on John 1 :1
In the beginning - That is, before any thing was formed - ere God began the great work of creation. This is the meaning of the word in Genesis 1:1, to which the evangelist evidently alludes. This phrase fully proves, in the mouth of an inspired writer, that Jesus Christ was no part of the creation, as he existed when no part of that existed; and that consequently he is no creature, as all created nature was formed by him: for without him was nothing made that is made, John 1:3. Now, as what was before creation must be eternal, and as what gave being to all things, could not have borrowed or derived its being from any thing, therefore Jesus, who was before all things and who made all things, must necessarily be the Eternal God.
Was the Word - Or, existed the Logos. This term should be left untranslated, for the very same reason why the names Jesus and Christ are left untranslated. The first I consider as proper an apellative of the Savior of the world as I do either of the two last. And as it would be highly improper to say, the Deliverer, the Anointed, instead of Jesus Christ, so I deem it improper to say, the Word, instead of the Logos. But as every appellative of the Savior of the world was descriptive of some excellence in his person, nature, or work, so the epithet Λογος, Logos, which signifies a word spoken, speech, eloquence, doctrine, reason, or the faculty of reasoning, is very properly applied to him, who is the true light which lighteth every man who cometh into the world, John 1:9; who is the fountain of all wisdom; who giveth being, life, light, knowledge, and reason, to all men; who is the grand Source of revelation, who has declared God unto mankind; who spake by the prophets, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, Revelation 19:10; who has illustrated life and immortality by his Gospel, 2 Timothy 1:10; and who has fully made manifest the deep mysteries which lay hidden in the bosom of the invisible God from all eternity, John 1:18.
The apostle does not borrow this mode of speech from the writings of Plato, as some have imagined: he took it from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and from the subsequent style of the ancient Jews. It is true the Platonists make mention of the Logos in this way: - καθ' ὁν, αει οντα, τα γενομενα εγενετο - by whom, eternally existing, all things were made. But as Plato, Pythagoras, Zeno, and others, traveled among the Jews, and conversed with them, it is reasonable to suppose that they borrowed this, with many others of their most important notions and doctrines, from them.
And the Word was God - Or, God was the Logos: therefore no subordinate being, no second to the Most High, but the supreme eternal Jehovah.
on John 1 :1
In the beginning - This expression is used also in Genesis 1:1. John evidently has allusion here to that place, and he means to apply to "the Word" an expression which is there applied "to God." In both places it clearly means before creation, before the world was made, when as yet there was nothing. The meaning is: that the "Word" had an existence before the world was created. This is not spoken of the man Jesus, but of that which "became" a man, or was incarnate, John 1:14. The Hebrews, by expressions like this, commonly denoted eternity. Thus. the eternity of God is described Psalm 90:2; "Before the mountains were brought forth, etc.;" and eternity is commonly expressed by the phrase, before the foundation of the world." Whatever is meant by the term "Word," it is clear that it had an existence before "creation." It is not, then, a "creature" or created being, and must be, therefore, uncreated and eternal. There is only one Being that is uncreated, and Jesus must be therefore divine. Compare the Saviour's own declarations respecting himself in the following places: John 8:58; John 17:5; John 6:62; John 3:13; John 6:46; John 8:14; John 16:28.
Was the Word - Greek, "was the λόγος Logos." This name is given to him who afterward became "flesh," or was incarnate (John 1:14 - that is, to the Messiah. Whatever is meant by it, therefore, is applicable to the Lord Jesus Christ. There have been many opinions about the reason why this name was given to the Son of God. It is unnecessary to repeat those opinions. The opinion which seems most plausible may be expressed as follows:
1. A "word" is that by which we communicate our will; by which we convey our thoughts; or by which we issue commands the medium of communication with others.
2. The Son of God may be called "the Word," because he is the medium by which God promulgates His will and issues His commandments. See Hebrews 1:1-3.
3. This term was in use before the time of John.
(a) It was used in the Aramaic translation of the Old Testament, as, "e. g.," Isaiah 45:12; "I have made the earth, and created man upon it." In the Aramaic it is, "I, 'by my word,' have made," etc. Isaiah 48:13; "mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth." In the Aramaic, "'By my word' I have founded the earth." And so in many other places.
(b) This term was used by the Jews as applicable to the Messiah. In their writings he was commonly known by the term "Mimra" - that is, "Word;" and no small part of the interpositions of God in defense of the Jewish nation were declared to be by "the Word of God." Thus, in their Targum on Deuteronomy 26:17-18, it is said, "Ye have appointed the word of God a king over you this day, that he may be your God."
(c) The term was used by the Jews who were scattered among the Gentiles, and especially those who were conversant with the Greek philosophy.
(d) The term was used by the followers of Plato among the Greeks, to denote the Second Person of the Trinity. The Greek term νοῦς nous or "mind," was commonly given to this second person, but it was said that this nous was "the word" or "reason" of the First Person of the Trinity. The term was therefore extensively in use among the Jews and Gentiles before John wrote his Gospel, and it was certain that it would be applied to the Second Person of the Trinity by Christians. whether converted from Judaism or Paganism. It was important, therefore, that the meaning of the term should be settled by an inspired man, and accordingly John, in the commencement of his Gospel, is at much pains to state clearly what is the true doctrine respecting the λόγος Logos, or Word. It is possible, also, that the doctrines of the Gnostics had begun to spread in the time of John. They were an Oriental sect, and held that the λόγος Logos or "Word" was one of the "Aeones" that had been created, and that this one had been united to the man Jesus. If that doctrine had begun then to prevail, it was of the more importance for John to settle the truth in regard to the rank of the Logos or Word. This he has done in such a way that there need be no doubt about its meaning.
Was with God - This expression denotes friendship or intimacy. Compare Mark 9:19. John affirms that he was "with God" in the beginning - that is, before the world was made. It implies, therefore, that he was partaker of the divine glory; that he was blessed and happy with God. It proves that he was intimately united with the Father, so as to partake of his glory and to be appropriately called by the name God. He has himself explained it. See John 17:5; "And now, O Father, glorify thou we with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." See also John 1:18; "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." See also John 3:13; "The Son of man, which is in heaven." Compare Philippians 2:6-7.
Was God - In the previous phrase John had said that the Word was "with God." Lest it should be supposed that he was a different and inferior being, here John states that "he was God." There is no more unequivocal declaration in the Bible than this, and there could be no stronger proof that the sacred writer meant to affirm that the Son of God was equal with the Father; because:
1. There is no doubt that by the λόγος Logos is meant Jesus Christ.
2. This is not an "attribute" or quality of God, but is a real subsistence, for it is said that the λόγος Logos was made flesh σάρξ sarx - that is, became a human being.
3. There is no variation here in the manuscripts, and critics have observed that the Greek will bear no other construction than what is expressed in our translation - that the Word "was God."
on John 1 :1
1:1 In the beginning - (Referring to Gen 1:1, and Prov 8:23.) When all things began to be made by the Word: in the beginning of heaven and earth, and this whole frame of created beings, the Word existed, without any beginning. He was when all things began to be, whatsoever had a beginning. The Word - So termed Psa 33:6, and frequently by the seventy, and in the Chaldee paraphrase. So that St. John did not borrow this expression from Philo, or any heathen writer. He was not yet named Jesus, or Christ. He is the Word whom the Father begat or spoke from eternity; by whom the Father speaking, maketh all things; who speaketh the Father to us. We have, in John 1:18, both a real description of the Word, and the reason why he is so called. He is the only begotten Son of the Father, who is in the bosom of the Father, and hath declared him. And the Word was with God - Therefore distinct from God the Father. The word rendered with, denotes a perpetual tendency as it were of the Son to the Father, in unity of essence. He was with God alone; because nothing beside God had then any being. And the Word was God - Supreme, eternal, independent. There was no creature, in respect of which he could be styled God in a relative sense. Therefore he is styled so in the absolute sense. The Godhead of the Messiah being clearly revealed in the Old Testament, (Jer 23:7; Hos 1:6; Psa 23:1,) the other evangelists aim at this, to prove that Jesus, a true man, was the Messiah. But when, at length, some from hence began to doubt of his Godhead, then St. John expressly asserted it, and wrote in this book as it were a supplement to the Gospels, as in the Revelation to the prophets.