- GJohn alone of the canonical gospels asserts that Jesus alone was the son
of God (John 1:18).
First question: is this common understanding of John 1:18 correct? Or is it
based on a misunderstanding of the Greek text?
I have long thought that, if stated correctly, this must be in response to
a claim of sonship that the author of GJohn took exception to. But who? The
who could be either a particularly important someone, or perhaps a whole
bunch of people claiming sonship and using this status inappropriately.
Second question: Assuming that the answer to the first question is yes, who
might have been a particularly important someone that the author of GJohn
might have had in mind? Two names leap to mind:
1. James, "The brother of the Lord". However, I cannot recall any instance
of his claiming such a title, or of such a title being applied to him by
2. Paul. Long before GJohn was written, Paul had already written about the
faithful as children of God (Galatians 3:26; 4:6-7; cf. Romans 8:29; 9:8).
But as with James, I can't recall any instance of Paul laying claim to his
own Sonship, nor of anyone else attributing it to him.
Second question, part b: If the author of GJohn had no one person in mind,
did he have specific groups in mind? e.g.,
* Paulinist Christians, who considered themselves Sons of God on the basis
of Galatians, etc.;
* The Desposynoi, who regarded themselves as relatives of Jesus;
I note with regard to the above that
* the synoptic gospels make no claim for the unique Sonship of Jesus
* Two of the synoptic Gospels Matthew & Luke, contain a Lord's prayer
addressed to "Our Father", perhaps implying sonship for all the faithful
* Even GJohn, in 1:12-13, seems to grant widespread status as children of
So this leads me to another question:
Given the underlying Greek, is there a significant difference between being
"children of God" and being a "son of God"? Are these qualitatively
different? Or does one imply the other? Is there an important difference in
this regard between being *adopted* as sons (Galatians 4:5-7) and being a
son in some other sense?
- I understood 'theos' with the article in GJohn to mean the ultimate God,
ie the Father, while 'theos' without the article, as applied to the Logos in
1:1, where the two agree, to be adjectival: 'The logos was divine'. Or is my
dodgy Greek letting me down? Please feel free to correct me. If I'm right,
then I imagine it's possible that auJohn thought of the Logos as something
akin to an angel, rather than as an equal to the Father, which would not be
compatible with Jewish belief as I understand it.
- --- In email@example.com, RSBrenchley@a... wrote:
> I understood 'theos' with the article in GJohn to mean theultimate God,
> ie the Father, while 'theos' without the article, as applied to theLogos in
> 1:1, where the two agree, to be adjectival: 'The logos was divine'.Or is my
> dodgy Greek letting me down? Please feel free to correct me. If I'mright,
> then I imagine it's possible that auJohn thought of the Logos assomething
> akin to an angel, rather than as an equal to the Father, whichwould
> compatible with Jewish belief as I understand it.I'll let the NT experts handle the vast discussion of this from their
point of view. Ancient Greek had better adjectives if the intent was
to convey simply "divine." Second and third century "Logos"
Christologians like Justin Martyr and Origen were thinking, rather,
of distinguishing "the" God from "a" God--but without conveying
polytheism, as Origen makes clear in the passage I quoted in a
previous email. In one passage, for instance, which I can find for
you if you like, Justin speaks of the pre-existent Christ as "another
God," most probably reflecting on the prologue to the 4G.
Now, the fourth century so-called early "Arians" read John 1:1-18 as
conveying what amounts to Christos Angelos, as you suggest (though
they didn't use the expression "angel" and thought Christ was God's
"first" creation through whom he created everything else), so that
was a possible direction to go in the ancient church. In the third
century, the Bishop of Antioch, Paul of Samosata, was able to read
the passage as denying any pre-existence altogether, except, perhaps,
"in the plan of God," as it were, but, as I understand him at least,
he thought that the Logos was "the" God, but in the sense of the
*word* of "the" God which was expressed in Jesus as it had been
expressed in the creation of the world, as it had come to the
Thomas A. Kopecek
Professor of Religion
Central College, Pella, IA 50219