“The true light
enlightens every man
Ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινὸν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον,
ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον.
John said that the true light (Ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινὸν), that is the Word, that enlightens (ὃ φωτίζει) all men (πάντα ἄνθρωπον), was coming into the world or the universe (ἐρχόμενον
εἰς τὸν κόσμον). The true light of the Word, Jesus, was
entering into this cosmic world of finite time.
John the Baptist was not the true light, only a witness to this light or
life. Once again, the Word, Jesus, was
the central figure with John the testifier to his presence in our world playing
a subordinate role, not the major role.
Do you mind playing subordinate roles in your life?
Was not the light.
But he came
οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς, ἀλλ’ ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός.
said that this John himself was not the light (οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς). He was not a false light, since he came to
testify (ἀλλ’ ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ) concerning the true light (περὶ τοῦ φωτός). This John was clearly subordinate to the Wordor
the light that gave life that was Jesus himself. There was an enigmatic relationship between
Jesus and John. John went before Jesus
and also died before him. Some of his
followers went to follow Jesus, but others remained faithful to him, even after
his death. John, the gospel writer,
left no doubt that John, the baptizer, was a witness to the light and not the
light itself. Do you testify to the
light of Jesus?
As a witness
To the light.
οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν, ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ
τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι’ αὐτοῦ
that this other John came along (οὗτος ἦλθεν) as a witness (εἰς μαρτυρίαν) in
order to testify (ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ) concerning the light (περὶ τοῦ φωτός). Thus, all the people (ἵνα πάντες) might
believe (πιστεύσωσιν) through him (δι’ αὐτοῦ). John was not the light. He was a witness or a martyr for the
light. He was there to help others
believe in the light, the life of Jesus, the Word. Testimony and witness have a Greek root word
that could be translated as martyr because the martyr testifies by his death
and suffering. Belief in God came
through John, not in John the Baptist.
Are you willing to believe and testify to the light of God?
“There was a
His name was
ἄνθρωπος, ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ Θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάνης
that there was a man (Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος,) sent (ἀπεσταλμένος) from God (παρὰ Θεοῦ), whose name was John (ὄνομα αὐτῷ
Ἰωάνης). He was not called the Baptist
or Baptizer here. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1:5-24 and
1:57-80, this John was the son of Elizabeth and Zacharias, a cousin of Jesus. Jesus and John also met up again at the beginning
of the Jesus ministry at the baptism of Jesus, an incident that can be found in
all four canonical gospels. This John
brought the role of the Hebrew prophets to a close, as an important Jewish
prophet who emphasized the importance of a baptism of repentance. His influence in the gospel stories and the Acts
of the Apostles, chapter 19:1-7, can be seen in that he had also had
disciples who followed him. Clearly, this
was a reverential look at John, since this prologue said that he was sent from
God, not some ordinary Jewish preacher.
In the Acts of the Apostles,
there are a couple of other disciples named John, as well as this gospel. Do you know a lot of people named John?
In the darkness.
καὶ τὸ φῶς
ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.
that the light (καὶ τὸ φῶς) shines (φαίνει) in the darkness (ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ). The life of the Word, Jesus, God, was the
light that shines brightly conquering the darkness, the moral evil. This was the classical great struggle of good
and evil between light that was good and darkness that was bad. The Jewish Dead Sea scrolls of the first
century CE also had this struggle.
Perhaps there is a connection between John and these monastic Jewish
zealots. John, however, rightly
points out that this darkness or evil (καὶ ἡ σκοτία) will not overcome or seize the light (αὐτὸ
οὐ κατέλαβεν) of the good Word. The reverse is true. Light will always overcome darkness. Have you ever grappled with the problem of
light and darkness?
The life was
ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ
ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων.
John said that
the Word, Jesus, was life (ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν).
Yet, this life was the light for all humans or men (καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς
τῶν ἀνθρώπων). Without God there would
be no life. God is the source of our
life. Our eternal spiritual life is
dependent on the Word. This life of the
Word, Jesus, will be the light for all people.
God created light that brought life to all people, as life and light are
the same. Our new life would come from
the Word, Jesus, God. Light was image of
God’s presence or favor. Is there light
in your life?
Not one thing
αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν.
that the word (ὁ Λόγος) pre-existed before the world. All things were made through him (πάντα δι’
αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο). Without him there would
be no life, nothing could come into existence (καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν
ὃ γέγονεν). Wisdom, chapter 9:1
stated that God created humans or men (ἄνθρωπον) with wisdom (τῇ σοφίᾳ) and his
words (ἐν λόγῳ σου) to have dominion over all the creatures. Proverbs, chapter 8:23, said that
wisdom was created at the beginning of creation. Wisdom was created before anything else,
including before water, mountains, earth, the heavens, and humans. Wisdom was like the co-worker at
creation. John has combined these
various elements of the word, wisdom, and creation together. Without the Word, nothing would exist. Do you believe in a creative God?
“The Word was
Οὗτος ἦν ἐν
ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν.
references and echoes the Genesis story, chapter 1:1. This Word was in the beginning (Οὗτος ἦν ἐν
ἀρχῇ) with God (πρὸς τὸν Θεόν). John
does not directly say that Jesus was the Word, but only implies it. The Word is not God, but with God, the
Father, so that there is a distinction between God, the Father, and the Word,
but they are both God. Within the Greek
philosophical tradition, this Logos or Word was a kind of wisdom that brought
order and design to the universe. Philo
of Alexandria (20 BCE-50 CE), the Jewish philosopher, was an example of this syncretistic
religious philosophical thought. Philo
wrote that God created and governed the world through the Logos, an immaterial,
eternal image or shadow of God, his firstborn son. Since creation, this Logos held things
together. In the Hebrew scriptural
tradition, the Word or Logos was how God communicated with humans. Linking both concepts together was the
biblical wisdom literature that has the wisdom of God with God. Psalm 33:6 said that the heavens came
to be with the simple word or logos of Yahweh, the creator God. All that exists, the hosts of things, were
created by the breath of Yahweh. Luke,
chapter 1:2, said something similar in his introduction to his gospel. He clearly indicated what his sources were. He said that these things or events were handed
down to him (καθὼς παρέδοσαν ἡμῖν) by people who were with Jesus from the
beginning (οἱ ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς). Who were these
people? They were the eyewitnesses
(αὐτόπται) who were the servants or ministers (καὶ ὑπηρέται γενόμενοι) of the
word (τοῦ λόγου), the early disciples and apostles of Jesus. They were the ministers of the word, the
Logos (ὁ Λόγος). Here John explains
the Logos (ὁ Λόγος). What do you know
about the Word?
Was the Word.
Was with God.
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ
Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος.
This beautiful prologue of John is a poetic hymn,
like the opening of a great musical. All
the great themes of this gospel story are here in this overture to this great
performance, the life of Jesus. Like
everything important, it has a beginning (Ἐν ἀρχῇ). This prologue is about the word (ἦν ὁ Λόγος). This word (καὶ ὁ Λόγος) is more than speech,
it is a powerful action with a hint at wisdom in the Greek philosophical tradition
and in the Hebrew scripture tradition. The Word was with God (ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν),
so that the word is distinct and yet with God.
Then clearly John stated that the Word is God (καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ
Λόγος). Jesus was and is the word (ὁ
Λόγος). As opposed to Matthew and Luke, there was no infancy story about Jesus. John starts with eternity and a global
cosmic outlook, not a human outlook.
This is sometimes referred to as high Christology, as opposed to low
Christology that starts with the humanity of Jesus and tries to discover his
divinity. John began this story
of Jesus with the bold statement that Jesus was the Word, God. Do you see Jesus as human or divine?
Who is this John? There were many followers of Jesus named John, since this was a common name. Although anonymous, the author of this gospel described himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. He did not give his specific name, but he also maintained that he was an eyewitness to many of these events. Is he then the son of Zebedee, John, the brother of James? This author was clearly an Israelite because of his Palestinian geographical knowledge. He also knew a lot about Jerusalem religious practices. However, this Galilean John, the son of Zebedee, would have been quite old when this was written, near the end of the first century CE. This final Greek version probably comes from Ephesus between 90-110 CE, as the last of the four canonical gospels. However, there were no other indications that the brother of James was conversant in Greek. Perhaps there was a Johannine community with an oral tradition from the apostle John that preceded this written Greek gospel. How many people do you know who are named John?