1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.
15 (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace: 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known. Version: NRSV.
"In the beginning was the Word" (v.1). The opening of John clearly harks back to Genesis 1:1. It is also nearly identical to 1 John 1:1.
The word, which will become human (v.14), is God.
This is the doctrine of the incarnation (enfleshment) of God, much denied by heretics ancient and modern, who prefer Jesus to be either just a "good man" or guru or, on the other side, some sort of spirit or phantasm.
The Word was involved in the creation itself (v.3). See also Colossians 1:15ff.
In the Word was life (v.4). This is not biological life, but spiritual life, as opposed to darkness (v.5). But how did mankind react to light?
John warned mankind, prepared the Jews, and testified to the light (v.6). This is John the Baptist, not John the apostle. He selflessly pointed people to Jesus (3:30). He did not want glory for himself or his own ministry. (Would that all ministers thought the same today!)
The Word was the true light. See 8:12; 9:5. This is a reference to Jesus Christ.
Here is the great irony:
- The creation did not recognize the creator. Actors mock playwright; builders mock architect; children mock parents; creatures mock creation.
- As a Jew, descended from the tribe of Judah and the house of David, Jesus came to his own people, but was rejected.
- Jesus was not accepted. What does this mean?
- His message was rejected. See John 12:47-48.
- This does not mean that people did not "receive him" into their hearts.
- Thus the modern doctrine of "accepting Jesus" is wholly without biblical foundation.
- Yet those who accepted him were privileged to become children of God (v.12).
- "Believing in his name" means trusting Christ, not ourselves or religion, or our religiosity.
- Notice that those who receive him are not actually children of God, but only potentially his children ("power to become").
- To become his children, they must be born again (v.13).
- They are not born as God's children:
- of blood (by birth)
- of flesh (by human desire or effort)
- of the will of man (no one can make this decision for you).
- The new birth happens only in baptism (3:5).
- What a privilege! What an unbelievable blessing!
- They are not born as God's children:
- The Word became flesh (v.14).
- Jesus lived for a while among us (approximately 35 years).
- He "pitched his tent," or "tabernacled" among us.
- This is a reference to the OT Tabernacle (later the Temple), where God manifested his presence and dwelt among humanity. Jesus' body is the new Tabernacle. See 2:19.
- Skene, Greek for tent, contains the same consonants as Hebrew shekinah, glory. Thus the alliteration reinforces the O.T. wilderness reference.
- The disciples saw his glory (really, God's glory). See 14:9.
- Jesus was full of grace and truth (v.15).
- John testified to this (v.15). Although older than Jesus by a few months, Jesus was infinitely before John (1:2). For the idea of Jesus' eternity, see also 8:58. For an O.T. passage, see Micah 5:2.
- We have all received grace through Christ (v.16), and in many ways. The original Greek has no punctuation, but a colon should follow v.16. There are two ways in which grace has been received:
- The Law was given through Moses (v.17).
- Grace and truth (also) came through Christ.
- Yet there is no opposition between Law and Gospel -- contrary to the view of many Protestants today. Both are instruments of grace.
- Yet there is a difference between the two ministries of these means of grace. (Flesh v. stone, in 2 Corinthians 3:3ff; cf. Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26).
- No one has seen God, but we do see God when we look at Jesus (v.18).
- This is the prologue of John's gospel (vv.1-18).
- How very different to the genealogical introduction of Matthew, the explanatory note by Luke, and the instant action of the opening of Mark.
- John's gospel is in this sense a highly theological gospel, although it is easy to understand because of the large amount of narrative and simple themes:
- Light and darkness
- Life and death
- Heaven and earth
- Above and below
- And many more...
- Although the gospel is anonymous, there is a strong tradition that it was penned by the apostle John.
- This is according to Irenaeus (later 2nd C), who knew Polycarp, one of John's followers.
- It is also by process of elimination: There were three disciples especially close to Jesus, Peter, James, and John. It's not Peter (referred to in distinction to "the disciple whom Jesus loved," nor is it James (who was executed well before the gospel was written, Acts 12). It must be John.
- Yet for an intriguing proposal, click here. In connection with this, also be sure to listen to the NT character podcast on Lazarus.
- There is an ancient tradition that the apostle John dictated the gospel to Prochorus.
- Some say that the style of John is unlike Jesus' teaching, and the theology is too developed. Mark, Matthew, and Luke are assumed to be much earlier (a position I agree with). Yet in Matthew and Luke's sources we find language similarly lofty: Matthew 11:25-27 and Luke 10:21-22. This suggests that John may have preferred to record Jesus' loftier language, while the Synoptics kept things simpler.
- In the beginning was the logos. Although the word can mean: word, saying, message, talk, conversation, question, preaching, account, value, reason, grounds, charge, matter, or thing, it does not (and cannot) have all of those meanings in 1:1.
- Nearly all translations render logos as "word." From logos comes the word logikos (rational, spiritual), whence the English "logical."
- The alpha point of creation involves reason, not just feeling; logic, not just sensation. Just as "in the beginning," God is again going to speak, this time through his Son.
- The beginning point for understanding of God, including communication of the word of God to those who do not know him, is reason, words, not mystical (wordless) experience.
- For more on the logos, click here.
- The complete union of God and man in one being -- one God, two natures -- was the conclusion of hundreds of years of discussion among Christian leaders and intellectuals from the 2nd to 4th centuries. There is one significant dissenting voice even today among the mainstream denominations: the Monophysites.
- In verse 1 theós is rendered God -- just as it is every other time it appears in John 1. Groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses are wrong when they claim that the word means "a god," simply because it is lacking the definite article. This is a common construction in NT Greek. For more on this, click here.
- "Bloods" (KJV) is Greek haimata, or "drops of blood."
- Further thoughts on Jesus as the Tabernacle of God:
- God first meets man in Eden.
- Then he "takes up residence" in the Tabernacle, built under Moses' direction (Exodus 25-40).
- Then he resides in the Temple, built under Solomon's direction (1 Kings 6-8).
- Next he lives in the person of Jesus Christ, divinity clothing itself in humanity.
- Presently he lives through the Spirit in the hearts of his people, and collectively in the church.
- And one day we will live in his presence in an even more glorious way! Revelation describes a "New Jerusalem," living in the radiant presence of God.
- Jesus has made God known (v.18). Exegesato means "related, explained, reported, made known, revealed," and exegesis (a word will familiar to Bible students!) is the noun form.
- Which is your favorite gospel, and why? Have different gospels spoken to you at different times of your life?
- Why is the prologue of John important? How do you think it might serve as a key for unlocking the meaning of this book? See also 20:30-31 for the author's statement of purpose.
- If you were God, and desiring to deliver your message to mankind, is there a better way you can think of than the incarnation?