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Gospel of John--High Christology

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1:1 - 18--Prologue


Last week we discussed some of the difficulties in trying to exegete John's use of the word logos. The essential problem is that it was used in so many different contexts in John's day, that we cannot say for certain which context John intended to infer. What is certain, though, is the Christology within the logos statements: in the beginning was Jesus; He was with God, and He was God. It is a theme that will be repeated throughout John's Gospel.


Themes and Repetition


Indeed, John's prologue introduces several themes that are built upon later in the Gospel. Key thematic words that are found in the prologue and expanded upon later: life, light, John (the Baptist), witness, true/truth, world, glory. These are all key words that will find expression as John tells the story of Jesus.


Likewise, the prologue repeats words and phrases, and that repetition draws our attention to key elements. In verses 1 and 2 we find repeated "in the beginning," Word, and God. In verse 3, "made"--all things were made through Jesus, and nothing that has been made was made without Jesus. It's a bit of a clunky verse to say out loud, but the repetition is deliberate. Verses 4 and 5 repeat life, light, and darkness. Verses 7 through 9 repeat witness and testify (two related words), and light. Verses 10 - 12 repeat world, "His own," and receive.


The repetition of these phrases, in such tight literary verses, serves to accentuate the key points John wishes to portray in regards to Jesus: Jesus was in the beginning as the Word, and as the Word enjoys a unique relationship to God (vv. 1 - 2); creation ("made") has a special connection with Jesus (v. 3); in Jesus is both life and light, which is in contrast to the spiritual darkness of the world (vv. 4 - 5); John the Baptist testified to (was a witness to) that light (vv. 6 - 9); though Jesus came into the world, and indeed made the world, the world did not receive Him (10 - 12).




Another unique aspect of John's Prologue is the chiastic structure. A chiasm is a literary structure in which certain themes, or key words, and placed out in a specific, repeated structure, often known as an ABBA structure, or ABCBA structure--in which "A" and "B" contain like words or themes (and "C," when it occurs, is a central statement that is not paralleled). For example, consider the Lord's statement in Isaiah 55:8--"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways." Look again at that statement as sketched like this:


A--For My thoughts
B--are not your thoughts

B--nor are your ways

A--My ways


The "A" statements here belong to God--God's thoughts, God's ways. The "B" statements belong to us--our thoughts, our ways. The sentence is crafted in a chiasmic manner. It starts in a certain place, and ends at that same place (if it helps, think of it as a palindrome). The example above is a chiasm based on specific words; sometimes a chiasm is built on certain themes. Likewise, the above statement is a simple chiasm, but far more complex chiasms exist. Consider the structure of Luke/Acts: the Gospel begins by telling us about the Roman rulers, and ends with Paul in Rome. The Gospel tells of Jesus going through Samaria and Judea; similarly, the Apostles in Acts go through Judea and Samaria. The Gospel ends in Jerusalem, and Acts begins in Jerusalem. And even though Jesus begins in Galilee, it's interesting to note that ancient Jews, and even the New Testament, called it "Galilee of the Gentiles." What Luke has crafted, then, is one giant chiasm:


A--Jesus' birth in the context of the Roman World
B--Jesus in Galilee ("Galilee of the Gentiles")
C--Jesus in Samaria and Judea
D--Jesus in Jerusalem

D--the Apostles in Jerusalem

C--the Apostles in Judea and Samaria

B--the Apostles among the Gentiles

A--Paul travels to Rome


It really is a clever literary device, one that largely seems to have been overlooked by modern authors. In the ancient world, though, the chiasm was a deliberate literary structure. This is all to make the point that John's prologue, in addition to introducing key themes and words, is also itself a large chiasm:


The Logos, God, and Creation (1 - 5)
Witness of John the Baptist (6 - 8)
The Word in the World--negative (9 - 11)
Benefits of Belief (12 - 13)

The Word in the World--positive (14)

Witness of John the Baptist (15)

The Logos, God, and re-Creation (16 - 18)


That's a talented author, right there! And we're going to see more of John's literary talents as we continue through his Gospel.


See you next week!


In Christ,


--Pastor Dan


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January 1, 2018