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The Beginning Word (John 1:1-5)

The Beginning Word (John 1:1-5)

Divine Yet Distinct from the Father (John 1:1-2)

The Greek term translated into English “Word” was used by Greek philosophers to mean “reason.” There was a great deal of Greek influence in 1stcentury Judaism whether they wanted to admit it or not. For one, the Scriptures had been translated from Hebrew into Greek and there were many Hellenistic Jews who imitated the manner, customs and language of Greeks. Even though the term logos (Word) is Greek, the Jewish people would have understood it.
The 1stcentury Jew identified Wisdom/Word/Law with God, for all three come from God. To the 1stcentury Jew, Wisdom/Word/Law are Divine; yet, distinct from God the Father; therefore, the Greek term logos (Word) was the best way for the disciple whom Jesus loved to describe Jesus as Divine, yet distinct from the Father, a being Who personifies Wisdom and Law from above.[1]
The author begins the text echoing the words of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning,” but before saying He created, the author points to the Word of God as being with God at creation; therefore, uncreated, Divine, yet distinct from the Father. By using the term logos (the Word), the disciple whom Jesus loved calls Jesus the embodiment of the Wisdom and Law of God, Divine, yet distinct from the Father.

Then God said (John 1:3)

Jewish teachers taught that God created all things through Law. Is it a coincidence that Genesis chapter 1 declares 10 times in the creation account “Then God said,” and the ten commands are often referred to as the Decalogue? (Decalogue means 10 words.) Jewish teachers would have agreed with v.1:3 that all things were made through the Word (Wisdom/Law) and Greek Platonic philosophers would have agreed that God created the world through His logos (Word).[2]So by using the Greek logos (Word) in a Jewish understanding of creation, the disciple whom Jesus loved was setting up a position in which both Jews and Greeks would agree; that the “Word” Whom he will declare in v.1:14 became flesh is greater than any created thing.[3]

Life and Light (John 1:4)

The Old Testament made promises of long life for those who obeyed the Wisdom/Word/Law of God.[4]In Ex 20:12 and Dt 5:16 the command is given to “Honor your father and your mother” and the promise for obeying the commandment is long life. Then in Dt 8:1 and ll:8-9 Moses states that he is giving the Israelites the commandments that they may live. The Word of God has always been available to man for life. If Adam had listened to God, he would have lived long in the garden. Jewish teachers associated light with God’s Law.[5]“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps.119:105, NASB)

The Light Shines in the Darkness (John 1:5)

The darkness is in opposition to the light, but this could also mean a darkened heart or mind.[6]It has been said that unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (Jn.3:3) Could it be that sin coming into the world has darkened the minds of men. Sin separates man from God. Genesis chapter 3 ends with man (male and female) being driven out of the garden away from the presence of God. This is spiritual death, and because of this, the entire world became dark in the sense that man can no longer see God. God warned Adam that in the day that he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would surely die. Did Adam physically die on that day? No, but he and Eve began to physically die, for God told Adam that he would physically die after many years of struggling to live on his own by the sweat of his brow. (Gn.3:17-19) Adam and Eve spiritually died the day that they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for they were driven away from God. Their eyes were darkened for they could no longer see God. The disciple whom Jesus loves declares that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend. Think about this imagery; imagine a person who grew up in a dark cave, wouldn’t they be confused if someone suddenly lit a candle?

[1]Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nded. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014), 249.
[3]William McDonald, Believers Bible Commentary: A Complete Bible Commentary in One Volume5thed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 1467.
[4]Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nded. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014), 249.
[6]William McDonald, Believers Bible Commentary: A Complete Bible Commentary in One Volume5thed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 1467.

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