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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
It comes as a bit of a shock to many readers to discover that of the four gospels only Matthew and Luke include the birth stories of Jesus. Mark opens with him as a thirty year old man starting his ministry in Galilee. Meanwhile, John is different again, beginning his story of Jesus with this hauntingly majestic overture cum prologue.
It takes us back to before the angels, before the prophets, before human history, to the big-bang of creation. This is divine cosmology, mystical physics, quantum mechanics from before the dawn of time. The prologue is the New Testament’s Genesis; both open up with the same three words,
‘In the beginning’
In the beginning was ‘The Word’. Here the idea of the word has got two distinct but overlapping meanings and to understand fully John’s idea of ‘the word’ we have to know a little bit about both the Greek and the Jewish world into which Jesus was born.
1) Most people in the ancient world ‘thought’ in Greek. It was the language of the educated and the intellectual. The Greeks believed that there was a rational principle or law that governed and organised the whole of creation and through which everything came into existence. The governing principle, a bit like our understanding of gravity, was impersonal; it was just there, just a force. They called it the ‘word’ or ‘logos’.
2) As well as entering into this ‘Greek thinking’ world Jesus was also born into the ‘Jewish believing’ one. The Jews believed that things existed and worked because the personal, creative God spoke them into existence. God’s ‘word’ ran the Universe.
‘God said let there be light,
And there was light.’
So this introduction to John’s gospel, with its announcement of ‘the Word’ is loaded, stuffed with truth, insight and revelation. It combines the Greek and Jewish ideas on creation, the world and the universe. It is philosophical, poetic, mystical, profound and very beautiful. The book of Genesis meets Plato, meets Stephen Hawkins, meets Star Trek. Creation, big-bang, evolution and even black holes, Jesus is in it all. He is alone ‘in the beginning’ with God and was God. Creator of creation, life of life, light of all lights. He is both the great and rational mind/logos behind the Universe and at the same time the creative, personal word of God.
And now for the second part of this ‘beyond understanding, so just sit in awe’ prologue. The ‘with-God-before creation word’ has entered the world, taken on flesh and become an ordinary human being. Invisible, untouchable beautiful divinity has become physical, sweaty, dribbly humanity. Evolution has born its ultimate fruit.
In the beginning has suddenly leapt forward over 14 billion years to the second beginning. Jesus has been born. The cosmic moment has become a common man.
I recently came across a T-shirt design which said,
‘For those who are too stupid for science try God’.
The message is a simple, condescending cliché, clever people are atheistic, science based whilst believers are…
It occurred to me that you could turn the message around,
‘For those who are too stupid for God try science’.
For this ‘In the beginning’ overture, we get both God and science together in balance and in the right order.
I need a beginning.
A new beginning,
May you be my ‘In the beginning’