Page images


Examination of John 1: 1—18.



1: 1-18.

By M. Stuart, late Prof. of Sac. Lit. in the Theol. Sem. at Andover.
[Continued from No. XXV. p. 55.]


In the preceding number of this Miscellany, a somewhat extended view was given of what may be said in the way of illustrating the first verse, in this portion of the Gospel of John. The importance and difficulty of the subject required, in order to accomplish my design, a much more copious discussion than is necessary in regard to any particular portion of the remainder of the prologue. The exegetical demands of the text will now be the leading object of our attention; although I do not, in the present case, prescribe to myself the limits which a mere exegesis would impose.

V. 2. Οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν.
The same was in the beginning with God.

The demonstrative ouzos here refers, of course, to the subject immediately preceding, viz. ó λóyos. It was perhaps for the sake of such a reference, that the writer put ó óyos at the close of the preceding verse, and not before . The reason why John adopted the demonstrative pronoun here rather than to repeat the noun which it represents, seems to have been to save the too frequent repetition of o óyos. As the text stands, ouzos represents the 2óyos who was ɛós, and so, in this way, it virtually comprises a repetition of the last clause of v. 1. As to the reason of the repetition itself which is contained in v. 2, I have already stated my views, p. 38 seq. of the preceding Number. The manifest intensity which is indicated by the repetition, denotes earnest opposition to false sentiment. A progress in the development of facts or truths by the addition of new matter, is not made in v. 2. But the intensity of the writer's convictions is represented with additional impetus, in consequence of this verse; and on this account, the declaration which it makes cannot well be viewed as useless, nor as mere tautology.


V. 3. Πάντα δι ̓ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν, ὃ γέγονεν.

All things were made by him, and without him was no one thing made which was made.

Пávra, all things, i. e. the universe. Paul employs the word with the article, τὰ πάντα. The usual philosophic expression is τὸ πᾶν. But návra (without the article) is sometimes employed, as here, by the heathen writers; e. g. Anton. ad se ipsum, 4. 23. What is here designated by πάντα, is named ὁ κόσμος in v. 10 below. Τὰ πάντα has more the aspect of designating the universe, as made up of various constituent parts; while narra has the aspect of unity as a generic whole. It is no wonder that John exchanges it for ó xóoμos below. The Hebrews often made (the earth) the representative of the universe, because in their view, it was the grand constituent of the whole. Thus we have such expressions as "the God of the whole earth;" "the Creator of the ends of the earth," etc. So John, in repeating the sentiment of this verse (in v. 10), says, in accordance with this idiom, that 'the world (ó xóouos) was made by the Logos.' Not, as the Socinians explain it, the spiritual world, i. e. the Christian church; for the world which the Logos made, and in which he was, was a world that knew him not, (v. 10). This of course excludes the idea of its being the new spiritual world, whose characteristic is, to know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.

Ai avrov, by him. The allegation that did before the Gen. designates only an instrumental cause, is not correct. That this is its most frequent usage, is readily conceded. But in Rom. 11: 36, di avtov refers to God himself; and the like in 1 Cor. 1: 9. So in Xen. Mem. I. 2. 14. Cyrop. 1. 4, diá stands before the principal cause. - 'Eyέvero, - Εγένετο, were made; more literally, came into existence, which has the same meaning. For the same sense of yέvero, comp. 1 Cor. 15: 45. Heb. 4: 3. 11: 3. No other meaning is admissible here. The verb singular with the neuter plural, is the usual construction in Greek.

In like manner as John has repeated v. 1 in the next following verse, so here the second clause of v. 3 repeats the sentiment of the first clause in a negative form, and in such a way as to give much intensity to the expression. Xogis avrov, without him, lit. separately or apart from him.'Eyévezo ovde v, lit. (as translated above) no one thing. Some copies read ovdiv, nothing; but the better reading is ovde v. This has a sense more specific and emphatic. With this, some authorities conclude the verse, and join o péyover with what follows. But what tolerable sense would there be in saying: "That which was in him was life?" The internal evidence in favor of the present division of the verse, is sufficiently strong to vouch for its cor



John I. 4.


With John, the repetition of a sentiment in a negative form is of frequent occurrence, see v. 20 belo 1 John 1: 5, 8. 2: 4, 11, al. In the present case, the force of the repetition is so manifest, that every considerate reader is spontaneously inclined to ask: 'To whom does the writer oppose himself? That he has a polemical design, in part, one can hardly refrain from believing. And if so, whose sentiments were in view? A portion of the Gnostics of that time, it is well known, maintained the eternity of van, matter, as being an original chaotic substance. If now we suppose that John's no one thing refers to this exception or limitation which the Gnostics made to the extent of creation, then is the earnestness of the writer's expression natural and easily accounted for. John had before denied the Gnostic views respecting the nature of the Logos, and now he stands again in opposition to them, in respect to what the Logos had done or accomplished. Has not Paul a like reference, in what he says of the creation by Christ in Col. 1: 16? His method of expression certainly appears to favor this supposition.

Such are the generic views which John has given us respecting the condition and nature of the Logos, and of the manner in which he first developed himself. He is eternal; he was with God; he was God; and he created all things without the exception of even one thing in the creation.

V. 4. Ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

In him, iv avre, not through him or by him. As has already been remarked, this expression designates the Logos as the source, the immanent fountain, of life. More fully is this same idea explained, in 5: 26, and 1 John 5: 11.- Zwń, life, without the article and generic. The writer means to designate a life-giving power, which extends to the production of all life whether physical or spiritual. The reader should note the progress of thought. First, we are told what the Logos is; next the highest exhibition of his power, in the creation of the universe, is brought to view. Then follows the mention of some particular, special, and notable developments of his attributes. All life or animation, the highest and noblest quality of created things, is the gift of the Logos. Such is also the course of thought in Gen. 1:1 seq., where the chaotic material is the result of the first creation, and the forming of living creatures comes in the sequel. Doubtless John had his eye upon this. The interpretation which assigns to Con here the meaning of happiness, or author of happiness or of spiritual life, does not reach the full force of the author's meaning. He does indeed com

[ocr errors]

prehend these in his view, but he also comprehends much more. Hence Coon without the article. Had merely the specific idea of happiness or spiritual life been designated, we should of course have expected ἡ ζωή.

Before the second clause, however, we have Son with the article prefixed. But this is merely the normal construction, which demands the article when a noun is immediately repeated. In this form the word is equivalent in meaning to this life, viz. the one just mentioned.

Was the light of men. There is some difficulty here which does not arise, when Christ says that he himself is the light of the world, 8: 12. 9: 5. The meaning of this is plain. But in the present case, the life is said to be the light of men. The design of the writer seems plainly to be, further to characterize or unfold the nature of the life that was in the Logos. Not only was it the source of all life in general, whether physical or moral, but one of its special attributes was, that it was the source of all spiritual light. In calling this light the light of men, the writer gives us sufficient intimation, that he does not mean to have gas taken as designating the natural light, as in 11: 9. But as natural light is essential to all natural life and well-being, so, in like manner, spiritual light is essential to the existence and well-being of spiritual life. John means to say, that the life which was in the Logos, was the source of all divine and spiritual light, of all real wisdom and saving truth. Such is the view which our text presents. From the general idea expressed by Co, he descends to a special but deeply interesting particular fact, viz. that life, in its highest and best sense, is bestowed through the medium of light, i. e. of truth. This accords well with views elsewhere disclosed by him: "This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word is truth." "The truth shall make you free." In other words, all that is truly wise and excellent and good in the world, is to be traced to the light-giving source of life, the Logos who became incarnate.


That the writer still employs the Imperf. tense (v) in this verse, must be attributed to the fact, that he is still speaking of the Logos as he was before the incarnation. It is in v. 6, that he is first brought upon the visible scene of action or of historical development. The Imperfect is therefore appropriately used; for what the Logos was in himself and before the incarnation, is still the subject-matter of the discourse. From this he partially digresses, when he proceeds, in v. 5, to show how the light, which the life-giving source diffused in ancient times, was exhibited, and how it was received by the darkened world into which it then came. I regard it as clear, that v. 5 is to be


John I. 5.


understood of the world of mankind previous to the incarnation of the Logos; for it is in v. 6 that the first intimations are given of the preparation for the coming of the Logos among men, and of development in his earthly stage of action.

V. 5. καί τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

That the light of men designates divine instruction or truth imparted to them, i. e. that the word light has here a moral or spiritual sense, is clear and plain. Of course the word oxoría, darkness, being the opposite of this, indicates a darkened, sinful, and miserable condition. It is men in such a state, that the abstract word darkness characterizes. It should be noted here, that light not only designates truth or knowl edge, but also things or beings which are of a spiritual and holy nature. Thus 1 John 1: 5, "God is light, and in him is no darkness." Christians are called "sons of light," both from their knowledge and holiness. In like manner Eph. 5: 8, "ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." John 3: 19, "Men have loved darkness rather than light." Rom. 13: 12, "To turn from darkness unto light." When God is said to clothe himself with light as with a garment, and to dwell in light inaccessible and full of glory,' it is the moral splendor of his perfections which is designated by these figurative expressions. In the case before us, it is plain that truth and holiness, or holy truth, is presented as struggling with culpable ignorance and sin.-'Ev rỹ oxoría qaive, shineth in or among the darkness. The use of the present tense, in this case, deserves some note. This tense is employed in propositions which are universal, and always true; as "the sun qaívet, shineth,” i. e. has shone, shineth, and will shine. But this case does not fully reach our present difficulty, for the proposition or assertion before us is a limited one, having reference to the past, as the subsequent Aor. xavélaßer clearly indicates. We must refer it then to the historic Present, which is employed when a writer brings before his mind the past, and speaks of it as now present before him. This often takes place, as here, even where it is preceded or followed by Praeterite tenses; as any one may see in a New Testament Grammar. Even classical usage frequently adopts the historic Present, in like cases.

The light of divine truth, then, shone on the world before the incarnation of the Logos; and shone in and through himself, for his lifegiving power was also a light-giving power. All then in the works of creation or of Providence, all that had been given to patriarchs and

« PreviousContinue »