Sunday, September 11, 2011

"In the beginning . . . "

Today is the first Sunday of our study of the Gospel of John. For the class text book we are using N.T. Wright's John for Everyone, Part One and Part Two, having had a very good time with him and his Paul for Everyone, Romans: Part One and Romans: Part Two, during our study of Romans.

From my bookshelf, I am using Godet's Commentary on John and G. Campbell Morgan's The Gospel According to John. Macon and Walter are leading a study of this gospel in their adult class in Austin. They are using the Wright books as well. In addition, Macon said that they are using the commentary on John by Bruce Milne from The Bible Speaks Today series, Calvin's Commentaries on John (the translators for which include the Torrances), and John Chrysostom's homilies on John.

I will also be digging into the NET Bible's website for help and also the helps at

Turning to our lesson today, John 1:1-18, the connection between Genesis 1 and John 1:1 is obvious even without all of this learned assistance (as are all "those things [as far as Scripture is concerned, according to the Westminster Confession] which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation . . . "). But those "beginnings" are not quite the same. In Genesis, "the beginning" looks ahead, to creation. In John, "beginning" is broad enough to "look back" from creation, which is the best one can do, I think, in trying to distinguish the two uses of the noun. Of course, there is no time as we know it before the creation (was there?) but we are creatures caught in time. So I say that we "look back" from the beginning (or to the beginning?) in John 1:1. I liked this discussion of the problem in Godet:

"Several modern writers . . . understand by this beginning [the beginning in John 1:1] eternity. In fact, eternity is, not the temporal beginning, but the rational principle, of time. And it is in this sense that the word arche [Greek word for beginning] seems to be taken in Prov. 8:23: 'In the beginning, before creating the earth,' perhaps also in 1 John 1.1:'That which was from the beginning . . .' Indeed, as Weiss observes, the absolute beginning can be only the point from which our thought starts. Now such a point is not found in time, because we can always conceive in time a point anterior to that which we represent to ourselves. The absolute beginning at which our minds stop can therefore only be eternity a parte ante.

A child is aware of the problem and grapples with it. But grown-ups tired of such existential problems years ago. That's why they are called adults.

Child: "Dad, how did everything get here?"
Dad: "God created everything."
Child: "Who created God, Dad?"
Dad [turning back to the game]: "Uh . . . go ask your mom."

(Cf. Matt. 18:2-3)

No comments: