SYNOPSIS: According to the prologue to the gospel of John, Jesus interprets the Father, not Moses or the Torah; he is the one who reveals and makes God known – John 1:18.
The Prologue to John’s gospel introduces key themes: life, light, witness, truth, grace. Jesus is the light of the world, source of grace and truth, and the true Tabernacle, the only-born Son of God and the only one who has seen the Father. It ends by concluding that Jesus, therefore, is the only one who interprets the unseen God (John 1:18).
The Prologue’s conclusion includes a significant contrast: Jesus interprets the Father, not Moses or the Torah. The purpose is present Jesus as the one who reveals or makes God known (“he is in the bosom of the Father, he declared him”).
(John 1:18) – “No man has seen God at any time; the only-born Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he interpreted.”
In contrast to Moses, the one through whom 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,” explicitly identified as “Jesus Christ” in verse 17 who gives “grace and truth.”
Jesus is the revealer of the Unseen God throughout John’s Gospel. He reiterates that “no man has seen the Father, except he who is of God; he has seen the Father.” He speaks “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”; anyone who saw and hated Jesus, also saw and hated the Father (John 6:46, 8:38, 14:7-9, 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 and through him.
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. Its negative references to “the Jews” are not ethnic slurs but 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, 7:1-15v 7:35, 8:22, 8:48, 8:52-57).
Many devout Jews viewed the Law, the Torah given at Sinai as the centerpiece of the faith, God’s perfect revelation. Supposedly, Yahweh created the Cosmos according to the Torah. His presence was in the inner sanctum of the Temple. Moses was the one who “saw” God’s glory on 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 Jesus, not the Torah. The “Word” became flesh and revealed God’s “glory” to us.
Moses was only permitted to see the “backside,” the afterglow of God’s glory while 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 33:20-22, John 1:18).
Jesus is the true Tabernacle and Temple in which the presence of God is found. Moses certainly gave the Law, but “grace and truth” only came through Jesus Christ. The purpose 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 in anywhere or anyone else (John 1:14-17, 2:19-21, 4:20-24).