Early Church’s Understanding Of John 1:1

In my previous article: Who Is Christ Jesus? Answers From Clement, I shared Titus Flavius Clemens (c.150 – c. 215) of Alexandria’s understanding of who Christ Jesus is. In the fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus, Clement of Alexandria recorded that that Christ Jesus is “ the Son of God, who being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreate[d]“,(Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1885, p.574) in his commentary of the Gospel according to John 1:1.

In this article I would like to share more of Clement’s commentary of John 1:1 found in Exhortation To The Heathen. I pick this part because it gives us a clue of the early church’s understanding of John 1:1.

In line with historical documents, the early Church believed that Christ Jesus is the Lord and Saviour, who did signs and wonders in Egypt and in the desert, the I Am in the burning bush and the cloud that led Israel through the desert. They believed that He was the Lord Himself that spoke with Isaiah and Elias and when time had full come, He ““who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but humbled Himself,”—He, the merciful God, exerting Himself to save man.”(p.174).

In seeing Christ Jesus in Old Testament, Clement view the paternal counsel of God, which fired the zeal of David; Christ Jesus who is of David and yet before him, despising the lyre and harp, lifeless instruments tuned by the Holy Spirit, making a melody that cured the demon plagued King Saul(1 Sam 16 and 19).

He goes on to describe this all-harmonious music:

A beautiful breathing instrument of music the Lord made man, after His own image. And He Himself also, surely, who is the supramundane Wisdom, the celestial Word, is the all-harmonious, melodious, holy instrument of God. What, then, does this instrument—the Word of God, the Lord, the New Song—desire? To open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf, and to lead the lame or the erring to righteousness, to exhibit God to the foolish, to put a stop to corruption, to conquer death, to reconcile disobedient children to their father. The instrument of God loves mankind.

Clement pronounced that believers, the elect, are in God’s promise, we have His’ love and partaker of His grace.  Because: “He has now assumed the name Christ, consecrated of old, and worthy of power, he has been called by me the New Song. This Word, then, the Christ, the cause of both our being at first (for He was in God) and of our well-being, this very Word has now appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and man—the Author of all blessings to us; by whom we, being taught to live well, are sent on our way to life eternal.”(p.173)

In a Pauline-Ephesians 1:3-11 way, Clement argued that the elects were called and destined to be found in Christ Jesus.

But before the foundation of the world were we, who, because destined to be in Him, pre-existed in the eye of God before,—we the rational creatures of the Word of God, on whose account we date from the beginning; for “in the beginning was the Word.” Well, inasmuch as the Word was from the first, He was and is the divine source of all things; but inasmuch as He has now assumed the name Christ, consecrated of old, and worthy of power, he has been called by me the New Song. This Word, then, the Christ, the cause of both our being at first (for He was in God) and of our well-being, this very Word has now appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and man—the Author of all blessings to us; by whom we, being taught to live well, are sent on our way to life eternal. For, according to that inspired apostle of the Lord, “the grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for the blessed hope, and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

The God of Israel, the I Am, the Creator, the Son of God, the Emmanuel has appeared to accomplish our redemption:

This is the New Song, the manifestation of the Word that was in the beginning; and before the beginning. The Saviour, who existed before, has in recent days appeared. He, who is in Him that truly is, has appeared; for the Word, who “was with God,” and by whom all things were created, has appeared as our Teacher. The Word, who in the beginning bestowed on us life as Creator when He formed us, taught us to live well when He appeared as our Teacher; that as God He might afterwards conduct us to the life which never ends. He did not now for the first time pity us for our error; but He pitied us from the first, from the beginning. But now, at His appearance, lost as we already were, He accomplished our salvation.

From this document we can conclude that the early Church believed that Son of God Christ Jesus, the Logos that was with God(Father), is  the God of Israel, the Lord and Saviour who is the I Am of the burning bush in Moses time and the God who spoke to Isaiah.

Source:

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume II: Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire). 1885 (A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed.) (172-4). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

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