In this guest post, our friend Mario Stratta expounds the prologue of the gospel according to John. – Dale
I believe that the Prologue to John’s Gospel speaks about the Incarnation of God’s Word (Logos) in/as the “man called Jesus” (John 9:11).
Where I disagree with the Trinitarians, Subordinationists and Arians, is that the Word had a personal subsistence (hypostasis), distinct from that of God, the Father Almighty, before the Incarnation. In fact, the interlude about John the Baptist at verses 6-8, has the literary function of preparing a “change of scene” between the pre-incarnated Logos, eternal attribute of the Eternal God, and the incarnate Logos, viz. Jesus Christ. Similarly, verse 15 has the literary function of preparing the ground, once again, for the Baptist’s testimony, after the Incarnation has taken place, with Jesus’ conception and birth.
Let’s look at the complete Prologue of John’s Gospel (John 1:1-18). I have adopted the ESV translation, but other translations, like the NET, are equally good. Except that they ALL, by referring to the Word as “he” (or even “He”), misleadingly and surreptitiously suggest that the Word is a personal entity.
1. In the beginning was the Word, [Grk. ho logos] and the Word was with [The] God [Grk. ho theos], and the Word was God [Grk. theos].
The distinction between the first instance of “God”, with the article [ho theos], and the second, without the article [theos] is not accidental: in the first case the Evangelist is speaking of The God, in the second case, God is a “substantive-adjective”, it indicates that the Word is (essentially) God. Nowhere does it say (or imply) here that we are talking of a different “person”. We can paraphrase John 1:1, in a language much more accessible to our understanding, as:
“In the beginning, [even before creation], the Word was [already in existence]. The Word was [intimately associated] with God. And [in fact] the Word was [as to its essence, fully] God.”
2. He [Grk. houtos, lit. “this”] was in the beginning with God.
In English translations, the masculine pronoun “he” is used, to refer to the Word, by analogy with the Greek, in which the word Logos is of masculine (grammatical) gender. This is pure coincidence, as can be easily seen form the fact that, for instance, in Greek, the word Pneuma (“Spirit”) is of neuter gender, or that Sophia (“Wisdom”) is of feminine gender. So, again, the result is to instill in the reader the false impression that the pre-incarnated Word is a personal entity.In the following verses, till verse no.10, even if the word Logos is not used any more until verse no.14, the reference is to the Logos of God, which is an essential attribute of God. Only at verse no.11, John’s Prologue starts speaking clearly of Jesus of Nazareth in/as whom the Logos of God became incarnated by means of the Holy Spirit of God and born of the Virgin Mary, as a person, the one person of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, one-begotten of the One God and Father, YHWH.
3. All things came to be through him [Grk. di’autou], and without him [Grk. chôris autou] was not any thing made that was made. 4. In him [Grk. en autô] was life, and the life was the light of men. 5. The light [Grk. phôs – neuter] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [Grk. autô – neuter]
The Greek verbal form for “overcome” (katelaben) is variously translated: “comprehend”, “admit”, “receive”, “master”, even “put out”.
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.
This is an “interlude” on John the Baptist, an anticipation of the Baptist’s role as witness to Jesus.
9. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
The Prologue goes back to God’s Logos, which has already been referred also as “life” and “light”.
10. He [the pronoun is NOT in the Greek text, but the verse still refers back to God’s Logos] was in the world, and the world was made through him [Grk. di’autou], yet the world did not know him [Grk. auton].
He [the pronoun is NOT in the Greek text, but, from now on, the text starts referring to Jesus, in/as whom the Logos of God became incarnated] came to his own [viz. things – ta idia, neuter plural], and his own [viz. people – hoi idioi, masculine plural] did not receive him.
11. He came to his own, andhis 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. 14. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son [or: the one-begotten Son – see note below #] from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15. John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”
This is another anticipation of the Baptist’s role as witness to Jesus. That “before me” [Grk. prôtos mou] does NOT refer to any pre-existence of Jesus, BUT to Jesus’ primacy.
16. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18. No one has ever seen God; the only [one, who is] God [or: the one-begotten Son – see note below #], who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
#The Greek word, in both verses, is monogenês. See the ample discussion at NET Note 1 tc appended to John 1:18. In the Greek MSS there are two main variants of what appears here as “the only God”, based on whether the text has theos or yios.
Adapted from the Journal post The Incarnation of God’s Logos (The Prologue of John’s Gospel), November 19, 2012 on January 16, 2015
© Mario Stratta (aka Miguel de Servet and MdS)