The prologue of the Gospel 1:1–18

This part explains three relations of the Word.

  1. The Word and God - This relationship is eternal - goes beyond time (1:2) - and intimate (1:18). It postulates equality with God (1:1).

  2. The Word and the world - The world was created through the Word (1:3,10).

  3. The Word and humanity.

Because the Word is in eternal and intimate relationship with God (the Father), the Word can reveal the glory he received from the Father. The aim of this revelation is salvation. It is understood as giving a new order of grace (1:16) replacing the one given through Moses.

For people, the Word is first of all life and light - two symbols of God and his salvation (Ps 36:10). Later in the Gospel we read that Jesus is light (8:12) and life (11:25).

Accepting the Word, makes us God’s children (1:12). But, there are also those who rejected it. Thus, the Word brings division as well (12:48).

The identification of the Word with Jesus comes in 1:14 and 1:17.

The mission of John the Baptist (1:6–8) was to give testimony about the light. He does it by giving testimony about Jesus (1:19–34; 3:22–30).


  1. Introduction to the Word (1:1–5);
  2. Witness to the Word (1:6–8);
  3. Manifestation of the Word (1:9–14);
  4. Uniqueness of the Word (1:15–18).

Introduction to the Word (1:1–5)

John 1:1 connects with Gen 1:1 LXX.

Ps 33:6 - ’By the word of the Lord the heavens were made" comments on Gen 1.

Ps 107:20 - “he sent forth his word …”

Wisdom 18:14–15 - God’s all-powerful word came down from heaven.

Is 55:11 - “my word that goes forth from my mouth”

All those passages pave the way for personification of the Word of God.

See also 1 John 1:1 and Rev 19:13.

The Word is God’s self-expression in creation, revelation, and salvation.

The Greek word - (α͗ρχή) - can also mean “origin”.

So, when we combine both meaning we have that:

“In the beginning” (of history) and "at the origin (of the universe), the Word was already there.

“Was - η͗ν from ει͗μί - I am” (1:1) versus “was made - ε͗γένετο - γίνομαι - I exist” (1:3).

The first indicates “existence”, the second indicates “coming into existence”.

Both words comes in John 8:58.

The Word exists , everything else came into existence through the Word. Moreover,

“No matter how far back we may try to push our imagination, we can never reach a point at which we could say of the Word of God, as Arius did, ”there was once when he was not" (F.F. Bruce).

The verb “was” is used 3 times in the first verse.

The verb “come into existence” is used 11 times in the prologue (1:3, 6, 10, 12, 14–18).

It is worth noticing that in Gen 1 LXX, this verb is used 23 times (Gen 1:3,5–6,8–9,11,13–15,19–20,23–24,30–31).

“The Word was ”with“ God” (1:1b).

It is worth to compare this passage with Mark 6:3 where “with - πρός” also is used.

The Word of God is distinguished from God himself, and yet exists in a close personal relationship with God.

“The Word was God” (1:1c). Very important part of the verse.

“The Word” - with an article - is the subject of this statement and “God” - without an article - describes the Word. And yet, “God” appears first in this phrase to indicate that the stress is on the noun “God”. The Word is not just divine (θεῖος) - John uses the noun (θεός), the Word is God.

But had both nouns the articles the meaning would be different: “the God was the Word”. In this case, God and the Word would be indistinguishable. Yet, that is not the message of the Gospel.

By stating that “The Word was God”, John teaches that the Word shares the essence of the Father but he is not the person of the Father. The author prepares the foundation for the mystery of our faith: Holy Trinity.

Who is God according to John?

First of all, God is not a proper name. We could say that the noun “God” describes someone who is different from anything we know.

But, in the OT God has a name (see Ex 3:14 - YHWH).

The first century reader could understand the word “God” differently - depending on their background. The Greek would think about one of their gods - perhaps Zeus. But, the Jews would immediately think about the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob - the Only God (Deut 10:17; Dan 3:26). And that is how John understand the word “God”, as the God of Israel.

But Except for 1:1, 18, every other use of “God” (83 times) in John is either explicitly or implicitly referring to the Father (5:18; 6:27; 8:41–42; 1:12–13; 4:23–24).

Thus, “God” in John refers to the Father of our Lord Jesus and our Father.

To summerise verse 1:1:

1:1a - the preexistence of the Word;
1:1b - the presence of the Word;
1:1c - the person of the Word.

John 1:2 basically repeats the message of 1:1. The stress is on the Word (“this” Word or “this” is the one who) was in the beginning with God.

But, perhaps, there is more than just a repetition - a reference to Proverbs 8:22–31. The author asks us to imagine that situation before God spoke his word out in Gen 1:3. In this way, we are being prepared for John 1:3.

John 1:3 - “All things came into being through him” - from Gen 1:3, each creative day is introduced by the clause “And God said”.

See Ps 33:6; Prov 3:19; 8:30, and Ps 104:24.

We find similar statement in other NT writings (Col 1:16f; Heb 1:2; Rev 3:14).

It is worth nothing punctuation problem.

Some put the period at the end of verse 3 - the usual, but some put the period after the phrase (ου͗δέ έ͑ν).

So there are two possibilities:

“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (1:3);

“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made. That has been made in him was (a)life” (1:3–4a) - apparently this version was preferred by post-Nicene Christian writers.

1:4 - In him was life. (See John 5:26).

Because the Word possesses life it can impart life to others.

“Life” occurs 37 times in John. This “life” embraces physical and spiritual realities. This “life” brought life into the creation. This “life” means the fulness of life (John 10:10). Yes, in the Gospel of John it is often used as “life everlasting” which should be understood as resurrection life.

“The life was the light of people”. In Gen 1, the first thing that God created was light. It makes life on earth possible - think of our dependence on the light of the sun.

But, in John 1:4 the light refers to life that is in the Word. This light brings us out of darkness of sin and unbelief. This light is related to salvation.

1:5 - “And the light shines in darkness” (see 9:5).

In Gen 1:3, God spoke to a darkness that covered the face of the deep: “Let there be light”. There was no light yet. But, in John 1:5 - the light is present and manifests his power.

At the beginning of the old creation “darkness covered the face of the deep” (Gen 1:2). The word “Deep” is actually a name that refers to the Babylonian myth about monster of primordial chaos name Tiamat defeated by Marduk - the chief god of Babylon. This darkness perhaps also has that mythological connotations. Then, the light was called to banish the darkness.

A similar situation takes place at the beginning of the new creation. The Word of God in whom is light will banish spiritual darkness that covers the world of humankind.

Notice, the present tense of the verb “shines” in John 1:5 - indicating continuity and perpetuity.

“Darkness cannot overcome it”. Light is always stronger than darkness. A simple candle can dispel the darkness in a room and darkness cannot conquer it. (See 1 John 2:8).

But there is another possibility: “the darkness cannot recognise it”. Perhaps, this rendering better presents the confrontation that takes place in the Gospel between Jesus and those who cannot recognise Him as the Son of God, Savior of the Word sent by the Father.

“The Light of the Word” meets resistance from those whom he came to save (John 3:19–20; 8:12; 12:35). That is human biggest tragedy - unable to “recognise” the Light of the Word - Jesus Christ.

Witness to the Word (1:6–8)

1:6 - there “came” a man sent from God.

In all three Synoptic Gospels Jesus’ ministry is introduced by the ministry of John the Baptist (see Mk 1:4–8).

When the question of filling the vacancy created in the ranks of the Twelve by Judas, the condition is that the candidate had to accompany the disciples "beginning from the baptism of John (Acts 1:21 f).

Then, when Peter speaks to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, he mentions the ministry of John the Baptist as well (Acts 10:37). The same goes for Paul when he speaks in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:24 f).

It indicates the importance of that man from God who was sent to testify concerning the light (see also Luke 1).

In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist is never identified as “the Baptist”. After all, there is no other John mentioned in that Gospel. The only other John in Jesus’ circle, John the son of Zebedee, was the author of this Gospel.

The Evangelist introduces an important topic of bearing witness. In the case of John the Baptist it will be explained in 1:19–34 and later 3:27–30. Then, Jesus would also say something about him ministry in John 5:33–35.

But, we also here about:

  1. The witness of the Father (5:32,37; 8:18);
  2. The witness of the Son (8:14, 18);
  3. The witness of the Spirit (15:26);
  4. The witness of the works of Christ (5:36; 10:25);
  5. The witness of the scriptures (5:39);
  6. The witness of the disciples (15:27; 19:35; 21:24).

The purpose of all this manifold witness is “that all might believe”. It is the purpose for which the Gospel itself was written (20:31).

1:7 - John’s entry is introduced with the verb “ε͗γενετο”.

The same verb was used in 1:3 where we read that everything came into being through the Word. It indicates that as God is behind the creation of the world, so God is also behind the salvation of the world. Our God is both the God of creation and the God of salvation - the Creator God and the Saving God.

That it is God who is the source of John’s mission is further stressed by the statement that John was sent from God. Notice that it is “from” and not “by” God.

1:8 - “He was not the light”.

We do not know whether there were any historical circumstances that demanded such emphasis. Some point to Acts 19:1–7, as an example, that during that time there was a group of people who held John in the highest esteem as the last and greatest of the prophets. But, that is doubtful.

Perhaps, the statement aims at highlighting once more the huge difference between the Word and His witness.

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