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 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν,* καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. (John 1:14, NA28)

Usually commentators point out that σκηνόω has the idea of dwelling in a tent, and σκηνη is used in the New Testament and LXX for the tabernacle. However, σκηνόω is very similar to the Hebrew word שָׁכַן, (šakan, imperfect waw consecutive וַיִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן, wayiškon) which also means dwell and is also used for Mount Sinai.

The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. (Exodus 24:16, ESV)

The context seems to fit John making a parallel to Mount Sinai.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17, ESV)

Here's a chart of the roots of the word in the LXX translating שָׁכַן. Note: most of these roots had the preposition κατα prefixed. The root of ἐσκήνωσεν is predominant.

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Translations with other than dwell.

The Word  became flesh  
and took up residence  among us. (HCSV)

The Word became a human being and, ..., lived among us. (GNB)

So the Word became human and made his home among us. (LT)

The Word became a human and lived among us. (NCV)

             The Word became flesh and blood,
               and moved into the neighborhood. (Message))

And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; (Amp.)

The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. (ISV)

And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us (YLT)

Many more had "lived."

הַדָּבָר נִהְיָה בָּשָׂר וְשָׁכַן בְּתוֹכֵנוּ; -- ha-Berit ha-ḥadashah. (2000). (John 1:14). Israel: The Bible Society in Israel.

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The verb σκηνόω is literally "I encamp", but idiomatically, "I dwell" or "I live among", etc.

This John 1:14 is correctly translated by most versions as "made his dwelling among us".

In my opinion, the primary precedent is to make a complete contrast with one text and a continuation of another text.

Contrast Precedent:

Dan 2:11 - What the king requests is so difficult that no one can tell it to him except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals.”

Continuation Precedent:

Ex 24:16 - The glory of the LORD dwelt/settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.

Ex 25:8 - "Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.

Ex 29:45 - Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.

Eze 43:9 - Now let them put away from me their prostitution and the funeral offerings for their kings, and I will live among them forever.

Lev 26:12 - I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.

[There are many OT verse discussing God being among the people.]

Thus, John pointedly contrasts the false gods of Babylon (and others) with the true God of Israel who, via both the shekinah-glory and Jesus' incarnation, lived among us. On this topic, we may also quote 1 Cor 14:25 -

as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

2 Cor 6:16 - As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."

(This verse quotes Lev 26:12; Jer 32:38; Eze 37:27.)

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  • Before you answer I also viewed encamped as the best translation.
    – Perry Webb
    Apr 11 at 11:31
  • Sorry, I edited the wrong place.
    – Perry Webb
    Apr 12 at 23:47
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What is the significance of the Word tabernacle among us? The word tabernacle is a translation of the Hebrew ‘mishkan’, which means “dwelling-place.” The KJV translates John 1:14 thus:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

At the incarnation, the Word took on human flesh in order to dwell among us.

Is this related to the tabernacle at Moses’ time? During the wilderness years, the tabernacle of Moses provided a place where the people could properly worship God. Within the tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies which contained the Ark of the Covenant, dwelt the presence of God. God dwelt among his people.

How does it relate to flesh? It is significant that when Jesus gave up his spirit, the heavy curtain of the temple, that barrier between the Holy Place and Most Holy Place, was supernaturally torn in two (see Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; and Luke 23:45). The torn curtain symbolized that the way to God was now open to all through the sacrificial death of Christ:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.” (Hebrews 10:19–22a)

What is John trying to depict? We know that the Word became flesh – was miraculously conceived by the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit, and was born – Immanuel, God with us. Here is an extract from an article that presents an interesting take on why John used the word ‘tabernacle’:

The word John chose to speak of Jesus “dwelling” among us is the word tabernacle, which simply means to “dwell in a tent.” Some believe it is very likely that John intentionally used this word to associate the first coming of Christ with the Feast of Tabernacles. Christ came in the flesh to dwell among us for a temporary time when He was born in the manger, and He is coming again to dwell among us as Lord of Lords. While it cannot be established with certainty that Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, some believe there is a strong possibility the Feast of Tabernacles not only looks forward to His second coming but also reflects back on His first coming. Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/Feast-of-Tabernacles.html

I honestly don’t know if that is a valid explanation, but it certainly gave me pause for thought! Interesting questions.

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  • 1
    To add more details to Lesley's response, from a Messianic Jewish perspective to "tabernacle among us" is indeed a direct reference to Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles. Sukkot is a week long festival in which temporary housing units are built (tabernacle). The roofs are constructed in such a way so that you can see thru it, i.e. so you can see God in the heavens. Sukkot is traditionally believed by many to be the birthday of the Messiah. It is a celebratory time, a time in which Jesus "pitched a tent" and celebrated with us.
    – user42370
    May 15 at 17:49
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G4637 Seems quite simply to translate to living among us.

Not surprised we’re not addressing the obvious translation error in this passage.

Logos (G3056) Greek for an idea, word or speech.

dabar (H1697) the Hebrew equivalent is also translates to word, matter, promise or thing. Please note a person is not a thing! In 1,439 translations of dabar it is never used to represent a person.

A more appropriate translation would be God's spoken promise (or plan of salvation) was realized (or fulfilled) with the birth of The Lamb.

Assuming God came to earth as a man ignores God’s divine nature of immortality, that is he cannot die. This assumption also makes God out to be a liar when he stated:

Numbers 23:19 I am not a man that I would sin nor the son of man that I would repent.

Hosea 11:9 I will not destroy Ephraim, for I am God and not a man

Seems you may have greater issues to explain than understanding the verb G4637 dwell!

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You are correct in noting the relationship to שכן. ἐσκήνωσεν does come from a semitic loan word.

You might look at the feminine face of God in Rabbinic discourse, the shekinah. That name also derives from the word שכן. In the Jewish Torah commentary, the Zohar, this is also associated with the linguistic principle and the equivalent of the alpha and omega. In Hebrew, this is the aleph and tav which make the word את, the most common lexeme in the biblical text. This is the sense of the indwelling aspect of God, pitching God's tent among us.

In the Zohar, את is the "Word" (as in the Logos), and there is evidence that this received tradition was projected back before the time of Jesus. I believe that John received the mythological construct of the indwelling shekinah and represented the person of Jesus Christ as the union of the indwelling feminine and the transcendent father. So the idea of "the word became flesh and pitched its tent among us" (John 1:14), seems to be right in line with received tradition that passed through Jewish minds to today.

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  • Kittel seems to disagree that σκηνόω is a loan word. See Michaelis, W. (1964–). σκηνή, σκῆνος, σκήνωμα, σκηνόω, ἐπισκηνόω, κατασκηνόω, σκηνοπηγία, σκηνοποιός. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 7, p. 368). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
    – Perry Webb
    Apr 12 at 9:09
  • Judaism as a wholes doesn't seem to agree with you: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/117729/…
    – Perry Webb
    Apr 12 at 9:18
  • Shakanu is an Akkadian word. and the etymological connection seems much older than a Hebrew loan word.
    – Perry Webb
    Apr 12 at 9:22
  • @PerryWebb, I don't think that "Judaism as a whole" is something that exists. The Zohar is very clear, right up front, that the shekinah is related to this same root and has many of the same attributes that the Johannine corpus attributes to Jesus. I also wrote "semitic" not Hebrew loan word. It doesn't surprise me that it's also found in Akkadian. In terms of the difficulty of the "Shekinah having a separate will," It'd be interesting to hear how you interpret Jesus saying "not my will, but yours be done." There is always a tension between God as a monad and as a plurality.
    – Gus L.
    Apr 12 at 12:51

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