Dwelt – He dwelt among us – John 1:14

John 1:14 – “he dwelt amongst us”

The word underlying our ‘dwelt’ in this verse is eskēnōsen, from a verb skēnoō meaning ‘dwell, stay in tents’, formed from the noun skēnē which means ‘tent, booth’, and by extension, ‘lodging, dwelling’, as of the tent-dwelling nomad. It is used to describe a semi-permanent place to settle, and carries with it memories of removals of the past. This would seem to be a good word to use to describe the human body of flesh, which is similarly temporary.

Skēnē is also the word used for the Tent of Meeting in the Greek Old Testament. The Hebrew word this translates is mishkān, which derives from the verb shākhan, which also means ‘dwell’. By coincidence it is similar in sense and sound to the Greek verb skēnoō ‘I dwell’, in that these words in both languages for ‘dwell’, ‘tabernacle’ comprise the letters s – k – n: shākhan, skēnē. On a similar theme of the encounter with God, the verb shākhan underpins the rabbinical word for God’s Presence, shekhinah, which we more commonly know as the Shekinah.

When we remember that John’s writing exhibits extraordinary artistry elsewhere, we must believe that he made this correspondence between the Greek and the Hebrew on purpose. Through it, he may be saying that in Christ’s flesh the Jews and the Gentiles become one. Using it to describe Jesus’ earthly life in the body, he may also be saying that in Jesus the Presence or Shekhinah of God has come to dwell for a time, just as it did in the Tent of Meeting. By his choice of words and deliberate echoing of a Hebrew word in the Old Testament, John is making the point that Jesus is God.

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