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Gospel for Sunday, January 3: John 1: 1-18

THE PROLOGUE OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

1In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God: 3everything was made through him, and without him nothing was made of all that exists. 4In him was life and life was the light of men; 5the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not welcome it. 6A man came sent from God and his name was John. 7He came as a witness to bear witness to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He was not the light, but he had to bear witness to the light. 9The true light came into the world, the one that illuminates every man. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not recognize him. 11He came among his people, but his own did not welcome him. 12However, to those who welcomed him, he gave power to become children of God: to those who believe in his name, 13who were generated not by blood, nor by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but by God. 14And the Word became flesh and came to live among us; and we saw the glory of him, glory of him as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15John bears witness to him and shouts: «Here is the man of whom I said: He who comes after me has passed before me, because he was before me». 16From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace 17Because the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God: it is precisely the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, that he has revealed.

John 1: 1-18

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

The Prologue is a free rhythmic song. Augustine and Chrysostom point out that it is so high that only divine revelation could express it. And for John, in fact, the symbol of the eagle was chosen.

The Western Church used it as a blessing for the sick, the newly baptized, and at the end of Mass.

There has been much discussion as to whether it had any relationship with the Gospel, whether it was a prelude, a scheme, a summary, or simply a formulation of the kèrigma in Hellenistic terms to win over Greek readers.

It is probably an independent Christological hymn coming from the Johannine community (see other hymns in Phil 2.6-11; Col 1.15-20; Heb 1.2-5; Tim 3.16), adapted to serve as an introduction to the Gospel. But it is of little use to search for the possible primitive form. Brown sees a first series of additions in 12c, 13, 17-18 and a second in verses 6-8 and 15. Bultmann even believes that it would have been a pre-Christian hymn that celebrated the Baptist as Lògos: the author, having become Christian, he reported to Jesus but felt the need to specify the subordinate role of the Baptist.

Structure

Among the various possible structures, we remember the spiral one: each cycle deals with the theme in full, but the subsequent cycles deepen it and specify it better.

But perhaps the chiasmatic structure proposed by Boismard is more stimulating.

The prologue is the song of the Epiphany of God in the Word who comes into the world and returns to the Father, which is the core of the Gospel, as explained in John 16.28-29.

This descent and ascent develop symmetrically in very specific historical moments.

  1. The eternal Lògos is turned towards God: A and A’
  2. The history of salvation takes place within the context of the old alliance (B, C, D) and the new one (B’, C’, D’).
  3. The nucleus is the incarnation of the Word (E – E’), whose purpose is to make us children of God (F).

Here is the scheme (from E. Bianchi):

Eternal Logos with God

A. The Word turned towards God: 1-2

Logos, world and men in the Old Testament

B. All things were created through him: 3

C. The Word is given to men: 4-5

D. A man came sent from God: 6-8

E. The Word came into the world: 9-11

F’. Through the Word we become children of God: 12-13 Eternal Logos in the bosom of the Father

A’. The Son facing the Father: 18

Logos and believers in the N.T.

B’. Everything is received through him: 17

C’. The Word gives to men: 16

D’. John testifies: 15

E’. The Word became flesh: 14

A) In the beginning was the Word, the Word was God and turned towards God (1-2). The Son is now its only exegesis (18).
B) The Logos gives life to all things (3) and now recreates them through grace and truth (17).
C) In the Logos there was life and light (4-5). Now the Son is grace upon grace (16).
D) John the Baptist is a witness to this (6-8 and 15).
E) The Word came into the world but was not welcomed (9-11e 14)
F) To those who welcomed him he gave the power to become children of God (12)

Willeuse distinguishes three moments:

1) Before the exit: the Word was turned towards God.

2) The exit: he descends into darkness, he came into the world, he was in the world, he came among his people, he placed his tent among us.

3) After the exit: Jesus Christ is turned towards the Father.

The text:

1: – in the beginning: clear reference to Genesis, which in Hebrew is called Bereshit (= in the beginning). It is not a temporal beginning, but a causal one: the Word is the principle, the cause of everything.

– The Word was: it is similar to the “I am” of Jesus in the Gospel: the Word has no true origins, it is eternal, being God.

– pros ton theòn:

a) with God, company, or better
b) towards God, relationship.

– it was God: without article. To the Jews, God meant the Heavenly Father. The divine person of the Son is therefore distinguished from that of the Father. Furthermore, “the New Testament addresses the question of Jesus’ divinity not by means of the title (God) but by describing his activities in the same way that it describes the activities of the Father” (Brown).

3: eghèneto: they originated, is used in the LXX in Gen 1 to describe creation.
3b-4: “without him nothing was made of all that came into being. Life was in him.” But the scanning and spiral process would prefer: “without him nothing was done. What he had originated was life.” Perhaps the text was modified because the Arians argued that if there had been a change in Jesus, he could not be equal to the Father. But it can mean that Jesus is the source of life.

The word zoè in John does not indicate natural life (for which psychè is used), but eternal life.

For John the Word is both an efficient and exemplary cause (archetype). And the world, made by the Word, is good (antignostic controversy).

5: the verb katalambànein can mean “to welcome”, but also “to understand”, “to win, to dominate”. Maybe it has multiple values (= absorbed).
6-8: John the Baptist is the witness, the type of all the prophets.
9: the participle “coming” can refer to “light”: “it was the true light coming from the world, which illuminates every man”. Or to “man”: “he was the light that illuminates every man who comes into the world”. But the term “coming into the world” is always used by John to describe the coming of Jesus the light (3.19; 12.46).
11: “among his things”: neutral expression: occurs again in 19 27 where the disciple takes Mary with him. It means “her family, her home, her things dear to her”. How beautiful: we are God’s family!
12: the parallelism makes us identify “welcome” with “believe in his name”. Sons = teknà (see also 11.52). John uses hyòs only for Jesus.
13: – who, in the plural, referring to men, who believe because they are “born of God”. Few manuscripts have the singular, perhaps Christological adaptation to emphasize the virgin birth of Jesus.

– bloods, in the plural: the Greeks thought that the embryo was made from the mother’s blood and the father’s semen.

14: – “flesh (sarx)”: stands for the whole, real, concrete man: “And the Word became history” (Maggioni).

– John tells us that “the Word became flesh and placed his tent (eskènosen) among us” (Jn 1,14), playing on the verb skenào, from skenè, tent, which still recalls the Shekinah, the Presence of God (Ex 40,34-38,1; 1 Kings 8,10f). In the Targumin, Kabòd, Gloria, it becomes a substitute for the Shekinah (Ex 24,15-16; 40,34).

– “among us”: the place of God’s glory is man, now, in Jesus.

– “only begotten”: in itself “of one gender”. Therefore not so much “only son” as yaid, the only precious one, used in Gen 22,2-16 for Isaac.

–  “thanks and truth (chàris and alètheia)”: correspond to hesed, benevolence, and ’emet, faithfulness.

The whole verse therefore, in dynamic equivalence, would be better translated: “And the Word became history and placed the Presence of God in us, and we saw the Presence of God, Presence in the person of the only and precious Son, full of benevolence and of fidelity.”

15: “bears witness”: historical present
16: – “fullness (pleroma)”: cf. Col 1,19: “It pleased God to make all fullness dwell in him”.

– “anti”: “in place of”:

a) love the place of love: substitution. The new one replaced the first one;
b) grace after grace: accumulation (but normally it would be epi);
c) grace for grace: correspondence.

Our grace is that of the Word. As our inheritance and our part, as our grace we have been touched by the Whole (pleroma), Grace, God himself!

18: three textual testimonies:
a) (ho) monoghènes Theòs: the only begotten God. It is in the best manuscripts;
b) (ho) monoghènes Hyiòs: the only begotten Son;
c) monoghenes: the only begotten.

Exegesis

The Prologue announces John’s three-dimensional theology: revelation – faith – salvation.

In particular

The revealing Word

The word of God (Dabar IHWH) is seen as a person in Is 55.10-11 and Wis 18.15-16.

It is creative power in Ps 33,6-9 and in Ps 147,15,18-19, in Wis 9,1 and Sir 42,15.

It is identified with the Torah (Law) in Ps 119; 78.10; Is 1,10; 2.3…

She is identified with Wisdom (Kokmah).

Such Wisdom:

a) it is with God before creation (Wis 9,4.9; Prov 8,22-23.30; Sir 24,3f…);
b) she is the mediator of creation (Wis 9.1-2.9; 7.21.26; Prov 3.19-20; 8.26-30):
c) she came to earth (Prov 8,31; Wis 7,22,27; 9,10; Sir 24,8-11; Enoch 42,2);
d) she is the bringer of benefits to men (Sir 24.20; Prov 8.35; 9; 5…).

These concepts are even more evident in the Targum: the Memrà (= “Word” in Aramaic) has a creative, but above all revealing, function. We read in the Targum Neophiti on Ex 12,42: “The first night… the Memrah of God was a shining light”; the same in the Targum Jerushalaim.

Genesis Rabba 1.3 notes that “light” appears five times in Gen 1.3-5, just as there are five books of the Torah.

It is the Memrah of God that reveals and saves (see Targum Jerushalaim on Dt 32,39 and Targum Neophiti on Lv 22,23).

Thus it is underlined that the law was before the world (Genesis Rabba 1,4), it was life (Targum Neophiti on Gen 3,2), it was light (Sifre on Nm 6,25; Testament of Levi 14,4; Dt Rabba 7.3), she is the only begotten daughter of God (Exodus of Rabba 33.1), she is in the bosom of God (Rabbi Elezer ben Jose, Midrash to Ps 90.3).

The revelatory incarnation

John’s “scandal” is that the Word of God, the Torah, Wisdom (already identifiable among themselves in the Old Testament) has become a historical man, Jesus of Nazareth: the Shekinah has placed her tent in the visible body of Jesus.

God made history: whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (12.45; 14.9)! It is the most shocking message in history, which challenges us to respond. Who is Jesus for me? Do I accept it? Do I believe in him? Is he the friend who talks to me?

Is it my way, truth, life? Do I love Jesus? Am I looking for it? Is it my everything, my only thought, the purpose of my life? Do I know that only he “who is in the bosom of the Father” (v. 18) can reveal the Father to me?

We needed Giovanni! The God we sought so much in the Old Testament has now revealed himself in a man who walks with us, his Son Jesus Christ! Theology becomes Christology! Amazed, we worship this man, this brother of ours, who we have discovered to be the Shekinah of God among us. In him God lives with us, we become “his things” (v. 11), God’s family, even his children (v. 12).

All that remains for us is to welcome him, believing in his name (v. 12).

Salvation

Some theologians, such as Gustave Martelet, underline that the Incarnation, more than a redemptive – reparative sense, has a meaning of completion of the creational plan. God, Love, wanting to have a partner in Love, creates man and the cosmos, but he must create something other than himself. And if God is infinite man will be finite, if God is eternal man will be mortal, if God is immense man will be limited.

And this is why, notes Martelet, that death was already in the world before the appearance of the first man and therefore of sin: just think of the extinction of certain species, such as the dinosaurs.

But God wants man to be immortal, limitless, divine. And therefore from the first creative act the Incarnation is foreseen, for which God himself takes upon himself the limitations of man, and annihilates him in the Resurrection. The Word leaves the Father, enters creation, and returns to the Father, but bringing with him man, finally “divinized”, “son of God”, and with man the creation entirely freed from evil. Genesis 1-2 is actually the Apocalypse, it is a prophecy of that free, immortal man, who chats with God in the evening breeze, the man who comes true only after the Incarnation of the Son, the true Adam, “the ‘Man’ par excellence, as Pilate prophesies in John 19.5, the firstborn among dead brothers (Rom 8.29), the firstborn of those who rise from the dead (Col 1.18 and Rev 1.5), the Archetype of all creation: “all things were made through him, and without him nothing was made of all that exists” (Jn 1:3).

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at migliettacarlo@gmail.com.

Source

Spazio Spadoni

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