In case anyone should stumble upon these notes while trying to learn something about “The Gospel According to John” and of the Christ John presents, I feel compelled to again offer an apology and an explanation. My posts on this topic as part of a project of writing through this account of the Gospel, with the primary end in view as the revelation of my own ignorance, and clarification of my own thought. I am no scholar, as will be painfully obvious. Nor am I a cleric. But I have discovered that one of the best ways to learn something is to try and explain it for someone else. To that end, I welcome your input in these writings; your questions, your comments, and (most helpfully), your challenges.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God.3 All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
In these notes, I will not often refer to the commentaries, or to other reference material. I don’t know them well enough to state what they do or do not say, and the purpose of these notes is not a research paper. Discovering my ignorance (as is likely) may well inspire research, but that is a result, not part of the plan of attack. That being said, it will surprise very few that I read this Prologue to John’s account of the Gospel as the heart, the center of the Bible.
The Bible is one story. Yes, that is a statement of faith, but when I have read it non-stop from cover to cover, I find it so. If it were not so, I think I would have very little interest in it. I am not a particularly literary person. My school work was in the sciences and technologies, but I experience the Bible as being very different sort of thing than, say, Homer’s tales of The Iliad and The Odyssey, or Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. The structure seems to me much more pointed, more directed; many sub plots and minor characters, but one grand overarching theme. Here in this Gospel, we reach the high point of that theme, and in this chapter, the grand exposition of that apogee begins.
John begins, as does Paul in the first chapter of Colossians (verses 12 through 22 – and particularly vv. 15- 20) with a statement of who it is that this book is about: one who was God, and was also with God, who was the uncreated creator of all things, without whom nothing was made. He was the Expression, or outpouring of the transcendent One, or so I read “the Word.”
By the words “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” John seems to leave the door cracked just a bit for a dualistic cosmos, a titanic struggle between equal but opposite forces of light and darkness. Indeed, in much of the account which is to follow, the characters are declared to be aligned with either the sheep or the goats, with the kingdom of God, or with “your father, the devil.” Jesus is certainly not presented as a unifier! Rather, the point is made over and over, that there is an actual divide. There is a separation, and one thing is not another. Light is not darkness. Good is not bad, seen from a different point of view. There is a divide between the rich man and Lazarus (in Luke’s account of the Gospel). Much of Jesus’ ministry has the effect of broadening the gap, making the divide more apparent. Verse 12 proclaims that one of the effects of his coming into the world, his incarnation, was that people who received him would be reconciled to God (“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”). It seems odd that this “story of reconciliation” should have as a primary theme, the widening of division! Perhaps the point is that there indeed is a divide, light is not darkness, but that the border is to be re-drawn.
Many religions have understood that god (however they envision him) is and must be good, and perfect. They have also seen that the world around us (and if honest, the world within us) is not good. There is a division. Some have drawn the border between the creator and the created, or between the “spiritual world” and the “material world.” Some try to minimize the divide. John’s account of the Gospel, the Good News is good news in that though the line is exists, it will no longer be drawn between humanity and God. It will be drawn between “All who receive Him…” and those who do not.