Wednesday, January 13, 2016

John 1:1, and the Word was a God, by Charles Voysey 1871


John 1:1, and the Word was a God, by Charles Voysey 1871 (from An Examination of Canon Liddon's Bampton Lectures on the Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by a Clergyman of the Church of England)

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It is impossible for any man not illumined by light beyond that which reason and Scripture furnish, to speak confidently about the expression commonly translated, The Word was God. Logos is most obscure, and the name God is without the article, while the article is prefixed in the phrase with God, which stands immediately before, and immediately after. This omission of the article creates an ambiguity quite unaccountable if the writer had wished to avouch that the Word is absolutely, in the fullest and highest acceptation, God. Winer remarks (Sec. xix. 1): "The Article could not have been omitted, if John had intended to say that the Logos was O QEOS; (the God), as in this passage QEOS (theos) alone was ambiguous. That John designedly omitted the article is apparent, partly from the distinct antithesis, with the God, and partly from the whole description of the Logos." Dr James Donaldson, in his Critical History of Christian Literature, &c, after noticing that no translation into English can exactly represent difficulties which the words of the first verse of the fourth Gospel suggest, writes:—

"That John does not assert that the Logos was one, or of the same nature which the God, is plain from his use of QEOS without the article. The unity of the Divine Nature in God and Christ may be a satisfactory explanation of John's statement, but it is not what John states. The word QEOS, as we shall see in treating of Justin Martyr's use of the term, and in many other cases, was very widely applied. It was sometimes applied to man when perfected. It was applicable to any being possessed of supernatural powers; especially was it applicable to a being who was worshipped. And perhaps what John meant to do, and certainly what he seems to do here, is to make a very wide general statement that the Logos was Divine. He does not obviate any of the difficulties which might arise from the assertion. As far as John's statement goes, we are bound to believe that the Logos is a Divine Being; but we go beyond John's statement when we either assert that there are two Gods of equal glory and of the same substance, or that there is but one Divine Being, but two persons. John's assertion is of the vaguest and most general nature. ... It seems scarcely possible not to identify the statement in John's introduction with Philo's doctrine. But we are not bound on that account to suppose that John accepted the whole of Philo's doctrine. His words, and the Word was a God, do not state that the Logos was a second God" (Vol. ii., Introduction, pp. 41-43).

Dr Davidson, in his recent Introduction to the New Testament, judging "the balance of evidence to be clearly against the fourth Gospel's authenticity," naturally sees, in some of its dubious expressions, such an approach to the full Deification of Christ as might be expected from a Christian writing towards the middle of the second century, with the purpose of affirming and exalting Christ's pre-existent Being. In his analysis of the Gospel's contents, he says: "The Logos was a concrete person before the world existed, not becoming so at the Incarnation. As reason becomes speech, so when the eternal reason manifests itself, it is as the Logos; not necessarily hypostatic, but such in the Gospel. When the Word issued from the Divine Essence, i.e., was begotten, whether from eternity or not, the Evangelist forbears to say. . . . It is observable that the appellation the Word does not occur in the speeches of Jesus himself; but that is no argument against its being synonymous with Christ. . . . The Father and the Son are both God; but the Father alone is absolute God, filling up the whole idea. The Son is a God, not God absolutely; and does not exhaust the conception" (Vol. ii. pp. 325, 327).

The use of QEOS without the article, in looser and inferior senses, is illustrated by John x. 33, 35 ; Acts xii. 22; xxviii. 6; 2 Thess. ii. 4. The difference between a god, and the Almighty Creator, is obvious in these texts, and readers of the Greek Testament will notice how, in immediate contexts, QEOS with the article is used to denote the Most High. The speculative, nebulous title, the Word, is not given to Christ in the fourth Gospel after the 14th verse of the first chapter, though the ascription to him of preexistence and exalted dignity is plain throughout. But if the Evangelist had a firm and coherent conception of the Word's true personal Deity, it is strange that he makes John the Baptist, into whose mouth he puts very explicit testimony to the Person and work of Jesus, declare (iii. 34) Jesus to have been the recipient of the Spirit, in unmeasured gift. How could a Being "Who is in the absolute sense God," require or receive the Holy Spirit?

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