Ep50-Monotheism and Divine Agency in John - Of God and Gods Ch 5

Topics Discussed:
• The Logos in Philo and the Gospel of John
• The Logos Made Flesh and the Manifestation of God’s Glory
• Jesus as God’s Agent in the Writings of John
• Divine Agency and Angelic Mediation in the Book of Revelation
• Jesus’s Relation to the Father

Show Notes:


The Logos in Philo and the Gospel of John

“The most fully developed view of Jesus as God is found in the Gospel of John. The prologue of the Gospel of John adapts the category of “Wisdom” as a quasi-personified deity that reveals God in word and act—the Logos, the Word of God. The Alexandrian Jew Philo uses the concept of the Word or Logos in a way that appears, at first blush at least, to be very close to John’s Word or Logos, although it is unknown whether Philo’s writings were available in Palestine in the late first century when John was written.”

Why couldn't God create directly in a mormon view?

“Philo also distinguished between God and his two highest powers, Creative Power and Governing Power” ...“and the third thing which was between the two, and had the effect of bringing them together was the Logos ”

“According to Philo, humans have access to God only through the Logos. God’s transcendence makes it impossible for him to interact directly with humans and prevents humans from having access to God’s essence.”

“I conclude that Philo’s doctrine of the Logos is incoherent because he both affirms and denies that the Logos has properties of God. Of course, if God is beyond human intelligibility then there is no concern about coherence because we cannot coherently speak of such a god in any way. Philo maintained that all statements about the one God in scripture are merely allegorical. The Logos functions as an analogy for God, but what Philo affirms of God as the Logos he must deny to the Logos as mediator who creates and interacts with the world.”  ...why must he deny that?

“The inherent contradiction in the view that the Logos is simultaneously God’s self-expression as a spoken word that is not really distinct from God and also the one who creates, saves, and appears to protect God’s transcendence was well expressed by Boyarin:
It seems not to have occurred to any who hold this view that it is fundamentally incoherent and self-contradictory. Surely this position collapses logically upon itself, for if the Memra is just a name that simply enables avoiding asserting that God himself has created, appeared, supported, saved, and thus preserves his absolute transcendence, then who, after all, did the actual creating, appearing, supporting, saving? Either God himself, in which case, one has hardly “protected” him from contact with the material world, or there is some other divine entity, in which case, the Memra is not just a name. . . . It follows then that the strongest reading of the Memra is that it is not a mere name, but an actual divine entity, or mediator.”

“Though there is no direct evidence that the writer(s) of the Gospel of John had access to Philo or vice versa, the similarities in the use of titles, imagery, and expression are so striking regarding Philo’s views of the Logos and what John says that, even if there is no direct dependence, there is at least a shared world of terminology regarding the relation of the Logos to the one God.”

Talk about Philo's distinction between God and The God.

“The next statement in the prologue asserts, like Philo, that God created through the Word:
All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race. (John 1:3–4)

Like the rationality of the Logos of Philo that resides in all persons, the light of the Logos gives life to every person in John’s prologue. Also like the Logos in Philo, the Word in John is the agent of creation, the one who completes the creation. However, unlike the Logos in Philo there is no sense in the prologue of John that “the God” the Father is unable to touch the material world...”

The Logos Made Flesh and the Manifestation of God’s Glory

“The uniqueness of John’s view of the Logos is precisely that the Logos has been made flesh in a historical person, Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the embodied Word still reflects the glory of the Father: “And the Word became flesh / and made his dwelling among us, / and we saw his glory, / the glory as of the Father’s only Son, / full of grace and truth.”

“Another statement at the end of the prologue is very significant for the Logos’s role in relation to the Father: “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him” (John 1:18)”...the author was undoubtedly aware of the many theophanies in the OT so how does he reconcile this?

“The answer lies in the fact that the prologue assumes that God the Father is not seen but that, whenever God is revealed or seen, it is the Son, the Logos, who is the agent of the revelation. The Father is seen through the Son: “He who sees me sees the One who sent me” (John 12:45); “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).”

“this same view of a mediator between God and humans was expressly adopted in the Christian tradition, probably by the time that the Gospel of John was compiled,21 as shown by 1 Timothy 2:5–6: “For there is one God, there is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all.”

“There are two themes in the gospel and writings of John that are closely related to the assertion that Christ is the manifestation of the glory of the God, the one who is actually seen in visions in the Old Testament.
- First, the Father has given his own name to Christ. Just as in Philippians 2:6–11 where Christ is given the divine name Yahweh, and as the angel Yaoel is the given the name of God as a means of divine empowerment and authorization, Christ is given the name of the Father (John 17:6, 11, 26).”

“When the Jewish authorities seek Jesus, he asks:
“Whom are you looking for?” They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.” He said to them, “I AM.” . . . When he said to them, “I AM,” they turned away and fell to the ground. So again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.” He answered, “I told you that I AM.” (John 8:5–8)”

“Is he claiming to be the one God Yahweh? or that he is somehow identical with the Father who gave him that name?”

Jesus as God’s Agent in the Writings of John

“There are (at least) two distinct ways that the Gospel of John can be interpreted regarding the relationship between the Father and the Son Jesus Christ. One approach compares Jesus to Wisdom as a personified divine attribute of the one God.”....“ Such a view entails modalism because it identifies Jesus as merely a manifestation, solely a way of appearing, of the one God the Father.”

“However, the Gospel of John can also be read to maintain monotheism by subordinating Jesus to the Father and thus distinguishing between the Father and the Son in such a way that there are, in fact, two distinct divine beings—two different persons in the sense that the Father possesses properties that the Son does not. However, monotheism is not breached because Christ is subordinate to the one God like the gods in Hebrew thought, and the divine heavenly figures in Jewish thought are subordinate to God. ”

Talk about the 'mutation of the wisdom motif'

“The Gospel of John expressly adopts the view that Christ is the sole mediator through whom all must go to find access to the Father as patron: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In addition to being God’s agent, the “glory” of God functions as the honor that is conferred on the Son by the Father and is reflected back on the Father by the Son. The Son honors the Father by being obedient to him and doing the Father’s works. The culture of honoring one’s father through obedience and performing the father’s work was prominent in ancient Mediterranean cultures.”

“Christ is “God” because the Father honors him as the preeminent manifestation of God’s glory, the perfect spokesman for God, the one who does the Father’s works precisely as the Father commanded, the one who appears on behalf of the Father to represent him as his unique mediating agent. These categories of honor also play a prominent part in the controversies between Christ and the Jews related to his claims for his relation with God.”

Divine Agency and Angelic Mediation in the Book of Revelation

“The notion of divine agency is illustrated perfectly by the last chapter of Revelation. The visionary tells us that the angel of the Lord came to him. However, the angel speaks in the first person as if he is Christ”

“...the Gospel of John presents Christ as the one who appeared and who spoke in the first person as if he were Yahweh.”

Jesus’s Relation to the Father

“It is imperative to see that Christ never calls monotheism into question by claiming to bear the divine name, perform divine prerogatives, or manifest the glory of God. Christ does not claim to be identical or equal to Yahweh; rather, he is the agent of the one true God. Notwithstanding his claims to be the one seen in vision as Yahweh, to bear the divine name I AM, and to manifest God’s glory to mortals, the question is never raised whether he claims to be a second God. Rather, the Gospel of John frames the dispute in such a way that Christ claims to be the divine agent who is subordinate to the Father. He is identified as God’s divine agent by the works he does. The Gospel of John thus presumes the ancient view of a continuum of divinity.”

“The relation of the Son to the Father is one of indwelling unity. Christ is the Father’s agent so fully that whoever sees him also sees the Father who is in him. The Father and Christ are related as one because they dwell in each other. Stunningly, Christ is in his disciples in the same sense that the Father is in him.”

“John 17 is the apex of the revelation of the mortal Jesus. It makes the following claims: (1) there is only one true God and that is the Father; (2) the disciples receive eternal life as a gift when they believe in the one true God and also in Jesus Christ whom the one true God has sent as his agent; (3) Christ possessed divine glory with the Father before the world was; (4) as a mortal, Christ did not possess this same glory that he had previously; (5) Christ has glorified the Father in his mortal life by doing all that the Father gave him to do; (6) the Father therefore glorifies Christ with the same glory once again; (7) Christ in turn glorifies the disciples and brings them to the Father; (8) the disciples are therefore also glorified with the same glory; (9) the Father, the Son, and the disciples are all “one” by virtue of the indwelling glory that they share.”


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