In this session we look at the fourth Gospel (sometimes called the ‘Spiritual Gospel’) through the most famous part, the prologue.
But first, what do the Synoptic Gospels say about Jesus’ origin?
- Genealogies of Jesus (Matthew and Luke)
- Mary and the Annunciation
- Travel to Bethlehem
- Birth in a manger
- The Epiphany
- The slaughter of the innocents by King Herod
The Prologue to John’s Gospel:
“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 was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”
What does John say about Jesus’ origin? What are the main themes/elements of this text?
- Not about Jesus as a human being.
- Redolent of Genesis 1 – The Creation story.
- Ironically not a birth story about Jesus but about the world and people.
- Poetic- more evocative than descriptive.
- To-ing and fro-ing: he was this, but was not that, this, but not that.
- Pairs of contrasts: Light and dark; God and the world/flesh; Grace and law and; Jesus and John.
- Implies darkness is a real thing in its own right.
- Series of metaphors –logos and light- before we reach the name Jesus Christ.
- Mysterious, enigmatic, cryptic –
- Yet down to earth story of John (the Baptist) as a witness.
- Implies that Jesus was God a lot more strongly than the Synoptic Gospels. Written for/by a community who cared very much about affirming Jesus’ divinity. This theological development implies it is a later document.