This weekend I was at a Junior Retreat with fourth through sixth graders. The theme was Digging Deep, and we were looking at our Bible. We looked at how we got the Bible, interpretation and translation methods, context, and the like. One of the lessons was on context and making connections from one part of Scripture to other parts.
As a result, I have made, for me, a new connection. The text was John 1:1-14. This connection was not part of the lesson but was personal. As We were looking at connections with God, the Logos, and light it occurred to me that there was a connection I had never made before. Three words connected in a new way for me.
The words were light, dwelt, and glory. These were not really part of the class discussion and are the result of studies I made last year. The idea of light in the Old Testament is often associated with God’s presence and glory. Moses met God at a burning bush. God appeared on Mt Sinai in fire, smoke and light. God led his people around the wilderness with a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. Once Israel had built the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, whenever God came there was great glory and light. God’s glory and presence was marked by light.
Now consider the passage in John. John uses the word “dwelt” to denote what the Logos, the Light, did. This in incarnation talk. But that word is used in the LXX (Greek translation of the Old Testament) many times for tent and/or tabernacle. The Presence and Glory of God in the Tabernacle was marked by the Light, the Shekinah of God, above the Mercy seat. John then concludes the pericope by talking of seeing his Glory. Most the time, people look to the transfiguration moment with Moses and Elijah. And I wouldn’t argue that point.
May I suggest that we add to that interpretation? In Ezekiel, we read of the Shekinah left the Temple and never returned. God’s Glory and Presence were associated with the Temple, but the light, not so much.
Here in his first few paragraphs, John has the Light again “dwelling” or “tabernacling” with mankind. John looks back to the past manifestation of God’s Presence to announce God, in his unique son, has returned to Israel. And this time it is a coming to the world, to all who will believe.