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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jesus Christ, Creation and Chaos -- part 3

This is part three of What did Jesus Christ Create?

John 1:1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.  2 οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν.  3 πάντα δι᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν  4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων·

Bruce Metzger in his commentary on the Text of the GNT (1971) disagrees with the majority of the committee for UBSGNT3. He claims that punctuation in the early manuscripts reflects the exegetical tradition in the early church not what was found in the exemplars since the really early manuscripts rarely if ever had any punctuation at all. There were numerous and diverse “heretics” in the early centuries making use of John’s prologue and punctuation in Jn1:3b-4 may have been altered in response to the current dispute. For all of these reasons it seems best to begin exegesis without any assumptions about the how Jn 1:3b-4 is punctuated.

Martin Hengel [1] on Jn 1:3b states “The next clause ‘and without the Word nothing came into being’ excludes any kind of dualism in principle — as, for example, found in Zoroastrianism or the widespread Greek idea of the chaos of uncreated matter.” Henry Alford in his Greek NT notes makes the same claim.

It seem to me that this reading of Jn1:3b-4 assumes that creation ex nihilo was a fixed feature of Second Temple Judaism. In other words, the argument is widely circular. There are many OT scholars now claiming that Gen 1:2 refers to uncreated Chaos. But is that how a first century disciple of Jesus would have read Genesis? What were dealing with is questions about the cultural and religious framework of the author. If the author did not consider the Chaos of Gen 1:2 a part of creation then it would not cause a problem in Jn1:3b-4 because it would be excluded from the referent of πάντα … ὃ γέγονεν following Metzger’s reading of the text. 

[1] Martin Hengel (1926-2009) “The Prologue of the Gospel of John as the Gateway to Christological Truth” page 273 in The Gospel of John and Christian Theology – Edited by Richard Bauckham and Carl Mosser.


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