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Even Higher Christology in the Gospel of John: Frey’s Edinburgh Essay

May 24, 2019

Another of the stimulating essays given in the recent colloquium in Edinburgh is by Jörg Frey, “Between Jewish Monotheism and Proto-Trinitarian Relations:  The Making and Character of Johannine Christology.”  I can’t do justice to this rich and thought-packed discussion, so I will simply try to indicate some of his major points here.  The essay and others from the colloquium are to be published in due course in a multi-author volume.

Frey (Professor of NT, University of Zürich) is today one of the leading NT scholars, and more specifically one of the most productive scholars on the Gospel of John.  Those concerned with the Gospel of John must really give Frey’s works their attention.  Fortunately for English-speaking readers, there are now a couple of volumes of his available in English:  The Glory of the Crucified One: Christology and Theology in the Gospel of John, trans. Wayne Coppins and Christoph Heilig (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2018); and Theology and History in the Fourth Gospel: Tradition and Narration (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2018).

In the essay under review here, Frey contends that the Gospel of John reflects significant development in christology beyond what we see in earlier texts such as Paul’s letters.  In particular, Frey points to the Johannine reference to Jesus as “Theos” (e.g., John 1:1; 20:28).  Also, Frey posits that distinctively in the Gospel of John Jesus, the Logos, “clearly belongs to the realm of the creator, uncreated.  He is divine in the sense that he is uncreated.”

Nevertheless, Frey insists that this development proceeded from earlier christological claims, not from some “foreign” influence.  In particular, Frey considers the similarities to, and differences from, Jewish Wisdom speculation, and also Philo’s Logos notions.  One crucial distinction is that in the Gospel of John the Logos becomes “incarnate,” fully and authentically (indeed, irreversibly) a human being.  This same point makes for an even stronger distinction from all forms of Stoic and Middle Platonist thought about a Logos or other intermediary figure.

Frey also discusses the Johannine emphasis on the Spirit-Paraclete, rightly observing that in John there is a quite noticeably personalized role and status given to the Spirit.  So, in Frey’s judgement, the Gospel of John presents what can be seen in retrospect as a “proto-Trinitarian” theology in which “the Father,” “the Son,” and “the Spirit” are presented in a more vividly personal union.  Another aspect of Frey’s discussion is how the Gospel of John reflects the “post-resurrection” revelatory work of the Spirit, which the author of John has self-consciously drawn upon in the narrative, especially in the distinctive ways that the Jesus of John speaks about himself.

The central question that Frey weighs, however, is whether this Johannine development in christology (in which Jesus is treated as explicitly divine as well as human) represents a departure from Jewish tradition, or is, instead, a distinctive variant form of Jewish tradition.  In this question, he expresses agreement with the conclusions of an earlier colloquium on Johannine Christology, that it should be seen as “a variant of first-century Jewish messianism,” and not as “a document that marked the parting of the ways.”[i]

I take issue with this fine essay on only a couple of matters.  Most importantly, I dissent from Frey’s too-easy acceptance that the actions that placed Jesus so central in the cultic and devotional life of earliest Jesus-circles are paralleled at all in the Enoch material, and so are not as significant as I have claimed.[ii]  When judged in historical context, the dyadic devotional pattern already presupposed in Paul’s letters is a remarkable development that has no true precedent or parallel, and surely places the risen Jesus alongside God in a distinctive manner.

But, to be sure, the Gospel of John certainly is distinctive (especially among the Gospels) in the explicit and even occasionally combative ways that Jesus’ divine status is articulated.  The application of the term “theos” to Jesus is one obvious example.  Moreover, Frey rightly observes that the Gospel of John was particularly important in later debates about the relationship of “the Son” and “the Father,” and, although John doesn’t reflect the philosophical questions and categories of the third and fourth centuries, John does reflect the issues and tensions that later christological discussion sought to address.

[i] The papers from that colloquium are now published:  Benjamin Reynolds and Gabriele Boccaccini, ed., Reading the Gospel of John’s Christology as Jewish Messianism:  Royal, Prophetic and Divine Messiahs (Leiden: Brill, 2018), citing here the Preface, ix-x.

[ii] See, e.g., my reservations stated in the conclusion to my essay, Larry W. Hurtado, “Paul’s Messianic Christology,” in Paul the Jew:  Rereading the Apostle As a Figure of Second Temple Judaism, ed. Gabrielle Boccaccini and Carlos A. Segovia (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016), 107-3.  The pre-publication version is available on this blog site here.

 

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28 Comments
  1. It’s not 4th century exegesis that puts the Son in the category of: “the first one to have been born of all of creation” (Col. 1:15) Professor Hurtado, it was an Apostle, and contemporaneous Bible writer with John.

    In Scripture, the Father (in GJohn and all other NT writers) is: “the God of” the Son, not just “the Father of” the Son.

    The Father is also: “the God of the Lord of us” .

    Note: “Lord”!

    Ephesians 1:17, Ephesians 1:3, Romans 15:6, 2nd Corinthians 1:3, 2nd Corinthians 11:31, Colossians 1:3, 1st Peter 1:3, Revelation 1:6(B).

    The Son refer’s to: “our Father in heaven” Matt. 6:9, and: “to my Father, and your Father, to my God, and your God” GJohn 20:17 and: “our God” Mark 123:17.

    Thus we have:

    1. a two way acknowledgment in Scripture of a unilateral theological relationship.

    2. The Son decidedly putting – himself – on the side of the creation side of things, making sense of Col. 1:15: “the first one to have been born of all of creation”.

    • “Matt13weedhacker”: (Again, we use real names here. Last warning).
      You seem to be under the mis-impression that I need to be told that Jesus and God are to be differentiated, and that Jesus is defined with reference to God. If you would read almost anything that I’ve written on the matter, you would see that you’re mistaken. Of course, they are differentiated, and Jesus is sent from God, not vice versa. That isn’t the issue. (See, e.g., my little book, God in New Testament Theology.)
      The issue is that you seem to think that this NT “subordination” of Jesus to God = a complete positioning of Jesus/the Logos/Son as a creature along with the rest of creation. But if it were only that simple! Instead, texts such as GJohn 1:1-3 position the Logos as and in relation to God (προς τον θεον). And later this unique figure is the sole one, over against anyone/anything else, capable to declaring the Father (1:18). And the Logos shares God’s glory from before creation (17:1-3).
      And Paul refers to the pre-incarnate Jesus as “in the form of god” (εν μορφη θεου) Philip 2:6.
      So, we have the sense that the NT texts both differentiate Jesus and God, and yet also link them in a remarkable and unique manner. Jesus’ isn’t said to be a creature, but neither is he simply identified as the God. That’s the problem that early Christians tried to make sense of in their christological struggles of the first few centuries.
      Oh, and πρωτοτοκος πασης κτισεως in Col 1:15 doesn’t mean “first one to have been born” but is a term denoting supremacy, rank, “chief over all creation”, “first in rank of all creation”. Note “all creation”. Ergo, he isn’t included in “all creation.”

      • Thank you Professor Hutardo for clarifying those points.

        So, if you do not think the Son/Logos was/is a creature, then what do you say he is? Do you say he is un-created?

        But in regards to the pre-human Logos that became flesh (GJohn 1:1-14) that had glory with the Father (YHWH) prior to the founding of the world, and who existed “in g/God’s form” (possibly: “a god’s form” “in the form of a god” etc), even though he had these unique privileges, his relation to the Father and other created things are still qualified (further defined) in the Scriptures.

        Example, Heb. 1:4 says he γενόμενος “became” greater than the angels by (or “to the extent” = a limitation) by the name and related authority he inherited. Therefore his great authority over heaven and earth was not an eternal relation.

        Also, in the context of Col. 1:15, γένηται in verse 18: “in order that he might/may become first in all things”. Therefore his great authority (“pre-eminence” “first-place”) over all things in heaven and earth was not an eternal relation.

        Both examples (in context) show this great authority he inherited (“given” by the Father) was not an eternal relation. Both verses show a temporal change/transition (Heb. 1:4 γενόμενος Col. 1:18 γένηται) coupled with a limitation on his inherited authority.

        Early Christian interpreters before Arius, saw LXX Prov. 8:22-31 as applying to his creation.

        Kind regards.

        Edward.

      • The texts that you cite all concern the exaltation of the man Jesus by God after his death. They don’t pertain to the question before us, which is how GJohn represents the Logos vis-a-vis creation and God. You’re failing to catch the complexity involved. But essentially, GJohn represents the Logos/Son as already “there” with God from the beginning, and as the one through whom every single thing that came into being was made (John 1:1-3, and as enjoying glory with God from before creation (John 17:5). But GJohn also refers to a subsequent glorification of the Son/Jesus represented in his resurrection and exaltation. This catapulted Jesus into a new status as the Kyrios now to be recognized and acknowledged. This latter status was not from the beginning, but newly given, and given to him as a human, which is crucial for the notion of salvation of believers. Again, read my book, “God in New Testament Theology”.

      • Then ὁ λόγος at GJohn 1:1C was certainly not an immutable θεὸς.

        The titles GJohn 1:18 μονογενὴς θεὸς / ὁ μονογενὴς θεὸς (or even ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός) also contravene immutability, depending on which etymology is chosen/preferred (μόνος + γένος or γίνομαι).

        For GJohn 1:14 states that ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο “the Logos, flesh became” (= the same as Ep2-John 7 “came in the flesh”).

        There’s a definite, deliberate, and pronounced contrast between – what – the Logos ἦν “was” 1:1C and – what – the Logos ἐγένετο “became” 1:14A in the Prologue of GJohn (including the qualitative/grammatical contrast, τὸν Θεόν with, and θεὸς without the article at GJohn 1:1B-C).

        Gk., σὰρξ ἐγένετο is also a definite contrast to πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός later in GJohn 4:24 (note the: “what” in: “we worship what we know” GJohn 4:22, which he refers back to when he describes God’s form of existence, i.e. qualitative “what” He is, as πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός “God is a spirit”).

        Interesting what John the baptist is recorded as saying GJohn 1:15 with: ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν.

        With a bit of context: “As John bears witness and cries out about him, declaring: “This one, was he of whom I was saying: ‘The one coming behind me, has advanced in front of me [ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν Lit., “ahead of me he came into existence”], because [Or: “that is why”] he existed prior to me [ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν Lit., “because first of me he was existing” Perhaps paraphrase: “because when compared to me, he was in existence first”].”

        Your thoughts?

        Kind regards.

        Edward.

      • Now you’ve changed the question! We weren’t discussing whether the Logos underwent change, but whether the Logos was a creature. Of course, GJohn insists that the Logos became a human being, and as such this human being has a history and a place in relation to other historical figures such as John the Baptizer. Jesus appeared on the scene subsequent to the inception of John’s ministry, but then exceeded him in impact. That’s all that John 1:15 says. You’re fighting 4th century issues over a first-century text.

  2. Donald Jacobs permalink

    Professor Hurtado, you wrote:

    “The crucial element of Wisdom being God’s first creation is precisely not mentioned in GJohn.”

    I wonder, do you agree there is an allusion in John 1:18 to Prov 8:22-25 in the LXX. When John said Jesus is the “only begotten Son”, wasn’t Prov 8:25 in the background?

    Prov 8: 22 The Lord made me the beginning of his ways for his works. 23 He established me before time in the beginning, before he made the earth: 24 even before he made the depths; before the fountains of water came forth: 25 before the mountains were settled, and before all hills, he begets me.

    John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

    In particular use of “beget/begotten” and “made”, and “established me before time in the beginning, before he made the earth”, again comparing John 17:3. I know many favour the reading “God” rather than “Son” in John 1:18, but either way it’s the “only begotten” part which alludes to Prov 8:25.

    • Donald: No, I don’t see any obvious allusion to Prov 8:25LXX in John 1:18. You still are mistaking the words. Proverbs 8:25 refers to Wisdom as “begotten” (Greek: γεννᾳ, from the verb γεννάω), whereas the term in John 1:18 is μονογενης, which is from the noun γενος = “kind, race, family, etc.”. The term in John 1:18 makes the one in question one-of-a-kind, unique. No “begetting” is involved.

  3. Excuse me Professor Hurtado, but does not the very same GJohn writer, also write Rev. 3:14 ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ “the beginning of the creation of thee God”? You would agree that this was written by the very same writer as/of GJohn, would you not? And that Jesus is not identified here with or as “thee God” but rather as: ‘the beginning [not “begin[er]”] of” something?

    To be reasonable Professor, when we take into account the wider (and theologically relevant) context of the entirety of all of the GJohn writer’s works (not artificially limiting them just to his Gospel – remember he wrote three Epistles and a Revelation also) the connection between John 1:1A ἐν ἀρχῇ and Rev. 3:14E ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ with the Jewish (note Jewish) Old-Greek translation (circa. 300 years B.C.) of Prov. 8:22-31 ΚΎΡΙΟΣ ἔκτισέν με ἀρχὴν ὁδῶν αὐτοῦ εἰς ἔργα αὐτοῦ πρὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐθεμελίωσέν με ἐν ἀρχῇ cannot be easily dismissed as either unjustified, or off “the point”.

    Rev. 3:14E ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ was the Apostle John’s point! Rev. 3:14 ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς is one of the Apostles unique (qualifying) theological expressions.

    Rev. 3:14 ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ as meaning “first created” has been judged, not just a “possible,” but “linguistically probable” by BDAG:

    • Matt13weedwhacker: First, we sign our comments on this blog site. you get this first one, but here after sign comments.
      Second, you’re asked to keep comments to the point and brief. Hence, I’ve edited down yours to the basic claims. Third, your incorrectly assume that the author of GJohn is also the author of Revelation. This is most unlikely, and isn’t supported by most scholars. Fourth, you misquote the BAGD entry on Rev 3:14. The BAGD takes the phrase αρχη της κτισεως του θεου as an instance of αρχη used as “first cause,” and allows only as “linguistically possible” (NB: not, as you cite it “probable”) a meaning of “first created”. The meaning of Rev3:14 isn’t far from the sense of the phrasing in Col 1:15, where Jesus is called πρωτοτοκος πασης κτισεως (“firstborn of all creation”), which doesn’t signify him as a created being but as superior to all creation.

      • Donald Jacobs permalink

        Professor Hurtado, are you sure you are consulting the latest edition of BDAG, because I think the other poster is correct that the latest edition altered its entry to reflect “first created” as the “probable” meaning in Rev 3:14.

      • I cited the 2nd edition of BDAG, 1979. In any case, note also the translation in the NRSV: “the origin of God’s creation,” which aligns with the wider sense of the first definition given in the Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, “inception, beginning, origin”. I.e., ~”origin” here in the sense of the originating force/factor/person, i.e., the agent of creation. This, of course, obviously aligns better with other statements in Rev, such as 22:13, which posits Christ as “first and last”, i.e., the sum of all things.

    • Donald Jacobs permalink

      The latest edition of BGAD (2001) does say that first created is the “probable” meaning here (Rev 3:14) for what it’s worth. If I remember correctly it cites a similar phrase from Job 40:14 in the LXX that describes the behemoth as the first or foremost of God’s creation. There is plenty in the context of Revelation to confirm that Jesus stands on the side of creation: such as God giving Jesus a revelation (1:1), Jesus referring to another as his God (3:12), and Jesus being given the right to sit on God’s throne (3:21) and sharing that right with others. In the wider context of the NT it agrees with other indications that, whereas the Father is self existent, Jesus was given life by the Father. (John 5:26; 6:57, Col 1:15)

      Do you think any of these passages (John 1:1,18, 8: 23, 28-29, 17:3, Col 1:15, Rev 3:14) allude to Prov 8:22ff? Isn’t the application of Prov 8 to the prehuman Son ubiquitous among early Christian authors, on the basis of such NT allusions?

      • Donald: You mistake the references to the subordinate place of Jesus in relation to God as evidence of him being presented in Rev as a creature. In the NT characteristically, the Son/Logos derives his glory, name, throne, etc. from God. But this sees intended to reinforce Jesus’ status and authority. There is no hint that it functions to make him a creature. You misconstrue these references to the subordination of the Son to the Father as indicating that he is a creature. The human Jesus is raised by God, exalted by God, and the pattern for believers’ salvation. But this pertains to his earthly/historical existence, whereas the same authors (e.g., Paul) assert a prior existence “in the form of God” (Philip 2:6).
        Proverbs 8 doesn’t drive the NT texts. If the authors wanted to assert Jesus as created, that was easy enough to do. And they didn’t. Instead, they assert his primacy over “all creation” and his role in creating “all things”.

      • Donald Jacobs permalink

        Thank you Professor Hurtado, you say that if the NT authors wanted to say Jesus was created this was easy enough for them to do. According to the latest edition of BDAG, this is the probable meaning of Rev 3:14. If the author of Revelation wanted to say Jesus is the first and foremost of God’s creation then this is exactly how he could and did say it. Other passages include Col 1:15 and John 5:26; 6:57. In particular the idea that the Son lives because of the Father, seems to me to place Jesus on the side of creation.

        Paul did say that Jesus existed in God’s “form”, yet the same Paul also wrote Gal 4:14 that Bart Ehrman and others read as describing Jesus as an angel. The point of Phil 2:5ff according to some is to contrast Jesus with either Adam or with Satan. In particular Satan was also in heaven, among the sons of God (in God’s “form”) but unlike Jesus chose rebellion.

      • Donald, It really becomes tiresome when you simply repeat the same assertions without taking account of their refutation! e.g., “prototokos” doesn’t mean “first created”, but connotes primacy as to rank. Just check the usages. Rev 3:14 doesn’t say Jesus was created, but that he’s the origin of creation. Otherwise, instead of arche the author would have used “protos”. The Son living from the Father I have already addressed, several times! It doesn’t support your claim. Instead, it claims Jesus’ divine origin and authority. Philip 2:6-11 has nothing to do with Adam or Satan, as has been shown numerous times. Adam is never said to be “en morphe theou”, but always “eikon theou”. “Sons of God” doesn’t = “en morphe theou”. Gal 4:14 is simply misread by Ehrman, and even Gieschen whom he invokes denies his reading of the verse. Come on! Why do you want to choose such outlying examples of eisegesis! We’ve batted this around now enough.

  4. Donald Jacobs permalink

    Thank you for this response professor Hurtado. I find it useful to understand the issues here.

    When the text says that nothing came into being apart from the Son, it seems to me the reader can make the reasonable inference that the Son himself is excepted, because it is taken for granted in the gospel that the Son derives his life from the Father and that he is the only begotten Son of the Father.

    I understand there is debate over whether “only begotten” includes the idea of origin or simply means unique. I wonder what you make of the fact that early exegetes thought there was an important distinction between the Son who was begotten and God who is unbegotten. For example Tertullian, in Against Hermogenes chapter 18 distinguishes between the begotten Son and the unbegotten God.

    Also since “wisdom” seems to be in the background of John 1, isn’t this additional evidence that the Son is here conceived as part of the created order, in line with Proverbs 8 and elsewhere. The Son is the agent of creation, not the creator himself, but part of creation, as Prov 8:22 says in the LXX.

    • But, Donald, you keep reading into the text what it doesn’t say! The text (John 1:3) says “nothing” (or in the other variant, “not one single thing”), whereas you keep reading the text as “nothing except the Logos”. The Johannine emphasis on the Son deriving life from the Father functions in GJohn to assert Jesus’ authority and to avoid di-theism, not to assert the Son’s creation.
      The emphasis in the Fathers on the Son as begotten functions precisely to distinguish the Son from created things, as well as to distinguish the Son & the Father. Of course, they make this distinction. But it never functions to make the Son himself a creature. Prov 8:22 was a bit of a difficulty for some, but golden for Arians. But the clear and consistent emphasis in GJohn, Hebrews 1, Paul, is that the Son/Christ is the agent of the creation of “all things”. He is therefore excluded from creation, and stands with God as the agent of creation.

      • Donald Jacobs permalink

        Thank you professor Hurtado, I am interested that you say the Son being the agent of creation distinguishes him from creation. Doesn’t it in fact distinguish the Son from the creator? If God created all things through the Son, doesn’t that make the Son the instrument of the creator and therefore not identified with the creator himself?

        I can see what you mean about “begotten” distinguishing the Son both from God and from creation in the early Fathers. It seems to perform both functions. But didn’t Tertullian somewhere say that the gulf between the Father and the Son is in fact greater than the gulf between the Son and creation? Ante-Nicene Christology is complicated and contradictory but it does seem decidedly more subordinationist than later creeds allow.

        The point about Prov 8 is that it seems to explain how the Son can be a creature and the agent of creation at the same time: Wisdom was God’s first creation, and God used Wisdom as his technician to fashion the rest of creation; every last thing in existence, as it were. When John and Paul invoked Wisdom imagery, didn’t they and their audience have this background in mind? So when John says “nothing” was made apart from the Word, isn’t it clear what he meant? So if Arians drew on this allusion to Prov 8 to support their position, didn’t they have a point?

        In responses to Arians on Prov 8, the allusion to the Son in the passage doesn’t appear to have been in dispute in early Christianity. Therefore the force of Prov 8:22 in the LXX, “The Lord made me the beginning of his ways”, seems highly relevant to understanding what John 1 means. If the early Christians accepted Prov 8 spoke about the Son, isn’t it difficult to avoid the conclusion they viewed the Son as God’s first creation, and that God thereafter created everything through the Son?

      • Donald: Let’s stay with one topic at a time. The posting is about the GJohn, not partistics or christological struggles of the 4th century. On the GJohn, it’s clear that the text makes the Son/Logos the agent of creation of “all things/everything”. That puts the Son/Logos on the side of the line with God. At the same time, from 1:1 onward the text also distinguishes the Son/Logos from God “the Father”. This tension is the central factor that drove later christological debates. So, of course, the Son/Logos isn’t the Father. But there is no hint in GJohn that the Son/Logos is a creature. He’s just “there” with God. You can’t use Prov 8:22 to interpret GJohn. The crucial element of Wisdom being God’s first creation is precisely not mentioned in GJohn.

      • Well, Wisdom or Sophia may or may not be directly mentioned. But the “logos” or defining logic or “word” from God, that determines everything, might be very closely related to Wisdom.

        We might begin to see a relation in common and uncommon phrases like “words of wisdom”; his “word is law.” Relating to ancient times when the words or commands or pronouncements of a king or a god, were often to be taken by his people as authoritatively defining and controlling and infusing the world or universe around us. Rather like Plato’s “forms.”

        This might suggest that any references to the “Word” or “Logos” are at least indirectly tied to Wisdom.

      • Brettongarcia, I’m afraid that your comment is so wooly that I can’t be sure what you’re trying to assert. The question isn’t whether Wisdom and Logos can be linked (they can). It’s whether we can use Proverbes 8 to exegete the Gospel of John (we can’t).

  5. Jeffrey B Gibson permalink

    Is it really the case that the historical Jesus is declared to be theos in the prologue to GJohn (which speaks of the Logos, not Jesus, being with God), especially given John’s testimony that the Logos is something that gets incarnated at a particular point in time in Jesus?

    • Hello, Jeffrey! Well, yes, of course, you don’t have the figure named “Jesus” until he’s born and given that name. But the figure bearing that name prays in John 17:5 in which he recalls before God “the glory that I had with you from before the foundation of the world,” and elsewhere declares that he has come down from heaven (e.g., 6:38). That is, the “I” of these passages is Jesus, who refers to his own pre-incarnate self.

  6. Donald permalink

    This is very interesting. Will we be able to read this essay in full? I wonder whether Frey engages with James McGrath who perceives a strong subordinationist emphasis in Johannine Christology. The claim that Jesus is presented as creator rather than created is particularly startling. I wonder whether Frey interacts with verses such as John 5:26 that present a distinction between God who has life in himself, and the Son who is granted to have life in himself by the Father; and John 6:57 that says the Son lives because of the Father. These statements certainly appear to put Jesus on the creation side of the creation/creator divide.

    • Frey’s essay will be published in full in due course. In the meantime, see, e.g., Frey’s discussion of 5:26 and other texts in the recent book that I mentioned in my posting: Theology and History in the Fourth Gospel, e.g., pp. 25ff. Frey acknowledges that the relationship between the Son and the Father is one-way, and that the divinity of the Son in no way conflicts or competes with the “one true God” emphasis. But the relationship of Son and Father precedes creation (e.g., 17:1ff), and so the Son is not aligned with creation.

      • Donald Jacobs permalink

        John 17 says that the Son was with the Father before the creation of the world, not before creation in toto. Since John 5:26 and 6:57 state that the Son lives because of the Father, it seems clear where the Son resides in the created order. Early interpreters of John also noted the important distinction between Jesus as an only begotten God/Son (1:18) and the Father who is unbegotten, the temporal force of which later exegetes would attempt to reverse using a concept of timeless or eternal generation.

      • Donald, If we’re discussing the text of GJohn, then your distinction between creation of the Kosmos and “in toto” is spurious. Check John 1:3, where “all things” (Greek: panta) were created through the Logos, and the text goes on to make that quite specific: “apart from him [Logos] nothing came into being”. So, the Logos isn’t the first of creation, but the agent of all creation (Greek “panta” pretty much = your “in toto” I’d say). And “monogenes” doesn’t simply = “begotten”, but instead “unique/one of its kind”. So, “monogenes hyios” = “unique son”, setting him apart from all other purported “sons of God”. The whole effect is to make the Logos distinct from “panta”. How to work out what that means in terms of Greek ontological thought occupied Christians for a few centuries. But the problem addressed is already there in GJohn.
        For that matter, it’s already there is Paul. 1 Cor 8:4-6 makes Christ the agent of creation of “all things” (again, Greek “panta”).

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