[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.



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

[A1]    1:1-2............... The Word and God


1:1       The words “In the beginning” recalls Gen 1:1; with a new creation and a new beginning, the author uses the words that recall the first creation. [also words like life (v.4), light (v.4), darkness (v.5)]

“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 verb “was” denotes the eternal and unchanging existence of the Word, meaning “continually was” and neither a completed state nor a coming into being. The Word existed before creation; the Word was not created.

Gr. logos: John’s exact meaning not clear. Perhaps, it points to the truth that it is of the very nature of God to reveal Himself.

The Word of God is God’s thought uttered so that men can understand it.

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

High point of the passage is “The Word was God” which affirms the monotheism of the Jews.

John asserts the deity of the Lord at 3 important places: His pre-incarnate state as God (1:1), the incarnate Word (1:18), and the risen Christ (20:28).

1:2       John’s style of emphasis by repetition: two points in v.1 are repeated and summarized: the Word was in the beginning and the Word was with God.


[A2]    1:3-5............... The Word and creation


1:3       All was made “through” the Word, not “by” the Word, in order to emphasize that God the Father is the source of all creation.

John’s style of enunciation of a proposition in the positive form and then immediately 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). Here 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.

God is the source of light and life (Ps 36:9).

The Word is the life-bringer and the light-bearer. He is the source of light, reminding the reader that the first recorded words of God are “Let there be light.” (Gen 1:3)

1:5       The opposition of light and darkness is a major theme in this Gospel.

Until now, John has used the past tense exclusively. Here “shines” is present, meaning the light is continually in action.

It is difficult to understand why impersonal darkness would try to “understand” light; maybe it refers to the people in darkness try to understand light.

The alternate translation “overcome” 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)


[A3]    1:6-8............... The Word and John the Baptist


1:6       There are many references of the subordinate place of John the Baptist, leading people to conjecture that the Gospel aims to argue against the continuing opposition of followers of the Baptist.

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.

In this Gospel, there are 7 witnesses to Jesus: the Father (5:31-32, 34, 37; 8:18), Christ Himself (8:14, 18; cf. 3:11, 32; 8:37), the Holy Spirit (15:26; cf. 16:14), the works of Jesus (5:36; 10:25; cf. 14:11; 15:24), the Scripture (5:39; cf. 5:45-46), John the Baptist (1:7-8, 15, 19, 32, 34; 3:26; 5:33), human witnesses including the disciples (15:27; cf. 19:35; 21:24), the Samaritan woman (4:39), and the multitude (12:17).

“The light” refers to Jesus. The word “testify” is in aorist tense, meaning not John continually witnesses but that he accomplished 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.

1:8       repetition of v.7 for emphasis


[A4]    1:9-14............. The Word Incarnate


1:9       There are 2 themes: He was the true light and He was coming into the world.

Other lights were flickers of the truth, or faint glimpses of reality. Christ is the “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”: more than intellectual knowledge, failure to know intimately, to know and love as a friend, or to be in right relation; aorist tense indicating a single action, meaning the world did not recognize the Word when the World was in the world.

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 “gave” indicates the grace and gift of God.

The words “the right” means status, full authority to this exalted title.

The words “to become”, not “to be”, indicates a change of status.

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), trusting the whole person of the Word.

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.

“Born of God” is always a miracle.

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

The word “flesh” means human nature. It is used to argue against those who denied the reality of Jesus’ humanity.

The words “live for a while among us” literally are “tabernacled among us”: tabernacle can mean permanent too (Rev 12:12), the word actually reminds of God’s presence and also of God’s glory (Ex 40:34) which is followed immediately after this phrase.

The words “have seen”, “beheld”, are invariably used in John of seeing with the bodily eye.

The “glory” here refers to the miracles (2:11; 11:4, 40), but it may refer to the true glory manifested in the cross.

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

The word “grace”  means “that which causes joy”, signifying “goodwill” and “kindness”, pointing to God’s provision for our spiritual need by sending His Son to be our Saviour.

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


[A5]    1:15-18........... The Word’s surpassing excellence


1:15     The present tense indicates the continuance of the witness of John the Baptist even after his death.

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

In antiquity, chronological priority means superiority. But Jesus’ ministry was first in importance.

Jesus was before John the Baptist, pointing to His preexistence from eternity.

1:16     “Fullness” means that which fills. Christ is the source of all our blessings.

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 to His people is continuous and is never exhausted.

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

All Moses could produce was “law”, further it was “given through” him. Christ is superior as grace and truth are originated from Him

1:18     Christ is in the closest possible relationship to the Father “in the bosom of the Father”

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).

“Made known” means declared, gave a full account of, pointing to the adequacy of the revelation made in Christ.