The Word… in the beginning

Earth When John wrote his famous book almost 2000 years ago, he was writing with a blend of Greek and Hebrew thought.  John himself was a fisherman from Galilee, known as a "Son of Thunder," perhaps meaning that he had quite a temper, though you can't find any evidence of that in the Gospels.  He was a follower of the One God of Israel, Yahweh, the Lord Almighty.  No other gods except the One Lord.  When Jesus grabbed him, he was probably a young man, rough around the edges, devout to a degree in his faith, but struggling to imagine a life beyond the large lake he worked and prayed on everyday. 

But as the years walked on, he came to experience unimaginable wonders and adventures.  Eventually he sat down and began writing down everything he had seen.  But he found that an impossible task.  At the very end of his book, realizing he had only scratched the surface of the story, he wrote, almost understatedly: "Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." (John 21:25 NIV)

He ended his book in wonder about Jesus.  And that's how he started the book.  In complete awe, John wrote this in Greek:

  • Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν λόγος, καὶ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν λόγος.

Here it is in English:

  • "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

The Word was, of course, what John called Jesus.  He was trying to think of a "word" that could sum up who this incredible man was.  Yesterday I mentioned how John's use of "Word" carried a meaning of the ultimate reason and logic behind everything that exists and also the ultimate expression and manifestation of the will of the Creator and Sustainer of all things.  That would be Greek philosophy, a worldview that John became quite adept at understanding.

But, remember, John came from a Hebrew background.  And this "Word" in Hebrew would have carried a whole other dynamic that helps us understand even more about who John claimed Jesus to be. By immediately tying this "Word" with Creation, John was intentionally recalling an essential aspect of Hebrew thought- namely, that God was the Creator, and that God created by using his Word.

Genesis starts: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."  How did God do that?  Well, Genesis 1:3 reads, "And God SAID, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."  Genesis 1:6 reads, "And God SAID, 'Let there be an expanse between the waters."  Genesis 1:9, "And God SAID."  Genesis 1:14, "And God SAID."  Genesis 1:20, "And God SAID."  Genesis 1:24, "And God SAID."  Get it.  God SPOKE all things into being.  God creates according to his WORD.  Psalm 33:6 and 9 read, "By the WORD of the Lord were the heavens made… he spoke, and it came to be." 

In the beginning… was the Word.  

Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

4 thoughts on “The Word… in the beginning

  1. Thanks Peter & Kelly! Great to hear from you guys. Yeah, I’m just using the traditional view… but there is some reputable movement to the idea that perhaps Lazarus is the author of this book. Really interesting possibility that lends some incredible background perhaps to all this. I’m not sold on the idea, but it is really intriguing, and it doesn’t detract at all from the words used. In a way, John 1:1 is perhaps even more powerful if it came from the man Jesus raised from the dead. See, for example: http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2007/01/was-lazarus-beloved-disciple.html

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  2. Simply put I have found the beauty of John 1:1 to be John drawing together the Greek argument of where we received reason/thought and thus know we exist, with the treasured Hebrew proclamation of Genesis 1:1 God’s undeniable authority as the Creator. John does this before layout the life of Christ, the World become flesh.
    This is also very consistent with Philo’s that reason must be used to used to keep scriptural interpretation inline with the revealed character of God. John would have been somewhat familiar with Philo as he was the predominate Jewish philosopher of that time.
    John more then the other gospels seams to bridge the barriers of different schools of thought to unite them in the one important point of who this Jesus Christ and why did he live this life?
    All arguments, reasoning, searching and existence can only find fulfillment in Christ, who is the image of the invisible God. Thus, “In the beginning was the Word”.
    Well the last response was much fuller, but I’m on a getaway with my wife and need to get my focus back to her. Hope we can exchange on this in the future. I have preached on it several times, yet am never happy to believe that I have figured it all out.
    God is Immense,
    Brian N.

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