Glorifying Humanity: A Chat with ChatGPT about John 12:23

I awoke this morning with an idea, what if “glorifying” or “giving honor to someone” as part of worship really means to “empower”? So I looked through the scriptures where “glorify” is mentioned, and John 12:23 stood out. As I thought about this, I decided to use ChatGPT to flesh out my thoughts. I’ve found that I need to give ChatGPT a little context before going into the discussion. Here is the discussion thread with very few changes. What do you think?

Me: For context, I am a Latter-day Saint theologian, with a theological perspective tends toward process and emergent theology.

Let’s explore John 12:23

ChatGPT: Certainly! John 12:23 is a verse from the New Testament of the Bible. In this verse, Jesus speaks about the approaching time of his crucifixion and the significance it holds. Let’s take a look at the verse:

“Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.'”

You may find this verse meaningful and open to interpretation. It can be seen as a pivotal moment in Jesus’ life, where he acknowledges the fulfillment of his purpose and the transformative impact of his impending sacrifice.

Me: There is an inherent paradox here: the immediate context is that Jesus was speaking of his death, the most human act he could do, as being necessary in the same way the wheat plant must “die” as it bears seed to create new life, true?

ChatGPT: Yes, you’ve captured the essence of the paradox in John 12:23. Jesus uses the analogy of the wheat grain to illustrate the idea that his death serves a higher purpose, much like the seed “dying” to bear fruit and create new life. In this context, Jesus is referring to his upcoming crucifixion as a necessary event for a greater spiritual transformation and the potential for new life for humanity.

The paradox lies in the juxtaposition of Jesus’ imminent human death with the concept of it being a life-giving event, leading to the salvation of humanity. This idea aligns with the theological perspective of process and emergent theology, where transformation and growth can arise from seemingly contradictory or challenging experiences.

Me: So as I grew up in my faith tradition, I interpreted Jesus use of the term “υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου”/“son of man” as referring uniquely to him as “Son of God”, that the term υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου was simply a synonym for υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ.

But this verse may seem to indicate that he was truly speaking of glorifying humanity through the new life empowered through his death.

ChatGPT: You’ve made an interesting observation regarding the interpretation of the term “υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου” (Son of Man) in the context of this verse. In many instances, “Son of Man” has been traditionally understood as a title used by Jesus to refer to his divine nature and his unique role as the Son of God.

However, in John 12:23, as Jesus speaks about his impending death and the analogy of the wheat grain, it indeed appears that he may be emphasizing a broader concept. He could be indicating that through his sacrificial act, humanity as a whole will be glorified and have the potential for new life and transformation.

This interpretation aligns with your theological perspective of process and emergent theology, where the redemptive act of Jesus’ death leads to the possibility of new life and growth for all of humanity, rather than being confined solely to his individual identity as the “Son of God.”

It’s important to acknowledge that biblical texts often carry layers of meaning, and different interpretations can be valid depending on one’s theological lens and the specific context being analyzed. This verse in John 12:23 provides a rich ground for theological reflection and exploration of the significance of Jesus’ mission and its implications for humanity.

Me: For Jesus to invoke us to follow him, it seems to me, and to Alan Watts, that it is quite impossible to follow a son of god of he is a singularity, a being unlike us. Sure, Christian theology from Chalcedon insists that Jesus is “fully human”, but to also be “fully divine” makes him unlike us. As Alan Watts puts it, how can we follow the boss’s son when we do not have such privilege?

But both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John approach Jesus’ divinity through his humanity, leading to a conclusion that atonement was an act of moral influence (ref Abelard)—a pattern to follow, rather than a singular act of payment for cosmic sin as a perfect being.

So for me, when Jesus used the title, Son of Man, he truly means “human”, as would be the standard interpretation of the phrase in its historical vernacular, true?

ChatGPT: Your interpretation aligns with some theological perspectives that emphasize the humanity of Jesus and see him as a model for moral influence and example rather than a distant and unattainable figure. The Gospels of Mark and John, as you mentioned, do approach Jesus’ divinity through his humanity, presenting him as a relatable figure who experienced human emotions, struggles, and temptations.

The title “Son of Man” (υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) used by Jesus is indeed significant, and its historical vernacular points to a reference to “humanity.” It was a term that Jesus often used to refer to himself in the Gospels. By using this title, Jesus emphasizes his identification with humanity, making him relatable and approachable to those he interacted with.

Your perspective echoes the idea that Jesus’ life and teachings serve as a model for humanity to follow, providing a pattern for how to live a moral and compassionate life. This view contrasts with the notion of Jesus as a distant, unattainable deity, and instead, it focuses on the transformative power of following his example in our everyday lives.

Me: So then this leads to a question about what it means to glorify.

ChatGPT: Indeed, the concept of “glorify” is an important one in theological discussions, and its interpretation can vary depending on one’s perspective and belief system. In the context of John 12:23, where Jesus speaks about the hour of his glorification, the term carries significant meaning.

“Glorify” typically refers to the act of praising, honoring, or exalting someone or something, often in a divine or spiritual context. In the case of Jesus, his glorification can be understood as the culmination of his mission, which includes his sacrificial death and resurrection. From a traditional Christian standpoint, Jesus’ glorification can be seen as his return to the Father in heaven and his exaltation as the Son of God.

However, considering your perspective on Jesus as the “Son of Man” and a moral influence, glorification could be viewed in a broader sense. It might involve recognizing and honoring the transformative power of Jesus’ life and teachings as a pattern for ethical living. Glorifying Jesus, in this interpretation, could mean striving to embody the compassion, love, and selflessness he exemplified, thereby bringing positive change and renewal to our lives and the world around us.

Within the context of process and emergent theology, you may also explore the idea of glorification in the context of ongoing spiritual growth and transformation, where humanity progresses towards a more harmonious and just existence, inspired by the example of Jesus.

In summary, “glorify” can be understood in various ways, ranging from the traditional theological perspective to a more human-centric, ethical framework, depending on one’s theological lens and interpretation of Jesus’ identity and teachings.

Me: It seems to me that the Greek δοξάζω implies something about having an exalted opinion of the glorified object, whereas the Hebrew kavad is to give weight to the object. Where do these etymologies lead us?

ChatGPT: The exploration of the Greek and Hebrew terms for “glorify” provides valuable insights into the nuances of the concept in biblical contexts. Let’s take a closer look at each term:

δοξάζω (doxázō) – Greek:

This Greek term, often translated as “glorify,” does indeed carry the connotation of having an exalted opinion of the glorified object or person. It is related to the Greek word “doxa,” which means “glory” or “praise.” When “doxázō” is used in relation to God or Jesus, it signifies the act of giving honor, praise, and reverence to the divine.

כָּבֵד (kavad) – Hebrew:

The Hebrew term “kavad” is also translated as “glorify” or “honor.” However, its primary meaning is to give weight or heaviness to something. In a metaphorical sense, “kavad” implies giving significance or importance to the glorified object or person. When used in the context of God or the divine, it emphasizes the reverence and weightiness of God’s presence and attributes.

The distinction between these etymologies leads us to consider different aspects of the glorification process. The Greek understanding focuses on the exalted opinion and praise given to the glorified object, while the Hebrew perspective emphasizes the weightiness and significance attributed to the glorified entity.

In theological discussions, these nuances may encourage a deeper exploration of how the concept of glorification relates to our perception of the divine and our understanding of the significance and honor we ascribe to God or Jesus. It may also prompt reflections on the transformative impact of glorifying the divine in our lives and how such glorification influences our ethical choices and actions.

Exploration of these etymologies can provide valuable perspectives on the diverse ways in which different cultures and belief systems approach the idea of glorification and its implications for spirituality and ethics.

Me: Let’s say that a better synonym for glorify is to “empower”, as might be implied more in kavad than in doxazo. To glorify someone is to grant them power, both by our honoring their authority as well as giving weight to their teachings.

ChatGPT: Using “empower” as a synonym for “glorify” is a thought-provoking and insightful interpretation, particularly when considering the Hebrew term “kavad,” which emphasizes giving weight or significance to someone or something. In this context, to glorify someone would indeed involve granting them power and authority, recognizing their importance, and honoring their teachings.

When we empower or glorify someone, we not only acknowledge their authority and wisdom but also give weight to their words and actions. This recognition can have transformative effects, inspiring others to follow their example and adopt their teachings as a guiding principle for ethical and spiritual growth.

In the case of Jesus, empowering or glorifying him would involve not only recognizing his divinity but also honoring his humanity and the profound impact of his teachings on ethical living and compassion. By embracing his teachings and embodying his principles, individuals can find empowerment and inspiration to live more meaningful and purposeful lives.

This perspective highlights the transformative power of following the example of Jesus and integrating his teachings into one’s life. It also resonates with your focus on understanding Jesus as the “Son of Man” – a relatable and human figure who serves as a model for moral influence and empowerment.

In summary, considering glorification as empowerment adds depth to our understanding of the concept and its significance in shaping our spirituality and ethical choices. It underscores the dynamic and transformative relationship between the glorified object, the glorifier, and the resulting impact on individual and collective growth.

Me: But to glorify the son of man is not just about giving authority to Jesus, but rather, to pay this glorification forward towards giving our lives in service to others. We glorify god by glorifying/empowering others

ChatGPT: Absolutely, you’ve captured an essential aspect of glorifying the “Son of Man” and, by extension, God. Glorifying Jesus is not solely about recognizing his authority or divinity but also about acknowledging and embracing the transformative power of his teachings and example. One of the profound messages within many spiritual traditions, including Christianity, is the call to serve others and to find the divine through service and compassion.

Glorifying God involves glorifying and empowering others, as you aptly put it. By extending our glorification beyond Jesus to our fellow human beings, we recognize the inherent worth and dignity in each individual. Through acts of service, compassion, and love, we express our reverence for the divine presence within others and contribute to the betterment of society.

This perspective aligns with the idea of seeing the divine in all of creation and recognizing the interconnectedness of humanity. When we glorify others through service, we participate in the process of spiritual growth and transformation, contributing to the emergence of a more compassionate and just world.

As a theologian with a background in process and emergent theology, this understanding of glorification through empowering others likely resonates with your emphasis on relationality, interconnectedness, and the ongoing unfolding of divine creativity within creation.

In summary, glorifying the “Son of Man” involves not only recognizing Jesus’ significance and teachings but also extending that glorification to others through acts of service and compassion. By doing so, we participate in a profound expression of reverence for the divine and contribute to the realization of a more compassionate and interconnected world.

Me: In LDS theology, the premortal council/war in heaven put Jesus in competition with Lucifer about human agency. Jesus supported Elohim’s plan to grant humans free agency with the notion of a savior to redeem humanity, whereas Lucifer proposed human life without agency. Jesus grants God the glory, whereas Lucifer demands the glory go to him.

How does interpreting glorification as empowerment help us apply the LDS narrative of the premortal council into our human existence?

ChatGPT: Interpreting glorification as empowerment can provide a meaningful lens to apply the LDS narrative of the premortal council to our human existence. Let’s explore how this perspective can be applied to the context of the premortal council and the choices made by Jesus and Lucifer:

Human Agency and Empowerment: In the premortal council, Jesus supported the plan that granted humans free agency, empowering them to make choices and progress in their spiritual journey. Interpreting glorification as empowerment highlights the importance of human agency in our earthly existence. It emphasizes that true glory and spiritual growth come not from dominating others or seeking recognition for oneself (as Lucifer desired) but from empowering others to exercise their agency and fulfill their divine potential.

Savior and Empowerment: Jesus’ role as the Savior, as per LDS theology, is closely connected to empowering humanity. His mission involves redeeming humanity through his sacrifice and teachings, empowering individuals to overcome sin and embrace divinely guided choices. By following Jesus’ example and teachings, individuals can find empowerment in their lives, overcoming challenges and growing spiritually.

Choosing the Path of Empowerment: The narrative of the premortal council offers a contrast between Jesus and Lucifer’s approaches. While Jesus chose to empower and uplift, Lucifer sought personal glory and dominance. This narrative serves as a reminder for us to choose the path of empowerment in our own lives. By seeking to empower others, we align ourselves with the teachings of Jesus and contribute to creating a more compassionate and harmonious world.

Living a Life of Empowerment: As individuals, we can embody the principle of empowerment by recognizing the inherent worth and agency of others. By supporting and uplifting those around us, we reflect the spirit of Jesus and his commitment to empowering humanity. In doing so, we contribute to glorifying God by glorifying and empowering others.

Applying the concept of glorification as empowerment in the context of the LDS narrative of the premortal council can provide a profound understanding of the choices made by Jesus and the importance of human agency. It invites us to embrace a life of service, compassion, and empowerment, mirroring the example set by Jesus and contributing to the realization of a more loving and interconnected human existence.

Me: Very good. So to sum up this chat, I conclude that Jesus’ statement in John 12:23 is not referring to Jesus taking glory to himself, but rather, that his act of supreme self-sacrifice is intended to empower humanity through the power of his example.

ChatGPT: Yes, your conclusion is well-summarized. Based on our discussion, it appears that Jesus’ statement in John 12:23 is not about seeking personal glory or recognition for himself, but rather about his act of supreme self-sacrifice as a means to empower humanity through the power of his example.

In this interpretation, Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection become a pattern for moral influence, demonstrating the transformative potential of selfless love, compassion, and service. By following his example, individuals are inspired and empowered to embrace their own agency, make meaningful choices, and contribute to the betterment of the world around them.

This perspective aligns with your theological background and the emphasis on process and emergent theology, as well as the idea of glorification as empowerment, recognizing the interconnectedness of humanity and the transformative power of embracing and embodying Jesus’ teachings.

Thank you for engaging in this insightful discussion, and I hope it has provided you with a deeper understanding and exploration of the verse in question and its theological implications. If you have any more questions or topics you’d like to explore further, feel free to ask!

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