In the Beginning- John 1:1

References to names in parentheses are references to the commentary written by that individual and are cited according to their comments on that passage, unless otherwise noted.

Verse as a whole: Genesis 1:1 is the obvious background (Godet writes, “Moses descends the stream of time and reaches the creation of man (ver 26). John, having started from the same point, follows the reverse course and ascends from the beginning of things to eternity”), Proverbs 8:22 (on which, see Bultmann, who says, “She is pre-existent, and is God’s partner at the creation. She seeks a dwelling on earth among men, but is rejected: she comes to her own possession, but her own do not accept her.”), 1 John 1:1-4. The “en” is expressive of “continuous timeless existence” (Bernard).

Logos: John introduces the term with no explanation (Westcott). This implies that people would have had a good idea of what it meant. “As a word is a means of revealing a man’s mind to others, so Christ hath revealed the Father in his own person” (Hutcheson). Pink expands on this, and says, “He is God’s alphabet, the One who spells out Deity, the One who utters all God has to say…Christ then, is the One who has made the incomprehensible God intelligible…The Scriptures reveal God’s mind, express His will, make known His perfections, and lay bare His heart. This is precisely what the Lord Jesus has done for the Father…It is only in Christ that God is fully told out.” If you want to know God, then study Jesus (Pink and Boice).” “Logos” implies inward thought and outward speech (Barrett). This is “ratio” (thought) and “oratio” (speech) (Keddie). Michaels (quoted by Kostenberger) says, “Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks the word, but in the prologue he is the Word, the personal embodiment of all that he proclaims.” Bultmann writes “In the O.T. the Word of God is his Word of power, which, in being uttered, is active as event.” He further writes that no silence preceded the Word. Notice that the word of God is creative and revelatory (Barrett). Isaiah 55 tells us that God’s Word is effective for accomplishing His purpose. Why the term “logos?” J.C. Ryle notes various possibilities, all of which feed into this concept: “the wisdom of God, the express image of the Father, the subject of OT prophecy, and the speaker and interpreter of God’s will.” It is also true that God does not communicate His essence to us: it must be mediated (Meyer). “The deeds and words of Jesus are the deeds and words of God; if this be not true the book is blasphemous” (Barrett). Therefore the whole of the Gospel needs to be read in light of this verse (ibid.). In fact, connecting 20:31 with this passage yields the following thought: “the one I want you to believe in, because the Christ is Jesus, this Jesus is also the pre-incarnate God Himself, the one responsible for all creation.”

Clause 1: “In Gen. 1:1 ‘In the beginning’ introduces the story of the old creation; here it introduces the story of the new creation. In both works of creation the agent is the Word of God” (Bruce). “Beginning” denotes the period before creation (Brown). Carson notes, “Since Mark begins his Gospel with the same word, ‘The Beginning,’ it is also possible that John is making an allusion to his colleague’s work, saying in effect, “Mark has told about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry; I want to show you that the starting point of the gospel can be traced farther back than that, before the beginning of the entire universe.” Notice the difference between “was” and “became” (Bernard). This clause refutes the Arians, who say that there was a time when then Son was not.

Clause 2: Kostenberger says (connecting the first clause with the second) that “Since the Word existed in the beginning, one might think that either the Word was God or the Word was with God. John affirms both.” Here John “may already be pointing out, rather subtly, that the ‘Word’ he is talking about is a person, with God and therefore distinguishable from God, and enjoying a personal relationship with him” (Carson). Not only does the “pros” establish a relationship between God and the Word, but also it distinguishes the two from each other” (Brown, quoted in Kostenberger). See also Genesis 1:26. This refutes the Sabellian heresy (which denied distinction of persons).

Clause 3: Jesus did NOT falsely claim to be God (see 10:33, 5:18). Keener says, “Jesus did not ‘make himself’ God; he shared glory with the Father before the world began.” NEB translation is excellent: “What God was, the Word was.” This refutes Socinians and Unitarians.

Anarthrous “theos” comments: If “theos” had the definite article “ho,” then it would have implied that “no divine being existed outside the second person of the Trinity” (Barrett). Note Colwell’s rule, which refutes the JW’s. Colwell’s rule, applied in this instance, is relatively simple. There are two nouns in the nominative case. To discover which one is the subject of the sentence, and which is the predicate, simply look for which noun has the definite article. In this case, “logos” has the definite article, and is therefore the subject of the sentence, even though it comes after the word “theos” in word order.

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10 Comments

  1. Andrew Buckingham said,

    July 9, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Thanks, Lane. There is a lot of things to think about here. I’ll be doing just that.

    I made a comment on another string about Bultmann, and the question in my mind of whether it’s wise to quote him. I know full well that, ‘not everything a heretic says is necessarily heretical.’

    But here’s the thing. I keep getting the vibe that I don’t quite fit in with the fellows on this blog. Maybe I am too cavalier. Maybe I don’t know my OT from my NT. But my history with moderns says Bultmann is kind of an electric third rail I don’t want to get near.

    I really struggle with what I believe was his denial of a physical resurrection.

    I am not trying to put you down publicly. Just I think maybe you should reply to my comment here, just clarifying that Bultmann indeed can be dangerous.Maybe my comment is sufficient. Just if its true I don’t know my stuff, know people like me are reading, and could be led astray without proper precaution and prefacing.

    Just my musings and general concerns.

    No biggee,

    Andrew

  2. greenbaggins said,

    July 9, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    If anyone needs to know, Bultmann had many dangerous, liberal ideas, and I certainly don’t endorse his program of demythologization, nor his denial of the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead. I quoted Bultmann here (and will occasionally in the future) when his first-rate skills as an exegete lead him to some good insights into the text.

  3. Andrew Buckingham said,

    July 9, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    greenbaggins @ 2,

    I really appreciate that. Thanks again for this post! It gave me much to consider, and I’m still mulling over the nuggets you’ve provided. And yes, even those occasional nuggets from one such as Bultmann.

    Regards,
    Andrew

  4. Mark Kim said,

    July 10, 2012 at 1:20 am

    It is true. Even unsaved biblical scholars can add some helpful insights for evangelical pastors and theologians.

  5. Andrew Buckingham said,

    July 10, 2012 at 1:59 am

    I liked these snippets. I wish I knew Greek…(thinking especially how I could understand the final paragraph of this post better)

    -Christ then, is the One who has made the incomprehensible God intelligible

    -If you want to know God, then study Jesus

    -Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks the word, but in the prologue he is the Word, the personal embodiment of all that he proclaims

    -[in referring to the word] the wisdom of God, the express image of the Father, the subject of OT prophecy, and the speaker and interpreter of God’s will.

    – the one I want you to believe in, because the Christ is Jesus, this Jesus is also the pre-incarnate God Himself, the one responsible for all creation

    Its good to think about such things,
    Andrew

  6. Richard said,

    July 10, 2012 at 4:09 am

    and let’s face it; Bultmann marks the watershed moment in Johannine scholarship, there are two periods (1) Before Bultmann and (2) After Bultmann cf. John Ashton’s Understanding the Fourth Gospel.

  7. Andrew Buckingham said,

    July 10, 2012 at 8:48 am

    One thing they told me at church was a good exercise, is to read John in one sitting, all chapters of it. It doesn’t take long. You come away with a profound sense of who Jesus is. If you haven’t doesn’t that, try it, sit down, read the entire book of John. You will be blessed, I think.

    Peace,
    AB

  8. Andrew Buckingham said,

    July 10, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    What was so interesting, sorry to keep posting and elaborating, was how “Christological” the book of John is. You get the sense that Jesus really was saying “something.” That something really made the religious leaders upset.

    Jesus did not just say that he was God and then step back from that. No, my sense was, he was adamant about this claim.

    May we follow him and listen to him alone, as we pilgrim through life. I love the book of John and how GB is reading about it and posting the things he is finding. Would that we all take more of an appreciation of Scripture and the writings of those who so diligently exegeted this most awesome book, the Bible. Thanks again, Lane. I really like reading your posts.

    Peace,
    AB

  9. Sean Gerety said,

    July 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I have a hard time imagining any study of John’s prologue that doesn’t include Gordon Clark’s The Johannine Logos.

  10. paigebritton said,

    July 12, 2012 at 4:06 am

    Your reference to Carson’s suggestion that John was alluding to Mark reminded me of an essay by Richard Bauckham, “John for Readers of Mark,” in the compilation The Gospels for All Christians (Eerdmans, 1998). Have you ever read this, Lane? He develops the premise that John assumed his audience was already familiar with Mark, so he didn’t need to repeat the basics. Very intriguing!


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