Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Religion, New Testament PhD

First Advisor

Robert M. Johnston

Second Advisor

W. Larry Richards

Third Advisor

Jon Paulien


Most scholars would agree that the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel--as John 1:1-8 is usually called--introduces Jesus Christ as a divine, pre-existent being who at a certain point in time was made flesh and lived among humans. No agreement, however, exists on the point in the narrative at which the shift from one state to the other takes place. As John the Baptist is mentioned in vss. 6-8, many think that the following verses refer to the ministry of the incarnate Christ, while others, struck by the explicitness of vs. 14, argue that this verse marks the transition from pre-existence to incarnation. Some try to combine both views and argue that the central section of the Prologue (vss. 6-13) describes what they call the activity of the pre-incarnate Christ in Old Testament times. There are also those who, not impressed either by vss. 6-8 or vs. 14, contend that it is only the first three verses of the Prologue that necessarily refer to the pre-existent Christ. For a few interpreters the entire Prologue is about the incarnate Christ.

By making a detailed and comprehensive analysis of this issue and evaluating all differing views, the dissertation is intended to establish exactly at what point the Prologue begins to speak about the incarnate Christ. The analysis is based on the Prologue's present form and organization, and presupposes its coherence and unity. Three main chapters form the bulk of this study. These correspond to the natural divisions of the Prologue (vss. 1-5; vss. 6-13; vss. 14-18) and to a certain extent to the various views on the point of incarnation.

The first main chapter (chapter 2) considers the incarnation in vss. 1-5 and concludes that there is no evidence to support the claim that thetransition from pre-existence to incarnation occurs either in vs. 4 or in vs. 5, and much less that the entire Prologue is about the incarnate Christ. The perspective of these verses is fundamentally cosmological and, as such, they refer to the pre-existent Christ.

Chapter 3 addresses the question whether vss. 6-3 describe the ministry of the pre-incarnate Christ in the Old Testament period. The conclusion is that they describe the historical ministry of Jesus Christ, whose coming into the world--the point of the incarnation--is mentioned in vs. 9, though the modality of his coming is not spelled out until vs. 14.

The last chapter establishes the meaning of vs. 14 in view of an incarnational interpretation of vss. 6-13. This verse, together with vss. 15-18, is not meant to announce the incarnation proper, but rather to express its theological significance, which is based on the covenantal traditions of the exodus story and later prophetic expectations. It consists of a radical affirmation that the new, eschatological era of salvation has been inaugurated with the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Subject Area

Incarnation, Bible. John 1:1-18 -- Criticism, interpretation, etc


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