John’s Gospel contrasts Jesus with the Mosaic legislation. Ture light, life and truth are found in Jesus, and he now interprets the Father – John 1:18.
The prologue to John introduces its key themes, including life, light, witness, truth, and grace. Jesus is the light of the world, the source of grace and truth, the true Tabernacle, and the only one who has seen the Unseen God who “tabernacles” in the “word made flesh.” The prologue ends by declaring that Jesus alone is fully qualified to interpret the Father.
The Law was given through Moses, but “grace and truth came to be through Jesus Christ.” In John’s time, that statement would be perceived as a direct challenge to claims about the Mosaic Law. Regardless, in the New Testament, Jesus becomes the “word” or logos by which God made all things, and in which He now reveals His true glory and nature.
- (John 1:14-18) – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. John bears witness of him, and cries, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that comes after me is become before me: for he was before me. For of his fullness, we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he interpreted…”
“Interpreted” translates the Greek verb exégeomai, meaning, “to lead out, explain; to interpret.” In the Greek sentence, there is no direct object after the verb, it is used intransitively, the declaration is open-ended. Jesus is the final and ultimate interpreter of everything that relates to or comes from his Father.
The “only-born Son” expands on the statement, “we beheld his glory, a glory as of an only-born from a father, full of grace and truth,” and this figure is identified explicitly as “Jesus Christ.” Thus, he is the one who reveals the Unseen God. “No man has seen the Father, except he who is of God, he has seen the Father” – (John 6:46).
Likewise, Jesus declared to his followers “that which I have seen with my Father.” Anyone who knows him, “knows the Father also…and has seen him.” He who has seen Jesus “has seen the Father.” He is not just another in a long line of prophets, but the ultimate revelation of God who can be seen and understood only in the Son – (John 8:38, 14:7-9, 15:24).
The Gospel of John was composed in the latter half of the first century. Accordingly, its pages reflect the conflicts between the early church and the synagogue. Its negative references to the “Jews” are not ethnic slurs, but references to the religious establishment that rejected Jesus and opposed the Church – (John 1:19, 2:18-20, 3:25, 5:10-18, 6:41-52, 7:1-15v 7:35, 8:22, 8:48, 8:52-57).
Many devout Jews viewed the Mosaic Law as the center of the faith, the perfect revelation of the will of Yahweh for all time. According to the rabbis, God created the universe by the Torah. His presence was in the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle, and Moses was the one who “saw” His glory on Sinai and revealed His Law to Israel.
John’s prologue contrasts Jesus with that earlier legislation. All things were made according to the “Word” or Logos, not according to the Torah; light and life are found in the “Son.” The “Word” became flesh and revealed God’s “glory” to one and all.
Moses was only permitted to see the “backside,” the afterglow of Yahweh’s glory, all while being hidden in the hollow of a rock. In contrast, Jesus dwells in His very “bosom,” therefore, he is the only one who can “declare” and reveal the unseen God – (Exodus 33:20-22, John 1:18).
Jesus is the true Tabernacle in which God now dwells and reveals His glory. Moses certainly gave the Law, but “grace and truth” only came through Jesus Christ – (John 1:14-17, 2:19-21, 4:20-24).
John’s purpose is not to denigrate Moses or the Law, but to stress that God’s full and final revelation is found in Jesus, and not in Moses, the Law, the Temple, or anywhere else.