Thank you to David Morson who kindly writes ‘ a Journey through St John’s Gospel to Holy Week’..
The Prologue St John’s Gospel Chapter 1 verses 1 – 18.
Have you ever been out on a frosty night and seen the myriad of stars in the sky. In our universe, there are more stars than grains of sand on the earth. Have you ever been awed by a majestic piece of scenery or studied the beauty of a single leaf. Have you been astounded by the way events have unfolded or by an intuitive insight into something? This experience of things greater than ourselves or beyond our control is sometimes referred to as the “Numinous”, a spiritual realisation of the overarching mystery of creation.
The Greeks had a term in an attempt to make sense of such experiences, the “Logos”, translated as the “Word”. Thinkers such as Heraclitus, Zeno and Isocrates used the term In their deliberations over life and existence to suggest that there must be some force of order, knowledge and wisdom behind the universe, but stopped short of calling it God. Plato, in his “Theory Of Forms”, came the closest in suggesting a divine presence and knowledge had to be involved in the creation experience.
From the 4th Century BC, the conquests of Alexander The Great, led to the Mediterranean World adopting Greek as a common language. In Egypt, a new dynasty of Pharaoh’s was established when the son of Soter, one of Alexander’s Generals, became Ptolemy II. He wished to establish a prestigious library in Alexandria containing all the great texts of the ancient world to be translated in to Greek. At his request, Eleazar. the High Priest in Jerusalem, sent 72 scholars to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which became known as the “Septuagint” or the work of the 70. In these Scriptures there are over 100 uses of the term “Logos”, referring to the Divine Planning and Purpose of Creation.
The Jewish interpretation of ” Logos” made a reality of the Greek search for wisdom ,order and knowledge in the universe, as it was “the word of God in the first Chapter of the Book of Genesis, which brought order, creation and knowledge in to being. Each of the Six Days of Creation starts with the phrase “And God Said”. Psalms 107 and 33 testify to the wisdom and guidance of God in Creation.
Moreover, He is a God who wants to make Himself known to His people. He is a God who communicates words of justice with his command to Moses in Exodus Chapter 3 verse 10 to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the people go. But, He remains mysterious, as when Moses asks His Name, the reply is, “I Am Who Am”.
St John, in his Gospel encapsulates and develops all of these theoretical concepts of the Word or Logos in the physical Person of Jesus when he proclaims in verse 14,”The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt among us”.
He starts by confirming His eternal presence in verse 1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and was God”. Only in St John’s Gospel is the Divinity of Jesus so established so early and so definitely. He is the God who creates, confers order and wisdom from the beginning of time. Verses 2 and 3 state, “He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made”. He is the physical expression of the Divine Force co existing with the Father from the beginning of time and now in existence on earth.
God is no longer a remote Being. He comes as one of us as an ultimate and truly personal communication of God as a human being to humanity.
Because of His intimate status with His Father, He can speak and teach His Father’s will for humankind and convey knowledge of the Father to us in ways that are immediate and understandable. He is to return to His Father once His Mission is accomplished.
The word “Dwelt” in “Dwelt Among Us ” is translated as “skene” meaning “encamped”. His presence was to be temporary. In this context, St John uses the term “Glory” throughout his Gospel. ” The Word Became Flesh and we saw His Glory.” This term refers to the real “essence” of God, what He is and what He is Like. For St John there are a number of references which relate to how Jesus shows this “Glory” and in relation to our Journey To Holy Week through the Gospel, it becomes an ultimate reality in the total and unconditional love shown by Jesus on the Cross. In His “Great Discourse” which proceeds the arrest of Jesus, He says, “No greater Love Has any Man than He who lays down His Life for His friends”. In other words, it is necessary for “The Word to Becomes Flesh ” as it is the human Jesus who reveals the Divine Love that is the Father’ essence through this active demonstration of “No Greater Love”.