Sunday, September 30, 2018

Reverse image

Anyone who's seen me has seen the Father! (Jn 14:9).

Every so often you see a photograph in which the image has been reversed. It shifts from a left-handed perspective to a right-handed perspective, or vice versa. You've seen the photo before. But this time you're viewing the mirror image. 

That raises a question: which is the original and which is the copy? You can't tell, by comparing them, which one represents the actual scene, and which is copy in reverse.

Suppose you could go back to the time and place where the picture was taken and stand in same position as the photographer, facing the scene. Then you could tell what was really on the left or right. Then you could tell which was the original and which was the copy by comparing both to the actual scene. 

Or could you? Suppose there's a multiverse in which the right-handed scene exists in one universe while the left-handed scene exists in a parallel universe. You now have three possibilities:

i) The left-handed picture is a copy of the right-handed original.

ii) The right-handed picture is a copy of the left-handed original. 

iii) Both pictures are originals. Both pictures represent actual scenes. 

In one respect they picture the exact same scene. Same composition. Same details. Each detail positioned at the same distance in relation to everything else–including the viewer.

If you've seen one picture, you've seen the other. You recognize each picture in its counterpart. You exclaim, "I've seen that before!" 

Yet there's still a difference. Everything on one side of one picture is on the other side of the other picture, like butterfly wings. 

These are coequal representations. Exhaustive point-by-point correspondence. 

No prophet could say John 14:9. No angel would say John 14:9. 


  1. What are your thoughts on the relationship of Wisdom literature and NT Christology? From my understanding many scholars think that Prov. 8:22 lies behind Col. 1:15-20.

    1. I don't think it's necessary when interpreting the prologue to John. As for Col 1:15-20, I'll get back to you on that.

    2. That is what raised the question in my mind. When you wrote in response to Tuggy about the prologue of John you appealed to Dr. Waltke's interpretation of Prov. 8. I was thinking that if the background of Col. 1:15-17 is alluding back to Prov. 8 then it seems that wouldn't fit with his interpretation.

    3. The best starting-point will be Beale's forthcoming commentary, due out next Spring.

      As Moo explains, there are generally two postulated sources for Paul's usage: the wisdom tradition and the Genesis creation account. Even assuming that Paul is tapping into the wisdom tradition, that's not a direct appeal to Prov 8, but Prov 8 filtered through a subsequent theological tradition. Not Prov 8 in itself, but a theological tradition that takes on a life of its own, taking Prov 8 as the initial stimulus, but is now independent of the initial stimulus. Paul may be using some free-floating categories to express himself, but the meaning depends on Paul's utilization.

  2. Why are we so fixated on physical copy rather than unity in works? Are we really to believe that Christ meant a physical replication when in Jn 14:10, 11 He says, ... 'I am in the Father and the Father is in me... The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves...'

    On your reading, Steve, your argument sails through, and there is no problem, but aren't we stretching the text here?

    1. i) Unity in works seems to falls short of deity.

      ii) I'm not fixated on physical copies. I am interested in the principle of representation, especially in the form of mirror reflections. IMO, that's a fruitful and flexible way to illustrate the Trinity.

      iii) As I explain in another post, while copies are representations, not all representations are copies.

      iv) Representations needn't be physical. My mental representations aren't physical.

      v) I wouldn't start with Jn 14:10-11. I've quoted and analyzed other passages that use the principle of representation in Christology.

      vi) My point is not that we can exegete my analogy from Scripture, but that my analogy is consistent with Scripture. Develops it. It's an analogy, but it may go deeper than just an analogy.