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The extant versions of the LXX Genesis 1:1 describes the making of the world using ἐποίησεν ("made") but the author of John, who seems to be commenting on Genesis 1:1 fails to follow the LXX verbiage and instead uses ἐγένετο. Might this be because the author is ascribing a particular role for the utterance in the overall making of biodome ("the skies and the land") and all therein?

Genesis 1:1

ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν.

Swete, H. B. (1909). The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint (Ge 1). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

John 1:3

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν

I see that the LXX uses the word in and after the utterance of "Let there be (Γενηθήτω, the imperative form) light..." "and there was (ἐγένετο) light...".

Genesis 1:3 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός Γενηθήτω φῶς· καὶ ἐγένετο φῶς.

Swete, H. B. (1909). The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint (Ge 1:2–3). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

So clearly for John the logos was the utterance "let there be" in the creation of the light and the result was that the command resulted in the light coming into being.

I call attention to a passage that I think is related though it uses a different word for "word" (τὸ ῥῆμά μου):

NASB Isaiah 55: 10"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

10 ὡς γὰρ ἂν καταβῇ ὁ ὑετὸς ἢ χιὼν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἀποστραφῇ ἕως ἂν μεθύσῃ τὴν γῆν, καὶ ἐκτέκῃ καὶ ἐκβλαστήσῃ, καὶ δῷ σπέρμα τῷ σπείροντι καὶ ἄρτον εἰς βρῶσιν· 11 οὕτως ἔσται τὸ ῥῆμά μου ὃ ἐὰν ἐξέλθῃ ἐκ τοῦ στόματός μου, οὐ μὴ ἀποστραφῇ ἕως ἂν τελεσθῇ ὅσα ἠθέλησα, καὶ εὐοδώσω τὰς ὁδούς σου καὶ τὰ ἐντάλματά μου.

Swete, H. B. (1909). The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint (Is 55:10–11). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Also related:

NASB Psalm 148: 4Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! 5Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. 6He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away.

Also:

English Standard Version Psalm 33:6 By the word (logos) of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath (pneuma) of his mouth all their host. ... Psalm 33:9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.

So what are we to understand from this about who/what the logos is and his/its role in the making of Genesis 1?

Related question (on sister site): https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/60006/in-trinitarian-theology-who-created-the-world

  • 1
    You made a quick typo where you say "(Γενηθήτω, the imperative form) light..." "and there was (Γενηθήτω) light..." but give the correct Greek for 'was made' directly below (i.e. ἐγένετο). Inconsequential, but just letting you know :) – Sola Gratia Oct 20 '17 at 21:10
  • Since it's not a full answer, I'd comment that εγενετο focuses more on the passive, i.e., 'had its origin in,' since it's root sense is 'came into being; happened.' Whereas εποιησεν has more focus on the active bringing into being on God's part. – Sola Gratia Oct 2 '18 at 21:32
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The author of John uses different language, ἐγένετο instead of ἐποίησεν, because they are describing something different than the work of creation found in Genesis. The perspective of the LXX translator of Genesis is to describe those works which occurred in the past. For example, making the skies and the land and all therein. However, John gives emphasis to current and future work: making children of God.

Background

In his article Chiasmus: An Important Structural Device Commonly Found in Biblical Literature , Brad McCoy discusses chiasms, their use, and their exegetical significance. The chiastic structure of John’s Prologue is one example he outlines: 1

A: The Word with God (1-2)  
 B: The Word's role in creation (3)  
  C: God's grace to mankind (4-5)  
   D: Witness of John the Baptist (6-8)  
    E: The Incarnation of the Word (9-11)  
     X: Saving faith in the Incarnate Word (12-13)  
    E': The Incarnation of the Word (14)  
   D': Witness of John the Baptist (15)  
  C': God's grace to mankind (16)  
 B': The Word's role in re-creation (17)  
A': The Word with God the Father (18)

McCoy summarizes three important aspects of the chiasm: 2

  1. Delineate units of thought
  2. Accentuate the main idea or theme the writer is concerned to convey to their readers
  3. Compare and contrast the interplay between textually separated but thematically paired units of thought

The main theme of the John's prologue is the current and future work of making children of God:

But all who did receive Him, He gave them— the ones believing in His name— the right to become children of God, who were born not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a husband, but of God. (1:12-13 DLNT)

John is describing a new work of the Word: taking those who had been born of bloods, or the will of the flesh and making children of God. This is an act of creation not found in Genesis.

John 1:3

The Word in creation (verse 1:3) is not a commentary on Genesis as if to restate the Word’s work of creation. John is stating the Word is the only means by which all creation came into existence:

The Word’s Role in Creation:
B: All things came-into-being (ἐγένετο) through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being (ἐγένετο) which has come-into-being (γέγονεν). (1:3 DLNT)

The inverted parallel structure of the chiasm, makes verse 17 the thematic pair:

The Word’s Role in Creation:
B': Because the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (1:17 DLNT)

The Word’s role in creation was not limited to Genesis. As with making children of God, John is attributing a current and future work to the Word: bringing grace and truth into creation.

Conclusion

John is affirming all in creation come into being through the Word. He is stating the present and future reality of the Christian faith:

Children of God (present):
So then if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things passed-away; behold, new things have come-into-being (γέγονεν). (2 Corinthians 5:17 DLNT)

Children of God (future):
See what-kind-of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called children of God! And we are! For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet appeared. We know that if He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. (1 John 3:1-2 DLNT)


1. Brad McCoy, "Chiasmus: An Important Structural Device Commonly Found in Biblical Literature." p 29 [Chafer Theological Seminary]
2. McCoy pp.30-31

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"So clearly for John the logos was the utterance "let there be" in the creation of the light and the result was that the command resulted in the light coming into being".

This is impossible to defend based on the identification of the Logos as Jesus/"the Son" just sentences later: "And the Logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (Jn 1:14) That is, the Logos refers to a Person (obviously, Divine—Theos), the Person of Jesus Christ (cf. Rev 19:13).

That said, it's clear the Creation/New Creation theme which has been noted in John's Gospel (e.g. cf. Gen 1:1/Jn 1:1; Gen 1:4/Jn 1:5; Ex 31:17/Jn 2:6 etc.), most clear at the beginning with the most memorable words (and probably most universally well-known), "In the beginning...," that the personal, divine Word is being compared to the metaphorical expression or declaration of God, His creative "word" or 'speech' (Ps 33:6). Whence His being called "Word."

Psalm 33:6 is an athropomorphological metaphor (quite a mouthful), as "God is [a] spirit" and therefore doesn't literally speak or have lungs to do so (Jn 4:24) but He metaphorically did create and thus we humans need some way to comprehend that: 'God commanded that it be done' (because we can't imagine an act in which someone doesn't have to consult or involve some other person or thing to carry out that action).

But St. John is making a real distinction between God and His Word ("Let there be" may be taken as an utterance or 'word;' as you note, it's in the imperative), and of course He does this by identifying a Logos Who is personal, who creates and is "with God," and yet "[is] God."


In other words, it's ridiculous to claim that the author of Genesis intended to say God's Logos or Fiat was a person and was with God creating all things, as John does (Jn 1:3). But John isn't trying to read such into the word in Genesis 1. By implication, He makes the point that Genesis 1 is the summary, and His is the more theological, detailed account of both the fundamental nature of the "Elohim" of Genesis 1:1 (which incidentally, John alludes to, whether his intentionally or not, since elohim is technically plural, and he does mention two 'figures,' treated as persons, Who are both "God"); and the creative activity of God in general as pertains to His nature (i.e. Jn 1:2-3 etc).


The Logos' role in creation is inseparably, intrinsically tied to—even identical to—the one creative act of the one God. Because John writes: "and without Him [the Word] was made nothing that has been made" (alternatively translated, "without Him there came into being nothing that has [ever] came into being") (Jn 1:3; cf. Col 1:16). That is, every creative act of God has been by the Word, and by God, in some indistinguishable sense. A loose translation of John 1:3 is, "Nothing exists without the Logos."

While this gives us an idea of the relationship of God, His creative act, and the Logos Who is inseparable therefrom, there is hardly any technical insights into the specifics. Only God creates. Only God made all things. (Rev 4:11). Yet there is a distinct (accusative) "God," and a "with God," Who is also "God."

(cf. Ps 102:22,25; Heb 1:8,10)

There is definitely intended mystery here, although the Word is the focus of His Gospel, of course, being Jesus Christ. Instead of going into Jesus' human geneology, He begins His Gospel with the eternal 'geneology' of the Son (cf. Jn 16:28; 17:5; 8:58). Because His Gospel will be focused heavily on theology. Hence his being seen as the "eagle" Evangelist, soaring to the heavenly in preference to earthly matters.

  • 1) I don't believe it's warranted to go beyond a simple, single 'let there be—one Logos' correspondence; the Spirit is not so much in mind in Jn or the 'corresponding' vs. in Gen. 2) Jesus contrasts "spirit" with "flesh" on mult. occasions, and defines "spirit" as fleshless, and thus lung- and mouthless, of course 3) Is there a case where God is a 'quality' rather than an identity (a qualitative noun can be and, I argue is, an identity here—since the New Testament is thourougly monotheistic, and yet the Word is distinct from, but intrinsic to the 'accusative' what we might call 'Father'; God)? – Sola Gratia Oct 20 '17 at 23:44
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The key:

Say not: the Word is 'also' God, but say: God is the Word as well. Now it's clearer and the greek has it that way round: God was the Word. The Word, being God, came into flesh, without leaving a void space where it was. God was still the Word. The Word is Father and became Son.

  • Hi Andre! Welcome to Hermeneutics.SE. You might take the tour if you have not already to get an idea of what constitutes a thorough answer. – Jack Oct 20 '18 at 13:46
  • Word order in different languages can mean different things. Just because Greek source word order is one way doesn't mean it's okay to interpret the sentence with the same word order in English. If fact that will quite often be wrong. You haven't established what the original means step by step, please edit this to show you interpretive work. – Caleb May 7 at 9:25

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