Unveiling Glory

A friend of mine quoted on Facebook from Dr. Eugene Peterson's The Message translation: "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish." (John 1:14 The Message, emphases added) First, I am surprised to find "Word" here instead of "Message," which would not only correspond with the title of the paraphrase, but would also accurately translate λόγος, as Christ Jesus embodies the divine Message of our triune God to a hurting and helpless world: "I love you and offer you redemption."

Second, for a modern paraphrase, I find the use of "glory" to be too obscure a notion, for modern usage has rendered "glory" nearly archaic. This Greek word, δόξα, refers to honor, renown, splendor; it represents a divine quality and an "unspoken manifestation of God." (link) Yet, I still do not grasp the nature of "glory," and especially as mentioned at John 1:14. From the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology we learn that "glory" is related to radiance.1 Having looked directly into the sun, I understand radiance, an object that emanates bright or almost-blinding light. But I remain uncertain as to what St John could mean by referring to Jesus as being an object emanating blinding light. What is glory?

If we are to "give glory" to God (Luke 17:18; Rom. 4:20; Rev. 4:9), that seems as though we possess a glory, whatever glory refers to, to grant to God, which does not translate well into our modern sensibilities. Does glory, in this context, refer to giving God honor, or praise, for the goodness of God? If "the highest duty of mankind is to glorify and praise God in worship, word, and act (Matt. 5:16; Rom. 1:21; 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31)"2 (emphasis added) then we had better understand what is required of us.

But the matter of "glory," to me, seems complicated when considering that God is known as "the God of glory" (Acts 17:2; cf. 2 Pet. 1:17). Should we rather conceive of this phrase as "the glorious God"? If so then what, exactly, does "glorious" communicate, as an adjective, about God? We, I think, are so used to speaking and perpetuating Christianese, as a form of communication, without a) clearly understanding ourselves what some of our own words and phrases convey; and b) carefully considering how our language may be failing to communicate the truths of God to others.

Angels are also mentioned as being endowed with glory (Luke 2:9; 9:31; Acts 22:11; Rev. 18:1; 2 Pet. 1:10; Jude 1:8). Men and women, created in the image of God, are also referred to as possessing glory (1 Cor. 11:7); and believers in Christ share and/or will share "the glory of God" (cf. John 17:22; Rom. 8:17-18, 21; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21). Christians maintain a hope named "the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).3 Believers will be "glorified" (Rom. 8:30). What truths do these references convey about glory?



We understand from history that the ancient Greeks value "fame and glory,"4 by which they mean honor, prestige and praise. First-century rabbis also maintain "a high esteem for a person's honor."5 Jesus, though, teaches us a humility that shuns self-seeking honor (or glory, δοξάζω, cf. Matt. 6:2); yet we are also encouraged to bestow honor on others when such is due (Rom. 13:7). St Paul refers to believers receiving "glory, honor and immortality" (Rom. 2:7, 10), which may refer to eternal life itself.6

The apostle also writes: "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us." (Rom. 8:18) So the current state in which we exist pales by comparison with the quality of life immortal that we shall experience in the future.

I think "quality" is a proper way of conceiving of "glory" here: a state or essence of condition that supersedes another. The "glory" of God, or of Christ, then, supersedes the glory of angels and of mortals, in that the innate quality of the essence of God, and of Christ, is infinitely better. The "glory" of the world to come, as well, represents an infinitely better quality than that which we are currently witnessing and experiencing.

Glory, then, with reference to God, to Christ and of eternal life to come, "manifests itself in [the New Testament and in the Old Testament] in the operation of God's power and salvation in 'salvation history.'"7 So, then, what St John saw, with regard to the "glory" of Christ (John 1:14), was the inner and innate quality of God in human form. This divine quality, wrapped in human flesh, contains an inherent Message (Word): For God loved the world in this manner: He gave His only Son, to the world, so that everyone who trusts in Him will not spend eternity separated from the Creator but will, through faith, possess everlasting life. (John 3:16)

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1 New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Abridged Edition, ed. Verlyn D. Verbrugge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 150.

2 Ibid., 151.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.