BSB John 1: 9The true Light who gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. 11He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God.

Is John being consistent in his usage of the term "KOSMOS" or does he have multiple referents? Is he speaking entirely of the physical world? Humanity in general? The gentile world? The world of those who don't know God?


2 Answers 2


The meaning of κόσμος can have different shades, and even in this passage, in one sentence those shades come up:

  1. "every man coming into the world"(I do not understand what "was" is doing here in the BSB, for the Greek has simply ἐρχόμενον), it means the created universe, into which man "comes", i.e. is created by the Son-Logos from non-existence to existence; but also accent is on the earthly-historical "section" of the entirety of the universe, for man comes to the world out of mother's womb to the visible, earthly life, like in John 16:21 ("man is born in the world").

  2. "the world was made through Him" - here it must be the entire creation, everything, visible and invisible;

  3. "He was in the world" - again, indicates the created universe, where He, as God's Logos through whom God created everything, Himself uncreated came having united Himself to the created nature, having become "flesh", i.e. having adopted, and eternally so, the humanity; however, here the verb "was" gives a slightly new shade to the κόσμος, for it indicates not simply His advent to the created universe, that is to say, His becoming also a creature and not only the Creator, for this He remained henceforth always, but that He was in the world of a visible human history, becoming part of this history visibly and tangibly, with his own, unique human life - from birth to death on the Cross and Resurrection - and a unique personal, historical drama; for otherwise, since He eternally retains human nature after the Incarnation, it would be more apt to say that He "is" in the world. Thus in this case the word "world" zooms in, so to say, on the visible, earthly-historical "section" of the entire universe, "fuzzing", so to say, for example, the world of the invisible angels out of this zoom (but not altogether, though, for the invisible angelic hosts also touch the historical narrative of the NT and are there always on the background /cf.Luke 2:14; John 5:4; or Matt 26:53/); thus, it is a "world" of human history, that having started from Adam's fall, needs redemption through the Logos' Incarnation.

  4. "the world did not recognize Him" - again, here the "world" indicates a historical setting, those actual people whom He met and to whom He preached, who sometimes believed and followed Him /"the entire world is following Him" John 12:19/ but who largely misunderstood Him and rejected Him, both Jews and non-Jews (Pilates, e.g.), having not recognized in Him the Creator and the giver of the Heavenly Kingdom; and also this non-recognizing "world", by implication, denotes all those people, who do not listen to the preaching of the apostles' and Christian missionaries concerning Jesus throughout the human history before the Second Coming.

  5. "He came to His own" - and, yes, this "own" is in a close semantic unity with the last (4) "world", for it denotes humans, intellectual creatures, both Jews and non-Jews, for all humans are his "own", because He enlightens all humans who come to the world, i.e., He gives them the intellect, conscience, cognitive faculties for comprehending the Truth, for understanding God's will, if properly used; the sadness, through which John addresses those who did not comprehend the Logos applies, thus, to all humans not seeing the divinity of Jesus, after having a chance to do so, for the chance is there for all, because all without exclusion possess ability to be enlightened by Logos and become the children of the Light.

  • "was" is a helping verb. The phrase is not "every man that comes into the world" but rather "that illuminates every man, was coming into the world (talking about Jesus)" or at least that seems to be how the scholars take it.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 15, 2017 at 7:16
  • 1
    It is a matter of contention, for there are no comas in the mss, similarly, as Origen, e.g. puts full stop a the phrase "everything was created by Him. Whatever was created in Him, was light" and so forth, that will give a different interpretation and would erase, as if, a tautology. But a more traditional interpretation is that "erchomenon" relates to the "every man", which grammatically is perfectly fitting. Sep 15, 2017 at 7:21

The true Light, who gives light to every man

Men (unlike animals, for instance), possess a logos (word, logic). If they wouldn't, they would be incapable of either thinking or speaking. This is a gift from God, who made man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27), which obviously include these two characteristics.

He was in the world

See Proverbs 8:31.

the world was made through Him

God created the entire Universe through His word (Genesis 1) and wisdom (Proverbs 8:22-31; Wisdom 9:9; Sirach 1:4).

the world did not recognize Him

The overwhelming majority of men, at that time, were obviously not Christians.

He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

His own appears to be an elliptical construction for his own people (see John 4:44, as well as Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24).

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