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John's Prologue

In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.

John’s opening sentence deliberately invokes the beginning of the Jewish Bible the opening words of Genesis “In the beginning,” and then goes on to use language that equates to Jewish thought about Wisdom. (You will surely in the past have been told that this passage is about logos the Greek word used by the stoics and much print is expended on this idea) but actually I think it is unhelpful. John’s purpose was to identify Jesus as one with God, not another God but the same god as the Jews believed in; hence his call to Word or Wisdom who “was alongside God when he drew a circle on the face of the deep.” When he established the heavens I was there.

Words are important – let me give you an example:

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” wrote Robert Herrick in his poem addressed let us say to young ladies.

Gather not pluck, pick, prune, snip or even collect but gather – there is a sense of embracing, of taking into ones arms gently of nurturing maybe.

Rosebuds not you see the full flowered rose but the delicate first appearing curved buds, tinged with the promise of the colour to come –maybe you can see them in your mind’s eye sense the beginning of the unfurling of their tips.

And While ye may and here Herrick introduces his theme of time and the possible eclipse of possibilities as we know that these buds will change and we must take our chance. Not because we can but because we have permission – we may.

Words are powerful and creative writers spend time choosing the ones they need. John in his Gospel personifies the idea of the Word in the same way that Wisdom is personified by the writers of the book of Proverbs and other wisdom literature to be found in the Bible. These writers are grappling to express the questions surrounding creation. Obviously to them and more obviously to us with our knowledge of palaeontology, astronomy and physics the earth had a beginning. It did not always exist; living creatures were not always here. There was a beginning of plant and animal life. Imagining before all that is really difficult but imagining nothing as strongly atheist philosophers would have us do is for most of us impossible. We are constrained to think that there was always something. Furthermore the power that existed before, “before the mountains were brought forth” need be great enough to produce the amazing cosmos, universe, earth, beauty grandeur and importantly the pattern and pulsating energy of all life. From the amoeba to the polar bear and of course to us made in God’s image.

In the beginning was the word, and the word (Wisdom) was God’s self expression – the Word was God’s self revelatory activity from which sprung creation, evolution, and rosebuds. God said let there be light and there was light.

I think that the writers of Proverbs and the prologue of John’s Gospel really capture the essence of the beginning: Wisdom was the first of God’s creations the word was with God. And this is personal – the universe is not founded in nothingness but in the person of God to whom we can relate and who intended us to flourish in this creation in this expression of his love in his word:

“and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always. Rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”


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