John 1: 1-18 – The Prologue (Part I)

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The prologue of John’s gospel has been a subject of vast and deep investigation. The studies are mostly on the origin and structure of the prologue. The reason for this particular orientation of Johannine studies is the use of logos (word) as a title for Jesus in the prologue. The title does not appear in the rest of the gospel. In the whole New Testament further it is so used only in First John 1: 1 and Revelation 19: 13. Hence the question whether prologue is an original Johannine tradition or not? Is the Greek philosophical world vision its origin?

The structure of John 1: 1-18 may be drawn up in the following way.

1: 5                –       Jesus and God
1: 6-8             –       John the witness
1: 9-11           –       Jesus and the world
1: 12-13         –       Result of accepting Jesus
1: 14               –        Jesus and the world
1: 15               –        John the witness
1: 16-18         –        Jesus and God

At the beginning and at the end it presents the relationship of Jesus to God. The witness by John the Baptist is repeated parallel. So too in parallel places the relationship of Jesus to the world is articulated. At the centre is the presentation of the new situation in life resulting from accepting Jesus (being children of God, born through divine power alone). Here we find a major inclusion between verses of John 1: 1-2 and John 1: 18. Both speak about the relationship of Jesus to God.

The elements of the literary form used here belong to a historical narration, with apocalyptic aspects and constituents of faith confession.

The three major thematic concerns are: the relationship between Jesus and God, the relationship between Jesus and the world, and the reaction of the world to Jesus.

The relationship between Jesus and God is presented above all in John 1: 1-2 and 18. “In the beginning” is an expression that reminds us of Genesis 1: 1. It initiates us to the account of new creation that happens through the person of Jesus and hid ministry climaxing in his death and resurrection.

The main theme of the verse is Word (logos). It is the medium for articulating the deep, personal and dynamic relationship between Jesus and the Father.

This usage of ‘Word’ can come from the general influence of the Hellenistic culture but it need not have the semantic content of the Hellenistic culture. So here the word “Word” has a typical Old Testament and Jewish background. The absence of this title for Jesus in the rest of the gospel of John shows that probably this was an existing hymn in favour of the “Word” used in the liturgy of the community but was taken and utilised by the evangelist as an introduction to his gospel. The insertion of the two parts on John the Baptist (Cf. Jn 1: 6-8 and 15) is probably the result of the redaction in of the new function of the text as a prologue, introducing the main characters of the gospel story: Jesus , John the Baptist, the disciples, and the enemies.

So the meaning of “Word” is based on the Word-theology and Sapiential theology of the Old Testament. The “Word” is the inner being of God. It is the crystallisation and interpretation of the being of God. The “Word” is the uttered form of “the wind, breath, or spirit” of God. God created everything through the “Word” (Gen 1: 1f), letting his life overflow in the self-revelatory process.  Logos is the self-gift of the Divine, the self-articulation of the Divine Mystery.

What do you think?