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Question

If we look at the text of John 1:1-2, the second verse might seem a bit redundant.

1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

2 οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This was in the beginning with God.

First, a minor detail. I am not sure if I translated οὗτος correctly. It can mean at least a few things ("this", "that", "the latter", "the aforesaid"). Douay-Rheims translates οὗτος as "The same," which might be slightly liberal but stays true to its function as a demonstrative. The NIV translates οὗτος as "He", which makes sense both contextually and grammatically. The KJV translates οὗτος the same way as Douay-Rheims: οὗτος = "The same".

I find the different translations interesting, which is why I include them. But let's get back to my main point. Whichever way you translate the second verse, is it not a little redundant? Does not the first verse provide all the information of the second? If it is a bit redundant, then do you think it might be used for emphasis? Is it simply a rhetorical device to emphasize the point that Jesus, the Word of God, is pre-existent?

My question to you, then, is two-fold:

  1. Do you think that the second verse is redundant?
  2. If so, what function does it have?

My own personal guess

I happen to have a guess about my own question. It dawned on me after I continued reading, on the very third verse.

3 πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν...

All things were made through him, and not one thing was made without him...

This technique of reiterating a previous point seems to extend into the third verse as well. In fact, the third verse says the same thing twice. I suppose, then, that this reiteration could be a stylistic technique, used to create emphasis.

Does the author of John employ reiteration to emphasize a point? Is this unique to John, or is it also common in the Synoptic Gospels?

  • 1
    I don't know the answer to your first question except to say that writers are taught to do what that second verse does. It's called a nut graph. You write out what you want to say in the "lead" and then you punch it out in the next sentence. This is done for effect. Again, I don't know if this is what's occurring but it reads better this way. In the third verse, I'm not seeing that it's the same thing. "Through" is a specific word and in my opinion, has to do with the way the holy spirit breathes. That's about a characteristic; "not one thing was made without him" is about what was made. – Gigi Sanchez Mar 11 '17 at 6:28
  • 1
    codexsinaiticus.org/en/… – Gigi Sanchez Mar 11 '17 at 6:30
  • @GigiSanchez That makes sense. He's writing for an audience and the first verse contains some of the most important facts. He punches it out again in the next verse for emphasis. I did feel as if the two clauses of the third verse reinforce each other, in the same way that the second verse reinforces the first. But I agree that 'through' and 'without' (διά and χώρις) are two different words. I'm still not sure if the second clause of verse 3 adds anything that the first does not contain already. – ktm5124 Mar 11 '17 at 6:46
  • I had not heard of "nut graphs" before (contraction of "nutshell paragraph") so thanks for bringing that up. – ktm5124 Mar 11 '17 at 6:47
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    Although I haven't studied it closely, my inclination is to liken it to the parallelism of the Hebrew Psalter. In other words, I believe John is waxing poetic. – kmote Mar 13 '17 at 20:21
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The word ἀρχῇ in Greek has more facets than simply "beginning". It can also mean something like "origin". Something like this comes out in Jude 6:

ἀγγέλους τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχήν ...

which translates to something like:

And the angels which kept not their first estate ... (KJV)

And the angels that did not keep their own position ... (RSV)

And angels who did not keep their own domain ... (NASB)

The apparent duplication here is a clue that something other than "beginning" is meant in v.2. Verse 1 states that the Word was present at creation. Verse 2 states that the Word's place or station was co-existence with God, as echoed in v.18:

... the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father ... (RSV)

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If you REALLY care to know, John 1:2 isn't redundant but speaks volumes more than the first verse. He is drawing attention to a 'beginning' somewhere in scriptures, and that is Genesis 1:1. John 1:2 should say ''this was 'the beginning' with God'' since it's not sound to say 'the beginning in the beginning'. The beginning refers both to an individual and a particular moment; E.g,

Gen 49:3
Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

It is the same 'beginning' meant here but which only a few translations didn't alter what was meant concerning it, one of them being;

Douay-Rheims Bible

John 8:25
They said therefore to him: Who art thou? Jesus said to them: The beginning, who also speak unto you.

This is of God in the sense that Reuben is 'the beginning of Jacob', and the Beginning with God in Genesis 1:1 by whom 'God created the heavens and the earth' but which verse caused such a diversion in the way Genesis is interpreted. Another place that refers to these beginnings is in Isaiah where generations of creatures were 'called from' this 'beginning': The same generations in Genesis 2:4.

Isaiah 41:4 Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.

NB this particular beginning in Isaiah is NEVER a point in time but the head of/over something.

A little more qualification on this concept of a beginning is yet found in In Deu 21:17

But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

There are plenty of places in scriptures that illustrate this beginning to indicate beings at the time when they ONLY were with God, referred to as sons of God, denoted also as firstborns or firstfruits, looking at one or two of these places;

1 chronicles 17 speaks of this beginning as a specific time.

1 Ch 17:9
Also I will ordain a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, and they shall dwell in their place, and shall be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, as at the beginning.

This doesn't refer to the time of judges after that Israel came out of Egypt, if anything that was a period of the most wickedness done in Israel, in comparison to King David's time being the time of Israel at its most pious.

That 'beginning' is the time which God tells King David that He is taking all Israel back to and no 'sons of unrighteousness' would ever trouble them, these sons signifying spirit entities that wreak havoc in man's conduct before God; These seen here; Hosea 5:4 Their deeds will not allow them To return to their God. For a spirit of harlotry is within them, And they do not know the LORD

And Messiah unveils how they work. Luke 11:24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man..seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.
26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; ..and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

These are the sons of wickedness in 1 chronicles 17 who will not go to the 'place of Israel' to 'make them afraid', a time as the time of this 'beginning' when wickedness didn't have free reign and righteousness 'flowed like a river.'

A little more on these beginnings elsewhere signified as firstfruits;

From Sirach a relegated book to the 'extra biblical', we have this time signified as the 'time of the firstfruits' when creatures walked in wisdom of God's ways( the wise woman qualified as the Laws of Moses), that is, this wisdom 'flowed like 'Pishon', etc.

Sirach 24 22..Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame,
and those who serve me will never go astray.”
23 All this is the book of the covenant of the Most High God,
the Law which Moses commanded us
as a heritage for the community of Jacob
25 It overflows, like the Pishon, with wisdom,
and like the Tigris at the time of first fruits.
26 It runs over, like the Euphrates, with understanding,
and like the Jordan at harvest time.
27 It floods like the Nile with instruction,
like the Gihon at vintage time.

Another peculiarity, the rivers in Genesis 2:10 became four 'beginnings or heads' This is the kind of 'beginning' in John 1:2 who was with God, as God.

  • I have to be honest, you went down a very strange road here. You seem to be both twisting the plain meanings of words and reading far too much into them. You seem to make connections where no clear connection exists and ignore the contexts of the verses to build these connections. You also seem to build interpretations off of unusual translations without taking into account the underlying Hebrew or Greek. I would suggest you go read this: ntgreekstudies.com/blog/common-exegetical-fallacies – P. TJ Mar 12 '17 at 1:55
  • And if you feel I'm wrong in my assessment, you really need to show your work and explain how you arrived at the conclusions you came to. When you state, for example, that the word beginning in Isaiah never means what the word seems to plainly mean, where do you get this information from? What scholarly source supports this? – P. TJ Mar 12 '17 at 1:57
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"1. Do you think that the second verse is redundant?"

No,

"...then do you think it might be used for emphasis?"

Yes.

"2. If so, what function does it have?"

The crux of John's argument is that he is making clear both the eternity and the thus the divinity of the "Word" or Λόγος Logos (the "Word of God"—Revelation 19:13).

In the beginning was the Word. (cf. Wisdom 9:4,9,11,17; 1 Corinthians 1:24; Hebrews 1:3; Wisdom 7:24-26) Not the beginning of time only, since without him—without the Word—was made nothing that was made, but that Beginning in mind before all acts of creation, when creation and creatures “were not as yet.” (Prov 8:22-30; Sirach 1:1-5; cf. John 1:14; Sirach 24:14).

Hence St. John doesn't hold us in suspense but, as if answering our implicit question, writes: and the Word was God. 'Yes, He was eternal just as God is:' the same was in the beginning with God!

The identity of the Word is highlighted in the original Greek, ordering the sentence in such wise as to give focus to the word God as being the nature of the Word: και θεος ην ο λογος—and God, was this Word. The word for "God" being used as a qualitative noun, meaning, "the Word was [by His nature] God." And not "the Word is identical to the God [the Father] with Whom He was since the Beginning, and has the same nature, θεος, God."

The Word is uncreated, and precedes all creation. It does not say ‘all other things but He’ but, all things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. The Word is shown to be uncreated: to be God, who alone is uncreated.

-1

John 1:2 is necessary, logically. Without it, John has not stated coincidence of existence of both parties in the beginning. He has already stated that Logos existed in the beginning and he has already stated that the Logos and the Theos coincided in existence. But he has yet to absolutely state that coincident existence of both parties was from the beginning.

So he does so, in John 1:2, or the logic would be incomplete.

Therefore, no, certainly not; the verse is not redundant.

-2

In Genesis 1:26 there is a mysterious verse where God addresses an unidentified person:

New American Standard Bible Gen 1:26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

This immediately raises the question in the reader's mind: "Who is God addressing?" It is this question that John is answering by saying that it was God's divine utterance, personified that was with God in the beginning. It should read something like:

"The utterance was in Genesis and the utterance was with God and the utterance was God-utterance. THIS is "who" was with God in Genesis [1:26]. All things were made by means of it/him [ie: "Let there be x..."] and without it/him [ie: "Let there be x..."] nothing was made. In it/him [God's utterance] was life and this life was the light of [that illuminated] the man [Adam, or possibly Jesus]..."

For the Jewish background of the preexistence of the utterance of God (because the Greek philosophy of LOGOS is pretty much completely irrelevant) please see (emphases are mine):

"...The Torah is older than the world, for it existed either 947 generations (Zeb. 116a, and parallels) or 2,000 years (Gen. R. viii., and parallels; Weber, "Jüdische Theologie," p. 15) before the Creation. The original Pentateuch, therefore, like everything celestial, consisted of fire, being written in black letters of flame upon a white ground of fire (Yer. Sheḳ. 49a, and parallels; Blau, "Althebräisches Buchwesen," p. 156). God held counsel with it at the creation of the world, since it was wisdom itself (Tan., Bereshit, passim), and it was God's first revelation, in which He Himself took part. It was given in completeness for all time and for all mankind, so that no further revelation can be expected. It was given in the languages of all peoples; for the voice of the divine revelation was seventyfold (Weber, l.c. pp. 16-20; Blau, "Zur Einleitung in die Heilige Schrift," pp. 84-100). It shines forever, and was transcribed by the scribes of the seventy peoples (Bacher, "Ag. Tan." ii. 203, 416), while everything found in the Prophets and the Hagiographa was already contained in the Torah (Ta'an. 9a), so that, if the Israelites had not sinned, only the five books of Moses would have been given them (Ned. 22b). As a matter of fact, the Prophets and the Hagiographa will be abrogated; but the Torah will remain forever (Yer. Meg. 70d). Every letter of it is a living creature. When Solomon took many wives, Deuteronomy threw himself before God and complained that Solomon wished to remove from the Pentateuch the yod of the word (Deut. xvii. 17), with which the prohibition of polygamy was spoken; and God replied: "Solomon and a thousand like him shall perish, but not one letter of the Torah shall be destroyed" (Lev. R. xix.; Yer. Sanh. 20c; Cant. R. 5, 11; comp. Bacher, l.c. ii. 123, note 5). The single letters were hypostatized, and were active even at the creation of the world (Bacher, l.c. i. 347), an idea which is probably derived from Gnostic speculation. The whole world is said to be only 1/3200 of the Torah ('Er. 21a).

Israel received this treasure only through suffering (Ber. 5a, and parallels), for the book and the sword came together from heaven, and Israel was obliged to choose between them (Sifre, Deut. 40, end; Bacher, l.c. ii. 402, note 5); and whosoever denies the heavenly origin of the Torah will lose the future life (Sanh. x. 1). This high esteem finds its expression in the rule that a copy of the Pentateuch is unlimited in value, and in the ordinance that the inhabitants of a city might oblige one another to procure scrolls of the Law (Tosef., B. M. iii. 24, xi. 23). The pious bequeathed a copy of the Torah to the synagogue (ib. B. Ḳ. ii. 3); and it was the duty of each one to make one for himself, while the honor paid the Bible greatly influenced the distribution of copies and led to the foundation of libraries (Blau, "Althebräisches Buchwesen," pp. 84-97)..." http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14446-torah#anchor5

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