My Photo
Location: United States

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

John 1:18 ἐκεῖνος: christology — part three

In the first post we presented a question about Christology raised by Edgar Foster:

The text: Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.
Assuming that the reading above is to be preferred, how would you understand the referent of ἐκεῖνος? Is it God with respect to his essence (in view of the anarthrous Θεὸν) that μονογενὴς θεὸς "explained" or is it more strictly speaking, the Father that was explained? It could be the Father specifically since John writes about εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς

Who did the Son likely explain? Was it God in his essence (since Θεὸν is anarthrous) or was it the Father more specifically?
The whole Gospel of John is an exposition on the this question. Jesus repeats in many places using various metaphors that he was sent by the Father to do the Father's will, to acomplish the Father's works and to speak the Father's words. In John 14:8 Philip raises the question:   

John 14:8 Λέγει αὐτῷ Φίλιππος· κύριε, δεῖξον ἡμῖν τὸν πατέρα, καὶ ἀρκεῖ ἡμῖν.  9 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· τοσούτῳ χρόνῳ μεθ᾿ ὑμῶν εἰμι καὶ οὐκ ἔγνωκάς με, Φίλιππε; ὁ ἑωρακὼς ἐμὲ ἑώρακεν τὸν πατέρα· πῶς σὺ λέγεις· δεῖξον ἡμῖν τὸν πατέρα;

John 14:8 ¶ Philip said to him,  “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him,  “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say,  ‘Show us the Father?

Now we could raise a different question. Did Jesus during his life on earth reveal the transcendent creator and sustainer of the cosmos?

Heb. 1:3a ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ

Heb. 1:3a He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.
One could draw a distinction between ἐξηγήσατο in John 1:18 and the wording in Heb 1:3a, but all of these are metaphors, ἐξηγήσατο is a metaphor. 

Col. 1:15 ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου, πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως,  16 ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, τὰ ὁρατὰ καὶ τὰ ἀόρατα, εἴτε θρόνοι εἴτε κυριότητες εἴτε ἀρχαὶ εἴτε ἐξουσίαι· τὰ πάντα δι᾿ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται·  17 καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν,

Col. 1:15   He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation;  16 for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.  17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

These texts don't actually answer the question raised. Did Jesus of Nazareth as he walked on earth ἐξηγήσατο the creator and sustainer of the cosmos? For that question I will need some more time.


Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

I'm not sure I understand the difficulty here. If Jesus makes the Father "specifically" known, wouldn't that logically include his essence?

5:42 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


I don't have clue what Foster means by "essence" and I am not inclined to ask. I sort of halfheartedly browsed through John Myendorff's treatment of fourth century christology in "Christ in Eastern Christian Thought" and J.N.D. Kelly Early Christian Doctrines. This is really outside of my domain.

Heb 1:3a ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power

Perhaps a certain points in Jesus walk on earth he revealed to some his glory, which was the glory he had with the Father, I would still be careful not to even approach a claim that Jesus earthly life was an exhaustive revelation of the deity he shared with the other persons in the trinity. To ask if Jesus reveled the “essence” τοῦ θεοῦ sounds like a question that might have been discussed during Christological controversies but the New Testament doesn't address it as far as I know. Would be willing to take a look at any text you would like to suggest.

9:14 PM  
Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

I wasn't suggesting that Jesus gave an exhaustive metaphysical description of the Father's essence, nor did He provide one for Himself. I suppose whatever the Father's essence is, its one that is unique to the Creator.

But this does raise an interesting question. If the NT doesn't give us details concerning the Father's essence, would we have an exegetical basis by which we can assert that Jesus shares the Father's essence? In other words, is the hypostatic union and such ideas biblical?

6:01 AM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


The hypostatic union: "A theological term used with reference to the Incarnation to express the revealed truth that in Christ one person subsists in two natures, the Divine and the human." from (The Catholic Encyclopedia I don’t think we need to question if this is taught in the NT, it is. But develop it would make this a long comment.

John's gospel affirms the union of Jesus with the Father, That Jesus was sent by the Father, that Jesus revealed the Father by his works and his words but also in his Person. However, Jesus during his life on earth was hiding his divinity (Phil 2). If this were not so his presence of among humanity would have been totally different that what we see in the gosples. In the transfiguration the three apostles where given a glimpse of Jesus' δόξα but in his day to day walking and talking with humanity these windows into his divine nature were temporary. Often they were logical deductions from what he was able to do, feed the five thousand, calm the storm, raise the dead, these were not direct manifestations of divinity in the sense of theophany.

I suspect that Fosters question about essence is an attemt to impose a non-biblical idea on the discussion of Jesus divine nature. Of course the Greek Fathers were not above doing the same thing.

9:08 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home