Friday, January 11, 2019

The Prologue to John

Richard Bauckham on the Prologue to John:

John begins at "the beginning" of everything", the beginning at which Genesis and the whole biblical story began. To let his readers into the secret of who Jesus really is, John thinks it is necessary to begin at the earliest possible beginning, when God the Creator was on the brink of bringing the whole cosmos into being. For anyone who knew Genesis, the identity between the opening words of Genesis and those of John's Gospel ("In the beginning" ) would be obvious and would provide the key to the meaning of the way the prologue continues. Note that Jewish allusions to creation frequently use the words "in the beginning" or "the beginning" in allusion to Gen 1:1. [Masanobu Endo, Creation and Christology: A Study on the Johannine Prologue in the light of Early Jewish Creation Accounts (Mohr Sibeck, 2002), 206-7.]

The first part of the prologue (1:1-5) is set in what we might call primordial time, the time of Genesis 1, while the second part (1:6-18), which begins in the style of OT historical narrative (1:6) is set in historical time and, by featuring John the Baptist (1:6-8,15), connects with the opening section of the gospel story (1:19-34). The first part of the prologue takes the form of a retelling of Gen 1:1-5. See esp. Peder Borgen, "Observations on the Targumic Character of the Prologue of John," and "Logos was the True Light: Contributions to the Interpretation of the Prologue of John", in Logos was the True Light and Other Essays on the Gospel of John, 13-20, 95-110.

Most recent commentators on John have thought that the figure of divine Wisdom, which features in some Jewish literature in connection with creation, has influenced the prologue…but Jewish narratives of creation refer to the word of God considerably more often than they do to the wisdom of God [see the table in Endo, Creation and Christology, 163], while the two are sometimes distinguished and given different roles (God's wisdom devised the plan and his word executed it, 2 En 33:4; Wis 9:1-2]. What John says of the Word in 1:1-4 is  quite sufficiently explained on the basis of Jewish references to the role of God's word in creation, while other alleged similarities to Wisdom ideas in the rest of the prologue are possible but not compelling. We should certainly not make interpretation of the prologue depend upon detecting Wisdom somewhere behind it. “The Trinity and the Gospel of John,” in The Essential Trinity: New Testament Foundations and Practical Relevance, ed. by Brandon D. Crowe and Carl R. Trueman (London: Inter-Varsity Press [Apollos] 2016), 93-94.


  1. I have a question about Phil. 2:9-11. What is the significance of Christ receiving the name above every name since he already possessed by being Divine? I agree that the name above every name is Yahweh and that this is an OT passage about Yahweh being applied to Christ. Since Christ was always Divine is this bestowal of the Divine name mainly symbolic and former rather than something else?

    1. Jesus Christ took on human flesh because of His love for us and submission to God the Father. He did so out of humility. He came down in the manner of a servant. Christ (as a man) is a descendant of King David. Both Christ and David underwent pain, distress, and exile for years before they could be appointed to their rightful positions of authority. It was not until after His death and resurrection that Christ claimed authority above the nations (even though they had already rightfully belonged to Him).

    2. That is what I was thinking aswell. I thought of a coronation of a prince. The prince may already be king but at a moment it could be declared.

    3. At the moment I'll working on something else. I'l try to get back to you on this.

      I knew you also had a question about Galatians a while back, but that was overtaken by other things.

    4. It was about your view of Galatians 3:10-22. That question arose after me sending the paper written by Lee Irons and I wanted to know your thoughts on Tim Gombis' interpretation.

      This one is completely irrelevant but I'd figure I'd share it:

    5. Yes, I think it trades on the royal heir motif. That's a bit anthropomorphic, and the Son qua Son's status is eternal. However, in reference to the Son qua Incarnate, there is development in his status.