John 1:14 – Insights and Commentary

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Below is part 2 of this teaching:

“And the word became flesh and pitched his tent among us,
and we gazed at his glory; glory as of one only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

And the word become flesh…

Proverbs 31:10-31 argues for the embodiment of Lady Wisdom in obedient and wise women, using a dozen textual connections to earlier references to the personification of God’s wise interaction with the world.

The Book of Sirach (180 BC) likewise depicts an actual human (i.e., Simon the High Priest) as the embodiment of Lady Wisdom with no less than eight textual connections. Sirach shows demonstrable influence from Proverb’s theology.

Therefore, to say that Jesus is “the enfleshment of the Logos” is nothing new or unique in Jewish theology, since other humans have been depicted as the enfleshment of Wisdom. The connection is closer once we recognize that Logos and Wisdom were near synonyms (cf. esp Wisdom 9:1-2).

and pitched his tent among us, and we beheld his glory

It is at this point that John’s Gospel offers something new and innovative to the discussion of God’s personified attributes. One major point is that John is indicating that Jesus is the new temple presence within this verse. Note the growing expectation among Jewish authors regarding this subject:

  • (During the grand opening of the first temple, c. 970 BC) “It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of Yahweh, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of Yahweh filled the house of Yahweh.” (1 Kings 8:10-11)
  • (During the ministry of Ezekiel, c. 590 BC) “Then the glory of Yahweh departed from the threshold of the temple…” (Ezek. 10:18)
  • (Around the year 430 BC) “And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple…” (Mal. 3:1)

However, Wisdom had already been described as one which has taken up residence on earth among the people:

• “Among all these I sought a resting place; in whose territory should I abide? Then the Creator of all things gave me a command, and my Creator chose the place for my tent (τὴν σκηνήν μου). He said, ‘Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.’” (Sirach 24:7-8) All this is the book of the covenant of the Most High God, the law that Moses commanded us as an inheritance for the congregations of Jacob. (Sir 24:23)

John’s Gospel depicts Jesus as the new temple, namely the human embodiment of God’s glory:

• Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

Further confirmation of this theme regarding the Torah’s embodiment of Wisdom can be seen among the writings of Philo, thus further demonstrating that this line of thinking was around before the Gospel of John:

  • He (Moses) became the embodiment of the Law (αὐτὸς ἐγίνετο νόμος ἔμψυχός) (Philo, De Moses 1.162)
  • So at once the king (Moses) is indeed the Law’s embodiment (νόμον ἔμψυχον). (Philo, De Moses 2.4)Similar lines can be seen when Philo depicts Sarah as the close representative of Wisdom (even coming close to depicting her specifically as Lady Wisdom’s embodiment):
 Do you not see that Wisdom when dominant, which is Sarah, says, “For whosoever shall hear it shall rejoice with me.” (Philo, Leg. All. 2.82)

For if Isaac, being interpreted, means laughter, and if it be God who is the cause of laughter according to the true testimony of Sarah, then he may be most properly said to be the father of Isaac. And he also gives a share to Abraham of his own proper appellation, to whom, when he eradicated pain from Wisdom, he gave rejoicing as an offspring. (Philo, Det. Pot. 124)

“For Sarah,” says Moses, “said unto Abraham, ‘Behold, the Lord has closed me up, so that I may not bear children. Go in unto my handmaiden, that you may have children by her.’” Now, we must take out of the present discussion those conjunctions and connections of body with body which have pleasure for their end. For this is the connection of the mind with virtue, which is desirous to have children by her, and which, if it cannot do so at once, is at all events taught to espouse her handmaid, namely, intermediate instruction. And here it is worthwhile to admire Wisdom, by reason of its modesty, which has not thought fit to reproach us with the slowness of our generation, or our absolute barrenness. (Philo, Cong. 1.12-13)