Sunday, June 1, 2014

John 1

Today we start the Gospel of John, or the Gospel According to John, whichever way you prefer it.

The plan is to read and post about a chapter a day throughout June, which should work out fine even building in a couple of days of forgetting or not having time. Because these things happen.

I'm reading John out of my Orthodox Study Bible (because it's my favorite) but all of the portions of text quoted here will come from, using the New King James version of the text since that's what was used in my hard copy Bible.

I think the first verse of John is possibly one that everyone knows if they know anything about the Bible at all.

1:1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John is, as I recall, the most explicit Gospel in putting forth the doctrine of the Trinity. The others are a little more...interpretable, but John is fairly explicit. But we'll get there.

The first five verses of John are highly poetic in their language.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

It does sound very nice, doesn't it? 

We have a mention of John the Baptist (not to be confused with John the Apostle - the one who this Gospel is attributed to) who was sent as a warner and a precursor to the Word (also referred to as the Light) being 'in the world'.

11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

'He' being the Word/Light. I find this interesting, honestly. We all 'know' that Jesus was rejected by the Jewish people.

Only...he wasn't. Not entirely. Where do you think his first followers came from? His disciples? Up until after his death, Jesus actually kept the Gospel from being spread to the gentiles. It's only in Acts (I believe) that the order is changed. So all of the people following Jesus in the Gospels have to be...well...Jews. Was he rejected by the elite? It seems so. The priests and the people in higher society don't seem to have liked him much, generally. But there does seem to have been a significant portion of the population that *did* respond to his message and follow him.

At least until it all went horribly wrong, from their point of view.

The last couple of verses remind people reading that their inclusion in the covenant with God is entirely dependent of Jesus himself. After all, in the Old Testament the only agreement made with God is between Him and the Jewish people. Gentiles and all others need not apply. (Though of course you can convert to Judaism and get in on the covenant that way, but I don't know, historically, how many people took that path. The restriction of lifestyle probably kept all but the very serious from it.)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

The incarnation. Bam. The Word, a thing that proceeds from God and is eternal like God, became flesh. This is the basis of belief in Jesus as the second part of the Trinity. 

If there is only one God, and Jesus is a part of God, then he must still *be* God. Even though he was separate enough to incarnate and act on his own. 

I wonder at the word 'begotten' though. We say that God the Father *begat* God the Son (Jesus) but deny that there was any 'begetting' in the commonly used sense. The definition of 'beget' is as follows:

1. (especially of a male parent) to procreate or generate (offspring).
2. to cause; produce as an effect: a belief that power begets power.
We tend to think of the first definition because of the human aspect of Jesus and the description of God as 'Father'. The anthropomorphic aspects of our language in relationship to God cause us a stumble here. Because how can God *beget* and yet not *beget*? How can God create a Son that is at once Himself and someone else?

This ignores the second definition; 'to cause; to produce as an effect'. If we follow that the Word/Light is a product of God, not Father, not Son, but simply *power* or energy, then it makes more sense. God, being a being of omnipotence, omniscient, eternal and uncreated, speaks. And the Word is so powerful that it has a certain life of it's own. Because it is a part of God. But can that Word have so much life of it's own that it is a separate(but not) Person?

18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

But if Jesus is the Son is the Word is God, then haven't we seen God? Or at least those who were alive at the time have seen God. Because, from what I understand of what I have been taught, the hypostatic union of Jesus God and Jesus Man is eternal and irreversible. So Jesus (Word) has been with God from the beginning. But if, at a specific point in time, he took on a physical body, then does that physical body also belong to him for all time? Was he a physical presence in the Garden of Eden then? 

In John 29 through 42 we learn that Jesus gains his first followers from out of John the Baptists flock. Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist who, believing John's declaration that Jesus was the one he had been speaking about, a greater one than he who had been before John but would also come after (a reference to Jesus being God but also being born after John the Baptist). Andrew goes to his brother, Simon and I have to assume that Simon was also a follower of John the Baptist, given the speed with which he goes with Andrew and is convinced. Simon, of course, becomes Cephas aka Peter. 

At the end of the first chapter of John, Jesus has five followers. Three of which I feel were already followers of John the Baptist. Andrew, the unnamed second disciple of John the Baptist who came with Andrew, Simon Peter, Nathanael and Philip. 

I find myself questioning Nathanael's...gullibility when, from the text, all it takes is Jesus mentioning that Nathanael was under a fig tree for him to believe that Jesus is 'Son of God' (a title applied to several people in the Bible) and 'King of Israel'. After all, Nathanael is friends with Philip who spoke to Jesus before we ran off to tell Nathanael about Jesus. If it was, as the notes in my Bible speculate, their habit to meet under a fig tree, isn't it possible that Philip casually mentioned something along these lines while talking to Jesus? 

Even Jesus seems to be like, 'Really?'

50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe?...
Of course he ends with, if you liked that, you'll love this.
...You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

And that's it for chapter one.


  1. That's funny about Nathanael's gullibility. :)

    I enjoy reading your observations, and look forward to seeing more of them this month. Glad you are posting your thoughts!

    1. It's just a random thought I had, reading it. :) Kind of like if I met someone and said, 'I knew you when you were sitting at the table.' Chances are that person has sat at a table at *some* point in their life. It's not really that impressive a statement, you know?

      The others at least sat and spoke with Jesus before declaring him their leader.

      And did you ever realize that Jesus' first followers came from John the Baptist? Am I the only one who never put that together until now?

  2. I used to live in a mostly international students apartment complex. We were an attraction to Jehovah's Witnesses. One time after knowing I am a Muslim a woman, trying to find a common ground, told me that they also don't believe Jesus is the son of God. I know she was a Christian but I am not sure if she was a Jehovah's Witness or not. My question is who are the Christians who don't believe that Jesus is the son of God? Do other Christians consider them Christians sense this is a big issue in Christianity, right?
    I think the main difference in dogma between Islam and Christianity is this verse from the Quran. "He begets not, nor is He begotten."

    1. There are probably more groups that believe that Jesus is not God, who don't believe in the mainstream Christian doctrine of the Trinity, but the two that come to mind are the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons. And no, most Christians do not consider them to be Christians at all. Since the doctrine of Jesus' divinity is so central to Christianity disbelief automatically takes a person or a group out of it.

      The divinity of Christ is the major point of contention between Islam and Christianity, I agree. If the Muslims are correct, then Christians are engaging in polytheistic worship, taking a human man and turning him into God. If the Trinitarian Christians are right then Muslims are missing out on the one thing that can get them into Heaven.'s kind of a big deal.


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