Day 1: With God

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. This Word was, in the beginning, with God.[1]

There is so much that could be said about this beginning – trying to comment on it is like trying to catch the Niagara Falls in a teacup.

A familiar beginning – like “Knock, knock” or “Once upon a time” – might excite us as we know we’re likely to be able to follow what comes; or it might cause us to switch off a bit. The opening words of the Gospel John start in a very familiar manner: “in the beginning”. This goes back to the beginning of the Jewish Scriptures, Genesis 1:1, to creation. What comes next, however, is a surprise. There’s a peculiar title: “the Word”, in Greek, the Logos, which was an a predominantly ancient Greek philosophical notion with a broad meaning, but which chiefly appealed to reason. Here, at least two cultures converge; there is a new beginning centred on the Logos, who was there even before the beginning of creation of the world. Something special is happening.

The characteristics of the Logos are special in themselves: “with God”, “God”, “with God in – and, thus, before – the beginning”.

I particularly want to dwell on the phrase “with God”. Prepositions are hard to translate in any language and this one especially so. The Greek preposition pros rarely means “with”: it normally implies movement towards something, or, in the appropriate context, opposition to something. Yet, it can imply proximity and presence: so “with” is a good translation; but it helps to know the other options available. I particularly like the Latin Vulgate translation, apud, and find it helpful here; as one of its meanings is ‘at the house of’ – like the French chez.

I am not suggesting this is the precise meaning here; but the domestic language is helpful as an illustration of the relationship between God and the Logos. They are family; they are equal; they are co-existent; they are complete; they are united; they are One. God is One. Yet, God is also many: here we see that the Logos is with God; and there is room for others to participate too.[2] God and the Logos could be sufficient by themselves; but they choose not to be and, as the prologue continues, it becomes even clearer that all of humanity is invited. The Logos makes this possible.

The Logos, Jesus Christ (v.18), enables us to be with God. This is what we are awaiting in Advent.

[1] Translations my own unless stated.

[2] Barrett comments: “The absence of the article indicates that the Word is God, but is not the only being of whom this is true; if ὁ θεός [“the” God] had been written it would have been implied that no divine being existed outside the second person of the Trinity” (p.156)

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