Prologue to a Prologue

To celebrate being in the final month of the year and the season of Advent, I would like to start by sharing a joke I’ve been waiting a while to roll out…

“Have you heard about the guy in Colossae who wants to rename Christmas after himself?”

“No, who is this joker?”

“He makes a living trying to flog pyjamas and other such attire so instead of Christmas, he wants it to be called:

Onesi-mus.”[1]

Advent is synonymous with waiting. This frequently involves slowing down. Thankfully, Christians believe that the end goal of the waiting is not a bad joke,[2] but good news in the arrival of Jesus Christ.

Last year, I spent some time going through most of the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke: 101 verses over 25 days.[3] This year, I intend to go even more slowly and to look at a tiny section of the opening of the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18)[4] from now until Christmas: 18 verses for 12 days. The content of both gospels is rich theologically; but, in my view, John has a slightly deeper degree of reflection and sophistication. While Luke is usually viewed as more of a narrative-history, John is perhaps more philosophical, playful and creative. John demands to be read slowly: certainly, the first eighteen verses that constitute the prologue. Moreover, the prologue of John introduces many of the key themes of his gospel, so it is worth lingering on it.

Most verses of the New Testament continue to have vast oceans of literature written on them. This is healthy and helps show that the Word of God, the Bible, is still alive today. These short reflections will barely amount to drops in that ocean; but my hope is that by taking the time to go slowly, a deeper understanding of the Word of God – both the written Bible and Jesus Christ – will result.

Any act of interpretation (particularly something which is devotional) is never a wholly individual enterprise. Thankfully, Scripture was not primarily written to be studied individually, but communally – and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I know that this is a journey is not a solo one. I have read a few voices past to help add a few more flavours;[5] but I would welcome some voices present to ensure I haven’t gone astray and/or to add still more valuable flavours.

These posts are generally aimed at the believing Christian community; but I hope that they might also be stimulating and provide food for thought for any other interested observers.

[1] If you don’t know who Onesimus is, go and read one of the shortest letters in the New Testament, Philemon. I would say it is a “belter”. Former Bishop of Durham and world-renowned Pauline scholar, Professor N. T. Wright, might not quite use such technical language; but he is particularly fond of the letter too.

[2] Suggestions for improving the above and anything in this series gratefully received!!

[3] The opening blog from last year can be found here: https://alexmuirblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/luke-1-2-advent-calendar-opening-blurb/

[4] Links to various translations here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=NRSV. I shall be offering my own translation in each subsequent post.

[5] Chiefly the commentary of C. K. Barrett (1st ed. 1955; 2nd ed. 1978).

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