It should be noted that studies devoted to an in-depth analysis of sacred gospel passages are useful activities not only for becoming more familiar with the meanings and messages implicit in the passages but also for gaining skills for critical analysis in a literary-historical context. This paper focuses on a theological study of the introduction to John’s Gospel, specifically passages 1:1-18. At first glance, it may seem that the fragment was chosen does not carry any more profound meaning and, on the contrary, merely introduces the reader to the origins of the story of the creation of the world by the forces and will of God. Nevertheless, a closer reading of several versions of the text reveals some critical details, the discussion of which is the central purpose of this analysis. An essential emphasis of the work is to seek out and examine the many interpretations and explanations for the concept of Logos introduced by John in the first sentence.
Interpretations and Explanations
Of principal importance is searching for the meanings that have become the central core of this sacred text fragment. Rather than explicitly treating the passage as an ordinal introduction, this section discusses the diversity of views and assessments in terms of the semantic content of John 1:1-18. For example, Divina (2019) argues that John’s text describes the way of God’s Word, and therefore this fragment was probably not written until after the rest of the chapters were completed. Moreover, the Word/Logos has an eclectic functionality in that it connects the whole world through Jesus Christ, who came to Earth in the flesh. Divina thus attempts to interpret John 1:1-18 not literally, but metaphorically, through the lens of the Messiah’s coming. Similar thoughts can be found when examining rhetorical context analysis: the author of “The Chiasm of John” (2018) limits John’s views to the opposite of how the Antiochian school saw the Bible. In attempting to record the life of Jesus not as a historical event but rather as an extraordinary miracle, John seeks to summarize the results of the Messiah’s influence in poetic language, using chiasms. In this case, light and grace are merely forms of God’s incarnation through the face of Jesus Christ in the world. On the other hand, Donovan (2019) and Taylor (2019) divide the text into fragments and attempt to find individual meanings. Thus, Taylor (2019) saw at least three consistent semantic loads of the prologue, among them the story of the birth of the world, the incarnation of Jesus Christ in flesh and blood, and his functionality for humanity. One who reads this passage will go through all the Messiah’s life stages and miracles just for these verses. A more detailed interpretation is provided by Donovan (2019), who evaluates every verbal element of the prologue. Generally speaking, the author views the story as the transmission of the Word/Logos from God to humanity through Christ.
Analysis and Meaning of the Passage
A consistent rhetorical approach of WH-questions was chosen as the study tool, guaranteeing the most comprehensive and inclusive description of the verses: What, Who, When, Where, Which, Why, and How (Bocci et al., 2020). In particular, reading John 1:1-18, combined with familiarity with various interpretations, clarifies that the passage in question is about Logos. However, it is essential to clarify what Logos is: according to Gaiman (2020), one of the meanings of the term refers to the field of Aristotelian rhetoric, which indicates a desire to convince readers that the author is right. Perhaps there is a connection since by introducing the term Logos into the prologue John raised the expected doubts and questions from readers, of which believers indeed accepted the underlying meaning of the term. In contrast, Duignan (2020) showed Logos as a divine mind hidden in the cosmos’ matter, designed to order the chaos on Earth. Faithlife (2019) perfectly complemented this version by specifying that Logos actually represents the nature and function of Jesus Christ. Consequently, the answer to the second question is Jesus Christ: the Messiah and son of God who came into the world to redeem human sin and Logos’ message.
Meanwhile, the timing and location of events are intriguing questions in the prologue. John writes that in the beginning was the Word/Logos, implying the beginning of absolutely everything. This is the state of the world in which there was nothing yet, and there was everything, namely, before the appearance of light and darkness. Thus, the prologue philosophically refers the reader to the moment of the creation of absolutely everything, which means that looking for a location in this sense seems to be the wrong strategy. The whole world and the planet, in particular, are the prominent locations of action in the prologue. In attempting a qualitative description in the verses, two tendencies are noticeable. First, John associates the Logos with Jesus, which means the term takes on a physical incarnation. On the other hand, Jesus is identical to God and serves him and all humankind. Of some interest is also explaining the origins of the Logos, or, to put it differently, the world’s creation. Although this is a matter of personal philosophical categories, we can assume that the mission of God was the transmission of knowledge and faith through the Logos. Finally, it is necessary to discuss how the integration of Logos into our world was realized. John’s coming described before Jesus is not a light but prepares the world for the Messiah’s witness. Christ Himself, through flesh, grace, and truth, attempts to reach the hearts of believers.
For a thorough discussion of the keywords and, therefore, the hidden meanings of John 1:1-18, it is helpful to divide the entire prologue into five elementary units carrying their meanings. It is essential to say that while all of the units have a non-negotiable necessity for the prologue, some of the fragments are still more valuable. For instance, Donovan (2019) argues that verse 14 is most important, while verses 1-13 are a transition to it, and 15-18 merely repeat the meaning. On the other hand, the first verses answer the fundamental question of how Logos came to be. Generally speaking, the entire prologue can be seen as a looped account of the Logos, in which the initial eleven lines are reflected in the subsequent seven. This rhetorical device confirms John’s poetic and rhetorical nature as the author of the fourth gospel.
John 1:1-2 and 1:18 affirm that in the beginning was “the Word,” and that the Word was “with God”: these categories allow us to determine that Jesus Christ (the Word or Logos) is in indissoluble union with his father and the Creator of the world. Verses 3-5 and 16-17 speak of “everything,” “nothing,” “life,” “light,” and “darkness,” which figuratively gives the Logos the form of light integrating into the chaotic darkness of the world to convey grace and faith. It is interesting to note a particular duality characteristic of the world: there were “everything” and “nothing,” along with “light” and “darkness.” In the next three verses and in verse 15, John wrote about the “witness,” which was John the Baptist, who had come in advance to prepare the world for Jesus. John 1:9-10 and 1:14 address the concepts of “true light” and “peace” as a description of how the Logos in Jesus’ person enlightened people. Finally, verses 11 and 13 refer to “his” and “not accepting” as the historical phenomenon of some Jews not believing in the coming of the Messiah in contrast to those who were able to believe in Jesus.
To summarize, it is important to reiterate that the sacred text under discussion, John 1:1-18, is not unambiguously interpreted but rather serves as a foundation for the emergence of numerous opinions and views. Thus, the discrepancies begin as early as the first words, in which John introduces the unfamiliar concept of Logos. Determining what the Logos in question is has been the subject of much academic work, and while some have seen this as a link to an Aristotelian rhetorical approach, others have sought a more substantive view of the Logos. Hence the term has been given semantic meanings such as divine reason, seeking to order chaos, grace, or the nature of Christ in the flesh. Interpretations of all eighteen verses also diverge: according to various authors, they may be either a literal summary of the Messiah’s way or a story of the transmission of the Logos from God to men. These patterns of explanation may be dictated by the approach to the study of the verses since a generalized view makes it possible to isolate the core of the prologue while addressing the smaller structural units of the story makes possible the emergence of dozens of meanings.
This paper has further shown that John 1:1-18 is a looped work in which the first lines have an affinity for the last. Keyword analysis has been a useful tool in discussing the fuller meaning of the story John the evangelist tells. From this, one can speak of the Logos’ incarnation through the countenance of Jesus to convey knowledge, faith, and God’s grace to all humankind. Finally, the work applied a WH-questions approach, which proved useful in explaining the prologue’s units. The unanswered question is the reason for creating the world and the separation of the Logos from God, but there is hardly an unequivocal conclusion to this discussion.
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Duignan, B. (2020). Logos. Britannica. Web.
Faithlife. (2019). What is logos in the Bible? A short and extended answer. The Logos Bibile. Web.
Gaiman, N. (2020). What is logos? Definition and examples of logos in literature. MasterClass. Web.
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Taylor, G. (2019). In him was life: John 1:1-18. Samford University. Web.