In the beginning,
tysarb (breshith). The Evangelist thus
connects the Gospel with the Book of Genesis, and shows that the Author of
the New Creation is one with the Author of the Old Creation. Christus
tam in ipsa fronte Geneseos, quae caput librorum omnium est, non
minus quam in principio Joannis Evangelistae coeli et terrae Conditor
approbatur. (Jerome ii. 507.) St. John's Gospel is the Genesis of
the New Testament. Cp. above, note on Gen. i. 1.
preceding Evangelists, Matthew and Luke, had traced the Genealogy of Christ
to Abraham, and to Adam—St. John declares Him from Everlasting. Epiphan.
is alleged by some," says Chrysostom, "that the words ‘In the beginning’ do
not intimate Eternity; for we read (Gen. i. 1), ‘In the beginning God
created heaven and earth.’ But what is there in common between created
and was? God created the world in time: but the
Word was from eternity. St. John goes back beyond Moses,
and speaks not only of the Creation, but of the Creator." Chrys. Hom.
2; Hom. 5. Hilary, de Trin. ii. Origen, Hom. 2.
begins with the Works made; St. John begins with the Maker of the Works.
The other Evangelists begin with Christ's Incarnation in time; St. John
with His eternal generation. (Chrys.)
in the beginning signifies to exist before all things. (Aug. de Trin.
vi. 2.) The Holy Spirit foresaw that some heretics would argue, that, if
Christ was begotten, therefore there was a time when He did not exist, and
He therefore says, “In the beginning was the Word.” (Basil, Hom. in
princ. Joann. ii. pp. 134-137.)
Arian assertion on this subject may be seen in the words of Arius himself,
cited by S. Athanas. (Orat. I, contr. Arian. § 5, pp. 322-326.) An
answer to the principal objections of the Arians, derived from this
interpretation of Holy Scripture, may be seen in Greg. Nazian. Orat.
xxx. pp. 640-556, and in S. Basil in Eunomium, i. pp. 249-252. 281.
sense of these words, and the final cause of the Incarnation, is well
expressed by Irenaeus (iii. 18. I), the scholar of Polycarp, the
disciple of St. John. "It has been clearly shown, that the WORD existed in
the beginning with God; and that by Him all things were made; and that He
who had been always present with mankind, was, in the last days, according
to the time preordained by the Father, united with His Creature, and became
Man, and capable of suffering; and thus all contradictions of Heresies are
excluded, which say, If Christ was then born, therefore He did not exist
before. For it has been shown, that the Son of God did not then begin to
be, but was always existing with the Father, and that when He was Incarnate
and made Man, He summed up Humanity in Himself, bestowing salvation on us
all, in order that what we had lost in the first Adam—namely, our Creation
in the Image and Likeness of God,—we might recover in Christ." See also
Iren. v. 14.
Prooem. of St. John's Gospel (1-14) was known and admired by ancient Heathen
Philosophers—especially Platonists, see Euseb. P. E. Xl. 18. Cyril
c. Julian. viii. p. 282. Aug. de Civ. Dei x. 29. Wetstein. On
the admiration expressed by later Platonists for this Prologue, see
Bentley on Freethinking, xlvi.
the Word armym
by which the Chaldee Paraphrases, which were read in the Jewish synagogues,
render the name of God (see Bp. Bull on the Nicene Creed, i. 1. 19); e.g.
Ps. cx. 1, "the Lord said
unto His Word," i.e. to Christ And thus, as Bp. Bull
has shown, the LXX had used the term
Cp. Bp. Pearson on the Creed, Art. II. p. 220.
had been previously applied by other Christian Writers to CHRIST,
particularly by St. Paul, in his addresses to the Churches of Asia
(afterwards governed by St. John) and to the Hebrew Christians. See
notes below on Acts xx. 32. Introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians,
p. 277. Tit. i. 3. Heb. iv. 12.
Perhaps also the title “the Word,” had been made more familiar by the
previous publication of St. John’s own Epistles and Apocalypse. See
1 John i. 1. Rev. xix. 13. Hence the name “Word” had been prepared for the
designation of Christ, who has declared God (exhghsato
v. 18) in Creation and Revelation see Iren. iv. 14 (Grabe)
and Bp. Pearson on the Creed, Art. ii. p. 219 and notes; and
Schoettgen, Hor. p. 321, and the remarks of Dr. Jackson on the
Creed, vii. 26; xi. 12 and 47, or vols. vii. 224; x. 219; xi. 402.
Christ is called
by Justin M. Apol. i. 32 ; ii. 6. Tryph. 105, and Athenagoras,
Legat. c. 10:
estin o uiov tou Yeou o logov tou patrov en idea kai energeia prov autou gar
kai di autou panta egeneto, enov ontov tou patrov kai tou uiou, ontov de tou
uiou en patri, kai patrov en uiw enothti kai dunamei pneumatov, nouv kai
logov tou patrov, o uiov tou Yeou.
For the passages of Justin, see below on v. 14. Cp. Theophil.
Ant. ad Autolye. ii. 22. The Word, i.e. the Son; the Word,
the living Word, never separated from the Father. (Origen, in Joann.
tom. i.) Cp. S. Hippolyt. Philosophum. pp. 334, 335. Clement Alex.
Strom. i. 29; ii. 15, Potter. Greg. Naz. p. 554.
an English exposition of this term
with application to the misapprehensions of it by Sabellians,
Arians, and Socinians, see Waterland, Sermon i. vol.~. p.
1-23, and Bp. Andrewes, i. 87-91.
o logov hn prov
the Word was with God. He says
with God, not in: showing the Word's Eternity, and that the
Son was not circumscribed by any limits of space; and that He was without
time, but never without God. (Chrys. Hom. 3. Basil, Hom. in
princ. Joann. Hilary, de Trin. ii) Hence we may refute Sabellius,
who said that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are merely one Person, who
showed Himself in various modes; for the Evangelist clearly distinguishes
between the Person of God the Father and the Person of God the Son. (Theophyl.)
is the Hebrew l. See Schroeder, Syn- : tax.
Hebr. p. 292. Cp. the use of
in Matt. xiii. 56; xxvi. 55. Mark vi 3; ix.19.
Yeov hn o logov]
The Word was God. Being with the Father, the Word was a
different Person from the Father; and being God, He is
coequal with the Father. (Theophyl.) Cp. v. 21, 22; x. 38; xiv.
hn en a. p. t. Yeon]
He was always God with God. (Theophyl. Cp. Aug. Serm. 117-120
di autou] all things, even
ulh, or matter itself, were made by Him:—against
the Peripatetic theory, and the later heresy of Hermogenes. Against also the
Valentinians and other Gnostics, who said that the world was made by the
agency of AEons. (Iren. i. 8. 5.)
Therefore, also, He Himself was from Eternity; and since all things are from
Him, Time itself was made by Him. Hilary (de Trin. ii.). And S.
Ignatius, the disciple of St. John (ad Magnesian. 8), speaks of
Him thus: eiv
Yeov estin, o fanarwsav eauton kia Ihsou Cristou tou uoiu autou, ov estin
autou logov aidiov.
Cp. Bp. Pearson, Vind, Ignat. P. ii, cap. iv. pp. 384-415, ed.
all things were created by Him, He cannot be a creature. Athanas. de
Decret. Nicen. s. 13, who quotes (p. 327), in evidence of Christ's Divinity,
Rev. i. 4. Rom. ix. 5.
Word could not have been made, since all things were made by Him; and
if the Word was not made, He is not a creature; and if not a creature, He is
of one substance with the Father. He did not make the world as an
but as omoousiov
(S. Cyril, who refers to Gen. i. 26. John v. 17; x.38) The Arians,
indeed, say that the World was made by the Word as by an Instrument, as a
door is made by a saw; but this is heretical. Why then did the Evangelist
use the preposition
per. In order that we may not suppose Him to be unbegotten. (Theophyl.)
And if you are disturbed by the preposition
remember the words of the Psalmist, “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid
the foundation of the earth” (Ps. cii. 25), and that the Apostle applies
that Scripture to Christ. (Heb. i. 10) (Origen.)
all things, even Angels, Archangels, Dominions, Principalities and Powers,
were made by Christ, we may infer how great He is, Who made them. (Aug.)
the creative and administrative agency of the
Logos, see Athanas. ad
Gentes, 41, 42, pp. 32, 33, who (p. 36) applies the words of the Psalmist
(xxxiii. 6. 9, “By the WORD of the Lord were the Heavens made”) to Christ;
and cp. Athanas. de Decret, Nic. Syn. § 16, p. 175, and so
Hippolytus, adv. Noet. § 12. See also Waterland's Expositionl of
this Prooem., with special refer- ence to the Gnostic Heresies
confuted by it. (On the Trinity, chap. vi. vol. v. p. 180-185.) Its
antignostic character is unfolded by Irenaeus, iii. 11. 1.
o gegonen. En
autw zwh hn]
This may be pointed thus, with a stop after
was made in Him, was life (Origen); and S. Cyril interprets
it, whatsoever was made, its life was in Him. But this interpretation might
lead to the error of the Manicheans, who say that life is in all things. It
is better to put a stop after ‘that was made,’ and then to say , ‘In Him was
the dogmatic and practical uses of these three verses see Dr. H. Mill's
Sermons at Cambridge, 1848, pp. 1-28.
autw zwh hn]
In Him was life, (zwh
(chayah), ‘vita,' and therefore He is no other than
(Yahovah), Jehovah, and is so called Jer. xxiii. 6; xxxiii.
16. Cp. Luke ii. 9.
skotia auto ou katelaben] the darkness did not
apprehend, surprise, and overwhelm it. Cp. xii. 35,
ina h skotia umas mh
Dr. Waterland (on the Trinity, ch. v. p. 183) supposes that in the
tbere is a protest against the Magian theory of two co-ordinate
principles, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness: cp. Isa. xlv. 7. Cp.
Tatian adv. Graec. I3.
Egeneto] Observe the contrast: John
egeneto; but Christ
v. 1, 2. 4, and see
in v. 4.
a man. To distinguish him from Christ, who is God. (Cyril.)
his name was John, i.e. the Grace of God. See Luke i. 13; and as to
the construction, see below, iii. 1.
Ouk hn] John was a light enlightened, but had not
the enlightening light in himself. (Aug.) See below, v. 35.
9. to fwv
to alhyinon] He was the true Light: the Light not
only of Apostles and Prophets, but also of Angels. (Origen.)
true Light is that light which kindles other lights. Our eyes may be called
lights, lIut in vain are they opened unless there is something to illumine
them, He is the true Light, which makes us see itself and every thing
which enlightens all men, and therefore enlightened John, in
order that he might enlighten others to see Christ. (Aug.) Hence we
may explain what John says below,
of myself) ouk
hdein auton (vv. 31. 33).
man has any being of himself, and no man has any knowledge by himself, and
no man is really enlightened, who is not enlightened by Christ. (Aug.)
Cp. Origen, c. Cels. vi. 5.
Some render this—"the true Light coming into the world, enlightens all."
it is true, that
is specially said of Christ. Matt. xi. 3. Luke vii. 19. See below, iii. 31;
iv. 25; vi. 14; vii. 27. But it seems rather to mean that the Word is “the
Light which enlightens every man coming into the world."
position of the words in the sentence appears to require this rendering; and
S. Cyril, and others of the Fathers, rightly observe that
ercomenon construed with
(to which it stands next in the sentence) unfolds an important truth, viz.
that no one but Christ had any light before coming into the world, and that
all receive light from Him who is the Light of the world. See also Vorst.
de Hebraism. p. 713, who shows that ‘to come into the world’ is a
common Hebrew idiom for ‘to be born.’
En tw kasmw hn] He was in the world, but prior
to it, for the world was made by Him. He was here as God, and came hither
as man. (Aug., Chrys.)
o kosmos di
the world was made by Him. The term World is used in
Scripture in two senses; first, for the universe made by Christ; next, for
those who love the world and worldly things, and have not their heart
in heaven (Aug.); but those who were not of the world knew Christ
even before His Incarnation. Thus Abraham saw his day and was glad. (John
viii. 56.) David in spirit called Him Lord. (Matt. xxii. 43. Cp. Acts
xiii. 22. Chrys. Hom. 7. See also Aug. Serm. 121.)
eis to idia]
to His own, i. e. to the world made by Him, and specially to the
Jews. His own peculiar people. (Cyril, Chrys., Aug.)
Observe the change from the neuter
to the masculine
all the world is His own (idion);
and His own people (oi
idioi) rejected Him.
but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become children of
God, even to them that believe in His name. Much vigilance is therefore
necessary to preserve the divine image formed in us by adoption in Baptism;
and no one can take it from us unless we forfeit it by sin; and God gives
grace to those who desire it, and endeavour earnestly after it; and by the
concurrence of divine grace with human free-will we are sons of God. (Chrys.
oi ouk ex
which were born not of blood, literally of bloods: i. e. of
human comixtures. Man, as distinguished from God or Angels, is called
(basar vedam), flesh and blood. (Cp. Matt. xvi. 17. Gal. i. 16.) He
thus contrasts our old natural birth, with our new spiritual birth, and
reminds us of the care with which we ought to cherish the heavenly gift of
divine grace. (Chrys.)
o logov sarx egeneto]
The Word became flesh; not changed into flesh. But
egeneto is here used as by the LXX in Gen. ii. 7,
egeneto o anyrwpov eiv
fuxhn zwsan,—not that he was changed into a living soul,
but was endued with it.
in the Apocalypse (xix. 11-16) the WORD of God Who is the Faithful and True,
is represented as clad in a vesture dipped in blood,—that is, with a robe of
flesh red with His own Blood which He shed for us. (Origen, tom. ii.)
reference seems to be made to these words by Justin M. c. Tryph. 63.
Cp. Justin M. Apol. i. 32,
o logov sarkopoihyeiv
Apol. Ii. 6,
o uiov tou Yeou, o monov legomenov, kuriwv uiov, o logov pro twn poihmatwn
kai sunwn kai gennwmenov, ote thn archn oi autou panta ektise kai ekosmhse.
Word became flesh; that is, He was not a mere phantasm, as some
Heretics (the Docetae and others) imagine. By this union the Word and the
Flesh became one Person: but the two Natures were not confounded, nor was
the Word changed into Flesh. As our words become voice, by
making themselves to be audible, but our words are not changed into voice;
and as the human soul is united to the body, but is not changed into the
body; so the eternal Word took our flesh, and was united to it, and made
Himself manifest in it, but was not changed into it, or confused with it. (Aug.
Chrys.) Flesh is not become God, though it is now the flesh of God. (Cyril.)
beautiful summary on the manifestations of Christ's Humanity, and also of
His Divinity in One Person, see S. Hippolyt. adv. Noet. § 18, vol.
ii. pp. 19, 20. Cp. S. Cyril Alexandrin. (Epist. p. 137),
orwmen oti duo fuseiv
sunhlyon allhlaiv kay enwsin adiaspaston, asugcutws kai atreptwv h gar sarx
surx esti, kai ou yeothv, ei kai gegone Yeou sarx.
the reasons of the Incarnation see Irenaeus, iii. 20 (Grabe), S.
Athanasius “de Incarnatione,” and S. Anselm, “Cur Deus homo?” and Bp.
Andrewes, i. 87-90.
perverted these words into an occasion of heresy,—affirming that the Word
took human flesh only, and not also a human soul, but that the
Divine Intelligence was to Him instead of a human soul. But flesh is
often used in Scripture for man, consisting of body and soul. (Ps.
lxv. 2. Matt. xxiv. 22. Acts ii. 17. Rom. Iii. 20. I Cor. i. 29. Gal. ii.
16. Theophyl. Aug. c. Arian. cap. 9. Vorst. de Hebr. p.
is also refuted by this Scripture, who said that the Blessed Virgin brought
forth a Man endued with every virtue, and that the Man so born had the
Incarnate Word joined to Himself. And thus Nestorius made two
Sons,—one Jesus, the Son of the Virgin, another the Son of God; whereas the
Evangelist does not say that the Word of God found a holy person, and
united Himself to that person, but that the Word became Flesh and dwelt
in us. (Theophyl.) See the following note.
pitched His Tent or Tabernacle in us: i.e. in our nature.
(ahal), or Nks
(shachan). And since the Tabernacle,
in which God dwelt in the wilderness, is
lha (ohel), therefore the sense is, the
Word made our nature to be the Tabernacle, in which the divine Shechinah
eskhnwse, rested, and showed itself in
wonderful and gracious works. See Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 2394, in v.
(Shechina), "habitatio, in specie dicitur de praesentia, gloria, et
majestate divina aut divinitate, quando dicitur hominibus esse praesens, aut
cum eis conversari, gratia et salutari praesentia adesse."
this is the more appropriate, because the course of the Church through this
present world is often, compared to the pilgrimage of the ancient people of
God through the wilderness of Sina to Canaan, the type of heaven. The
Tabernacle of our Humanity became the Shechinah of Deity. We saw
His glory, the Shechinah of the Divinity, resting on the
Tabernacle of His Humanity; as the Cloud of the Divine Presence rested
on the Tabernacle in the wilderness.
the Feast of the Passover was a type of Christ's Passion, and the
Feast of Pentecost was a figure of the sending of the Holy Ghost, so
the Feast of Tabernacles (skhnophgia)
seems to have been typical of Christ's Incarnation, that mysterious
which He skhnhn
pitched his tent in our flesh
eskhnwsen en hmin.
Perhaps some confirmation may thence arise to the opinion that our Lord's
Birth took place in the autumn, at the Feast of Tabernacles. See Mede’s
Works, i. Dis. 48, p. 266, and above on Luke ii. 8, and below, vii. 2.
Christ pitched not His tent in any particular person already
existing; but in us, i.e. in our nature; and became our Emmanuel,
God with us (Matt. i. 23); God manifest in our flesh (see on 1
Tim. ill. 16). He
in us, as in a Tabernacle. See Amos ix. 11. The Tabernacle of our Nature,
which was broken down, Christ alone could raise up, and did raise up
by dwelling in it. (Chrys.) And thus we see the two Natures,
our Nature and the Nature of the Word, joined in one Person. Hence
the Virgin is called
the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ.
Thus Christ is God, and is reasonable soul and flesh. We confess Christ in
each one of these. By whom was the world made? By Christ in the form of
God. Who was crucified? Christ in the form of a servant. Who was not left
in hell? Christ in His human soul. Who rose again to life? Christ, but in
His human flesh only. In all these acts we acknowledge one Christ. (Aug.
Tract. lxxxiii.) God was made man; what may not then man become, for whom
God was made man? Let this hope comfort us in our tribulations. If you
regard Christ as only God, you refuse the medicine by which you are healed;
if you regard Him as only Man, you deny the divine power by Which you were
made. Receive Him then as both God and Man; God equal with the Father, one
with the Father; and Man born of a Virgin, deriving from our nature
mortality without sin. (Aug. ad loco and Tract. xxxvi.)
Hooker, E. P. v. lii. for an exposition of the doctrine of this
verse, and for a refutation of the various heresies opposed to it, and
Dr. Barrow on the Creed, Serm. xxi. and xxiii. Sermons, vol. iv. p.
482-565, and Bp. Pearson on the Creed, Art. iii.
dwbk (cabod), Majesty, Divinity, all the
attributes of God, especially power and mercy. Col. i. 15. (See
as, does not here signify comparison, but reality, i.e.
what was consonant to, and might be expected from. Chrys. Hom. 11,
in Joh. Glass. Phil. Sacra, p.476. We saw this glory,—specially at
the Transfiguration, cp. 2 Pet. i. 17. The Israelites were not able to look
on the face of Moses, but we saw the glory of the Only-begotten
Son. 1 John i. 1. (Theoph., who quotes Ps. xliv. 3; cp. below, on
2 Cor. iii. 7-18.)
(chesed and emeth), which, as Rosenmuller observes,
describe the greatest love, characteristic of God alone; cp. Rom. vi. 15.
Col. i. 6. 1 Pet. v. 12.