THE title of the book is differently given in the manuscripts and ancient versions, and the differences are so considerable that they cannot be referred to the original text. The simplest form of the title is found in א, B, D, and is nothing more than "according to John," κατα ιωαννην (B gives only one N in John's name, but א two); and this is followed by the vulgate and Syriac as a running title. The immense proportion of the uncials—A, C, E, F, G, L, and eight or nine others—read "Gospel according to John" ( εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ ιωάννην). This is followed by Tregelles, Lachmann, Alford. The T.R., with a large number of manuscripts, reads, "The Gospel according to John;" and in Stephen's third edition the word "holy" occurs before "Gospel." The cursives 69, 178, 259, read εὐαγγέλιον ἐκ τοῦ κατὰ ἰωὰνην. Some cursives read, "Of the (holy) Gospel according to John." The printed texts of the Peschito Syriac have Evangelium sanctum praedicationis Johannis praeconis. The Revisers, with T.R., have placed τὸ κατα ἰωάννην εὐαγγέλιον as their title.
The phrase, "according to," has been thought by some to suggest a type of doctrine or teaching with which the document might be supposed to harmonize, and therefore to set aside the idea of personal authenticity by its very form. This interpretation, seeing it applies to Mark and Luke as well as to John and Matthew, would lose its meaning; for Mark and Luke, by numerous traditionary notices, have been continuously credited, not with having personally set any special type of doctrine before the Church, but as having been respectively the interpreter of Peter or Paul. Consequently the meaning of the phrase compels us to ask whether the word "Gospel" or "Holy Gospel" did in the first instance refer to the book at all. It is not "John's Gospel" that is intended, but the good news or glad tidings of God related by John, of which this and similar titles speak, Moreover, numerous instances occur where the κατὰ is similarly used to denote authorship. Thus "The Pentateuch according to Moses," "The History according to Herodotus," "The Gospel according to Peter," are titles which in every case are meant to suggest the idea of authorship (Godet). We cannot imagine that any other implication was intended by this ancient superscription.
Each of the evangelists starts with a grand "presupposition," or main thesis, of his own, expressed with more or less of explicitness, which it becomes his obvious purpose to sustain.
This main thesis is set forth in the first sentences of each of the synoptists. Thus MARK opened with the memorable words, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God."£ From the first he refers to the prophetic anticipations and historic realization of glad tidings uttered by the Lord, and he based all his teaching on the fact that Jesus Christ was SON OF GOD. MATTHEW, who wished to establish the Lord's special claim to Messiahship, and his official right to the throne of David, began with a genealogical proof of the Lord's descent from David and Abraham. LUKE, who aimed throughout to illustrate the Divine humanity, and to build his narrative on historic facts and chronological data, took up his story with the birth of the Baptist, and, in conjunction with his baptizing of Jesus, presents a lineal genealogy of the supposed father (and probably of the mother) of Jesus, through the line of Nathan to David, thence from David to Abraham, and finally to Adam, the first son of God. In his prologue Luke indicated the biographical use he had made of the material in his hands, and of the personal knowledge he had acquired, and that he aimed to set forth the grounds of security that existed for the things most fully believed by the Church (Luke 1:1-4).
The fourth evangelist was as earnestly set upon giving proof of the Messiahship of Jesus as Matthew was (see John 20:31), and as resolved to emphasize the complete humanity of the Son of God as even Luke himself was (see verse 14, and all the many signs of the Saviour's resemblance to his brethren, and sympathy with their sufferings and joys—John 2:1; John 4:6; John 5:13, John 5:14; John 11:5, John 11:35, etc.). But John had felt more deeply than many of the apostles the effulgence of the Father's glory which gleamed in the face of Jesus Christ. John had heard in the words of Jesus the veritable voice of the living God; "The Word of the Lord ( ὁ λόγος κυρίου) came to him" in the speech ( λαλιά) of Jesus. There was a Divineness about the mission of the Lord which deeply impressed this evangelist—that Jesus had come in a special sense from God, that he was the Giver of eternal life and the Author of eternal salvation, and that he had the "form of God," though in the likeness of men. John's mind revolved all the truth which, long before this prologue or introduction was written, had been proclaimed by Paul and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in every varying phrase. It was in harmony with the whole purpose of his Gospel that he should begin it before the baptism, before the birth, before the conception, of the Lord Jesus; that he should press back in thought to the Divine activity itself—to those ideas of the older revelation which, though not in conflict with the pure monotheism of the Hebrew Scriptures, involved the veritable preparation for the stupendous reality, for the supreme tragedy, for the Divine kingdom which had evolved itself under his very eyes. He looked back into the past, nay, he gazed out of time into eternity; he looked up from the miraculous conception to that holy thing which was conceived in the womb of humanity; he endeavoured to set forth that form of God which could alone become "flesh" and tabernacle among men; and which, though it did this, did not destroy the unity of Deity, but confirmed and established it. He was not slow to reflect on all the methods in which God had ever come near to men, nor could he believe that God Incarnate had never foreshadowed his presence with men, or his manifestation to them, before his own day and hour. When the old man was at Ephesus, many dangerous speculations were rife. Some denied that Christ had ever come in the flesh at all, and said that so Divine a presence as his was no objective reality—was allied to the Docetic "seeming" manifestations made to the patriarchs of the Old Testament. Jesus was to them a theophany, not a living Man. Now, we learn from the First Epistle that such a thesis was, in the opinion of John, the quintessence of antichrist. Others, again, had speculated about the emanations of Deity, until a new mythology was beginning to hover on the borderland between Christendom and heathendom. Essenic and Ebionitic errors had grieved him. At length the moment arrived when the "Son of Thunder," who saw all the glory of the risen Lord, all the majesty of his triumphant reign, uttered these opening words, replying, in every sentence, to one or other of these misconceptions of his Lord's Person. And he proceeded to lay a simple basis deep and strong enough to support the facts upon which the faith of the Church was resting. Men had come veritably to believe that they were children of God, and had been generated as such by the will of God, and, if children, that they were heirs of God through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:16, Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:26). "Grace and truth" were lighting up broken and bewildered hearts when they accepted the reality of the Divine manhood of Jesus, and something better than the mere speculations of the schools of Palestine, Alexandria, or Ephesus was needed in order to explain (as he, the beloved disciple saw it) the mystery of the life of Christ. That which he laid down as the solution of the problem of "the beginning of the Gospel" is called the prologue of this Gospel. Even apart from the inspiration which breathes through it, no passage in literature can be cited which has exercised a more powerful influence upon the thought of the last eighteen hundred years than that which sets forth John's fundamental ideas concerning the essence and character, the idiosyncrasy and the energy, of the Divine fulness which dwelt in Jesus.
The question has been asked—Where does the prologue end? M. Reuss strongly presses the view that tile proem terminated with the fifth verse, and that with the sixth the apostle commenced his historical recital. He urges that there is no break from the sixth to the eighteenth verse; that in this paragraph the author sets forth the general effect of the testimony of the historical Baptist to Jesus; and that, in consequence of it, a limited number of individuals were led to recognize
Some preliminary advantage is thus secured by the critic who seeks to ally this paragraph with the rest of the history, and to impute to the whole Gospel, as well as to the passage in question, the character of a theological or didactic romance. The enormous majority of all scholars, while recognizing new points of departure at verse 6, and again at verses 14-18, do not admit that the evangelist's preliminary representations or presuppositions have come to a pause until he reached the sublime utterance which points so obviously back to verse 1, "No one hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." From the first verse to the eighteenth the evangelist revolves around the fundamental idea of "the Word which was with God and was God." but his aim is to show how the Word came into relations with man, and how man may come into relations with the Godhead through him who was manifested in the flesh in all the fulness of grace and truth.
An obvious method of this author in the Gospel, Epistles, and Apocalypse shows that he was wont to return upon thoughts which he had previously uttered, yet at the same time doing so in fresh cycles and with added meanings (see Introduction). The large spiral of his meditations sweeps at first round the entire region of "all things" which have their centre in the "Word of God:" "All things came into being through him." Then he formally discriminates between "things" and "forces," and especially indicates the relation of "the Word" to the energies and blessedness of the entire universe of sentient and responsible beings which derive all their "life" from the "life that is in him," and their "light" from that "life," indicating, as he proceeds, the presence of the antagonism to the light and life displayed by our imperfect and damaged humanity (verses 1-5). Here the entire testimony of prophecy—gathered up in the person of an historic man, John Baptist,—is broadly characterized, and some conception of the aid which revelation and inspiration have given to men to recognize the light when they see it, and to hear the voice of the Lord God while it speaks. The entire function of prophecy is discriminated from the light force at work in every living man. The special aid given to the holy, prepared, and selected race, by the manner of his self-revelations brings the spiral thought round into the region of the intensified darkness of those who refuse the brightest light (verses 9-11), so that verse 11 corresponds with verse 5. Verses 12, 13 pause in the region of light. Some souls are at least transformed into the light, become conscious of a Divine generation, are born (through faith), independently of all earthly, national, or sacramental means, into the same kind of relation to God that has from eternity been enjoyed by the Word.
At this point a novel revolution of thought is commenced, characterized by more intense brilliancy and efficacity, because revealed in a narrower range of fact. He touches the very focus and centre of Divine manifestation, when he says, "And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us." "The Word" did not become "all things," nor was he identified with life, still less with light. The wide radiance and glorious glancing of the light was not identified with the objects on which through prophetic agencies it alighted. The τὰ ἴδια, the special race of light bearers, were not, even in their highest form of recipiency, incarnations of the Word. Neither conscience, nor prophecy, nor Shechinah glory was of the substance or essence of "the Word," although all the energy of each of these was and is and ever will be the shining of the primal light on humanity.
This is the theory of the writer of this prologue, but his chief contribution to the sum of human thought is that "this Word became flesh." Having announced this stupendous fact, the author relates the evidence of his own personal, living experience; and he records his invincible assent to this unique and central glory of Divine manifestation. This at once leads to a few comprehensive antitheses drawn between the Incarnation and all the most illustrious and luminous of previous revelations. Just as verses 6, 7 revealed the difference between prophecy and the "light of men," so, having come to this focal point of splendour, prophecy again speaks in the person of the Baptist; and verse 15 cites the highest testimony to the supreme rank of the incarnate God above the greatest of the teachers of men. In verse 16 the apostle refers to the Incarnate Word as the Source of all apostolic emotions and life. Through him, and not from the mere teachings of prophecy or conscience, have we all received grace and truth. Then, sweeping back to the grandest epoch-making man and moment of all past history, Moses himself appears to shine only like the light of a waning moon in the advent of the dawn. More than that; neither Adam in Paradise, nor Noah gazing on the averted bow, nor Abraham at Moriah, nor Jacob at Peniel, nor Moses in the cleft of the rock, nor Elijah at Horeb, nor Isaiah in the temple, nor Ezekiel at the river of Chebar, have ever seen, in the sense in which Jesus saw, the face of the Father. The only begotten Son who was with God and was God, and in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him. The entire proem does not cease till it reaches this triumphant peroration. Detailed exegesis of the passage can alone justify this estimate of the significance of the prologue. Different commentators have divided it somewhat differently, and many have drawn too sharp a distinction between the preincarnation life of the Logos, and the historical, theocratic, or ecclesiastical manifestation. Surely that which the eternal Logos was before his manifestation and before the humiliation of the infinite love, he was and must have been during the human life of Jesus, he must be now, and he must ever be. In other words: The Word, who was in the beginning with God, is still "with God." All life is continually the effluence of one of his infinite energies; all light is the effulgence of that bright essence uncreate. He is still coming "to his own," and "they receive him not." The processes described in verses 6-13 have never ceased; nay, they are indeed more conspicuous than they ever were before in the ministry of the Word, but they have not exhausted nor diminished one iota of the stupendous activity of the eternal, creative, revealing Logos.
The first part of the Gospel, consisting of ch. 1-4, we have already described as
I. THE REVELATION OF THE LOGOS TO THE WORLD.
1. The hypothesis framed by the evangelist to account for the series of facts which he is about to narrate is seen especially in John 1:14; but before asserting this great fact that the Word was made flesh, he proceeds to show
In the beginning was the Word. From early times expositors have perceived that the evangelist essayed here a comparison with the ἐν ἀρχῇ ("in the beginning") of the first verse of the Book of Genesis. This can hardly be doubted; but the resemblance immediately ceases or is transformed into an antithesis; for whereas the Mosaic narrative proceeds to indicate the beginning of the creation and of time by saying, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," this passage asserts that the Word then was. He was neither created, nor did he then begin to be. Consequently, there is no reason to gather from this passage the temporal origin of "the Word," or from the first verse of Genesis to argue the eternity of matter. The writer here shows that he was profoundly impressed by the Lord's own self-consciousness which permitted his disciples to believe in a personal Being and glory "before the world was," and "before the foundation of the world" (John 17:5, John 17:24). The idea of existence before the world was is attributed to the Divine (Sophia or) wisdom (Proverbs 8:23 and elsewhere; 1 John 1:1). The same apostle speaks moreover of "that which was ( ἀπ ἀρχῆς) from the beginning," but has been manifested to us. The interpretations which made the ἀρχή mean, with Cyril, the Divine "Father;" the valentinian notion that ἀρχή was a distinct hypothesis, distinct from the Father or from the Logos; Origen's notion that it meant the "Divine Wisdom;" the Socinian view that it referred to "the beginning of the preaching of the gospel;"—are not now seriously maintained. "The beginning of time" launches the mind into the abyss of the eternal now. At that starting point of all creation and all Divine manifestation, "the Word was." It would be difficult to express in human speech more explicitly the idea of eternal existence. In Greek usage and philosophy the term λογοσ sustained the double sense of reason or thought immanent in the supreme Godhead ( λόγος ἐνδιάθετος), and also of "speech" or "word" ( λόγος προφορικός). Attempts have often been made to identify the λόγος of John with the former phase of its meaning common to Plato or Philo, and to find in the prologue the metaphysical speculations of the Alexandrine school—to identify the λόγος with the Philonic conception of the κόσμος νοητικός, with the Divine "idea of all ideas," the archetype of the universe, the personality of God personified, or the Divine self-consciousness. But Philo's entire system of philosophy by which he tried to explain the creation of the world, his theory of the Logos which was abhorrent to and entirely incapable of incarnation, which was based on a thorough going dualism, which was significantly reticent as to the Messianic idea, and knew nothing of the hopes or national anticipations of Israel, was not the source either of John's revelation or nomenclature (see Introduction). The disciple of the Baptist and of Jesus found in Holy Scripture itself both the phraseology and the idea which he here unfolds and applies. The New Testament writers never use the term Logos to denote "reason," or "thought," or "self-consciousness," but always, denote by it "speech," "utterance," or "word"—the forthcoming, the clothing of thought, the manifestation of reason or purpose, but neither the "thought," nor the "reason," nor the "purpose" itself. The term is used here without explanation, as though it would be well understood by its readers. Numerous explanations have been offered in later times, which are far from satisfactory. Thus Beza regarded the term as identical with ὁ λεγόμενος, "the Promised One"—the Personage spoken of by the prophets. This, even with Hofmann's modification of it, viz. "the Word of God, or Gospel, the great theme of which is the personal Christ," breaks to pieces as soon as it is referred to the various predicates which follow, and especially to the statement of verse 14, that "the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled amongst us." Readers of the Old Testament would not forget that, in the record of the creation in Genesis 1:1-31., the epochs of creation are defined eight times by the expression, "And God said." The omnific Word uttered itself in time, and thus called into being "light" and "life" and "all things," and gave birth to man. The record thus preserved is confirmed by the corresponding teaching of the Psalms: "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" (cf. 1 Samuel 3:21; Psalms 33:6; Psalms 107:20; Psalms 148:5; Isaiah 55:10, Isaiah 55:11). Moreover, the Scripture in the Book of Proverbs (8, 9.), Job (Job 28:12), as well as the apocryphal Books of Wisdom, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, had set forth the Divine "wisdom," המָכְחָ, σοφία , with more or less of personification and even personal dignity, answering to the creative energy and resources here attributed to the Logos. From eternity was it brought forth, in the beginning of all God's ways. "The Lord possessed me," Wisdom says, "before his works." In the controversy of the third and fourth centuries the LXX. translation in Proverbs 8:22 of הנָקָ by ἔκτισέ led Arius and others to the idea of the creation of the Logos before all worlds. The vulgate translation, "possessed me," is a far closer approach to the original. The whole of the passage, Proverbs 8:22-27, is in correspondence with the functions and dignity of him who is here described as "in the beginning with God." The Jewish translators and commentators had so thoroughly grasped the idea, that they were accustomed, in their Chaldee paraphrases of the Old Testament, to substitute for the name of the Most High, the phrase Memra-Jah, "The Word of the Lord," as though the Lord, in his activities and energies, and in his relations with the universe and man, could be better understood under the form of this periphrasis than in that which connoted his eternal and absolute Being. The Targum of Onkelos—the oldest, most accurate, and precious of these documents—in numerous places substitutes "the Word of the Lord" for Jehovah, "the Word of Elohim" for Elohim and "the Word of the Lord" for the angel or messenger of Jehovah. Thus in Genesis 7:16 it is said, "The Lord protected Noah by his Word;" John 21:20, "The Word of the Lord was with Ishmael in the wilderness." In Genesis 28:21 Jacob made a covenant that "the Word of the Lord should be his God;" Exodus 19:17, "Moses brought forth the people to meet the Word of God." The term Deburah, which is analogous in meaning to Memra, is also used in the Jerusalem Targum of Numbers 7:89 in a similar sense. The substitution was adopted in the same way by Jonathan ben Uziel, in his paraphrase of Isaiah 63:7 and Malachi 3:1, so that the Jewish mind was thoroughly imbued with this method of portraying the instrument and agent of the Divine revelations, as one savouring of the smallest amount of anthropomorphism, which they were willing to attribute to the Holy One of Israel. Another group of highly important biblical representations of the activity and self-revelation of God consists of the personal "Angel (or Messenger) of Jehovah," who not infrequently appears, even in human form, conversing with the patriarchs, and making covenant with man (see Genesis 32:24, etc.; Exodus 33:12, etc.; Hosea 12:4; Isaiah 63:9; Malachi 3:1 and other places). In some of these passages the Name of Jehovah himself is attributed to his Angel, and the form of Divine manifestation becomes more and more clearly personal. Nevertheless, this Angel appears to stand within, rather than without, the very bosom of the Eternal One. Jehovah does not lose his Name of unapproachable dignity and absolute existence while yet he clothes himself with angelic powers, or even human form, and enters into living and intimate relations with his own people. Kurtz has urged that the numerous references in Old Testament to the "Angel Jehovah," are compatible with the idea of a created spirit, endowed with plenipotentiary functions and titles, and perfectly distinct from the "Logos." The strength of his position is that during the Incarnation and afterwards the New Testament writers still speak of the activity and might of "the Angel of the Lord." But this position is greatly modified by the obvious fact that the Logos did not become depotentiated and limited to the life of Jesus during the thirty years of his earthly manifestation. During the whole of that period, and ever since, the Logos has not ceased to exercise the functions which belong to his eternal glory. It cannot be said that Philo was ignorant of these modes of expression, though in the main he allows the idea of "Word" to pass away from the terra λόγος, and he charged it with a meaning which he found in Platonic and stoical philosophy, and used it, not in the historic or theocratic sense, which was current in the Palestinian schools, but in the metaphysic and speculative sense which enabled him to make the Hebrew Scriptures the vehicle of his ethical system. Word, in the Old Testament and in the Chaldee Paraphrases, represented the nearest possible approach to a definition of the activity and revelations of God; and. that activity is regarded, not as a mere attribute, but as an essential and personal aspect of the Eternal One. In the hands of the Apostle John (unlike Philo's), the Logos was a distinct hypostasis, identifiable with God, and yet in union and relation with him. He was "in the beginning," and therefore before all creation. He did not become. He was not made. He was. As speech answers to the immanent realities of which it is expression, the idea of John in this first verse suggests, though the suggestion does not come into further expression, the "thought" or "reason" which evermore was shaping itself into "word." It would seem as though the apostle had been led to gather together into one teaching the various suggestions of the Old Testament. He realized the significance of the omnific Word. He embodied and improved upon the sapiential philosophy in its conception of Divine Wisdom, of the Brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of his substance; he felt the force and justice of the Hebrew periphrases for God, the only God, in his gracious relations with man; and he was not ignorant of the speculations of the Hellenists who found in this term the phasis of all Divine self-consciousness, and the symbol of pure being in its relation with the universe. In the beginning the Logos was. And the Word (Logos) was with God ( πρὸς τόν θεόν). The preposition is difficult to translate; it is equivalent to "was in relation with God,… stood over against," not in space or time, but eternally and constitutionally. It is more, even, than the παρὰ σοί (John 17:5); for, in addition to the idea of proximity, there is that of "motion towards" involved in πρός. A verb of rest is here combined with a preposition of motion, exactly as in ὤν εἰς τὸν κόλπον of verse 15. In Mark 6:3; Mark 9:19; Matthew 13:36; Matthew 26:55; 1 Corinthians 16:6, 1 Corinthians 16:7; Galatians 1:18 the similar use of πρὸς shows that the idea of intercourse is suggested, and mutual acquaintance, so that the personality of the Logos is therefore strongly forced upon us. The strength and peculiarity of the expression precludes the interpretation of some who see here simply some "intuition in the Divine mind," or that "the Word was eternally in the Divine plan." There is relation between these two, laying the foundations of all ethic in the nature and subsistence of Deity. Righteousness and love are inconceivable perfections of an Eternal Monad. But if within the bosom of God there are affirmations, hypostases in relation with each other, the moral nature of the Eternal is assured. Philo's conception of Logos as "the sum total of all Divine energies made it possible for him to urge that God, so far as he reveals himself, is called Logos, and Logos, so far as he reveals God, is called God" (Meyer). But this falls short of the Johannine thought. The Logos was with the God ( τὸν θεόν)—was in relation with the Supreme and Absolute One, was in eternal communion with him. The notion of "Logos" limited to the mere revelation of the Divine to the universe, or the Mediator or Archangel of the Divine counsels to men, is seen to be insufficient. The πρὸς τὸν θεόν. implies communion as anterior to revelation. And the (Logos) Word was God. Though θεός precedes the verb, yet the disposition of the article shows that it is the predicate, and not the subject, of the sentence. The absence of the article is important. If θεός had been written with the article, then the sentence would have identified the λόγος and θεός, and reduced the distinction expressed in the previous clause to one that is purely modal or subjective. Again, he does not say θεῖος, Divine, which, seeing the lofty dignity of the Logos, would have been a violation of the eternal unity, and have corresponded with the δεύτερος θεός which Philo attributed to the Logos; but he says θεός simply (not θεοῦ, according to Crellius, for which there is no justification)—God in his nature, essence, and kind; God, i.e., as distinct from man, from angel, or from the kosmos itself. Thus the Son is not confounded with the Father, but declared to be of the same οὐσία, the same φύσις. Though with God when God is regarded in all the fulness of his eternal being, he is nevertheless of the same order and kind and substance. Luther translates the passage, "Gott war das Wort," but this translation jars on the sublime symmetry of the whole passage, which is not concerned with definitions of God, but with revelations concerning the Logos.
The same Logos whom the writer has just affirmed to have been God himself, was, though it might seem at first reading to be incompatible with the first or third clause of the first verse, nevertheless in the beginning with God—"in the beginning," and therefore, as we have seen, eternally in relation with God. The previous statements are thus stringently enforced, and, notwithstanding their tendency to diverge, are once more bound into a new, unified, and emphatic utterance. Thus the αὐτός of the following sentences is charged with the sublime fulness of meaning which is involved in the three utterances of John 1:1. The first clause
John 1:3, John 1:4
(2) The creation of all things through the Logos, as the instrument of the eternal counsel and activity of God.
All things ( πάντα, not τὰ πάντα) taken one by one, rather than all things regarded in their totality—"all things," i.e. all beings and elements of things visible or invisible, in heaven, earth, and under the earth (see Colossians 1:16, etc.), came into being through him, through the Logos, who was in the beginning with God, and was God. The Logos is the organ or instrument by which everything, one by one, was made. Two other words are used in the New Testament to denote "creation"— κτίζειν, used in Revelation 4:11 and Colossians 1:16, a word indicating the mind and act of the Creator; and ποιεῖν, which, as in Mark 10:6, points generally to the thing made. The parts of the verb γίγνεσθαι indicate the progress of the work, the process of some creative order, the occurrence of some event in the evolution of Divine providence. This word does not by one solitary expression dogmatically convey the creative act, but the fact of the "becoming," from, it may be, the region of pure thought to that of existence, or from non-observation into prominence, or from an inchoate to a perfect development, or from nothing to something. The context must determine the fulness of its meaning. Occasionally, as in John 8:58, it is powerfully contrasted with existence: "Before Abraham was [had come into being] I am." The context here does not allow us to affirm that St. John repudiated the prior existence of the ὒλη, stuff, of which πάντα were made. He does not affirm nor deny such a prior existency or condition, but by referring the universe in all its parts and items to the Logos, he absolutely ignores the Platonic notion of eternal matter. He could scarcely be ignorant of the speculation as it entered into the Philonic interpretation and formed the basis of the Gnostic speculations which were beginning to infest the early Church. By giving, however, a Divine origin and instrument to the "becoming" of πάντα, and strengthening his statement by the negative coassurance, he absolutely excludes the dualism of Philo and of Gnostic tendency. In asserting that the Logos is he or that through whom all things were made, the writer does not lower the dignity of the Logos by regarding him merely as the ὄργανον of the Father, because the same preposition is used of the relation of the Father to the world or to his servants (Romans 11:36; Galatians 1:1; Hebrews 2:10). Elsewhere St. Paul powerfully affirms the same application of διά (1 Corinthians 8:6) to Christ's part in the Creation, reserving for the One God, the Father, the preposition ἐκ. From God and by or through God are all things, still "all things" derive their existence "through" the activity, the will, the thought, of the Logos. "The sphere contracts as the blessing enlarges [query, 'intensifies']: existence for everything; life for vegetable and animal world; light for men" (Plummer). The same idea is made more explicit by the negative form in which it is restated: and without him—that is, independently of his cooperation and volition (cf. John 15:5)—not even£ one thing came into being. The ὕλη could hardly be spoken of as "one thing," seeing, according to the theory, it was not a unit as opposed to a multiplicity, but the condition of all things. The ἐγένετο would drive harder against any recognition of the ὕλη than would the ἕν. There is not the faintest approach to any supposition on John's part of the existence of such a primeval entity or eternal reality. The γέγονεν gives the student of the text and of the meaning grave difficulty. From very early times the Alexandrine Fathers and numerous uncial manuscripts, and an immense group of quotations and versions, unquestionably close the sentence we have just considered with ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν, and consider the ὅγέγονεν as the subject of the following clause, translating it either, That which has come into being in him was life; or, that which has come into being was (or is) life in him—for one manuscript, א, has rendered the text more grammatical by reading ἔστι instead of ἦν.£ This, adopting the supposed early punctuation, Tregelles and Westcott and Hort have introduced into the text; but R.T. has coincided with T.R. Dr. Westcott has an elaborate note affirming the deep thought involved in the "ancient punctuation," to the effect that the ὅγέγονεν refers, not merely to the original creation, ἐγένετο, but to the continued existence of that which has come into being. Of this, it is said, it derives its life, has its life in the Logos, and that this idea is expressed in a profounder way than by saying ἔχει ζωὴν; that it was life (before it was called into being, or became) in him. This profound and mysterious statement is affirmed by Dr. Moulton and Dr. Westcott to find different but clear expression in Revelation 4:11, "Thou art worthy, our Lord and our God, to receive glory, etc.; for thou didst create all things, and for thy pleasure they were [ ἦσαν, the reading preferred by Tisehendorf (8th edit.) and Westcott and Herr, instead of εἶσι, 'they are'] and were created." Dr. Westcott thinks that "life" here represents "the Divine element in creation, that in virtue of which things 'are' each according to the fulness of its being." What has been created represents the eternal thought, the life that it had in the Logos before the world was. Unless one were compelled to take this thought by the exigencies of the textual criticism, we should hesitate to affirm that this can be the author's intention. To us the common punctuation is far more satisfactory m meaning: Apart from him there came into existence not one thing which has come into existence. This, in its grand comprehensiveness and individualizing of every molecule and every force, brings the mind of the reader down from eternity to time, from the creation to the preservation and providence of the world, and it prepares the way for the great assertion of the following verse.
(a) The Life, and therefore inclusive of the fact that the Logos always has been and now is
(b) the Light of men.
In him was£ life. "Life" in all its fulness of meaning—that grand addition to things which confers upon them all their significance for men. There is one impassable chasm which neither history, nor science, nor philosophy can span, viz. that between nothing and something. The evangelist has found the only possible method of facing it—by the conception of One who from eternity has within himself the potency of the transition. There is another impassable chasm in thought—that between non-living atoms and living energies and individualities. The assertion now is that life, ζωή, with all its manifestations and in all its regions; that the life of plant, tree, and animal, the life of man, of society, and of worlds as such; that the life of the body, soul, and spirit, the life transitory and the life eternal ( ζωὴ αἰώνιος), was in the Logos, "who was God and in the beginning with God." Elsewhere in the Gospel Jesus said that "as the Father had life in himself, so he gave to the Son to have life in himself" (John 5:26); i.e. he communicated to the Son his own Divine self-dependence. The Gospel, however, lays the greatest emphasis on the life-giving powers of the Christ as incarnate Logos. The healing of the impotent man (John 5:1-47.), the raising of the dead Lazarus (John 11:1-57.), are chosen proofs of his life-giving energy. His claim (John 10:1-42.) to retake the life that he would voluntarily relinquish, and the august majesty with which, in his resurrection life (John 20:1-31., 21.), he proclaimed his absolute and final victory over death, constitute the reasons which induced the evangelist to lay down at the very outset that in the Logos was life. Life, in all its energies, past, present, and future, is an outcome, an effluence, of the Eternal Word. And the life was (and is) the light of men. Observe, it is not said here that physical life is a consequence or issue of the solar beam, or of the Word which in the beginning called light out of darkness. All the religious systems of the East and all modern sciences agree to extol and all but worship the light force, with all that seems so inseparably associated with it. The evangelist was reaching after something far more momentous even than that dogma of ancient faith and modern science. He is not speaking of "the light of the sun," but of "the light of men." Whatever this illumination may include, John does not refer it directly to the Logos, but to the life which is "in him." "The light of men" has been differently conceived by expositors. Calvin supposed that the "understanding" was intended—"that the life of men was not of an ordinary description, but was united to the light of understanding," and is that by which man is differentiated from animals. Hengstenberg regards it, in consequence of numerous associations of "light" with "salvation" in Holy Scripture, as equivalent to salvation; Luthardt with "holiness;" and many with the "eternal life," which would introduce great tautology. The context is our best guide. This light is said to be the veritable light which lighteth every man, and to be shining into darkness. Consequently, to make it the complex of all the gracious processes which beautify the renewed soul is to hurry on faster than the apostle, and to anticipate the evolution of his thought. "The light of men" seems to be the faculty or condition, the inward and outward means, by which men know God. "The light of men" is the conscience and reason, the eye of the soul by which the human race comes into contact with truth and right and beauty. The perfections of God answering to these functions of the soul are not, and were never, manifested in mere matter or force. Until we survey the operations of God in life we have no hint of either. The lower forms of life in plant or animal may reveal the wisdom and beneficence and 'beauty of the Logos, and so far some light shines upon man; but even these have never been adequately appreciated until the life of man himself comes into view, then the Divine perfections of righteousness and moral loveliness break upon the eye of the soul. In the life of conscience and reason a higher and more revealing light is made to shine upon man, upon his origin, upon his Divine image, upon his destiny. In the spiritual life which has been superinduced upon the life of the conscience and of the flesh, there is the highest light, the brightest and warmest and most potent rays of the whole spectrum of Divine illumination. "The life" which was in the Logos "was," has always been, is now, will ever be, "the light of men." The plural, "of men" ( τῶν ἀνθρώπων), justifies this larger and sweeping generalization. The two "imperfects" ( ἦν) placing the process in the past do not compel us to limit the operation to the past or ideal sphere. They assert what was "in the beginning," and which can never cease to be; but they partly imply further consequences, which the actual condition of man has introduced.
(3) The antagonism between light and darkness. The highest manifestation and proof of the following statement will be found in that great entrance of the Eternal Logos into human life which will shed the most complete ray of Divine light upon men; but before that great event, during its occurrence, and ever since, i.e. throughout all times and nations, the light shineth in the darkness. Many expositors, like Godet, after long wavering and pondering, resolve this expression into a distinct epitome of the effect of the Incarnation, the highest manifestation of the light in the theanthropic life, and hesitate to see any reference to the shining of the light upon the darkness of humanity or of the heathen world. They do this on the ground that there is no confirmation or illustration of this idea in John's Gospel. However, let the following parallels and expositions of this thought be considered. Our Lord discriminates between those who "hate the light" and "those who do the truth and come to the light" (John 3:21). He delights in those whom the Father has given to him, and who come to him (John 6:37). He speaks of "other sheep which are not of this fold, who hear his voice" (John 10:16). He tells Pilate that "every one who is of the truth heareth my voice "(John 18:37). In solitary address to the Father (John 17:6), he says, "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me." In all these passages abundant hint is given of a direct treatment of souls antecedent to, or rather irrespective of, the special grace of Christ's earthly mani festation. This passage, so far, in the wide embrace of its meaning, asserts that the light here taken as the effluence of the life itself, perpetually, forever, shineth ( φαίνει, not; φωτίζει)—pours forth its radiance by its own essential necessity into the "darkness." "Darkness" and "light" are metaphors for moral conditions. Though there is a "light of men" which is the result of the meeting of man's capacity with Divine revelation, yet, for the most part, there is a terrible antagonism, a fearful negative, a veritable opposition to the light, a blinding of the eye of the soul to the clearest beam of heavenly wisdom, righteousness, and truth. Light has a battle to fight, both with the circumstances and the faculties of men. The ancient light which broke over the childhood of humanity, the brighter beams which fell on consciences irradiated and educated by a thousand ministries, the light which was focused in the incarnate Logos and diffused in all the "entrance of the Divine Word" into the heart of men, have all and always this solemn contingency to encounter—"The light shineth in the darkness." And the darkness apprehended it not. This word translated "apprehended" ( κατέλαβε) has, in New Testament Greek, undoubtedly the sense of "laying hold with evil intent," "overtaking", "suppressing" (Lunge), "overcoming" (Westcott and Moulton); and a fine sense would arise from this passage if it means that, while the light shone into the darkness, it did not scatter it, but, on the other hand, neither did the darkness suppress or absorb and neutralize the light. Certainly the darkness was disastrous, tragical, prolonged, but not triumphant, even m the gloomiest moments of the pre-Incarnation period, even in the darkest hour and place of savage persecution, even in the time of outrage, superstitious impenetrability, or moral collapse. There are, however, two classes of difficulty in this interpretation.
(4) The general manifestation of the revealing Logos.
(a) The prophetic dispensation.
There was a man, sent from ( παρά θεοῦ) God, whose name was John. Observe the contrast between the ἐγένετο of John's appearance and the ἦν of the Logos, between the "man" John sent from God and the ( λογοσ σαρξ εγενετο) "Word became flesh" of verse 14. At this point the evangelist touches on the temporal mission and effulgence of the true Light in the Incarnation; yet this paragraph deals with far more general characteristics and wider ranges of thought than the earthly ministry of Christ on which he is about to enlarge. First of all, he deals with the testimony of John in its widest sense; afterwards he enlarges upon it in its striking detail. Consequently, we think that "the man," "John," is, when first introduced, referred to in his representative character rather than his historical position. The teaching of the prophets and synoptists shows that "John" was rather the exponent of the old covenant than the harbinger of the new. He was the embodiment of the idea of prophet, priest, and ascetic of the patriarchal, Mosaic, and latest Hebraic revelation. He was "more than a prophet." No one greater than he had ever been born of woman, and his functions in these several particulars are strongly impressed upon that disciple who here loses his own individuality in the strength of his Master's teaching. Through this very "man sent from God" the apostle had been prepared to see and personally receive the Logos incarnate. His personality gathered up for our author all that there was in the past of definite revelation, while Jesus filled up all the present and the future. First of all, he treats the mission of the Baptist as representative of all that wonderful past.
This man came (historic, ἦλθε) for witness, that he might bear witness concerning the Light. The entire prophetic dispensation is thus characterized. That which the Baptist did, Malachi, Isaiah, Elijah, Hosea, Moses, had done in their day. He came, and by penetrating insight and burning word, by flashes of moral revelation and intense earnestness, "bare witness concerning the Light" which was ever shining into the darkness. His aim and theirs was to prevent the forces of darkness from suppressing or absorbing the light. He came to sting the apathy and disturb the self-complacency of the darkness. He came to interpret the fact of the Light which was shining but not apprehended; and so did all the prophetic ministry of which he was the latest and most illustrious exponent. He came to assert the meaning for man of all God's perfections; to call conscience from its death sleep; to draw distinctions of tremendous significance between moral and ceremonial obedience; to exalt obedience above sacrifice, and works meet for repentance above Abrahamic privilege; to warn by lurid threatenings of a fiery wrath and a terrible curse which would fall on the disobedient, though consecrated, people. In this he was but the last of a goodly fellowship of prophets who bore witness to the Light of life which had its being in the Eternal Logos of God. He came, as they all had come, with a view of producing results far greater than, as a matter of fact, they have actually achieved. He came to bear such testimony that all through him, i.e. by the force of his appeal or by the fierce glow thus cast upon the perils and follies of the hour, might believe—might realize the full significance of the Light which they had hitherto refused to accept. The greatness of this expectation corresponds with the hope which the ministry of Jesus failed also to realize (Matthew 11:9-14). The splendid ministry of this "burning and shining lamp" might, it would seem, have brought all Israel to acknowledge Christ as the Light of the world; but "the darkness apprehended it not." The entire prophetic dispensation, the testimony which the priestly services and sacrifices bore to the evil of sin and to the awfulness of righteousness, as well as the condemnation of the follies and pleasures of the world, involved in John the Baptist's ascetic profession, might have roused all Israel to believe in the Light. He gathered together all the forces of the Mosaic, prophetic, Levitical, Essenic ministries to bear on the people. Everything that Law could do was done to reveal the Light; but "all" did not believe, for "the darkness apprehended it not."
A solemn warning is given, which forever discriminates the ministry of man from the eternal ministry of the Logos. He (John, and with him all the prophetic, Levitical, ascetic teachers in all ages) was not the Light, but [he was or came] that he might bear witness of the Light. The ἵνα depends upon some unexpressed verbal thought; for even in the passages where it stands alone (John 9:3; John 13:18; John 14:31; John 15:25) the reference is not obscure to some pre-existing or involved verb. The distinction here drawn between John and the Light is thought by some expositors to point to the condition of the Ephesian Church, in the neighbourhood of which there still lingered some who placed John in even a higher position than that accorded to Jesus (Acts 19:3, Acts 19:4); but the teaching of the evangelist is far more comprehensive than this. The Light of men has higher source and wider range of operation than that of any prophetic man. All that he, that any seer whatsoever can do, is to bear witness to it. The prophets, from Moses to John, derived all their power, their sanction, and the corroboration of their message, from the Logos light shining through conscience and blazing through providential events and burning up the stubble of human action with unquenchable fire. The prophets are not the light of God; they are sent to bear witness to it.
(b) The illumination of the archetypal Light before incarnation. There are at least three grammatical translations of this verse. Either
(1) with Meyer, we may give to ἦν the complete sense of existence, presence, and include in it the full predicate of the sentence; thus: "Existing, present (when John commenced his ministry), was the veritable Light which enlighteneth every man coming into the world." But the clause, "coming into the world," would here not only be superfluous, but moreover, while used elsewhere and often of Christ's incarnation, is never used of ordinary birth in the Scriptures, though it is a rabbinical expression.
(a) The light of the reason and conscience—the higher reason, which is the real eye for heavenly light, and the sphere for the operation of grace. This would make the highest intellectual faculty of man a direct effulgence of the archetypal Light, and confirm the poet Wordsworth's definition of conscience as "God's most intimate presence in the world."
(b) The inner light of the mystical writers, and the "common grace" of the Remonstrant theology. Or
(c) the Divine instruction bestowed on every man from the universal manifestation of the Logos life. No man is left without some direct communication of light from the Father of lights. That light may be quenched, the eye of the soul may be blinded, the folly of the world may obscure it as a cloud disperses the direct rays of the sun; but a fundamental fact remains—the veritable Light illumines every man. Then
John 1:10, John 1:11
(c) The twofold effect of the pre-Incarnation activity in the elected nation and individuals. The highest expression of this truth was seen in the unique "coming" of which the evangelist had been the spectator and witness; but the words cannot be limited to it—they stretch back to the beginning of the creation of the world and on to the final consummation. They explain or divide the solemn theme of the previous announcement into two related proofs of the fact that the Light which illumines every man shineth in darkness, and that the darkness apprehendeth it not.
Of him who was evermore coming into the world, it is said, In the world he was, and the world was made (came into being) through him, and the world reco