No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.John 1:18 ASV
There is both “truth” and “knowledge of God” throughout this passage, as well as elsewhere in John, that have reference to one and the same thing.
Thus, due to his limitation, man can enjoy true knowledge of God only through the revelation of the one who, as both God and man, is in a position truly to reveal him.
This verse declares that Christ has indeed provided for man such a faithful revelation of the Father.
No man hath seen God at any time …
This is not a contradiction of Exodus 24:10, where it is recorded that a whole company of Israelites “saw the God of Israel”; nor is this a contradiction of Job 42:5, where Job said of God, “Now mine eye seeth thee.”
Of course the TERMINOLOGY of these passages is contradictory: no man hath seen … they saw; but “seeing” is not used in the same sense in these passages.
We must remember that two statements which in terms flatly contradict one another may be both of them absolutely true, for the reason that the two terms are not used in the same sense in the two statements.
Language offers hundreds of examples of the same words used in different meanings.
This writer has a friend who is blind; but on his recent return from Europe, he spoke of “seeing” some of the great cities.
If one asks another if he ever saw the back of his head, the answer could be either affirmative or negative, depending on the sense of the verb.
The only begotten Son … The oldest and most reliable manuscripts of this Gospel read “only begotten God” in this passage, and it should be so translated. John 1:18.
The evidence for ONLY BEGOTTEN GOD is so strong as to be practically conclusive … ONLY BEGOTTEN GOD makes an unequivocal affirmation of the deity of Christ.
Archaeological evidence continues to strengthen the preference for ONLY BEGOTTEN GOD in this place.
Frank Pack, in a critical study of Papyrus Bodmer II, P66, writing in 1960, stated, P-66 here (John 1:18) contains the very interesting reading [MONOGENES] [THEOS] (only begotten God)
Thus, another early witness is given to [MONOGENES] [THEOS] despite the fact that English Revised Version (1885) and the RSV continue to follow the second reading.
In view of the practical certainty that Jesus is here called the “only begotten God,” it may be inquired why so many versions and translations continue to render the passage, “only begotten Son”; and the answer lies in the truth that SON OF GOD, as applied to Jesus Christ, has exactly the same connotation, being in fact no less an unequivocal affirmation of our Lord’s deity than ONLY BEGOTTEN GOD.
The common translation makes no difference in the sense of the passage.
This of course is true, provided only that people understand all that is meant by the expression, SON OF GOD; but that is exactly where the problem is.
Many people misconstrue SON OF GOD as meaning something less than absolute deity; and, since the apostle John here employed terminology incapable of being misunderstood, it is all the more regrettable that the translators in their wisdom (!) have violated the Received Text in their handling of this verse, a violation they would not have committed if the weight of it had been in the opposite direction.
God is revealed to mankind by Jesus Christ, the Holy One.
The nature and attributes of God are revealed through Christ whose identity with the Father is complete and whose identity with man is also perfect.
This verse is the climax of the prologue and the topic sentence of the entire Gospel.
John carefully assembled and deployed his amazing material in this Gospel to prove that Christ is God come in the flesh and to induce faith on the part of man in the world’s only Redeemer.
Who is in the bosom of the Father … suggests the most intimate union and identity with God on the part of Christ.
In a similar use of this expression, Jesus declared that Lazarus was in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).
He hath declared him … means far more than merely talking about God.
Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).
In Gnosticism, prevalent after John’s time, so-called wise men taught esoteric “knowledge” that was supposed to make one “wise,” hence the name of the sect; and, in the Hellenistic mystery cults, there were all kinds of teachers of secret lore; but the revelation in Jesus Christ was not something whispered in a cave.
This verse concludes the prologue. Before passing on to a consideration of subsequent passages, there is one further comment regarding The Word.
The Holy Scriptures themselves have been called the word of God in all generations; and, since Jesus is here designated the Word, a comparison of Christ and the Bible is suggested.
CHRIST AND THE BIBLE
Christ was both human and divine, and so is the Bible. The Lord identified himself as one with the Father, and yet he was also the son of the virgin Mary, of the posterity of David and of Abraham. Likewise, the Bible is in fact the word of God; yet, at the same time, it is the writing by men like Isaiah, Moses, Matthew, Luke, and Paul.
That there is mystery here is certain, and it cannot be explained exactly how this is true; but every child of God knows that these dual qualities of humanity and divinity are found both in Christ and in the Bible.
The parallel between Christ and the Bible even extends to this, that as there were a few Gentiles conspicuously among the Lord’s fleshly ancestors, such as Ruth and Tamar, there are also some Gentile writers of the Bible, notably Job and the evangelist Luke.
Both Christ and the Bible have been disbelieved, mocked, tried with false trials, and crucified. The passion and crucifixion of the Lord are well known; but some may not know that during the French Revolution the Bible was publicly tried and condemned, tied to the tail of a donkey which was ridden by a harlot, and dragged through the streets of Paris to the city dump.
The Bible is like the Lord in its crucifixion, being crucified by many who are enemies of the cross of Christ.
Both the Lord and the Bible have triumphed over death, the Lord by rising from the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and the Bible by rising from every grave to which it was ever consigned.
One astonishing example of this is seen in the burning of Tyndale’s Bibles at the foot of St. Paul’s cross in London; and the more money that was received from the Bibles that were bought to be burned, the greater the output of presses making more Bibles.
As languages changed, there came a time historically when the Bible no longer existed in the language of common men; but with the coming of men like Wycliffe and Tyndale, the Bible cast off the grave clothes of the dead languages in which it was enshrouded; and today it is published in practically every language under heaven.
This subject is rather extensive, and only the barest suggestion of it is included here. John Macmillan’s book, The Crucified and Risen Bible, gives it full treatment.