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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

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Soldarnal Jan 17 at 14:53
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    " The question assumes the modern critical editions are correct." There is no punctuation in the ancient manuscripts: they aren't part of the New Testament. Also, "all things were made by him, and without him was made nothing made" is clearly preferable and conformable to the top-down context of God-to-man grace in Jesus than, "all things were made by him, and without him was made nothing at all: what came to be in him was life." As if the Word through which the Father made all needed the provision of life Himself. Who denies that here life refers to salvation and eternal life? – Sola Gratia Feb 12 at 21:33
  • @SolaGratia Part of it does. The BDAG entry does not. The additional grammatical evidence that I added with respect to the predicate nominative where "What came to be in him was life" is the part that does. I may make a new question asking for evidence pro and con for the punctuation. – Thomas Pearne Feb 12 at 22:21
  • " Part of it does. The BDAG entry does not." It? – Sola Gratia Feb 12 at 22:46
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    In the question you have USB. I think you mean UBS. – Revelation Lad Mar 26 at 3:52
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Comment Clarification: A comment by the OP claimed that BDAG suggests that John 1 supports a view that Christ received life from God. This is a misrepresentation of the lexicon which is only stating where references to "life" are occurring, and in what sense. So, the presupposition behind the question is wrong.


Answer:

If someone, (the Word), or even a tree, was given the ability to "impart life", still no inference could be made about who that person, (or tree), received its own life from. The Word's own life, and the life the Word can impart from within them, are two separate things.

Even though John 5 seems to suggest that the gift of "impartable life" was given by God, both John 5 and John 1, are still silent where Jesus' own life came from.

Other contexts more clearly address that question.


Linguistic support is not present with references to God with active voice verbs:

First and foremost, "The Most High" would have to be referred to as the "actor/agent" of some action, (active voice of a verb), and The Word as the recipient. No reference to God occurs in this context in that way.

Linguistically, there is no indication of any other actor, (active voice), other than the Logos/Word. Though, the Logos does act upon himself. So, it is unreasonable, (invalid), to use this context in support of any argument whether the Logos/Word received life from God, or not. (Proverbs 8 would be better suited). However, John 1:14 comes pretty close, but it only goes as far as to state that the Logos/Word gave himself a body of flesh, (not necessarily "life").

John 5's reference to Jesus having life in himself, from God, is not indicating that Jesus' own life was from God. (There are other, better, contexts that tackle that question).


Linguistic support is not present with references to The Word with passive voice verbs:

The only possible stretch to indicate that the Logos/Word received life (passive voice) would be to find passive verbs to show that something, anything, acted upon "The Logos"—which never happens in this context, (though in Proverbs 8, definitely).

In the linguistic sense, the "Logos/Word" is consistently the actor in imparting life, (not the passive recipient). In order to argue that the "Logos" was granted, or received, life, you would have to show verb conjugations supporting this: verbs of the Logos' actions in the passive voice.

But, in this close context, there are no verb indications, (neither passive, nor active), of "The Most High" taking any action upon "The Logos".


Middle Voice Evidence, but not Sufficient:

Instead, this text shows the Logos acting upon himself, (Middle voice, neither active nor passive).

The closest this context comes to the Logos not being the primary actor is in John 1:14. But, the verb "became" is in the middle voice, not passive:

NASB, John 1:14 - And the Word became [middle voice, neither active nor passive] flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The middle voice of "became" indicates that the Logos even gave himself flesh, showing that there is no other being "acting" upon "The Logos".

That the Logos gave himself a body of flesh is pretty compelling evidence that the writer, in this context, was focused on establishing the divine nature of The Logos, rather than trying to state anything about "The Most High" or what role they played.


Other Passages Regarding Whether the Logos was Given Life:

It is linguistically and logically invalid to suggest that either John 1, or John 5 speaks to the contention whether The Word was a created being or not.

However, there are other passages that address this.

Thematically/Contextually, (in terms of Logos and the Wisdom of God), you could go back to Proverbs 8, etc., to find the parallel of the Wisdom of God (Logos), creating all things, and also that this Wisdom was the first of God's creations.

But, that is certainly a different question.

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  • The BDAG entry "Christ received life from God" has nothing to do with passive or active. The Greek verbs are active in both John 1:4 and 5:26. In fact passive in the English would be something like "life was received by Christ from God." At John 5:26 God gave to the Son to have life, also active. But this is a red herring. Even with the passive as in "Life was received by Christ from God" the meaning is the same. – Thomas Pearne Jan 20 at 0:49
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    @ThomasPearne - I responded according to your question regarding John 1. What you are referencing here is John 5:26b. As my answer states, in the context of John 1, there is no support to say that Christ received his life from God. What you might want to do is ask a separate question regarding John 5. But the answer is still "the text of John 1 is absolutely quiet whether Christ received life from God, other than John 1:14-which only applies to a fleshly body." – elika kohen Jan 20 at 1:21
  • The BDAG entry puts them (J 5:26, J 1:4) together. What BDAG puts together, let no man (or women) put apart. :) – Thomas Pearne Jan 20 at 2:46
  • Thanks for reopening. I would like you to look at BDAG again. The editor will make a statement, in this example β. Of Christ who received life from God, and then give example until the next gloss. Even 1J 5:12b is life that came from God and then to Christ. But that is only a "compare." John 5:26 and 1:4 both clearly are associated with the same gloss. – Thomas Pearne Feb 12 at 20:54
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Deleted by owner. duplicated in error.

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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). [emphasis added]

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 Solution:
Verses 3-4 of the UBS Greek text must be correctly understood:

A: ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ⸀ἦν καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων

A': ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ⸀ἦν καὶ τὸ φῶς ἦν ἡ ζωὴ τῶν ἀνθρώπων

Since the writer used the article for both life, ἡ ζωὴ and light, τὸ φῶς, they are interchangeable.1 This means the writer intends the reader to understand both A and A' are meant:

A: What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

A': What has come into being in him was life and the light, was the life of all people.

Therefore, what has also come into being in Him was life and light. If the phrase means what has come into being in him was life (A), then it also means what has come into being in him was life and light (A'). If the obvious contradiction is ignored, the second means the Word is God:

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1) [ESV]

I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:7)

Since A' contradicts A when parsed as in the UBS, the preferred reading is that of the MT or TR:

B: ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ⸀ἦν καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων
B: In Him was life and the life was the light of men

B': ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ⸀ἦν καὶ τὸ φῶς ἦν ἡ ζωὴ τῶν ἀνθρώπων
B': In Him was life and the light was the life of men

Both are understandable and both are consistent with the Word as eternal.

Answer

  1. The UBS text when read completely shows the Word was eternal.
  2. It appears the writer understood the potential to incorrectly read verses 3 and 4 and so wrote both life and light with the article in order to prevent the wrong reading.

1. Robinson's Word Pictures of the New Testament

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  • You assume that Ge 1:1 = John 1:1 without proving it. My position is that John 1:1 precedes Ge 1:1. – Thomas Pearne Feb 4 at 20:29
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    @ThomasPearne Your position is also without proof – Revelation Lad Feb 4 at 20:53
  • I am asking a question, not proving a position. That being said, the grammatical point I just added to my question is very powerful. But I don't assume that an ancient text written in Hebrew is exactly related to the Prologue, not do I need to. – Thomas Pearne Feb 4 at 22:26
  • @RevelationLad - I feel that you are mixing metaphors here, "the light" that is spoken appears to be a metaphor of a type of life, (or quality of life), not a literal "light" like the literal light that the context of Genesis 1 refers to. The part that I am most unclear on is after this, (I guess?), you seem to be suggesting a conclusion that since/if "life/light of men" was present, (and necessary), for literal light to be created, then it must have existed eternally with God. I feel that this is non-sequitor, (missing a few steps, logically). – elika kohen Feb 13 at 3:37

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