Incarnation of the Logos: John 1:14

Incarnation of the Logos: John 1:14

The following is an excerpt from 'The Pulpit Commentaries' by Joseph S. Exell:  

And the Logos became flesh. The καὶ has been variously expanded, some giving it the force of "then" or "therefore," as though John was now resuming the entire argument from the beginning; others the sense of "for," as though the apostle needed to introduce a reason or justification for what had been said in verses 12, 13. It is enough to regard the καὶ as a simple copula, after the same manner in which it is used in verses 1, 4, 5, 10, introducing by it a new and suggestive truth or fact which must be added to what has gone before, qualifying, illumining, illustrating, consummating all previous representations of the activity and functions of the Eternal Logos. Meyer, rejecting all the explicative modifications of the copula, nearly approaches the emphasis which Godet would lay upon it, by saying, "John cannot refrain from expressing the how of that appearing which had such blessed results (verses 12, 13), and which he had himself experienced." The circumstance that in this verse the author goes back to the verbal use of the great term ὁ λόγος suggests rather the fact that the fourteenth verse follows directly upon the stupendous definitions of verse 1, and indicates a powerful antithesis to the several clauses of that opening sentence. The Logos which was in the beginning has now become; the Logos which was God became flesh; the Logos that was with God has set up his tabernacle among us. If so, the καὶ does suggest a parenthetical treatment of verses 2-13, every clause of which has been necessary to prepare the reader for the vast announcement which is here made. Various things, relations, and powers have been asserted with reference to the Logos. All things became through him; not a single exception is allowed. Not one thing can be, or can have come into existence, independently of him; yet he is not said in any sense to have "become all things." More than that, the twofold form of the expression stringently repudiates the pantheistic hypothesis. All life is said to be "in him," to have its being in his activity; yet he is not said to have become life, as if the life-principle were henceforth the mode of his existence, or a state or condition into which he passed, and so the emanation theories of early Gnostics and of modern pantheistic evolutionists are virtually set aside. "The veritable Light which lighteth every man" is the illumination which the Life pours on the understanding and conscience of men, to which all prophecy bears witness; but he is not said to have become that light. Thus the incarnation of the Logos in every man is most certainly foreign to the thought of the apostle. He is said to have been "in the world" which he made, yet in such manifestation and concealment that the world as such did not apprehend the wondrous presence; and he is said also to have been continually coming to his own people "in sundry times" and "divers manners," in prophetic visions and angelic and even the anthropic form or fashion. Elsewhere in this Gospel we hear that Abraham "saw his day," and Isaiah "beheld his glory;" but it is not said that he became, i.e. entered into permanent and unalterable relations with these theophanic glories. Consequently, the deep self-conscious realization of the glory of his Name, enjoyed by greatest saints and sages of the past, was but a faint adumbration of what John declared he and others had bad distinct historical opportunity of seeing, hearing, handling, of that Word of life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us (1 John 1:11 John 1:2). The statement of this verse, however, is entirely, absolutely unique. The thought is utterly new. Strauss tells us that the apostolic conception of Jesus can have no historic validity, because it represents a state of things which occurs nowhere else in history. This is exactly what Christians contend for. He is in the deepest sense absolutely unique in the history of mankind. Moses, Isaiah, John the Baptist, John the Apostle, Socrates, Buddha, Zoroaster, may have borne witness to the Light; but of not one of them can it be said, and at least it was not said or even imagined by St. John, the Logos became flesh in their humanity. Yet this is what he did think and say was the only explanation of the glory of Jesus; this unspeakable relation to the Eternal Logos was sustained by his well known Friend and Master. And the Word was made flesh. Flesh ( σάρξ, answering in the LXX. toרשָׂבָּ ) is the term used to denote the whole of humanity, with prominent reference to that part of it which is the region of sensibility and visibility. The word is more comprehensive than ( σῶμα) "body," which is often used as the antithesis of vows, ψυχήand πνεῦμα; for it is unquestionable that the conventional use of σάρξ, and σάρξ καὶ αἷμα, includes oftentimes both soul and spirit-includes the whole of human constitution, yet that constitution considered apart from God and grace, answering in this way toκόσμος. The flesh is not necessarily connotative of sin, though the conditions, the possibilities, the temptableness of created finite nature are involved in it.£ It is nearly equivalent to saying ἄνθρωπος, generic manhood, but it is more explicit than such a dictum would have been. It is not said that the Word became a man, although "became man" is the solemn and suggestive form in which the great truth is further expressed in the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed.£ "The Logos became flesh." Thus it answers to numerous expressions in the Pauline Epistles, which must have been based in the middle of the first century on the direct and well preserved teachings of our Lord himself (Romans 1:3, γενόμενος κατὰσάρκα; Romans 8:3, ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας; 1 Timothy 3:16, ὅς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί; cf. Philippians 2:7Hebrews 2:14; and above all 1 John 4:2, where Jesus Christ, the centre of whose personality is the Logos, and is there used in the most transcendent sense, is there spoken of ( ἐν σαρκί ἐληλυθότα) as having come in the flesh). Very early in the Christological discussions, even so far back as Praxeas whom Tertullian sought to refute, and by Apollinaris the younger, in the fourth century, it was said that this passage asserted that. though the Logos took or became flesh, he did not become or take upon himself the human νοῦς or πνεῦμα, the reasonable soul or spirit of man, but that the Logos took the place in Jesus of the mind or spirit. Apollinaris explained, in vindication of his view, that thus Christ was neither God nor man, but a blending of the two natures into a new and third nature, neither one nor the other. This view was stoutly resisted by Athanasius and Basil. It reappeared in the fifth century, in the form of Eutychianism, to do duty against the twofold Christ of Nestorianism. The opponents of Praxeas, Apollinaris, and Eutyches were all fain to show that the Gospel of John calls marked attention to the human soul of Jesus (John 12:27) and of his human spirit (John 11:33John 13:21John 19:30), to say nothing of Hebrews 5:8, where "he learned obedience," etc. The flesh of Christ is constitutive and inclusive of his entire humanity. Flesh itself is not human flesh without the human ψυχήnor can there be a human soul without human spirit. The two terms are used interchangeably, and their functions are not to be regarded as different factors of humanity so much as different departments of human activity. There is a complete humanity, therefore, included in this term, not a humanity destitute of one of its most charac teristic features. But the question arises-What is meant by ἐγένετο"became, was made"? A considerable number of modern Lutheran divines have laid such emphasis on the κένωσις, the "emptying" of his glory on the part of him who was "in the form of God," that nothing short of an absolute depotentiation of the Logos is supposed to have occurred when "he was made flesh" or "man." Gess and Godet have pressed the theory that the ἐγένετο represents a complete transubstantiation and metamorphosis. Thus Logos had been God from eternity, but now, in the greatness of his humiliation, he was no longer Logos at all, nor God, but flesh; so that during the time of the Incarnation the Logos was absolutely concealed, potential only, and that even a consciousness of his eternity and the Divine powers were all in absolute abeyance. This hypothesis, on both its Divine and human side, appears to us hopelessly unthinkable. If the Logos was no longer Logos, and the Godhead thus ineffably truncated, the very argument of the apostle that in him was life and light, etc., must break down. The sources of life and light must have been themselves in eclipse, and God himself was no longer God. Moreover, the hypothetical obliteration of the Logos would deprive the whole argument of the apostle for the Divineness and Godhead of the Lord of its basis in fact. There are many different forms in which this meaning of theἐγένετο is urged, but they all break to pieces upon the revelation of the self-consciousness of Jesus Christ, the Divine memories and awful centre of his personality, in which the nature of the Godhead and the perfect nature of manhood are blended in one personality. Moreover, the ἐγένετο does not imply annihilation of the λόγος, or transubstantiation of λόγος into σάρξ. When the water was made (γεγεννημένον) wine, the water was not obliterated, but it took up by the creative power of Christ other substances into itself, constituting it wine. So when the λόγος became "flesh," he took up humanity with all its powers and conditions into himself, constituting himself "the Christ." The question arises-Wherein was the humiliation and the kenosis, if the Logos throughout the incarnate life of Christ, as a Person, possessed and exercised all his Divine energies? The answer is, that, in taking human nature in its humbled, suffering, tempted form into eternal, absolute union with himself, and by learning through that human nature all that human nature is and fears and needs, there is an infinite fulness of self-humiliating love and sacrifice. Hypostatic union of humanity with the Logos, involving the Logos in the conditions of a complete man, is an infinite humiliation, and seeing that this involved the bitterest conflict and sorrow, brought with it shame, agony, and death, such a stupendous fact is (we believe) assumed to have taken place once in historic time. It is far more than the manifestation in the flesh of Jesus of the Divine light and life. Such an hypothesis would merely consider Jesus as one supereminent display of "the veritable Light which lighteth every man," whereas what is declared by St. John is that the Word himself, after a new exercise of this infinite potency, became flesh. We are not told how this occurred. The fact of the supernatural birth, as stated by the synoptic writers, is their way of announcing a sublime secret, of which John, who was in the confidence of the mother of Jesus, gave a profounder exposition. In such a fact and event we see what St. Paul meant when he said that in the depths of eternity the infinity of love did not consider the undimmed, unclouded, and unchangeable creative majesty of equality with God to be a prize which must never be relinquished, but emptied himself, was made in the likeness of the flesh of sin, and was found in fashion as a man. There was now and forevermore a part of his being in such organic union with "flesh" that he could be born, could team, could be tempted, suffer from all human frailties and privations, die the death of the cross. The phrase, moreover, implies that the Incarnation was in its nature distinct from the Docetic, angelic, transitory manifestations of the older revelation. In the "Word" becoming "flesh" both Word and flesh remain side by side, and neither is the first nor the second absorbed by the other, and so Monophysitism is repudiated, while the statement of what the Word thus incarnate did, viz. "dwelt among us," etc., cuts away the support of the Nestorian division of the Divine and human natures; inasmuch as what is said of the one nature can be said of the other. To this we turn: "And the Word was made flesh, and set up his tabernacle in our midst." The use of this picturesque word ἐσκήνωσενpoints to the tabernacle in the wilderness, in which God dwelt (2 Samuel 7:6Psalms 78:67, etc.), and to which reference is made in Le 26:11 and Ezekiel 37:28. The localization of Deity, the building a house for the Lord whom the heaven of heavens could not contain, was a wondrous adumbration of the ultimate proof to be given, that, though God was infinitely great, he was yet capable of turning his glorious face upon those who seek him; though unspeakably holy, awful, majestic, omnipotent, he was yet accessible and merciful and able to save and sanctify his people. The glory of the Lord was the central significance of the tabernacle and temple worship. It was always assumed to be present, even if invisible. The Targums in a great variety of passages substitute for the "glory of the Lord," which is a continuous element in the history of the old covenant, the word "Shechinah," "dwelling," and use the term in obvious reference to the biblical use of the verb נכַשָ, he dwelt, when describing the Lord's familiar and accessible sojourn with his people. It is too much to say that John here adopts the Aramaic phrase, or with certainty refers to it. Butἐσκήνωσε recalls the method by which Jehovah impressed his prophets with his nearness, and came veritably to his own possession. "Now," says John, "the Word made flesh took up his tabernacle in our midst." It is not to be forgotten that John subsequently shows that Jesus identified his body with "the temple" of God (John 2:19, etc.). The "us" represents the ground of a personal experience which makes the hypothesis of an Alexandrine origin for the entire representation perfectly impossible. The reference to the old covenant is made more conspicuous: And we contemplated his glory. The δόξα corresponds with the visible manifestations of the presence of Jehovah under the Old Testament (Exodus 24:17;Exodus 40:34Acts 7:2Isaiah 6:3Ezekiel 1:28). Dazzling light at the burning bush, in the pillar of fire, on Mount Sinai, at the dedication of tabernacle and temple, etc., revealed the awful fact of the Divine nearness. The eye of believing men saw the real glory of the Logos made flesh when he set up the tabernacle of his humanity among us. It does not follow that all eyes must have seen what the eye of faith could see. The darkness has resisted all the light, the world has not known the Logos; the susceptibilities of believing men enabled them to perceive the glory of the Lord in regions and by a mode of presentation to which unregenerate men have not attained. The apostles saw it in the absolute moral perfection of his holiness and of his charity; of his grace and truth. We can scarcely exclude here a reference to the wondrous vision upon which John himself gazed on the Mountain of Transfiguration, when the venerable symbol of Light reappeared from within the person of the Lord, so linking his personal manifestation of "the Word" with the theophanies of the Old Testament; nor can we forget the sublime vision which John undoubtedly records in the beginning of his Apocalypse. Nevertheless, the glory which the apostles beheld must be distinct from the "glory" which he had with the Father before the world was, and to which (John 17:24) he prayed that he might return, and the full radiance of which he would ultimately turn upon the eyes of the men whom he had gathered "out of the world." Before that consummation" we," says he, "contemplated his glory as of an only begotten." The ὡς implies comparison with the transcendent conception which had entered into his inspired imagining. The word μονογενής is used by John to refer to the supreme and unique relation of the Son to the Father (John 3:16John 3:18, and 1 John 4:9). It is used of human sons in Luke (Luke 7:12Luke 8:42Luke 9:38), and unigenitus is the translation in the vulgate of the Hebrew דיחִיָּהַ, where the LXX . gives ἀγαπητός, well beloved (see כָדְיחוְ Genesis 22:2Genesis 22:12Genesis 22:16). It corresponds with the πρωτότοκος of Colossians 1:15 andHebrews 1:6, showing that an analogous thought filled the apostolic mind. By laying stress here on the "glory," and giving historic value and emphasis to the supernatural conception of Jesus, many see m this a reference to the Incarnation wherein he became an only begotten Son of the Father. This would be far more probable if the article had been placed before μονογενοῦς. Here the apostle seems to labour to express the glory of One who could thus stand in the eternal relation of the Logos to θεός, making it correspond with the relation also subsisting between μονογενής and the "Father." Great speciality and peculiarity is here bestowed upon the "only begotten," as it stands in close relationship with those to whom he gives power or capability to become "children of God." They are born into the family of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The glory which John says "we beheld" in his earthly flesh was the effulgence of the uncreated beam which broke through the veil of his flesh, and really convinced us that he was "the Word made flesh." The Tubingen critics see a contradiction here with the prayer of Christ (John 17:5John 17:24) for "the glory which he had with the Father." If he shone on earth with such glory as John here describes, why should he desire more? Godet resolves it by insisting on the moral glory of his filial consciousness when he had indeed deprived himself of his Divine perfections. Thus Godet repudiates the two natures of his Person. There is no real contradiction, as we have seen. Some difference of opinion occurs also as to the reference of the πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. Some nave referred πλήρης to the Father, and some to αὐτοῖthough in both cases a break in the construction would be involved, as the antecedent would have been in the genitive. Others, again (founding on the reading of one uncial manuscript, D, which here has πληρῆ), refer it to δόξαν, and all who thus construe eschew any parenthetical treatment of the previous clause. The latter method is freer from difficulty, as then this clause,πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείαςis directly and grammatically related with λόγος. The Word was made flesh, and, full of grace and of truth, set up his tabernacle in our midst. Grace and truth are the two methods by which the glory as of "an only begotten" shone upon us, and we beheld it. The combination of these two ideas of grace and truth pervades the Old Testament description of the Lord (cf. Exodus 34:6;Psalms 40:10Psalms 40:11Psalms 61:7Psalms 25:10). "Grace," the free and royal communication of unlooked for and of undeserved love, is the keynote of the New Testament. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" is the compendium of all his powers of benediction, and corresponds with the life which is "in him," and all the gift of himself to those who came into contact with him. "Truth" is the expression of the thought of God. Truth per se can find no larger definition than the perfect revelation of God's eternal thought concerning himself and his universe, and concerning the relations of all things to each other and to him. That which God thinks about these things must be "truth per se." Christ claimed to be "the Truth" and "the Life" (John 14:6), and John here says that it was in virtue of his being the Logos of God that he was full of these. Grace and truth, love and revelation, were so transcendent in him; in other words, he was so full, so charged, so overflowing with both, that the glory which shone from him gave apostles this conception about it, viz. that it was that of an only begotten (specially and eternally begotten) and with the Father. Theπαρὰ πατρός corresponds with the παρὰ σοῦ rather than παρὰ σοί of John 17:5, and does not, therefore, necessarily suggest more than the premundane condition, answering to the πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ofJohn 17:1, and εἰς τὸν κόλπον of John 17:18. Erasmus, Paulus, and a few others have associated theπλήρης, etc., with the following verse. This is eminently unsatisfactory as unsuited to the character of the Baptist. Moreover, the sixteenth verse, by its reference to Christ's "fulness," positively forbids it.