s phrase here is richly compact—pneumatikoi=$ pneumatika\ sugkri/nonte$. He (literally) joins together two plural forms of the adjective pneumatiko/$ (“spiritual”), one masculine, the other neuter. The first is in the dative case, but without any preposition specified, indicating a rendering something like “spiritual (thing)s with/by spiritual (one)s”. However, given the expression e)nlo/goi$ (“in words of…”) earlier in the verse, it is probably best to read this into the context here as well.

I would thus suggest the following basic translation:

“bringing together spiritual (thing)s in spiritual (word)s”

I take this to mean that the “spiritual things” are given expression—and communicated to other believers—through “spiritual words”, i.e. words given/taught to a person by the Spirit. The “spiritual (thing)s [pneumatika]” almost certainly refer to “the deep (thing)s of God” and “the (thing)s under God” in vv. 10 and 12, respectively.

The Spirit “searches out” these things and reveals or imparts them to believers. This is especially so in the case of ministers—those gifted to prophesy and teach, etc—but, according to the view expressed throughout chapters 12-14, in particular, all believers have (or should have) gifts provided by the Spirit which they can (and ought to) impart to others.

This allows us to draw yet another conclusion regarding the “wisdom” mentioned in verse 6a: it is “taught” by the Spirit to believers, and is to be communicated (“spoken”) to others in turn. It is also worth noting that all throughout the discussion in verses 9-13, there is no real indication that this “wisdom” is limited to the proclamation of the death/resurrection of Jesus. We should perhaps keep an eye ahead to Paul’s discussion of the “spiritual (thing)s” in chapters 12-14.

The next daily note will examine verses 14-15.

January 13: 1 Corinthians 2:10

These notes on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15 are part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. They are reproduced, in large part, from an earlier set of notes, covering 1:18-2:16 (and including 3:1-3). You may wish to consult these earlier notes, beginning with 1:18—cf. also the following notes on 1:21, 23-24, ,27-28, 30; 2:1-5, and 6.

1 Corinthians 2:10

“And (yet) to us God has uncovered (this) through the Spirit—for the Spirit searches out all (thing)s, and (even) the deep(est thing)s of God.”

The statement in verse 10 is the culmination of the line of argument in vv. 6ff. It may be helpful to outline the thematic (and logical) development:

    • There is a wisdom spoken to the believers who are “complete” —it is different from the wisdom of this Age and its rulers/leaders (who have no effect for believers and will be without power in the Age to Come) [v. 6]
      • instead (“but/rather”, a)lla), this wisdom (of God) is spoken in a secret hidden away from the world [v. 7a]
        • which [h%n] God established (“marked out”) before the beginning of this Age, for the honor/glory of believers [v. 7b], and
        • which [h%n] none of the rulers/leaders of this Age knew (or understood) [v. 8] —demonstrated by the fact that they put Jesus Christ (“the Lord of honor/glory”) to death
          • instead (“but/rather”, a)lla), this secret was prepared beforehand, only to be revealed for “those who love God” [v. 9, citing Scripture]
            • and (de) God has revealed this to us (believers) through the Spirit [v. 10]

The thrust of this argument is clear: the wisdom of God has been kept secret, hidden away from the world, and is only revealed now to believers through the Spirit. The emphasis on the Spirit (of God) here is vital to Paul’s discussion. With regard to a correct interpretation of verse 6a (see the main article, as well as my earlier note on the verse), it is possible to make at least one firm conclusion—the wisdom spoken to the “complete” comes by way of the Spirit. No other source of “wisdom” is possible. Based on the context of vv. 6ff, we may assume that apostles and ministers (such as Paul), are the immediate (proximate) source, as chosen/inspired preachers and teachers, to communicate this wisdom.

The wording in v. 6 (“we speak…”) is slightly ambiguous—it could refer to (a) Paul primarily, (b) Paul and his fellow ministers, or (c) believers generally. Probably the first person plural should be understood as inclusive of all three points of reference, in the order given here: Paul (founding Apostle)–Ministers–Believers.

It is significant that the work of the Spirit essentially reverses the process established by God—the (secret) wisdom is, first:

    • hidden from [a)pokekrumme/nhn] the world [v. 7], and then
    • the cover is removed from [a)peka/luyen] it [v. 10], revealing it to believers

The first verb (a)pokru/ptw, “hide [away] from”) is a passive perfect (participle) form, indicating action which began at a point (in time) and the force or effect of which continues into the present. It is an example of the “divine passive”, with God as the one performing the action (unstated). As a participle it modifies the noun “wisdom” (sofi/a), emphasizing its character as hidden/secret wisdom; this is especially clear from the precise Greek syntax and word order:

    • wisdom of God
      —in (a) secret
    • hidden from (the world)

The second verb (a)pokalu/ptw, “take/remove the cover from”, i.e. “uncover”) is a simple aorist indicative form with God as the subject. The aorist would suggest a past action performed by God (through the Spirit); there are several possibilities for a specific point of reference here:

    • The resurrection and exaltation of Jesus
    • The preaching/communication of the Gospel
    • The receipt of the Spirit by believers (associated with the baptism ritual)
    • Post-conversion work/manifestation of the Spirit to believers

The second of these—the proclamation of the Gospel (by Paul and his fellow ministers)—best fits the context. This allows us to draw a second conclusion regarding the interpretation of v. 6a: the revelation of the (secret) wisdom of God is fundamentally tied to the proclamation of the Gospel. However, I believe we will gain additional insight by a careful consideration of the last half of verse 10, which describes more generally the work of the Spirit:

“…for the Spirit searches out all (thing)s, and (even) the deep(est thing)s of God”

Two phrases are combined, the second of which builds on the first:

    • “for the Spirit searches out [e)rauna=|] all things [pa/nta]
      • even the deep things [ta\ ba/qh] of God”

The essential activity of the Spirit is described by the verb e)reuna/w, which means to search out (or after) something. The searching of God’s Spirit is all-powerful and all-inclusive—it searches out all things. The second phrase narrows this to “the deep things” of God. The idea is that the Spirit, in its searching, travels (steps) all the way to the “depths” of God himself, in a manner (somewhat) similar to the functioning of the human “spirit” (v. 11).

By inference, we may draw a third conclusion in relation to verse 6a: the hidden wisdom of God relates to the very depths (the deepest parts) of God’s own being. It is an extraordinary thought (and claim) that the Spirit might communicate to believers the deepest wisdom of God himself. Perhaps this suggests something of what Paul means when he states that such wisdom is spoken to “the ones (who are) complete” (in this regard, see esp. the famous words of Jesus in Matt 5:48). For a more immediate exposition (and explanation), in the context of this passage, we now turn to verse 12, to be discussed in the next note.

Spiritualism and the New Testament: Paul: 1 Corinthians 2:10-15

This study on Spiritualism and the New Testament (cf. the Introduction and article defining the term “Spiritualism”) will be divided into two main sections, corresponding to the Pauline and Johannine writings, respectively. We begin with the Pauline Letters.

The Letters of Paul

Paul wrote extensively on the Spirit, and doubtless he played a significant role in shaping first-century Christian views on the subject. Paul inherited early Christian traditions and beliefs regarding the Spirit, but, in his own way, he also developed these, presenting them within a deeper and more systematic framework. Before proceeding to the first passage of our study, let us first conduct a brief survey of several key beliefs which Paul shared, we may assume, with many other believers in the mid-first century (c. 50 A.D.).

    • The coming of the Spirit upon believers marks the fulfillment of the exilic/post-exilic prophetic oracles regarding the pouring out of God’s Spirit on His people in the New Age (of Israel’s restoration).
    • Believers receive the Spirit in connection with the ritual of baptism, which parallels the tradition of Jesus’ own baptism (Mk 1:8, 10 par).
    • The Spirit is communicated (by God) through the person of the exalted Jesus.
    • The exaltation of Jesus (to heaven, at God’s right hand), following his resurrection, gave to him a Divine status and position that enabled Jesus to share in God’s own Spirit. For more on this, cf. below.
    • Thus, when believers receive the Spirit of God, they/we are also receiving the Spirit of Christ. Through the Spirit, the exalted Jesus is manifest and present in (and among) believers.
    • Upon receiving the Spirit, believers are enabled to function as prophets, communicating the word and will of God, accompanied by other special abilities and ‘gifts’ (including speaking in ‘tongues’ and the working of miracles).

Because of the number of Paul’s letters that are available to us, we have a clearer understanding of these early beliefs. For example, Paul is the only New Testament author who offers any kind of an explanation of how Jesus came to share the Spirit of God (as his own Spirit). We can obtain a glimpse of this Christological point by combining Paul’s words in 1 Cor 15:45 (in the context of his discussion on the resurrection in chap. 15) with the declaration in 6:17. And, on this point, we may note the way that Paul can refer to the (Holy) Spirit as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ (or of Jesus) interchangeably (see esp. Rom 8:9).

1 Corinthians 2:10-15

In the section 1:18-2:16, Paul contrasts worldly wisdom with the wisdom of God. The Gospel proclamation centered on the painful and humiliating death (by crucifixion) of Jesus, embodies, rather paradoxically, the wisdom of God. And yet, Paul speaks in vv. 6-15, of a wisdom that is spoken among those believers who are complete (te/leio$). In describing this wisdom, Paul’s exposition seems to have a spiritualist emphasis. The key verses are 10-15; however, before examining them in detail, it is necessary to give careful consideration to how Paul leads into that discussion. Let us begin with verse 6.

1 Corinthians 2:6

“And (yet) we (do) speak wisdom among the (one)s (who are) complete, and (it is) wisdom not of this Age, and not of the chief (ruler)s of this Age th(at are) being made inactive…”

This statement introduces a new section, building upon vv. 1-5 (see my earlier note). In verse 5, Paul contrasts human/worldly wisdom (“the wisdom of men”) with the power of God; now, here in verse 6, he returns to the earlier contrast between two different kinds of wisdom. The conjunction de/, translated “and” above (first two instances), has adversative force, and could just as well be rendered “but”. In contrast with worldly wisdom:

    • Believers (and esp. Christian ministers) do speak/use wisdom, but
      • It is altogether different from the wisdom of the world and its rulers

There have been longstanding questions regarding the precise identity of both this “wisdom” (sofi/a) and the ones who are “complete” (te/leio$). In a prior note, I outlined some of the more common suggestions offered by commentators; here they are listed again for reference, with no priority indicated by the numbering:

    1. The basic Gospel message (wisdom) is given to all believers, but a more advanced (esoteric?) Christian wisdom (teaching, etc) is offered for those who are “complete”—mature and committed in the faith sufficiently to receive it.
    2. Paul is simply making a rhetorical contrast. There is only one wisdom—that of the person of Christ and his death/resurrection. The “complete” believers are able to recognize this and do not need to seek after any other “wisdom”.
    3. He is distinguishing between the Gospel proclamation and the teaching/instruction, etc., which builds upon the basic message, interpreting and applying it for believers as they grow in faith. For the “complete” this includes a wide range of “wisdom” —ways of thinking/reasoning, use of argument, illustration, allegory/parable, (creative) interpretations of Scripture, etc.
    4. Paul himself evinces certain gnostic/mystic tendencies whereby there are envisioned levels or layers in the Gospel—i.e. the basic proclamation and belief regarding the person and work of Christ—as in the Scriptures, the deepest of which involve the most profound expressions of God’s wisdom. Only the “complete” are able to realize this, and to be able to communicate something of it to the wider community.
    5. Paul is responding to gnostic/mystic tendencies among believers in Corinth. Here, as a kind of rhetorical approach, he is drawing upon their own thinking and sensibilities, trying to bring their focus back to the centrality of the Gospel and a proper understanding of the work of the Spirit. As such, the apparent distinctions he makes are somewhat artificial, perhaps running parallel to the (actual) divisions among the Corinthians themselves.
    6. The wisdom for the “complete” reflects a deep understanding of, and participation in, the work of the Spirit. Believers who are completely guided by the Spirit need no other instruction. Paul is essentially expounding this thought in vv. 9-16, only to make (painfully) clear to the Corinthians how far they still are from the ideal.

I have discussed the passage, running through 3:1-3, in considerable detail in earlier notes, a portion of which I am reproducing (especially those on 2:10-15) as part of this series. I have indicated certain conclusions which may be drawn from the text, that help clarify what Paul means here in 2:6. I list these as bullet points:

    • The wisdom spoken to the “complete” comes by way of the Spirit. No other source of “wisdom” is possible.
    • The revelation of the (secret) wisdom of God is fundamentally tied to the proclamation of the Gospel.
    • The hidden wisdom of God relates to the very depths (the deepest parts) of God’s own being.
    • The “wisdom” is not limited to the Gospel message, but ought to be understood more comprehensively as “all the (deep) things under God”.
    • It is dependent upon our having received the (Holy) Spirit
    • Through the Spirit we are able to know and experience this wisdom
    • It is “taught” by the Spirit to believers, and is to be communicated (“spoken”) to others in turn.
    • The ones who are “complete” essentially = the ones who “have the Spirit”
    • The ones who are “complete” are defined, in a negative sense by the opposite—those who think and act in a “fleshly” manner are “incomplete”.

From these points, the spiritualistic tendency in Paul’s thought seems clear enough. That is to say, the wisdom of God is manifest fundamentally, and principally, through the presence of the Spirit in and among believers. But let us look more closely at the wisdom Paul has in mind. I would isolate three primary aspects:

    • It is based on the proclamation of the Gospel, i.e. of the person and work of Christ
    • It includes all that the Spirit communicates to believers, which they receive as a gift to be shared/communicated to others
    • It extends to the working and guidance of the Spirit (= the “mind of God/Christ”) in all things

With regard to those who are complete, this can be defined even more simply:

    • They are those believers who consistently think and act under the guidance of the Spirit; this must be distinguished on two levels:
      • The reality of having/holding the Spirit (in us)
      • The ideal of living out this identity—i.e., “walking in/by the Spirit” (cf. Gal 5:16, 18, 25)

The very fact that Paul, like Jesus himself, exhorts believers to be “complete”, means that it is not automatically realized through faith in Christ and receiving the Spirit; rather, it reflects a process of growth and development which, in most instances, will take place over a lifetime. This, however, does not change the force and urgency of the exhortation. Jesus’ own exhortation (Matt 5:48) to his followers essentially takes the form of a promise—if you live according to the teaching (i.e. in 5:21-47, etc), “you will be complete [te/leio$], as your heavenly Father is complete”.

In Gal 5:16ff, Paul expounds upon this idea, now in a decidedly Christian sense, with the force of an imperative; note the sequence of phrases, with its central (conditional) premise:

    • “Walk about in the Spirit…” (v. 16)
      — “If you are led in the Spirit…” (v. 18)
      — “If (indeed) we live by the Spirit…” (v. 25a)
    • “We should step in line in the Spirit” (v. 25b)

The statement in Gal 5:16 reflects the very issue Paul is dealing with in 1 Corinthians, and the lament he expresses in 1 Cor 3:1-3:

“Walk about in the Spirit, and you should not complete [tele/shte, related to te/leio$] the impulse of the flesh”
“We speak wisdom among the (one)s (who are) complete
“And (yet) I was not able to speak to you as (one)s (who are) of the Spirit, but as (one)s (who are) of the flesh”

Is it possible that Paul, in some sense, does have a more precise and sharp division in mind, i.e. between the “complete” and the ‘incomplete’ —two distinct groups or categories of believers? While this would seem to contradict much of his own argument in 1:18ff, it is conceivable that he is playing off of the very “divisions” which exist among the Corinthians. Certainly, it has been suggested from the distinction he makes in 3:2 between “milk” (ga/la) and “(solid) food” (brw=ma)—the Corinthians are behaving as immature “infants” (v. 1), and cannot be treated (i.e. spoken to) as mature adults. There are several possibilities for understanding this distinction:

    • “Milk” is the simple Gospel message, while the solid “Food” represents deeper (Christian) teaching and instruction
    • The difference is between the basic ‘facts’ of the Gospel, and its deeper meaning
    • Similarly, it is between the Gospel message and how it is (effectively) applied and lived out by believers in the Christian Community
    • It rather reflects a difference in the way believers respond—as immature infants or mature adults
    • It is simply a rhetorical image, drawn from the idea of the Corinthians as “infants”, and should not be pressed further

Something may be said for each of these interpretations, except perhaps the first. Insofar as it reflects a substantive distinction in Paul’s mind, the third and fourth best fit the overall context of the passage.

Finally, I would like to bring out a particular point of emphasis that is sometimes overlooked in this passage. When Paul speaks of the wisdom of God in terms of “the (deep) things” of God, he couches this within the general expression “all things” (pa/nta). In my view, this should be understood in an absolute comprehensive sense. Note how this is framed conceptually in chapters 2 & 3:

The wisdom of God encompasses “all things”, as Paul makes clear in 3:21-23, where he establishes a (hierarchical) chain of relationship, presented in reverse order— “all things” (pa/nta), he says:

belong to you (pl., believers), and you in turn
belong to Christ, who in turn
belongs to God the Father

If we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit and the mind of God/Christ, then we are free to study and examine all things (cf. 2:10, 15), and this itself becomes an integral expression of the “wisdom of God” which we speak.

This analysis of the thrust of 2:6-16 (extending to 3:1-3) provides the framework for our detailed study of 2:10-15, which contain the key references to the Spirit. For this study, see the first note, on v. 10.

December 23: John 1:11-12a

John 1:11

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

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

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

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

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

John 1:12a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 22: John 1:10

John 1:10-12a

Verse 10 marks the beginning of the third poetic unit (or strophe) in the Christ-hymn of the Johannine Prologue. The four units expound a Christological development from pre-existence (strophe 1) to incarnation (strophe 4). This third strophe provides the transition between the creation of the universe by the Logos (vv. 3-5) and the incarnation of the Logos in the life of Jesus (vv. 14-16).

Verse 10

“He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
and (yet) the world did not know him.”

These lines form a triad, a poetic triplet/tricolon, with three statements, each involving the relationship between the Logos and the “world” (ko/smo$). The noun ko/smo$ can refer to what we call the universe (cosmos), but it more properly signifies the arrangement of things in the universe, the order of creation; the translation “world-order” is generally accurate, if cumbersome. I have followed the customary rendering of ko/smo$ as “world”, since the English word has a comparable sort of semantic range.

The noun ko/smo$ is an especially distinctive part of the Johannine vocabulary. It occurs 78 times in the Gospel, and another 24 in the Letters—more than half of all the New Testament occurrences (185). Occasionally the word is used in the neutral sense of the universe, or, more precisely, the inhabited world (of human society). However, in the majority of instances, it has a decidedly negative meaning—referring to the world, in the current Age, as it is dominated by the forces of darkness and evil. There is a striking dualism that runs through the Johannine writings, contrasting the “world” (of darkness and evil) with the realm of God and the Spirit (of light and truth). Early Christians in the first century generally shared this worldview, often expressed within an eschatological framework—i.e., the current Age is becoming increasingly wicked, as the end draws near. Paul evinces a similar sort of dualism, emphasizing how the world in the current Age is in bondage to the power of sin. Even so, the specific Johannine dualism that depicts the “world” (ko/smo$) as fundamentally in opposition to God (and, by extension, to His Son Jesus and those who trust in him), defined largely as a contrast of “light vs darkness”, is distinctive.

Let us examine each of the statements of the contrast here in the Prologue, between the “world” and the Logos:

e)n tw=| ko/smw| h@n
“he was in the world”

This simple statement contains two components: the verb (a form of the verb of being) and a predicate prepositional expression (in emphatic [first] position). As previously noted, the verb of being (ei)mi) in the Prologue is reserved for God, and is only used of God the Father and the Logos (= Jesus the Son). Here it is the same imperfect active indicative form (h@n, “was”) that is used elsewhere in the Prologue. Thus the deceptively simple statement “he was in the world” implicitly contains a deeper theological meaning: the pre-existent Wisdom/Word of God was in the world. While this alludes to the earthly life of Jesus, it cannot be limited to that aspect (cf. below).

To say that the Logos was “in” (e)n) the world, is parallel with the idea that the divine/eternal Life was “in” (e)n) him (v. 4a). This Life is communicated to human beings (i.e., those in the world), v. 4b. The Life, under the image of light (i.e., the Light of God), is thus “in” (e)n) the world, under the negative aspect of the ko/smo$ (cf. above)—that is, in the midst of the darkness of the world (e)n th=| skoti/a|, v. 5). This personal presence of the Logos was foreshadowed in the closing words of verse 9, where the Logos is referred to as the “true Light” that is “coming into [ei)$] the world”.

kai\ o( ko/smo$ di’ au)tou= e)ge/neto
“and the world came to be through him”

According to the vocabulary of the Prologue, the verb of becoming (gi/nomai) is used for created beings (in contrast to the verb of being, used only of God). This re-states the declaration in verse 3: “all (thing)s came to be through him [di’ au)tou=]” —God created all things in the universe through the Logos (His Word/Wisdom). As applied to the person of Jesus, this same Wisdom tradition was utilized in the context of other Christ hymns (cf. Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2b-3). The point is emphasized here in order to make a stark contrast with the statement that follows:

kai\ o( ko/smo$ au)to\n ou)k e&gnw
“and the world did not know him”

In light of the prior statement, this is a powerful declaration: human beings (in the world) did not recognize the one who created them. To say that they did not recognize the Logos (the Word/Wisdom) of God essentially means that they did not recognize God Himself. This aspect of recognition is expressed through the verb ginw/skw (“know”)—a common verb, but one which takes on special (theological) meaning in the Johannine writings. It occurs 56 times in the Gospel, and another 26 in the Letters (more than a third of all NT occurrences), where it is used parallel with the verb ei&dw [oi@da] (“see”). The verbs ei&dw and ginw/skw are partially interchangeable in Greek, due the close relationship between “seeing” and “knowing”. The Johannine writings make considerable use of this dual-meaning, which ties in naturally with the light-motif (and its light/darkness dualism). In addition to ei&dw (85 times in the Gospel, 16 in the Letters), the Johannine writings make significant use of the verbs ble/pw, qea/omai, qewre/w, and o(ra/w—all denoting sight/observation/perception (= discernment/understanding).

Based on this Johannine usage, to “know” Jesus means to trust and accept him, recognizing that he is the Son of God. From the standpoint of the Prologue, this also means realizing the identification, established in the Christ hymn, of Jesus with the Word and Wisdom (i.e., the Logos) of God. For this reason, it would be a mistake to interpret the statement here as referring simply to the rejection of Jesus by the population during his earthly life and ministry. While the earthly life of Jesus is certainly in view, it is his identification with the Logos, in particular, that is being emphasized.

The influence of Wisdom tradition is very much present here, as it also is in the “Christ hymns” of Colossians (1:15-20) and Hebrews (1:2b-4). On the combination of Jewish Wisdom tradition with the Logos-concept in Greek philosophy, cf. the earlier note on verse 1. The term lo/go$ was especially useful in this regard, encompassing as it does the idea of both the Wisdom and Word of God. In Old Testament and Jewish tradition, we find the motif of the divine Wisdom dwelling among human beings. This is part of a broader tradition, in which God (YHWH) is said to make His dwelling (Heb. /k*v=m!) among the people Israel (symbolically, in the Tent-shrine or Temple sanctuary, etc). Sirach 24:8ff describes how the Divine Wisdom similarly set up his Tent-dwelling among the people (cf. also the more general reference in Prov 8:31).

The same idea can be expressed in terms of the personified Word of God. In particular, we may note the line of Jewish tradition, represented in the Aramaic Targums, in which the term ar*m=ym@ (mêmr¹°, “the saying, the word”) came to be used as a conceptual intermediary when speaking of the person of God. It developed as a pious circumlocution, a way to avoid attributing to YHWH Himself specific human (i.e., anthropomorphic) characteristics or actions. According to this line of tradition, when God says “I will be with you” (Exod 3:12), it is rendered/interpreted as “My Mêmr¹° will be your support”. Similarly, the concept of YHWH dwelling among His people would be explained in terms of His Word (Mêmr¹°) dwelling among them. Cf. Brown, p. 523-4.

An important part of the Wisdom tradition involves the specific exhortation for God’s people (the righteous) to pursue wisdom, with the understanding that many people (even in Israel) will reject it. Thus, the motif of Wisdom seeking to dwell among the people, when combined with the idea of many people rejecting Wisdom, leads to the natural image of Wisdom failing to find a suitable dwelling-place on earth. In 1 Enoch 42, the story is told of Wisdom finding a home among the angels in heaven; the brief narrative involves an unsuccessful attempt to find a dwelling on earth among human beings:

“Then Wisdom went out to dwell with the children of the people, but she found no dwelling place” (v. 2, translation E. Isaac in Charlesworth, OTP).

Almost certainly, the Christ hymn here in the Prologue draws upon the same basic line of Wisdom tradition.

December 15: John 1:3

John 1:3-5

The first section of the “Christ hymn” in the Johannine Prologue (vv. 1-2) emphasizes how the relationship between the Logos and God existed “in the beginning” —that is, prior to the creation of the universe (cf. the discussion in the previous note). This is clearly indicated by the allusion to Genesis 1:1, and by the fact that the section which follows (vv. 3-5) refers specifically to the creation. However, the theme of a pre-creation existence of the Logos, and its relationship (indicated by the preposition pro/$, “toward,” in vv. 1-2) to God, is also implied by the use of the term lo/go$ (lógos) itself.

In a prior note (on v. 1b), I discussed the meaning and background of the noun lo/go$, and the special philosophical/theological use of the term, going back to the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraklitos in the 6th/5th century B.C. The meaning of the Logos-concept, in this context, may be summarized as: a manifestation of God, a rational intelligence that gives order to all things in creation. Philo of Alexandria is perhaps the best example of a Jewish philosopher who utilized the Logos-concept, applying it to Old Testament religious and theological tradition. He also happens to be a contemporary (fl. 20-50 A.D.) of the first-generation of Christians (and the earliest New Testament writings), so his application of a Logos-theology is especially pertinent to the similar development that we see here in the Johannine Prologue.

Philo uses the noun lo/go$ more than 1400 times in his writings, and often in the specialized philosophical/theological sense noted above. What is particularly significant, is the way that he has blended the Greek Logos-concept with Hellenistic Jewish Wisdom tradition. According to this line of tradition, Wisdom (Grk sofi/a) was considered to be the image (ei)kw/n) of God (Wisd 7:26), by which the world (and human beings) were created (2:23). The thought goes back, primarily, to the famous passage in Proverbs 8:22-31, in which Wisdom (Heb hm*k=j*), personified as a pre-existent divine being, it is said, acted to bring about God’s work of Creation. Philo similarly speaks of the Logos (lo/go$) as the image of God; the created universe, in turn, is the visible image of the Logos of God, like a personal stamp upon a coin (On the Creation §25; On Dreams 2.45; On the Special Laws I.81). This idiom is not limited to Jewish tradition, as it can be seen in other strands of philosophy, such as in Platonic thought, going back to Plato’s concept of the visible world as the perceptible image (ei)kw/n) of an intelligible Deity (Timaeus 92c).

The Logos (like the divine Wisdom) plays a central role in God’s creation of the universe, and it continues to function as the governing power of God by which all things in the universe are “held together” (sune/sthke). The Logos is similarly described as a “bond”, the binding force, that holds the cosmos together (Philo, Who Is the Heir §23, cf. On Flight and Finding §112). In Wisdom 1:7, the Wisdom of God is likewise said to be that which holds all things together (sune/xon ta\ pa/nta); while in Sirach 43:26, it is stated that all things lay (bound) together (su/geitai ta\ pa/nta) in the Word (Lo/go$) of God. This language clearly relates to the the thought-world of the Johannine Prologue, as also of the other New Testament “Christ hymns” we have studied (cf. especially Col 1:17 and Heb 1:3, and note also the wording in 2 Peter 3:5). For more on the place of the Logos (Lo/go$), the personified Word/Wisdom of God, and its role in creation, in the writings of Philo, see On the Creation §146; Who Is the Heir? §§7, 130ff; On the Special Laws I.80-81; III.83, 207; IV.123b; On the Migration of Abraham §6; On the Cherubim §125f; On Flight and Finding §§12, 95; On the Work of Planting §§18, 50; The Worse Attacks the Better §§83, 86; On Dreams 1.72, 215 (Attridge, p. 40ff). The influence of this Wisdom/Logos tradition on the Johannine prologue is obvious, but, as I previously discussed, the authors of Hebrews and the Colossians hymn (whether Paul or another) almost certainly drew upon it as well. For comparable references to the divine Wisdom in Hellenistic Jewish tradition, cf. Wisdom 7:22-8:1; 9:2ff; 10:1ff; Sirach 1:3-10; chap. 24; 33:7-8ff; 42:21; Baruch 3:15ff, etc.

It is in Proverbs 8:22-31 that we find the origin of the Jewish concept, and, especially, the idea of the close relationship between Wisdom and the Creator God. In verse 30, the personified Wisdom declares “I was near (lx#a@) Him”; the Greek LXX renders Hebrew lx#a@ with the preposition para/ (“alongside”). Even though the Johannine Prologue (vv. 1-2) uses a different preposition (pro/$, “toward”), the same basic idea is being expressed. The Logos was with God, in close proximity to him, at the time when the universe was created.

Verse 3

The first line of verse 3 states the role of the Logos in the creation of the universe quite clearly and simply:

pa/nta di’ au)tou= e)ge/neto
“all (thing)s came to be through him”

Let us briefly examine each of the three components in this statement.

pa/nta (“all [thing]s”)—The comprehensive adjective pa=$ (“all”) occurs here in a substantive plural form, as the subject of the clause. “All things” = everything in the universe. In our study of the Colossians hymn (1:15-20), we saw how the adjective pa=$ was used repeatedly (7 times in the hymn) to give special emphasis to the exalted position of Jesus over “all” creation; his exalted position is due, in part, to the role that he (as the pre-existent Son) played in the process of creation itself. In that hymn, a predicate use of the substantive plural (ta\ pa/nta, “all things”) occurs several times (vv. 16-17 [twice in each verse], 20), as it also does in Hebrews 1:3, which in many ways is closer to the thought expressed here in the Prologue:

“…and bearing [i.e. carrying] all (thing)s by the utterance [i.e. word] of his power”

In that statement, the noun r(h=ma (“utterance”) is used rather than lo/go$, but the meaning is comparable, and almost certainly reflects the same Logos/Wisdom theology summarized above.

di’ au)tou= (“through him”)—The Logos is the means, the instrument, through which God created the universe. This is fully in accordance with the Logos/Wisdom theology (cf. above), and is similarly applied to the (pre-existent) person of Jesus elsewhere in the Christ hymns. Note, in particular, Hebrews 1:2b (“through whom He [i.e., God the Father] made the Ages”); cf. also Colossians 1:16b (“all things have been founded [i.e. created] through him…”).

e)ge/neto (“came to be”)—The use of the verb of becoming (gi/nomai) in the Prologue is significant, since it provides a clear distinction (and contrast) with the verb of being (ei)mi). The verb of being, used in vv. 1-2, refers specifically to the being of God (i.e., Divine being), while the verb of becoming (beginning here in v. 3) refers to created beings (esp. human beings). The verb gi/nomai can mean “coming to be born,” referring to the birth of a human being, though the related verb genna/w expresses this more precisely. The important distinction between ei)mi and gi/nomai will be discussed further as we proceed through the Prologue.

The emphasis on “all things” (note the emphatic [first] position of pa/nta in the line) is reinforced by the statement that follows in v. 3:

“and apart (from) him not even one (thing) came to be”

Again, the meaning of statement is quite clear: God created everything through the Logos. However, it is at this point in the section that considerable difficulties of interpretation arise. We will attempt a clear and succinct discussion of these in the next daily note.