Re: John 17:3 and Augustine

From: gjordan (
Date: Tue Aug 26 1997 - 12:36:24 EDT

I don't know whether this message ever got through, or whether just no
one wanted to comment, but anyway, I thought I'd post it again...

On Sat, 23 Aug 1997, Carl W. Conrad wrote:

> context of 17:3 and that 17:5 refers to the glory held by Jesus hHi EICON
> PRO TOU TON KOSMON EINAI PARA SOI: "which I had in your presence before the
> world's existence" (very precise and interesting formulation, isn't it? Not
> PRO TOU TON KOSMON GENESQAI, as would refer precisely to the world's
> CREATION, but prior to the world's EXISTENCE). The evangelist's Greek style
> is not especially difficult, but it is certainly very careful: one might
> suppose that PARA SOI could follow directly upon EICON, but the word order
> we have _encloses_ PRO TOU TON KOSMON EINAI between hHi EICON and PARA SOI;
> moreover, not only is the choice of EINAI over GENESQAI significant here,
> but the choice of the "tense" EICON also quite deliberate. So, although in
> the Prologue John has stated that the LOGOS is the instrument of creation
> (1:3, 1:10), the point here is delimited precisely: not a role in creation
> but the sharing of glory by Christ in the presence of God before the
> existence of the world. So the glory of Christ in the presence of God is
> asserted here very precisely, but it is NOT said (not here, at least) that
> Christ and God are IDENTICAL. And that is true also, I think, of 17:3.

I wonder if we shouldn't distinguish between _ginomai_ and _ktizo_ or
_poieo_, between _panta_ & _ktisis_ & _kosmos_. The Johannine prayer rings
with Gnostic-sounding phrasing, which might call for a closer inspection
of the semantics.
     John 1.3, 1.10 might be understood more properly to say that _panta_
and the _kosmos_ "came to be, arose" (_ginomai_) "through" (_dia_,
although "by" is normally a possible meaning) the Logos. This does not
necessarily imply that the Logos directly manufactured _panta_ or the
_kosmos_. The _kosmos_ in John 1 prologue and in the ch.17 prayer is
distinct from the realm in which Father (God) exists; it is thoroughly
evil (17.9 Jesus refuses to pray for it); Jesus's followers are not from
the _kosmos_ either (17.14) and they are only in it temporarily.
    So perhaps the Prologue should be understood to imply the notion of
emanations - emanations from God gave rise to the spiritual realm &
Logos, which channeling everything serially through (_dia_) the previous
emanation, ultimately gave rise to the _kosmos_, and in fact, _panta_.
There might even be a hint of a notion of the Gnostic cosmic fall in the
way the time before the _kataboles kosmou_ (17.24) is represented as the
happiest time, when Jesus was loved and near to Father and glorified,
before he had to be sent into the dangerous and evil _kosmos_.
     Which brings us to the semantics of 17.3... the disinction between
Jesus Christ here and _ton monon alethinon theon_ here I think is further
evidence of corruption/tampering in the reading _monogenEs theos_ in
1.18. Also maybe a hint that while various entities might reasonably be
referred to as a _theos_ (including Jesus?), only Father is the "one true
      But also the _hina_ clause here - how does it stand in relation to
_hautE de estin hE aiOnios zOE_? Is it connected by the sense of
equivalence, or purpose, or instrumentality?
    Here we have perhaps the Gnostic significance being given to
_ginOskOsin_ - the acquaintance with the one true God and Jesus Christ.
Does the _aiOnios zOE_ consist of this acquaintance? or does the
acquaintance give rise to it? or is the acquaintance for the purpose of
it? Does _zOE_ refer to a future state, or a means to achieving it?
    This again connects with the Prologue - where the Logos has the _zOE_
in itself (1.4), and the _zOE_ is equated (metaphorically?) with _phOs_
(1.5), which is also usually metaphorical for an instrumentality - light
as wisdom about how to behave/proceed. In the Prologue, the Logos gives
his followers the _exousian tekna theou genesthai_ ("the power to
become/be-born children of god"), which might be compared to 17.2, where
God gives Jesus the _exousia_ to give his followers _zOEn aiOnion_ - a
spiritual way of existing? Partaking of the lifestyle of the aeons
(spiritual beings in Gnostic cosmology)?

Greg Jordan

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