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John 1:1

Context
The Prologue to the Gospel

1:1 In the beginning 1  was the Word, and the Word was with God, 2  and the Word was fully God. 3 

John 1:14

Context

1:14 Now 4  the Word became flesh 5  and took up residence 6  among us. We 7  saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, 8  full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.

John 1:18

Context
1:18 No one has ever seen God. The only one, 9  himself God, who is in closest fellowship with 10  the Father, has made God 11  known. 12 

1 sn In the beginning. The search for the basic “stuff” out of which things are made was the earliest one in Greek philosophy. It was attended by the related question of “What is the process by which the secondary things came out of the primary one (or ones)?,” or in Aristotelian terminology, “What is the ‘beginning’ (same Greek word as beginning, John 1:1) and what is the origin of the things that are made?” In the New Testament the word usually has a temporal sense, but even BDAG 138 s.v. ἀρχή 3 lists a major category of meaning as “the first cause.” For John, the words “In the beginning” are most likely a conscious allusion to the opening words of Genesis – “In the beginning.” Other concepts which occur prominently in Gen 1 are also found in John’s prologue: “life” (1:4) “light” (1:4) and “darkness” (1:5). Gen 1 describes the first (physical) creation; John 1 describes the new (spiritual) creation. But this is not to play off a false dichotomy between “physical” and “spiritual”; the first creation was both physical and spiritual. The new creation is really a re-creation, of the spiritual (first) but also the physical. (In spite of the common understanding of John’s “spiritual” emphasis, the “physical” re-creation should not be overlooked; this occurs in John 2 with the changing of water into wine, in John 11 with the resurrection of Lazarus, and the emphasis of John 20-21 on the aftermath of Jesus’ own resurrection.)

2 tn The preposition πρός (pros) implies not just proximity, but intimate personal relationship. M. Dods stated, “Πρός …means more than μετά or παρά, and is regularly employed in expressing the presence of one person with another” (“The Gospel of St. John,” The Expositors Greek Testament, 1:684). See also Mark 6:3, Matt 13:56, Mark 9:19, Gal 1:18, 2 John 12.

3 tn Or “and what God was the Word was.” Colwell’s Rule is often invoked to support the translation of θεός (qeos) as definite (“God”) rather than indefinite (“a god”) here. However, Colwell’s Rule merely permits, but does not demand, that a predicate nominative ahead of an equative verb be translated as definite rather than indefinite. Furthermore, Colwell’s Rule did not deal with a third possibility, that the anarthrous predicate noun may have more of a qualitative nuance when placed ahead of the verb. A definite meaning for the term is reflected in the traditional rendering “the word was God.” From a technical standpoint, though, it is preferable to see a qualitative aspect to anarthrous θεός in John 1:1c (ExSyn 266-69). Translations like the NEB, REB, and Moffatt are helpful in capturing the sense in John 1:1c, that the Word was fully deity in essence (just as much God as God the Father). However, in contemporary English “the Word was divine” (Moffatt) does not quite catch the meaning since “divine” as a descriptive term is not used in contemporary English exclusively of God. The translation “what God was the Word was” is perhaps the most nuanced rendering, conveying that everything God was in essence, the Word was too. This points to unity of essence between the Father and the Son without equating the persons. However, in surveying a number of native speakers of English, some of whom had formal theological training and some of whom did not, the editors concluded that the fine distinctions indicated by “what God was the Word was” would not be understood by many contemporary readers. Thus the translation “the Word was fully God” was chosen because it is more likely to convey the meaning to the average English reader that the Logos (which “became flesh and took up residence among us” in John 1:14 and is thereafter identified in the Fourth Gospel as Jesus) is one in essence with God the Father. The previous phrase, “the Word was with God,” shows that the Logos is distinct in person from God the Father.

sn And the Word was fully God. John’s theology consistently drives toward the conclusion that Jesus, the incarnate Word, is just as much God as God the Father. This can be seen, for example, in texts like John 10:30 (“The Father and I are one”), 17:11 (“so that they may be one just as we are one”), and 8:58 (“before Abraham came into existence, I am”). The construction in John 1:1c does not equate the Word with the person of God (this is ruled out by 1:1b, “the Word was with God”); rather it affirms that the Word and God are one in essence.

4 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic, the incarnation of the Word. Greek style often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” but English style generally does not.

5 tn This looks at the Word incarnate in humility and weakness; the word σάρξ (sarx) does not carry overtones of sinfulness here as it frequently does in Pauline usage. See also John 3:6.

6 tn Grk “and tabernacled.”

sn The Greek word translated took up residence (σκηνόω, skhnow) alludes to the OT tabernacle, where the Shekinah, the visible glory of God’s presence, resided. The author is suggesting that this glory can now be seen in Jesus (note the following verse). The verb used here may imply that the Shekinah glory that once was found in the tabernacle has taken up residence in the person of Jesus. Cf. also John 2:19-21. The Word became flesh. This verse constitutes the most concise statement of the incarnation in the New Testament. John 1:1 makes it clear that the Logos was fully God, but 1:14 makes it clear that he was also fully human. A Docetic interpretation is completely ruled out. Here for the first time the Logos of 1:1 is identified as Jesus of Nazareth – the two are one and the same. Thus this is the last time the word logos is used in the Fourth Gospel to refer to the second person of the Trinity. From here on it is Jesus of Nazareth who is the focus of John’s Gospel.

7 tn Grk “and we saw.”

8 tn Or “of the unique one.” Although this word is often translated “only begotten,” such a translation is misleading, since in English it appears to express a metaphysical relationship. The word in Greek was used of an only child (a son [Luke 7:12, 9:38] or a daughter [Luke 8:42]). It was also used of something unique (only one of its kind) such as the mythological Phoenix (1 Clem. 25:2). From here it passes easily to a description of Isaac (Heb 11:17 and Josephus, Ant., 1.13.1 [1.222]) who was not Abraham’s only son, but was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of the promise. Thus the word means “one-of-a-kind” and is reserved for Jesus in the Johannine literature of the NT. While all Christians are children of God, Jesus is God’s Son in a unique, one-of-a-kind sense. The word is used in this way in all its uses in the Gospel of John (1:14, 1:18, 3:16, and 3:18).

9 tc The textual problem μονογενὴς θεός (monogenh" qeo", “the only God”) versus ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (Jo monogenh" Juio", “the only son”) is a notoriously difficult one. Only one letter would have differentiated the readings in the mss, since both words would have been contracted as nomina sacra: thus qMs or uMs. Externally, there are several variants, but they can be grouped essentially by whether they read θεός or υἱός. The majority of mss, especially the later ones (A C3 Θ Ψ Ë1,13 Ï lat), read ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός. Ì75 א1 33 pc have ὁ μονογενὴς θεός, while the anarthrous μονογενὴς θεός is found in Ì66 א* B C* L pc. The articular θεός is almost certainly a scribal emendation to the anarthrous θεός, for θεός without the article is a much harder reading. The external evidence thus strongly supports μονογενὴς θεός. Internally, although υἱός fits the immediate context more readily, θεός is much more difficult. As well, θεός also explains the origin of the other reading (υἱός), because it is difficult to see why a scribe who found υἱός in the text he was copying would alter it to θεός. Scribes would naturally change the wording to υἱός however, since μονογενὴς υἱός is a uniquely Johannine christological title (cf. John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). But θεός as the older and more difficult reading is preferred. As for translation, it makes the most sense to see the word θεός as in apposition to μονογενής, and the participle ὁ ὤν (Jo wn) as in apposition to θεός, giving in effect three descriptions of Jesus rather than only two. (B. D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 81, suggests that it is nearly impossible and completely unattested in the NT for an adjective followed immediately by a noun that agrees in gender, number, and case, to be a substantival adjective: “when is an adjective ever used substantivally when it immediately precedes a noun of the same inflection?” This, however, is an overstatement. First, as Ehrman admits, μονογενής in John 1:14 is substantival. And since it is an established usage for the adjective in this context, one might well expect that the author would continue to use the adjective substantivally four verses later. Indeed, μονογενής is already moving toward a crystallized substantival adjective in the NT [cf. Luke 9:38; Heb 11:17]; in patristic Greek, the process continued [cf. PGL 881 s.v. 7]. Second, there are several instances in the NT in which a substantival adjective is followed by a noun with which it has complete concord: cf., e.g., Rom 1:30; Gal 3:9; 1 Tim 1:9; 2 Pet 2:5.) The modern translations which best express this are the NEB (margin) and TEV. Several things should be noted: μονογενής alone, without υἱός, can mean “only son,” “unique son,” “unique one,” etc. (see 1:14). Furthermore, θεός is anarthrous. As such it carries qualitative force much like it does in 1:1c, where θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (qeo" hn Jo logo") means “the Word was fully God” or “the Word was fully of the essence of deity.” Finally, ὁ ὤν occurs in Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8, 11:17; and 16:5, but even more significantly in the LXX of Exod 3:14. Putting all of this together leads to the translation given in the text.

tn Or “The unique one.” For the meaning of μονογενής (monogenh") see the note on “one and only” in 1:14.

10 tn Grk “in the bosom of” (an idiom for closeness or nearness; cf. L&N 34.18; BDAG 556 s.v. κόλπος 1).

11 tn Grk “him”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

12 sn Has made God known. In this final verse of the prologue, the climactic and ultimate statement of the earthly career of the Logos, Jesus of Nazareth, is reached. The unique One (John 1:14), the One who has taken on human form and nature by becoming incarnate (became flesh, 1:14), who is himself fully God (the Word was God, 1:1c) and is to be identified with the ever-living One of the Old Testament revelation (Exod 3:14), who is in intimate relationship with the Father, this One and no other has fully revealed what God is like. As Jesus said to Philip in John 14:9, “The one who has seen me has seen the Father.”



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