Vincent Word Studies - John 1:18 - 1:18

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Vincent Word Studies - John 1:18 - 1:18

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

No man hath seen God at any time (Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε)

God is first in the Greek order, as emphatic: “God hath no man ever seen.” As to the substance of the statement, compare Joh 3:11; Exo 33:20; 1Jo 4:12. Manifestations of God to Old Testament saints were only partial and approximate (Exo 33:23). The seeing intended here is seeing of the divine essence rather than of the divine person, which also is indicated by the absence of the article from Θεὸν, God. In this sense even Christ was not seen as God. The verb ὁράω, to see, denotes a physical act, but emphasizes the mental discernment accompanying it, and points to the result rather than to the act of vision. In 1Jo 1:1; 1Jo 4:12, 1Jo 4:14, θεάομαι is used, denoting calm and deliberate contemplation (see on Joh 1:14). In Joh 12:45, we have θεωρέω, to behold (see on Mar 5:15; see on Luk 10:18). Both θεάομαι and θεωρέω imply deliberate contemplation, but the former is gazing with a view to satisfy the eye, while the latter is beholding more critically, with an inward spiritual or mental interest in the thing beheld, and with a view to acquire knowledge about it. “Θεωρεῖν would be used of a general officially reviewing or inspecting an army; θεᾶσθαι of a lay spectator looking at the parade” (Thayer).

The only begotten son (ὁ μονογενὴς υἱὸς)

Several of the principal manuscripts and a great mass of ancient evidence support the reading μονογενὴς Θεὸς, “God only begotten.”

Another and minor difference in reading relates to the article, which is omitted from μονογενὴς by most of the authorities which favor Θεὸς. Whether we read the only begotten Son, or God only begotten, the sense of the passage is not affected. The latter reading merely combines in one phrase the two attributes of the word already indicated - God (Joh 1:1), only begotten (Joh 1:14); the sense being one who was both God and only begotten.

Who is in the bosom (ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον)

The expression ὁ ὢν, who is, or the one being, is explained in two ways: 1. As a timeless present, expressing the inherent and eternal relation of the Son to the Father. 2. As interpreted by the preposition. εἰς, in, literally, into, and expressing the fact of Christ's return to the Father's glory after His incarnation: “The Son who has entered into the Father's bosom and is there.” In the former case it is an absolute description of the nature of the Son: in the latter, the emphasis is on the historic fact of the ascension, though with a reference to his eternal abiding with the Father from thenceforth.

While the fact of Christ's return to the Father's glory may have been present to the writer's mind, and have helped to determine the form of the statement, to emphasize that fact in this connection would seem less consistent with the course of thought in the Prologue than the other interpretation: since John is declaring in this sentence the competency of the incarnate Son to manifest God to mankind. The ascension of Christ is indeed bound up with that truth, but is not, in the light of the previous course of thought, its primary factor. That is rather the eternal oneness of the Word with God; which, though passing through the phase of incarnation, nevertheless remains unbroken (Joh 3:13). Thus Godet, aptly: “The quality attributed to Jesus, of being the perfect revealer of the divine Being, is founded on His intimate and perfect relation to God Himself.”

The phrase, in the bosom of the Father, depicts this eternal relation as essentially a relation of love; the figure being used of the relation of husband and wife (Deu 13:6); of a father to an infant child (Num 11:12), and of the affectionate protection and rest afforded to Lazarus in Paradise (Luk 16:23). The force of the preposition εἰς, into, according to the first interpretation of who is, is akin to that of “with God” (see on Joh 1:1); denoting an ever active relation, an eternal going forth and returning to the Father's bosom by the Son in His eternal work of love. He ever goes forth from that element of grace and love and returns to it. That element is His life. He is there “because He plunges into it by His unceasing action” (Godet).

He (ἐκεῖνος)

Strongly emphatic, and pointing to the eternal Son. This pronoun is used by John more frequently than by any other writer. It occurs seventy-two times, and not only as denoting the more distant subject, but as denoting and laying special stress on the person or thing immediately at hand, or possessing pre-eminently the quality which is immediately in question. Thus Jesus applies it to Himself as the person for whom the healed blind man is inquiring: “It is He (ἐκεῖνος) that talketh with thee” (Joh 9:37). So here, “the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father - He hath declared Him.”

Hath declared (ἐξηγήσατο)

Or, rendering the aorist strictly, He declared. From ἐκ, forth, and ἡγέομαι, to lead the way. Originally, to lead or govern. Hence, like the Latin praeire verbis, to go before with words, to prescribe or dictate a form of words. To draw out in narrative, to recount or rehearse (see Act 15:14, and on Luk 24:35). To relate in full; to interpret, or translate. Therefore ἐξήγησις, exegesis, is interpretation or explanation. The word ἐξηγητής was used by the Greeks of an expounder of oracles, dreams, omens, or sacred rites. Thus Croesus, finding the suburbs of Sardis alive with serpents, sent to the soothsayers (ἐξηγητὰς) of Telmessus (Herodotus, i. 78). The word thus comes to mean a spiritual director. Plato calls Apollo the tutelary director (πατρῷος ἐξηγητής) of religion (“Republic,” 427), and says, “Let the priests be interpreters for life” (“Laws,” 759). In the Septuagint the word is used of the magicians of Pharaoh's court (Gen 41:8, Gen 41:24), and the kindred verb of teaching or interpreting concerning leprosy (Lev 14:57). John's meaning is that the Word revealed or manifested and interpreted the Father to men. The word occurs only here in John's writings. Wyc. renders, He hath told out. These words conclude the Prologue.

The Historical Narrative now begins, and falls into two general divisions:

I. The Self-Revelation of Christ to the World (1:19-12:50)

II. The Self-Revelation of Christ to the Disciples (13:1-21:23)