Tuesday, November 17, 2015

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us

Dale Tuggy:

Yes, of course, the chapter alludes to Gen 1. And this "Word" is not wholly unfamiliar to his readers either. http://biblehub.com/psalms/33-6.htm No smart reader, in its original context, is going to think that God's "word" there is a self, or is literally the creator. 

Actually, that's exactly what a smart reader should think. In its original context, John uses the "Word" to name the Creator in Gen 1. 

It is God who is the creator, and he creates by "speaking", i.e. by fiat, by mere intention that it should be so. Why should we discard this when reading John 1?

Poor Dale can't even think straight. Was I discarding that when reading Jn 1? No, just the opposite. John calls the Gen 1 Creator the "Word" owing to his distinctive identity as a verbal Creator. He creates by means of the spoken word. Therefore, John gives him that designation. 

That doesn't depend on believing that God literally spoke the world into existence. Rather, it turns on the representation. 

And, as I pointed out before, this is a distinguishing feature of the one true God in OT theism. Yahweh is a God who speaks, unlike the speechless idol gods of paganism. He speaks to Abraham and Moses. 

Only because the logos theories have made it seem so obvious to people that this must be about the pre-human stage of Jesus's career, who was the direct creator, because God couldn't have done that.

Dale offers no evidence that modern commentators on John think it must be about the prehuman stage of Jesus' career due to the influence of patristic logos theories on their exegesis. Most modern commentators don't take the church fathers as their frame of reference. For one thing, that would be anachronistic. That's after the NT. Rather, commentators typically seek background material that's prior in time or contemporaneous with the NT. 

Also, who says this must be about the prehuman state of Jesus' career" because God couldn't have done that?

I note in passing this fallacy in your reasoning:
in John's usage, the "Word of God" is a title for the Creator in Gen 1. That's because God in Gen 1 is a speaker.

That's a clear non sequitur.

i) To begin with, John doesn't call the Logos the "Word of God" in Jn 1. I simply repeated Dale's own phrase for convenience. But Dale substituted the "Word of God" for what Jn 1 actually says. The Prologue doesn't describe the Logos as the Word of God, but rather, God as the Word. 

ii) Perhaps Dale got Jesus as the "word of God" from Rev 19:13. If so, you can't properly use that to swap out the specific usage in Jn 1. 

iii) In addition, that's a title for Jesus in Revelation. However, it is crucial to Dale's enterprise to drive a wedge between Jesus and the eternal Logos. Likewise, Dale denies that the Logos is a personal agent. But that's a title for a personal agent in Rev 19:13: Jesus! And that couples what Dale labors to decouple.

The only real link to the idea of (literal) incarnation here is v. 14, which people think just obviously assumes the personal identity of this divine Word with the man Jesus. But of course, it is by no means obvious that a real [man?] could have, formerly, been a divine Word. 

i) V14 states the Incarnation in compact terms. However, the Incarnation is implied throughout John's Gospel. John repeatedly teaches both the divinity and humanity of Jesus, as well as Jesus coming from heaven and returning to heaven. 

ii) Dale knows enough about Incarnational theology to realize that's an inaccurate way of putting it. It's not that a real man was formerly the divine Word. Rather, the Word or Son always existed, while the man came into existence in union with the Son at a particular point in history.

iii) Likewise, the question at issue isn't whether that's a priori obvious, but what's the obvious meaning of the text. 

And in light of other recent literature which John's audience would be familiar with, it is easy to understand the meaning of v.14 as a non-literal incarnation.

Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept Dale's contention that the text alludes to Wisdom literature, that by no means precludes a literal Incarnation. 

The only precedent we need for the Prologue to John is the Pentateuch.

Thus saith Steve. 

That is Dale's lame formulaic response. But a philosophy prof. should know the difference between assertions and arguments. I didn't merely make a claim and leave it at that. I proceeded to document the claim.

Here are the parallels, much closer in time to John than the Pentateuch, that you did not take the time to look up. First, Ecclesiasticus 24, with Wisdom speaking: http://www.catholic.org/bible/book.php?id=28&bible_chapter=24

i) To begin with, for the Wisdom literature to be much closer in time than the Pentateuch is irrelevant. There's a reason why the OT apocrypha and pseudepigrapha are not canonical. They never had anything remotely approaching the authority of the Pentateuch in Judaism. 

And it's not as if the Pentateuch was forgotten literature by the time of John's Gospel. Indeed, the Prologue refers to the law of Moses, and that crops up in debates between Jesus and his opponents in John's Gospel (as well as the Synoptic Gospels, and Acts). That's the standard of comparison. That's the foundational document in 1C Judaism. 

ii) We need to be careful with the notion of "parallels." The Prologue of John is narrating a unique historical event. The Creator coming into the world he made by becoming human is a one-time, unrepeatable event. That is strictly unparalleled. That never happened before or since. Although Jesus will return, that's because the Incarnation is permanent. 

iii) In fact, Jn 1:17-18 draws a studied contrast between how God related to his people in OT times, and how he relates to his people now. 

iv) Apropos (ii), John uses the Pentateuch to provide a theological interpretation of the event, not to directly parallel the event. 

v) John alludes to somewhat similar events in the wilderness wandering to help illustrate the theological significance of what happened on this occasion. And it's an analogy from the lesser to the greater. 

But there's intentional dissimilarities as well (iii). 

vi) There are lots of "coming down from the sky" parallels in ancient literature. Greek gods coming down from Olympus, then returning to Olympus. That's why responsible OT and NT scholars guard against parallelomania.

Note that she is in the beginning, with God. She is sent down from heaven (v. 8) to tabernacle among God's chosen people. Sound familiar? She has become enbooked (v. 23) - Wisdom made into paper and cover, so to speak. Or enscrolled. A book is not and can't literally be a divine attribute. But it can be a great expression of God's eternal Wisdom. 
So can a man. John 1:14. 

That's rife with confusions:

i) Ecclesiasticus 24 contains allusions to OT history. But John doesn't need that secondary filter when he can go straight to the OT source which underlies some Intertestamental literature.  

ii) Gen 1 concerns divine speech: the spoken word, not the written word. Not a book. Therefore, Dale's alternative is at variance with John's use of Gen 1. 

iii) Ecclesiasticus 24:8-9 says God created wisdom. But that's not what Jn 1 says. God didn't create the Word. Rather, the Word was God; the Word was the Creator. 

Wisdom is "in the beginning with God" in the derivative sense that wisdom is God's first creature. But that's contrary to what John says about the Word. 

This Wisdom, God's Word by which he created, is the light of all men - v. 33-34.

i) Jn 1 doesn't use wisdom terminology. It's the logos, not sophia.

ii) Jn 1 doesn't say the Logos is "God's Word" (see above).

iii) Jn 1 doesn't say God first created the Word, then created the world by the Word. Rather, Jn 1 says the Word was the preexistent Creator God. 

Notice Dale's tactics: he makes a case through the cumulative effect of multiplied equivocations and substitutions.

All in all, it makes the allusion to Proverbs 8 seem pretty obvious. 

What is alluding to Prov 8? Jn 1 or Ecclesiasticus 24? Dale doesn't say. 

But even the allusions to these later writings is enough to help us understand John 1.

The fact that Ecclesiasticus 24 may contain allusions to Prov 8 hardly means Jn 1 contains allusions to Prov 8. Once again, Dale can't think straight.

We also have the Wisdom of Solomon. In 9:1, again, God makes all things by his Word. And 7:22-29 yet more parallels e.g. v. 27 with John 1:12-13. But more importantly, in chapter 18, God's Word leaps down from the heavers like a warrior, to slaughter the first-born of the Egyptians (the Exodus incident). Literally? No. It's just a way of saying that God did it. His wisdom, and specifically his judgement, is reflected on earth by those terrible events.

Dale just doesn't get it. Sure, Jewish Intertestamental literature often alludes to OT events. It doesn't follow that John is alluding to the Intertestamental literature. It doesn't follow that if Jn 1 and OT apocrypha/pseudepigrapha both allude to OT events, then Jn 1 must be (or even probably is) alluding to OT events via this secondary literature, as if John must use that filter. John had direct access to the Pentateuch.

It's a central theme of John that God is working through Jesus, performing the miracles and providing Jesus's teaching, and guiding him. 

Notice how Dale prejudicially frames the issue. A central theme of John is the Son acting in the Father's stead, on the Father's behalf. 

Dale's constant rhetorical tactic is to set this up as a relationship between "God" and "Jesus," rather than the Father and the Son, the Father and the Son of God, or God and the Lord. He tries to reserve the word "God" for the Father, to weight the scales in the direction of unitarianism. He routinely flattens out the varied usage in the NT. He recasts the relationship in the reductive terminology of "God" in contrast to "Jesus." Dale is a devious tactician who resorts to subliminal messaging to slant the evidence in favor of his heresy.  

John is putting it emphatically here to start - the very eternal Wisdom of God by which he made all things became flesh and bone, and walked among us, i.e. was expressed in the life of this unique man. 

Notice how Dale substitutes Wisdom terminology for Word terminology, even though John uses Word terminology rather than Wisdom terminology. This is one of Dale's constant tactics. Substitute one thing for another, hoping the reader will forget what the text actually says, then proceed to build on that false premise. If you turn your back on Dale, he will pilfer the cash register.

Let's go back to the OT background of Jn 1:14. There's a combination of interconnected motifs: God's glorious presence, God dwelling with his people via the Shekinah or pillar of fire descending on the tabernacle and filling the tabernacle (or tent of meeting). 

And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14).No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known (Jn 1:18). 
And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst (Exod 25:8). 
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Exod 40:34). 
9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 
But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exod 33:9-10,20).

That's what Jn 1:14 is designed to evoke. 

It's part of catholic orthodoxy that the eternal Logos is personally identical to the man (or "man") Jesus. He can, in their view, and I presume in yours, truly say, "I always existed" - of course, not always as a man. But the idea is that this one who is "man" eternally existed. 

This is Dale's trademark double-talk. 

It is part of orthodox Christology that the Son or Logos always existed, but the hypostatic union didn't always exist. 

Moreover, in the Reformed communication of attributes, what can be said of either nature can be said of the person of Christ. 

Nevertheless, Jesus didn't always exist. Jesus came into being on the eve of the 1C. The Son always existed, but the union of the Son with human nature (becoming human and becoming a man) was a historic event. Jesus is the result of the hypostatic union. One element of the composite is eternal, but the composite itself is not eternal. Rather, that had a point of origin in time. 

In popular usage, Christians speak of Jesus as preexistent, but in terms of philosophical theology, that's inexact. 


  1. But that's a title for a personal agent in Rev 19:13: Jesus! And that couples what Dale labors to decouple.

    Good point. The fact that Christ can continue to be called the "Word" or "the Word of God" after incarnation is consistent with His personal preexistence prior to incarnation when He was also then called the Word/Logos. Whereas if the NT stopped calling Christ the "Word" after His incarnation, that might lend credence to (or be consistent with) the Logos having been impersonal prior to incarnation. Since the Word/Logos would no longer merely be the impersonal preconceived plan of God.

    1. When I was a Unitarian I never saw a connection between John 1 and Prov. 8. I saw a connection between 1 Cor. 2:6-7,8-9. Interestingly, in his podcasts Dale doesn't see a connection between 1 Cor. 2:6-9 and Prov. 8.

      It should also be remembered that there are many Unitarians who vigorous defend the personal preexistence of the Logos. So, Unitarians aren't united on this most vital/important and foundational issue. For example, Unitarian Greg Stafford argues for the personal preexistence of Christ HERE and HERE.

      Vincent's Word Studies says regarding the phrase "Was with God":

      Anglo-Saxon vers., mid Gode. Wyc., at God. With (πρός) does not convey the full meaning, that there is no single English word which will give it better. The preposition πρός, which, with the accusative case, denotes motion towards, or direction, is also often used in the New Testament in the sense of with; and that not merely as being near or beside, but as a living union and communion; implying the active notion of intercourse. Thus: “Are not his sisters here with us” (πρὸς ἡμᾶς), i.e., in social relations with us (Mar_6:3; Mat_13:56). “How long shall I be with you” (πρὸς ὑμᾶς, Mar_9:16). “I sat daily with you” (Mat_26:55). “To be present with the Lord” (πρὸς τὸν Κύριον, 2Co_5:8). “Abide and winter with you” (1Co_16:6). “The eternal life which was with the Father” (πρὸς τὸν πατέρα, 1Jo_1:2). Thus John's statement is that the divine Word not only abode with the Father from all eternity, but was in the living, active relation of communion with Him.
      [italics original, bold added by me - AP]

      Robertson's Word Pictures says:

      With God (pros ton theon). Though existing eternally with God the Logos was in perfect fellowship with God. Pros with the accusative presents a plane of equality and intimacy, face to face with each other. In 1Jo_2:1 we have a like use of pros: “We have a Paraclete with the Father” (paraklēton echomen pros ton patera). See prosōpon pros prosōpon (face to face, 1Co_13:12), a triple use of pros. There is a papyrus example of pros in this sense to gnōston tēs pros allēlous sunētheias, “the knowledge of our intimacy with one another” (M.&M., Vocabulary) which answers the claim of Rendel Harris, Origin of Prologue, p. 8) that the use of pros here and in Mar_6:3 is a mere Aramaism. It is not a classic idiom, but this is Koiné, not old Attic. In Joh_17:5 John has para soi the more common idiom.
      [original bold and italics not reproduced - AP]

    2. typo correction: I saw a connection between 1 Cor. 2:6-7,8-9.

      Should be: I saw a connection between 1 Cor. 2:6-7,8-9 [and Prov. 8].

  2. Steve, it's sad that you're just unable to carefully think through competing explanations of what's going on in John 1. This "Tuggy's a trickster" stuff is just boring.

    1. Dale is just unable to present a refutation.

  3. For those who don't know, I pointed out above (in a precious comment) one of the implied meanings of the Greek word "pros" because it can suggest intimate personal relationship between persons. Therefore, the use of the word in John 1:1 suggests a personal preexistence of the Logos prior to incarnation.

    It should also be remembered that the OT is not unfamiliar with spirit beings or even Almighty God manifesting in visible bodily form (though, not actually taking on a physical body). So, a real personal preexistence of the Logos is not inconsistent with John 1.

    Angels sometimes took on visible human form that was indistinguishable from other human beings. In the Garden of Eden the devil took on some visible form that Adam and Eve could see.

    Jehovah/Yahweh Himself sometimes takes on a human visible form. For example, when Jehovah is said to have walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). Apparently Jehovah was in the habit of communing with Adam and Eve in human form. He may have done so with Moses.

    20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live."21 And the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock,22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen."- Exo. 33:20-23

    Talk of a ventral and dorsal sides suggests the form of an animal like a human.

    9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up,10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.- Exo. 24:9-11

    6 And he said, "Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house.8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"- Num. 12:6-8


    1. These Old Testament passages (and others) seem to contradict the New Testament's teaching that Yahweh was never seen (John 1:18; 6:46; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; 1 John 4:12). However, if Jesus is the second person of the Trinity (and therefore Jehovah like His Father), then it makes perfect sense how people HAVE and yet HAVEN'T seen Jehovah. They HAVEN'T seen Jehovah because they haven't seen the Father. Yet, at the same time they HAVE seen Jehovah because they saw the preexistent preincarnate Son.

      This is why Jehovah says He will not share or give His glory to another (Isa. 42:1). Yet, how Jesus can say that He should be honored JUST AS the Father is honored (John 5:23) and that He shared glory with the Father prior to His incarnation (John 17:5).

      Unitarianism really seem to me to be more ad hoc, requires more explaining away, and doesn't do as good as Trinitarianism in making sense of all of the Biblical data in a coherent, consistent, non-contradictory way. The more consistent Unitarians are, the more questions and problems that arise (cf. their disagreement on the personal preexistence of the Logos). Whereas, the more consistent Trinitarians are, the less problematic are the basic issues.

      That's not to say that there aren't disagreements among Trinitarians on deeper speculative theology. There are. But not on basic issues like "Is the Logos personally preexistent?" Is the Logos eternal? Is the Logos the same as the Wisdom of the OT? The same as the Word of Jehovah? The same as The Angel of Jehovah? Is the Son of God Prov. 30:4 the Logos? Why is the Holy Spirit sometimes spoken in very personalistic ways? Who or what was seen in OT theophanies? Is Michael the Archangel Jesus in his preincarnate state (though a minority of Trinitarians strangely say "yes")? Should we worship Jesus or not? Should we pray to Jesus or not? Is Jesus omnipresent or not? Is Jesus omnipotent or not? et cetera, et cetera, etc.

  4. Also, I have no problem with Jesus being the Wisdom of God in the OT. Jesus Himself identifies Himself as the Wisdom of God. In Luke 11:49 Jesus said, "Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,'." Yet, in a parallel passage in Matthew, Jesus said He's the one who sent/sends prophets and apostles. Matthew 23:34 has Jesus saying, "Therefore ***I*** [i.e. Jesus] send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town,"

    When one combines those two passages two things can be inferred, 1. Jesus claims to be the Wisdom of God, and 2. Jesus seems to claim personal preexistence. [ In my blogpost linked below, I show 3. how these passages suggest Jesus' full deity]

    I addressed these passages in my old blogpost titled: The Wings of Christ are God's Wings

    BTW, HT to Michael Heiser for this theological Nugget.

  5. You say "Dale just doesn't get it." I think this is inaccurate. I think he intentionally avoids it. He is self-blinded.