The problem: The grammar of John 1:1-4, especially in our critical editions of the Greek text give substantial reason to view the Word as having received his very life in the beginning. However many see this text as proof the Word never had a beginning. Many argue that if all created things are through the Word that he cannot have been created. But the text says that his very life is not included in what came about through his intermediate agency (Greek δια) and that what came to be in him was life with him as instrument (Greek εν).
Question: Since the Word received life in John 1:3-4 per the UBS Greek text, can the prologue also support the Word was eternal?
John 1:3-4 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The USB and Nestle Aland Greek texts all punctuate with a full stop after “being.” The question assumes the modern critical editions are correct.
The word “through” is δια and refers to what God made through the Word as His intermediate agent. The word “in” is εν and refers to what God made using the Word as His "instrument ."
Thus what was made "through" the Son (all things) and what was made "in" the Son (life) are two different agencies and two different things.
What has come to be "in" him was "life" at John 1:4 is classified with John 5:26 by BDAG 1 with "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in (εν) himself" (KJV)
Also consider the syntax of John 1:3-4.
The syntax of John 1:3-4 in our critical editions demonstrates that life was not merely “in” the Word but came to be “in” the Word.
1:1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο ⸂οὐδὲ ἕν⸃. ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ⸀ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς ⸋τῶν ἀνθρώπων⸌· (John 1-3-4 Nestle-Aland 28)
The phrase is: ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, That which came to be in him was life. (ὃ=What; γέγονεν= came to be; ἐν αὐτῷ= in him; ζωὴ ἦν = was life)
Note that ἦν is the same verb used in John 1:1. γέγονεν is the verb γίνομαι used substantively. γίνομαι is always used of a change and the imperfect aspect of the stative to-be verb ην has a continuous aspect.
When the verbal aspect of γινομαι is combined with the verbal aspect of ην, one sees the beginning of ἦν but there is no end. John demonstrated this very elegantly in J 1:3-4. Life came to be “in” the Word and then he “was.”
The verb ἦν has a similar use at John 1:10. The Word was coming into the world (1:9) and then was (ἦν) in the world. The beginning of the state of being in the world is clearly visible.
This is supported by the BDAG entry which says that Christ received life from God at John 1:4 and 5:26.
Thus there is abundant linguistic evidence to support the view that the Word "received life from God" and became a living being in John 1:4a as the same author uses the same term in the same book about the same person at John 5:26 and 1:4.
Since the Word received his life in John 1:4 is there any reason to argue that John viewed him as not having a beginning from the prologue?
1 BDAG "life"---β. of Christ, who received life fr. God J 5:26b (ἡ ζωὴ τῆς πίστεως ParJer 9:14). ἐν αὐτῷ ζ. ἦν 1:4a; cp. 1J 5:11b. He is the ἀρχηγὸς τ. ζωῆς Ac 3:15, the λόγος τ. ζωῆς 1J 1:1; cp. vs. 2, the ἄρτος τ. ζωῆς J 6:35, 48; cp. vs. 33 (EJanot, Le pain de vie: Gregorianum 11, 1930, 161- 70), also simply ζωή 11:25; 14:6 or ἡ ζ. ὑμῶν Col 3:4; cp. B 2, 10; IMg 9:1. Since the life in him was τὸ φῶς τ. ἀνθρώπων J 1:4b, people through following him obtain τὸ φῶς τ. ζωῆς 8:12 (on the combination of light and life cp. 1QS 3, 7 and the Orph. Hymns to Helios no. 8, 18 Qu. ζωῆς φῶς, as well as Christian ins of Rome [Ramsay, Luke the Physician 1908 p. 375, 238 AD], where a father calls his dead son γλυκύτερον φωτὸς καὶ ζοῆς; s. also α above).— SBartina, La vida como historia en J 1:1-18, Biblica 49, ’68, 91-9