An Interlude

prologue-johnVerses 9-18 are not part of our gospel reading for this 3rd Sunday in Advent (Year B), but let us at least summarize its content

The Word Incarnate (1:9–14) Attention is now fastened on the incarnation. Two points receive special emphasis: one is the astonishing fact that the Word of God, true God as he is, took upon him human nature, and the other is the even more astonishing fact that when he did this, people would have nothing to do with him. John is concerned that we should miss neither the good news of the incarnation of God, nor the tragedy of the human rejection of God.

The Word’s Surpassing Excellence (1:15–18) The Prologue concludes with a little section underlining the uniqueness of Christ. First we are reminded of his superiority to the Baptist, then of the great truth that he supplies all the need of his people. He is shown to surpass Moses by supplying grace and truth instead of the Law. The Prologue concludes with the point that he is the one revealer of the God whom no human eye has seen.

Notes

1:11 What was his own . . . his own people: literally, “his own property/possession” (probably = Israel), then a masculine, “his own people” (the Israelites).

1:12-13 to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God: Believers in Jesus become children of God not through any of the three natural causes mentioned but through God who is the immediate cause of the new spiritual life.

1:14 flesh: the whole person, used probably against docetic tendencies (cf 1 John 4:2; 1:7). made his dwelling: literally, “pitched his tent/tabernacle” (skēnóō ). Cf the tabernacle or tent of meeting that was the place of God’s presence among his people (Exodus 25:8-9). The incarnate Word is the new mode of God’s presence among his people. The Greek verb has the same consonants as the Aramaic word for God’s presence (Shekinah). glory: God’s visible manifestation of majesty in power, which once filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34) and the temple (1 Kings 8:10-11, 27), is now centered in Jesus. only Son: Greek, monogenes, but see the note on John 1:18. Grace and truth: these words may represent two Old Testament terms describing Yahweh in covenant relationship with Israel (cf Exodus 34:6), thus God’s “love” and “fidelity.” The Word shares Yahweh’s covenant qualities.

1:17 grace in place of grace: replacement of the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. Other possible translations are “grace upon grace” (accumulation) and “grace for grace” (correspondence).

1:18 The only Son, God: while the vast majority of later textual witnesses have another reading, “the Son, the only one” or “the only Son,” the translation above follows the best and earliest manuscripts, monogenes theos, but takes the first term to mean not just “Only One” but to include a filial relationship with the Father, as at Luke 9:38 (“only child”) or Hebrews 11:17 (“only son”) and as translated at John 1:14. The Logos is thus “only Son” and God but not Father/God.

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