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John 1:1-13: Creation, Divinity, Salvation


Introductory Observations

The question of the origin of life has fascinated individuals from all walks of life.  On one hand, Christians have long asserted that all life on earth originated from God in the seven day Creation described in Gen 1 and 2, about 6,000 years ago.  On the other, a majority of scientists are convinced that life is the result of a random process of evolution that took many millions of years.  Recently, a number of Christians have tried to bridge the gap between Creation and Evolution asserting that God did create the world but through or in parallel to the process of evolution.

The scientific debate is fascinating.  But beyond it the believer will want to know what the Bible really says about origins and whether it leaves room for theories alternative to the story of Creation.  In this, while Christian philosophers may experiment with different models of origins, biblical scholars, even many who don’t believe in Creation, assert that the way the text of Gen 1 and 2 is structured indicates that the author wanted to convey the message that the world was indeed created in one week.  The text does not allow alternative models.

Equally or even more importantly, is the witness of the rest of Scripture, especially the New Testament (NT).  Scattered throughout are a multitude of explicit and implicit references that testify to a belief in the veracity of the Creation story.  Luke, listing the genealogy of Jesus follows the account of Genesis all the way back to Adam and God: “[Jesus] …the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3: 37-38, ESV throughout).  Paul points back to Adam to explain the importance of salvation in Jesus:  “Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” (Rom 5:14); and “as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22); and “Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim 2:13).  Likewise Jesus lists Abel as the first martyr: “So that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar” (Mt 23:35).  Heb 11:3-34 begins with the Creation story and then lists a multitude of Old Testament heroes assuming throughout that all these stories are true.  References could be multiplied (Mt 13:35; 19:4,5; 25:34; Mark 2:27; 10:6,7-8; 13:19; 16:15; Luke 11:50; John 17:24; Acts 4:24; 10:12; 11:6; 14:15; 17:24,26; Rom 1:20,23,25-27; 4:17; 5:12,17-19; 8:19-22,39; 11:36; 1Cor 6:16; 8:6; 11:8-9; 15:45; 2 Cor 4:6; 5:17; 11:3; Eph 1:4; 3:9: 5:31; to name a few).  To question Creation means not only to question Gen 1&2 but the inspiration and accuracy of all Scripture, something no Christian should venture to.  It is in light of the above that John 1:1-13 is best understood.

John 1:1-13, Creation, Divinity, Salvation

John 1:1-13 is rightly considered a hymn to the divinity of Jesus.  But often overlooked is that this divinity is presented in the context of the Creation story.  Seven elements tie John 1:1-13 to Gen 1-2.

1. John 1:1 begins with the same words as Gen 1:1: en archē, “in the beginning.”  John clearly wants to draw the reader’s attention to Gen 1.  Before everything, Jesus was there.

2. In Gen 1:1 God is the focus of attention: “In the beginning, God…”  So also in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The difference is that while Genesis presents the person of God in summary fashion as one unity, John unwraps this concept to explain that God is composed of at least two persons, the Father whom here he calls “God” and Jesus, the Logos, who is also God.

3. The noun logos, “Word,” used here as a title for Jesus also originates in the Creation story.  The cognate verb legō, “to speak” from which logos derives, appears 11x in Gen 1 (Gen 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,22,24,26,28,29) always in relation to God’s creative acts.  Likewise, logos is elsewhere used in reference to Creation: “By the word [logos] of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Ps 33:6).  By tying Jesus as the Logos, with the logos of God which brought everything into existence, John makes Jesus the acting agent in the work of Creation.

4. John continues his paean to Jesus with a further reference to Creation: “All things were made [egeneto] through him, and without him was not anything made [egeneto] that was made [gegonen]” (John 1:3).   In this one verse, three times John uses forms of the verb ginomai, “to make.”  This very verb is the one used profusely in Gen 1 (23x) of God’s creative acts.  The fact that John clarifies that “all things” were made by Jesus, leaves no room for alternative means of origins for life.  As such the use of the verb ginomai by John further elucidates the concept of Jesus as the acting agent of the work of Creation.

5. John continues, “In him was life [zōē], and that life [zōē] was the light of men” (John 1:4).  The double reference to zōē is not accidental.  In the Creation story God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the “breath of life [pnoēn zōēs]” (Gen 2:7) and Adam became a “living creature [psuchēn zōsan].”  He did not posses life on his own accord but rather received it from God.  When Eve was created Adam named her “Eve” (“life,” zōē in the LXX), because “she was the mother of all living” (Gen 3:20).  The syllogism then runs like this.  All humans owe their life to Eve, since she is the mother of all, and she in turn was created from Adam’s side.  Adam in turned received his life from God.  In that sense, the life of all humans is borrowed from God, the originator of life.  By contrast, Jesus has life in Himself, uncreated and unborrowed, It is His life that was shared with Adam and with all the created order.

6. John declares that Jesus was “the light of men” and that this “light shines in the darkness” (John 1:4b-5).  The contrast between light and darkness again harkens to Creation whereby the light was the first thing God created and the element that dispelled the darkness beginning the process of creation; from darkness to light, from chaos to order.  John takes this motif and gives it a spitirual dimension in the sense that the world in its sinfulness and without God is dark, but the coming of Jesus has began to disperse the darkness and bring order and spiritual beauty.  Just as Jesus brought forth light at Creation to disperse the darkness, likewise He brought spiritual light to disperse the spiritual darkness of sin.  The work of redemption thus is a replication of the work of creation.

7. John has a final reference to the Creation in the concept of sonship that he builds.  Adam was a “son of God” by virtue of Creation (Luke 3:38).  Those who believe in Jesus are also sons and daughters: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).  He then adds that these, “were born, not of blood [aimatōn] nor of the will of the flesh [sarkos], nor of the will of man [andros], but of God” (John 1:13).  All three noted words, blood, flesh, man, appear in the Genesis account.  The blood is a symbol of human origin in God (Gen 9:9).  The flesh points back to the creation of both Adam and Eve (Gen 2:21,23) and more importantly to the divine plan of marriage and procreation instituted in Eden (Gen 2:24, “they shall become one flesh [sarka mian].”  “Man” points back to Adam as the father of all humans and even the source from which Eve was created: “she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man [andros].”  What John is expounding here is that the new birth experience is essentially a repetition of the act of creation but in a spiritual sense and is sourced in God.  Just like humans could not create themselves, likewise sinners cannot recreate themselves.  It takes an act of God to bring the new birth experience to reality and turn sinners into sons and daughters of God.

Synopsis and Synthesis

It is evident from all the above that John, in harmony with other writers in the NT, accepts the Genesis account at face value as a true representation of events as they transpired.  He uses Creation language to define the divinity of Jesus.  God created everything through Jesus, the Logos, who is equal to the Father.  He is the originator of all life.  In that sense John expounds and gives deeper clarity to the origin of life.  John then picks the language of Creation to describe the new creation.  The coming of Jesus brings light that disperses the darkness of sin just like the light created by Jesus at Creation dispersed the darkness enveloping the earth.  And furthermore, just like He gave physical life to Adam, He offers spiritual life to all who believe in a process of recreation through which sinners are transformed into sons and daughters of God.  Without doubt the Creation story plays a central formative role in both John theology and soteriology.

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