For the Love of God, Volume 2/December 11
From Gospel Translations
2 Chronicles 11—12; Revelation 2; Zephaniah 3; John 1
JOHN’S PROLOGUE (JOHN 1:1-18) is one of the richest quarries in the Bible for the mining of wonderful truths about Christ. Here there is space for only the most introductory reflections.
(1) In the first verse, the one who is eventually said to become flesh, the Lord Jesus himself, is called the “Word.” The label is not only intrinsically peculiar, but at first glance is especially odd because it is not taken up in the rest of the Gospel of John. But perhaps that is the first clue. If in this first verse John had used one of the titles ascribed to Christ throughout the book (son of God, Son of Man, King of Israel, Messiah, and so forth), that title would have been elevated to the place of first importance. Instead, John uses an expression that encompasses all of them. He recalls that in the Old Testament God’s “word” is regularly the means by which he discloses himself in creation, redemption, and revelation. “The word of the Lord” comes to prophets; by the word of the Lord the heavens were made; God sends forth his word and heals the people. John finds it wonderfully appropriate: in the eternal “Word” that becomes flesh, God discloses himself in creation, revelation, and redemption. Even the word Word is evocative. We might paraphrase, “In the beginning God disclosed himself, and that self-disclosure was with God, and that self-disclosure was God.”
(2) If God’s “Word” was with God even in the remotest beginning, that Word was God’s own fellow, and distinguishable from him. If God’s “Word” was God even in the remotest beginning, that Word was God’s own self, and identified with him. Here are rudimentary pieces of what comes to be called the doctrine of the Trinity. From the beginning, God has always been a complex unity.
(3) Verse 2 picks up the middle clause of verse 1, in preparation for verse 3. In other words, the fact that the Word was with God in the beginning makes it possible for him to be God’s agent in the creation of everything. Moreover, the insistence that God created absolutely everything by means of the Word’s agency drives the conclusion that neither God nor the Word is part of the creation; pantheism is ruled out, as well as any suggestion that the Word is a created being, an inferior god.
(4) In verse 14, John declares that the Word became flesh (i.e., a human being) and (literally) “tabernacled” among us. Readers of the Old Testament instantly see that this means that in some sense Jesus, for John, is a new tabernacle, a new temple (cf. John 2:13-25). Indeed, there are half a dozen allusions to Exodus 32—34 in John 1:14-18. Find them. What do they mean?