In the Beginning was the Word – Part 1

Too often we either assume or take the words of others concerning various matters as truth without applying proper investigation for ourselves.

1-JohnIn this series I’m calling, “In the Beginning was the Word”, I’m going to break down what I have come to understand concerning John 1:1-18.

This first installment will focus on the first five verses, which I believe to be the foundation of not just the first chapter of John, but the entire book.

The second installment will cover the remaining verses. It appears to me that this opening passage is laid out in a precept upon precept manner, one thing building upon another, therefore it seems logical that we study and receive it in that same manner.

The Foundation of the Book of John

In the beginning was that Word, and that Word was with God, and that Word was God. This same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by it, and without it was made nothing that was made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. And that light shineth in the darkenesse, and the darkenesse comprehended it not. (John 1:1-5 Geneva)

The above passage is taken from the Geneva Bible published in 1587. This predates the more popular King James Version:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:1-5 KJV)

OVERVIEW: First, we’ll be looking intently at the following components, and then putting them all together with refined understanding.

  • In the Beginning
  • The Word
  • With God
  • Was God
  • Made by it/him
  • In it/him was Life
  • The Light of Men
  • The Light Shineth in the Darkness

In the Beginning

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

It seems clear to me that the phrase “In the beginning” at the start of John’s book is referencing the start of Genesis 1. In Hebrew that phrase is “b’reshiyth”, which is the name given to the first book of the Bible we call “Genesis”.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4 KJV)

The Word

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

The Greek word translated in John 1:1 as “Word” is “logos” (G3056). The Greek verb root of “logos” is “lego” (G3004) which means, “to say, to speak according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions.

Logos is often translated as “saying” or “sayings” elsewhere throughout the New Testament, but for some reason is translated here as “word”.

Going forward in this study, I’m going to replace “Word” with “Saying” as I discuss this subject with the intent of hopefully shedding more light on the message John sought to deliver in this passage.

In the beginning was the Saying, and the Saying was with God, and the Saying was God.

If the author’s intent is to draw our attention back to Genesis 1, then what is the Saying he is talking about?

whitelightIn the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4 KJV)

The first Saying we see in the beginning is God calling forth light.

> Article Discrepancy: That vs. The

In the beginning was that Word, and that Word was with God, and that Word was God. (John 1:1 Geneva)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 KJV)

Notice the Geneva translators identified the Word as “that Word” in the opening text of John, whereas the KJV simply says “the Word”. I don’t exactly know why the difference.

According to the Strongs Concordance, the word translated as “the” in the KJV is “ho/he/to” (G3588). Thayer defines it as: 1) the definite article, “the” in its masculine, feminine or neuter gender 2) the demonstrative pronoun (Examples: “this”, “that”, “these”).

Perhaps the Geneva translators felt the need to specify which “word/saying” is being referenced here, particularly the saying used in the beginning.

> The Capitalization of Word

From what I understand the original text was not capitalized, so why did these translators capitalize “Word”?

The basic rules for capitalization in the English language dictate the capitalization of proper nouns. According to GrammarBook.com,

“The main function of capitals is to focus attention on particular elements within any group of people, places, or things. We can speak of a lake in the middle of the country, or we can be more specific and say Lake Michigan, which distinguishes it from every other lake on earth.”

Like I already said it seems to me that the “word” being referenced in this passage is specifically the spoken words used in creation as seen in Genesis 1, perhaps even the very first spoken words when he called forth light. So, I think that is likely the reason for the capitalization.

Some might argue it is capitalized because it is a reference to a person/being, particularly Jesus/Yeshua, but I don’t see that. It’s certainly not identified as such in these first five verses.

The Saying Was With God

In the beginning was the/that Saying, and the/that Saying was with God, and the/that Saying was God. The same was in the beginning with God.

The Greek word translated in verses 1 and 2 as “with” is “pros” (G4314). Thayer defines it as: 1) to the advantage of 2) at, near, by 3) to, towards, with, with regard toPart of Speech: preposition; A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: a strengthened form of G4253 (“pro”, which means “before”.)

Strongs’ Concordance says:

A strengthened form of G4253; a preposition of direction; forward to, that is, toward (with the genitive case the side of, that is, pertaining to; with the dative case by the side of, that is, near to; usually with the accusative case the place, time, occasion, or respect, which is the destination of the relation, that is, whither or for which it is predicated): – about, according to, against, among, at, because of, before, between, ([where-]) by, for, X at thy house, in, for intent, nigh unto, of, which pertain to, that, to (the end that), + together, to ([you]) -ward, unto, with (-in). In compounds it denotes essentially the same applications, namely, motion towards, accession to, or nearness at.

This may be a very minor point, but it has bugged me quite a bit.

The Greek word “pros” (G4314) is used in over 650 verses of the NT, 90 of those verses are in the book of John. Interestingly, the KJV translates this word most often as either “to” or “unto” in this particular book, and only twice as “with” as seen in verses 1-2 of John 1.

I find that strange.

The Saying Was God

In the beginning was the/that Saying, and the/that Saying was with God, and the/that Saying was God. The same was in the beginning with God.

From what I’ve read elsewhere concerning the Greek grammar in this passage, the reference to the Saying being “God” is addressing the generic term “god”, not the specific Being commonly referred to in the Bible as capital “G” God. 

> God in Hebrew vs Greek

In Genesis 1:1 , the Hebrew word translated as God is “elohim” (H430). It is the plural of “eloahh” (H433), which is “probably prolonged from” “el” (H410) according to Brown-Driver-Briggs and Strongs.

“El” means “god, god-like one, mighty one” and does not only apply to capital “G” God, let alone other gods, but it is also used to describe mountains, trees and men (at least I think the last reference below is to men).

Thy righteousness is like the great (“el” H410) mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast. (Psalms 36:6 KJV)

The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly (“el” H410)  cedars. (Psalms 80:10 KJV)

The strong (“el” H410) among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword. (Ezekiel 32:21 KJV)

All three of the Hebrew words are used and most often translated as “God/god” throughout the Old Testament. However, in the Greek Septuagint, the same Greek word is often used in place of all three of these Hebrew words: “theos” (G2316). This is the word that is used in John 1:1.

Given this understanding of both the Greek grammar in verse 1 and the likelihood of the loss in the Hebrew-to-Greek translation, I don’t believe this verse is identifying the Saying as being the same as the God, but rather John is simply identifying the Saying as being god-like or mighty.

Again, many have understood the Word to be referring to Jesus, so it is assumed that this portion of the verse is identifying Jesus as God. Keep in mind, the author never states or even implies such a thing, when we understand what he is saying, precept upon precept. 

(I will address verse 14 in Part 2 after the preceding 13 verses are addressed first.)

Made By It vs. Him

All things were made by it, and without it was made nothing that was made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:3-4 Geneva)

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:3-4 KJV)

Notice there is a discrepancy between the two translations with the pronouns: “it” vs. “him”. The Greek word from which these versions are translated is “autos” (G846). It can be translated as “himself”, “herself”, “themselves” or “itself”; or “he”, “she” or “it”.

In order to know which English pronoun to use, one needs to identify which noun to which the pronoun is referring.

When I read this passage, it seems to me that the noun to which the pronouns are referring is either the Saying or God.

It appears to me that the Geneva translators were referencing “that Saying” in verses 3-4 and understood that Saying to be a thing, hence the use of the pronoun “it”.

However, it seems that the KJV translators understood the noun being referenced was a person, hence the use of the pronoun “him”.

I can understand the use of “him” if John was only generally referring to God in verses 3-4 as “All things were made by him God; and without him God was not any thing made that was made. In him God was life; and the life was the light of men.”

Given the idea that John was initially referring to the Saying from the creation account in Genesis 1 (perhaps even the particular Saying of  “Let there be light”) in his opening statement, my reasoning suggests verses 3-4 is specifically referring to that Saying.

“All things were made by it that Saying; and without it that Saying was not any thing made that was made. In it that Saying was life; and the life was the light of men.”

I personally opt for the translation of “it” over “him”.

But what I can’t go for is the notion of that Saying being a person. That is, without being given further explanation by the author.

In It/Him was Life

In it was life, and that life was the light of men. And that light shineth in the darkenesse, and the darkenesse comprehended it not. (John 1:5 Geneva)

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:5 KJV)

Assuming the pronoun in verse 5 is either referencing that Saying of God or God Himself, I can see how in both, the Saying and God, was life.

The Greek word translated as “life” is “zoe” (G2222) and comes from the verb root “zao” (G2198), which primarily means “to live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead)” according to Thayer.

Whenever God spoke things into existence, they came to exist. God brought life through the power of His Saying, “Let there be…”.

However, I think John is saying something more with this phrase than just God created all living things or that there’s life in the Saying. I think he may be addressing eternal life.

The Light of Men

In it was life, and that life was the light of men. And that light shineth in the darkenesse, and the darkenesse comprehended it not.

As we’ve already stated, the very first Saying brought forth light.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 

This came before the fashioning of the heavens and the land and seas, and all that was in them. In other words, this was the beginning of creation and before the foundations of the world. I will address these terms more in Part 2 of this series.

The Hebrew word “or” (H216) translated as light in Genesis 1:3 comes from the verb root “or” (H215), which means “to be or become light, shine” according to Brown Driver Briggs.

The Greek word used in John 1 is “phos” (G5457) and comes “from an obsolete phao (to shine or make manifest, especially by rays…)” according to Thayer and Strongs.

I think this light, which God called into existence was for all of the creation that follows, to include mankind. It seems to me that this may be why John is referring to this light as the light of men [or mankind].

The Light Shineth in Darkness

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not

The Greek word translated as “shineth” is “phaino” (G5316) and means “to bring forth into the light, cause to shine, shed light; shine” according to Thayer’s Greek definitions.

The Greek word translated here as “comprehended” is “katalambano” (G2638) and means “to lay hold of”. When I read this verse in conjunction with Genesis 1, I see the correlation with Genesis 1:4.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:4 KJV)

Since God divided the light from the darkness, I can see why John would say that the darkness could not lay hold of the light.

In Conclusion

So to me, these opening five verses of John’s book seem to clearly be referencing Genesis 1:1-4.

John is not identifying the Saying to be a person. But rather he is drawing the reader’s attention back to the beginning (“b’reshiyt”, also known as the book of “Genesis”) and addressing the Spoken Word containing life, Let there be Light.

Given my understanding of the first five verses of John, here is my adaptation of the introductory text:

In the beginning was “Let there be light”, and “Let there be light.” was unto God, and “Let there be light” was mighty. This was in the beginning unto God.

All things were made by “Let there be light”; and without “Let there be light” was not any thing made that was made.

In “Let there be light” was life; and the life was the “light” of mankind.

And the light shed light in darkness; and the darkness could not lay hold of it. (My adaptation of John 1:1-5

Having established this, let us move onto Part 2 of the text, John 1:6-18.

[Last edited on 7/2/16]

About Carrie Wigal

Homesteading Wife, Homeschooling Mom and perpetual Bible student, continually taking the road less traveled. (@messyanic)
This entry was posted in 1-Day and Night, Jesus / Yeshua, YHVH Elohim/God. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to In the Beginning was the Word – Part 1

  1. Kay says:

    Very powerful word study! Praising Abba for bringing things to light through your diligence and persistence! HalleluYah! May YHWH bless you and yours this Yom Kippur!

  2. Anson says:

    Upon reading your adaptation, it seems to me that John was simply mirroring the creation account in Genesis 1. Amazing!

    Knowing that the original Hebrew text was not divided into chapters and verses, whenever the Hebrews of Yahshua’s time refer to any passage in Scripture, they would quote a portion, and the one hearing it would know what was being spoken of. And this must have been what John was doing when he opened with the phrase “In the beginning.”

    Great study, Carrie!

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