True light (Jn 1:9-1:9)

“The true light

That enlightens every man

Was coming

Into the world.”

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?

John came to testify (Jn 1:8-1:8)

“John himself

Was not the light.

But he came

To testify

To the light.”

οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς, ἀλλ’ ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός.

John clearly 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?

John was a witness (Jn 1:7-1:7)

“John came

As a witness

To testify

To the light.


All might believe

Through him.”

οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν, ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι’ αὐτοῦ

John said 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?

The man John (Jn 1:6-1:6)

“There was a man

Sent from God.

His name was John.”

Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος, ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ Θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάνης

John said 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?

The light shines in the darkness (Jn 1:5-1:5)

“The light shines

In the darkness.

The darkness

Did not overcome it.”

καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

John said 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 Word was life (Jn 1:4-1:4)

“In him

Was life.

The life was

The light

Of all people.”

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?

All was made through the Word (Jn 1:3-1:3)

“All things

Were made

Through him.

Without him

Not one thing

Came into being.”

πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν.

John said 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 with God (Jn 1:2-1:2)

“The Word was

In the beginning

With God.”

Οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν.

John clearly 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?

The Word was in the beginning (Jn 1:1-1:1)

“In the beginning,

Was the Word.

The Word

Was with God.

The Word

Was 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?

The Gospel according to John


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?