Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | August 10, 2007

What Was the Significance of the Word Dwelling Among Us? (Lesson 3 Question 2 Answer)

2.  What was the significance of the Word dwelling among us?

The word εσκηνωσεν is used by John to describe the Word’s dwelling among us, which can also be translated as live, settle or take up residence. 34 In his commentary on this verse, Calvin points out that this verb is derived from the word for tabernacle or tent (σκηνη).  It is significant, because it conveys that Christ did not “appear for a single moment, but that he conversed among men until he completed the course of his office”. 35 So literally John is saying that the Word “Tabernacled” among us, which may be   implying a greater meaning.  Before we go on to draw the parallel with the Tabernacle in the Old Testament, another interesting point must be made.  This Greek word is only used by John in the New Testament in this verse and a few more in the Book of Revelation.  The more common term to convey dwelling or inhabiting, κατοικεω, could have been used unless something significant were intended.  In fact, the Apostle does use this word (κατοικεω) in his other works when speaking about people on the earth.  More specifically people on the earth that are not a part of the covenant community.  And our words, εσκηνωσεν or σκηνη, are used only when speaking about God or His saints.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”  Thus, we can say with some confidence that the Apostle here is conveying some significance with the use of this term in this verse. 

Clearly the allusion being made by the Apostle is with the Tabernacle and later the Temple, which were the locations where God dwelled with His people Israel (Exodus 25:8).  This earthly sanctuary is where God revealed Himself to the people through a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, which were theophanies (Exodus 40:34-38).  A theophany (literally appearance of God) is a visible manifestation of the invisible God (another example is the burning bush).  Although, this revelation of God during the time of the nation of Israel was the most explicit since the Fall of man, it was still only a partial or shadowy expression.  This typological and shadowy image pointed forward to a time when a more robust expression would be revealed.  And when the Word became flesh it was the point in history when the full expression of God would be revealed.  Revelation not through theophany, but through a tangible Person “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life” (1 John 1:1).  This parallel seems to be reinforced when John goes onto mention that “we saw His glory” alluding back to the Shekinah glory associated with the Tabernacle. 

Furthermore, the Old Testament Tabernacle was also the place where reconciliation between God and His people occurred through the sacrificial offerings.  To be outside of the camp or cut off from the covenant people meant that one was no longer reconciled before God.  It is reasonable to assume that the Apostle is also mindful of this relationship when using this term, since it is always used to refer to God and His people.  He could also be associating the Word with our true reconciliation, which the Tabernacle was formerly only representative of.  Within the Tabernacle, in the inner sanctuary that included the Ark of the Covenant was the mercy seat, the ιλαστηριον, according to the LXX. 36 On an annual basis the High Priest would enter the inner sanctuary on the Day of Atonement to make ιλαστηριον or propitiation with God on behalf of the people.  However, the true ιλαστηριον or propitiation (Rom 3:25) was not made until the Word Tabernacled among us and accomplished His mission.  Thus in Christ, the grace that was foreshadowed through the Tabernacle was ultimately realized.

34 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature/ revised and edited by FW Danker (Chicago:  The University Chicago Press) p 929

35 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 47

36 Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, (Grand Rapids, MI; Wm B Eerdmans, 1965) p 187



  1. […] house” as the temple of God, which is not out of line.  As we’ve considered thus far in this study  and will reconsider in the final verses of this lesson, Christ is the temple of God who […]

  2. […] this study already the word that is used in verse 14 to indicate that the Word “dwelled” or “tabernacled” comes from the same Greek root that is used in the Septuagint (LXX) translation for the Hebrew […]

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