Marjorie raised the issue of the size of the passage under consideration. The passage about John was small and had little meat to it.
I agree. It seems to me that its presence relates to political issues in the early church — or at least in John’s community. These issues don’t relate to us directly. There seems little meat there.
Again. I have been following the paragraph structure of the NRSV. Sometimes we get small chunks that way. It also means we will spend an enormous amount of time working through this gospel. Like the postmoderns I find liminal texts interesting — prologues and introductions. I consider them worthy of closer looks. But this could get tedious.
More importantly we may be looking at texts outside their wider contexts by doing this.
1) We all commit to reading the gospel of John in its entirety at some point and we all blog on how the gospel as a whole strikes us. This will give us a working start point for discussion — for example — does the closer reading we do as we go along change our general sense of the whole or confirm it. It also allows us to read the passages in their wider context(s).
2) I start posting by pericope instead of paragraph. A pericope is the name for the larger sections usually given a sub-title in most modern translations. It is based upon sounder scholarship than the individual paragraphs — and so has greater agreement across the translations. It normally conforms to the lectionary readings found in the earliest Christian writings.
Pericopes will be quite a lot larger passages in most cases — sometimes they are a single paragraph but at others they may be an entire chapter — like Jesus’ priestly prayer (chapter 17). They will provide more meat to chew on (metaphor chosen with apologies to vegetarians present). It also means our responses will likely vary as we respond to different details.
Having said all this. I do think it is useful to notice things that don’t speak to us and reflect on why. Appreciating that some obscure point that matters little to us now may have been very important way back when is a useful discipline — it distances us just enough from the text to make us doubt whether truly understand it.
All this is tentative of course. I’m open to other notions on how to proceed.
A man came, sent by God. His name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness to the light, so that everyone might believe through him. He was not the light, he was to bear witness to the light. The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone; he was coming into the world.
John 1:6-9 (New Jerusalem Bible)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – NAB
I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t done any bible study stuff and have only read the parts I’ve read just as narrative stories without much analysis, so bear with me.
The main point of this prologue seems to be that Jesus is, as the intro to the NAB notes, “the preexistent and incarnate Word of God who has revealed the Father to us.”
Now come the dumb questions … Is Jesus the same as the Word? If he has always existed, why was he manifested only at that one particular place, time? What is the darkness? What is the significance of “light” to Quakers? Thanks 🙂
These verses convey one main thought to me and that is HOPE. Jesus was there from the beginning, there is a plan. I may never know or understand the plan but its okay, Jesus was there from the beginning and not a thing was made that was not made through him.
I prefer the NRSV saying that the darkness did not ‘overcome’ the light as opposed to simply not understanding or comprehending it. Its important to me that light overcomes darkness, that good triumphs over evil. I’ve casually read that some religions believe that God is beyond good and evil. Perhaps thats frightening to me because I really can’t comprehend it. I would no longer say thats wrong, I simply acknowledge that its not something I can believe in at this point, if ever.
I agree with the thought RW expressed in his post Something We Need to Remember, that the Word is Christ himself and not merely the words in the Bible and that its important to be careful in interpreting scripture especially where such interpretation would seem to contradict the teaching of Christ.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
Genesis 1:1-4 (NRSV)
We are star-stuff
— Carl Sagan (astronomer)
(commenting on how the heavier elements in our bodies were created in stars and exploeded out from nebulae)
Main Point: John is declaring with certainty that Jesus is both fully human and fully God.
New Light: In this reference to ‘the Word’, John may be saying many different things with respect to his audience. In Hebrew, the Word was an agent of creation, the source of God’s message to his people through the prophets, and God’s law. In Greek philosophy, the Word was the principle of reason that governed the world, or thought still in the mind. So if both are true, John is saying that Jesus was both a human being that he knew well, an agent of God’s creation, and also the ultimate revelation of God, of Holiness, a creator in the same sense that God is a creator.
Truth: “ In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
Of all the passages I am familiar with, this one speaks to me so clearly. For me, this acknowledges that life of spirit within, within all people. Using the word Light for this life is so perfect, because the spirit does radiate within us, even in darkness, though when we experience darkness we do not always comprehend this light at the time.
If you want orientation re The Gospel of John see my Introduction.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
For many years I just took this for granted; the Word meant Christ. In a recent return to naturalistic theology, I had to question it. Just what does it mean?
The first thing that comes to mind is that it displays a departure from pure Hebraic thought to Greek thought.
You can also see it as an editorialization of Gen. 1., or a supplement.
We’re led to believe that John was written late, and that it reflects the situation and circumstances of the community at Ephesus or for whomever John wrote.
Then there’s the matter of my mood, my level of consciousness, etc. It tells me I will believe and understand various things at various times.
I try to penetrate all this data to reach a truth. I’m led like the blind man in chapter 9, to conclude that “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see..”
So I finally arrive at the need to ask God, what am I supposed to do with and/or about this verse?
Lord, enlighten my mind and spirit.
Christ, are you God? I recall his statement to the young ruler (none good, but God). and his statement: Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say.
And “8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Also “John 7:17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. ”
My awareness of Word, Christ, God is deeply influenced by what I do– about him, for him, to him.
We say someone has a “high christology” when the divinity of Christ gets more emphasis than the humanity of Christ. With this beginning to the gospel of John, we see a VERY high christology. Although the jury may still be out on the gospel itself. The prologue (1:1-18) is generally seen as a later addition — possibly written by a disciple of the author.
What speaks to me in this brief excerpt?
I see a claim to the integrity of God and God’s speech. When I promise something, even when I do so with the best and most sincere of intentions, my word and my being are separate by the very act and event of my speaking. Circumstances tomorrow could turn my promises of today on their heads. This is why Jesus tells us swearing oaths, or making claims about our future actions are arrogant:
Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
But with God, this is different. God’s word, God’s self revelation, is itself God. One in essence and one in intention. The spirit who inspired the prophets, the revelation given in word or vision, are all one in perfect integrity. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And it is this same divine self-revelation by God, who was God’s instrument in the creation of all that is. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. And that self-same divine and creative self-revelation is the source of all life and truth what has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. And moreover, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome/understand/comprehend it.
With a beginning like this, we must be prepared for a book that makes a lot of claims. A book that is not shy from discussing arcana and metaphysics. This Word of God makes claims upon us and as this Word is itself God, those claims are themselves infinite.
Scary stuff, eh kiddies?
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KATA IOANNHN 1:1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
John 1:1-5 (NRSV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
John 1:1-5 (NIV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
John 1:1-5 (AV1611)
The wolf will live with the lamb, the panther lie down with the kid, calf, lion and fat-stock beast together, with a little boy to lead them.