Re: John 1:1

On Tue, 29 Nov 1994, Travis Bauer wrote:

> Luckily, we are not dealing with a isolated text for which we don't have 
> a context, but a text which rests upon a large background of Hebrew 
> thought.  I think we can safely say that although John may be writing for 
> a Greek audience, he is not writing from a background of the polytheistic 
> pantheon.  Do we question the first part of the verse, and wonder if the 
> Word being with God is a reference to one of many gods?  Although his 
> words may be Greek, his thought is Jewish.

Yes, but John is writing in Greek, and the Greek language was formed by 
pagans, not monotheists.  While a Hebrew-speaking Jew would know that God 
is a person, with a proper name YHWH, a Greek-speaking Jew, or even more, 
a Greeks-speaking pagan convert to Judeo-Christianity, might not realize 
this.  God's proper name is ordinarily rendered in the Septuagint, by 
epithets and taboo substitutions.
     Could theos be used in more than one way in the same sentence?  It 
certainly could.  This is simple wordplay: John is *counting* on his 
readers to be able to follow figurative language and other techniques, 
just like his Jesus expects to be understood through parables.
     It seems to me the burden of proof is on those who see paradox, not 
on those who see paronomasia.  How far would someone read a story that 
    In the beginning there was a boy.  And the boy was with his dog.  And 
the boy was his dog.  And the boy was with his dog in the beginning.

> Unlike the reference in John 1:1, which is descriptive, this reference is 
> defensive.  In an argument, one doesn't stick one's neck out any further 
> than he needs to.   John reported Jesus as saying that their own texts will 
> allow them to call themselves gods so he should be able to.  Just 
> because he goes no farther, doesn't mean that he wouldn't in other 
> places.

"Their own texts will allow them to call themselves gods" - and yet these 
are Jewish texts, and read the same in Hebrew as in Greek: gods.  The 
polytheism, at the verbal level, is already there.  The question for us, 
as with Jesus, is what to do with it.

> Quite in opposition to making the use of Qeos more ambiguous, I think this 
> verse supports my argument for John 1:1.  The fact that the Jews were ready 
> to stone Jesus for calling himself divine is a testimony to the offense the 
> Jews took at how Jesus, and John uses the term Qeos. 

But you are blurring "divine" with "God" in the way that I showed is not 
normal in English.  The "Jews" were offended by everything about Jesus, 
it does not here prove that they understood him to be claiming to be YHWH 
in person, especially since he clearly limits himself to being the son of 
said YHWH, his father.  The son of a god is a god, but the son of God 
could not be God if God is a person, unless one is entertaining a 
paradox.  And again, the burden of proof is then on the paradoxical reading.

> him the Son of God.  Three yet one.  A reference to the image of God or 
> Son of God or Son of man does not compromise John 1:1.

But Jesus is God's son in John 1, and even in John 1:1 it is Jesus as 
God's word, better in English - "the message" of God, which Jesus "told" 
(eksEgEsato v. 18), the son telling [about] his father, God.  This is 
consistent with everything in John, where Jesus says again and again that 
he is saying only what he heard his father say, etc.  It is important 
that the Messiah tell about God since no one can see God.  When you read 
John 1:1 you probably read into it God as "God the Father" but it doesn't 
say that.

Greg Jordan

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