[2] Prologue: the Word (1:1-18)

Section A. Prologue (1:1-18)

o        The opening section of the Gospel introduces the great thoughts that will be developed in the whole book: the excellence of Christ, who is the Word of God, the eternal strife between light and darkness, and the witness by John the Baptist. Therefore it is a summation of the whole Gospel.

o        The principle topic is the incarnation and the rejection of the Word by those who might have been expected to welcome Him.

Explanation

Context:  The passage contains the major themes of the whole book.

Word (Gr. logos) (Jn 1:1-14; 1Jn 1:1; Rev 19:13): The exact meaning is not well-defined.

The use of Logos among Greeks: thought or reason within a person, speech expressing a person’s thought; the soul of the universe, the rational principle, with all things originated from it.

“Word” in Jewish use: God’s creative Word (“God said”), an agent for accomplishing the divine will (Ps 33:6), similar to “the law” or “Wisdom” (Is 2:3; Mic 4:2).

John’s use of the word: John used a term that would be widely recognized among the Greeks and the Jews. The term Logos will remind the Jews that the Word is divine while it will remind the Greeks that the Word is the higher rational principle of the universe, something supremely great. John’s ultimate intention is to draw to attention Jesus’ greatness.

1:1       The words “In the beginning” (same as Gen 1:1) recall the first creation. [also words like life (v.4), light (v.4), darkness (v.5)] The “Word” parallels “God said.”

“Beginning” can also denote “origin”, the basic cause. John is fond of using expressions with more than one meaning, thus here, it can mean “in the beginning of history” or “at the root of the universe.” Such a practice is used to bring out the fuller meaning of the text.

The words “was with” can also mean “was toward” (or face to face) pointing to the existence of the Word in the closest connection with the Father. The two are not identical but they are one.

1:2       John’s style of emphasis by repetition: two points in v.1 are repeated and summarized.

1:3       John’s style of emphasis in the positive form and then its repetition in the negative.

The words “were made” is in aorist tense describing creation in its totality, as one act; “has been made” is in perfect tense, conveying the thought of continuing existence of created things.

1:4       Life is a main concept of John (36 times). There is a possible double meaning: (a) the Word is the source of life, (b) the Word is the cause of eternal life as a result of His death on the cross.

1:5       The alternate translation for “understood” is “overcome” and is probably more accurate.

The words “has not overcome” is aorist tense, referring to a single occasion: possibly creation, possibly a reference to Calvary where light and darkness came into bitter and decisive conflict and darkness could not prevail. (again possibly John’s double reference)

1:6       The Word was from the beginning but John the Baptist was “a man”. His true greatest was that he was “sent from God”.

1:7       John the Baptist came as a “witness”. Witness establishes the truth.

“The light” refers to Jesus. The word “testify” is in aorist tense, meaning a finished work.

The purpose is “that through him all men might believed”; “believe” is not in the continuous tense, meaning a decision, a definitive act of faith. This verse is repeated in v.8 for emphasis.

1:9       Other lights were faint glimpses of reality. Christ (“true light”) that brings real illumination.

The words “to every man” emphasize general illumination of the whole human race (Ro 1:20).

1:10     (a) The Word or the light is in the world (the earth) continuously (tense), (b) the world (the earth) owes its very existence to the Word, (c) rejection of the Word by the world (its people).

“Did not recognize” means more than intellectual knowledge; it is failure to know intimately, or to be in right relation; the aorist tense indicates a single action, meaning the world did not recognize the Word when the World was in the world.

In John, “the world” carries negative connotation, referring to people in opposition to Christ. When Jesus came, the world at large opposed Him, rejected Him, and in the end crucified Him.

1:11     The verse can be translated to “He came home”, where the people should have known Him, especially since Israel was God’s own people.

In “did not receive”, the verb means taking a person in intimate relationship, aorist tense indicates a decisive action of rejection.

1:12     The word is “children”, community, not “sons” (which stressing rights and privileges of sonship); previously speaking of receiving Him, now of believing in His name.

In ancient world, “the name” means the whole person (Ps 20:1).

1:13     The words “not of natural descent” are literally “not of bloods”; not of human decisions, such as by the parents. The point is intended against the Jewish pride of race.

1:14     The word “became” is in aorist tense, action at a single point in time.

The words “live for a while among us” literally are “tabernacled among us”: the word reminds (in the OT) of God’s presence and also of God’s glory (Ex 40:34) which is in the next phrase.

The “glory” refers to the miracles or to the true glory manifested in the cross.

The words “one and only Son” means unique (Heb 11:17 referring to Isaac), not “only begotten” because of linking the wrong Greek word for monogenes.

“Truth” is normally the opposite of falsehood, but in John, it is closely linked with the gospel.

1:15     The continuous imperfect tense is used of the Word, stress on His continuing existence.

1:16     In “we have all received”, the tense indicating single act, becoming participators in the fullness when we first received Christ.

The words “grace for grace” means God’s grace is continuous and is never exhausted.

1:17     “The law” refers to the first 5 books of the Bible; but it came to be used to mean the whole OT.

1:18     In His essential being, God has never yet been seen by people. Some had visions of God, but these were all partial. God cannot be known except in Christ, His lively image.

The original words were monogenes God: one and only God (not “only begotten” God).

Application

§         Darkness cannot overcome light (1:5). Let Christ guide your life, and you will never need to stumble in darkness.

§         All believers are in God’s family (1:12) and are born of God (1:13)

Hymn

Hymns of Life no.49 “Our God, our help in ages past”

Our God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast,

And our eternal home.

A thousand ages in Thy sight

Are like an ev’ning gone,

Short as the watch that ends the night

Before the rising sun.

Before the hills in order stood,

Or earth received her frame,

From everlasting Thou art God,

To endless years the same.

Our God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

be Thou our guard while life shall last

And our eternal home.