As we begin our chronological study of the Gospels, it is important to realize that the Gospel story begins long before time when the Logos was with God and was God. John, the Beloved Apostle opens our understanding with a powerful theological declaration that echoes Genesis 1:1 and fills in the person and power of the God Who is Before Time…
En arkhêi (In the Beginning) ên ho lógos, (the Word was) kaì ho lógos ên pròs tòn theón, (and the Word was with God) kaì theòs ên ho lógos. (and God was the word)
NLT: In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Here, beloved, in this verse begins the story of the Gospels. The Word, the eternal expression of the Godhead, is the focus of the story of the Gospels.
Let us look for a moment at Rabbi David Sturn’s exposition on John 1:1 and 2
“1:1a ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ This echoes the first sentence of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Word is not named as such in Genesis but is immediately seen in action: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’” (Gen. 1:3). God expresses himself as commanding, calling, and creating. This expressing, this speaking, this “Word” is God. A God who does not speak, a wordless God, is no God at all. Word, from the Greek logos, corresponds to the Aramaic memra, a technical, theological term used by rabbis in the centuries before and after Yeshua when speaking of God’s expression of himself. Thus the Messiah existed before all creation (cf. 17:5).
1:1b-2 And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.Some qualities of Yochanan (John) that have been considered non-Jewish or of Hellenistic origin in the past are better understood in a Jewish context. One example is its famous use of the Greek term logos: “In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” F. F. Bruce notes, “The term logos was familiar in some Greek philosophical schools,” and “constituted a bridge-word by which people brought up in Greek philosophy…found their way into Johannine Christianity.” At the same time, “The true background to John’s thought and language is found not in Greek philosophy but in Hebrew revelation” (Bruce, The Gospel of John 29). John’s use of logos is rooted in the creation account of Genesis and parallel Jewish discussions of personified wisdom (Pr. 8:22ff.) and of the Aramaic term memra or word. Another example is John’s frequent use of stark contrast, as between light and darkness (1:5ff.; 3:19–21; 12:35–36) or above and below (8:23). As with logos, this usage has been explained in terms of Greek philosophy, which was dualistic, but it actually reflects streams of Second Temple Jewish thought, in particular, the Dead Sea Scrolls.”
Let’s look a little deeper at Logos and then we will circle back
Word Wealth: The Word
(Greek ho logos) (1:1; 1 John 1:1; Rev. 19:13) Strong’s #3056: This Greek word was used to speak of the principle of the universe, even the creative energy that generated the universe. The term logos may also have some connection with the OT presentation of Wisdom as a personification or attribute of God (see Prov. 8). In both the Jewish conception and the Greek, the Logos was associated with the idea of beginnings—the world began through the origination and instrumentality of the Word (Gen. 1:3). John may have had these ideas in mind, but more likely he used this word in a new way to identify the Son of God as divine. He is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), the express image of God’s substance (Heb. 1:3). In the Godhead, the Son functions as the Revealer of God and is God in reality.
John 1:1 is probably the strongest passage in the NT for declaring the deity of Jesus Christ. Because of this, many who deny this biblical doctrine, especially cultists, have attempted to undercut it by arguing that this passage only teaches that Jesus is “a god” and so not fully Deity. This confused position falls on at least two grounds. Such a view is polytheistic, the belief in more than one god. Second, it betrays a misunderstanding of Greek grammar. Verse 1 of the first chapter of John reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The last portion of v. 1 is the major point of contention. It reads in the Greek theos en ho logos, or literally, “the Word was God.” God, or theos, occurs in this verse without the Greek article ho, so that some have contended that the lack of the article in the Greek text should cause the statement to be translated “the Word was a god.” The best understanding for the translation, however, as recognized by Greek scholars, is that since theos is a predicate and precedes the noun logos and a verb, it is natural for it to occur here without the article. Greek scholars are agreed that the verse should be translated as it regularly is in modern and ancient translations, clearly affirming that Jesus is indeed God.
Now we said that John’s use of Logos is rooted in Hebrew revelation, but how so? Let’s look at the 8th Chapter of Proverbs. The entire chapter deals with Wisdom as a personification; Wisdom, like Logos is a personification of God.
8.22: ‘Created me:’ Since ancient times, interpreters have disputed whether the verb “kanah” means “created” or “acquired.” The latter allows for the possibility that wisdom existed from eternity and was coeval with God. Some Christian groups preferred this, since they identified wisdom with the Logos, which was in turn identified with the Christ.
8.23 (me not the rabbis) does appear to suggest that Wisdom was a created being. This, however, is translation dependent, and seems to be a matter of dispute.
8.24: According to Gen. 1.2, the ‘deep’ (the primordial sea) existed before creation began. Wisdom insists that she preceded in existence even this most primordial of entities. ‘I was brought forth:’ This word is usually used of birth. The background metaphor of divine parenthood is reinforced by v. 30.
8.25: The mountains were thought to rest on foundations or on pillars set (miraculously, see Job 38.6) in the abyss or the underworld.
8.27-31: Wisdom declares that she was present when God produced the inhabited world. Compare this with John 1:3, “By Him were all things made and without Him was not anything made that has been made.”
8:22-24brought . . . forth . . . I was given birth. Together, these expressions depict Wisdom’s delivery in primordial time as the Lord’s daughter. In this case, wisdom issues from the very character of God; it is not something created apart from him. And as an attribute of God, wisdom is a characteristic he employed to create the cosmos (see Introduction: Lady Wisdom; see also Col 1:15-20). Consequently, Lady Wisdom has certain knowledge about God’s ways (cf. 30:3-4).
8:22–31 the first of his acts of old (v. 22). The same wisdom that makes this invitation is the wisdom that was present with God when he created the world and established it as a coherent system, for Wisdom (personified) says, I was daily his delight (v. 30; cf. also 3:19–20). The wisdom that enters the lives of the faithful actually enables them to participate in the rationality at the heart of things. This is why the impious are called “foolish” or even “stupid” (12:1); they are self-haters (cf. 8:36). On the question of whether the personification of Wisdom here goes beyond personification and describes an actual person, the Pre-Incarnate 2nd Person of the trinity.
A brief detour into the Introductions of the other gospel accounts…Where John lays a very theological preamble to the Gospels for us, Mark is much more succinct and Luke addresses his to a very specific person:
This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilledamong us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Limited comment on Mark’s Introduction is needed, so I will be brief: Mark’s Gospel account is very fast moving so he does not offer a ton of detail. In his account, we find simply enough information to come to faith in Christ. Luke on the other hand tells us why he wrote and what we can expect to find within his gospel account.
Let’s unpack Luke’s introduction a little more…
Most Excellent TheophilusOn the one hand, this appellation is a little curious but only if you are not familiar with the customs of Ancient Rome. By referring to Theophilus as most excellent, he identifies the reader as an official in the Roman government. In Acts 26:25, Paul refers to the governor Porcius Festus as, Most Excellent Festus. Luke addresses the book of Acts to the same person and given Paul’s appeal to Caesar at the end of Acts, we have the possibility that Theophilus was a Praetor (magistrate) who had become a Christian and now wanted to examine the facts behind his faith.
We know that Luke was a physician that traveled with Paul (Colossians 4:14) but he writes with the skill of both an historian and a lawyer. Luke states that this will be an orderly account and I personally believe that this account was submitted as part of Paul’s legal defense.
Now, circling back to our study of John 1:1
“In the beginning” In these powerful words John tells us that Jesus was before time and by saying God was the Word, John identifies the Jesus as being co-existent and co-eternal with God the Father.
In part two, we will look deeper at the pre-existence of Jesus and His role as creator.