Re: [John_Lit] Was Moses the Original Subject of John 1:6-8?
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, February 02, 2003 5:05 PM
Subject: Re: [John_Lit] A Proposed Re-construction of a Postulated Hymn-li
<<< I have also noted strong similarlities - at least structurally -
between Genesis 1 and the Prologue... my questions began
with the double use of John the Baptist>>>
John the Baptist is introduced into the Prologue precisely
because of the Genesis structure. The reason John is
mentioned in what seems a most inappropriate place is
because with him - though it is not stated till later in the first
chapter - is the next part of the Genesis pattern. John had more
to say about the Word / Jesus, and he returned to it, but his
mentioning John exactly where he did in the first part of the
Prologue - and he returns to him in the second part to ensure
that he is still in mind - is because what the Baptist witnessed
what John used to continue the Genesis structure. What John
had to match next was, `and the Spirit of God was moving over
the face of the waters.' It was John who saw the Spirit of God
hovering/moving/descending over the waters of the Jordan. See
an abbreviated comparison below.
GEN -  In the beginning
JOHN -  In the beginning
GEN - God
JOHN - was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
was God.  He was in the beginning with God;
GEN - created the heavens and the earth.
JOHN -  all things were made through him, and without him
was not anything made that was made.
GEN -  The earth was without form and void, and darkness
was upon the face of the deep;
JOHN -  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not
GEN - and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the
JOHN -  There was a man sent from God, whose name was
John.  He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that
all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came
to bear witness to the light..  I myself did not know him;
for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to
Israel."  And John bore witness, "I saw the Spirit descend as
a dove from heaven, and it remained on him.  I myself did not
know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me,
`He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he
who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'  And I have seen and have
borne witness that this is the Son of God."
Dear Kym Smith:
It nowhere states in 1:31-34 that Jesus was being baptized, much less that
he was in the midst of water, when the Spirit descended upon him. So, how
can you possibly relate it to Gen 1:2--where the Spirit of God moves over
Too, I have a suspicion that a late editor of GJohn made the Baptist the
subject of 6:8--with it being the case that the original subject was Moses.
If so, then there originally was only one reference to the Baptist in the
Prologue and 1:6-8 did not connect to 1:31-34--at least not in the manner
Below is an analysis of 1:6-13 in which this hypothesis that the original
subject of 6-8 was the Baptist is entertained. I would appreciate comments
from yourself and other listers as to the viability of this hypothesis.
PART A 1:6-8
Egenato anthropos apestalmenos para Theou
[Onoma autw Iwnnes]
Houtos elthen eis martyrian
Hina martyrese peri tou Phwtos
Hina pantes pisteuswsin di autou
Ouk ein ekeinoss to Phos
All Hina martyrese peri tou Phwtos
(There came a man having been sent from God,
[His name (was) John].
This one came for testimony,
That he might testify about the Light,
That all may believe through him.
He was not the Light,
But came that he might testify about the Light.
Here, we learn, the Word of the Prologue is the Light. This is in contrast
to 1:1-5, where the Light is the Life that comes into being within the Word.
This relates the Word of the Prologue to Philo's Logos: who is the Light in
the sense of being the superior pattern for the visible sun. So, in Som i
(85), Philo states, "The third meaning in which he employs the title sun is
that of the divine Word, the pattern, as has already been mentioned, of the
sun which makes its circuit in the sky."
I have bracketed the phrase "Onoma autw Iwnnes (His name (was) John)"
because I think that it is a redactional addition made by a later editor.
In the first place, the mention of the testimony of John at this point is
out of chronological order. The proper place for it, chronologically
speaking, is after verse 14, when the Word becomes flesh--for John didn't
begin his preaching until well after the birth of Jesus. Indeed, in verse
15, we have a testimonial by John that is in the proper chronological
In the second place, if 1:6-8 regards the Baptist, then the author of John
wanted to stress that John was not the Light. This being so, the last thing
you would expect him/her to do is to speak of the Baptist as a kind of
light. Yet, this is exactly what (s)he does in 5:35!--where Jesus states,
"He (i.e., the Baptist) was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing
to rejoice for a while in his light." (RSV) So, it would appear, 1:6-8 did
not originally refer to the Baptist--meaning that the phrase "His name (was)
John" is most likely a late redactional addition to 1:6-8.
If the man sent from God to testify about the Light (i.e., the Word) is not
John the Baptist, then who is he?
I suggest that he is Moses.
In this case, 1:6-8 is in its proper chronological order--for Moses appeared
on the scene well before the incarnation of the Word in the flesh as Jesus.
Too, Jesus states in 5:39, "You search the scriptures because you think that
(there is) eternal life in them and they testify (martyrousai) about me",
and 5:56, "For if you were believing Moses, you would have believed me, for
he wrote concerning me." Together, the two statements tell us that Moses
testified concerning Jesus (i.e., the Word) in the scriptures he wrote.
This strongly suggests that he is the man, sent from God, who came to
testify concerning the Light (i.e., the Word).
Finally, we know that, in the Prologue, Moses is down-graded in importance
in comparison to Jesus Christ as the incarnate Logos--see 1:17. So, that
the man sent from God is down-graded in importance in comparison to the Word
is consistent with him being Moses.
To conclude, in 1:6-8, the phase "his name (was) John" apparently is not
original. Rather, it appears, 1:6-8 originally spoke of an unnamed man,
sent from God, who came to testify concerning the Light (i.e., the Word),
This man appears to be Moses: who, the author of John believed, had
testified concerning the Word in the Pentateuch.
En to Phws to alethinon
Ho phwtizei panta anthrwpon
Erchoumenon eis ton kosmon,
En tou kosmw en,
Kai ho kosmos di qutou egeneto,
Kai ho kosmos autou ouk egnw,
Eis to idia elthen
Kai oi idioi ou parelabon.
Hosoi de elabon auton
Edoken autois ezousian tekna Theou genesthai.
Tois pisteuousin eis to onoma autou,
Hoi ouk ez hamatwn
Oude ek thelematos sarkos
Oude ek thelematos andros,
All ek Theou egennethesan.
(The true Light
That enlightens mankind
Was coming into the World.
He was within the World,
And the World came into being through him,
And the World knew him not.
To his own he came,
And his own received him not.
But as many as received him,
He gave them the authority to become children of God:
To those who believe on his name.
Who not of bloods,
Not of the will of flesh,
Not of the will of man,
But of God were born.)
If, as argued, 1:6-8 originally regarded Moses, then the above 1:9-13
relates that, about the time of Moses, the Word entered into the Cosmos and
came to his own. This would be without becoming incarnate in the
flesh--which doesn't occur until verse 14. Presumably, then, it would be an
appearance to his own people, i.e., the Israelites, as an angelic being.
Indeed, according to Exodus 23:20-21 (LXX), God sent an angel to the
Israelites to guide them to the Promised Land, "And, behold, I send my angel
before thy face, that he may keep thee in the way, that he may bring thee
into the land which I have prepared for thee. Take heed to thyself and
hearken to him, and diobey him not; for he will not give way to thee, for my
name is on him."
Further, according to Philo, this angel had been the Word. See, for
example, Mig (174), where Philo states, "For as long as he falls short of
perfection, he has the Divine Word as his leader: since there is an oracle
which says, 'Lo, I send My angel before thy face, to guard thee in the way,
that he might bring thee in into the land which I have prepared for thee:
give heed to him, and hearken to him, disobey him not;..'".
So, I suggest, 1:9-13 relates that, at the time of Moses, the Word entered
into the Cosmos as an angelic being and came to the Israelites so as to lead
them to the Promised Land. However, when he came to them, despite the
instructions from God to obey him and listen to him, they ignored him and
disobeyed him. That is to say, they did not receive him. As a result,
that particular generation of Israelites did not reach the Promised Land,
but died while still in the wilderness.
However, there were a few who did heed him. That is to say, there were a
few who did receive him: one of whom, presumably, was Moses. What happened
to Moses is related, shortly after Exodus 23:20-21, in Exodus 24:16 (LXX),
"And the Lord called Moses on the seventh day out of the midst of the
cloud." According to Philo, this calling above of Moses was his rebirth in
the soul alone by God. See Exodus (Book II, 46). Here, after asking the
question, "Why is the mountain covered with a cloud for six days, and Moses
called above on the seventh day?", Philo gives, as a part of his answer,
"But the calling above of the prophet is a second birth better than the
first. For the latter is mixed with a body and had corruptible parents,
while the former is an unmixed and simple soul of the sovereign, being
changed from a productive to an unproductive form, which has no mother but
only a father, who is (the Father) of them all."
This might relate to the final thought, of 1:9-13, that those who received
the Word were empowered or authorized by him to become children of God: in
the sense of being born, not by corruptible parents, but by God. In this
case, it relates how the Word empowered or authorized those who, like Moses,
heeded him to become reborn in the soul alone by God, thereby becoming the
children of God.
It could be that, in 1:6, the identification of the man sent from God as
John the Baptist was made by a late editor and that, originally, this man
was Moses. In this case, 1:6-13 originally regarded the Exodus period.
Moses is the man sent from God and his testimony regarding the Word is in
the Pentateuch he wrote. The Word is the angelic being who entered the
Cosmos at this time and came to the Israelites in order to lead them into
the Promised Land. Basically, they did not receive him and, as a result,
that generation of Israelites perished in the wilderness without seeing the
Promised Land. A few, like Moses, did receive him and he empowered them to
be reborn in the soul alone by God, thereby becoming the children of God.
1809 N. English Apt. 17
Maplewood, MN USA 55109
- Dear Frank,
<<<It nowhere states in 1:31-34 that Jesus was being baptized,
much less that he was in the midst of water, when the Spirit
descended upon him. So, how can you possibly relate it to Gen
1:2--where the Spirit of God moves over the water?>>>
Neither did I say that he was baptized. But he was! Are you
saying that Jesus was not baptized?
I do not think we do justice to the Scriptures if we ignore what
was commonly understood by the apostles, whether or not John,
in this case, chooses to mention it. I expect that Mark, at least,
was written before John (indeed, Mark only, because I think that
`Q' was John's leftovers but that's another issue) and he tells
us that Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan (Mk 1:9) and
that this as the time that he (the Baptist) saw the Spirit descend
upon him. The fact that John has the Baptist speak of that event
in 1:31-34 is sufficient (for me, anyway). And, wherever John was
baptizing, there had to be water (3:23).
<<<Too, I have a suspicion that a late editor of GJohn made the
Baptist the subject of 6:8--with it being the case that the original
subject was Moses. If so, then there originally was only one
reference to the Baptist in the Prologue and 1:6-8 did not connect
to 1:31- 4--at least not in the manner you propose.>>>
You may suspect that `his name was John' is a later insert, but
what evidence do you have? If there is no textual evidence for any
variation, then you can theorize all you like, but to then build a
theology on your assumption is, I would think, fairly dangerous.
Unless there are grounds for reasonable doubt, the text as it is
is what we have. As I have stated, my own work on the strucure
of John, and of the Genesis structure in particular, make it quite
appropriate very clever, in fact - for John to be mentioned here.
For these reasons I cannot comment much on the theology you
drag out from the text as you suppose it should be.
<<<In the first place, the mention of the testimony of John at this
point is out of chronological order. The proper place for it,
chronologically speaking, is after verse 14, when the Word
becomes flesh--for John didn't begin his preaching until well
after the birth of Jesus. Indeed, in verse 15, we have a
testimonial by John that is in the proper chronological
The Prologue of John is concerned less with the chronological
order than it is with reflecting the passage from Genesis upon
which this part of his gospel is built and the theology which it
<<<In the second place, if 1:6-8 regards the Baptist, then the
author of John wanted to stress that John was not the Light. This
being so, the last thing you would expect him/her to do is to
speak of the Baptist as a kind of light. Yet, this is exactly what
(s)he does in 5:35!--where Jesus states, "He (i.e., the Baptist)
was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice
for a while in his light." (RSV) >>>
John may have been `a burning and shining lamp', but he was
not the light.
<<<Finally, we know that, in the Prologue, Moses is
down-graded in importance in comparison to Jesus Christ as
the incarnate Logos--see 1:17. So, that the man sent from God
is down-graded in importance in comparison to the Word is
consistent with him being Moses. >>>
The comparison of the down-grading of Moses (more a proper
comparison than down-grading) of Moses with the one (the
Baptist) who is not the light is interesting, but ultimately does not
necessarily support your assumption that the one who was not
the light was Moses. We all stand thus down-graded (cf. Phil
<<<This might relate to the final thought, of 1:9-13, that those
who received the Word were empowered or authorized by him to
become children of God: in the sense of being born, not by
corruptible parents, but by God. In this case, it relates how the
Word empowered or authorized those who, like Moses, heeded
him to become reborn in the soul alone by God, thereby
becoming the children of God. >>>
To speak of the re-birth (in the soul alone) of Moses and other
Egyptian exiles is not supported by Scripture. In this very Gospel
Jesus speaks of the need of re-birth to Nicodemus (3:3-8). It is
re-birth by the Spirit "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that
which is born of the Spirit is spirit". The Bible does not allow for
any other rebirth. But still in John, that Spirit, by whom we are
reborn, was not available to the OT saints as it was not to Jesus'
disciples until after his ascension. `Now this he said about the
Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet
the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet
I think it better to build from the Scriptures as traditionally
understood than on a foundation of an assumption about what
might have been and Philo's interesting (perhaps even useful)
but, in the end, less than enlightened understanding.