John 1:18 and Exodus 3:14 LXX

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Barry Hofstetter
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John 1:18 and Exodus 3:14 LXX

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 19th, 2019, 10:05 am

Perhaps more exegesis than strictly language, but things are slow, so I thought I'd post this:

Exodus 3:14 LXX Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν· καὶ εἶπεν Οὕτως ἐρεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς Ἰσραήλ Ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέν με πρὸς ὑμᾶς

John 1:18 θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο. 

It is well know in general that the second finite Hebrew verb in Exodus 3:14 MT, אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה is rendered by the substantive participle ὁ ὤν rather than the equivalent finite form in Greek, εἰμί, despite the fact that the first אהיה, identical to the second, is translated using εἰμί. Different explanations in the history of interpretation have been given. One is that Greek has trouble with such direct equivalencies, although one sees directly corresponding subjects and predicates throughout Greek literature, so this explanation is unlikely. More plausible is that the translators, possibly influenced by neo-Platonism, are giving an interpretive paraphrase to make it a statement of God's absolute existence. The writer of Revelation (traditionally John the apostle) certainly seems to have LXX 3:14 in mind in Rev 1:4:

χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος...

There treated as indeclinable, perhaps to emphasize that he is using a form of the divine name. 

I believe the the writer of John also has the divine name LXX in mind at John 1:18, particularly as we consider the superior reading θεός vs. υἱός. Even if υἱός is read, the language connects to Ex 3:14 and further underscores the apostle's emphasis on the divine nature of the Logos begun in 1:1 of the prologue. This forms a ring composition which strengthens the theme, concludes the prologue and provides the transition to the narrative portions of John.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: John 1:18 and Exodus 3:14 LXX

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » July 19th, 2019, 5:52 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
July 19th, 2019, 10:05 am
More plausible is that the translators, possibly influenced by neo-Platonism, are giving an interpretive paraphrase to make it a statement of God's absolute existence.
I have been reading statements like "... possibly influenced by neo-Platonism ..." for eons and rarely if ever does anyone explain what this means. I just asked a question about this. Where in neo-Platonism do we find similar language linked to similar ideas within a similar semantic framework? We need examples and citations.

postscript:

I have been reading about this in History of Later Greek & Early Medieval Philosophy, A.H. Armstrong CUP 1970.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: John 1:18 and Exodus 3:14 LXX

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 20th, 2019, 9:46 am

Philo comes to mind. I suspect that people who consider his use of ὁ ὤν are seeing something similar in the LXX translation.
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: John 1:18 and Exodus 3:14 LXX

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 20th, 2019, 7:14 pm

Neoplatonism is usually ascribed to the third-century Plotinus, far too late for the composition of the New Testament.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: John 1:18 and Exodus 3:14 LXX

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 23rd, 2019, 8:33 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
July 20th, 2019, 7:14 pm
Neoplatonism is usually ascribed to the third-century Plotinus, far too late for the composition of the New Testament.
Good point. So I suppose we need to call what Philo did Platonism, and not Neoplatonism. Nice reasonably detailed article on the subject of Neoplatonism:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/neoplatonism/
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Re: John 1:18 and Exodus 3:14 LXX

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 24th, 2019, 2:40 am

"Middle Platonism" is a thing.
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