May 27, 2009

Okay then, John 1-1.14 (a mix of translations)

When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was.

The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him. All that came to be was alive with his life; and that life was the light of human beings.

The light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never quenched it.

There appeared a man named John, sent from God; he came as a witness to testify to the light, that all might become believers through him. He was not himself the light; he came to bear witness to the light. The real light which enlightens every man was, even then, coming into the world.

He was in the world, but the world, which owed its being to him, did not recognize him.

He entered his own place, and his own people would not welcome him. But to all who did welcome him, to those who gave their allegiance, he gave the power to become children of God--not born of human stock, or by the fleshly desire of their human fathers, but offspring of Spirit.

So the Word became flesh; he came to live among us; and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father's true son, full of truth and blessing.

10 Comments:

At 5:35 PM, Blogger Diane said...

There is a coherent chronology here, and I think it shows that something changed within humanity if tracked as a change in spiritual evolution within a grander cycle. George Fox, who seems to me to have synthesized the teachings of the Bible and formed his ideas that we all have direct access to the continual revelation and teaching from the Spirit Within, used this passage (particularly 1.9) to identify the inclusive nature of the change and the permanence of it.

The “light which enlightens every man” is what Christ represents (Jesus said, I am come a light into the world, John 12.46). That this light was present from before the beginning (already was) makes sense to me, if the sense of divinity or G-d didn’t make a sudden appearance in the world, just how we perceive it. The Bhagavad-Gita describes a light or lamp in several places, 10.11 the shining lamp of knowledge dwelling in their hearts destroys the darkness born of ignorance, and 13.18 the source of light situated in everyone’s heart. These acknowledge it but not our perception of it. Gita commentaries often say that it prepares people for the end of Krishna’s era and for the change to come. Buddhism uses the lamp symbolism (be a lamp unto yourself), which I believe is spoken as he nears death. Even Confucius talks about how spiritual beings display powers that permeate all things but you cannot see or hear.

The light came into the world, to “every man,” all inclusive (no boundaries by land or religion), but was not recognized (compare John 14.16-17: he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth… the world neither sees him nor knows him). Christ and the Spirit were already a part of that which was human, but it wasn’t recognized in the same way. And it will be with us forever, which indicates a permanent change in what it means to be human.

Howard H. Brinton wrote (Inward Light, Summer 1959) that early Quakers believed that the Spirit of God is the Supreme authority, still operates to reveal new truths, has inspired humans since the beginning of humanity, and that if yielded to can [redeem] humans. This seems consistent with this passage of John 1. Brinton goes to imply that Quakers believed in possible perfection and of grace sufficient for the salvation of non-Christians (though not in the same way Catholicism does).

And then humans are born of spirit (what is born of the Spirit is spirit, John 3.6). I think this allows us to understand perfectability (Be perfect,… Matt 5.48) or wholeness, and also that humans no longer carry this burden of sin (if one views sin as a separation of oneself from the G-d of which we are a part). If we become aware of the inner Spirit, which can be through religion or just listening to it, we don’t sin … though we should discern the meaning and act accordingly (often called “according to God’s will”). I don’t talk about the Bible a lot but it seems the idea of perfectability is not well accepted by many people I know (unless Buddhist leaning).

It also seems to me that too much goes into "being Christian" in order to understand something that has happened to all humanity. The key is become open to the leadings of the Spirit, not what it is called or various other qualifications for experiencing a grace that comes from that communication.

Have I traced a logical understanding here? I welcome some feedback. This is so good to be able to ask about this.

 
At 9:18 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Like much of what Jesus said, this is implicit in the Hebrew scriptures he drew on to (at least) communicate his understanding: Where God breathes his spirit into Adam, where Moses asks God for a name and is told: "Tell them 'I Am' sent you."

So I think there have always been people who more or less 'got it', along with people totally identified with their personal roles in this 'colossal divine entertainment'!

So I'd see it more as: 'no boundaries by land or religion _or era_.' But I hope we're entering a time when the Kingdom truly does grow like a weed, because the various wake-up calls coming at us look downright scary! (And because life at last feels like the Big It may be begining to consistently manifest in my life, like what I'd felt sporadically in my youth and more recently felt most strongly at yearly meetings, then with slow intensity during that year at Pendle Hill. Like maybe I don't need to search anymore to link up with a Critical Spiritual Mass; it's here!)

I'm all for Perfectability, but don't think it can be a static condition, or that it would involve being infallible (mainly because I ain't!) Between Robert Aitken & William Springfellow & Alan Lew, this idea that "Zen is the perfection of character. It is not someone else's character." Our redeemed flaws are gifts!

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger Deb said...

Wow. There's a lot of theology here, profound, valid, and helpful. To add, I will only share an observation: that if you've ever spent sime in darkness (whether real or perceived), when the light emerges (in whatever form, it is both a gift and a relief. Psalm 28:18: You O Lord keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger Hystery said...

I often use this particular passage in my discussion with students. The Genesis link is fascinating, of course, but isn't it interesting how Divine Wisdom (f) becomes Logos (m). All kinds of fascinating and amusing difficulties arise because of this gender change.

 
At 12:21 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Yes, the Shekhinah
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shekhinah )

comes out looking a whole lot like this Word and like the Divine Wisdom; it would take a pretty sharp mind to imagine a valid distinction to push between them! If gender is as significant as people tend to think (~"All human societies agree there is an essential difference in character between men and women, but they disagree on what that is.") that would be a major theological problem.

[Somewhat off-subject, I recently realized there is a purpose for the male nipple: It reminds us that we are built from a common template. Which reminds me of that Rabbinic quote that Arthur Waskow used in a Friends Journal article last month: "When Caesar puts his image on a coin, all the coins come out identical. When that One who is beyond rulers puts the Divine Image on a 'coin', all the 'coins' come out unique."]

Ohwell, just a nice quote... Thank you all for being here! It's been quite dark without y'all!

There's so much in this passage; should we dig in in more detail, or go on?

 
At 12:45 PM, Blogger forrest said...

There is, I think, a different 'psychic/emotional flavor' between men and women. The "Adam" of the first part of Genesis is supposed to be truly both male and female; even so: "It is not good for [that one] to be alone," so God subdivides Itself/Adam into male & female versions, on its way to the current billions of sub-variations. Okay, also a side issue (unless someone else is inclined to go on this direction.)

A prophet once explained the motive of creation to me as "God got lonely." Okay, but in the process of peopling this world we have started out so cluelessly, continued so cluelessly--so far as human history is the story of all the things a person would not want to happen to him! All these people 'under the bridge' since Creation, with a few prophets & similar people feeling their connection to this Word, and most of us not responding well at all!--like me when I was younger, when the whole Book of John just sounded like a fundamentalist preacher's dream collection of texts useful for thumping the Ungodly (me, for example!)

 
At 1:56 PM, Blogger Diane said...

Following the wisdom tradition and seeking out key phrases used by early Quakers, I ran across Wisdom of Solomon 7.13-16: “I learned diligently, and do communicate her [spirit of wisdom] liberally: I do not hide her riches. For she is a treasure unto men that never faileth: which they that use become the friends of God, being commended for the gifts that come from learning …”

And also, something I think George Fox used, from Wisdom 8.1: “Wisdom reacheth from one end to another mightily: and sweetly doth she order all things.”

Assuming the use of the word wisdom can be tracked, in 1 Cor 2.7, 10-13, wisdom is related to revelation through Spirit: “we speak of God’s secret wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. … but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. … This is what we speak, not in words taught to us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”

Amid all the tendencies of scripture which have sounded to me like we shouldn’t think (just submit to the higher voice), I rebelled ... and found it interesting that wisdom is embraced as something for those who become "friends of God" (talk about coming full circle!) I also collected verses that spoke of fearlessness, which soon links up with freedom. This is a very empowering line, or thread, to follow.

I know so little about the gender issues, having given up on tracing them in past years, but sometimes I can see how feminine is used for worldly or material things and the male for spiritual ones. I don’t quite follow that in this move from Divine Wisdom to Logos, female to male, and it seems there’s a lot mythology about it. The feminine did seem to switch around in the trinity. In the recent past, I’ve kinda chosen to ignore any sense of patriarchy of religious fervor. Having thought more in terms of the trinity of Atma-Buddhi-Manas, I’m not sure how that equates exactly to the Christian trinity, if it does. I lack clarity in this. I’ll follow up on your link, though. Thanks.

And thanks, Deb, for the Psalms 28:18 ref. This is really comforting to me to have this exchange with you all. I’m still processing it all.

In terms of dwelling place (Shekhinah), it may be interesting to follow up with review of Matt 18.20, as a basis for coming together in silent group worship or Ezek 37:27 (I will put my dwelling place among you.) Does this jump around too much? Or, is there some a better reference regarding dwelling place?

 
At 6:46 PM, Blogger forrest said...

This stuff about 'the Presence' being associated with a specific place,.. I expect partly that had to do with the fact that places do seem to take on the flavor of the emotional/spritual activities associated with them--& also to the use of gods, way back then, as utensils for ethnic politics--As in settling the official national cult in Jerusalem, in opposition to all the local variations. But whenever that national cult got too well-linked with oppressive elites, some prophet would show up to say, If people wanted God's presence to 'dwell' in this place, they'd have to behave better; and they obviously weren't about to do so, so she was leaving!

I'm more intrigued by this matter of searching out word usage to do Theo-LOGY.

That linguistic gender-shift seems to reflect a change in emphasis. The "Logos" terminology adds a certain Greek flavor akin to your method of searching out different occurrences of the same "word", if you see what I'm getting at. It renders "wisdom" as a thing to be approached via "logic"al intellect!

"Holy Wisdom" is "female" because it has more of an intuitive feel.

So even though we are getting this in terms of a beautiful poem, the literary critics & philosophers are lurking in nearby bushes, about to dissect it into Theo-"logic"-al "words", eventually to turn these into rationales by which to damn and persecute anyone with a reading of their own.

I like the fact that some people are starting to contrast 'theopoetics' with 'theology,' but there's still something a little too academic about that term: Far better to say: The most natural way to 'understand' God is not by theology, but by theopoetry.

If I use the word "mouse" in a poem, this is obviously a zoological word referring to a small, timid, omnivarous mammal.

But there was this old cat's meditation poem, something like this:

He's at it again! Sitting
all tangled on the floor
staring at nothing!

How do they get
themselves into
those positions?

I see! He's hunting
the Great Mouse!

 
At 11:48 AM, Blogger Hystery said...

The Johannine text certainly adds a Hellenistic flavor to the gospel tradition. Given the Greek emphasis on maleness and the dualistic separation of body and mind/spirit, the shift in gender is not surprising. Also, just practically, it makes sense that they would shift from the Wisdom as Yahweh's companion to the masculine Logos. "Sophia"s Revenge" was enacted when the old association with Divine Wisdom bled back into the theology. We get some great images of Christ as female not only in the Gnostic tradition but also in medieval art and mysticism.

It is also fun to trace connections between the feminine presence, the asherim, (literally and archaeologically present with Yahweh "in the beginning" before Israel firmly established its monotheistic tradition) and other mythological/religious traditions in the region and to see how these traditions work their way into Marian devotion, Gnosticism, Christian mysticism and the like. Fun stuff. This is why John is just about my favorite book in the canon.

 
At 5:56 PM, Blogger Diane said...

This is so interesting. I didn’t realize that John 1 was so important in Christian theology in establishing Christ as Divine, if you think in terms of the trinity. In sorting through what I have heard in past discussions, I thought of any logos as an emanation (like an energy center) and I had even collected verses that used the mirror metaphor (1 Cor 13.12 and John 14.16-17 and Wisdom of Solomon 7.26) of seeing the Divine essence directly or covered in dust, in different degrees). That quest to come face to face with the Ultimate is timeless but best left indirect it seems.

But I just don’t really focus on those verses too much (at least lately) in terms of the trinity or divine nature of Christ. The Wiki page said John 1 introduces this Logos, adapted from Philo’s concept of the creative principle. I can see that the ultimate Divinity is ineffable, but its emanations are part of the manifested world we live in and approachable. The Spirit seems to be the feminine principle and the one we have that can be related to. I am unsure what the emphasis of Christ vs the Holy Spirit really means to Christians. Why is Christ the “door” or “gate” (Luke 13.24, Matt 7.13) and not the Holy Spirit?

Theosophy [from Greek theosophia from theos god, divinity + sophia wisdom] was familiar to Greeks in the 3rd century with Ammonius Saccas and the Alexandrian Neoplatonists or Theurgists, who taught of divine emanations. (Theosophical University Press glossary). Whereas theo-logos, reasoning, but by then the patriarchy of it had set in. hmm

I also once read a book that took the misogynist tendencies away from blame of the Apostle Paul and attributed the source to Aristotle. I left it at that so far, since I never cared for Aristotle. I guess this isn’t leading anywhere but are just a few thoughts. (I'll check into Marian devotion!)

From the Larry link that you posted elsewhere, I was reading the Goodspeed commentary on John, and it talked about the desire of this book to appeal to Greeks (rational appeal) as well as Jews, and linking Christ to the knowledge (light and truth) helped to do that. By linking Christ with Logos the message accomplishes to appeal to both prophetic revelation and reason.

 

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