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Theological Notebook: Raw Prologue of John Notes

These are my raw reading notes for my work on Jewish mysticism in the Prologue to the Gospel of John for tonight. Some good stuff here and a few people might be interested enough to scan through it for some nuggets. It's raw and largely unformatted, but I've got to turn in, so I'm just copying it over quickly.


In Hellenistic Judaism, we can see an interchangability between “the Logos of God,” for “the Angel of the Lord,” the Yahweh Angel, or Yahweh himself. In Wisdom 18:15-16 we see the Logos with sword, as in Rev 19:12-15. We see the Logos interchanged with God in the burning bush in Ezekiel the Tragedian (Exagoge 96-99, quoted in Eusebius, Praep ev IX.29.8), and in Philo of Alexandria. Consider the following from Philo (Conf ling 146):
But if there be any as yet unfit to be called ‘son of God’, let him press to take his place under God’s Firstborn, the Logos, who holds the eldership among the angels, their ruler as it were. And many names are his, for he is called ‘Beginning’, and the ‘Name of God’, and His ‘Logos’, and ‘Man after His image’, and ‘He that sees’, that is, ‘Israel’.
That “Firstborn,” by the way, should put rest to the tired claim that Colossians cannot be Paul’s because that language is too “developed” Christologically, yadda yadda yadda. The Hellenistic usage continues the biblical tendency to replace the Tetragrammaton. Philo even explains the corporeal appearances of the God as appearances of the Logos. Title of “Name” makes sense as “Name” is the originial substitution for the Tetragrammaton/"YHWH".

Note Rev 19:12-13 about Christ “has a Name inscribed which no one knows but himself […] and the name by which he is called is the Word of God.” Gnostic Gospel of Philip says Christ’s secret name is the name of the Father. Reference there to it being exalted above all names is a reference to end of Philippians 2 hymn in Paul, where Jesus is addressed as “Lord,” which is rendering of Tetragrammaton in LXX. Syrian writings like Philip, the Acts of Thomas, and the Gospel of Thomas, susceptible to Jewish Christian influence, agree on the idea of the divine Name being the secret name of Jesus.

“If the Christological title, ‘the Logos’, is a cryptograph for God’s Name, the predications of the Logos in John 1.1 and 14 as well as Rev 19.12-13 should be explicable as references to the divine Name. Moreover, John 1.3, ‘All things were made through him [i.e. ho logos] and without him was not anything made,’ should also be explainable as a reference to the Name of God. As a matter of fact, the very beginning of the Gospel, ‘In the beginning […]’, alludes to the creation narrative in Gen 1.1, ‘In the beginning, God created […]’.” (p. 117)

God creating by a word of command was a well-established doctrine. In Macaseh Merkabah, God is praised so: “Creator of the world by His one Name, fashioner of everything by one Word’. Again parallelism and even identity of divine Word and Name

Pirqe de R.Eliezer says: ‘Before the world, God and His Name were alone.’ This is similar to John 1.1a-b: ‘In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God.’
Since the concept of the Name signifies the divine nature, it is clear that it preceded the created world. But Pirqe de R.Eliezer apparently views the Name as a hypostasis: it is different from God himself; it [is] found together with God. This is similar to John 1.1b-c: ‘[…] the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God’.” (p. 119)

Consider what is said about the angel Metatron in a Talmudic passage (b Sahn 38b):
He who is skilled in refuting the Minim as R.Idi let him do so, but not otherwise. Once a Min said to R.Idi: ‘It is written: “And unto Moses, He [i.e. God] said: ‘Come up to the Lord’” [Exod 24.1]. But surely it should have been stated: “Come up to me.”’ ‘It was Metatron,’ R.Idi replied, ‘whose Name is like the Name of his Master, for it is written: “For My Name is in him” [Exod 23.21].’
“Of course it is not the name Metatron which is the divine Name, but the angel has a secret Name, even the Name of God. Metatron is the angel described in Exod 23.20-21: ‘Behold, I send an angel before you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for My Name is in him.’ The angel is an extension of God’s personality because of the divine Name residing in him: he has to be obeyed; he has the power to withhold the absolution of sins.” (p. 120)

“The conception of the Name of God as a power being shared by the principle angel or even as a hypostasis has been adapted by the author of the Prologue to John’s Gospel. Here the angel or hypostasis is called the Logos, which was used as a name of the Yahweh Angel already by Ezekiel the Tragedian.” (p. 121)

Didache 10.1-4:
“We give thanks to You, O holy Father, for Your holy Name that You made to tabernacle in our hearts (hou kateskeinosas en tais kardiais heimon), and for the knowledge, faith, and immortality that You made known to us through Jesus Your Child. To You be glory for ever! You Lord Almighty created all things for the sake of Your Name, and gave food and drink to people for their enjoyment, that they might give thanks to You, but You blessed us with spiritual food and drink, and eternal light through Your Child […].”
This post-eucharist prayer probably has “Name” as Jesus, and similiarly a eucharistic tie is found in the Apostolic Constitutions (VII.26.1-2), but where a dwelling of the Name in believers is not necessarily implied:
“After the participation, give thanks thus: We thank You, God and Father of Jesus our saviour for Your holy Name which You made to dwell among us (huter tou hagiou onomatos sou hou kateskeinosas en heimin), and for the knowledge and faith and love and immortality which You gave to us through Jesus Your Child.”
Pre-Christian Jewish parallels to name dwelling on earth in LXX Exek 43.7; Ps Sol 7.6; LXX 2 Sam 7.5c-d, 13. God himself is transcendent, but his Name can dwell on earth, and the language points specifically to tabernacle/Temple. John 1.14 “we saw his glory”, 12.41 “Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory,” shows a vision of Jesus regarded as the “Lord” of the LXX, the carrier of God’s own Name, since the Tetragrammaton is conveyed by “Lord,” and Jesus the Son is the YHWH Angel.

3 John 7: Jesus explicitly called the Name, “[…] for on behalf of the Name they went forth, taking nothing from the Gentiles.” The Gospel doesn’t explicitly call Jesus the Name, but indirectly says such: “I have manifested Your [i.e. God’s] Name to the men whom You gave me out of the world; Yours they were, and You gave them to me, and they have kept Your Word. […] Holy Father, keep them in Your Name, which You have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in Your Name, which You have given me […]. I have given them Your Word […]. I made known to them Your Name […]. (John 17. 6, 11d-12c, 14a, 26a)

John 12.23, Jesus says “The hours has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” 12.28, he prays, “Father, glorify Your Name!”

Initiated readers of these passages seeing Word=Name=Son of Man=Jesus.

This does not yet treat ego eimi “I am” pronouncements of the Name itself.


Quotes C.H. Dodd (The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, p. 186): ‘When Christ was on earth, to have faith was to “see His glory”… Now that He is no longer visible to the bodily eye, faith remains the capacity for seeing his glory.’ Liken this to what was said about the combination of theophany and angelophany in Revelation above, where the angelic is the visible sight of the Glory/kabod.

DeConick argues a substitution of faith for vision in “faith mysticism” in John’s use of the idea of “faith.”

Not only was Jesus with God prior to his incarnation (Jn. 1:1-18), but he also has seen God while he was with the Father in heaven (Jn 1.18). So John dictates in the prologue that “no one has ever seen God” except the Son who was in “the bosom of the Father” (Jn 1.18). John continues to polemicize against anyone seeing the Father at other points in the Gospel.
Similar to Prayer of Joseph text quoted by Origen in Comm. in John 2.188-90) that Jacob is also ‘Israel’, an angel of God. Jacob claims God called him Israel which means ‘a man seeing God’, because he was ‘the firstborn of every living thing to whom God gives life’. Israel then descended to earth and tabernacled among men and was called Jacob.
Thus you have a tradition contemporaneous with John that a special angel of God existed before the rest of creation, who had a special name because he had seen God during his existence with God, and that later this angel descend to earth as a human.
John is therefore both conversant with his religious/mystical context as well as breaking with it, because Jesus as Logos claims sole visionary experience of God.

“The key to unlocking the mysterious Christology of John is understanding the author’s application of kabod traditions to the historical manifestation of Jesus.” (p.113)

“And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

(Concurs and says her work works with J. Ashton, ‘Bridging Ambiguities’ in Studying John: Approaches to the Fourth Gospel, Oxford, Claredon, 1994, where he demonstrates that Jewish angelology goes a long way to explain the Christology of John.)

Isaiah, John says (12.41) saw Jesus when he saw the Glory in Isaiah 6.

(See Gieschen, Angelomorphic Christology, p. 273, on the Only Begotten as the visible manifestation of God.)

“The Gospel claims that God sent his son to earth out of his own love so that the world might be saved through encountering him (Jn 3.16-17). This theme is expanded upon in 17.20-26 where Jesus is identified with the Glory who has been sent to earth out of God’s love. By seeing Jesus the Glory, the disciples will experience a mystic union with Jesus, and thus with the Father. Because Jesus is the kabod, the personal manifestation of the Father, he is identified with the Father: ‘even as you, Father, are in me, and I, in you’ (Jn 17.21). This Glory or divine essence is transferred to the disciple: ‘The Glory which you have given to me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one’ (Jn 17.22-23). Such a transformation is possible through the mechanism of the visionary experience. Thus Jesus prays for the disciple ‘to see my Glory which you [the Father] have given to me in your love for me before the foundation of the world’ (Jn 17.24). In the capacity of God’s kabod, Jesus makes the Father known to the world and makes available the opportunity for union with him.” (p. 115)

“In the Johannine tradition, therefore, the deity has been manifested historically. Ascent to heaven and a vision of God are not necessary to be transformed and achieve life because the divinity has come to earth and has brought this mystic experience with him.” (p. 116)

Faith-->Spirit-->Reminder-->Sacrament-->Love (1 John 4.20-21: If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.) all these are counter to ascent mysticisms, whether Christian (Thomasine?) or Jewish: Jesus is the only vision of God to be had, either physically or in the Spirit/Paraclete.
Tags: books, dqes, historical, jewish mysticism, prologue to john, theological notebook

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