This blog features some of the author's lengthy essays on sacred scriptures, theology and history.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Lope Coles Robredillo, SThD 
HOW IS JOHN 1:1-18, the Prologue to the Gospel of John, to be interpreted?  The following essay is an attempt, from the point of view of contemporary scholarship in Catholicism and Protestantism, to answer that question.   Actually, this forms part of the notes I gave to my students while I was teaching New Testament exegesis at a graduate school of theology.  I
am reproducing it without changes, with the caveat that it reflects the Johannine scholarship in the late 1990s, written as it was to make a synthesis of the Johannine research of that period. I am sure, however, that many who would like to have a deeper knowledge of St John’s Gospel will still find it useful.   Having read a few new works on John in this decade, I noted that there has not been much change in interpretation. This work has four parts: select bibliography, literary considerations, detailed interpretation of the prologue, and theological thrust.  A careful reading by one who is familiar with Johannine scholarship would point to the scholars, like R. Brown, C.K. Barrett, etc. to whom I am indebted and with whom I tend to take side in the interpretation.  At the end of the presentation is an excursus on the origin of the term “Logos.”


This select bibliography is intended to help students who wish to make a deeper study on the Prologue.  The works listed here, in English or in English translation, are those that they may find significant and useful.  [A] Commentaries on the Gospel According to John. [1] Barrett, C.K. The Gospel According to St John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek text. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978. [2] Beasley-Murray, G. John. WBC: Waco, TX: Word, 1987. [3] Bernard, J. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St John, 2 vols. ICC: T & T Clark, 1928. [4] Brown, R. The Gospel According to John, 2 vols. AB: New York: Doubleday, 1966-1970.  [5] Bultmann, R.  The Gospel of John.  Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971.  [6] Haenchen, E. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 2 vols.  Herm: Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984.  [7] Hoskyns, E. The Fourth Gospel. London: Faber and Faber, 1947.  [8] Lightfoot, R. H. St John’s Gospel: A Commentary. Oxford: Clarendon, 1956.  [8] Lindars, B.  The Gospel of John.  NCB: London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1972.  [9] Sanders, J. N. and B. Mastin.  A Commentary on the Gospel According to St John. BNTC: London: A & C Black, 1968.  [10] Schnackenburg, R.  The Gospel According to St John, 3 vols. NTKNT: New York, Seabury, 1980-1982. [11] Westcott, B.F. The Gospel According to St John.  London: J Murray, 1982. 

[B] Studies on St John’s Prologue.  [1] Boismard, M.-E. St John’s Prologue.  Westminster: Newman, 1957. [2] Borgen, P. “Observations on the Targumic Character of the Prologue of John,” New Testament Studies 16 (1969-1970) 288-295. [3] ______. “The Logos Was the True Light: Contributions to the Interpretation of the Prologue of John,” Novum Testamentum 14 (1972) 115-130.  [4] Culpepper, R. “The Pivot of John’s Prologue,” New Testament Studies 27 (1980-1981) 1-31. [5] Deeks, David.  “The Prologue of St John’s Gospel,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 6 (1976) 62-78.  [6] Dodd, C.H. The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel. Cambridge: University Press, 1953, 263-285; 294-296.  [7] _______. “The Prologue to the Fourth Gospel and Christian Worship,” in Studies in the Fourth Gospel.  Ed. F. L. Cross.  London: Mowbray, 1957, 9-22.  [8] Fuller, R.H. The Foundations of New Testament Christology.  London: Collins, 1965, 222-227.  [9] Hooker, M.D. “John the Baptist and the Johannine Prologue,” New Testament Studies 16 (1969-1970) 254-358.  [10] _________. “The Johannine Prologue and the Messianic Secret,” New Testament Studies 21 (1974-1875) 40-58.  [11] Jeremias, J. “The Revealing Word,” The Central Message of the New Testament.  London: SCM, 1965, 71-90.  [12] Kaseman, E. “The Structure and Purpose of the Prologue to John”s Gospel.” New Testament Questions of Today.  London: SCM, 1969, 138-167.  [13] King, J.S. “The Prologue of the First Gospel: Some Unresolved Problems,” Expository Times 86 (1975) 372-375. [14] McNamara, M. “Logos of the Fourth Gospel and the Memra of the Palestinian Targum (Ex. 12:42),” Expository Times 78 (1968) 115-117.  [15] O’Neill, J. “The Prologue to St John’s Gospel.’ Journal of Theological Studies, ns 20 (1969) 41-52.  [16] Risi, Mathias.  “John 1, 1-18.” Interpretation 31 (1977) 395-401.  [17] Robinson, J.A.T. “The Relation of the Prologue to the Gospel of St John.” New Testament Studies 9 (1962-1963) 120-129.  [18] Schillebeeckx, E. Christ: The Experience of Jesus as Lord.  New York: Crossroad, 1980, 351-358.  [19] Stanley, J. “The Structure of John’s Prologue: Its Implications for the Gospel Narrative Structure,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 48 (1986) 241-264.  [20] Tobin, T. “The Prologue of John and Hellenistic Jewish Speculation.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 52 (1990) 252-269.  [21] Vawter, B. “What Came to Be in Him Was Life (John 1:3b-4b,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 25 (1963) 401-406.

Literary Considerations

            The Literary Character of the Prologue. Whereas Mark begins his account of Jesus with the work of John the Baptist (henceforth abbreviated JBap) and the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:1-12), and Matthew and Luke with his conception and birth from a virgin (Matt 1-2; Luke 1-2), John opens his work with a Prologue (John 1:1-18), tracing the story of Jesus to the very bosom of God (1:1).  Originally, it is not impossible that the Prologue, as a literary unit, far from being a part of the Gospel, was an independent composition, most likely a hymn.  In the first place, it contains a highly poetic structure exhibiting climactic parallelism whereby a word prominent in one line is taken up in the next one.  Its poetic character may be compared with certain passages in Wisdom Literature (Prov 8:22-36; Sir 24:1-22; Wis 7:22-8:1), which have the regular form of Hebrew poetic character.  (On Hebrew poetry, see, inter alia, A. Berlin, “Parallelism,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary [New York: Doubleday, 1992] 5.155-162; N. Gottwald, “Poetry, Hebrew,” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible [Nashville: Abingdon, 1962] 3.829-838; A. Fitzgerald, “Hebrew Poetry,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary [eds. R. Brown, J. Fitzmyer and R. Murphy; Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1990] 201-208).

            Secondly, it has theological concepts which do not recur in the rest of the Gospel (e.g., logos as a Christological title, charis, pleroma, etc.).  These observations led many scholars to conclude—quite divergent from the proposal by, e.g., C.K. Barrett (The Gospel According to John [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978] 151) and P. Borgen (“Observations on the Targumic Character of the Prologue of John,” New Testament Studies 16 [1969-1970] 295) that the prologue is a united whole—that it is derived from a pre-existing hymn.  For instance, C. Burney (The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel [Oxford: Clarendon, 1922] 40-41) maintains that a retranslation of the Prologue into Aramaic reveals the form of the hymn consisting of eleven couplets.  R. Bultmann (The Gospel of John [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971] 18) suggests that the source-text was a hymn of the JBaptist Community.  It is most reasonable to suppose, however, that the Prologue was a Christological hymn of the Johannine church, probably of liturgical origin.  The reason for this is that it shares a number of themes with the rest of the Gospel: pre-existence (1:1/17:5), the light of men and of the world (1:4;9/8:12; 9:5), opposition between light and darkness (1:5/3:19), seeing his glory (1:14/12:41), the only Son (1:14;18/3:16), no one has seen God except the Son (1:18/6:46).  Since all this correspondence has to be explained, to suggest that the Prologue was composed in Johannine circles seems reasonable enough.

            The Original Structure of the Prologue.  Among Johannine scholars, there is no consensus on which verses belonged to the original Johannine hymn, although a variant of the following outline would be common: v 1 [v 2], vv 3-4 [v 5], [v 9ab], [v 10ab], v 10c-11, v 12ab, v 14 a[b]c, v 16.  R. Schnackenburg (The Gospel According to St John [3 vols. HTKKNT; New York: Seabury, 1980-1982] 1.226-228) reconstructs the original hymn in four strophes: vv 1.3; 4.9; 10-11; 14.16.  For the nonce, it suffices to consider the reconstruction offered by R. Brown (The Gospel According to John, 2 vols. [AB 29; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966-1970] 1.3-4,22):

            First Strophe: The Word with God

                        1In the beginning was the Word;
                        the Word was in God’s presence
                        and the Word was God.
                        2He was present with God in the beginning.

            Second Strophe: The Word and Creation

                        3Through him all things came into being,
                        and apart from him not a thing came to be.
                        4That which had come to be in him was life,
                        and this life was the light of men.
                        5The light shines on in the darkness,
                        for the darkness did not overcome it.

            Third Strophe: The Word in the World

                        10He was in the world,
                        and the world was made by him,
yet the world did not recognize him.
                        11To his own he came,
                        yet his own people did not accept him.
                        12But all those who did accept him
                        he empowered to become God’s children.

            Fourth Strophe: The Community’s Share in the Word

                        14And the Word became flesh
                        and made his dwelling among us.
                        And we have seen his glory,
                        the glory of an only Son [coming] from the Father
                        filled with enduring love.
                        16And of his fullness
                        we have all had a share—
                        love in place of love.

To this hymn, two sets of texts have been added.  The first set consists of explanatory expansions of the lines of the hymn.  To explain how men became God’s children, the following were appended at the end of the third strophe: “That is, those who believe in his name—those who were begotten, not by blood, nor by carnal desire, nor by man’s desire, but by God” (vv 12c-13).  And to explain “Love in place of love,” the following were joined at the end of the fourth strophe: “For while the Law was a gift through Moses, this enduring love came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God; it is God the only Son, ever at the Father’s side, who has revealed him” (vv 17-18).  The second set of material pertains to JBap.  The first one, which was added at the end of the third strophe, before the treatment of the incarnation, consists of vv 6-9: “There was sent by God a man named John 7who came as a witness to testify to the light so that through him all men might believe—8but only to testify to the light, for he himself was not the light.  9The real light which gives light to every man was coming into the world.”  The second, interjected in the middle of the third stanza, consists of one verse (v15): “John testified to him by proclaiming: ‘This is he of whom I said, “The one who comes after me ranks ahead of me, for he existed before him”.’”  It is very likely that these originally formed the opening verses of the Gospel, but were eventually displaced when the Prologue was prefaced to the Gospel by the final redactor.

The Function of the Prologue.  As Bultmann (John, 13) points out, the Prologue is no introduction or forward in the usual sense of the word; it neither gives the indication of the content or the structure of what follows, nor does it tell why the author has set himself his task.  On the contrary, it forms a whole literary unit, and is complete in itself; it is not necessary for anything to follow.  If at all it is to be regarded as an introduction to the rest of the Gospel, it can be taken, pace Haenchen who claims it is a depiction of the history of salvation (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 2 vols.  Herm: Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984] 1. 139-140), only in the sense of an overture.  This comparison of the Prologue to an overture to an opera is apt, “since an overture is calculated to whet the appetite of the hearers, preparing them for the work to be presented and bringing together the themes developed in it” (G. Beasley-Murray, John [WBC 36; Waco, TX: Word, 1987] 5). Examples of themes that are developed in the Gospel include the pre-existence of the Son of God (John 17:5), the giving of the only Son in incarnation and death (3:16), his function as the light of the world (8:12) and its life (11:25), the manifestation of his glory (2:11), the unbelief of the world in face of it (12:41; 16:8-11), and the trust of those drawn by it (6:67-69; 12:31-32; 17:6-9).  Even the punch line in 1:14, which speaks of the reality of the incarnation of the Logos in humanity, has a fundamental connection with 20:20, “which records the intention of establishing that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, as confessed by Thomas” (Beasley-Murray, ibid.).

Detailed Exegesis of the Prologue

            First Strophe (The Word with God): 1In the beginning was the Word, the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God.  2He was present with God in the beginning.  John sets the Prologue in a cosmological framework.  By using the words in the beginning, he deliberately intends to recall Gen 1:1 and, in view of the parallel between Logos and Wisdom, alludes to Prov 8:22.  But in recalling these texts, reference is made not to the act of creation (for creation comes in v 3), but to “that which is ‘before’ all time, or, more correctly, that concerning which no temporal statement can be made” (G. Delling, “archo, ktl., in G. Kittel and G. Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [henceforth, abbreviated TDNT], 10 vols. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1976] 1.482), namely, the Word, who was with God and was God.  The pre-existence of the Word is reinforced by the use of was in the continuous sense, which is to be contrasted with the punctiliar tense (aorist) in v 3 (creation), v 6 (the appearance of JBap) and v 14 (incarnation); here, the verb is used in the sense that the events took place at determined points in time.  In the use of continuous tense, the evangelist underlines the eternity of the Word (Logos); the Word simply was, and there can never be speculation on how the Word came to be.  The word referred to, in the sense that John employs the term, is no other than the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  John, of course, does not make this explicit identification, but it is probably because this was familiar to his readers (cf 1 John 1; Rev 19:13).  According to Bultmann (John, 32), in saying in the beginning was the Word, it was John’s aim to show that “in the person and word of Jesus one does not encounter anything that has its origin in the world or time; the encounter is with the reality that lies beyond the world and time.”

            Pre-existent though he was, the Logos “existed as a hypostasis distinguishable from God” (C.H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel [Cambridge: University Press, 1953] 269).  The distinction between Logos and God is conveyed by the statement The Word was with God.  The Greek for with God is pros ton theon; and although pros can mean “in relation to”, it is most likely that the usage is not classical, but Koine, found, for instance, in Mark 6:3, and it means “in the presence of,” “in company with,” or simply “with” (Barrett, John, 155; see also B. Reicke, “prosTDNT 6 [1968] 722).  It is probable that John makes an allusion to Prov 8:30 (“beside him”) which speaks of Wisdom.  Since Judaism would have no difficulty in asserting that Wisdom existed along with God, it is possible that this notion is the root of John’s statement (Barrett, John, 155).  Of course, it is impossible to be more concrete about this relationship between the Father and the Word.

            It is not enough to say, however, that the Logos existed as a hypostasis distinguishable from God; what God was, the Logos was.  Hence, the statement and the Word was God.  There is thus no reference to subordination: the status of the Logos is one of equality with God—he was God (Bultmann, John, 33). Such a statement could not have been made in Judaism, which could go on so far as to say that Wisdom is God’s effulgence (Wisd 7:25) and Law his daughter.  In Greek, the word God has no article, and is treated as predicative: the Word is divine, but he is not all of divinity, for he has already been distinguished from another divine Person; cf. 7:28-29; 8:42; 16:28 (B. Vawter, “The Gospel According to John,” Jerome Biblical Commentary [Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1968] 2.422).  The absence of the article avoids a personal identification with the Father or the Hellenistic sense of a second God.  That it does not imply simply a divine being can be shown by the inclusions with 1:18 and 20:29, and by 10:20 and ch 17 (R. Russell, “St John,” A New Catholic Commentary on the Holy Scripture [London: Nelson, 1975] 1038).  Though v 2, which forms the last line of the strophe, is an inclusion and resumes v 1a.b in combined form, this is no mere repetition.  According to Barrett (John, 156), “the Word does not come to be with God; the Word is with God in the beginning.  Cf 17:5; at the ascension Jesus returns to the position of glory he occupied before creation.”  B. Lindars (The Gospel of John [NCB; London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1972] 84) further suggests that v 1a.b is resumed to reinforce the timeless character of the Logos, and to prepare for the act of creation in the next verse.  “As the act of creation is performed by the utterance of God (Gen 1:3 “And God said”), the Word is not only essentially inseparable from God, but also proceeds from him in the creative act.”

            Second Strophe (The Word and Creation): 3Through him all things came into being, and apart from him not a thing came to be.  4That which had come to be in him was life, and this life was the light of men.  5The light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness did not overcome it.  The punctuation of vv 3-4a is a notorious crux: that which had come to be is sometimes attached to the end of v 3, or, alternatively, forms the beginning of v 4.  Although the use of the latter by the Arians and Macedonians to prove that the Holy Spirit was a created being led the orthodox to favor the first way of reading the sentence, the majority of early writers and most modern scholars consider the latter as the correct reading.  Firstly, the climactic or staircase parallelism of the lines requires that the end of one line should match the beginning of the next.  Moreover, this reading has a parallel in the Qumran documents (1QS 11:11: “And by His knowledge all has come to be, and by His thought, He directs all that is, and without Him not a thing is done [or made]” (Brown, John, 1.6).  But so much for the textual problems. 

With the second strophe, the evangelist now brings the reader to the sphere of creation.  This sphere is signified by the word panta, which is synonymous with kosmos, meaning, “the totality of all created things, of universal space and everything contained in it” (H. Sasse, “kosmeo, ktl.,” TDNT 3 [1965] 884.  John seems to continue his allusion to Gen by using egeneto (“came into being”), consistently employed to describe creation in the Septuagint [LXX] of Gen 1.  In John, the Logos is presented as the Mediator of creation (not an intermediary between God and creation, as though the Logos were a demiurge which, in Gnosticism, was responsible for the material [and hence, according to the Gnostics, evil] creation; Beasley-Murray, John, 11.  This is paralleled in Prov 3:30, 1QS 11:11; 1 Cor 8:6: “for there is one God, the Father, from whom all things come and for whom we live, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom everything was made and through whom we live”; see also Col 1:16; Heb 1:2 (Barrett, John, 156).  This belief has important implications (see Brown, John, 1.34). First, if creation is through the Word, then creation is an act of revelation (cf W. Howard, “The Gospel According to St John,” The Interpreter’s Bible [Nashville: Abingdon, 1952] 8.465-466).  Since creation bears the stamp of God’s Word, Wisd 13:1 and Rom 1:19-20 can claim that God is recognizable by men through creation.  Second, inasmuch as it was through the Word that all things came into being, Jesus, the Word, has a claim on all.  ThIs can be gleaned from the use of all in Rom 12:38: “For from him and through him and for him all things are.  To him be glory forever. Amen.”

That which had come to be in him was life admits of two readings: either that which had come to be was life in him or that which had come to be in him was life.  In the former reading, accepted by many modern scholars, along with Eusebius, Cyril of Alexandria and most Latin Fathers, the subject (that which had come to be) is taken in the same sense as the “all things” which came into being in v 3, namely, the whole of creation.  In the latter reading, the subject is narrowed down to a special creation of the Word, namely, men, and this seems to be the correct reading, since this is indicated by v 4b (“this life was the light of men”).  In effect, there is a progress from v 3 to v 4: the fact of creation is no longer in view; emphasis has shifted to what had came to be.  And the focus is on a special aspect of what had come to be, namely, what had come to be in the Word—the special creation of the Word.  Brown (John 1.26-27) suggests that at this point the evangelist makes a deliberate parallel to the opening chapters of Genesis.  As already noted, allusion was made to Gen in v 3, with the use of egeneto; this allusion is carried into vv 4-5 with the mention of light and darkness.  In Gen 1:2, darkness covered the abyss, and in Gen 1:3, light was God’s first creation.  Eternal life is also a theme in the creation account; for in Gen 2:9 and 3:22, mention is made of the tree of life whose fruit, if eaten, would make man live forever.  In Rev 22:2, the eternal life of the Garden of Eden prefigured the life that Jesus would give to men.  In John 6, Jesus speaks of the bread of life which, when eaten, will make man live forever—a bread, therefore, which has the same quality as the fruit of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden.  All this makes it clear that v 4 is still in the context of the creation narrative in Genesis.  Against this background, one may now understand the meaning of v 3—That which had come to be in God’s creative Word was the gift of eternal life.  Since the tree of life was closely associated with the tree of knowledge of good and evil, this life was the light (in a symbolism related to Gen 1:3) of men: man would have possessed eternal life and enlightenment had he survived the test.  And this implies that man can have life, as Bultmann (“zao, ktl.,” TDNT 2 [1964] 870) puts it, “by an apperceptive return to his origin in [Jesus] as the revelation of God.”

It is also against this Genesis creation account that v 5 may be understood.  Here, John uses the word katalambanein which has been translated by scholars in various ways: (a) to acknowledge or receive (so Beasley-Murray, John, 11); (b) to grasp in the sense of comprehension of faith (so Bultmann, John, 48; Conzelmann, “skotos, ktl.,” TDNT 7 [1971] 443; (c) to overcome (so G.Delling, “lambano, ktl.,” TDNT 4 [1967] 10; Lindars, John, 87; Russell, “St John,” 1039).  The use of katalambanein to mean “overcome” is found in John 12:35 (“darkness will come over you”).  It is most likely that John used the word in this sense, for aside from the fact that this is consistent with the theme of the opposition between light and darkness in the Johannine dualistic thought, this is paralleled in other literature.  In Wisd 7:29-30, Wisdom (whose concept in the OT is similar to the idea of the Word in the Prologue) is compared to a light that darkness cannot supplant; in Odes to Solomon 18:6, “That the light may not be overcome by the darkness”; and the Acts of Thomas speaks of a “light that has not been overcome.”  In v 5, then, what is spoken of is an attempt by darkness to overcome the light, and it is possible that this refers to the fall of man.  The fact that the verb katelaben is in the aorist tense, and therefore refers to a single past action lends support to this interpretation.  But the darkness did not overcome the light; the light shines on in darkness.  Even though man sinned, God gave him hope.  Though this verse is a clear allusion to the creation of light which shines out over the darkness of the primeval chaos (Gen 1:2-3), yet the writer has probably in mind God’s promise after the fall.  According to Gen 3:15, God put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and the serpent was not destined to overcome her offspring.  In particular, the seed of the woman—which refers to Jesus in the New Testament—would be victorious over Satan.  That this was the idea in the Johannine circles can be inferred from Rev 12 in which the victory of Jesus over the devil is pictured in terms of the victory of the woman’s child over the serpent (Brown, John 1.27).

Editor’s Addition (John the Baptist’s Witness to the Light): 6There was sent by God a man named John 7who came as a witness to testify to the light, so that through him all men might believe—8but only to testify to the light, for he himself was not the light. 9The real light which gives light to every man was coming into the world!  It should be recalled that the second strophe (just explained supra) dealt with the creation by the Word and the Word’s initial gift of life and light, and the attempt of darkness to overcome the light.  In the third strophe, the Word is described as coming into the world to defeat darkness.  But the redactor interrupts this flow of thought of the Logos hymn in order to present the testimony of JBap to the Light.  It is interesting to note that this prose comment interjected by the redactor begins with words typical of Hebrew narrative style for the opening of a prose.  1 Sam 1:1 begins: “There was a certain man from Ramthaim, Elkanah by name…” Cf Jdg 13:2; 19:1; Job 1:1.  This led some scholars (e.g., Boismard) to make the quite plausible claim that vv 6-7 were the original opening of the Gospel which was displaced when the Prologue was added (similarly, R. Fortuna, The Gospel of Signs: A Reconstruction of the Narrative Source Underlying the Fourth Gospel [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970] 163, 195.  Since light is ordinarily seen and consequently since there is no need to testify to it, it is probable that originally vv 6-7 spoke only of the testimony of JBap, and this was followed b y v 19 in which JBap testifies to those who are hostile and who have not yet seen Jesus.

In presenting JBap, the redactor makes the qualification that JBap was sent (from the verb apostellein) by God, just like Moses (Exod 3:10-15), the prophets (e.g., Isa 6:8; Jer 7:25) and Jesus himself (John 3:17 et passim).  “The work of John the Baptist derives significance only from the fact that he is sent” (Barrett, John, 159).  What was the purpose of his commission?  While the immediate purpose of his mission was to testify (martyrese) to the light, its ulterior object was that all men might believe (pisteusosin) through him.  Holding an important place in the Johannine thought, the word witness (martyrein, martyria) is used 46x in the Gospel and 18x in the Letters.  It is to be noted that in the Gospel, JBap (1:7-; 3:26; 5:33), the Samaritan woman (4:39), the works of Jesus (5:36; 10:25), the Old Testament (5:39), the multitude (12:17), the Holy Spirit and the apostles (15:26-27), God the Father himself (5:[32] 37); 8:18) all bear witness to Jesus (Barrett, John, 159).  It appears, therefore, that in John’s handling of the gospel tradition, it is the chief function of the characters who figure in the story to give witness to the truth revealed in Jesus.  In fact, even the words and deeds of Jesus serve this purpose (5:36-47) (Lindars, John, 88).  It is not surprising, therefore, that the redactor cast JBap in a similar role: he is a special witness to Christ.  As already noted, the purpose of his witnessing was that all should believe.  The verb pisteuein—which occurs 98x in the Gospel and 9x in 1 John, as against 136x in the rest of the New Testament—expresses the essential relation to Jesus whereby men may have life which he brings (cf John 20:31).  Far from referring merely to an assent to propositions about Jesus, it is an active concept, denoting the orientation of the mind and heart toward him; hence, the frequent construction with eis, e.g., 1:12.  Like that of others who bear witness, the testimony of JBap is given to promote this active believing in Jesus (Lindars, John, 88).

V 8, which presents the mission of JBap in a negative form, serves to explain his relationship to the light.  Lindars (John, 88-89) calls attention to the fact that at 5:35, JBap is described thus: “He was the lamp, set aflame and burning bright, and for a while you exulted willingly in his light.”  Lindars suggests that this does not contradict the statement that JBap was a witness to the Light, for John has made it plain that the Light which shines through the prophets is a Light which is only received and passed on by them; it is in fact the Word of God.  However, since in the first edition of the Gospel, 5:35 already existed, the redactor repeated 1:7b in v 8 to guard against misinterpretation, possibly because of the apparent contradiction of 5:35.  That might well be.  But many scholars think that v 8 contains an anti-JBap polemic (e.g., Fortna, The Gospel of Signs, 165).  It should be noted that there were sectarians of JBap who must have survived well into the Christian era and become opponents of Christianity.  And though one cannot be certain that in the first century his followers revered JBap as the Messiah, yet, if one can depend on the evidence of the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions I.54.8-9; 60.1-3, they seemed to have done so later on. Here, the sectarians stress that their master, not Jesus, was the Messiah.  It is not impossible that the early adherents of this sect claimed the title “Light” for JBap, and so, v 8, which subordinates JBap to Jesus, can be viewed as a refutation of the exaggerated claims made by the sectarians (Brown, John, 1.lxvii-lxx, 28, 464-47; see also H. Conzelmann, “phos, ktl.,” TDNT 9 [1974] 352; W. Grundmann, “chrio, ktl.,” TDNT 9 [1974] 566, n. 471).  But as Vawter (“John,” JBC, 2.422) puts it, “the polemical attitude is motivated not by the Baptist himself, but by the fact that his position had been misinterpreted by some who had not understood that he was the forerunner and not the inaugurator of God’s kingdom (cf Acts 19:1-7).”

Against the claim that JBap was the Light, the Johannine redactor affirms that the Logos is the real Light in v 9.  This statement, which picks up 1:4b and anticipates the next verse, is ambiguous in Greek.  The words coming into the world modify every man or true Light.  The KJV follows the first alternative: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”  In favor of this reading is the fact that “everyone coming into the world” is a rabbinic expression for man.  That is why Bultmann (John, 52) brackets the word man as a gloss on the phrase.  It seems, however, that the second alternative reading fits the context better.  Since in the next verse, the Light is in the world, it is therefore natural to suppose that it should previously be described as coming.  In other passages, Jesus “comes into the world” (6:14; 9:39; 11:27; 16:28); and at 12:46, Jesus says, “I have come to the world as its light” (Barrett, John, 160).  Moreover, John never uses “coming into the world” to describe men.  Finally, this reading is demanded by the interpretation of the contrast between v 8 and v 9—Jbap was not the Light; the real light was coming into the world (Brown, John, 1.10).

It is noteworthy that John describes the Logos as the real Light.  In John’s usage, alethinos is to be distinguished from alethes, which is used only of opinions, statements and those who hold or make them, and means simply veracious.  On the other hand, alethinos, though capable of bearing this meaning (4:37; [7:28;] [8:16;] 19:35), is more characteristically applied to light (1:9), worshippers of God (4:23), bread from heaven (6:32), the vine (15:1) and God himself (17:3; cf 7:29).  And the meaning is brought out clearly in the present passage—though JBap might be supposed a light (indeed, in a sense, he was the light, 5:35), but he was not the to alethenon phos, the Word, that is to say, real, authentic, genuine (Barrett, John, 160; see also Brown, John, 1.500-501).  Jesus is thus the light in the supreme and ultimate sense of the word; hence, the title is to be denied to any other being or object (E.Stauffer, “ego,” TDNT 1 [1964] 350; cf Conzelmann, “phos, ktl.,” TDNT 9 [1974] 352).  R. Bultmann (“aletheia, ktl.,” TDNT 1 [1964] 250) further suggests that genuine here means divine in contrast to human and earthly reality, and implies containing aletheia and therefore “dispensing revelation”. 

It is most likely that in describing the Logos as the real light which gives light to every man was coming into the world (here, kosmos means the world as the setting of the drama of salvation; see H. Sasse, “kosmeo, ktl.,” TDNT 3 [1965] 894), the redactor has in mind the messianic text from the prophet Isaiah.  In his description of the Prince of Peace, the prophet announces: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shone” (Isa 9:1).  In Deutero-Isaiah, Yahweh says of his servant: “I formed you and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations... to bring out… from the dungeon those who live in darkness” (Isa 42:6).  And in Trito-Isaiah, the prophet speaks to Jerusalem: “Rise in splendor! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; But upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.  Nations shall walk by your light” (Isa 80:1-3a).  Thus, the witness of JBap, who is the Isaian voice in the wilderness, is associated in the Prologue with the prophetic proclamation of the coming of the light.  Of course, in this association, John is not alone; Matt 5:16, for instance, applies Isa 9:1 to the ministry of Jesus (Brown, John, 1.28).

Third Strophe (The Word in the World): 10He was in the world and the world was made by him; yet the world did not recognize him.  11To his own he came, yet his own people did not accept him.  12But all those who did accept him he empowered to become God’s children.  (Editor’s addition: That is, those who believe in his name—13those who were begotten, not by blood, nor by carnal desire, nor by man’s desire, but by God.)  Many Johannine scholars think that this strophe picks up the theme in vv 4-5 on the light of revelation, this time traced in history.  Lindars (John, 78), for instance, explains: “First, it (or, rather, he, for the light is the Word conceived personally) came to the world in general, but went unrecognized.  Then, he made entry into his own people, i.e., the chosen people of Israel (again following a Wisdom model; cf Sir 24:7f), but was largely rejected.  But, as the light was never quenched, so some of the people did receive him.  The principle on which they were able to receive him is carefully explained.  It was not through human generation, as the selection of a special people might imply, but through the divine initiative meeting with the response of faith.”  (See also C.H.Dodd, Fourth Gospel, 281-282).  Though this interpretation has the advantage of seeing the climax in v 14, it is not without difficulties.  First, it implies that the redactor of the Prologue misunderstood the hymn in inserting the work of JBap before v 10.  Secondly, it runs against the fact that most of the phrases found in vv 10-12 occur in the Gospel as a description of Jesus’ ministry (3:10; 12:46; 8:5; 14:7; 16:3; 4:44; 12:37; 3:11; 5:43).  But even more decisive, it seems incredible that, in a hymn composed in Johannine circles, the ability to become a child of God would have been explained in a manner different from being born from above (3:5); the whole conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus would be unintelligible if the revelation of the Old Testament empowered men to become children of God.  It is more plausible, therefore, to regard the third strophe as dealing with the Word incarnate in the ministry of Jesus (Brown, John, 1.28-30).

How does the Prologue describe the ministry of Jesus?  John says that the Word was in the world.  By world John does not mean the cosmos or the totality of creation, but only that part of creation which is capable of response, namely, the world of men and human affairs, a world subject to sin and darkness.  That this is so is seen from the fact that in v 10, the world made through the Word is capable of knowing its Maker (Barrett, John, 161; Vawter, “John,” 423).  This identification of the world with the world of men (see Bultmann, John, 54; Conzelmann, “phos, ktl., TDNT 9 [1974] 351 and n.343) is clearly seen in 3:19: “the light came into the world,  but man loved darkness rather than light.”  Yet, this world of men did not recognize him.  The word recognize is used to translate the Greek ginoskein which, in John, “denotes emphatically the relationship to God and to Jesus as a personal fellowship in which each is decisively determined by the other in his own existence”; and also means “acceptance of the divine act of love in Jesus, and obedience to its demand” (R.Bultmann, “ginosko, ktl.,” TDNT 1 [1964] 711-712).   In this kind of knowledge, personal involvement is always presupposed and so it cannot simply mean to perceive, or to be aware of (Vawter, “John,” 423).  In other words, it implies a response to the source of revelation.  But the meaning of the statement that the world did not recognize him need not be restricted to the rejection of Jesus by men; it can also refer to the failure of the world to acknowledge the truth that God—through his creative Word—had made known in creation (Rom 1:18-23) (Vawter, “John,” 423).  The rejection of the Word by men in v 10 finds a parallel in the rejection of Wisdom in some Jewish literature: in Prov 8:31, Wisdom is delighted to be with men; but, according to Sir 15:7, worthless and haughty men reject Wisdom; and Enoch says plaintively: “Wisdom came to make her dwelling place among the children of men and found no dwelling place” (see Brown, John, 1.30, 522-523; Beasley-Murray, John, 12).

In v 11, the statement in v 10 becomes more specific: the activity of the Word is narrowed down to his own (ta idia) in the world, namely, the heritage of Israel, the Promised Land, Jerusalem (pace Bultmann [John, 56] who suggests that ta idia means “the world of men, which belongs to the Logos as its Creator”). That ta idia refers to the people of Israel may be seen from Exod 19:5 in which Israel is viewed as the people peculiarly “his own”—“you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people.”  Moreover, this reference is expressed concretely in the second limb of the verse, hoi idioi, which is the same word, though in the masculine instead of neuter. 
That Jesus came to his own people obviously represents the sentiments of Matt 15:24 that Jesus was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (For John, once the people outside the house of Israel, namely, the Gentiles, come to Jesus, that is a sign that “the Hour” has come [12:20-23]; see Brown, John 1.10.30).  But in coming to his own people, Jesus suffered rejection (see, e.g., the account of the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth in Mark 6:1-6).  In v 12, John makes a contrast with the statement in v 11, for he speaks of all who did accept him, that is to say, of those who received Christ in obedience and faith.  The relative clause all who did accept him (hosoi de elabon auton, lit. as many as received him), thrown to the beginning of the sentence as a nominativus pendens and resumed by the dative autois, is a grammatical structure common in John (27x).  The contrast between rejection in v 11 and acceptance in v 12 is also found in 3:31b-33: “The One who comes from heaven testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does accept this testimony certifies that God is truthful.”  Brown (John 1.19) suggests that vv 11-12 seem to be a summary of the two main divisions of the Gospel.  Whereas v 11 covers the Book of Signs (chh i-xii) which tells how Jesus came to his own land through a ministry in Galilee and Jerusalem, yet his own people did not accept him, v 12 covers the Book of Glory (chh xiii-xx) which contains Jesus’ words to those who did receive him and tells how he returned to the Father in order to give them the gift of life and make them God’s children.

The phrase he empowered to become God’s children (edoken autois exousian teknan theou genesthai) can be misleading, because of the use of the word exousia.  As M.E.Boismard (St John’s Prologue [Westminster: Newman, 1987] 42-43) observers, exouisa in John’s terminology refers to the exercise of real authority over anything, especially what touches on life and death (cf 10;18; see also W.Foerster, “exestin,” TDNT 2 [1964] 568).  Obviously, v 12 cannot be interpreted in this sense; otherwise, this would mean that those who accept Christ receive power to become children of God, i.e., receive full control of his divine life which comes to them from on high.  John could never have imagined that man could receive any power in respect to his life.  Bultmann (John, 57, n.3) is most likely right in suggesting that edoken exousian—this has no Semitic equivalent in the sense of authority—is an attempt to express the Semitic nathan (to give permission to do something).  In this sense, to become children of God remains a divine action, not human; it is wholly God’s work.  Being a child is a gift of God that man can only receive.  In Paul, the phrase children of God is used of Christians to express their relation to God through incorporation into Christ (Rom 8:16,21; 8:8), and it seems that this is basically the idea in the Gospel of John, in which it is used only twice (1:12; 11:52) (Lindars, John, 91).  It is interesting to note that unlike other New Testament writings (e.g., Matt 5:9; Gal 3:16), John preserves a vocabulary difference between children (tekna) of God and son (huios) of God; the latter is always used of Jesus, the former is used of Christians (John 1:12; 11:52; 1 John 3:1.2.10; 5.2), to emphasize the uniqueness of Jesus in his divine Sonship (F. Buchsel, “monogenes,” TNDT 4 [1967] 739-740; A. Oepke, “pais, ktl.,” TDNT 5 [1967] 653-654).  But it is in Johannine literature that our present state as God’s children on this earth is most clearly expressed: “Dearly beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 John 3:2) (Brown, John, 1.11).  P. Perkins (“The Gospel According to John,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary [Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1990] 951) opines that the passage could have originally referred to Wisdom finding a dwelling in the souls of the righteous (e.g., Sir 1:9-10), but has been recast to reflect the soteriology of the Gospel (John 2:23; 3:18).

As already noted, those who believe in his name (v 12c) is an editorial addition to explain the meaning of receiving the Logos in v 12a, and so, practically speaking, both phrases have the same significance.  That v 12c is an addition can be argued from the fact that it breaks the rhythm of the line (Bultmann, John, 59, n.2).  That they express the same meaning is probably the reason why some of the Latin, Greek and Syriac Fathers and the Diatessaron seem to omit 12c, while a few Latin Fathers, Philoxenus of Mabbug and an Ethiopic witness omit 12a (Brown, John, 1.11).  While both phrases carry the same import, the phrase believing in his name “brings out more clearly that ‘believing in him’ is the recognition of that which is signified by his person, i.e., that he is the ‘son’, etc.” (Bultmann, John, 59, n.2).  To understand this significance, it should be recalled that in the Old Testament usage, the name is the revealed character of the person who bears it; cf. Amos 5:8.27, etc. (On the significance of names, see H. Bietenhard, “onoma, ktl.,” TDNT 5 [1967] 242-283].)  Thus, for instance, Yahweh acts “for the sake of his name,” i.e., according to his character.  To praise the name of the Lord (Ps 113:1) is to praise him for what he is in himself.  So, in later usage, the name easily passed into a periphrasis or circumlocution for God, in order to avoid pronouncing the ineffable name of Yahweh.  For this reason, it is not surprising that the Gospel of John simply says “believe in him,” although, admittedly, John uses “in his name” at 2:23; 3:18 (Lindars, John, 91).  Of course, the gloss is not without purpose.  It may have been placed “to stress that not only the original acceptance of Jesus (aorist in 12a) but also continued belief in him (present in 12c) entitled men to become children of God” (Brown, John, 1.11).

Like v 12c, v 13 is a gloss, as can be argued from the fact that the style is different from the clearly poetic stanzas of the hymn, and from the fact that it contains a strong apologetic motif, which is not true of the poetic verses (Brown, John, 1.11).  As a editorial comment, it was intended to eliminate the misunderstanding latent in the ambiguous word exousia and in the use of the birth metaphor (Lindars, John, 91-92), and, positively, to explain what it means to become children of God. For John, to become children of God is, as noted above, entirely the work of God.  In the words of Bultmann (John 60), “whatever Creation produces by its own efforts remains in its own sphere; eschatological existence is the gift of God.”  To accentuate the point that becoming a Christian does not involve a natural process of procreation but by virtue of an act of God (see Haenchen, John, 1.118), John makes a contrast by using three successive phrases about begetting: not by blood, nor by carnal desire, nor by man’s desire. John employs the plural form of blood (aimata) probably to refer to the Hebrew theory of conception—found in rabbinic sources—that the sperm of man is derived from his blood and mixes with the blood of the woman (cf J. Behm, “aima, aimatekxysia,” TDNT 1 [1964] 172-173).  Carnal desire translates the Greek thelema sarkos, lit., “the desire of the flesh;” and since this refers to man’s natural endowment, or to the principle of man’s natural birth (so E. Schweizer, “sarx, ktl.,” TDNT 7 [1971] 139), this can refer to man’s sexual desire.  This does not suggest, however, that flesh is inherently evil.  According to Schrenk (“thelo, ktl.,” TDNT 3 [195] 61), sexual desire or impulse is used here in the psychological and non-derogatory sense.  In biblical usage, though, it is applied to the createdness and therefore weakness of human or animal nature in contrast with God (cf Isa 31:3) (Lindars, John, 92; see also Conzelmann in K. Rengstorf, “semeion,” TDNT 7 [1971] 252,n. 301).  Nonetheless, for the same reason, it is sometimes thought of as allied to sin against God (1 John 2:16; frequent in Paul (Lindars, John, 92).  In the phrase desire of man (thelema andros), John obviously refers to the husband; otherwise, he would have used anthropos, which is the usual word for man.  In Hebrew understanding, the husband was looked on as the principal agent in generation; some considered the role of the woman as no more than a vessel for the embryo (Brown, John, 1.12); thus, the phrase has in view the initiative generally ascribed to the husband in sexual intercourse (Beasley-Murray, John, 13).  Lindars (John, 92) is of the opinion that the three phrases are virtually synonymous: “they cover the stages of reproduction in reverse order, in an attempt to trace it to its source: the forming of a child in the womb through the mixing of blood is preceded by sexual union, and this (in the masculine outlook on family life in NT times) goes back to the will of man to beget children.”  It is interesting to note that the threesome imagery is illustrated in Wisd 7:1b-2: “And in my mother’s womb I was molded into flesh in a ten-month’s period—body and blood, from the seed of man, and the pleasure that accompanies marriage.”

Fourth Strophe (The Community’s Share in the Word): 14And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  And we have seen his glory, the glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love.  16And of his fullness we have all had a share—love in place of love.  In this last strophe, which climaxes the Prologue’s portrayal of the Logos and contains the essential message of the Gospel, the community is introduced, and the meaning of the career of the Word in the life of the community is given poetic expression.  In particular, what was said in vv 10-11 is summarized and given more vital expression in v 14a.b, while the idea of becoming God’s children in v 12 is expressed in vv 14c-e and 16 by showing how the community shares in the fullness of God’s only Son (Brown, John, 1.30).  In saying that the Word became flesh, John goes beyond the Old Testament images of divine glory and Wisdom dwelling with Israel (Exod 25:8-9; Joel 3:17; Zech 2:10; Ezek 43:7; the name of God is to dwell with Israel forever; Sir 24:4. 8.10 (Perkins, “John,” NJBC, 951; cf Dodd, Fourth Gospel, 271).  In this revelation, God did not merely bear the form of man as a vesture, but became identical with it (E. Schweizer, “sarx, ktl.,” TDNT 7 [1971] 139).  But the utter newness of this revelation of the Logos, which is divine, consists precisely in its being allied with what is in contrast with it, namely, the flesh, which denotes “creatureliness in the whole breadth of its possibilities” (Conzelmann, in K. Rengstorf, “semeion,” TDNT 7 [1971] 252, n.351; see also Schnackenburg, John, 1.267.).  The unworthiness of the flesh is well captured by the sectaries in Qumran: “What being of flesh can do this, and what creature of clay has power to do such marvelous things, whereas he is in iniquity from his mother’s womb and in the sin of unfaithfulness till his old age?” (1 QH 4:29b-30b; A. Dupont-Sommer, The Essene Writings from Qumran [Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1973] 213). Of course, flesh, as already noted, is not evil in itself; it is not the antithesis of God; nonetheless, it is all that is transitory, helpless, vain, imperfect, and at first glance incompatible with God.  Yet, as Vawter (“John,” JBC, 1.423) explains, “this is the tremendous mystery of the incarnation, by which the eternal Word took on our exact human nature, becoming one with us in everything except sin (Heb 4:15); in everything, that is, except what was incompatible with divinity.  This is one of the most serious and sobering statements in the Gospel, the magnitude of which it is impossible to exaggerate.  To express this mystery, John has deliberately chosen a word connoting man in his concrete, fallen nature.  That the Word became man in the fullest possible sense is of the very essence of the incarnation and of the redemption that is its result.”

Bultmann (John, 63) expresses the paradox of incarnation thus: “the offense of the gospel is brought out as strongly as possible by ho logos sarx egeneto.  For however much man may await and long for the event of revelation in the human sphere, he also quite clearly expects—and this shows the peculiar contradiction of man’s existence—that the Revelation will somehow have to give proof of itself, that it will in some way be recognizable.  The Revealer—although of course he must appear in human form—must also in some way appear as a shining, mysterious, fascinating figure, as a hero or theios anthropos as a miracle worker or mystagogue.  His humanity must be no more than a disguise: it must be transparent.  Men want to look away from the humanity, and see or sense the divinity, they want to penetrate the disguises—or they will expect humanity to be no more than the visualization or the “form” of the divine.  All such desires are cut short by the statement; the Word became flesh.  It is in his sheer humanity that he is the Revealer.  True, his own also see his doxa (v 14b); indeed, if I were not to be seen, there would be no grounds for speaking of revelation.  But this is the paradox which runs through the whole gospel: the doxa is not to be seen alongside the sarx, nor through the sarx as through a window; it is to be seen in the sarx and nowhere else.  If man wishes to see the doxa, then it is on the sarx that he must concentrate his attention, without allowing himself to fall a victim to appearances.  The revelation is present in a peculiar hiddenness.”

It is into this condition of human weakness, imperfection and transitoriness that the Logos made his dwelling (eskenosen, lit., pitched a tent, tabernacle) among (lit., in) us, and revealed his glory. Barrett (John, 165-166) thinks that John means no more than that the Word took up a temporary residence among men, while Stahlin (“xenos, ktl.,” TDNT 5 [1967] 28) stresses the idea of Jesus as a stranger in a tent.  It is probably more correct to say that the statement “is designed to show that this is the presence of the Eternal in time” (W. Michaelis, “skene, ktl.,” TDNT 7 [1971] 386).  The word skenoun evokes a number of ideas found in the Old Testament and it is almost beyond doubt that John has deliberately used the word to reproduce the Old Testament ideas.  Lindars (John, 94) suggests three possibilities.  (1) It alludes to Sir 24:8, in which Wisdom speaks: “Then the creator of all gave me his command, and he who formed me chose the spot for my tent (skenen), saying, ‘in Jacob make your dwelling (kataskenoson), in Israel your inheritance’.”  Like Wisdom, Jesus finds a home with the chosen people, making God known to them.  (2) It can also refer to the Tabernacle and the Temple of Jerusalem.  As Brown (John, 1.32-33) shows, the theme of “tenting” is found in Exod 25:8-9, where Israel is instructed to make a tent (the Tabernacle—skene) so God can dwell among his people; thus, the Tabernacle became the place of God’s localized presence on earth.  The theme occurs in Joel 3:17, Zech 2:10 and Ezek 43:7.  In the restored Temple, according to Ezekiel, God will dwell among his people for ever.  In saying that the Word dwelt among us, the Prologue proclaims that the flesh of Jesus Christ is the new localization of God’s presence on earth, and that Jesus is the replacement of the ancient Tabernacle.  In the Gospel, John presents Jesus as the replacement of the Temple of Jerusalem (2:19-22).  Since in Rev 21:3 John describes a great vision of heavenly Jerusalem in which a loud cry was heard, “This is God’s dwelling among men.  He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people, and he shall be their God who is always with them,” the Prologue’s presentation of the Word dwelling among us anticipates the divine presence which will be visible to men in the last days.  (3) It is also possible that the word may have been chosen for its affinity in sound to the Hebrew term of Mishnaic times, sekinah, a circumlocution for God which can be best translated as presence (of God among his people).  It is derived from the common Deuteronomic phrase “to make his name dwell there (viz., in the Temple)” (Deut 12:11, etc.)  Brown (John, 1.32-33) suggests the possibility that in the use of skenoun the Prologue reflects the idea that in the new covenant, Jesus is now the sekinah of God, the locus of contact between the Father and those men among whom it is his delight to be.  (For a similar idea, see G. Schrenk, “ieros, ktl.,” TDNT 3 [1965] 244).

The line And we have seen his glory (v 14c) is very likely only an extension of v 14b.  The reason for this is that in the Old Testament, the glory of God—doxa, which implies that which makes God impressive to man, the force of God’s self-manifestation (G. von Rad, “dokeo, ktl.,” TDNT 2 [1964] 238)—always accompanies his presence (Exod 33:22; Deut 5:21; 1 Kgs 8:11); and if the Prologue alludes to the Old Testament images of God’s presence in the Temple and Tabernacle, then the mention of glory in the present verse is easy to understand.  The connection of the glory of God with his presence in the Temple or Tabernacle is found in various texts.  In Exodus, when the Tabernacle or Dwelling was erected, “the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling.  Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling” (Exods 40:34-35).  During the dedication of the Temple of Solomon, “when the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the Lord’s glory had filled the temple of the Lord” (1 Kgs 8:10-11).  In Ezekiel’s vision of the restored Temple, he says that “when I looked, I saw the glory of the Lord filling the Lord’s temple and I fell prone” (Ezek 44:4).  In view of this, it is quite appropriate, according to Brown (John 1.34) “that, after the description of how the Word set up a Tabernacle among men in the flesh of Jesus, the Prologue should mention that his glory became visible.”

The phrase the glory of an only Son [coming] from the Father, filled with enduring love (v 14d.e) merely particularizes the glory made visible: it is the glory of an only Son, the glory which comes from the Father.  The Greek word used of only Son is monogenes which literally means “of a single (monos) kind (genos),” or “one unique in kind,” and which therefore emphasizes the uniqueness of Jesus.  In the KJV, this is rendered only begotten Son, under the influence of the Vulgate translation, unigenitus, which St Jerome used (see also 1:18; 3:16.18) to answer the Arian claim that Jesus was made, not begotten.  Of course, St Jerome translates the word as unicus where it was not applied to Jesus.  But, as P. Bucshel (“monogenes,” TDNT 4 [1967] 741) observes, monogenes denotes more than the uniqueness or incomparability of Jesus; it ultimately means “he is the only-begotten Son of God.”  The word coming is not in the Greek original, and it is supplied from the context.  The phrase para patros (from the Father) is ambiguous, and it can be paired with monogenes or with doxa.  It is likely that it goes with doxa if Johannine parallels are considered.  In 5:44, for example, Jesus says, “how can people like you believe, when you accept praise from one another, yet you do not seek the glory that comes from the One [God]?”  Hence, it can be said that the particular glory which John speaks of is the Son’s glory which comes from the Father.  According to Barrett (John, 166), the glory of God manifested in Jesus’ miracles (2:11; 11:4.40), “but in particular, he enjoyed a position of glory before the incarnation, and subsequently returned to it (17:5.24).  Jesus did not enjoy this glory because he sought it for himself, but because he sought only God’s glory (5:41; 7:18; 8:50), whereas other men sought their won (5:44; 12:43).  The glory of Jesus is thus dependent upon both his essential relation with God (1:14) and his obedience.  To this corresponds the special use of doxazein as a description of the death of Jesus (7:39; 12:16.23; 13:31f); Jesus dies as a Son of God and as an obedient servant; he is thereby lifted up on the cross and exalted to heaven.”

That glory is filled with enduring love (v 14e).  Here, too, the phrase further specifies the glory of the Son which comes from the Father (cf G. Delling, “pleres, ktl.,” TDNT 8 [1968] 285; also Bultmann, “aletheia, ktl.,” TDNT l [1964] 246), and it renders the Greek charis kai aletheia, lit., grace and truth.  These words seem to correspond to the Hebrew hesed we‘emet, which are characteristic of the God of Israel’s covenant.  These two Hebrew words are closely related in meaning, signifying “Gods’ loyalty and faithfulness to his covenant and covenant people” (Barrett, John, 167).  In Exod 34:6b, they appear together as a virtual definition of God: “the Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”  hesed corresponds to God’s goodness or mercy in choosing Israel without any merit on her part, and to God’s expression of this love in the covenant; ‘emet, on the other hand, describes his fidelity to his promises.  And for the Jews, the Law of Moses, which is God’s Word, was a gift of God, revealing his hesed and ‘emet (Brown, John, 1.14; for a different opinion, see R. Bultmann, “aletheia, ktl.,” TDNT 1 [1964] 246, n.37). 

But in v 14, the Prologue applies this characteristic to the Incarnate Word.  There are two implications of this application. First, the hesed at Sinai where the Law was given, that is to say, God’s expression of his love in the old covenant, is now replaced by kindness and truth revealed in the new covenant of Jesus Christ.  Second, the idea of replacement is behind the words charis anti charistos in v 16 (on the meaning of “in place of,” see F. Buchshel, “anti,” TDNT 1 [1964] 372).  Of course, this expression can be translated “grace upon grace,” or “grace after grace,” to convey the idea of accumulation (so Lagrange, Bultmann, Barrett, Lindars, Delling, Conzelmann) or “grace for grace” to mean correspondence: the grace which constitutes our share corresponds to the grace of the Word (so Bernard, Robinson, Lacan).  But the translation of charis as reflecting hesed fits in with the meaning of replacement; thus, the original hymn ends with a triumphal proclamation of a new covenant replacing the Sinai covenant (Brown, John, 1.35; see G. Kittel, “lego,” TDNT 4 [1967] 134-135, who says that the content of the revelation given in Jesus replaces the Mosaic law, the Torah.)

The editorial comment in vv 17-18 (17For while the Law was a gift through Moses, this enduring love came through Jesus Christ.  18No one has ever seen God; it is God the only Son ever at the Father’s side, who has revealed him) serves to explain the idea in vv 14e and 16 by explicitly mentioning the two occasions of God’s demonstration of covenant love, namely, in the gift of the Law to Moses on Sinai and in Jesus Christ, and by spelling out the superiority of Jesus Christ’s enduring love.  V 17 is an example of antithetic parallelism in which the idea in the second line is posed as a contrast to the first; what is contrasted is “the enduring love shown in the Law with the supreme example of enduring love shown in Jesus” (Brown, John, 1.16).  In the Sinai covenant, God’s love for his people was expressed in the Law; thus, the Law was God’s gift to his people.  But, for John, Jesus Christ is superior to the Law; in fact, he would affirm later (5:46) that the Law was intended to guide to Jesus Christ.  As Russell (“St John,” NCCHS, 1036) puts it, “it is not the words of the Torah but his words which are spirit and life (6:63), life given by him, not by knowledge of Scriptures, 5:39f., cf. 24: 1QS 8:10. Not the law but Jesus makes men sons of God (1:12) and gives them peace, 20:19f.” (For a similar contrast, see also W.Gutbrod, “nomos, ktl.,” TDNT 4 [1967] 1083).

V 18, which further spells out the contrast, includes some inclusions with v 1: just as in v 1c the Word was God, in v 18b the only Son is called God (see below); and just as in v 1b the Word was in God’s presence, so in 18b the only Son is ever at the Father’s side (Brown, John, 1.36).  This passage explains the superiority of the charis kai aletheia in Jesus Christ against the background of Exod 33:19-23.  It was in the encounter of Moses with God at Sinai that the Law, which mediates the Word of God, was given, and yet, in that encounter, Moses was not allowed to see God: “I [Yahweh] will make all my beauty pass before you, and in your presence I will pronounce you my name, ‘Lord,’ I who show favors to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will.  But my face you cannot see, for no man sees me and still lives” (Exod 33:19-20a).  All that Moses saw was God’s back (Exod 33:23a).  This view is consistent with the Old Testament assumption that God is invisible, or at least it is irreverent and unsafe to see him (cf Deut 4:12; Ps 97:2).  In Later Judaism, this developed to such a point that some of the anthromorphisms of the Old Testament were removed through paraphrases.  In the Targum, for instance, the words, “my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa 6:5a) was transformed into “…the glory of the shekinah of the King of the ages, the Lord of hosts” (Barrett, John, 169). 

Against this Old Testament background that Moses, the greatest representative of Israel, did not even see God, John holds up the example of Jesus who not only has seen God (John 6:46: “only the one who is from God has seen the Father”), but is even at the Father’s side (v 18b).  The phrase at the Father’s side translates the original Greek eis ton kolpon.  I. de la Potterie (“L’emploi de eis dans S. Jean et ses incidences theologigues,” Biblica 43 [1962] 366-387) argues that John does not use eis for the static en, and that eis indicates an active and vital relationship.  And since kolpos indicates affection, the phrase means that the Son enjoys the most intimate communion with the Father (see R. Meyer, “kolpos,” TDNT 3 [1965] 825; G. Stahlin, “phileo, ktl.,” TDNT 9 [1974] 131-132).  Indeed, their relationship is so close that the Son becomes the Revealer of the unseen God (cf John 14:9b); he is the authentic exposition of God to man.  God shares everything with his Son, and for this reason, Jesus can give what no man can, i.e., the fullest eye-witness account of God (F. Buchsel, “monogenes,” TDNT 4 [1967] 740).  God’s revelation in Jesus is therefore much superior to any revelation, including his revelation in the Old Testament.  And, as in John 14:6, Jesus is the only way of access to God (R. Bultmann, “aletheia,” TDNT 1 [1964] 246-247).  This is the reason for the phrase it is God the only Son… who has revealed him [i.e., the Father].  By way of additional comment, it may be remarked that although some versions, e.g., KJV, NIV, do not include the word God in this phrase, the best manuscripts and the older fathers have monogenes theos… ekeinos exegesato which is difficult but which, as E. Stauffer (“theos, ktl.,” TDNT 3 [1965] 105) remarks, “is to be maintained for this very reason.  This is a case of lectio difficilior probabilior.  See also R. Brown, “Does the New Testament Call Jesus God?” Theological Studies 28 (1965) 554.

Editor’s Addition (JBap Testifies to the Pre-Existence of Jesus): 15John testified to him by proclaiming, “This is he of whom I said, ‘The One who comes after me ranks ahead of me, for he existed before me.”  Like vv 6-9, v 15 is clearly an editorial addition to the original hymn, interrupting the sequence of v 14 and v 16.  Besides, the statement this is he of whom I said… is so illogical that it would not be other than an editorial addition.  It is curious that this verse is almost exactly similar to v 30; and Brown (John 1.35) suggests that the final redactor lifted the statement from v 30 to emphasize the theme of Jesus’ pre-existence (for he existed before me; for pre-existence as the meaning of protos, see W. Michaelis, “protos,” TDNT 6 [1968] 967, n.10).  In confirming v 14 with JBap’s testimony that Jesus is pre-existent, the redactor is obviously against any suggestion by the Baptist sectarians that JBap might be greater than Jesus because he began his ministry first.  Hence, the statement, the one who comes after me ranks ahead of me.  Says Beasley-Murray (John, 15): “The Messiah is superior to John in ‘might’ in that he has been accorded a priority of status (emprosthen mou gegonen) in accordance with his priority in time (protos mou en).  The Logos-Christ participates in the eternal priority of God.  The mixture of tenses in the saying reflects frequent citation: the past tense represents what John used to say, but the present martyrei (‘witnesses’) indicates that John’s testimony to Christ continues in the kerygma.  The pertinence here is its confirmation of the truth affirmed in v 14, along with the implicit rejection of any claim made on John’s behalf that he was greater than the Messiah Jesus (cf 1:6-8).”  But there is probably a theological purpose as well in the insertion of v 15.  For Schnackenburg (John 1.223), “the contemplation of the doxa of the Logos incarnate remains possible even for later believers through the ‘testimony’ of those who have experienced the event of his historical coming.”

Theological Thrust: The True Identity of Jesus the Christ

            Who is this earthly Jesus, this Man from Nazareth?  The Prologue is a proclamation—by and in the Johannine community—of the true identity of Jesus as Logos; and in trying to explain that identity, it relates the Logos with God, with the whole creation, with the world of men, and with the Jews and with the Christians. [1] The Logos and God. The Prologue affirms that the Logos is God’s self-expression and self-communication.  Being God’s Word, the Logos is pre-existent; even before the creation of the universe, he was already in existence with God as a divine Logos.  He partakes, in other words, in the nature of God.  What God was, the Logos was.  Because he was with the Father from eternity, he experienced the closest relationship ever possible with God.  On account of this, only he, the unique-in-kind Son of God, can reveal the Father the fullest possible degree. 

[2] The Logos and the Whole Creation.  It was through the Logos that the whole universe, including the living beings it contains, came into being. Without the Logos as creative Word, no physical life in the universe would have been possible, because he is its principle, source, meaning and purpose.  Furthermore, since there is life in the universe, this implies that the Logos continues to sustain the whole universe.

            [3] The Logos and the World of Men. The Logos, at the beginning of creation, wanted that man share his divine life with the Father, which is eternal life.  But instead of being guided by the light that comes from the Logos, man succumbed to the power of darkness.  Nevertheless, despite the fall of man and his rejection of God because of sin, the Logos continued to give him hope.  To bring some light to that hope, he spoke through Moses and the Prophets.  But finally, when the opportune time came, he became flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, thereby becoming God’s revelation in the form of a human being.  He assumed the creatureliness and the transitoriness of human nature.  He revealed the Father fully and definitively in a human person. The eternal and temporal, the spiritual and the material, find their communion in the Word-made-flesh.  As a consequence, the historical localization of God’s presence and revelation is no longer the Law, the Temple or the Tabernacle, but the person, the humanity of the Man from Nazareth.

            [4] The Logos and the Jews.  The Logos localized his incarnation (his coming in the flesh) in the land of Israel; it was the people of Israel that God chose to reveal his Word to, and share his life with.  For this reason, he prepared them by sending Moses and the Prophets to proclaim the Logos to them and by giving them the gift of the covenant at Sinai.  Finally, he sent JBap as a light to witness to the Light of the Word so that all men in the world may be gathered into one community of the children of God, and receive eternal life through the Jewish nation.  However, many Jews who had received the gift, especially the leaders of the nation, rejected him

[5] The Logos and the Christians.  Despite the rejection, the Word found recipients who did accept the gift.  The glory of the Logos manifested in the flesh—but perceptible only by faith—was experienced by those who believed in his name; and by believing in him, they became children of God, and sharers in the overflowing grace and truth that come from the Logos’ glory.  This participation was generated not by any human process (e.g., by being a son of Abraham), but by the sole will of God (i.e., by being born from above), who offered that participation as a gift.  It was with these believers in his name—who eventually assumed the name Christians—that he established the new covenant expressed in the enduring love of Jesus Christ, replacing the old covenant expressed in the gift of the Law, given to the Jews through Moses.  In effect, man participates in God’s divine life, not through the Law, but through the Logos-made-flesh.


SINCE THE GREEK term, Logos, is central to the Johannine Prologue, one important question must be faced: where did the Logos idea come from?  The term, usually translated word, admits a variety of meanings; it is a verbal noun from the verb lego which literally means to count or recount, and to say or to speak. In connection with the first meaning, it can mean computation, or reckoning; in some contexts, it may mean accounts, measure, or esteem.  Connected with the second, it may signify explanation, theory, rule of conduct, dialogue, conversation, saying (T. Tobin, “Logos,” Anchor Bible Dictionary [New York: Doubleday, 1992] 4.348; H. Liddell and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon [Oxford: Clarendon, 1968] 1057-1059; W. Bauer, W. Arndt, F. Gingrich and F. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament [Chicago: University Press,1979] 1057-1059; A. Debrunner, O. Procksch, G. Kittel, G. Quell and G. Schrenk, “lego, logos, ktl.,” TDNT 4 [1967] 69-192).  Four suggestions—the first three of which are non-biblical—have been made to explain the source of John’s idea of the Logos.

It is sometimes suggested that the concept comes from Greek speculative thought.  In Hellenistic theistic system, the word can be used in an account of God’s self-revelation; his thought was communicated by his speech.  However, the word lent itself to pantheistic use, and for the earlier Stoics, the logos, other than which they had no god, was considered the rational principle in accordance with which the universe existed, and men, endowed with spermatikoi logoi in varying degrees, were bound to frame their lives.  In the fusion of the Stoicism and Platonism, a compromise was reached: the rational principle of the Stoic universe was the logos of God (Barrett, John, 152).  But, as R. Bultmann (Theology of the New Testament [2 vols.; New York: Scribner’s, 1951-1955] 2.64) observes, “the philosophical idea of logos as the rational orderliness of the divine cosmos is quite foreign to John.”

Philo Judaeus, a Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (ca.13 BC-AD 45) is sometimes suggested as source.  Under the influence of Old Testament and Hellenistic thought, Philo made frequent use of the term Logos to which he gave central place in his theological thought.  He derived the term from Stoic sources and, in accordance with his discovery of Greek thought in Hebrew Scriptures, made use of it to express the means whereby the transcendent God may be the Creator of the universe and the Revealer of himself to Moses and the Patriarchs.  On the Greek side, he equates the term with the Platonic concept of the world of ideas so that the Logos becomes both God’s plan and God’s power of creation.  On the Hebrew side, he identifies it with the Angel of the Lord and the Name of God, and is described by a variety of terms (High Priest, Steersman, Advocate, Son of God, etc.)  It is termed a second God and, on the other hand, described as the Ideal Man, the pattern of God’s earthly creation of man (A.F.Wall, “Logos,” The New Bible Dictionary [ed. J.D. Douglas; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962] 744).  All this indicates that Philo uses the term far more widely than John.  But the philosophical idea of Logos as the rational orderliness of the divine cosmos is quite foreign to John (Bultmann, Theology, 2.64).  Moreover, Philo’s application of the term to man’s cognitive faculty blurs the distinction between the creator and the creature.  Even more important, there is in fact no evidence that John knows the works of Philo (Lindars, John, 83).

It is sometimes proposed that the term may have been derived from the Targumic use of memra (word), for when John cites scriptures, the citation is taken neither from the Hebrew or the LXX but from the Targums.  In the Targums, the memra of the Lord is not simply a translation, but a surrogate from God himself.  If, for instance, God says in Exod 3:12, “I will be with you,” this is transformed into “my memra will be your support,” in the Targum Onkelos.  The use of memra is therefore not a personification, but serves as a buffer for divine transcendence (Brown, John, 2.523-524.

Pace Bultmann (John, 20-21), it is most likely that the origin of the concept is to be traced not to extra-biblical sources, but to the Old Testament itself.  [a] In the first place, attention may be drawn to two groups of passages: creation passages and revelation passages.  In the former, the word of the Lord is creative (Gen 1:3.6.9; Ps 33:6, etc.); in the latter, the word of the Lord is the prophet’s message, that is, the means by which God communicates his purpose to his people (Jer 1:4; Ezek 1:3; Amos 3:1).  In all these, the word is not abstract but spoken and active (Barrett, John, 153).  [b] Second, it is plausible to suppose that the Jewish concept of Wisdom likewise exerted influence on the Prologue. (For striking similarities between certain propositions of the Prologue and passages in the Wisdom literature, see C.H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel [Cambridge: University Press, 1953] 274-275.  In Prov 8:22, God’s Wisdom has an independent existence in the presence of God and bears more relation to the created world.  Wisdom remains a blessed gift to man (Prov 8:34).  In the later Sapiential books, Wisdom becomes more and more a personal being standing by the side of God over against, but not unconcerned with, the created world.  Wisd 7:22, for instance, illustrates the cosmological and soteriological functions of Wisdom (Barrett, John, 153).*