Robertson's Word Pictures of the New TestamentJohn 1:1
- In the beginning (en arxhi).
- Arxh is definite, though anarthrous like our at home, in town, and the similar Hebrew be reshith in Genesis 1:1. But Westcott notes that here John carries our thoughts beyond the beginning of creation in time to eternity. There is no argument here to prove the existence of God any more than in Genesis. It is simply assumed. Either God exists and is the Creator of the universe as scientists like Eddington and Jeans assume or matter is eternal or it has come out of nothing.
- Was (hn).
- Three times in this sentence John uses this imperfect of eimi to be which conveys no idea of origin for God or for the Logos, simply continuous existence. Quite a different verb (egeneto, became) appears in verse 14 for the beginning of the Incarnation of the Logos. See the distinction sharply drawn in 8:58 "before Abraham came (genestai) I am" (eimi, timeless existence).
- The Word (o logov).
- Logov is from legw, old word in Homer to lay by, to collect, to put words side by side, to speak, to express an opinion. Logov is common for reason as well as speech. Heraclitus used it for the principle which controls the universe. The Stoics employed it for the soul of the world (anima mundi) and Marcus Aurelius used spermatikov logov for the generative principle in nature. The Hebrew memra was used in the Targums for the manifestation of God like the Angel of Jehovah and the Wisdom of God in Proverbs 8:23. Dr. J. Rendel Harris thinks that there was a lost wisdom book that combined phrases in Proverbs and in the Wisdom of Solomon which John used for his Prologue (The Origin of the Prologue to St. John, p. 43) which he has undertaken to reproduce. At any rate John's standpoint is that of the Old Testament and not that of the Stoics nor even of Philo who uses the term Logov, but not John's conception of personal pre-existence. The term Logov is applied to Christ only in John 1:1,14; Revelation 19:13; 1 John 1:1 "concerning the Word of life" (an incidental argument for identity of authorship). There is a possible personification of "the Word of God" in Hebrews 4:12. But the personal pre-existence of Christ is taught by Paul (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:17) and in Hebrews 1:2 and in John 17:5. This term suits John's purpose better than sopia (wisdom) and is his answer to the Gnostics who either denied the actual humanity of Christ (Docetic Gnostics) or who separated the aeon Christ from the man Jesus (Cerinthian Gnostics). The pre-existent Logos "became flesh" (sarx egeneto, verse 14) and by this phrase John answered both heresies at once.
- With God (prov ton teon).
- Though existing eternally with God the Logos was in perfect fellowship with God. Prov with the accusative presents a plane of equality and intimacy, face to face with each other. In 1 John 2:1 we have a like use of prov: "We have a Paraclete with the Father" (paraklhton exomen prov ton patera). See proswpon prov proswpon (face to face, 1 Corinthians 13:12), a triple use of prov. There is a papyrus example of prov in this sense to gnwston thv prov allhlouv sunhteiav, "the knowledge of our intimacy with one another" (M.&M., Vocabulary) which answers the claim of Rendel Harris, Origin of Prologue, p. 8) that the use of prov here and in Mark 6:3 is a mere Aramaism. It is not a classic idiom, but this is Koine, not old Attic. In John 17:5 John has para soi the more common idiom.
- And the Word was God (kai teov hn o logov).
- By exact and careful language John denied Sabellianism by not saying o teov hn o logov. That would mean that all of God was expressed in o logov and the terms would be interchangeable, each having the article. The subject is made plain by the article (o logov) and the predicate without it (teov) just as in John 4:24 pneuma o teov can only mean "God is spirit," not "spirit is God." So in 1 John 4:16 o teov agaph estin can only mean "God is love," not "love is God" as a so-called Christian scientist would confusedly say. For the article with the predicate see Robertson, Grammar_, pp. 767f. So in John 1:14 o Logov sarx egeneto, "the Word became flesh," not "the flesh became Word." Luther argues that here John disposes of Arianism also because the Logos was eternally God, fellowship of Father and Son, what Origen called the Eternal Generation of the Son (each necessary to the other). Thus in the Trinity we see personal fellowship on an equality.
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 1:1". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/rwp/view.cgi?book=joh&chapter=001&verse=001>. Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960.