Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Beholding the Glory of the Son in John 1:14

The third clause in John 1:14 (“and we have beheld his glory”) builds on the temple theme introduced in the second clause of the same verse (for a discussion of the temple theme in the second clause of John 1:14, see “The Significance of the Incarnate Logos Dwelling among Us in John 1:14”). The verb translated as beheld or saw usually implies looking attentively upon or gazing at something. The incarnate Logos was an awesome sight to behold. He was an object worthy of contemplation. The first disciples understood that the Logos incarnate is the ultimate revelation of God’s glory.

The noun δόξα, usually translated here as glory, typically denotes the splendor of a person’s external appearance; but John uses δόξα at this point to capture the majesty of Christ’s intrinsic divinity. The glory of the Logos incarnate is “the glory as of the only one from the Father.” The glory revealed in Jesus is the glory of the unique Son of God.

This mention of the concept of glory in the third clause immediately following the previous clause in which the idea of a tent or tabernacle has already been raised adds a further association in the verse with the theme of temple. In the Old Testament, God’s glory is closely associated with the idea of the tabernacle and the temple. The ideas of glory and tent coincide in Exod 40:34–35; Lev 9:23; Num 14:10; 16:19, 42; 20:6. God’s glory frequently settled over the tabernacle in order that the tabernacle might be filled with God’s glory. God’s glory among Israel symbolized God’s presence with his people.

After the temple was built by Solomon, the conceptual connection between tabernacle and glory naturally broadened to include the temple (see 1 Kgs 8:11; 2 Chr 5:14; 7:1–3). The Babylonian exile, however, represented a time when God’s protective glory withdrew from the temple. As the book of Ezekiel is concerned to show, the Babylonian destruction of the temple in Jerusalem presupposed that God’s glory had left the temple. This was primarily as a result of the rampant idolatry that took place in Israel. This point is argued strongly in Ezek 8, which functions as an awful case study into Israel’s idolatry at the time. Indeed, in the book of Ezekiel, the glory of God is seen slowly withdrawing from the temple to take up position over the Mount of Olives (see Ezek 9:3; 10:4, 18–19; 11:22–23) until the time of judgment against Israel had been fulfilled. The book of Ezekiel pictures that the glory of God would eventually return to his people (Ezek 43:2, 4–5), and be revealed to the nations (Ezek 39:21).

In the light of these prophecies of Ezekiel, it is very significant that the Old Testament does not record that the glory of God returned to the second temple. The Old Testament closes with the people of God still waiting for the return of God’s glory to the temple (Hag 2:3, 7, 9; Zech 2:5).

The brief outline given above concerning the concept of glory in the Old Testament helps us to understand the point of John’s assertion in John 1:14 regarding the glory of the Logos. John was well aware of Ezekiel’s teaching concerning the eschatological return of God’s glory. John’s assertion is that, in the person of Jesus, the glory of God, which had withdrawn previously from idolatrous Israel, has now returned. In Jesus, God’s personal presence has returned to dwell majestically among his people.

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