There are some who think 'world' (kosmos) used at John 1:10b

"He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him."

means something roughly equal to 'planet', and refers to the Genesis creation account of the planet.

How is 'kosmos' used in John's Gospel outside of the prologue?

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    There is a requirement to include a scripture for exegesis and I do not think you are meeting that requirement by including the one scripture you don't want analyzed. Do you want people to list all the other places where kosmos is used and then discuss this usage with the idea that this will shed light on 1.10 by not looking at it? Or perhaps I am misunderstanding your question, in which case perhaps clarify.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 21:08
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    Then you need to list the passages you want studied. A general request for "tell me what this word means but never use this particular reference" is not appropriate, as people are free to include analysis of all verses in their study and to use any hermeneutic approach they want.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 21:17
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    @Robert Usually, when I get these sort of technical, ad hoc arguments against a question, it's because the person just doesn't like an implication of the question, which in this case is that kosmos doesn't mean what many people say it means at 10b. I don't know where you stand on this, but what's weird is to object to a start on an answer to how John uses the term in his writing. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 21:36
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    No, the start is to look at the verse in question and its context. "in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God." "All things were made by him". That tells you much more about what kosmos refers to in 1.10 than kosmos when it used in other contexts, because the word has a variety of meanings that are obtained from the context, so to understand the three uses of kosmos in 1.10, you need to look at 1.10 and its context. Asking to explain the senses of kosmos without looking at the context is not asking for exegesis. This is 101 stuff.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 21:39
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    @Robert No, wrong. John's prologue is condensed, poetic language. Establish what John tends to mean by 'kosmos' first, then move to the prologue. You're making the same mistake Athanasius made. At the best, all you're doing is arguing for a certain hermeneutical approach re John's prologue. Other people are not required to share your hermeneutical approach here, tho'. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 21:43

2 Answers 2


The word κόσμος (cosmos) is very common in the NT with a variety of meanings. See appendix below. The clue to the word's meaning in the gospel of John is actually given in John's prologue where it occurs in John 1:9, 10

The 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 recognize Him.

Note that whatever "the world" is here, it has sentience and so cannot be an inanimate planet but must be the humanity because it "did not recognize" Jesus, but should have. Indeed, under meaning #7 (see appendix) sub-meaning 'b', BDAG provides this helpful remark:

the world, and everything that belongs to it, appears as that which is hostile to God, ie, lost in sin, wholly at odds with everything divine, ruined and depraved ... John 1:10, ... this world (in contrast to the heavenly realm), John 8:23, 12:25, 31a, 13:1, 16:11, 18:36, etc. ... this world who is ruled by ... the prince of this world, the devil, John 12:31b, 16:11, 14:30, etc. See also John 17:25.

That is, κόσμος (kosmos) in the Gospel of John appears to be the unsaved people of this world who need to be saved and thus, do not recognize Jesus but obey "the prince of this world", the devil.

APPENDIX - Meanings for κόσμος (kosmos) in BDAG

The word κόσμος occurs about 186 times in the NT and has a range of meaning. Here I list only the 8 main meanings from BDAG

  1. that which serves to beautify through decoration, adornment, adorning
  2. condition of orderliness, orderly arrangement, order
  3. the sum total of everything here and now, the world, the (orderly) cosmos
  4. the sum total of all beings above the level of animals, the world
  5. planet earth as a place of habitation, the world
  6. humanity in general, the world
  7. the system of human existence in its many aspects, the world [mostly unsaved humanity]
  8. collective aspect of an entity, totality, sum total
  • Do you think the three uses of kosmos have the same sense? He was in the world(1), and the world(2) was made by him, and the world(3) knew him not. This requires a careful analysis of the context, but I read this as different senses of world being used here.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 22:13
  • @Robert - I would answer, "yes": one cannot be "in" a planet" but can be "in humanity". The last two must have the same meaning because they are not contrasted in meaning but discuss the same thing in two different aspects: the world - Jesus made the world (its people0 but the world (its people) did not recognize Him.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 22:18
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    @Robert - that is obviously true but robs Jesus' statement of its force - the very people God created refused to recognize their creator! One cannot say this of rocks and rivers.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 22:25
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    @Robert - now you are putting words in my mouth - I did NOT say Jesus made society - I said he made people and people make choices for obedience or otherwise. My point here in the answer is to show that John's use of words in his prologue is consistent with his broad use of the same idea/words throughout the gospel.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 22:34
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    @Robert - Then you disagree with BDAG and the lexicons. The meaning of words are often extended by metonymy, and this is a good example. Further, "order" does not recognize Jesus.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 22:48

The world in this verse refers to humankind not the planet. Its meaning is similar to the world found in 2 Peter 2:5; 3:6. referring to the destruction of the wicked society, not the destruction of the planet.

The world in John 1:10 is the same world that God sent Jesus to save. It is used to refer to humankind.

2 Peter 2:5 ASV and spared not the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly

2 Peter 3:6 ASV by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished

John 3:16 ASV For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life

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