« Prev 6. The Prologue of the Fourth Gospel. Next »

6. THE PROLOGUE OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL.

We may now turn to the opening words of the Gospel of Jn. They read: “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.” None of these statements is now new to us. Only, we must guard against misunderstanding the third, as if it meant: God himself was the same being as the Logos—which in fact would not agree with what has already been mentioned. It would be equally wrong to make the statement mean the contrary: the Logos was a god. The sense is rather: the Logos was of divine nature (just as in iv. 24 the words “God is spirit” mean: God is of a spiritual nature, has a spiritual nature). This is really what we should expect: the Logos is not God Himself, but of like 152nature. Similarly, we may expect that he was from the beginning, and so existed before the creation of the world, and with God, and that by him the whole world was made. What Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Epistle to the Colossians have said with increasing precision, only without using the word Logos, is here expressed by the Fourth Evangelist quite in the language of Philo.

It should therefore never have been doubted that Jn. borrowed the word Logos and the ideas associated with it from Philo. And if we were inclined to take offence that such an important idea should have come to the Biblical author from an extra-Biblical writer—though in truth there is nothing objectionable in it—yet we can console ourselves with the thought that Jn. has shown great independence. He continues in verse 14, “and the Logos became flesh, and dwelt among us.” The idea that the Logos could become flesh would have been to Philo something impossible. We see then that Jn. gives the idea an entirely new turn. Only, it would be a misunderstanding to interpret it: the Logos was transformed into flesh. The sentence is certainly opposed to the idea of the Gnostics, according to which the Christ who had come down from heaven was not a real man. But Jn., nevertheless, agrees with them inasmuch as he thinks the transformation of a divine being into a fleshly being cannot be imagined. A more guarded statement therefore would be: he became man, or as we read in 1 Jn. iv. 2 and 2 Jn. 7, he came in the flesh that is to say, not “he came into flesh,” but “he came, clothed with flesh; he came forward with a body consisting of flesh.” It is possible that, as against the Gnostics, the expression “he became flesh” was a more sharp than useful definition from the point of view of clearness.

153

In other places also it is clear that Jn. does not on all points reject the ideas of the Gnostics. Certainly he will not hear of their many divine beings, but knows of the one true God and of Jesus Christ whom he has sent (xvii. 3). But this Christ is to him, as to the Gnostics, a necessary mediator between God and the world, and in his view, exactly as in theirs, he must for a definite time appear upon earth. These last ideas are, it is true, shared also by Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Epistle to the Colossians; the first especially by the Epistle to the Colossians, in which God, just as in Jn. i. 18, vi. 46, is an invisible God and Christ his image (Col. i. 15). But what Jn. has in common with the Gnostics alone is the idea that it was Christ’s most important work to communicate a certain kind of knowledge to men.

At the end of i. 14: “and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth,” we have, further, the most peculiar term which Jn. applies to Jesus to describe precisely the sense in which he is the Son of God. The Greek word monogenes means the only son w r ho was begotten by his father, and that, in ordinary human relations, means of course the single son produced by a father. This being so, a satisfactory translation would be: “the only son.” Since, however, in Jn.’s Gospel, by the side of Jesus as the Son of God, there appear very many children of God among men, the second part of the expression also acquires a special sense: Jesus is the only son of God who was begotten by Him; all others have been produced by Him in another way.

Thus we must understand the idea of the author—even though just before he has spoken of men who are able to be come children of God, and has used a related Greek expression to the effect that they were begotten from God. Those are 154meant of whom the Gnostics say they are able to apprehend the idea of their heavenly origin because they come from God. But that Jn. thought of Christ as having arisen in another way, having been begotten in a more peculiar sense, is seen already in the persistence with which he applies the name “son” solely to him, and always calls all others the children of God (see p. 64).

But at the same time he has perhaps chosen the name monogenés, because several Gnostics, in their long list of divine beings, used it of a being different from the Logos, that is to say, of an older being and one standing in a closer relationship to God. Of him Jn. will not hear.

« Prev 6. The Prologue of the Fourth Gospel. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |