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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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4 The Covenantal Meaning of the Incarnation (John 1:14-18)


Vs. 14 marks another turning point in John's Prologue.' The term X6yog, not used since vs. 1, reappears; the first-person plural is suddenly introduced; the ar- gument takes on a more theological connotation; and the whole passage begins to move to a stirring conclusion. For many scholars, this verse represents the high point of John 1:1-18, all the more so because of its explicit statement on the incarnation (Kotl ö X6yog depg yhJeto). 2 Yet, as Bultmann correctly remarks, this statement "does not sound as if there had already been talk of the incarnate One," 3 which seems to compromise an incarnational interpretation of vss. 6-13. An easy and creative solution to this problem is to resort to the hymn hypothesis and argue that in the original Logos hymn vs. 14 did express "an altogether novel insight, splendid in its implications." 4 But this solution would suggest that the evangelist did a very poor job in the Prologue, altering the meaning of the hymn and thus making the announcement of the incarnation in vs. 14 to come as "an anticlimax." 5 Another solution, which preserves the evangelist's literary dignity, is to consider the whole section of vss. 6-13 an account of the impersonal activity of the Logos in Old Testament times. This idea, however, as discussed in the previous chapter, is flawed at many crucial 6points. A third solution is to organize the Prologue as a sort of chiastic structure, but besides reducing vs. 14 to a mere variant of...

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