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03 March 2020

Jesus Interprets the Father - (John 1:18)

SYNOPSIS: “No man has seen God at any time; the only-born Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he interpreted.”

The Crucifixion
The Prologue to the gospel of John introduces its key themes: life, light, witness, truth, grace. Jesus is the light of the world, the source of grace and truth, the true Tabernacle, the Son of God, and the only one who has seen the Father. It ends by concluding that he, therefore, is the only one who interprets the unseen God (John 1:1-18).

This conclusion includes a significant contrast:  Jesus interprets the Father, not Moses. The purpose is not to identify Jesus as God or to denigrate Moses, but to present the only-born Son as the one who makes God known (“he is in the bosom of the Father, he declared him”).

The Torah was given through Moses; however, “grace and truth came to be through Jesus Christ.” In John’s time, this was a direct challenge to claims about the Mosaic Law among some Jewish circles. Jesus is the “word” or logos by which God made all things, not the Torah.

Interpreted” at the end of verse 18 translates exégeomai from ek (“out of”) and hégeomai (“to lead”), hence “to lead out, explain, interpret.” The English terms ‘exegesis’ and ‘exegete’ are derived from it. In the Greek sentence, there is no direct object of the verb; it is used intransitively. There is no “him” after exégeomai. It is open-ended. Jesus is the final and ultimate interpreter of all that relates to God. 

Only-born Son” expands on Verse 14, “we beheld his glory, a glory as of an only-born from a father, full of grace and truth.” This figure is identified explicitly as “Jesus Christ,” the one who gives “grace and truth” Verse 17).

Jesus is the revealer of the Unseen God throughout John’s Gospel. He reiterates that “no man has seen the Father, except he who is of God; he has seen the Father” (John 6:46).

Jesus declares, “that which I have seen with my Father.” Anyone who knows Jesus, “knows the Father also…and has seen him.” He who has seen Jesus “has seen the Father”; anyone who sees and hates Jesus, also hates the Father (John 15:24).

Jesus is not just another in a long line of prophets, but the final and ultimate revelation of God. The Father can be seen and understood only in the Son (John 8:38, 14:7-9, 15:24).

The gospel of John was composed in the latter half of the first century, most likely after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Its pages reflect conflicts between the Church and the synagogue. Its negative references to “the Jews” are not ethnic slurs but refer to the Jewish religious establishment that rejected Jesus and opposed the Church (John 1:19, 2:18-20, 3:25, 5:10-18, 6:41-52, 7:1-15v 7:35, 8:22, 8:48, 8:52-57).

Many devout Jews viewed the Law, the Torah given at Sinai, as the centerpiece of the faith, God’s perfect revelation of His will and redemptive plans. He created the Cosmos, according to the Torah. His presence was in the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Moses was the one who “saw” God’s glory on Sinai and revealed His Law to Israel. Etc.

John’s Prologue contrasts Jesus with the Mosaic legislation. All things were made according to the “Word” or Logos, not Torah. Light and life are found in Jesus, not Torah. The “Word” became flesh and revealed God’s “glory” to us (John 1:1-8).

Moses was only permitted to see the “backside,” the afterglow of God’s glory while he was hidden in the hollow of a rock. In contrast, Jesus dwells in God’s very “bosom” and therefore is the only one who can “declare” the unseen God (Exodus 33:20-22John 1:18).

Jesus is the true Tabernacle and Temple in which the presence of God is found. Moses certainly gave the Law, but “grace and truth” only came through Jesus Christ (John 1:14-17, 2:19-21, 4:20-24).

The purpose of the gospel of John is not to denigrate Moses but to stress that God’s full and final revelation is found in Jesus, not in Moses, Torah, the Temple or anywhere else.

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