Reflection: John 1: 1 – 18
The Gospel of John, possibly written before A.D. 70 for Greek speaking persons, informs us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him, we have life in His name (20:31). The Prologue, consisting of the first eighteen verses, introduces the great nascent ideas that John subsequently addresses. Of particular interest and importance is the use of the term ‘logos’ or ‘Word,’ as applied to Christ: ‘the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us’ (v.14). Its use is only found in this Gospel, and quoted only on one other occasion in the Revelation of John (Rev 19:13). Where did John derive this notion that ‘the Word’ is God, and Jesus is ‘the Word?’
John and the disciples had closely followed and listened to Jesus throughout His ministry (viz., John 8:46, 58; 10:30; Luke 5:20-21), and they concluded that the Lord is the Word of God. He began by introducing the familiar linguistic phrase found in the first verse of the Torah, ‘in the beginning,’ at the commencement of his Gospel, to denote the origin of the Word. Its Implication reflected the dual meanings in Genesis to connote ‘in the beginning of history’ or ‘at the root of the universe;’ that there was never a time when the Word was not, and never a thing that did not depend on Him for its existence. He is the uncreated and changeless Word. John further presented to us the indisputable fact that Christ and His Father are two separate persons in relationship, not identical but one; viz., the Word was with God, and the Word was God (v.1). The realization for John, a monotheistic Jew, to come to this conclusion was phenomenal; it would have gone against everything he knew and had been taught to acknowledge that Jesus is none other than God Himself – a nascent Trinitarian ideation. This is the foundation his Gospel endeavoured to advocate.
Among the Jews in Palestine during the first century A.D., Aramaic was the spoken language. Although the Hebrew Old Testament had been translated into Greek, the Aramaic renditions, called the Targums, were still the most widely used in the synagogues. In over 600 references, the Targums consistently used ‘the memra (Word) of the Lord’ interchangeably for God. For example, in the Targum Neofiti’s creation account of Genesis 1:1 and 3, it is written “In the beginning the memra created the heavens and the earth…And the memra of the Lord said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.” Often, memra is used in the context of God appearing in physical human form (Gen 3:8; 18; 19:24; and 32:30). So, the Jews knew exactly what John was signifying in his Prologue – that God had appeared among them in human form.
The Father did not have the sole responsibility for creation, as the act of creation proceeded from a relationship between the Father and the Word (v.3; cf. 5:17,19). God created through His Word, and this Word is the source of eternal life (v.4). Life does not exist in its own right (3:15) as it exists in Him (5:26). Everything owes their existence to the Word. Not only is the Word a life-bringer, it is also a light-bearer (8:12; 9:5), and whatever the Word does, meant that God was contemporaneously at work, and the darkness will never hinder Him (v.5). In fact, before anything was ever created, there existed an intrinsic relational love within the Divine relationship; hence, God is love (1 Jn 4:16). And His love for man proceeded from this overwhelming self-existent love within the Trinity (cf. Jn 3:16).
The Prologue is the most complete and explicit study of Christ’s pre-existence in the New Testament, with its central message of God physically stepping into human history; an event unlike anything the world has witnessed before. The voices we hear all around us offer some tangible hope to humanity’s varied and intractable dilemmas, but their solutions are transitory. Our hope has to be anchored in the Person of Jesus, Himself God, who became flesh. A plumb line for change had been set in human history whereby everything else is appraised against Him. This journey with the Word is exciting and enthralling as we follow and obey Him.