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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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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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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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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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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Scott Lawson
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Re: John 1:18 and Exodus 3:14 LXX

Post by Scott Lawson » August 21st, 2019, 10:28 pm

From Daniel Boyarin’s work The Gospel of the Memra pg 251.


“Philo oscillates on the point of the ambiguity between separate existence of the Logos, God's Son,27 and its total incorporation within the godhead. If Philo is not on the road to Damascus here, he is surely on a way that leads to Nicaea and the controversies over the second person of the Trinity.
It becomes, in the light of the centrality of such mediation by the Logos for Philo's
theology, less and less plausible to speak of Philo as having been influenced by
Middle Platonism. Instead, insofar as the Logos theology, the necessity for a media-
tor, is intrinsic to Middle Platonism, that form of "Hellenistic" philosophy may simply be the Judaism of Philo and his fellows. A "Hellenism" is, after all, by definition the creative synthesis of Greek and "Eastern" culture and thought, and "Philo's Logos, jointly formed by the study of Greek philosophy and of the Torah, was at once the written text, an eternal notion in the mind of the Creator and the organ of his work in time and space. Under this last aspect, it receives such epithets as Son, King, Priest and Only-Begotten; in short it becomes a person."2 As eloquently described by Charles Harold Dodd as well, Philo's Logos is neither just the Wisdom, the hokma of the Bible, nor is it quite the Stoic nor Platonic Logos, nor yet just the divine Word,
the dbr of the Hebrew, either, but some unique and new synthesis of all of these.9
That synthesis is arguably the central theological notion of Middle Platonism itself.
If the Logos as divine mediator, therefore, is the defining characteristic of Middle
Platonism, then, not only may Philo's Judaism be Middle Platonism, Middle Platonism itself may be a form of Judaism and Christianity.30
Maren Niehoff emphasizes that for this aspect of his philosophy, Philo appar-
ently did not have previous Greek sources to draw upon. For his notion of man as
an Idea, Philo could draw upon his Alexandrian predecessor, Arius Didymus, but for the concept of language itself as an Idea, indeed perhaps as the Idea of Ideas, Philo had no known Platonist models.31 This is, of course, of signal importance for the present investigation, as it suggests that we look in quite other directions for the Philonic intertexts for this conceptual world:
2'E.g., in De agricultura 51.”


28Edwards, "Justin's Logos," 263.
29Charles Harold Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1960) 269-79.
3This idea was originally suggested to me in conversations with Virginia Burrus, but I take full responsibility for the formulation. As she points out, the parade example of a "pagan" Middle-Platonist turns out to be Numenius, a philosopher who, while nominally indeed not Jewish nor Christian, quotes quite a bit of Scripture for his purpose. See, inter alia, David
Dawson, Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992) 190-91; John Dillon, The Middle Platonists: 80 B.C. to A.D.
220 (Ithaca: Corell University Press, 1977) 378-79. I have perhaps misunderstood or exaggerated this point, which will need, in any case, further elaboration.
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Scott Lawson

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Re: John 1:18 and Exodus 3:14 LXX

Post by Scott Lawson » August 21st, 2019, 10:34 pm

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Re: John 1:18 and Exodus 3:14 LXX

Post by Devenios Doulenios » August 22nd, 2019, 9:06 am

Barry, do you have any particular Philo passages in mind here? He's on my Greek to read list, but I haven't gotten to him yet.

I've done a small amount of reading on this topic over the years and find it fascinating, particularly as I'm translating John.
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