SYNOPSIS – The Fullness and Grace of God are found only in the “Word made Flesh,” Jesus – John 1:14-18.
The prologue to the gospel of John introduces key themes – Life, Light, Witness, Truth, Grace. Jesus is the Light of the world, the source of Grace and Truth, and the True Tabernacle, the only-born Son of God, and the only one who has seen the Father. The prologue ends with the conclusion that Jesus is the only one who interprets the unseen God – (John 1:14-18).
The conclusion includes a significant contrast – Jesus interprets the Father, not Moses. The purpose is to present Jesus, the “Word made flesh,” as the one who reveals or makes known God – (“He is in the bosom of the Father, he declared him”).
(John 1:14-18) – “And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us, and we gazed upon his glory,— a glory as an Only-begotten from his Father. Full of favour and truth. (John beareth witness concerning him, and hath cried aloud, saying — the same was he that said — He who after me was coming, before me hath advanced; because my Chief was he.) Because out of his fulness we all received, even favour over against favour. Because the law through Moses was given, favour and truth through Jesus Christ came into existence. No one hath seen God at any time: An Only Begotten God, The One existing within the bosom of the Father, He hath interpreted [him]” – (The Emphasized Bible).
In contrast to Moses, the one through whom the Torah was given, “Grace and truth came to be through Jesus Christ.” This was a direct challenge to claims about the Mosaic Law that were being made in Jewish circles at the time.
“Interpreted” translates exégeomai, a verb that means, “lead out, explain, interpret.” The English terms ‘exegesis’ and ‘exegete’ are derived from it. There is no direct object with the verb in the Greek sentence, no “him” after “interpreted.” The verb is intransitive in this verse; the clause ends open-ended. Jesus is the final interpreter of all that relates to God.
“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” in Verse 17, the one who gives “grace and truth.”
Jesus is the revealer of the Unseen God throughout the gospel of John. This is stressed by the declaration at the conclusion of the Prologue and reiterated elsewhere in John:
- (John 6:46) – “Not that anyone hath seen the Father, save he who is from God— this one hath seen the Father.”
- (John 8:38) – “What things I have seen with the Father, I am speaking; Ye also, then, what things ye have heard from your father are doing.”
- (John 14:7-9) – “If ye had been getting to know me, my Father also had ye known: from henceforth, are ye getting to know him and have seen him. Philip saith unto him — Lord! show us the Father and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him — So long a time as this have I been with you,— and thou hast not come to know me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. How art thou saying, Show us the Father?”
- (John 15:24) – “Had I not done among them the works which no other had done, sin had they none; but, now, have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.”
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 and through him. The Gospel of John does not present a Messiah who is identical to the Father, but one who knows and reveals Him; therefore, anyone who has “seen” Jesus has “seen” the Unseen God.
The gospel of John was composed in the latter half of the first century, most likely, after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Its pages reflect conflicts between the Church and the synagogue. The negative references to “the Jews” are not ethnic slurs but, instead, refer 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, 7:1-15, 7:35, 8:22).
Many devout Jews viewed the Law, the Torah given by Moses at Mount Sinai, as the absolute center of the faith, God’s perfect revelation by which He created the world. His presence dwelt in the inner sanctum of the Temple in Jerusalem. Moses was the one who “saw” the glory of Yahweh on Sinai and revealed His Law to Israel. Etc.
The prologue of John contrasts Jesus with the Mosaic legislation. All things were made according to the “Word,” the Logos, not the Torah. Light and Life are found in Jesus, not in the Torah. The “Word” became flesh and revealed God’s “glory” to us, not the Law.
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” the unseen God:
- (Exodus 33:17-22) – “And Yahweh said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken; for thou hast found favor in my sight, and I know thee by name. And he said, Show me, I pray thee, thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and will proclaim the name of Yahweh before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for man shall not see me and live. And Yahweh said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon the rock: and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand until I have passed by: and I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”
- (John 1:17-18) – “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.”
The “Word made flesh” is the True Tabernacle and the Final Temple in which the presence of God dwells. Moses certainly gave the Law, but “grace and truth” came only through Jesus Christ. The purpose in the Prologue is not to denigrate Moses but to stress that the full and final revelation of God is found in Jesus, not in Moses, the Torah, the Temple, or in anything or anyone else – (John 1:14-17, 2:19-21, 4:20-24).