Thursday, November 7, 2013

John 1:1-5 In the beginning ...

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

What are we to think of this?  God is in the beginning with the Word.  I suppose unpacking "beginning" might be helpful.  God stands outside of space and time, so a word like beginning can only refer to the beginning of something and the only something we know of is our own cosmos.  The "Word" translates the Greek word logos (λόγος) which has many more meanings than the English word "Word."  It means not only the spoken word but such things as reasoned discourse and underlying structure or generative word hence a kind of fruitfulness.

This Word is with God and the Word was God ... now just stop for a minute.  You can't just be with God and be God unless you're distinct in some sense in the two usages.  This is the source among other sayings of Jesus for the doctrine of the Trinity.  The Word is in the beginning with God.  The Word is God.  And the Word is the agency of creation.  Note that it says "Through him all things were made and repeats the claim in the negative, that nothing was made without him.  Now we see the Word is a him.  The Word is the creative power of God but is distinct from God yet God.  Sounds like two of the persons of the Trinity.

Now we get another aspect "In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind."   Here we see the Word, God, creator, is also the generator of life which is clearer with logos than with 'Word.'  The light illuminates mankind.  Now this seems clearly a metaphor.  What kind of light illuminates mankind and is also appropriately described as the Word?  Aristotle uses the word logos in the sense of reasoned discourse.  So one possibility is that the light is the light of man's reason illuminating his mind.  It may also be a spiritual light, illuminating his soul, a kind of grace that raises him above where he would be purely by nature.

Finally we see the light shining in the darkness and the darkness not being able to overcome it.  To be overcome by darkness is to have your light extinguished.  This would work equally well with spiritual light which could be extinguished by sin and hence darken the soul or intellectual light where are reason is darkened by our submission to baser passions.

All of these understandings seem to apply and so we see the action of the logos creating and illuminating us intellectually and spiritually, a truly intimate relationship with God.

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