Proof for the singular reading of John 1.13

Monos Theos
June 1, 2016
In the Beginning God Created the Son..?
August 16, 2016

Proof for the singular reading of John 1.13

“There is also the unexpected alternative reading of John 1.13, which changes the plural into singular: ‘…who believe on the name of him who was born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God.’ This reading rests on one Latin MS, the Verona Codex, but it was accepted by Tertullian (De Carne Christi, 19 & 24, where he treats the plural reading as a forgery), Justin (Apol. I. 22, 2), and Irenaeus (Haer. 3, 16.2). The Epistula Apostolorum (probably early 2nd cent.), says of Jesus Christ, ‘born, not by carnal lust, but by the will of God‘, which, as B.H. Streeter says, ‘seems to imply the famous Western reading of John 1.13’ (The Four Gospels, 1924, 70), which ‘makes John assert the Virgin Birth’ (op. cit., 268 n. 1). The reading is strongly defended by Douglas Edwards, The Virgin Birth in History and Faith, 1943, 130 ff.” Article on the “Son” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies (Book III):

16.2: But the Holy Ghost, foreseeing the corrupters [of the truth], and guarding by anticipation against their deceit, says by Matthew, “But the birth of Christ was on this wise;” and that He is Emmanuel, lest perchance we might consider Him as a mere man: for “not by the will of the flesh nor by the will of man, but by the will of God was the Word made flesh;

19.2: For this reason [it is, said], “Who shall declare His generation?” Isaiah 53:8 since “He is a man, and who shall recognise Him?” Jeremiah 17:9 But he to whom the Father which is in heaven has revealed Him, Matthew 16:16 knows Him, so that he understands that He who “was not born either by the will of the flesh, or by the will of man,” John 1:13 is the Son of man, this is Christ, the Son of the living God.

Tertullian, On the Flesh of Christ:

Ch. 19: What, then, is the meaning of this passage, “Born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God?John 1:13 I shall make more use of this passage after I have confuted those who have tampered with it. They maintain that it was written thus (in the plural) “Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” as if designating those who were before mentioned as “believing in His name,” in order to point out the existence of that mysterious seed of the elect and spiritual which they appropriate to themselves. But how can this be, when all who believe in the name of the Lord are, by reason of the common principle of the human race, born of blood, and of the will of the flesh, and of man, as indeed is Valentinus himself?

The expression is in the singular number, as referring to the Lord, “He was born of God.” And very properly, because Christ is the Word of God, and with the Word the Spirit of God, and by the Spirit the Power of God, and whatsoever else appertains to God. As flesh, however, He is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of man, because it was by the will of God that the Word was made flesh. To the flesh, indeed, and not to the Word, accrues the denial of the nativity which is natural to us all as men, because it was as flesh that He had thus to be born, and not as the Word. Now, while the passage actually denies that He was born of the will of the flesh, how is it that it did not also deny (that He was born) of the substance of the flesh? For it did not disavow the substance of the flesh when it denied His being “born of blood” but only the matter of the seed, which, as all know, is the warm blood as convected by ebullition into the coagulum of the woman’s blood. In the cheese, it is from the coagulation that the milky substance acquires that consistency, which is condensed by infusing the rennet. We thus understand that what is denied is the Lord’s birth after sexual intercourse (as is suggested by the phrase, “the will of man and of the flesh”), not His nativity from a woman’s womb. Why, too, is it insisted on with such an accumulation of emphasis that He was not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor (of the will) of man, if it were not that His flesh was such that no man could have any doubt on the point of its being born from sexual intercourse? Again, although denying His birth from such cohabitation, the passage did not deny that He was born of real flesh; it rather affirmed this, by the very fact that it did not deny His birth in the flesh in the same way that it denied His birth from sexual intercourse. Pray, tell me, why the Spirit of God descended into a woman’s womb at all, if He did not do so for the purpose of partaking of flesh from the womb. For He could have become spiritual flesh without such a process—much more simply, indeed, without the womb than in it. He had no reason for enclosing Himself within one, if He was to bear forth nothing from it. Not without reason, however, did He descend into a womb. Therefore He received (flesh) therefrom; else, if He received nothing therefrom, His descent into it would have been without a reason, especially if He meant to become flesh of that sort which was not derived from a womb, that is to say, a spiritual one.

Ch. 24: And when in another passage he says, in like manner, “Before me there was no God,” Isaiah 46:9 he strikes at those inexplicable genealogies of the Valentinian Æons. Again, there is an answer to Ebion in the Scripture: “Born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho:

Ch. 54: That the Scripture mentions the blood of the grape has been evidently designed, because Christ derives blood not from the seed of man, but from the power of God. For as God, and not man, has produced the blood of the vine, so also [the Scripture] has predicted that the blood of Christ would be not of the seed of man, but of the power of God. But this prophecy, sirs, which I repeated, proves that Christ is not man of men, begotten in the ordinary course of humanity.

Ch. 63: The passage, then, which Isaiah records, ‘Who shall declare His generation? For His life is taken away from the earth,’ Isaiah 53:8—does it not appear to you to refer to One who, not having descent from men, was said to be delivered over to death by God for the transgressions of the people?—of whose blood, Moses (as I mentioned before), when speaking in parable, said, that He would wash His garments in the blood of the grape; since His blood did not spring from the seed of man, but from the will of God.

Epistula Apostolorum 3:

“In God, the Lord, the Son of God, do we believe, that he is the word become flesh: that of Mary the holy virgin he took a body, begotten of the Holy Ghost, not of the will (lust) of the flesh, but by the will of God: that he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem and made manifest, and grew up and came to ripe age, when also we beheld it.”

Augustine, Confessions Book 7:

You procured for me, by the instrumentality of one inflated with most monstrous pride, certain books of the Platonists, translated from Greek into Latin… In like manner, I read there that God the Word was born not of flesh, nor of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God.

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