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Bible Q

What does ‘the word became flesh’ mean?

John 1:1 says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And v14 says:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus fulfilled the words of the Old Testament

The context of these verses help us understand what they mean: later in the same chapter (v45) a man called Philip says the following to his friend Nathanael:

“We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth…

This helps us understand what John 1 means when it says that the ‘word’ was in the beginning — the ‘word’ is the writings in the Old Testament scriptures, the Law and the prophets. The Old Testament prophesied about Jesus and when Jesus was born the words were fulfilled — the words ‘became flesh’.

The table below has a few examples of how “in the beginning was the word”, and how that word became flesh — i.e. they are examples of how God said something would happen (concerning Jesus), and then that prophecy being fulfilled:

Words in the Old Testament about Jesus Old Testament words fulfilled by Jesus
Gen. 3:15 Gal. 4:4; Heb. 2:9,14
Gen. 12:7 Gal. 3:16
Gen. 22:18 Gal. 3:16
Gen. 49:10 Luke 1:32-33
Deut. 18:18-19 Mat. 13:57; John 7:16; 8:28; 12:49; 14:24; 17:8; Acts 3:22-23
2 Sam. 7:12-13 Mat. 1:1; Luke 1:32-33; John 18:37
Ps. 2:7 Mat. 3:17; Heb. 1:5
Ps. 16:8-11 Acts 2:24-28
Ps. 22:1 Mat. 27:46
Ps. 22:7-8 Luke 23:35
Ps. 22:17-18 Mat. 27:35-36
Ps. 34:20 John 19:32-33,36
Ps. 41:9; Ps. 55:12-13 John 13:21,26; Mat. 26:25
Ps. 110:1 Acts 2:33-35
Ps. 110:4 Heb. 5:5-6
Ps. 117:1 Rom. 15:11
Ps. 118:22 Acts 4:11, 1 Peter 2:4,7
Isa. 7:14 Mat 1:21-23
Isa. 8:14 1 Peter 2:4,8
Isa. 9:1-2 Mat. 4:13-16
Isa. 9:7 Luke 1:32-33
Isa. 11:10 Rom. 15:12
Isa. 28:16 1 Peter 2:4,6
Isa. 42:1-4 Mat. 12:17-21
Isa. 53:1 John 12:37-38
Isa. 61:1-2 Luke 4:17-21
Jer. 23:5; 33:14-15 Mat. 1:1
Hosea 11:1 Mat. 2:15
Mic. 5:2 Mat. 2:5-6
Zech. 9:9 Mark 11:7,9,11
Zech. 13:7 Matt 26:31

The references in the left-hand column are all OT prophecies about Jesus (and there are many, many more) spoken before Jesus was born. Even though Jesus was not born yet God still had a specific plan, and his plan involved Jesus. God’s plan was expressed in the word before Jesus even existed, and then these prophecies about Jesus were fulfilled (or began to be fulfilled, in the case of the prophecies still future) when Jesus was born. In this way the word was in the beginning and then it became flesh.

Jesus spoke the words of God

Another way that the “word became flesh” was that Jesus spoke the words of God. Previously, God had spoken through the prophets.

Hebrews 1:1-2. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

Quite literally, Jesus spoke God’s words. Consider the following statements of Jesus.

John 3:34. For he [Jesus] whom God has sent utters the words of God.

John 7:16. My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.

John 8:28. I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.

John 12:49. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment-what to say and what to speak.

John 14:10. The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

John 14:24. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

John 17:8. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

So Jesus was also God’s “word made flesh” in that he spoke for God.

Further reading: “Christ in the Old Testament“.

5 Replies to “What does ‘the word became flesh’ mean?”

  1. But how do you explain “and dwelt among us”? Something tells me that the “word became flesh” is literally flesh that is someone who can feel, who can see, who can hear, smell, taste. The word was God and eventually the word became flesh.

    • How do I explain “and dwelt among us”? Jesus dwelt among us. In particular, it was showing it was not just an abstract description, but a reality which the author of John had seen – he was an eyewitness of the things he saw, and so we should believe them.

      As Jesus was a man, I have no problem seeing him as someone who could feel, see, hear, smell, taste. None of that requires him to be God who has become man, or to be a literal word who has become flesh rather than a man of flesh who fulfilled the word of God.

      • John 1:1…the WORD….was there in the beginning…with GOD…and was GOD…but which beginning?

        If this WORD is this “word word”….why does verse 2 “the same was with God” as if it was someTHING? And yet verse 3 calls that “word word” as HE? Explain to me why I shouldn’t think of the “beginning” as all creation….when verse 3 says “All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made.”

        This Word that was in the beginning….was a HE….HE was God….He was the light of MEN….and John testified about this light……no wonder this WORD-HE-GOD left His Godliness and became man…fresh….if Jesus was just a mare man….how does he have traces to have lived before? When the angel talked…Elizabeth mother of John was 6 months pregnant Luke 1:26… insane is for John to say Jesus existed before he was born…that He existed before Abraham….ohh now you will say He was referring to that “word word”

        Yes Jesus fulfilled the words of OT….yes He spoke the words of God…AND He WAS the WORD of God….not just speaking about…..He was the full representation of God…..He was God….but He never put himself equal….He came to show His Father’s Glory…which is also His…..the more you try to pull him down the more you show how humble he was……despite what he had……