The Incarnation of the Word: John 1:14 -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 161:641 (Jan 2004)
Article: The Incarnation of the Word: John 1:14
Author: David J. MacLeod


The Incarnation of the Word: John 1:14a

David J. MacLeod

David J. MacLeod is Chairman of the Division of Biblical Studies, Emmaus Bible College, Dubuque, Iowa, and Associate Editor of The Emmaus Journal.

In A.D. 107, some twenty or thirty years after the apostle John wrote his Gospel, persecution broke out in Antioch of Syria. Ignatius, the major leader in the church there, was arrested and sentenced to be brought to Rome, where he was to be thrown into the arena to be devoured by wild beasts.1 As he traveled under guard through Asia Minor, local churches sent messengers to greet him on his way to death. Ignatius in turn sent letters back to them. In these letters he urged the Christians to hold fast to their faith, and he entreated them not to try to free him or to stop him from praising the crucified and risen Lord in the arena. In a letter to the church in Magnesia, he spoke of Christ as the Word. He wrote, “There is one God, who manifested himself through Jesus Christ his Son, who is his Word proceeding from silence.”2

This idea of God dwelling in silence is found in Judaism, being linked with Genesis 1:3. The rabbis asked, “What was there before God spoke?” Their answer was, “God’s silence.” And silence became a token of His inexpressible majesty.3 The Christian message, however, is that God has spoken out of His silence, and He Himself has come with words of inexpressible grace (John 1:14). No wonder,

then, that the early Christians, according to Pliny, sang a hymn each day “to Christ as to God.”4

John 1:14 is one of the most significant and memorable sentences ever penned.5 It is the central New Testament text (locus classicus) on the doctrine of the Incarnation, the doctrine that the second person of the Trinity assumed human nature. The message of the text is that the the eternal Logos assumed human nature and lived a life of moral splendor on this earth. Because He has done so, He can meet the needs of His people and reveal God fully to humankind.

The Fact of the Incarnation: His Assumption of Human Nature6

The repetition of

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