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Incarnation and Covenant in the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel (John 1:1-18)


Wilson Paroschi

This study deals with the structural and exegetical relationship between pre-existence and incarnation in the dynamics of John‘s Prologue (John 1:1-18). It discusses the point in the narrative at which the shift from the pre-existent Logos to the incarnate Christ takes place and, therefore, the perspective from which the individual parts of the passage (vss. 1-5; vss. 6-13; vss. 14-18) should be interpreted. By making a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the text and evaluating all contrasting views on the subject, the book shows the essential chronological order of the narrative, whose climax (vss. 14-18) is not the announcement of the incarnation proper, but rather a profound theological reflection on the significance of that event based on the covenantal traditions of the exodus story and later prophetic expectations.


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3 The Ministry of the Incarnate Logos (John 1:6-13)


In comparison with the first five verses of the Prologue, vs. 6 ("There was a man . . .") involves a basic change of content. The fourth evangelist moves from statements about the pre-existent Logos and abstract issues such as life, light, and darkness, to a historical person living in a concrete historical situation. In- asmuch as that person is John the Baptist,' the precursor of the Messiah accord- ing to the Synoptic tradition (Matt 3:1-11; Mark 1:2-8; Luke 3:1-18), most mod- ern scholars, even some among those who accept the hymn hypothesis, find it quite natural to understand this new section as referring to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.' Yet, since the incarnation is explicitly presented only in vs. 14, 'Peter Hofrichter's thesis that, in its original form, vs. 6 referred to the Logos and thus consisted of the first mention in the Prologue of the incarnation (Im Anfang war der 'Johan- nesprolog': Das urchristliche Logosbekenntnis, die Basis neutestamentlicher und gnosticher Theologie, BU 17 [Regensburg: Pustet, 1986], 91-94), is interesting but essentially specula- tive. He argues that behind the extant Prologue, which comes from a later ecclesiastical redac- tor, there lies what he calls a "Logos-confession," the first of its kind in early Christianity, whose influence can be detected not only in the Fourth Gospel, but also in almost every NT writing, as well as in the gnostic literature. With regard to vss. 6-8, he suggests that vss. 6c, 7a, and 8 are redactional, and that the...

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