04.01.03 Jn. 1:3-18 The Word of God Became the Person Jesus. (HCSB, continued)
3All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. 5 That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man named John who was sent from God. 7 He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. 9 The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. 12 But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.
14 The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory,
the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, “This was the One of whom I said, ‘The One coming after me has surpassed me, because He existed before me.’”) 16 Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, 17 for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son—the One who is at the Father’s side — He has revealed Him.
John’s gospel was written for a Gentile audience, yet it is in typical Hebraic style, a/k/a “chiastic literary structure,” of poetry that echoes the first sentence of Genesis. It is a poem of complimenting, repeating, or contrasting ideas, rather than rhyming words. Verses 1 and 2 describe the eternal aspects of Jesus “from the beginning” (lines A and A’) of time with the focus on the Word (of God who was Jesus) being the eternal Deity (line C). In fact, the New Testament repeatedly states divinity of Jesus. The first lines were written with repeating or contrasting ideas, as noted by the similarities between lines A and A’, B and B’, etc. The focus of this short Hebraic poem is the center line – line C and C’, being Jesus – in human form was God on earth.
“Witness to testify.” When the New Testament writers used terms such as “testimony,” “bore witness,” or “I have seen and testify,” these are statements of legal terminology. These statements were common in Roman, Greek, and Jewish cultures whereby the author placed himself under an oath concerning the truthfulness of the statement made.
“In the beginning.” This phrase in the original language did not have the definite article “the.” In essence, the gospel writer is saying that “in beginning” there never was a beginning point, but there was an eternity past (cf. Jn. 17:5; Col. 1:17). This is a paradox to modern thinking, but understood by his first century audience. Hence, John reflected upon two writings of Moses in Genesis and in Psalm 90.
After the summary account of creation, John discusses the condition of man. Man, who was and is the supreme creation in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), who fell into sin and is now offered salvation by God through Christ Jesus. It was Adam who was defeated by Satan in the beautiful Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8), but Jesus came and had victory over the evil one. Because of Jesus’ sinless life, sacrificial death, and resurrection, eternal life is now available to all men by the One Who existed “in beginning.” While the sacrifices of the Old Covenant covered sin, the work of Christ removed sin. The New Covenant is the fulfillment of the old one and completed the way of salvation for mankind.
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04.01.03.V Jesus in the Old Testament and Eternity Past. Professor John Metzger discusses the Deity of Jesus in the Old Testament and in eternity past.
The climax of this gospel is the only true response one can give to Jesus: “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28). Since Jesus was with the Father throughout eternity past and was the Creator of all things, He is both the Light and the Life of humanity and the darkness of this world could not extinguish Him. The gospel begins and ends with life. In fact, the word life is one of John’s key words. The pre-existence of “God” as Creator is also found in a Dead Sea Scroll document known as the Manual of Discipline. The ancient Essene writer understood this and said,
For judgment is God’s and
from His hand is the way of blamelessness
From His design everything received its origin,
and from His design
Everything that exists was prepared
without Him nothing was made.
-Dead Sea Scroll Fragment, 1QS XI:10
All that is and ever was
comes from the God of knowledge,
Before things came into existence
He determined a plan for them,
And when they fulfilled their appointed roles
it is in accordance with His glorious design,
That they discharge their functions
Nothing can be changed.
-Dead Sea Scroll Fragment, 1QS 3:30
“The Word.” John did not speak of a “word” or “words” as spoken by Jesus, but rather, he spoke of “the Word” as being the essence of Jesus – the essential inner mind of Christ. And Christ (Heb. Masiah 4899) was the Anointed One who thousands of people throughout the ancient world expected to come. If the question were asked, “What is in the heart of hearts of Jesus?” the answer is “His Word.” In order to understand the mind of Jesus, one must understand His speech, actions, ministry, and life. John essentially gave two significant points about the Messiah:
- The Word was with God.
- The Word was God.
Essentially said, calling Jesus “the Word” is a Jewish way of saying He is the God of Israel. Knowing Jesus was not an either/or choice of these two points, but a combination of both. One cannot understand the Messiah’s Word without understanding His mind and heart. With this comes the understanding of the essence of the mind of God the Father (Jn. 14:23-24). Other New Testament writers refer to the essential inner mind of Jesus as being the logos, which is Greek meaning Word, of God. Paul said in Ephesians 4:12 that it was sharper than a two-edged sword, meaning that it can cut to the soul to surgically expose sin. Luke, in his second writing, used it where the “Word” of God is understood to be the “Spirit” of God or the “revealed mind” of God (Acts 13:48; 18:5). John used logos again in his last work with the Word of God being Jesus Christ Himself (Rev. 19:13). In the Greek, the word logos is an it, but John’s use of the word Logos, which is rooted in his Jewish background and Aramaic language, is He.
In contrast to the Logos, there were the popular Gnosticism and Docetism heresies within the Gentile world that confronted the apostles and other church leaders. These were especially significant outside the Jewish homeland. These theories of knowledge and God confronted both Jews and Christians, and for that reason, the Apostle Paul made these two comments:
16 For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
6 Yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from Him, and we exist for Him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through Him and we exist through Him.
1 Corinthians 8:6
While the study of the influence of Gnosticism and various cultic beliefs is beyond the scope of this study, it must be stated that John’s gospel is a brief apologetic document that refutes these pagan ideas.
The phrase “No one has ever seen God,” means that no one has ever seen the ultimate glory, majesty, and nature of God. According to Moses, God said “You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live” (Ex. 33:20). This is due to mankind’s sinfulness. Yet according to the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), God (Adonai or Elohim) has made Himself known to selected individuals in a limited manner. Examples are:
- To Abraham (Gen. 18)
- To Jacob (Gen. 32:25-33)
- To Moses (Ex. 3)
- To Joshua (Jos. 5:13-6:5)
- To the people (ten tribes) of Israel (Jg. 2:1-5)
- To Gideon (Jg. 6:11-24)
- To the parents of Samson (Jg. 13:2-23)
- To Isaiah (Isa. 6:1)
No one in the ancient world ever questioned the existence of God or gods. To the Greek mind, the universe and the world with all its peoples and gods have always existed. The Jews, however, had a radically different concept, one in which the earth had a specific beginning point. John’s purpose is to convince both Jews and Gentiles that Jesus was the expected Anointed One (Jn. 20:31), the predicted Messiah of the Hebrew prophecies, who has always existed.
While the term “the Word” or “Word of the Lord” is not found in the Old Testament, it certainly was not new to the Jews of the first century. The term is found in the Targums that were recited in every synagogue service throughout the Inter-Testamental Period. Such phrases refer to God’s utter holiness in His creation. For example, the biblical narrative of Genesis 1:27 reads as follows:
“God created man in His own image”
Furthermore, from the thousands of fragments found among the Dead Sea Scrolls is the Targum Fragment of Genesis 1:27 that reads,
“And the Word of the Lord created Adam in His own image.”
Targum Fragment Genesis 1:27
This is one of many Targum examples that clearly reveal the fact that the Jewish people were familiar with New Testament terms not found in their Hebrew Bible.
“With God.” Throughout history, there have been a few who incorrectly taught that the original law read “with a god” and, thereby they denied the deity of Jesus. This theological discussion is beyond the scope of this work, yet is so significant that the reader is encouraged to study the Granville Sharp Rule concerning this erroneous interpretation. In addition, for an excellent article on the humanity and deity of Jesus, see Bruce A. Ware.
“That light that shines in the darkness.” The term light (Gk. phos 5457) was associated with the knowledge of God, while the term darkness (Gk. skotos 4655) was associated with ignorance (Gk. agnosia 56) or rejection of God. The phrases associated with light and darkness, such as “sons of light,” and “sons of darkness,” were popularized during the Maccabean Revolt and preserved by the Essenes who authored the Dead Sea Scrolls many decades before Jesus was born. Hence, they were in common usage when Jesus came to bring light to all mankind.
“The true light.” The Greek word for true is alethes, which is closely related to alethinos, meaning genuine or real. Jesus alone can bring light to mankind in a world of questionable shadows and illusions. John’s gospel is a proclamation of the messiahship of Jesus, but also a defense against Gnosticism which stated that matter is essentially evil and anything spiritual is essentially good.
“He gave them the right to be children of God.” While the Old Testament states that one day the Gentiles would become saved, some Jewish leaders rejected that idea. John, however, placed all humanity on an equal plain before the Almighty God. This was stunning to the Jews, who felt they were selected because they were God’s Chosen People.
“To those who believe in His name.” The Greek present participle means believing, that is a continuous activity of faith and obedience. To believe is not to merely believe in His historical life or to consider Him to have been an outstanding moral teacher. Even the demons believe that. But to believe is to accept Jesus as Savior, Teacher, and Lord and to voluntarily be obedient to Him and live according to the instructions within His Word. To believe includes times of prayer and the entire scope of righteous living.
“The law was given through Moses.” A certain measure of grace accompanied the Law of Moses or else no man could have been saved under it. Yet the proper office of the law itself was not grace, but restraint and conviction of sin (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:19). On an important side note, the Church has adopted a Roman view of Law, in that it means restriction and, is therefore, bad, while the Hebrew Bible views Law as instruction and freedom, and therefore good.
“Grace after grace.” This phrase literally means that New Testament grace has been added to Old Testament grace (2 Pet. 1:5). The traditional teaching that Old Testament law was replaced by New Testament grace is wrong; grace is woven throughout the Old Testament and Hebrews 11 is the faith chapter of the Bible that upholds that viewpoint.
“The Word became flesh and took up residence among us.” This statement is rather meaningless today, but in the first century it was a powerful statement because a heresy known as Docetism challenged the church. The word Docetism originates from the root word dokein, meaning to seem. Docetism states that Jesus was not a human being, but He only seemed to be human. For that reason, John said that the Word became flesh (Jn. 1:14). In his letter to the Colossian church Paul said that the entire fullness of God’s nature, or the Godhead, as some translations say, was in the physical body of Jesus (Col. 2:9). Jesus never surrendered His full deity while among men. John then underscored this fact by saying that anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh is of the Antichrist (1 Jn. 4:3). It was a frontal attack against Docetism.
However, there is another aspect to this statement: Greek poets and philosophers never ever considered that the word of any god could become human. To them, the human body was a place in which the soul was trapped and confined. The idea that the Word of God became human in the form of Jesus, that He entered the human race as a child, lived as a mortal man, taught and performed miracles so mankind could see into the eyes of God, was stunning and unbelievable, yet believable to the Gentiles. Therefore, the very idea posed by critics who say that the essence of John 1 was borrowed from the Greeks is totally absurd – impossible!
“We observed His glory.” The phrase glory is not the ultimate glory of the eternal Word, but the term is reflective upon the glory of God as it was manifested several times in the Old Testament. The nature of the glory is often defined by what follows an event, as in these examples:
- Divine glory in the desert wilderness (Ex. 16:10; 24:16, etc.)
- Glory of God in the temple (1 Kgs. 8:11)
- Glory to the prophets (Isaiah 6:3; Ezekiel 1:28)
- In the transfiguration of Jesus (Lk. 9:31 cf 2 Pet. 1:16-17)
- Divine glory shown in His miracles (Jn. 2:11; 9:4, 40)
- Divine glory as demonstrated in His perfect life and character, and
- Divine glory in the fulfillment of the absolute idea of manhood
- Divine glory shown in the fulfillment of every prophecy concerning His first coming.
04.01.03.Q1 Was/is Jesus God (Jn. 1:1-18)?
The most important question in life pertains to the identity of Jesus. It was the question posed by Jesus when He took His band of disciples to Caesarea Philippi – to the most pagan place in the ancient Middle East – and asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” While this is obviously a theological question, brief biblical identity of Jesus must be given.
- God and the Lamb (Jesus) are worshiped (Rev. 5:8-17)
- God and the Lamb (Jesus) are the Temple (Rev. 21:22)
- Jesus was worshiped on earth (Mt. 2:11; 8:2; Mk. 5:6; etc.)
- Jesus was worshiped after the resurrection (Mt. 28:9, 17)
- Jesus was worshiped during the Ascension (Mt. 28:9, 17)
- Angels worship Jesus (Heb. 1:6)
- Multitudes worship God and the Lamb in heaven (Rev. 7:9-10)
Clearly, there are some challenges to understanding the dual nature of Jesus, due primarily to the limited human capacity to understand God. In Luke 4:8 Jesus told the devil to worship the Lord God only. In addition, the first commandment says to have no other god before God. While Jesus is the Son of God and submitted to the Father, the Word was God and became human flesh (Jn. 1:1, 14). Jesus came from the bosom of the Father (Jn. 1:18) to reveal God the Father to humanity.
04.01.03.Q2 How can it be said that no one has ever seen God (Jn. 1:18) when other passages (Ex. 33:11, 19-20; Ezek. 1:26-28) clearly indicate otherwise?
This question is obviously in response to the statement, “No one has ever seen God,” which appears in direct conflict with other biblical passages. For example, Moses and the leaders of the Israelite children “saw God, and they ate and drank” (Ex. 24:11b). While this verse affirms a visual appearance, it is in the context of Exodus 33:19-20. They may have seen God, but not His face. Yet Exodus 33:11 states that “the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face,” but in verse 18, Moses asked God to “show me your glory.” At first God refused, but then conceded and made His “goodness to pass” in front of him (Ex. 33:19), because “you cannot see my face, for no one can see my face and live” (v. 20). But verse 20 redefines the meaning of the phrase “face to face,” and it obviously was not in the sense of modern interpretation. Therefore, there is no conflict with John 1:18.
Centuries later Ezekiel was granted the unusual opportunity to get a glimpse that was only a vision in which he saw a form on a throne, not a clear image (Ezek. 1:26-28). Therefore, the Old Testament references that seem to conflict with John are, in fact, clarified by Moses.
Elsewhere, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up upon a throne (Isa. 6:1) and the seventy elders of Israel saw God (Ex. 24:9-11). Yet as stated above, Exodus 33:20 reads that no one can see God and live. This passage and John 1:18 mean that the ultimate glory and nature of God are hidden from sinful humanity. The word seeing in John’s passage is related to seeing the divine essence rather than the divine person, which also is indicated by the absence of the Greek article from Theos, meaning God.
Finally, God was the author of the human body and soul of Jesus Christ. In Him the divine and human natures were united, so that “the Word,” who “was in the beginning with God” and “was God,” “was made flesh and lived among us.” It was on both accounts that Jesus was called “the Son of God.” Therefore, He was also said to be “God manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). Technically, He is Jesus the Messiah, Son of God (Heb. Yeshua Meshiach, ben Elohim).. See also Hebrews 1:1-14.
. See “Chiastic literary structure” in Appendix 26.
. Jn. 1:1; 10:30; 17:5; Phil.2:6; Col. 1:15; 2:9.
. Bookman, When God Wore Sandals. CD Trac 5.
. Moses authored Psalm 90 – 116.
. See Appendix 6 concerning Old Testament sacrifices and Jesus. For the New Testament plan of salvation revealed in the Old Testament, see Appendix 9.
. Prov. 8:22-31; Jn. 17:5, 24.
. Col. 1:16-17; Eph. 3:9; Heb. 1:2.
. Jn. 5:26, 8:12, 9:5, 12:35, 46; I Jn. 5:11.
. See 02.02 Biblical And Extra-Biblical Writings for more information.
. Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament. 65-66.
. Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament. 65-66.
. While this eBook is not intended to be a study of theology, Jesus cannot be studied without the theological element. Christology is itself imperative rather than historical. No history of the life of Jesus is possible without some expression of Christology – meaning who Jesus was as a human and as deity.
. Vine, “Messiah.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 1:150.
. Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 6, Session 1.
. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. 154.
. Major, Manson, and Wright, The Mission and Message of Jesus. 679-80.
. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 2, page 6.
. See “Gnosticism” in Appendix 26.
. See “Docetism” in Appendix 26.
. See 02.02.28 “Targum.”
. Cited by Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 6, Session 1.
. Wallace, Greek Grammar. 270-90, 633, 735. The Granville Sharp Rule has become foundational in biblical studies and may also be found in systematic theology textbooks; See also Stanley E. Porter “Granville Sharp’s Rule: A Response to Dan Wallace, Or Why a Critical Book Review Should Be Left Alone.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. March, 2013. 56:1. 93-100; Daniel Wallace, “Granville Sharp’s Rule: A Rejoinder to Stan Porter.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. March, 2013.101-106.
. For an excellent article on the humanity of Jesus, see Bruce A. Ware, in, “The Man Christ Jesus” page 5.
. Barclay, “Light.” Jesus. 264.
. Barclay, “Darkness.” Jesus. 264.
. Barclay, “Ignorance.” Jesus. 264.
. Barclay, “John.” 1:7-9; 54.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:49.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:49-50.
. Barclay, “John.” 1:13, 65.
. See Docetism in Appendix 26.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:52-54.
. 10.01.29; Matthew 16:15.
. See also Appendix 8 “The Two Natures of Jesus.”
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:58-59.