In my last post, I attempted to restate and then evaluate a theory about the prologue to the Fourth Gospel (John 1:1-18). Obviously (to those who read the comments), Daniel is only about 80% satisfied that I have stated his theory correctly. So let me start over and remake some of my points.
DANIEL’S THEORY RESTATED
–The Fourth Gospel is not saying that Yeshua is God.
–Behind the prologue to the Fourth Gospel stands a more complex relationship between God and Yeshua.
–God’s plan/will/reason is an extension of his being which has been expressed since before time.
–Through his will/reason/plan God made the world and the will/reason/plan of God is his agent (an impersonal agent, however, not a separate person).
–John takes up the idea of the Memra or Logos (translated Word in most versions) from Jewish writings, such as Onkelos’s Aramaic paraphrase of the Torah.
–John is looking for a way to express in terms people can understand a complex relationship between God and Yeshua.
–Yeshua is God’s unique son, in that he has no human father, but has only God as his father (just as Adam did).
–God foreordained that at the right time, his son would be born revealing to the world what God is like, since Yeshua lived a life of perfect righteousness.
–The Logos is revealed in Yeshua’s perfect life, but Yeshua is not the Logos, just a person who lived according to it.
–The revelation of God’s will/reason/plan (Logos) in the life of Yeshua is a vital part of God’s plan to heal the world.
PROBLEMS WITH THIS THEORY
1. This theory assumes that a very broad concept (Logos) which is found in Greek, Roman, and Jewish literature, must be interpreted according to a narrow set of parameters (the way Onkelos uses the word Memra is the only legitimate background in Daniel’s theory).
2. This theory poorly fits the wording of the Fourth Gospel’s prologue. It is more than a little nonsensical for the prologue to say, “God’s will/reason/plan was God.” God’s will/reason/plan is an extension of his being. It is not, by definition, his person.
3. This theory avoids the obvious and clear intention of the Fourth Gospel: to show that Yeshua is the Logos. Not only is this made clear in the prologue, but also in the entire gospel. “He came to his own,” says 1:11, “but his own did not receive him.” It’s more than clear that the reference is to Yeshua himself and his people, Israel. And throughout the rest of the gospel, Yeshua himself is shown to be what the Logos is. Yeshua is the Logos and the Logos is God (and that is transitive, so Yeshua is God).
4. This theory misses the nature of the Logos by insisting that only Onkelos’s concept of the Memra is a legitimate background for understanding Logos. How about we understand it from the Fourth Gospel instead of insisting that one narrow set of readings in literature must be the right one? This would be sounder methodology. And in the Fourth Gospel, Logos is active, creative, and personal.
–The Logos is personal because the Logos is God (1:1, “…the Logos was God.”).
–The Logos is personal because “he was in the beginning with God” (1:2, which would be rather silly to say about God’s mind/reason/will).
–The Logos is personal because he has a people from whom he is descended and who do not accept him (1:11).
–The Logos is personal because he “became flesh” (1:14). Daniel’s idea of a predestined human who would be the Logos because he perfectly lived the will of God is not exactly the Will of God becoming flesh. Yeshua was born the Logos. Is this merely, as Daniel says, because he was God’s son (no human father)? Adam was not the Logos, and yet he was born with God as his only father (and mother). Yeshua is qualitatively different at the outset from Adam.
A BETTER THEORY
The interpretation that has stood the test of time for centuries fits the facts far better. The prologue to the Fourth Gospel is far from the only reason theologians have long thought that Yeshua is God. But the prologue to the Fourth Gospel is one of the clearest meditations on that theme.
Unless you have a prior commitment to denying the multiplicity of expressions of God’s nature (the Trinity), then there is no reason to seek a complicated and problematic alternative reading to the prologue.
Yeshua is God, but he is not the only person who is God. That is why John says both “he was with God” and “he was God.”
Yeshua the man was born 2,000 years ago, but he existed from eternity as God the Son. It was taking on humanity that was new, and not coming into existence.
What problem is there in the traditional view of Messiah’s deity? That is only a problem if one denies the possibility of God being corporeal or taking on human form. But in rabbinic literature, this is not a problem at all.
Many Jewish thinkers have followed suit with Maimonides, who denied the corporeality of God. Of course he did, since he sought a rational, philosophical view of God which was formed in antagonistic relationship to a Christianity that persecuted and abused sons of Abraham. But the rationalistic thought of Maimonides is hardly the sum of Jewish thought and does not have the same authority as the rabbis of old.
Soon I plan to review an article by Alon Gottstein, “The Body as the Image of God in Rabbinic Literature,” Harvard Theological Review 87:2 (1994), 171-95. The idea that Judaism has always considered the corporeality of God impossible is simply wrong.
It is not necessary to rationalize the incomprehensible. It is better to receive what is revealed.