25 July, 2008

A Study of John 1 - Part 3

Let's begin with the first part of verse 10:
He was in the world,
This is easy enough to understand, for Scripture provides us wth many examples:
  • John 9:5
    As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

  • John 17:11
    And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

  • John 17:12
    While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

  • John 17:13
    And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Then we have the second part of verse 10:
and the world was made [ginomai] by [dia; "through"] him
This is difficult to understand in the context of Biblical Unitarianism... unless we take care to examine the wider application of that vital word ginomai.

Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines it in the following way:
  1. to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
  2. to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen
  3. of events
  4. to arise, appear in history, come upon the stage
  5. of men appearing in public
  6. to be made, finished
  7. of miracles, to be performed, wrought
  8. to become, be made
The use of ginomai to denote something which has been finished (alternatively "fulfilled" or "completed") is far better suited to the context of John 1:10 than the customary "made", since verse 10 refers specifically to the period during which Christ was "in the world" and thereby draws our attention to the mission that he was sent to perform.There are many other passages in Scripture which support this reading of ginomai:
  • Matthew 5:18
    For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. [ginomai]

  • Matthew 24:34
    Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. [ginomai]

  • Luke 21:32
    Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. [ginomai]

  • John 13:2
    And supper being ended [ginomai], the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;

  • Hebrews 4:3
    For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished [ginomai] from the foundation of the world.

  • Revelation 16:17
    And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. [ginomai]

  • Revelation 21:6
    And he said unto me, It is done. [ginomai] I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
In each of these verses, ginomai is used to denote something which has come to pass in the sense of completing or fulfilling a particular aim or goal.

The same is equally true of John 1:10, where the purpose of Christ being "in the world" is to complete it; to fulfill it; to bring into fruition God's purpose with it.

But the strongest support for this reading comes from Christ himself, for in John 5:36 he makes an explicit reference to his role as the "finisher" of God's work:
But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.
An alternative and equally justifiable interpretation can be made from the word dia (translated "by" in verse 10.) In the context of my ginomai argument, I have argued that it should be translated "through" - but it is just as legitimate to leave ginomai as "made" and translate dia another way.

The range of this preposition is seen elsewhere in the New Testament, where dia is variously translated as "for", "because" and "for [his/her] sake" (not to mention many others.) Any one of these would be perfectly viable in John 1:10, thereby indicating that the world was created with Jesus in mind and as part of the purpose in which he would ultimately play the central role.

The only proviso is that dia must be found in the genetive case if it is to be translated as “for [his] sake”; but in John 1:10 dia does indeed occur in the genetive case, thereby vindicating the non-Trinitarian gloss.

Additional support is found in Matthew 13:21, Matthew 13:58, Matthew 14:3. Matthew 14:9, Matthew 17:10, Matthew 19:12, Matthew 24:9, Matthew 24:22, Matthew 27:18, Matthew 27:19, Mark 2:4, Mark 2:27, Mark 3:9, Mark 4:17, Mark 6:6, Mark 6:17, Mark 6:26, Mark 13:13, Mark 13:20, Mark 15:10, Luke 8:19, Luke 11:8, Luke 21:17, Luke 23:19, Luke 23:25, John 3:29, John 4:39, John 4:41, John 4:42, John 7:12, John 7:43, John 10:19, John 10:32, John 11:15, John 11:42, John 12:9, John 12:30, John 12:42, John 14:11, John 15:21, John 19:42 and John 20:19 (to name only a few places), where dia is translated in precisely the way that this argument requires.

But whichever way we choose to read ginomai (whether "fulfilled", "completed" or "finished") and whichever way we choose to read dia (whether "for", "because" or "for [his] sake") the meaning of John 1:10 is clear: Christ did not create the world, but instead came to change it - for he is both the focal point of God’s creation and the means by which it is redeemed.

This is the crucial point that John wishes us to understand.

The final part of John 1:10 now falls naturally into place:
and the world knew him not.
This, too, receives ample support from the rest of the New Testament - and lest we mistakenly assume that it refers only to unbelievers, John the Baptist himself openly admits that even he did not recognise Christ until he received a sign from the Holy Spirit:
  • John 1:31
    And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

  • John 1:33
    And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

  • Act 13:27
    For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

  • I Corinthians 2:7-8
    But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

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