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ην το φως το αληθινον ο φωτιζει παντα ανθρωπον ερχομενον εις τον κοσμον

[John 1:9 TR, undisputed.]

This answer explains that ἐρχόμενον is accusative masculine singular see Biblehub Interlinear and should be translated 'that comes into the world' giving the rendering :

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. [John 1:9 KJV]

Thus every man who comes into the world is lightened by the Logos.

And this must refer to every man prior to Jesus' incarnation, as also during the times when Jesus of Nazareth was upon the earth, as also since Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:2.

Jesus said 'I am the light of the world', John 8:12. This statement is unreserved. He says not 'the light of this present generation' but of 'the world'. If so, then Jesus is stating that, in every generation from the beginning, he enlightens the whole world.

John states 'he (Logos) was in the world and the world was made by him and the world knew him not', John 1:12.

Thereafter, verse 14, John records the word, Logos, being 'made flesh' and dwelling among us. And John further records (of Logos) that 'we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth'. . . .

. . . . and then records that 'grace and truth came by Jesus Christ', evidently presenting that Logos and Jesus Christ are the same Person.

John also makes clear that this Person is 'Lord', verse 23, is 'the Christ', verse 25, is 'the Lamb of God', verse 29, is 'he which baptizeth with the Holy Spirit', verse 33, is 'the Son of God', verse 34, is 'the King of Israel', verse 49, and yet is also 'the son of man', verse 51.

Is there any other conclusion possible, than that this one Person -

  • was in the world from its inception,
  • has been the light of the world ever since,
  • and has lightened every single man who ever came into the world ?
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    I've also found it interesting that 1 John 1:5b reads: "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" as well as James 1:17: "[Everything good comes] down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." Naturally, since Christ too is God, this makes perfect sense: Christ, God, is the Light of the world (Jn. 1:4). We might also remember 1 Tim. 2:5: "[There] is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,..." who would have to be that Light. – Xeno May 27 at 10:42
  • This is truly excellent question. +1. – Dottard May 27 at 11:10
  • To note, ἐρχόμενον can be either nominative or accusative case (in the neuter gender, singular number, present tense, middle/passive voice). Therefore, it can be modifying ἄνθρωπον or τὸ φῶς. – Der Übermensch May 27 at 18:01
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    @DerÜbermensch Would you say, then, that the manifested Christ is the Light of the world, though looked for, of old, though promised, of old. If we are to see 'coming into the world' to apply, as a neuter, to 'light'. To me, it is a stretch to view the life that is the light (previously expressed to be a Person) . . . to be a neuter. But I respect your input (not only here) and look forward to more from you. Regards. – Nigel J May 27 at 18:09
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    @NigelJ We know that τὸ φῶς is personal, per v. 8 where the author states that John the Baptist was not τὸ φῶς. Logically, if the author states that John the Baptist, a person, was not τὸ φῶς, then it reasons that τὸ φῶς is a person, just not John the Baptist. But, as for v. 9, the author would use the neuter ἐρχόμενον to modify the neuter τὸ φῶς because they agree in grammatical gender. That is the expectation. The alternative is that the author uses ἐρχόμενος which would be a constructio ad sensum and certainly less expected than having the noun and its modifier agree in grammatical gndr – Der Übermensch May 27 at 18:23
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Your question causes me to ask, “What is the definition of ‘light’ with regard to the person of Jesus Christ? Has this to do with physical, visible light, or light that cannot be seen by the naked human eye, or spiritual light? What would it mean for a person to be ‘light’?”

Visible light is but one of myriad forms of light. See this link for the complexity of light and how visible light is but one aspect of light in our universe. http://study.com/academy/lesson/light-waves-definition-types-uses.html

The text you ask about seems to clarify that there is a particular light, called “true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” and that such a Light is uniquely attributed to the person of Jesus Christ, the Logos of John chapter 1. (Therefore, don’t expect any mention of that in the link above!) I would not take it that ‘true Light’ indicates that all other forms of light are ‘false’ – just that there is a particular Light emanating only from the one who is, in his person, ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (John 14:6). To grasp this Truth, one would have to ‘see’ via the person who is ‘the true Light’. As the text states, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). So, every person who has been given life has the light of men – the Logos, known as the person of Jesus Christ. Adam and Eve had that light, and every living person thereafter.

• and has lightened every single man who ever came into the world? – yes.

As the Logos “made everything that was made” (John 1:3), and our world was made, then the one who made it has been its light (in every sense of the word) ever since.

• has been the light of the world ever since? – yes.

The Logos became flesh and entered our material world in a particular sense and a particular point in time, but for centuries prior to that momentous incarnation, he was in the world, actively and variously, with the Light of his Truth guiding those who recognised their Maker. But just because many people had their eyes closed to their Maker, and who had their ears stopped up to the Truth of their Maker, and who were not on the Way to real life, does not detract from the fact that they still had that Life in them, because they had life, and the text states that his life is the light of men. Just because many people deny his life and his light changes nothing. As C.S. Lewis said,

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

• was in the world from its inception? – yes.

This is not just my opinion, as the following quotes show: Matthew Henry in his Commentary on John chapter 1 says:

“Reasonable creatures have their light from him; that life which is the light of men comes from him. Life in man is something greater and nobler than it is in other creatures; it is rational, and not merely animal. When man became a living soul, his life was light, his capacities such as distinguished him from, and dignified him above, the beasts that perish. The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord, and it was the eternal Word that lighted this candle. The light of reason, as well as the life of sense, is derived from him, and depends upon him.” [page 1528]

“1. Christ was the true Light (v. 9); not as if John Baptist were a false light, but, in comparison with Christ, he was a very small light… Christ is the true light. The fountain of all knowledge and of all comfort must needs be the true light…. But how does Christ enlighten every man that comes into the world? (1.) By his creating power he enlightens every man with the light of reason; that life which is the light of men is from him… (2.) By the publication of his gospel to all nations he does in effect lighten every man. John Baptist was a light, but he enlightened only Jerusalem and Judea, and the region round about Jordan, like a candle that enlightens one room, but Christ is the true light, for he is a light to enlighten the Gentiles. His everlasting gospel is to be preached to every nation and language, Rev. 14:6. Like the sun which enlightens every man that will open his eyes, and receive its light (Ps. 19:6) to which the preaching of the gospel is compared. See Rom. 10:18… The light of the knowledge of the glory of God is said to be in the face of Jesus Christ, and is compared with that light which was at the beginning commanded to shine out of darkness, and which enlightens every man that comes into the world. Whatever light any man has, he is indebted to Christ for it, whether it be natural or supernatural.” [page 1529]

That last sentence of Henry sums up my answer as it incorporates physical light with supernatural light, but I cannot resist a further quote, this time from E.W. Bullinger’s notes in The Companion Bible re. John 1:9:

“Many lamps found in the tombs at Gezer (1 Kings 9:15-17) have inscribed on them “The light of Messiah shines for all”. [page 1513]

This is what it means for Jesus – the Messiah – to be, not only light, but the true Light.

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  • Very well said, upvoted +1. I also really like the last line of the Matthew Henry quote. – Hold To The Rod May 28 at 19:49
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The conclusion is at the end. You could write a book on this alone. One improbable possibility is Ἦν … ἐρχόμενον forms a periphrastic, but as A. T. Robertson explains, position makes this unlikely.

There was (ἠν [ēn]). Imperfect indicative. Emphatic position at the beginning of the sentence and so probably not periphrastic conjugation with ἐρχομενον [erchomenon] (coming) near the end, though that is possible. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Jn 1:9). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

Robertson agreed about the pre-existent light.

This true light had been on hand all the time in the darkness (ἠν [ēn] imperfect, linear action) before John came. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Jn 1:9). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

Robertson presented a debate about what φωτιζει παντα ἀνθρωπον means:

Lighteth every man (φωτιζει παντα ἀνθρωπον [phōtizei panta anthrōpon]). Old verb (from φως [phōs]) to give light as in Rev. 22:5 and Luke 11:35f. The Quakers appeal to this phrase for their belief that to every man there is given an inner light that is a sufficient guide, the Quaker’s text it is called. But it may only mean that all the real light that men receive comes from Christ, not necessarily that each one receives a special revelation. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Jn 1:9). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

J. P. Lange discusses this all the way back to the church fathers. He mention s that πάντα ἄνθρωπον eliminates the possibility that Ἦν refers to only before John and means before every human.

The essence of this universal advent is to be recognized in the fact, that the Logos shines in every man in his religious and moral nature and experience, as the λόγος σπερματικός. That the expression “every man” needed not the addition: that cometh into the world, is evident. And the phrase: “to come into the world,” is not used of the natural birth of an ordinary man, but is reserved for Christ. -- Lange, J. P., & Schaff, P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: John (p. 66). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Lange goes on:

[Which lighteth (enlightens, illuminates) every man—ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον.—There is much force in the singular. Quisquis illuminatur, ab hac luce illuminatur (Bengel). Different interpretations: 1. The light of reason and intelligence (Cyril of Alex.). Better: Both the intellectual and moral light (reason and conscience) given to all men, as distinct from the spiritual light of saving grace given to believers. The former is the basis of the latter. 2. The inward spiritual light given to all (Quakers). 3. The light of grace given to believers only, or to every one to whom Christ was preached (Crosby). 4. Intellectual and spiritual light sufficient for the salvation of Jews and Gentiles, though the majority are so blinded by sin as not to see Him. “Christ enlightens all as far as in Him lies” (Chrysostom, Hom. 8). Christ gives sufficient light to every man to leave him without excuse, but not sufficient to save (Arrowsmith, Ryle).—Comp. 3:19: “light is come into the world;” 12:46: “I am come a light into the world;” 6:14: “that prophet that should come into the world;” 18:37.—P. S.] -- Lange, J. P., & Schaff, P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: John (p. 66). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Ἀληθινός is a favorite term with Plato and John to signify that which is genuine, archetypal, original, true to the idea. It occurs eight times in the Gospel, ten times in the Apocalypse, three times in the first Epistle of John, but elsewhere only five times in the N. T. In this passage it stands in contrast not so much to the cosmical light (Dr. Lange), as to the borrowed intellectual and moral light of the Baptist and other human teachers; comp. 5:35; Matth. 5:14, where believers generally as members of Christ are called the light of the world. It is lumen illuminans, as distinct from the lumen illuminatum.—P. S.] -- Lange, J. P., & Schaff, P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: John (p. 66). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

William Barclay’s translation took an unlikely remote connection with the relative pronoun, but he does make a good statement out ἀληθινόν.

John 1:9

He was the real light, who, in his coming into the world, gives light to every man.

IN this verse, John uses a very significant word to describe Jesus. He says that Jesus was the real light. In Greek, there are two words which are very like each other. The Authorized Version and the Revised Standard use the word true to translate both of them; but they have different shades of meaning. The first is alēthēs. Alēthēs means true as opposed to false; it is the word that would be used of a statement which is true. The other word is alēthinos. Alēthinos means real or genuine as opposed to unreal. -- Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of John (Rev. and updated., Vol. 1, p. 63). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.

Some things written in scripture:

All things were made [became] through him, and without him was not any thing made (John 1:3, ESV)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Rom. 1:18–23, ESV)

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (Rom. 2:14–15, ESV).

Thus, Paul essentially wrote that every person has the real light. As a person who grew up in church understanding what Paul wrote in Romans 1 and 2 about the non-Jews is difficult. It is when you look at how secular people struggle with this that one understands. Here is one example of many.

https://biologos.org/articles/does-evolutionary-psychology-explain-why-we-believe-in-god

And here is even a clearer example:

Such an overwhelming fear of a vindictive, disappointed God certainly wasn’t something that my parents had ever taught me. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/god-may-work-in-mysterious-ways-but-cognitive-science-is-getting-a-handle-on-them/

Just as John 1:3 did not preclude the rest of the Trinity's involvement in creation, 1:9 did not preclude the rest of the Trinity. The appearance of God in human form would be Jesus because the rest of the Trinity doesn't have human form. John 8:56, though not clearly stated, is our best statement of this in the Bible.

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I greatly appreciate this very thoughtful question and the spirit in which it asked.

There are two very closely related matters here that we must distinguish:

  • Jesus as the light of the world
  • Jesus enlightens the world

This may sound like a ludicrously fine point, but I believe it is the crux of the question.

While I am a trinitarian (as is well known on this site) and believe in the pre-existence of Christ, I do not believe that John 1:9 can be used to bolster that idea for the following reasons:

1. Verb Tense

The verb φωτίζει = "enlightens" or "is enlightening"; present indicative active. For a time-independent result, one might have expected aorist. In any case, Jesus as the light of the world is something that, according to John 1:9 is done on a present-on-going basis.

2. Others in the Past

Observe the comments of Jesus about Abraham in John 8:56:

Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see My day. He saw it and was glad.

Thus, Jesus is affirming that the faith of Abraham enabled him to see Jesus' (incarnation) day and be glad. Thus, Abraham, before Jesus incarnation was, by faith, enlightened, despite never having physically nor historically seen Jesus.

This is despite the fact that Abraham did speak personally with YHWH (Gen 18), almost certainly the pre-incarnate Jesus.

3. Witness of Hebrews

The opening two verses of the book of Hebrews is also helpful:

On many past occasions and in many different ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets. But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son,a whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.

Thus, the author of Hebrews says that Jesus became the greatest revelation of God during His birth, life, death and resurrection on earth.

4. "from the foundation of the world"

The Bible speaks about the Lamb being slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). This does not mean that Jesus was crucified over a long period from the beginning until now (Heb 9:26), but that the significant event of salvation encapsulated in the crucifixion was decided upon from the foundation of the world. That is, Jesus was committed to the task from the earliest time.

There are similar ideas in Matt 25:34, Luke 11:50, etc.

CONCLUSION

While Jesus has always existed and often delivered personal messages to people before His incarnation (Gen 16:7-13, 22:11-17, 32:24-30, 48:16, Ex 3:2-6, 32:34, Num 22:22-35, Josh 5:13-15, Judg 2:1-4, 6:11-23, 13:3-23, Isa 63:9, Dan 3:25, 28, Hos 12:4, 5, Zech 3:1-7, Mal 3:1, etc), it was Jesus incarnation that made everything possible.

Thus, Jesus enlightened the world in all time in the same way He was crucified from the foundation of the world. However, it was only in fact/reality (as distinct from faith) that Jesus became the light of the world during His incarnation.

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  • Every man coming (ἐρχόμενον) is present participle : I would not expect the aorist (was enlightened) to accompany 'coming' which would suppose humans having a pre-existence prior to being conceived. I would expect what John says - every man coming into the world is enlightened. Thus the tenses agree, not with a 'present on-going basis' but with a non-specific, general, all-generation situation which exists from the beginning. – Nigel J May 27 at 14:03
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John 1:9 - has one Person been the 'light of the world' since the world's inception?

No. But the source of the light has been of the same origin - God. In this case through His logos.

He was the real light, who, in his coming into the world, gives light to every man. John 1:9

This 'he' is the logos. The 'His' (still logos) 'coming into the world' is Jesus. As 1 John 1:1-3 expresses - stripping away any likelihood of a logos person with the "what" references.

1What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

The revealing is of matters that humans can apprehend and even comprehend as it is through this man Jesus, that the somewhat 'hidden' logos quietly bringing (spherical) planets into existence at God's bidding ("let there be light etc'), is now as one we can touch and hear and learn from.

Light is a metaphor for many things - truth, revealing, life... Once Jesus was born, he also became this source of truth and light - being the logos in flesh.

Let's continue from v9

9The true Light who gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not know Him. 11He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John is mixing it up with steady references to the logos, then, finally introducing Jesus clearly with the word became flesh in v14. Being careful to not confuse or conflate the two - we can say that Jesus is the logos from his conception, but not that the logos is Jesus eternally from the beginning. Jesus is the human result of the logos becoming flesh which took place ~4BC. Jesus is alluded to in several places in the lead up to the proclamation of flesh. Beginning with 'coming into the world'. "He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him," is still referring to the logos.

All made slightly complicated by the literary 'him' etc referring to the logos which denotes a person, which it is not.

Then again John switches focus to Jesus with, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him... to those who believed in His name... "

The logos comes in the form of Jesus. We know from earlier, 'the world did not know him'(logos) Now in Jesus the world is enlightened - if you have seen me you have seen the Father!

There is nothing about believing in the name of the logos - there is no name! (just as the Holy Spirit has no name either) The name by which we are saved is Jesus, who is the logos made flesh. Then John continues with the 'son' and finally the relation of this son to the logos. This is not just any son of God (there have been many) - this one is the very word, will and purpose of God - filled with God's fullness and nature.

We cannot base an alleged pre-existence of Jesus on, 'him being the light of the world'. So the OP statement, "If so, then Jesus is stating that, in every generation from the beginning, he enlightens the whole world.", is a presumption without understanding or support.

The logos was in the beginning - Jesus was not. But the light he provides on behalf of the Father/God is OF the logos of God which is not a person at all. The only person is Jesus and he is the light of the world in our very tangible presence. In a very real sense, he does step back in time, as only in him is salvation obtained. His light as the 'logos now flesh' IS that light of truth and salvation for all who lived since Adam Mk1.

There is no salvation in the darkness of lies and deception - Jesus has removed and is removing that darkness until the end of this age.

OP - "evidently presenting that Logos and Jesus Christ are the same Person." No, not evidently at all except by traditional dogma which forces a person on the logos, coupled with a pre-existent Jesus. Both unnecessary and unbiblical at the very least. (At worst, it grossly undermines what Jesus accomplished on the cross in ways of huge proportion and implication)

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