Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Prologue To John

Richard Bauckham on the Prologue to John (Originally cited by Steve Hays):

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.

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