Saturday, October 17, 2020

Jesus and John the Baptist – John Chapter 1 is Not about the Genesis Creation

To hear a podcast episode of this teaching, click here.

John the Baptist was a prophet sent by God to testify about the man Jesus Christ, not about a pre-incarnate 2nd person of the Trinity, nor about a pre-Genesis abstract plan of God.

A commentary on the Gospel of John 1:4-8.

John 1:4-5

John 1:4-5: (that which came to be) in him was life, and the life was the light of men.  5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

 

(that which came to be) in him was life,

See podcast #29 commenting on John 1:2-3 where I understand the verb at the end of verse 3 to go with the beginning of verse 4: “that which came to be in him was life”. Just as through the first man Adam, also through the second man, Jesus, life came to be. John’s Gospel is concerned with the resurrection, eternal life of the next age that came to be in the man Jesus Christ.

 

and the life was the light of men.  5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

 

I think these verses negate any interpretation of John 1 that posits that the Logos, the Word is either a divine figure or an abstract idea which was involved in the Genesis 1 creation. Go ahead, read John 1:4-13 and see if you think that the man Christ Jesus and his ministry is being introduced, or is John the Baptist testifying about a pre-human person or concept.

 

It should be evident to everyone that while the words life and light in John 1:4-5 have parallels to the Genesis creation, the Genesis creation is not under discussion here. Instead, the life and the light here in John 1:4-5 directly refer to the man Christ Jesus, who is the subject of this Gospel. Sure, there are intentional parallels to the light of Genesis 1 and also of Exodus 10, but John 1 directly describes the light that still shines in the life of the raised from the dead man, Christ Jesus.

 

Those who insist that the phrase “in the beginning” of John 1:1 refers directly to the Genesis creation, and that the Gospel of John’s Prologue is a commentary on Genesis creation, I think even unconsciously know the topic switched somehow from the supposed Genesis creation in the first three verses of John’s Gospel, to the life and light of men, the man Jesus Christ, that shines in the darkness, described here in verses 4 and 5. Why is the life and the light and the darkness here in John 1:4-5 not also the life and light and the darkness mentioned in Genesis 1:3, 4, 5. Why in Genesis did light precede human life, but here in John’s Gospel the life was the light of men?

 

The truth is, the life and light and darkness of John 1:4-5 is not the life and light and darkness of Genesis 1. Rather, it is the life and light in the man Jesus Christ that still shines in the darkness.

 

Is this not obvious? Again, the life and light and darkness described in John 1:4-5 relate to the man Christ Jesus, not to the Genesis creation.

 

In the person that the Gospel of John is describing was life, resurrection life. And that resurrection life was light, and that light was the light of men. That light still continues to shine. The darkness did not overcome it. Folks, the topic is God’s work in Jesus Christ, not the Genesis creation.

 

Jump ahead for just a second, to verses 6-8, where we are told that John the Baptizer was not the light. Shouldn’t that be rather obvious that John the Baptizer was not the light of Genesis 1:3 (or of Exodus 10:23)?

 

The appearance of John the Baptizer at all in John 1:6-8 is problematic for any Genesis creation interpretation of John 1. The declaration that John the Baptizer was not the light is an insurmountable exegetical road-block for any Genesis creation interpretation of John 1. Here, early in the Prologue, John the Baptizer is being contrasted not with the light of Genesis 1, but with the person whose name will be given shortly, the man Jesus Christ.

 

In verses 8 and 9 we learn that John the Baptizer “was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world” (John 1:8-9). John the Baptizer “was not the light”. Well, you don’t say? The Baptizer wasn’t the light that preceded and was involved in the creation of the universe? We can certainly be glad that the author of the Gospel of clarified that for us! I’m being sarcastic of course. John the Baptizer was being contrasted not with the light of Genesis chapter 1, but with a person whom this Gospel is about, the man Christ Jesus.

 

Let’s say that again. John the Baptizer is not being contrasted with the light of Genesis chapter 1. Neither did John the Baptizer come to bear witness to the light of Genesis chapter 1. John the Baptizer came to bear witness to the light, the man Jesus Christ. There should be no doubt that the Prologue of John is introducing the life and light that was in the man Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ was life, and his life was the light of men.

 

Let’s come back to verse 4. This life that the Gospel presents “was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and darkness has not overcome it”. How does this verse apply to the Genesis creation account? The simple answer is, it doesn’t. It applies to the life and light in Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

 

Verse 5 says “the light shines in the darkness”. Note the present tense verb, the first present tense verb in this Gospel. In the Prologue the author is in the main introducing and summarizing real events that happened in the past – real events which he is about to describe in more detail in his Gospel. But these real events connected to the life of Jesus reveal to us who God is. And the life of Jesus on earth which happened in the real past continues to affect the present. “The light shines in the darkness.” That is, the light of revelation, of promise and hope for mankind that the ministry and life of the raised-from-the-dead man Jesus Christ gives to human beings, still shines. The work of God through the man Jesus Christ is the light that still shines in the darkness, not Genesis 1 life and light.

 

In verse 9 there is another present tense verb connected with the shining light. “the true light that enlightens every man”. This is Jesus Christ, the  light that enlightens every (kind of) man. This is not Genesis 1 light.

 

One other important observation from verse 5. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

 

the darkness did not overcome it

The verb here is not easy to translate. Some English translations have “the darkness did not comprehend it”. But it is best to understand the verb as “overcome”. Let me read a note from the New English Translation Bible that I see agrees with other commentators on this word:

 

For it (the word) to mean this (“comprehend”), "darkness" must be understood as meaning "certain people," or perhaps "humanity" at large, darkened in understanding. But in John's usage, darkness is not normally used of people or a group of people. Rather it usually signifies the evil environment or 'sphere' in which people find themselves: "They loved darkness rather than light" (John 3:19). Those who follow Jesus do not walk in darkness (8:12). They are to walk while they have light, lest the darkness "overtake/overcome" them (12:35, same verb as here). For John, with his set of symbols and imagery, darkness is not something which seeks to "understand (comprehend)" the light, but represents the forces of evil which seek to "overcome (conquer)" it.

 

This verb, “overcome” is in a Greek tense, called aorist, which is best understood as refering to a single occasion in the past: “darkness did not overcome it” a specific point in time. What the author of the Gospel most likely has in mind here is the death by crucixion of Jesus Christ at Calvary. There the light of life came into conflict with the darkness of death and darkness did not prevail. Darkness did not overcome it.

 

The commandment of God for mankind, eternal life (John 12:50) and the light of hope that commandment gives to mankind, all the forces of darkness together could not annul.

 

This is exactly the kind of thing we hear the apostles Peter and Paul describe over and over again in their sermons in the Book of Acts. “Jesus the Messiah was put to death, but God, the God of our Fathers raised him from the dead. He is alive!” (Acts 2:22-24, 3:15-17, 4:10, 5:30-31, 10:38-40, 13:28-33, etc).

 

So here we have already in John 1:5 a reference to Calvary, the death and resurrection of the man Jesus Christ. Darkness did not overcome the light. Jesus was raised from the dead. The light shines in the darkness.

 

It is interesting to see the deity of Christ theologians commenting on these passages in John 1. Some may try to interpret these verses in the context of the Genesis creation, but they inevitably forget that they are supposed to interpret all these verses in John 1 as describing the Genesis creation. They see the man and ministry of Jesus Christ being laid out before them here – because it is obvious that is who the Gospel is introducing.  And the deity of Christ interpreters also tend to forget that all these verses describing Jesus and the Baptizer occur before the supposed “incarnation birth of God”, which they take to occur in verse 14.

 

The Gospel of John is not introducing the life, light and darkness of Genesis 1 or of some other period in Israel’s history. The life, light and darkness of John 1 allude to and parallel Genesis and the light for Israel in Egypt, but John is not directly commenting on Genesis or the Exodus.

 

We might ask: Why did the author of the Gospel of John make allusions to Genesis and Exodus with words like life, light and darkness? I suggest an answer: Because the author shows the continuity between Old Testament sacred history and the New Testament. The God who made and gave life and light to his people in both Genesis and Exodus, “the God of our fathers” as He is called in the New Testament, is the same God who brought life and light to mankind through Jesus Christ. We might put it this way: the God of Jesus is the God of Moses.

 

In addition, we might wonder why the author of this Gospel begins by referring to Jesus with symbols and metaphors like “the Word”, “life” and “light”. I suggest there are at least two reasons:

 

1. In this Gospel the author liked to apply metaphorical and symbolic language to Jesus to make spiritual truths concrete. The author described Jesus as “the lamb, the bread, the door, the shepherd, the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection”. So also using a term like Logos (Word) as a title for Jesus shows that the human Jesus is the communication or revelation of God to humankind. Like the “word” in the Old Testament, Jesus is the source of re-creation “life” for humankind (Psa. 33:6, John 1:3, 10-13), and Jesus is the revelation “light” that gives hope and  leads to salvation (Jer. 1:4-5, 9; John 1:4-5, 9, 14, 18).

 

2. The author introduced Jesus as “the word”, the “life” and “light” here in the Prologue as he is preparing to give more details in the body of his Gospel to prove how the man Christ Jesus is the Word, the life and the light.

 

The Words and Themes in the Prologue are Elucidated in the Body of the Gospel of John

 

Many of the words and themes that the Prologue introduces are repeated and developed in the body of the Gospel of John, and are associated specifically to the man Jesus the Messiah. This is evidence that the Logos and other terms of the Prologue refer to the man Jesus Christ and not to some pre-creation person or concept.

 

All these words and ideas of the Prologue: the beginning, word, life, light, darkness, the Baptizer’s testimony, and more phrases about to appear in the Prologue, like “coming into the world, coming to his own, his own not receiving him, some did receive him, believe in his name, being born of God” - all these concepts are introduced in the first 13 verses of the Prologue, and then expanded in the body of the Gospel in connection to Jesus and his ministry.

 

Let’s keep in mind, all these ideas are applied to Jesus Christ in the prologue before he supposedly “became flesh” in vs. 14, as the deity of Christ interpretation would have us believe. That the ministry of the man Jesus Christ is surveyed in John 1:1-13 is irreconcilable with the deity of Christ interpretation that John 1:14 supposedly describes the birth incarnation of “God the Son.” Could it be that verse 14, “the word was flesh” doesn’t mean what deity of Christ proponents think it means?

 

In any case, the introduction of words and themes like life and light and darkness in the Prologue of John’s Gospel, which are then applied to Jesus and his ministry in the body of the Gospel of John, is evidence that the Prologue is as well describing the man Jesus Christ.

 

Life

For example, take the word life, which is mentioned two times here in verse 4: “in him was life, and the life was the light of men”. We find the word “life” some 45 more times in the body of the Gospel of John. Life is a very important theme to this Gospel writer. And life in this Gospel is most often the eternal life that is associated with the ministry and person of the man Jesus Christ.

 

A few examples:

Whoever believes in the one whom God sent will not perish, but will have eternal life (John 3:15-16).

 

“As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26).

 

Jesus told those who opposed him, “you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:40).

 

“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48).

 

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

 

Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

 

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

 

“but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

 

It just doesn’t do justice to the author of the Gospel of John to think that the life being introduced in the Prologue is not the same life that he attributes to the man Jesus Christ in the body of the Gospel. The parallel statements between the Prologue and subsequent chapters of the Gospel of John tie the prologue directly to the rest of the Gospel. This is unavoidable evidence that the Prologue is about the person, the man Jesus Christ.

 

Light and Darkness

We see the same link between the light and darkness introduced in the Prologue to the light and darkness reiterated in the body of the Gospel. 

 

In John chapter 1, the author mentions the light in verses 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9. That’s five verses out of the 18 verses of the prologue. We see in verses 6-8 that John the Baptizer wasn’t the light, but came to bear witness to the light. Then (guess what?), in the body of the Gospel we are told explicitly that the man Jesus Christ is the light.

 

John 3:19-20 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

 

John 8:12 Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

 

John 9:5   As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

 

John 12:35-36 So Jesus said to them, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overcome you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light."

 

John 12:46   I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness (cf. 12:35, 3:20).

 

The life, light and darkness of the Gospel of John which are introduced in the Prologue, and reiterated in the body of the Gospel, are the light and life associated with the man Christ Jesus in a dark world, not the life, light and darkness of Genesis 1. It seems that anyone who interprets John chapter 1 as referring to the Genesis creation is either ignoring or has forgotten the words of Jesus in John 8:12: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

 

Let’s move on to John 1:6-8 as we will contemplate again why John the Baptizer is introduced so early in John’s Gospel, just like he is in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

 

John 1:6-8

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  7 This one 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.  

 

That the ministry of John the Baptizer is explicitly introduced in verse six of John’s Prologue is very strong evidence that:

1.      The entire Prologue, including “in the beginning” in John 1:1 is not the Genesis beginning, but the new beginning in Jesus. As we’ve looked at in podast #7 “John 1:1, Jesus is the Beginning of God’s New Creation”, the phrase “the beginning” in the Gospel of John and in many other places in the New Testament refers not to the Genesis creation but to the new beginning inaugurated with Jesus.

That the ministry of John the Baptizer is explicitly introduced so early in John’s Prologue is also very strong evidence that:

2.      the Logos in 1:1 and the light in 1:4 are references to the human person Jesus the Messiah, who will be named in verse 17. John the Baptizer came to bear witness to Jesus, not abstract or pre-incarnate light. John the Baptist is contrasted and said specifically not to be that light. It’s pretty obvious that the Gospel is not comparing John to the light in Genesis 1, but to the man whom this Gospel calls the light of the world, Jesus Christ.

For anyone who thinks that John 1 is describing the Genesis creation, John’s presence in verses 6-8 in the Prologue is a strange, out of place interruption. One might even say an embarrassment. Let me quote well-respected evangelical scholar Leon Morris, in the New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel According to John (p. 87):

 

“It is curious at first sight that there should be this mention of John the Baptist in the Prologue. There is no difficulty about his appearing in the narrative sections, but it is certainly perplexing to find him in this brief introduction to the teaching of the Gospel.”

 

I suggest the Baptizer’s early appearance in the Prologue is “curious” and “perplexing” to commentators like Leon Morris because they have brought incorrect presuppositions to the text, thinking that the Gospel begins with a description of the Genesis creation. If “the beginning” that Gospel of John opens with is the same beginning as the beginning in the other Gospels – the new beginning in the Gospel of the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth, then it makes perfect sense why the Baptizer is introduced here in the Prologue and given such a prominent place in the rest of chapter 1.

 

The Baptizer is a central feature in the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, not in the Genesis creation. There is nothing “curious” or “perplexing” about the Baptizer’s presence in John 1:6-8. That the Baptizer’s ministry is so early and prominently put forth in the Prologue is strong evidence that the Prologue is about the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, and that the Word and Light of the Prologue are the person, Jesus the Messiah, who is named in 1:17.

 

1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 

 

The word translated as “was”, “there was a man sent from God” is the same word that is translated with “deity of Christ” bias as “was made”, even “was created” in verse 3. But the word does not have any sense of “being created from nothing”. There is no Greek word “created” or “was created” in John chapter 1. English translations that give a creation sense to the word in verse 3 and 10 are biased. As we have seen in podcast #29, verse 3 is better translated as “all things that happened, or came about through him”; not, “all things were made through him.”

 

As seen here in verse 6 the word is best translated as “was”, or “came to be”, “happened”, or “came on the scene”. “There was a man…”

 

sent from God To be sent from God does not carry with it any connotation of pre-existence. Rather, to be “sent from God” means to be commissioned, authorized and equipped of God. The prophets were sent by God. Not only the prophet John was sent from God, but one of the main themes of this Gospel is that Jesus the Messiah is sent by God. 

 

1:7 This one 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.

 

As we have already described in podcast #29, “this one” of verse 7 contrasts with “this one” in verse 2. In verse 2 “this one”, the Word was with God, and in him was life and light. But here in verse 7, by contrast, “this one”, the prophet John, was sent from God to bear witness about the light. The contrast between “this one” in verse 2 and “this one” in verse 7 is a contrast between two human persons, Jesus and John.

 

The verb tenses of came and to bear witness about the light relate that the testimony of John is already done, an accomplished historical fact. This is the sense of most of the verbs in John’s Prologue. The author is introducing the events associated with the life of Jesus that occurred in the not too distant past. The few exceptions where present tense verbs appear show how the accomplished historical events associated with Jesus have bearing on the present, like “the light shines in the darkness”.

 

that all might believe through him

through him…There is ambiguity has to whom “him” refers: through Jesus (the light) or through the Baptizer. It is best to understood as through the Baptizer, who testified about and pointed people to the man Christ Jesus. People could believe in Jesus Christ through John’s testimony.

 

8 He was not the light,

Let’s reiterate one more time that the author is not contrasting John the Baptizer with a pre-incarnate person, nor a pre-incarnate concept, but with the man Christ Jesus, who we know in this Gospel is the light of the world. It would be silly for the author to clarify for us that John the Baptizer was not the light, if the light referred to either a pre-incarnate person or abstract idea present at the Genesis creation. Rather, the contrast between the prophet John the Baptizer and the light makes perfect sense if John is being compared to the man Jesus Christ.

 

but came to bear witness about the light.

John did not come to bear witness to a pre-incarnate, Genesis creation light. Rather, the prophet John bore witness to the light of the world, the son of God, the lamb of God, the man Jesus the Messiah from Nazareth.

  

Review:

The life and light in the darkness introduced in John 1:4-5 refer to the man Jesus Christ and his ministry in the darkness which mankind finds himself in, not to the Genesis creation. The man and ministry of Jesus the Messiah is life in which is light that still shines.

 

The darkness tried to overcome the light, by putting Jesus Christ to death on a cross. But the darkness was not able to overcome the light, as Jesus’s death led to resurrection into eternal life. “the darkness did not overcome the light” is a reference already in John 1:5 to the death and resurrection of the man Jesus Christ from Nazareth, not to some pre-Genesis event.

 

The reiteration in the body of the Gospel of terms used in the Prologue, like word, life, light, and darkness, is evidence that the Prologue is introducing the man and ministry of Jesus the Messiah from Nazareth. The man Jesus Christ from Nazareth is the light of the world. Whoever follows him will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

 

Interpreting John 1 as describing the Genesis creation doesn’t work, or ends up being confusion and contradiction since somewhere between verse 3 and verse 4 the author supposedly switched from the describing the Genesis creation to introducing the life of light in the person he is about to describe, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

 

Also, the deity of Christ interpretation is confusing as it must postulate that that the ministries of Jesus and John the Baptizer being described in verses 3-13 are described before the supposed incarnation described in John 1:14.

 

A much better way to understand all of the Prologue of the Gospel of John is to interpret it as an introduction to the man Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who is the main topic of the book. The testimony ministry of John the Baptizer has no business being introduced in 1:6-8, 1:15 and 1:19-34 if “the beginning” of John 1:1 refers directly to the Genesis creation as the Greek philosophers understood it, referring to some pre-human “Logos”, some pre-human “Word”.

 

Rather, the ministry of John the Baptizer, his testimony to the light, and the contrast statement that John was not the light, is evidence that the prologue is about the man Jesus and his ministry, and that “the beginning” of John 1:1 is the new beginning of God in the life of the Messiah Jesus.


Bill Schlegel, One God Report Podcast

 

 

Friday, September 18, 2020

No, John 1:3 Does Not Say Jesus Created the Universe (commentary on John 1:2-3)

To hear a podcast of this post click here.

A Brief Summary of John 1:1

In previous One God Report podcasts we have seen that “In the beginning” is not a direct reference to the Genesis creation, but refers to the new beginning in the life and ministry of Jesus. The human Jesus is called the Word because it is through him that God has now spoken

“the Word was with God” means that while on the earth the human Jesus had a unique and special relationship with God

“and the word was God” means that God was at work and speaking through this man Jesus.

 

Now we move on to verse 2, which already begins a contrast between Jesus, the Word, and John the Baptist.



Jesus Christ (the Word) and John the Baptist

 

John 1:2

This one (he, the same) was in the beginning with God.


This one (ou-toj, some translations have he, the same) is the near demonstrative pronoun, “this” (masculine, not neuter, but could be understood as neuter if modifying a).

 

There is a direct contrast between the beginning of this verse, and verse 7, where John the Baptizer is introduced with the same word:

 

1:2 This one ou-toj was in the beginning with God...in him was life, and the life was the light of men.

1:7 This one ou-toj came for a testimony, to bear witness about the light…but he was not the light.

 

The same word begins verse 2 and verse 7, “this one” ou-toj. It is a little harder to see this direct contrast in English translations. Most English translations just start verse 2 and verse 7 with “he”. But note KJV “the same” and Young’s literal “this one”.  In the Greek the contrast stands out. “This one” in verse 2 compared to “this one” in vs. 7. The Baptizer in verse 7 is being contrasted with another person already introduced here in verse 2, the Word, the man Jesus.

 

A main emphasis in the Prologue of the Gospel of John and in the early chapters of John’s Gospel is the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptizer. Why would the relationship between the two men be such an important issue? Because John the Baptizer was a very significant individual at the time. Many Jews in 1st century Israel believed John to be a prophet sent by God (John 1:6, Matt. 21:6 “all held John to be a prophet”).  We know from the Gospels and also from the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus Flavius that John the Baptizer had thousands, probably tens of thousands of followers. Some people thought John the Baptizer might even be the Messiah.

 

John’s Gospel specifically introduces the ministry of John the Baptizer already with three verses beginning the sixth verse in the Prologue (1:6-8), and then again in verse 15 (and then also 1:19-35 and 3:25-30). The appearance of John the Baptizer early in the Prologue, again, the sixth verse of the Gospel, is evidence that “the beginning” of John 1:1, and all of these verses at the beginning of John’s Gospel, refer not to the Genesis creation but to the same beginning that the Gospel of Mark describes, “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.

 

In other words, John the Baptizer is so quickly and prominently introduced at the beginning of John’s Gospel because John has a key role in that beginning. It goes without saying that John the Baptizer was not involved in the Genesis creation, but in the ministry of Jesus the Christ.

 

Since the Prologue introduces the ministry of Jesus the Messiah, and because the witness of John the Baptizer played an important role introducing the Jesus the Messiah, the Baptizer is quickly and prominently introduced in the prologue (John 1:6-8, 15).

 

John the Baptizer really has no business being in verses 6-8 of the Prologue if John 1:1 is about the Genesis creation.

 

On the other hand, it is fitting that John the Baptizer is in John 1:6-8 and 15, if John 1:1 is referring to the new beginning in the life and ministry of the human being Jesus the Messiah, who is called the Word (of God).

 

To put it another way: In the Prologue, John the Baptizer is not being distinguished from and not testifying about:

1.      an eternal, pre-incarnate divine Logos (like 2nd century Gentile Logos theorists and modern deity of Christ proponents would have us believe).

 And neither is John the Baptizer being distinguished from and testifying about an abstract yet personified Logos that was active in the Genesis creation (as most biblical unitarians espouse today).

Rather, John the Baptizer is given a prominent place in the Prologue because the author is making a distinction between the two men who were ministering and making disciples at the same time. Among other reasons, the author draws the contrast in order to establish which of the two men God intended to have priority.

Note also that John the Baptizer is already described as testifying about who Jesus is (vs. 6-8) before the statement in John 1:14 that “the Word was (became) flesh”.

 

So now let’s come back and compare again the beginning of verse 2 with verse 7. Already in verse 2 the author begins to show that Jesus has priority over John the Baptizer.  Using the same Greek word, OUTOS "this one", the author says of the Word, Jesus in verse 2:

 

1:2 This one ou-toj was in the beginning with God...in him was life, and the life was the light of men.

 

But then of John the Baptizer in verse 7 the author says:

 

1:7 This one ou-toj came for testimony, to bear witness about the light…but he was not the light.

 

The clarification of the relationship between John the Baptizer and Jesus is a constant theme throughout the first part of the Gospel of John.

 

The contrast the author makes in his Prologue is between two human persons, John the Baptizer and the Word, Jesus Christ. The contrast is not between the Baptizer and a pre-incarnate Logos. The contrast is between two human persons. One called the Word, who is the person Jesus the Messiah (here in vs. 2), and another person in vs 7, a man sent from God, John the Baptizer.

 

Look how the contrast between Jesus and John the Baptizer, which starts in verses 2 and 7, continues in the Gospel of John with the words of John the Baptizer himself. In testifying about Jesus we hear consistently from the mouth of the Baptizer the very same pronoun, “this one”.


In the Prologue, chapter 1: 15 “John bore witness of him, and cried out, saying, "This one
(OUTOS ou-toj) was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has a higher rank than I…”

 

That same testimony is repeated again by the Baptizer in chapter 1:30 "This one (OUTOS) is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who has a higher rank than I...'"

The Baptizer was not testifying about a pre-incarnate Logos, but about a man who had a higher rank than he.


In John 1:33 again, in contrast to himself, the Baptizer says, "This one (OUTOS) baptizes with holy spirit"

John 1:34 " And I have seen and have borne witness that this one (OUTOS) is the Son of God.

 

So in verse 2, the author of John’s Gospel is already distinguishing between “This one” (OUTOS) who is Jesus, the Word of God, and “this one”, who is John the Baptizer (1:7). Then four more times in the first chapter of the Gospel the Baptizer himself distinguishes between himself and “this one”, referring to Jesus.

 

The Gospel of John repeatedly emphasizes the Baptizer’s own testimony in connection to the his own identity with the identity of Jesus the Messiah. The Baptizer testified in chapter 1:20, “I am not the Messiah” and the last words of testimony we heard from the Baptizer in this Gospel are, “That one (that is, Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30).

 

was in the beginning with God.

The second part of vs. 2 repeats and emphasizes what has been stated in vs. 1. But as we have seen, “this one was in the beginning with God” highlights the contrast between the Word, Jesus, and the Baptizer who will soon be mentioned in vs 6. This one (the Word, Jesus) has precedence over John because in the beginning, at the start of God’s new beginning, Jesus was with God, that is, he had a close and unique relationship with God.

 

Note, again, that “God” in verse 2, as in verse 1, is the Father, not the Trinity, and not abstract “deity”.

 

John 1:3

all things came to be through him, and without him or nothing came to be

 

Most deity of Christ readers see this verse as declaring that somehow Jesus was involved in the creation of the physical universe. I suggest that interpreting this verse to be about the Genesis creation misses what the Gospel of John is all about.

 

A big reason why traditional Christianity thinks this verse is declaring that Jesus was somehow involved in the Genesis creation is because of the way the verse is translated. There are several vocabulary and translation issues with this verse. This verse can be translated into English as:

All that happened was through him, and without him nothing happened.

That is, this verse is talking about events described in the Gospel - and I’ll suggest later – the most important of those events being resurrection life and people, coming to be through Jesus.  The verse is not describing the creation of the material universe.

 

There are several reasons why it is much better to understand this verse as relating to the events of associated with the life of Jesus, rather the seeing some second god figure present at and involved in the Genesis creation. By the way, a second god-figure involved in creation is an idea which totally contradicts sacred Old Testament Scripture.

 

First, let’s take a look at the word which is translated “all things”. In the original Greek, the word “things” does not appear. It’s just the word “all”, (neuter, plural adjective, pas/panta). But the adjective is functioning as a noun, meaning all something. The reader has to decide what the something of the all is. All what? All the universe? All things? All people? All events? All powers? There are many options. We use the word all in English sometimes in a similar fashion. “Now I’ve seen it all” doesn’t mean I’ve seen every tree, animal and galaxy.

 

In English we sort of use the word “everything” similarly to how “all” is used in Greek. To say “He lost everything” doesn’t mean a person used to have every galaxy in the universe.

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We need context to interpret the word “all”. The same word “all” is used three more times in the Prologue, in each case it refers to all people:

1:7 “This one came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all (masc. plural) might believe through him”

1:9 “The true light that gives light to all human beings” (in this case the noun “men, human beings” is supplied).

1:16 “from his fullness we have all received”

 

The main use of all in the Gospel of John is “all” kinds of people, sometimes those who believe, sometimes those who don’t believe. Sometimes those who hear, sometimes those who see. Sometimes “all” in John means all authority or power (13:3, the Father had given all into his hands), or truths (14:26, 15:15). But here is the point: of the 65 (or so) occurrences of the word “all” in the Gospel of John (sometimes with a noun supplied), I don’t see one other occurrence where it means all the physical, created universe.

 

Let me say that again? Of the 65 (or so) occurrences of this word “all” in the Gospel of John, I don’t see one other occurrence where it means all the physical, created universe. 

 

The famous John 3:16 is a good example of the use of all meaning people. “that all who believe in him, should not perish”;

John 3:26, “all are coming to him”

John 3:35, the Father loves the Son, and has given all (things, people, powers) into his hand.”

John 5:20, the Father shows him all things that He does…

John 6:37, all that the Father gives me will come to me;

 

Note this verse as an example where “all” means the events associated with life of Jesus: John 19:28 “After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), ‘I thirst.’"

 

So, rather than take the “all things” of John 1:3 to be a reference to everything in the created universe, a way in which the word is never used anywhere else in the Gospel of John or for that matter rarely if ever in all of the New Testament, the word all is better understood in John 1:3 as all the events that the Gospel of John is about to describe.

 

Later we will suggest that the chief event that is included in the all things that happened in John’s Gospel is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That is, “life” came through Jesus, to himself and then as a guarantee for others.  All people, that is, all resurrection human life is through Jesus.

 

Interpreting the “all” as the events that the Gospel is about to describe also aligns with the contrast that the prologue makes between Jesus and John the Baptizer. It is through Jesus, the Word, not through John the Baptizer, that all events that the Gospel of John is about to describe, including resurrection life, the new beginning, came to be.

 

all “were made” or “all happened”?

 

Another word that needs to be in examined in John 1:3 is the Greek word (egeneto, from ginomai) that is often translated in John 1:3 “was made”, in the sense of “was created”.

 

For instance, the ESV, RSV have, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made …”

And the NAS: “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being…

The NET Bible even has: “All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.

 

These are very theologically biased translations that have caused many readers to think that the Genesis creation is what is being discussed.

 

But the Greek word in question (egeneto, from ginomai) has a wide range of meanings, most of which have little or absolutely nothing to do with “create”. In fact, the Greek word in its various forms occurs almost seven hundred times in the New Testament but nowhere else does it mean to “create” out of nothing.  The word occurs over 50 times in the Gospel of John and it does not mean “to create out of nothing”. It means simply “was, happened, came to pass, occurred, was done, came on the scene”. In English this word is more or less the equivalent to what we call the “to be” verb. The “forms of be” are: “am, are, is, was, were”.

 

This “to be” Greek word does not connote anything about ontological change, either “out of nothing” ex nihilo, or a of material transformation from one substance to another. The word refers to something that happened or became historical fact. Something that “was”.

 

This same word (egeneto) that Trinitarian translators have translated as “was made” as if to mean “was created” in John 1:3, and in John 1:10 (“and the world was made through him” (cf. John 1:14 where they translate it differently “the Word became flesh”) – this same word also occurs, for instance, in John 1:6:

 

“There was (egeneto) a man sent from God, whose name was John.”

Translations don’t say “there was made a man, sent from God”? No, egeneto simply means that John the Baptizer “came on the scene”, “there was a man”.

 

The word also occurs in John 1:17:

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came (egeneto) through Jesus Christ.”

No one translates this as, “grace and truth were made through Jesus Christ”

 

John 1:28 “This happened (egeneto) in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.”

“This was made in Bethany beyond the Jordan?” No, this “happened” or simply “was” in Bethany beyond the Jordan.

 

Again, the word does not mean to create or make ex nihilo, “out of nothing”.

 

In the same way that John 1:6 says that there was a man sent from God, and that John 1:17 tells us that grace and truth came/were through Jesus Christ, so John 1:3 tells us that “all things that the Gospel is about to describe came about, or happened or were through him”.

 

So, a lot depends on how one chooses to translate these words. A curious person who believes in the deity of Christ should ask why the same word is translated so differently in the same chapter. Is there a translation bias that injects a theological presupposition into the text in places like John 1:3?

 

Gone are the days when a person has to take a priest’s or pastor’s word for it. Maybe even 50 years ago a priest or pastor could show his parishioners a translation of John 1:3 and declare, “See, Jesus made everything! John 1:3 says Jesus created the universe!”.  Folks, those days are passing away. Bible computer programs are available to everyone now. We need to be like the Bereans and “examine the Scriptures to see if these things are so” (Acts 17:11).

 

It is important to keep in mind that in the original Greek texts of the New Testament the words for “create” or “make” are not in John’s prologue. Let me say that again. The Genesis words for “create” and “make” are not in John 1.

 

However, the word that we are talking about (egeneto, from ginomai), the “to be” verb which in past tense means simply “was, or happened” is in the Greek translation of the Genesis creation account. This is not the word in Genesis for “create” or “make”, but simply “and it was”. I believe the author of the Gospel of John used this word, as he used other vocabulary in his Gospel that parallels Genesis language (“in the beginning, light, darkness), not because John is describing the Genesis creation, but because the same God who created in Genesis 1 is beginning the New Creation in and through the one called the Word in John 1:1, Jesus the Messiah. In and through Jesus the Messiah we have life, the down-payment, the guarantee of the promised regeneration life of the age to come. All comes through the resurrected-from-the-dead Jesus, the firstborn of the God’s New Creation.

 

But again, the absence of the active “creation” words in John’s prologue is evidence that the Gospel of John is not commenting directly on the Genesis creation. The author did not refer to the creation of the sea and dry land, the sun and moon, rocks, plants, birds or animals. The author of the Gospel of John mentions nothing of such things because that is not his topic. His topic is the new beginning in the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah.

 

So, instead of theologically biased English translations like “All things were made through him, or all things were created through him”, which make a reader think the Genesis creation is being discussed, read John 1:3 as “All things happened through him”, or simply “all things were through him”. This would mean that all things that John is about to describe in his Gospel occurred through the Word, Jesus the Messiah.

 

Be honest. Does it not make sense that John’s introduction (John 1:1-18) would be introducing the rest of his gospel and not Genesis creation?

 

One other comment before we move on to the rest of verse 3. The deity of Christ interpretation of John 1:3 fails for another reason. Deity of Christ interpreters read verses like John 1:3, and Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 1:2, and think they see Jesus as the active creator. But in each case, they are ignoring a very important word. They ignore the word “through”. As in the New Creation that Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:2 describe as being “through” Jesus Christ, so here in John 1:3, all things came about or happened “through” the Word, Jesus Christ.

 

Not only is Jesus Christ not creating in John 1:3, but Jesus Christ is not the main source for the things that happened in his ministry (John 5:30). Yes, things came about through Jesus, and God granted to Jesus the authority to give life to others (John 5:26). But the main source for what happened is outside of Jesus Christ. The main source for what happened is God, who is also called the Father in this Gospel. The Father, God, brought about these things that happened through His Word, Jesus Christ.

 

When the New Testament describes God bringing about anything through Jesus Christ, it is the resurrection life of New Creation that is involved. The Bible draws the parallel between Adam and Jesus. Jesus is the second Adam, not the second God. As through the first Adam came life, also through the second Adam, Jesus, the firstborn from the dead, comes life in the age to come.

 

Why do typical “deity of Christ” interpreters ignore or fail to see the New Creation that God is bringing about, described in passages like John 1, Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1? They’ve been distracted and blinded by pagan and Greek philosophy that claimed some kind of secondary lesser god, the Logos, was involved in the creation of the material world. But this kind of thinking is nowhere in the Bible and in fact directly contradicts the Bible. The Bible declares that the One God created all, and that the One God, the Father, brings about the New Creation through the man, the Lord Jesus the Messiah (1 Cor. 8:6, Romans 5:12-17, Col. 1:15-18, Heb. 1:1-3).

 

An unbelieved truth can hurt a person just as much as a lie. To not see Jesus Christ as the beginning and origin of God’s new creation prevents a person from understanding the hope to which a true Christian has been called. Resurrection life in the age to come.

 

that which came to be through him was life

 

There is another grammatical or punctuation and translation question at the end of John 1:3. The phrase “that which came to be” is sort of dangling at the end of verse 3 in the Greek text, and it is difficult to know if it should go with what precedes it, or with what comes after it.

 

There was no punctuation in the oldest Greek texts, and the verse divisions were added much later in history (in the 16th century).

 

Most English translations join this “to be” verb at the end of verse 3 with what comes before it: “and without him nothing came to be that came to be” (they with bias use the words “was made” or “was created”).

 

This seems somewhat redundant. Rather, it seems better to take “came to be” verb with what follows in the beginning of verse 4. Then it would mean:

“That which came to be in him was life”.

 

Some Greek manuscripts are punctuated this way and Greek grammarians acknowledge the possibility. See for instance Bruce Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (p. 167) and the note in the RSV translation.


“that which came to be in him was life…” Wow. This means that we have here a clarification or emphasis of what the author meant in the first part of verse 3, “all things were through him and without him was nothing. That which came to be in him was life”. That is, the most significant thing of the “all” that came through him was human life.

 And it is eternal life, life of the age to come, that the Gospel of John is concerned about (John 3:16, 17:5, etc.). All things in Jesus ministry, with the emphasis on life in the age to come “came to be through Jesus”: "because I live, you will live also" (John 14:19).

 

Another Parallel to Genesis?

“that which came to be in him was life

 

The Gospel of John, including the prologue, contains many parallels, or to use the theological term, typology from the Old Testament; especially from the Book of Genesis (e.g., creation, Abraham and Isaac) and the Book of Exodus (e.g., Moses, tabernacle).

 

The word “life” in Greek is Zoe, zwh. , which is also the name for Eve (who was the mother of all living) in LXX in Genesis 3:20 (the name given to her by Adam). “Life/Eve” coming from Adam may be another Genesis parallel or antitype. That is, the Jesus of John’s Gospel is parallel or an antitype to Adam (“the Word was flesh” is John’s way of saying Jesus is a human being, a second Adam). Just like all human life (Zoe, Eve) in the present age has come through Adam, even so all human life in the next age comes through Jesus Christ.  Eve/Life) came to be through Adam, and through Jesus. Cf. 1 John 4:9 “…God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through him.”

  

Review:

 

First:

Already in John 1:2, “This one was in the beginning with God” begins the contrast between Jesus, the Word, and John the Baptist. The author of the Gospel of John early and often contrasts or compares John the Baptizer with Jesus and the titles used for Jesus (Word, light). This is evidence that Baptizer is being contrasted with the human person Jesus, not a pre-incarnate god-figure or abstract Logos. “This one”, Jesus, the Word was the light. But “this one” John the Baptizer was not the light. “This one”, said the Baptizer, “is whom I spoke about. He is greater than I”. “This one baptizes with the holy spirit”.  This one is the Son of God”.

 

Secondly:

John 1:3 is not saying that Jesus was involved in the creation of all the material universe. “All things” never means the entire universe in the Gospel of John. Neither are the words “create” or “make” in this verse or anywhere else in John’s prologue. Rather, John 1:3 is introducing all the things that came about, everything that happened through the life and ministry of Jesus. And the main “everything” is the resurrection life of the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth, and the promise of life in the next age his resurrection holds for all.

 

Hat tip to Rivers of Eden for helpful insights into the Greek text and structure of the Prologue of the Gospel of John.