Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991.
“The Prologue (1:1-18)” pp. 111-139.
John 1:1-18 serves as a prologue, introducing the various themes to be explored in the rest of the work. Carson provides a list of topics in the order they appear in the Prologue, also referring to locations where they arise again in the Gospel (Carson 1991, 111). Although there are various ideas of later composition of the prologue, or its adaptation from another source, Carson observes no evidence, thus leaving those as matters of speculation (Carson 1991, 112). Structure of the prologue has also been a matter of some debate. Carson observes there is certainly a strong logical progression of thought (Carson 1991, 113).
In verse one “the beginning” statement refers to the Word being present before creation (Carson 1991, 114). Carson notes the apparently self-conscious use of verbs. The being verb refers to the presence of the Word, but a verb for becoming is used for the created order (Carson 1991, 114). The term “logos” for “the Word” is a challenge. It was used in various ways within Greek philosophy. Yet John consistently makes allusions to the Old Testament rather than philosophy. It seems fairly clear to understand as God’s “powerful self-expression in creation, revelation, and salvation” (Carson 1991, 116). The word order and emphasis in the opening verse specifically tells of the identity of the Word as God (Carson 1991, 117).
Verses 3-4 emphasize the creative work of the Word. He made absolutely everything (Carson 1991, 118). Carson discusses the statements about “light” and “life,” noting that these are common motifs in many religious and philosophical contexts (Carson 1991, 118). Verse 5 is a statement Carson sees as purposely ambiguous. It speaks of the light in the darkness. The darkness does not overcome/comprehend it. While someone who has no exposure to Christian thought might see a philosophical dualism, the Christian will almost immediately se a correspondence of light and salvation (Carson 1991, 119).
From this foundation, John discusses the coming of John the Baptist, the one who introduces the light (Carson 1991, 120).
This John is among the many witnesses who point to the glory of Jesus. Jesus is presented as the light embodied, hence the “true” light (Carson 1991, 122). The work of the light coming to overcome “the world” is seen by Carson as a comment on the power of God’s Word. This is not because the world is so good or big, but because the world, as protrayed in the Gospel, is generally seen as bad (Carson 1991, 123). Carson discusses the idea of the Word “enlightening” every man, from verse 10. He concludes that the work of the Word is to make clear what people are. Some will reject the light and some will not. All will be shown (Carson 1991, 124).
Verse 11 takes up the concept of the Word coming to every person. Carson sees it as taking the idea of verse 10 and then moving it farther. Although all creation does belong to God, at times he identifies people as being specifically his people. Carson considers this consistent with John’s habit of alluding to the Old Testament, thus referring to Israel (Carson 1991, 125). God’s people are portrayed as rejecting God. However, in verses 12-13 the people who do believe are received very enthusiastically (Carson 1991, 126). They are children of God. Carson notes that Paul identifies believers as “sons” but that John only identifies Jesus as the “son.” The adoption, however, is wholly from God’s will (Carson 1991, 126).
Verse 14 returns to “the Word.” Here he “becomes flesh,” a strong statement of the real humanity of the Word (Carson 1991, 127). The language of dwelling among us is a strong allusion to the Old Testament view of God in the Tabernacle (Carson 1991, 127). It is in this context that God’s glory is seen. Carson notes that the nature of God’s glory is not simply raw power. It is “full of grace and truth,” another strong allusion to the character of God as revealed in the Old Testament (Carson 1991, 129). Carson notes that this glory of God is not always evident in Jesus but is shown through his works (Carson 1991, 130). John’s statement in vv. 16-17, of “grace for grace” is challenging. Carson evaluates several possible interpretations and concludes that the statement indicates an additional outpouring of grace (Carson 1991, 132).
At the end of the prologue, John concludes with the idea of Jesus as the final revelation of God. Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, the true Word of God, is the one who has made God known (Carson 1991, 134). He knows the fullness of deity as well as being the true man discussed earlier in the prologue.
Carson concludes that the prologue draws many parallels to things mentioned later. While it is innovative in form it is not unusual in making reference to many Old Testament concepts (Carson 1991, 136).