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The first chapter of the Gospel of John seems to contrast with the rest of the book, in style and purpose. It seems very abstract and poetic, while the rest of John seems to be a more traditional narrative.

Are there other passages that parallel the content of this chapter, or have a similar writing style? How should it be interpreted in light of the fact that none of the other Gospels have a similar passage?

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Actually the entire book of John reads quite differently than the other three gospel accounts. It's stated purpose is also different. When you say "contrasts with the rest of the book" are you talking about differences between John 1 and John 2-21 or to the rest of the Bible? Can you cite some specific differences that raise this question? –  Caleb Oct 29 '11 at 14:22
    
@Caleb while John is certainly different overall, this part seems to be very abstract and poetic, while the rest of John is a more traditional narrative. –  C. Ross Oct 29 '11 at 15:21
    
c.f. 1 John 1 –  Jack Douglas Oct 29 '11 at 17:44
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John's prologue has parallels with Genesis 1 - New Creation vs. Creation. Both start "In the beginning God..." and since Jews referred to books by their starting words this would have been starkly obvious to John's readers/hearers. The prologue seems a bit like an opening sequence to a film, setting up lots of the ideas (light/darkness, God becoming flesh etc.) that then are important later in the narrative. It's a way for the author to provide information to the reader that the characters in the story don't know yet - c.f. the recurring theme of people speculating who Jesus is. –  ed. Nov 6 '11 at 8:49
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The first chapter of the Gospel of John seems to contrast with the rest of the book, in style and purpose.

John 1:1-18 is different from the rest of the book in the way that a preface is different than the rest of any book. On the other hand, it also has cohesion with the rest of the book the way that a preface has cohesion with the rest of any book. There is some difference in style (though perhaps not as great as implied in the question). I would suggest that if you find the purpose of the rest of the book to be different than the preface, you have misunderstood the rest of the book.

As confirmation of this, consider his statement of purpose at the end of the book:

These things have been written so you would believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God, and that by believing you would have life in his name.

But this is surely the purpose of introduction as well. John is a book about who Christ is as God and man; his humility, compassion and glory; his relationship to the Father, the Spirit, and the church; and his work of redemption. If you study John closely, you will find that the themes introduced in the first eighteen verses resonate throughout the book (for example, verse 18: Christ as the revelation of the Father).

It seems very abstract and poetic

This is not entirely true. For one, John is introduced in verse 6, and his testimony is given as historical fact and not as abstract poetry (7-8, 15).

while the rest of John seems to be a more traditional narrative.

This is not entirely true either. Much of it is discourse and prayer which is heavily theological in nature—in-depth Trinitarian theology, much of it. John is much less event-based than the other Gospels (especially Mark).

Moreover, a study of John's epistles reveals many of the same themes and concerns as in the Gospel, and as in the first chapter (light and darkness, Christ's relationship to the Father, our relationship to Christ, remaining in him, keeping his commandments...). This lends further credence to the cohesion of all of John's writing.

John 1:1-8 should be interpreted as an introduction to the rest of the book which sheds light on John's purpose in the entirety of the Gospel account.

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I cannot begin to tell you about all that has been written on John 1:1-18. Where I land is John 1:1-18, also known as the Prologue, is probably based on a hymn. As was noted, it is poetic in style (with the exception of verses 6–8 and 15), which places it in similar category with other preexistence hymns and passages like Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:1-3, Philippians 2:5-11, and 1 John 1:1-5. The Prologue is also probably a midrash on Genesis 1. We should probably interpret it as introducing the preexistent Son of God who was with the Father and is sent as the Father's authorized representative to reveal the Father and redeem the world.

You may want to take a look at what the following say about John 1:1-18:

  • Paul N. Anderson. “The Having-Sent-Me-Father: Aspects of Agency, Encounter, and Irony in the Johannine Father-Son Relationship” Semeia 85 (1999): pp. 33–57.

  • Daniel Boyarin. "The Gospel of the Memra: Jewish Binitariansm and the Prologue of John.” Harvard Theological Review 94 (2001): pp. 243–84.

  • Craig A. Evans. Word and Glory: On the Exegetical and Theological Background of John’s Prologue. Journal for the Study of the New Testament: Supplement Series 158. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993.

  • Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. 2 vols. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2003.

  • J. Ramsey Michaels. The Gospel of John. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.

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The style of John 1 introduces us to the concept that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies given in the OT, even the ones hidden in sensus plenior, by giving us a detailed breakdown of his interpretation of Genesis 1:1. He sets the tone for the rest of the book which uses the same methods to embed pictures of Christ and the cross in the history he records.

Here are the methods which are similar to those of Midrash, with additional rules which constrain it from becoming free-for-all allegory:

bereshit bara

In the beginning[1] was the Word[2][3]. See that bereshit begins with bara.[4]

[1] bereshit
[2] bara
[3] Joh 1:1 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
[4] *Don't forget to ignore vowels since they were added later.

bara Elohim

the Word was with God[1]- Since the word bara (word) is next to Elohim (God). the Word was God[2] - since "bara Elohim" describes God as the creator. God is not separate from his word. the son (man) was with God[3] - since bar is son, man. [4].

[1] Joh 1:1 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
[2] Joh 1:1 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
[3] Joh 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.
[4] ...from this we determine that the son is 'the man' in narratives and parables

bera-sheth[1]

The Word, man, or son [2] [3] was in the beginning [4] [5] with God. [6] [7]

[1] 't' and 'th' are interchangeable in puns
[2] bar(bera) - son, man, bara - word
[3] *Dont forget to ignore vowels since they were added later.
[4] Bar is in bereshit.
[5] *Dont forget to ignore vowels since they were added later.
[6] Bara Elohim - with God
[7] Joh 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.

God created the heaven and the earth

God, the Son [1] , the Word [2] , the Man [3] created all things [4] - since nothing is excluded from 'heavens and earth' except God himself.

[1] bar - son, man
[2] bara
[3] bar - son, man
[4] Joh 1.3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Elohim

In him was life[1] - since the pun ale chaim is 'God life' or pun al chaim is 'into life' He was the Light[2] - since pun al khoom[3] is 'not dark'

[1] Joh 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
[2] Joh 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
[3] 02345

bar Elohim

son of God - see above 
man light[1] 

[1] Joh 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Created

separated - Created also means cut down. This meaning is confirmed by the Hebrew letters for bara. HL01254

beit - house 
reish - head 
aleph - divided or joined 

Separated/joined - head of the house divided or joined.

Aleph tov

the eternal - The word is rarely translated. It is equivalent to alpha omega since the letters are the first and last of the Hebrew alphabet. On the surface it has the meaning of eternal. But it also means plowshare. This is particularly interest as we consider the beginning and the end.

Some consider eternity to be like a number line that goes on infinitely in both directions.

The beginning was a starting point of God's working out his plan for the harvest, hence the plowshare. The end is the consummation of that plan. Considering time itself, it implies a separation of that which is before the beginning and that which is after the end. We can deduce that time itself is a part of creation.

everything concerning - aleph tov refers to the wholeness or completeness of the item being referenced. Do not think of this as another meaning, but as an aspect of the same aleph tov concept. When applied to time and eternity is a everything concerning time and eternity. When applied to the heavens, it is everything concerning the heavens.

The Hebrew letters of eth also confirm this. HL0853

aleph - separation (though it can mean joined, the context of Gen 1:1 gives us 'separated') 
tov - completion of the Torah or the full revelation of God. 

the separation of the revelation of God into Holiness and Love, Law and Grace.

Also everything concerning the revelation of God and when applied to an object everything God has revealed about that object.

Since the first shall be the last and the last shall be first, consider TA

Two heavens

The word for heaven is in a dual form referring to two heavens, therefor:

There are three heavens[1] The first is where God is in eternity before the creation. The second two are created on the first day.[2] Of the two created heavens, one is where the birds and clouds are, the other is where the stars are. The heaven where the stars are will be used as a visible metaphor for the invisible heaven where God is. 

[1] 2Co 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
[2] Ge 1:1 ¶ In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

eth heavens

everything in the heavens - eth is not translated but is the aleph tov which can mean eternal and also 'everything concerning'

and

joined to - The vav is more than a simple verbal conjunction. It implies a connection between the objects that surround it. In the case of Ge 1:1[1], the heavens and earth were created joined together. From this we derive that items joined by 'and' are related in such a fashion that one refers to a heavenly aspect and one refers to an earthly aspect. See A Different Dualism.

[1] Ge 1:1 ¶ In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Earth

The earth is used as a metaphor:

for the flesh in the Voice of the Judge 
for the Jesus in the Voice of the Prophet 
for creation in the Voice of the Priest 

eth earth

everything concerning the earth - 'eth' is not translated but is the aleph tov which can mean eternal and also 'everything concerning'

Separated two heavens and earth

In four voices:

Voice of the King - God created the two heavens and the earth 
Voice of the Judge - God separated the Eternal God, Word and Spirit, from the creation made up of two heavens and an earth, to display his Holiness, and it was good. 
Voice of the Prophet - Christ was made incarnate, and it was good. 
Voice of the Priest - The Son had separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit to represent Love and Grace to men, in contrast to their Holiness. 

Missing

Deriving meaning from what is not said

Before the beginning it was dark

Light was created on the first day[1] so it did not exist before the creation.

[1] Ge 1:3 ¶ And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

The water was not created

There is no mention of water being created before it is mentioned on day 2. [1] Since the water is the Word:

The Word was not created. He is God.

And since Christ is the word:

Christ was not created. He is God.

[1] Ge 1:6 ¶ And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

The Spirit was not created

There is no mention of the Spirit being created prior to his hovering over the face of the deep.[1] Therefor,

The Spirit is God

[1] Ge 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved [hovered] upon the face of the waters.

God, the water, and the Spirit were in the dark

Since darkness is Love,

The Trinity existed before creation in love, without any separation, as one

God was light and light was created

Rather than reading this as a contradiction, see it as a perfect description of Christ. His Holiness in nature pre-existed creation, but his light could not be seen since there was nothing for him to shine in. Only after creation could he pour into it with the revelation of God as Holy.

Holiness is separation. There was nothing to be separate from since the Trinity was in darkness (Grace, Love). That which was created was good, but it was separate from, different than God. His difference was made manifest by the act of creating. The heaven where God is is not created

God is the heaven where God is. There is no mention of it being created. All uncreated things are God. He is not only self-existent, but self-contained. There is nothing bigger. Reconsider the concept of being 'in Christ'.

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