A Word on Exegesis and Christmas

I’ve been doing some exegetical work on John 1 for the past few days, and I cannot seem to go pass one particular verse, namely verse 14. I keep coming back to this verse and finding myself so awed by its richness, especially, in this season.

“And the word became flesh and dwelt in us, and we saw the glory of his, glory as/like only from [the] father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, my own translation).

Generally, I find John’s Gospel easy to translate, yet it is pregnant with some serious truths, especially, its theological implications. Here’s a case in point: the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Sometimes going astray from the actual text to theological rabbit trails is unprofitable and even dangerous (as I’ve experienced). I’ve learned (and still learning) that as an exegete I must discipline myself to stay in the text and resist a rabbit trail unless it would enhance the understanding of the text.

This does not mean, however, one needs to be so stuck with a particular tree that he misses the whole forest. I believe every expositor is guilty of this some point in his career. Obviously, one needs to understand the relationship between a particular text in light of its context. At the same time, an exegete must not be afraid to raise some honest questions when faced from the text. For instance, the sarx egeneto (“became flesh”) of John 1:14 speaks of “the point of transition,” which I concur with Kittel’s TDNT. That phrase “became flesh” is the very definition of what incarnation means. It is “the act of God the Son whereby he took to himself a human nature” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 543).

Now, here are some questions:

  • At what point did God the Son took to himself a human nature?
  • What was he like prior to incarnation?

Those are Christological issues that directly relate to his Sonship. As stated, an exegete must not be afraid to raise honest questions when a text naturally imposes them. I will not answer those questions at this time, but they sure help us to think about the real meaning of Christmas.

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