John 1:18: Bring on the Stupid

John 1:18 says:

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

I think the meaning of this sentence is clear: God is a Siamese twin. And half of him is shy.

Well, there go plans for never dying. I’m officially lucky if God doesn’t kill me right now.

Stupid sense of humor. I knew it’d be the end of me.

So, to hurry up: I think here John means the obvious, which is that the unknowable God made himself known and knowable by incarnating himself as Jesus.

If you read John 1:18 slowly, though, it becomes a serious brain-bender. Every time I try to parse my way through it I feel another portion of my brain shorting out. I try to read it about two more times, and my keyboard will short out from me drooling on it.

Thus, again, do we fall into the genius of John: Using nothing but one-dimensional print on a page, he blasts into oblivion what we think we know, and leaves in its place nothing but God.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://www.brianshields.com Brian Shields

    They told me when I was a kid, I would see air cars. I'm losing my patience.

  • http://annaldavis.wordpress.com annaldavis

    No air cars yet, but we're only a couple of years away from a mini-personal aircraft that you can fold up and fit in your garage. Don't even need a pilot's license.

  • http://annaldavis.wordpress.com annaldavis

    BTW, I absolutely love that about God. We think we have Him pinned down, reduced to a lifestyle choice. And then a verse like this happens along. How little we really understand!

  • yeu@nn

    same here… agree with annaldavis :) i love how John artfully yanks the wool from our eyes… and yanks the rug from under our notions abt God… so cool :)

  • http://angelbearoh.wordpress.com angelbearoh

    We're also quite a few years out from Rosie the Robot Maid. But then we're probably too far into our computer-generated cartoon worlds to care.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    "Using nothing but one-dimensional print …"

    Very well put John.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    ha! good one, Red! (And thanks, Ric.)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    … and yeu, and ann

  • http://sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    This NIV translation does sound kind of awkward (I think). I like this one:

    John 1:18 (Contemporary English Version)

    “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like.”

    In 2019 we are supposed to be getting flying cars. And replicants. I can’t wait.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    That is a lot clearer, Chris. Though I DO kind of like the ever in-folding, Zen koanish language of the NIV.

    Replicants!! I totally want four of them. Maybe THEN I could finally get out of doing housework myself.

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty

    I just read about two entire pages of Greek commentary on verse 18 alone, and I think I’m even more confused than before!

    Now I basically read it as “God wicked cool, brah.”

  • http://www.brianslunch.com Brian Shields

    I've heard there are a lot of out of work replicants these days since the democants took over in D.C.

  • http://www.knotonablog.blogspot.com Ricky H

    Isn't the printed word two-dimensional?

  • http://none Roy Huntley

    I disagree with my Baptist brothers. When they get to Heaven I want them to count THEM sitting side by side. I have no problem with those who disagree. RH

  • Carl

    Wasn’t it you who posted the thought that “Truth” Depends on Your Translation”? Did you really mean that or was it just a lot of empty talk? For instance, you prefer the NiV’s version of John 1:18, which says, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” Does that make sense to you? After saying that no one has seen God, it then says that God is at the Father’s side and that he he has made himself known. Is that in harmony with Scripture? No! Instead of saying that God and the Father are two separate persons, the Bible says that God and the Father are one in the same person. For instance, soon after being resurrected, Jesus sent a message to his followers, saying: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.” (John 20:17) So, Jesus’ Father was also Jesus’ God. They are one in the same person. At Col. 1:3, Paul wrote: “We thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always when we pray for you.” Here again, it shows that God and the Father are one in the same person. Yet your preference of the NIV’s renderring of John 1:18 has God stationed at the Father’s hand. In other words, God is at his own side. Does that make sense to you? It shouldn’t

    The KJV’s version of John 1:18 makes much more sense, when it says: “No one hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” This renderring of John 1:18 makes it clear that God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus, is the one who has given us a better understanding of what his God and Father is like. He accomplished this during his 3 1/2 year ministry.

    Your preferred version of John 1:18 has thoroughly confused you. In your own words, you said that at John 1:18, “John means the obvious, which is that the unknowable God made himself known and knowable by incarnating himself as Jesus.” Have you forgotten so soon that YOU said in another post that God is a trinity and that it was explained at John 1:1-4? Since that is what you believe, then your understand of the NIV’s rendition of John 1:18 has caused you to conclude that the “unknowable” trinity (Father, Son, and holy spirit) made itself known by incarnating itself as its own Son, Jesus. Now, just how much sense does THAT make?


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