Discussion All Areas Of Systematic Theology
Author: Rivers of Eden
Here is my latest work on the expanded translation/interpretation of John 1:1-18. This version is based upon the parallel accounts in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt 3, Mark 1, Luke 1-3), as well as the vocabulary of 1 John 1:1-10.
I know that this is a bit difficult to read, but the expanded rendering (in parentheses) is necessary on account of the prevalence of the metaphors (light, life, darkness, etc), as well as the difficulty of reading the translation without a Trinitarian bias.
The key to the following interpretation is that I see the "word" to be the heavenly announcement that the Apostles heard during the public ministry of John the baptizer and the baptism of Jesus when he (Jesus himself) was anointed with holy spirit and began his public ministry. This marks "the beginning" of the ministry of the apostles and their kindred experience with Jesus (see Acts 1:20-22).
1:1 IN THE BEGINNING (at the time when John the baptizer was preaching in the wilderness) WAS THE MESSAGE (was the gospel announcement about the appearing of Jesus, the Christ), AND THE MESSAGE WAS TOWARD GOD (and the gospel announcement about the appearing of Jesus, the Christ, was for repentance toward God the Father), AND GOD WAS THE MESSAGE (and God the Father, Himself, was making the gospel announcement about repentance and the appearing of Jesus, the Christ, through John the baptizer),
1:2 AND IT (the gospel message about the appearing of Jesus, the Christ) WAS IN THE BEGINNING TOWARD GOD (was about repentance toward God the Father, since the time John the baptizer was preaching in the wilderness).
1:3 ALL THINGS (everything now manifest pertaining to the eternal life and true fellowship with God the Father, Himself, through Jesus, the Christ) CAME INTO BEING THROUGH IT (came to be manifest on account of the gospel message about the appearing of Jesus, the Christ), AND APART FROM IT (and without the gospel message about the appearing of Jesus, the Christ) NOTHING CAME INTO BEING THAT HAS COME INTO BEING (nothing pertaining to the eternal life and true fellowship with God the Father, Himself, through Jesus, the Christ, would be manifest)
1:4 IN IT (in the gospel message about the appearing of Jesus, the Christ) WAS LIFE (was the manifestation of the eternal life through Jesus, the Christ), AND THE LIFE (and the manifestation of the eternal life through Jesus, the Christ) WAS THE LIGHT OF MEN (is the eternal life and the true fellowship with God the Father, Himself, for all the people)
1:5 THE LIGHT SHINES (the eternal life and the true fellowship with God, Himself, through Jesus, the Christ, was manifest) IN THE DARKNESS (among the unbelieving Jews), AND THE DARKNESS (and the unbelieving Jews) DID NOT COMPREHEND IT (did not recognize the eternal life and the true fellowship with God the Father through Jesus, the Christ, when it was proclaimed)
1:6 THERE CAME A MAN SENT FROM GOD WHO'S NAME IS JOHN (God the Father sent John the baptizer)
1:7 HE (John the baptizer) CAME AS A WITNESS TO TESTIFY ABOUT THE LIGHT (came to declare, on behalf of God the Father that the eternal life and the true fellowship is through Jesus, the Christ), SO THAT ALL (all the people) MIGHT BELIEVE (might have true fellowship with God the Father through Jesus, the Christ) THROUGH HIM (on account of John's preaching/baptizing in the wilderness).
1:8 HE (John the baptizer, himself) WAS NOT THE LIGHT (was not the way of the eternal life and the true fellowship with God the Father, which is Jesus, the Christ), BUT HE (John the baptizer) CAME TO TESTIFY ABOUT THE LIGHT (was sent to declare that the eternal life and the true fellowship with God the Father is through Jesus, the Christ)
1:9 THERE WAS THE TRUE LIGHT (there was the eternal life and the true fellowship of Jesus, the Christ, himself) WHICH COMING INTO THE WORLD (who dwelling among the circumcised Jews) ENLIGHTENS EVERY MAN (manifested the eternal life and the true fellowship with God the Father for all the people of Israel, whether circumcised or uncircumcised)
1:10 HE (Jesus, the Christ) WAS IN THE WORLD (dwelt among the circumcised Jews) AND THE WORLD (and the circumcised Jews) WAS MADE FOR HIM (were his own people) AND THE WORLD (but the circumcised Jews) DID NOT KNOW HIM (did not recognize Jesus, the Christ)
1:11 HE (Jesus, the Christ) CAME TO HIS OWN (dwelt among the circumcised Jews), AND THOSE (and the circumcised Jews) WHO WERE HIS OWN (who were his own covenant people) DID NOT RECEIVE HIM (did not acknowledge Jesus, the Christ)
1:12 TO AS MANY (to as many of the people of Israel, whether circumcised or uncircumcised) AS RECEIVED HIM (as did acknowledge Jesus, the Christ), TO THEM (to as many of the people of Israel, whether circumcised or uncircumcised) HE (Jesus, the Christ) GAVE THE RIGHT TO BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD (declared to be the true sons of Abraham), EVEN TO THOSE (even all of the people of Israel, whether circumcised or uncircumcised) WHO BELIEVE IN HIS NAME (who believe that Jesus, the Christ, is the Son of God)
1:13 WHO WERE BORN (who have the eternal life), NOT OF BLOOD NOR OF THE WILL OF THE FLESH NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN (not by human birth or the circumcision of the Jews), BUT OF GOD (but of God the Father)
1:14 AND THE WORD (and the gospel announcement about Jesus, the Christ) BECAME FLESH (was born a human being), AND DWELT AMONG US (and was heard, seen, and touched by the apostles), AND WE (and the apostles) SAW HIS GLORY, GLORY AS OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN FROM THE FATHER (as of the only son of a woman, conceived by God the Father, Himself) , FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.
1:15 JOHN (John the baptizer) TESTIFIED (declared on behalf of God the Father) ABOUT HIM (about Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God) AND CRIED OUT (and proclaimed), SAYING, THIS WAS HE (this is Jesus, the Christ) OF WHOM I SAID (of whom John the baptizer said), 'HE (the man, Jesus, the Christ) WHO COMES AFTER ME (who is sent by God the Father after John the baptizer) HAS A HIGHER RANK THAN I (is greater than John the baptizer), FOR HE (for Jesus, the Christ) EXISTED BEFORE ME'" (was born of a woman who conceived by the power of God the Father, Himself, who is the eternal life)
1:16 FOR OF HIS FULNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED AND GRACE UPON GRACE (for all of the people of Israel, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, have received forgiveness of sins through the propitiation of Jesus, the Christ)
1:17 FOR THE LAW (for the distinction between circumcision and uncircumcision) WAS GIVEN THROUGH MOSES; GRACE AND TRUTH (the true fellowship of all the people of Israel, whether circumcised or uncircumcised) WERE REALIZED THROUGH JESUS CHRIST
1:18 NO ONE HAS SEEN GOD AT ANY TIME (no man has ever seen God the Father, Himself, at any time, past or present); THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD (the man, Jesus, the Christ, who was born of a woman who conceived by the power of God the Father, Himself), WHO IS IN THE PRESENCE OF THE FATHER (who is now in heaven with God the Father); HE (Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God) HAS EXPLAINED HIM (has manifested the eternal life of God the Father).
Here is a reply to Point I of your article (See Ward Fenley's article "The Deity of Christ" http://www.eschatology.com/deity.html). In this point, you seem to be concluding that "Jesus is Yahweh" based upon the use of similar terms in the translation of certain OT and NT passages that refer to "beginning, created, heavens, and earth." As I see it, you are making a number of unsubstantiated assumptions that make your conclusion improbable at best.
First, with respect to Gen 1:1 and John 1:1-3. You are assuming that John is quoting from Gen 1:1 when he uses the phrase "the beginning." John does not explicitly say this, however. Therefore, you have to substantiate this assumption with exegesis, which you do not do. "The beginning" could just as well be "the beginning" of the public ministries of John the baptizer and Jesus, since this is the subject of the rest of John, chapter 1. Also, you can find the other NT writers explicitly identifying the "baptism of John" as "the beginning" (see Mark 1:1; Luke 1:2; Acts 1:20-21). Even more difficult for me is the very similar reference to "the beginning" and "the Word" in 1 John 1:1-5 where John says that he "saw" and "heard" and "handled" Jesus "from the beginning." Using your "logic," I could just as well conclude that John participated in the creation of Gen 1:1.
Second, you are assuming that "all things" in John 1:3 is a reference to the geophysical creation, which you are also assuming to be the correct understanding of Gen 1:1. John does not say this and you do not substantiate your assumption with any exegetical evidence. Again, anyone could take a concordance and find a number of occurrences of "all things" in the NT that does not require a Gen 1:1 allusion. Whenever there are other possible uses of words (which is provable with a concordance), you cannot restrict the semantic range of the words in an (at least somewhat) ambiguous context and "prove" a certain interpretation. This is fallacious, and not according to sound exegetical and logical principles.
Third, you are assuming that "heaven and earth" and "create" and "all things" in Col 1:13-17 refers to the OT texts. Again, Paul makes no explicit identification of his terms with particular OT texts. Therefore, you must substantiate your assumptions and allow for other conclusions. Using your "logic" again, I could conclude that the "new creation" and the "all things" that Paul talks about in 2 Cor 5:17-21 and Gal 6:15 refer to your OT texts. Did Jesus "recreate" everything in the geophysical universe on account of what Paul says in those passages? I could also draw the same conclusion about "heaven and earth" in Matt 5:17-18. I've read your preterist books and articles, and I know that you would not draw such conclusions. Again, you are "proving" nothing with this in Point I because you are using your own selective semantics to prove your own conclusions. This is circular reasoning, and not sound exegesis.
Fourth, in Col 1:13-17, Paul is also explicitly talking in the "present tense" throughout the whole of chapter 1 and the rest of the epistle. You cannot simply assume again that what is "present" to Paul in Col 1:13-17 is referring back to the "past" in Gen 1:1. Since Paul is writing "after" Jesus had appeared to him, it is certainly plausible to suggest that Paul is writing about things that were "presently" true without the requirement that Jesus did them in Gen 1:1. In other words, Jesus could very well have "created" and "sustained" the "all things" in "heaven and earth" that Paul mentions at any time in the "past." All I am saying here is that Paul does not explicitly say WHEN or WHAT Jesus "created" the things that he is writing about, and you cannot simply assume that he is referring to Gen 1:1. Paul himself uses these same terms in 2 Cor 5:17-21 and Gal 6:15 to refer to things that explicitly occurred after Jesus' death ... why can't Col 1:13-17 also be referring to this "new creation?" Afterall, the context of Col 1 is the "church" and the "kingdom" and "the body" which are things that were not "present" or revealed or revealed to the Colossians until after Jesus appeared to the apostles.
Fifth, in Hebrews 1:3-10 you are again simply assuming that the "creation" language refers to Gen 1:1. On the contrary, the writer of Hebrews explicitly places these "creation" events AFTER (1:1) the prophets spoke, IN THE LAST DAYS (1:2) when Jesus spoke, and WHEN Jesus "made purification for sins" (1:3) and "sat down at the right hand of God" (1:3). The writer also explicitly says that these things occurred WHEN Jesus was "came into the world" (1:6). All of this would seem to put the context of the "all things" in Heb 1:4 into the time frame that was "present" to the apostles, and not Gen 1:1. Again, if I were to follow your "logic" through this passage, I would have "the fathers and prophets" (1:1) existing before Jesus was appointed "heir of all things" since the same verse tells us that this happened in "the last days" (1:2).
In conclusion, Ward, I'm not saying that my comments "prove" that you are "wrong." However, it seems very improbable that your conclusion that "Jesus is Yahweh" (at least based upon these NT verses) is the correct one. I can think of a number of other conclusions that could be drawn from the same comparison of verses.
Unfortunately, you never establish with any exegesis in Point I that the NT passages are talking about the SAME "things" or the same "time" as the NT verses. Yet, this is the whole crux of your comparison of the similar terminology. You simply assume that because the words are the same, that the meaning is the same. If you drew these same conclusions in eschatology, you would also undermine your whole preterist hermeneutic.
I do not know of any passage in the NT or OT that EXPLICITLY says that "Jesus IS Yahweh." You do not refer to any such statement either. Therefore, you are doing nothing more than inferring this conclusion and, therefore, you must try to prove the probability that your conclusion is the most likely by presenting conclusive evidence. I just don't think you have even substantiated your definition of the terms, let alone proved the conclusions you imply by making the semantic comparisons.
Well, have I misunderstood how you are forming your argument? I don't think that I have ... maybe you are just making an oversimplified good-intentioned effort to "let the scriptures speak for themselves." I've read many counter-Trinitarian writers who do the same thing to prove their conclusions too.
I will work on Point II tomorrow ...
Rivers Of Eden
Here is where I see "Elohim" and "Yahweh" and "men" and "angels" all used to speak of the three who came to Abraham.
The following verses all see to refer to the same incident. In Gen 18:1-2, it says that "the Lord (Yahweh) appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mare." Gen 18:13 also says that "the Lord (Yahweh)" asked "Why did Sarah laugh." The visitors are called "men" in 18:20-22. Then, in 19:1, they are called "angels" when they came to Sodom. And, then, in 19:12-13 the "angels" say that "Yahweh" sent them to destroy Sodom. Finally, in 19:29, it says that "elohim destroyed the cities of the plain."
Also, in Amos 4:11, it is "Yahweh" who says that "I have overthrown some of you (Israelites) just as elohim (angels?) overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah."
Rivers Of Eden
I don't think there's anything "twisted or distorted" about comparing all of the different historical accounts of the ministries of John the baptizer and Jesus in order to determine what the apostles meant by "the beginning" (John 1:1-3). Evidently, it was referring to the time when the apostles first encountered Jesus. The "logos" (word) was the message about the annointing of Jesus Christ, the son of God, as the savior of Israel:
"The word (i.e. logos) which God sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ ... the thing which took place ... after the baptism which John proclaimed ... Jesus of Nazareth, whom God annointed with holy spirit and with power" (Acts 10:36).
1. Mark 1:1-8. The "BEGINNING" was the time when John the baptizer first began to testify about Jesus.
2. Luke 1:1-3. The "BEGINNING" was the time when the apostles first began following Jesus.
3. Acts 1:21-22. The "BEGINNING" was the time when the apostles began living among the disciples.
4. 1 John 1:1-5. The "BEGINNING" was the time when the apostles were "hearing, seeing, and handling" Jesus when they lived with him. This is the parallel account that clarifies exactly what the writer meant by "the beginning".
5. John 8:24-25. Jesus referred to "THE BEGINNING" as the time when he started preaching about repentance and forgiveness of sins.
6. John 15:26-27. Jesus referred to "THE BEGINNING" as the time when the apostles began to follow him.
7. John 16:4. Jesus referred to "THE BEGINNING" as the time when he started living with the disciples.
8. Matthew 4:17. Jesus "BEGAN" to preach after he first met John the baptizer.
9. Luke 3:23. Jesus "BEGAN" his ministry when he was baptized by John at 30 years of age.
Of course, there are other times when Jesus and the apostles used the words "beginning" and "began" for other things, but this evidence is sufficient to show that they understood "the beginning" (in the historical context of John 1:1-3) to refer to the time when John the baptizer and Jesus began to preach the gospel and the apostles began to follow Christ.
There literary allusions to the Creation story language (i.e. beginning, light, darkness) had to do with the historical circumstances at the time when John the baptizer and Jesus began their ministries (and not anything prior to that time).
Rivers of Eden