1:9 prepares the way for the statement of 8:12; 9:5.
“[There] was the light the true, the one that enlightens every human being”.
All wise people of ancient times, those who lived in conformity with right reason (logos) were actually directed by the pre-existent Christ (see St. Justin Martyr).
So this light “was coming into the world”.
From “was coming into the world”, the author immediately tells us that the Light - the Word “was in the world”. What “was coming into the world” is now “in the world”. Thus, the “coming” has become an arrival. This will be made clear in 1:14.
The word “world - cosmos” appears 78 times in John’s Gospel.
It can mean the physical universe - all things (1:3; cf. 17:5; 21:25).
It can also refer to the world of humanity, alienated from God (1:10; cf. Rom 1:28 in connection with Rom 1:20).
There is also a connection with 1:3 - “the world came into being through him”. Thus, the source of the world, its Creator is present now in the world.
“The world did not know him”.
The world is God’s world, created by Him through the Logos. There is no presence gnostic dualism in John. Apart from the divine Word, nothing that exists came into being.
But, although the world was made by God and made “very good” (see Gen 1:31), it has nevertheless become the ‘godless world’ by refusing to acknowledge the revelation of God.
Yet, the world remains the object of God’s love - which is evident in sending His Son into the world to save it.
However, the presence of the Word in the world causes a division between those who accept it and those who do not and in this way they condemn themselves (see John 3:17–18).
The word “know” should be understood as knowing and responding with moral commitment - knowledge of God and obedience to His Word go hand in hand.
1:11 - He came to his own (place - the neuter pl.), and his own (people - the masculine pl.) did not receive him.
The first phrase in the neuter appears in John 16:32 and John 19:27 - understood as one’s own home.
However, not all accept the phrase as indicating the world as the Word own home, but rather as the Word’s own possession because it was made through Him.
When we look at the history of salvation, the Word of God came first to the people of Israel in law, prophecy and wisdom, and in mighty acts of mercy and judgment such as no other nation experienced (cf. Deut 4:7–8; Ps 147:20).
But, this message was repeatedly ignored (see Jer 7:25–26 - ‘this day’ in this passage means ’the eve of the Babylonian exile).
The same happened when the Word of God came in the person of Jesus to his own people - the Jewish people. In view of the OT, they are God’s special people (Ex 19:5; 23:22; Deut 7:6; 14:2; Is 43:21; Ezek 13:18–23).
In the Gospel of John, they are sometimes identified with the world (cf. John 7:7 in connection with 7:1; see also 15:18–20, 25; 16:1–3).
But, there were some who did received him.
Spiritual birth and the new life are prominent in John’s Gospel. Here, we have the indication of a new creation. The world is created but is not done yet with creating.
Those who welcome the Word when he came into the world received the privilege/right/authority to be admitted to membership in the family of God.
In the Gospel of John - children (τέκνα) refers to Christian, whereas “son” (υἱος) is always reserved for Christ. “Children of God” has that intimate and affectionate meaning.
Such children are not of this world (17:6, 16); they are born from above (3:1–11).
Spiritual birth is not dependent on national or family ties (see Mt 3:8–9; Rom 4:11–12).
The translation of “husband” point to the patriarchal model of the family in Jesus’ time. The head of the clan - family - has not power to will spiritual birth of his children. There is the true Father of the world and only he has that power.
Thus, we have here a clash of two authorities - the authority of human patriarch versus the authority of God.
Beyond the process of nature, beyond every Jewish or other genealogy, beyond every action of the body, and beyond every will of human authority, there are children who have been brought into existence by the creative power and will of God!
The phrase to be born from God will be explained in John 3:1–11.
To enter God’s family one must receive his Word - one must believe in his name. The word “receive” equals to “believe” (see 5:43–44; 13:19–20).
“Believe” in John is used 98 times - not even Paul has some many - 54 times in Paul.
Name stands here for the person, and to believe means to yield one’s allegiance to him, put complete trust in him as appropriate for (small) children, and acknowledge his claims. But, at this moment the Word does not have a name? In which name should we believe? See John 20:31, where the same statement appears but already with a concrete name.
1:14 - And the Word became flesh.
All the previous verses led to this one. Moreover, from the letters of John we realise that there was in the time of John’s writing and even perhaps in his area a group who denied that Jesus Christ had “come in the flesh” (1 John 4:1–3). (Today we called docetism).
“Flesh” designates our humanity in its fulness, the humanity of Adam.
This verse is the foundation for the doctrine of the person of Christ formulated in the Creed of Nicaea AD 325.
The incarnation of the Word of God bridges the gap between a transcendent God and the insignificance of man. Perhaps, even now we are not fully aware of the consequence of this verse for God, the world, and humanity.
The verb “become” appears for the seventh time. The Word-God become flesh without ceasing to be the Word-God.
“And pitched his tabernacle among us” - points back to the tent in the time of Moses where God wanted to dwell in the midst of His people (Ex 25:8; 40:34; cf. 1 Kings 8:10f).
The glory which shone in the tabernacle and the temple, veiled in the mysterious cloud, cannot be compared to the glory which shone in the incarnate Word, veiled from those who had no mind to come to the light, but manifested to faith.
We saw his glory (cf. 1 John 1:1). “We” refers first of all to those who saw Jesus during his life on earth - it has historical aspect. But this testimony brings others to faith (21:24).
The glory which shone in the incarnate Word was glory such as a father bestows on his best-loved son (cf. Ps 2:7).
“Only-begotten Son” or “unique Son”? The translators argue both ways.
Here we also have the first use of the word “Father”.
“Full of grace and truth” can have connection with Ex 34:6. In Ex 33:18, Moses asked God to see His glory and in Ex 34:6 God passed in front of him.
This section prepares us for John’s statement in 1:30. Here, we have the summary of what will be narrated later about John’s witness.
1:15 - “John bears witness concerning him”
The present tense indicate that while John himself was long dead by the time the Gospel was written, his witness remains (and remains). Moreover, the content of his message is permanently true.
John’s cry refers to an inspired speech (see Lk 1:41–42; Rom 9:27)
The coming of the One that John is witnessing to happened later in history than John did - “He who is coming after me” - but he existed before him! That is a powerful statement (see also John 8:58).
1:16 includes the witness of the author and refers back to 1:14.**
“We” should be understood in the light of John 20:29. All who believe in him can draw plenitude of grace from the ocean of grace that is in Christ that cannot ever be diminished (see Col 1:19; 2:9).
“Grace upon grace”.
The phrase presents a challenge. What does the word (α͗ντί) means?
In LXX, the meaning of the word (α͗ντί) is “instead of, in place of” (Gen 22:13).
In Sirach 26:15, we have a phrase: “χάρις ε͗πί χάριτι” which translated as “grace upon grace”.
“Grace in place of grace” - would be a good translation.
After the grace of the law comes the grace of the Gospel. Thus, Christ displaces the law of Moses, the Gospel surpasses the old order of grace.
From this perspective we can understand John 2:10 - water representing the old order of grace - the law of Moses and wine the new order of the Gospel - the grace of salvation.
The same is seen in John 2:19 - where the temple built of stones is being replaced by the temple of the Body of Christ.
The background for this statement is Exodus 33–34 - the tent, the promise of God’s presence, the new tablets and the renewal of the covenant with Moses seeing from behind the glory of God (34:6–8; cf. 33:18–22).
But, in 1 John 1:1 - the author speaks about seeing and even touching the Word of life.
The law “was given” by God through Moses, but the grace and truth “came” through Jesus Christ. There is a progress from the law to the grace (see Gal 3:24 and Rom 10:4).
The word that often appears in the prologue is the verb (γὶνοναι / ε͗γένετο) differently translated as “came/made/become”.
It appears 3 times in 1:3 - indicating twice an action that was completed in the past - “aorist” - and once its impact on the present - “perfect”.
In 1:6 refers to the appears of John the Baptist.
In 1:10 with similar meaning to 1:3.
In 1:12 it appears for the sixth time referring to a new creation of people - one cannot but think about Gen 1:26–31, when God on the sixth day created the old Adam.
In 1:14 - the verb appears for the seventh time in relation to the incarnation of the Word of God and then Jesus is described with a word “μονογενής” - the only-begotten or the unique.
In 1:15 - Jesus existed before John
In 1:17 - the verb is used for the tenth time.
The same power that God used to create the world (1:3) is also at working in the person and the ministry of Jesus.
The children of God were born out of the same power that was used to create the world.
The verb will be also used in 4:14; 5:6; 6:19 and 8:58 (see also 3:9; 6:25; 9:27, 39; and 19:36).
In 1:17, the word “grace” is used for the last time in the Gospel. On the other hand, here the name of Jesus was introduced for the first time. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s grace. Jesus’ name will be used in John 17:3 and 20:31.
The prologue ends with a statement that shows the uniqueness of the Word of God, who is Jesus Christ, namely his position beside the Father.
God, being pure spirit, is invisible to physical eyesight. And yet, there is that desire within human heart to see God. Moses wanted to see God but was told that it was impossible (Ex 33:20).
Deut 4:12 and Ps 97:2 assume that God is invisible. Wherever Bible speak about seeing God (Ex 24:9–11) it is always interpreted as seeing him through a transparent sapphire - coloured pavement (Ex 24:10; 1:26–28; 10:1–2. This sapphire - coloured pavement is the floor of God’s palace, and also it explains why the sky is blue. See also Ex 33:20–23; Num 12:8.
Sir 43:31 asks a question that is answered by Jesus: no person can see God.
The “only-begotten God” is is the most attested phrase. The phrase reminds us of 1:1c.
There are another option, where “God” is replaced with “Son” or where “only-begotten” stands alone.
The only-begotten God existing in the Father’s bossom reminds us Lazarus at the bossom of Abraham (Lk 16:22) and the beloved disciple at the last supper (John 13:23).
The phrase denotes a place of special favour, but in this case it suggests mutual love and understanding between the Father and the Son and the Son’s dependence on the Father. Because of this unique position, the only-begotten can reveal the Father to others (see Mt 11:27; Lk 10:22). After all, he “was with God” (1:1).
The word “reveal/declare” appears in Luke’s writings and it means to tell or narrate (Luke 24:35; Acts 10:8; 15:12, 14; 21:19). This maybe also the meaning in John 1:18. But, it probably goes deeper than that. Jesus does not only declares but also reveals. Based on that Greek word, we can say that the Son is the “exegete” of the Father.
Some claim that “μονογενὴς” should be understood as “unique Son”. This seems to be a new translation but it is questionable on the accounts that it does not find suport in the Greek speaking Fathers of the Church who knew Greek better than us - it was their native language. Origen in particular clearly indicates that the meaning of this word is “only-begotten”.
How does the Son reveals the Father will be evident in the story of the Gospel.