SYNOPSIS – John’s Prologue contrasts Jesus with the Mosaic legislation. Light, Life and Truth are found in Jesus, not the Torah – John 1:18.
The Prologue to the gospel of John introduces its key themes – Life, light, witness, truth, 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. It ends by concluding that he alone is able and fully-qualified to interpret the unseen Father – (John 1:1-18).
The Torah was given through Moses; however, “grace and truth came to be through Jesus Christ.” In John’s time, this statement would have been perceived as a direct challenge to claims about the Mosaic Law common in many Jewish circles. Regardless, in the New Testament Jesus becomes the “word” or logos by which God made all things and reveals His true glory – Not the Torah.
(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 beareth witness of him, and crieth, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that cometh after me is become before me: for he was before me. For of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” – (American Standard Version).
“Interpreted” in verse 18 translates the Greek verb exégeomai, formed from ek (“out of”) and hégeomai (“to lead”), hence “to lead out, explain, to interpret.” In the Greek sentence, there is no direct object supplied with the verb – It is used intransitively. There is no “him” after exégeomai. It is open-ended. Jesus is the final and ultimate interpreter of all that relates to his Father.
“Only-born Son” expands on Verse 14, “we beheld his glory, a glory as of an only-born from a father, full of grace and truth.” This figure is identified explicitly as “Jesus Christ,” the one who gives us “grace and truth” – (verse 17).
Thus, Jesus is the one who reveals the Unseen God throughout the gospel of John. Later, this gospel will reiterate and expand on this declaration – “No man has seen the Father, except he who is of God; he has seen the Father” – (John 6:46).
Likewise, Jesus himself declared – “That which I have seen with my Father.” Anyone who knows Jesus, “knows the Father also…and has seen him.” He who has seen Jesus “has seen the Father” – Put negatively, anyone who sees and hates Jesus, also hates the Father – (John 15:24).
Jesus is not just another in a long line of prophets, but the final and ultimate revelation of God. The Father can be seen and understood only in the Son, and the letter to the Hebrews makes abundantly clear in its opening paragraph – (Compare – John 8:38, 14:7-9, 15:24):
(Hebrews 1:1-4) – “Whereas, in many parts and in many ways of old, God spake unto the fathers in the prophets, At the end of these days, He hath spoken unto us in his Son,— whom he hath appointed heir of all things, through whom also he hath made the ages; Who, being an eradiated brightness of his glory and an exact representation of his very being, also bearing up all things by the utterance of his power, purification of sins having achieved, sat down on the right hand of the majesty in high places: By so much becoming superior to the messengers, by as much as, going beyond them, he hath inherited a more distinguished name.”
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 Jewish 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 Law, the Torah given at Sinai, 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 in the wilderness. Moses was the one who “saw” the glory of Yahweh on Mount Sinai and revealed His Law to Israel. Etc.
John’s Prologue contrasts Jesus with the Mosaic legislation. All things were made according to the “Word” or Logos, not the Torah. Light and life are found in the “Son,” not in the Torah. The “Word” became flesh and revealed God’s “glory” to us – (John 1:1-18).
Moses was only permitted to see the “backside,” the afterglow of God’s glory while he was hidden in the hollow of a rock. In contrast, Jesus dwells in God’s very “bosom,” and therefore is the only one who can “declare” and reveal the unseen God – (Exodus 33:20-22, John 1:18).
Jesus is the true Tabernacle and Temple in which the presence of God dwells and manifests. Moses certainly gave the Law, but “grace and truth” only came through Jesus Christ – (John 1:14-17, 2:19-21, 4:20-24).
The purpose of the gospel of John is not to denigrate Moses but to stress that God’s full and final revelation is found in Jesus, not in Moses, the Torah, the Temple, or anywhere else.