Wednesday, June 21, 2017

John 1:1 and the Word was a god


If, in the introduction to his Gospel, John had asserted that Jesus was truly God, he would have proposed to his readers a Messiah whose very nature and properties were totally different from those of the person whom the prophets predicted, and whose advent the Jews eagerly expected. He would also have contradicted the assertions of Moses, of John the harbinger of the Messiah, of Jesus himself, and of his apostles and disciples, that he was a man. John himself, in the same chapter in which he says, “The Word was a god,” has provided ample means of preventing any construction of his language, different from the commonly-received sense of it at that time, and in those parts of the world. When the term QEOS(theos) or KURIOS (kyrios), or any of the Hebrew appellations of the Supreme Being, are applied in Scripture to a magistrate or a prophet, on what ground do we affix a meaning to them different from that which we affix to the same words when applied to the Most High? Is it not on account of the clear and distinct properties of humanity that belong to, and are inseparable from, the magistrate and the prophet? If, then, decisive characters of humanity are annexed to the LOGOS, in the introduction to John's Gospel, and in several other parts of the first chapter, as well as in many other passages of his writings, and in other books of the New Testament, these will be as proper a guide to the interpretation of QEOS in this as in any other parts of Scripture. The rule equally applies to all. . . . . . . From the whole, then, it follows, that the term QEOS, as predicated of the LOGOS, must be understood in a sense in which it often occurs in Scripture, namely, that of a divinely-commissioned human being, who spake, in the name of God, the truths and precepts which God communicated to him, and who wrought miracles which no one could work unless he were empowered by God.—If any persons think, that the foregoing explanation of the term QEOS be not fully proved to be the true one, still the phrase which we are considering will not convey the idea that the Word was truly God. For, by all fair rules of interpretation, QEOS HN O LOGOS should be explained in a manner similar to that in which other Scripture phrases of the like kind are interpreted. Now, in all cases in which the verb EIMI is used to affirm any thing which implies a contradiction to well-known fact, to reason, to the context, or to the general tenor of Scripture, a figurative sense of it is adopted in preference to the literal meaning. If it be maintained that the apostle John's assertion, QEOS HN O LOGOS, proves the Word, or Jesus Christ, to be truly God, - the affirmation of the apostle Paul, 1 Cor. x. 4, H PETRA HN O XRISTOS, equally proves him to be an inanimate rock; and the assertion of Christ, AUTOS ESTIN ELIAS, proves John the Baptist to be really Elias. Paraphrase: Ver. 1. From the commencement of his public life, Jesus was a teacher of righteousness, and a publisher of glad tidings. To this preacher the Most High imparted extraordinary wisdom and power, and the privilege of speaking and acting in his name. As it was on account of similar divine communications that the Supreme Being himself called Moses a god; that Jewish writers called those men gods, to whom the word of God came; that Christ himself countenanced this meaning of the term; and that Isaiah predicted the Messiah by the names Jehovah and God; so, in the same sense, Jesus was a god. 3. All that regeneration of mankind which the gospel produced was effected by his instrumentality; and without this, not any reformation was accomplished by it. 10. He was publicly conversant with men; many were reformed by him; and he imparted the best means of renovating the human race; yet mankind in general did not believe in him. 14. This teacher was a human being, &c. — Abridged from Simpson: Essays on the Language of Scripture, vol. ii. pp. 17–19, 22–25, 44–46. [From Scripture Proofs and Scriptural Illustrations of Unitarianism By John Wilson, 1846]


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