Friday, December 5, 2008

Jan. 4, 2009 - John 1:(1-9) 10-18 - Brian Blount

Gleanings from the Text
John 1:(1-9) 10-18
Literary Context

This material sets the tone for everything that follows. The identification of Jesus as the one who comes from God gives an unparalleled authority to all that he does and says. One expects that someone this special would be immediately identifiable. Clearly, to his followers he was. They declare that they saw in him the glory of God (v. 14). Amazingly, though, the majority who encounter him miss this connection to God. They do, however, acknowledge a special quality. They interpret this quality as something sinister, however, and therefore press toward a destruction that leads to the cross. It is important to note in all of this that though the language is very cosmic, the focus is very earthly. The focus is on how we are to understand God’s engagement with us in our world.

Key Words

Kosmos (world). God’s engagement is in the world, which demonstrates a strong value for the world. God values our human historical existence so greatly that God sends God’s Son to intervene in and save it. This is a crucial counterpoint to those who would see salvation as escape or rapture from the world. Frances Taylor Gench is right to point out that we can therefore not treat the world as evil, by either nature or origin, since the world comes into being through God’s Son and the world is the locus of activity for God’s Son (Encounters With Jesus, 2).

Sarx (flesh). As the locus of the Son’s work, flesh is not to be identified exclusively with carnality and sensuality. As in Hebrew thought, so here, it operates as physical personality. It is neutral earthly existence and not inherently negative.

Logos (Word). In the Hebrew scriptures, Word is the personification of God’s Wisdom (cf. Proverbs 8:25-30; Wisdom of Solomon 7:24-26). It is both God and yet other than God. Wisdom is with God as creation unfolds and it is through Wisdom that creation unfolds. It is this Wisdom, as Word, that takes flesh and engages humans in the world. God’s creative and saving power is put to voice, personified, and given concrete, fleshly expression. As God’s Word, he expresses God, just as our words express our thoughts, our identity, and our intent. He, however, not only speaks for God; he speaks God. He is the language of God lived out in historical expression.

skēnoō (dwell, tabernacle, pitch a tent). This Word engages us in our own realm. God moves to us, temporarily. Yet, the presence is powerful, just as God was a powerful presence when God’s Spirit tabernacled with Israel in the desert (Num 35:35; Jos 22:19).

idion (one’s own). The implication is that humankind belongs to God. God’s Word is therefore meant for them. They are called to be of the same character as the Word, to emulate the Word, to be at work in their world for the same saving purpose as the Word. Unfortunately, God’s own reject the Word instead.

Food For Thought

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here, one Word is worth a thousand words. God’s Word is the fulcrum on which God’s people (God’s own) are pressed into saving action. We “words” are called to emulate and represent God’s Word in how we speak and live.

Sink Your Teeth Into This

This section reminds me of the phrase “Lost in Translation”. God’s Word translates the truth and reality of God’s intention for humankind. We, as God’s own, translate that same intention. I wonder sometimes, however, whether God’s intention is lost as it is conveyed – translated – through our words and work.

Works Consulted

Frances Taylor Gench, Encounters with Jesus: Studies in the Gospel of John. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.

Biographical Information

Brian K. Blount is President and professor of New Testament in the Walter W. Moore and Charles E.S. Kraemer Presidential Chairs.

Blount assumed the presidency of Union-PSCE in 2007, after 15 years as professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary. Earlier, he served as pastor of the Carver Memorial Presbyterian Church in Newport News, Virginia (1982-88). Blount’s research has focused on the Gospel of Mark, cultural studies and hermeneutics, and the Book of Revelation.