Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Beginning Revisited: John 1

We finished Romans, which means we need to do two things. The first is to recommend that you re-read Romans and grab yourself a good commentary or study tool for the book. I have not finished all of C. Marvin Pate’s Teach-the-Text Commentary on Romans, but I have no qualms about commending it to you as a study help. I’ll be digging into that whole series later.

The second item is to determine where to go next. I had leapt from Mark to Romans, and now need to go somewhere else. I should have kept the New Testament side of Through the Whole Bible in canonical order, but I didn’t. So, we did a Gospel, now a Pauline Epistle, and we’re going back to a Gospel. We’re going to process John. Actually, I think I’m going to do the Johannine corpus, so we’ll move through John, 1,2,3 John, and Revelation. That’s right. If Revelation doesn’t happen before too much longer, you’ll have to endure a blog on it.

If you were to pull up the trailer for the upcoming movie Thor: The Dark World, you would hear Anthony Hopkins state that

“Some believe that before the world, there was nothing. They’re wrong. There was darkness.”

He goes on from there to follow into a theology that’s a mix of Marvel Comics and Semi-Norse Mythology, so I don’t commend the whole thing for theology. Just for fun. I love a good superhero film.

He is partially right, though. If you look at Scripture, there was a time when God created the Heavens and the Earth (Genesis 1:1-2) and calls light into existence. Then, He separates light from darkness. Darkness shows up quickly in the beginning. I would, however, hazard that darkness is different in this situation than Odin is referencing. I would suggest that the darkness of Genesis 1 is representative of the universe in which God is present, but not actively creating.


Because we revisit the In the Beginning of Genesis 1 when we come to John 1. The words echo: In the Beginning…

Yet we also see a contrast between Genesis and John. In Genesis, In the Beginning, God does something. In John, In the Beginning, the Word simply is. The Word is there, when In the Beginning occurs. The Word is already God when In the Beginning occurs.

The Gospel of John, then, is not truly about origins. In the same way, Genesis is not about origins, either, because the origin of God is not addressed in either. These reflections on In the Beginning are about who God is and what God does—Genesis addressing the latter and John the former.

John, like Genesis, moves quickly to addressing darkness. Genesis gives us the creation of light and the separation of the two. John gives us something more: that the light of Genesis 1 is not an original thought but an echo of something, Someone, greater.

The light is in John 1:4-5. The Light is in Him, the life of mankind. The Light is so great that separating the Light from the darkness is an action of protection for the darkness—not a need for the Light. Not a need for the One, who is the Light that shines in the darkness without the dark even understanding, much less overcoming, Him.

This is the Light. God separates the Light from the darkness because if He didn’t, the Light would utterly destroy the darkness and all that goes with it—which means those men who love the darkness more than the light. Those are the same men from whom God draws, through the Light, to Himself.

How does He do that?

By the greatest verse in John: John 1:14, that the Word put on flesh and dwelt among us. Remembering to see John as he was: a man steeped in the Old Testament, we see that the Word puts on flesh and tabernacles among us, just as God dwelt in the Tabernacle in Exodus.

John opens his explanation of the life of Jesus by showing just how evident Jesus is within the Old Testament. He does so while showing just how clear the philosophical ideas of the Gentile world demonstrate Jesus with his discussions of light, darkness, and the logic of the world, which is referred to in the choice of the word “logos” for Word.

He then goes on to declare how much greater Jesus is because Jesus came down to be among people, to bring humanity back to Him. That is the message of John: how this was shown.

Today’s Nerd Note: John also addresses any identity issues for John the Baptist. First, by identifying John the Baptist he separates the authorship of this Gospel from that John.

Second, he makes clear that John the Baptist was, from the beginning, a supporting character. John had been executed by the Romans, just like Jesus, but it happened first. Was Jesus simply trying to follow John the Baptist? No, John the Gospel-writer posits. Jesus was always more important.

Third, the probably better label for John the Baptist is John, the one who immerses. Just a little pro-credo-baptist observation.

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